Church of the Nativity

Old Rite Russian Orthodox

​An Old Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). We are located in Erie, PA.

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What is the difference between the old rite and the new rite of the Russian Orthodox Church?

Through the rites of the Church -- that is, by the various external actions such as bows, singing, and the making of the sign of the Cross, the Church expresses its belief in Jesus Christ and glorifies Him and the saints, and nourishes the spiritual life of the people.  There are undoubtedly many ways of expressing the same thing, and the Church of Christ has a treasury of beautiful rituals which express its Orthodox Faith in a variety of ways.

When we speak of the "New" and "Old" rites, we are speaking of a phenomenon of the Russian Orthodox Church that originated in the 17th century due to the reforms of Patriarch Nikon.  The revised rites he introduced conformed more or less to of almost all the other national Orthodox Churches, but it differed considerably from the ancient practices of the Russian Church.  Many factors, not the least of which were the Patriarch's powerful personality and manner of enforcing the new rites, created a great schism in the Russian Church which has not effectively been healed to this day.

Some of the many differences in the rites which have been explosive in the past are: the making of the sign of the Cross, the number of loaves used at the Eucharist, unison vs. harmony singing, the shape of the bishop's staff, the number of prostrations and bows to be made during the services, the manner of icon-painting, the singing of Alleluia, and many others.

Our parishioners realize that although the rites of the Church express its dogmas and are not to be treated lightly, the rites themselves are a means to an end, not dogmas in themselves, and the exact same dogma can be expressed in many ways.  Although we love and cherish the old rites of the Russian Church, we do not reject those who practice the new ones, and they in turn have shown much interest and respect for our customs.  The pitiful misunderstandings and persecutions of former years have now been replaced with a realization that the Orthodox Church has a precious and sacred treasure in its many beautiful ancient rites.

Why are your psalms numbered differently than in all "non-Orthodox" bibles?

The Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint version of the Old Testament while Roman Catholics and Protestants use the Hebrew version of the Old Testament. The Septuagint is the name given to the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures. The Septuagint has its origin in Alexandria, Egypt and was translated between 300-200 BC. This Greek translation was produced because many Jews living throughout the Roman Empire were beginning to lose their Hebrew language after years in captivity or simply after choosing to live outside of Palestine. The process of translating the Hebrew to Greek also gave many non-Jews a glimpse into Judaism. The term “Septuagint” means seventy in Latin, and the text is so named because it is believed that 70 Jewish scholars were commissioned to carry out the task of translating the Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek.

The Psalms in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament are numbered slightly different than they are in the Hebrew version of the Old Testament. Here is the system of numbering in both versions:

Hebrew Psalms Greek Psalms 
1 - 8 
9 - 10 

11 - 113 
10 - 112 
114 - 115 
114 - 115 
117 - 146 
116 - 145 
146 - 147 
148 - 150 

Thus, as one can see, the Hebrew version, used for example in the King James version of the Bible, has Psalms 8 and 9. The Septuagint version combines these two “Hebrew” psalms into one – Psalm 9. Again the Psalm numbering differs when the Hebrew version has Psalms 114 and 115 which the Septuagint version combines as Psalm 113. But then the Septuagint counts the “Hebrew” Psalm 116 as Psalms 114 and 115. And finally, the last numbering difference occurs when the Septuagint has the “Hebrew” Psalm 147 numbered as two psalms – 146 and 147.

The result of this difference, as can be seen by comparing the numbering systems, is that Psalm 50 according to the Septuagint version of the Old Testament is Psalm 51 according to the Hebrew version.