Posts Tagged ‘Old Believers’

Bishop JOHN (Berzins) of Caracas, (temporary) administrator of the Diocese of South America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, is one of ROCOR’s newly-elected and -consecrated hierarchs.  Many Years, Master!

Interestingly, as their news release with lots of interesting photos mentions, he was consecrated a couple weeks ago at, and according to, what I believe is the only canonical Old Believer parish in the Western world, Nativity of Christ in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Furthermore, most of their members are converts to Orthodoxy or their families!

Old Believer is the traditional nickname for a group more accurately called Old Ritualist because they follow the Old Rite of (Russian) Orthodoxy.  In Russia they have traditionally been termed Schismatics, Raskolniki, and I believe I read that the Russian surname Raskolnikov / Raskolnikoff derives from this also.

Although the Orthodox liturgies are ancient, “usages,” or how they’re carried out, have continued to adjust a little bit since ancient times.  The Russian Old Rite derives – or persists – from practices in the Russian Empire before the 17th century.  I can’t personally vouch for everything in the Wikipedia article or others linked from it, but it seems like it gives a good idea of the topic.

The Old Rite is not just about how one holds one’s hand while making the Sing of the Cross, though like many things in controversies, that became emblematic of them and for them.  This page seems to provide the clearest description of it, relatively briefly, that I can find.  But when I try to do it, it’s very uncomfortable for my hand, almost painful, especially when going for the right shoulder, so maybe I don’t quite have it.  The main point is that while “new rite” Orthodox hold together the thumb, index finger, and middle finger to represent the Trinity, and touch their forehead, torso, and shoulders with these (with their 4th and 5th fingers planted in their palm) … those of the Old Rite hold together the thumb, 4th and 5th fingers, but touch their forehead, torso, and shoulders with their index and middle fingers (held together with the middle one bent slightly) … as everybody tries to explain.

It’s the same gesture often seen when figures in icons, including Christ (eg, from the famous 6th-century Sinai icon), hold up their hand in blessing, when it’s not the “newer” ICXC gesture.

The Erie parish is led by Bishop DANIEL (Alexandrow) of Erie, an Auxiliary Bishop to the First Hierarch of ROCOR, with an interesting life discussed in the linked article.

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