Are you Catholic, or Orthodox, or what?
We're Catholic, in complete mutual communion with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, but faithful to our Eastern Orthodox heritage and theology.
The Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church (Byzantine Catholic Church in America) is one of the 23 churches that make up the Catholic Church.
Don't you have to be a Slav to go there?
No. Our Church came to this continent from Transcarpathian region in Eastern Europe (now torn between Ukraine and Slovakia), but our faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. You will be welcome.
Is Divine Liturgy the same thing as Mass?
Yes. We worship according to the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great and St Gregory the Dialogos, so although the prayers are different, the Sacrifice is the same. All Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (with their pastor's permission) may fulfil their obligation at Divine Liturgy.
How long is Divine Liturgy?
Divine Liturgy is about an hour and a half. When you arrive for Liturgy, we may already be praying. Don't worry. You aren't late. Before liturgy, we pray Third Hour (morning prayer).
Who can receive Holy Communion?
All Catholics who are properly prepared are welcome to receive. Separated Orthodox Christians are encouraged to follow the Canons of their Church and are welcome to Holy Communion, in the spirit of Oeconomia.
How do you receive Holy Communion?
In the Byzantine Tradition, the Holy Mysteries are in the form of leavened bread, which is cut into particles before it is consecrated and placed into the chalice with the Precious Blood.
When you approach, come up close to the cup. Tilt your head slightly back, and open your mouth widely. The priest will place the Eucharist into your mouth using a spoon. Do not say "amen". Do not extend your tongue. Once the priest has moved his hand away from you, close your mouth. Otherwise, it's very like you might expect.
What can I expect at Sunday Liturgy?
Divine Liturgy is chanted. But it's a simple tune, so you'll know it by heart in no time. Some 80% of the responses are "Lord have mercy". It's all in the book in your pew. Follow along if you want. Some people prefer not to follow along but just to take it all in at first.
We make the sign of the Cross from right to left (push, not pull), the opposite of Roman Catholics. We make the sign of the Cross a lot during liturgy, mostly when making reference to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and generally make a small bow from the waist at the same time. This is called a reverence and is done as one might genuflect in a Roman Catholic church.
But go ahead and cross yourself the way you are comfortable. Nobody is expecting you to know all these things on your first visit. We're just glad you decided to come!But I'm not an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and I'm not Catholic. Will I like worshipping with you?
Question: Do we need to venerate the festal icon (on the tetrapod) when we come to the Holy Communion?
Answer: No. However, there is nothing wrong with it, either.
Since our tetrapod is so close to the amvon (ambo), we inadvertently pass it
when approaching the Holy Communion. Therefore, our desire to venerate the
festal icon is quite natural and understandable. Since we are on this subject, let us remember
that when we come up for Communion we should have our arms crossed on our
chest, come close to the Cup and refrain from making a sign of the cross right
before the Communion and immediately after, out of fear of knocking the Cup out
of the priest’s hands.
Question: Why do we commemorate the dead on the third, the ninth and the fortieth days after their death?
Answer: We serve a memorial on the third day because of the resurrection of Christ on the third day, opening the way for the resurrection of all mankind. We serve on the ninth day because the soul, unable to receive its reward of recompense until it is reunited with the body is kept by the nine orders of angels. We have a memorial service on the fortieth day because Christ ascended into heaven on that day, both Body and Soul, thus revealing that all will likewise ascend body and soul together.
Question: I noticed that we refer to the first Sunday of Lent as the “Sunday of Orthodoxy.” The word “Orthodoxy” is causing me some confusion. Could you please explain?
Answer: The first Sunday of the Great Fast is called the “Sunday of Orthodoxy.” The English word “Orthodoxy” finds it root in the Greek word “ortodoxia” (or “thos” which means right and “doksa” which means praising) which signifies the true faith and the true worship of God. The term is not used in this context in speaking of those Eastern Christians who are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome. i.e. The Orthodox Church. You have to remember that the term “Orthodox” was applied to the whole Church both Catholic and Orthodox before the schism (of 1054.)
The “Orthodoxy” we celebrate on the first Sunday of the Great Past is the universal-catholic orthodoxy, professed by the entire Church of Christ of the first eleven centuries in the battle against the heresy of Iconoclasm. (i.e. literally “breakers of icons”).
The Council of Constantinople in the year 842 designated the first Sunday of Great Lent as the Triumph of Orthodoxy and decreed that it be celebrated yearly. The purpose of the feast is to pay solemn public homage and veneration to the holy icons of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, and all the Saints. The first celebration of this feast, that is the first public veneration of holy icons after the condemnation of the heresy of Iconoclasm, occurred on the first Sunday of Lent in 842 A.D. This Sunday, even today, is called the “Sunday of Orthodoxy” or the “Sunday of the Triumph of the Holy Images,” although this feast bears no relation to the Lenten Season.
Q. Please explain the term “Iconoclasm”?
A: One of the striking features of any Eastern Church is the special veneration of sacred icons of Christ, the Mother of God, the Angels and Saints. Our church deeply respects the holy icons as it also does relics. Most icons in the church (as well as in the home) should be set out for veneration by faithful Christians.
The icon was treated as described above from the earliest days of the Church. Under the influence of two bishops from Asia Minor the Emperor Leo of Constantinople became hostile to the veneration of icons and condemned the veneration of these images as idolatry. He began a campaign against holy icons by ordering the icon of Jesus Christ to be removed from above the gate of the imperial palace. Later, he issued an order prohibiting the veneration of icons throughout the empire. This order marked the beginning of a long, relentless, bitter and bloody campaign against sacred images in the Eastern Church. The struggle lasted over a hundred years and ended in victory in favour of the veneration of holy images.
Leo’s order demanded not only that the icons not be venerated, but that all icons be destroyed or burned and their defenders be cast into prison, sent away into exile and even tortured. Even the Patriarch was removed from office for refusing to endorse the Emperor’s order. The Roman popes, first Gregory II, then later Gregory III, wrote letters of protest to the emperor and at their Roman synods condemned the war against icons.
“Iconoclasm” literally means “icon smashing” or “breaking”. The term has come down to us in English to describe a “non conformist” or a person bent on the destruction of a commonly held custom or belief, i.e. “iconoclast.”
Permission to venerate holy icons was granted under the rule of Empress Irene. An ecumenical council was called at Nicea in 787. The council is known as the Seventh Ecumenical Council. The Byzantine Church remembers this council in the month of October.
The Council teaches that holy icons are merely visible symbols of invisible persons, to whom we give veneration. When venerating icons, we DO NO WORSHIP the paper, canvas, or wood which makes up the physical icon; we give veneration only to the person whom it represents. The Council places the veneration of the icons on the same level as the veneration given the Book of the Holy Gospel, the Cross, and the sacred relics of Saints.
It so sad to see so many of our faithful enter the Church Sunday after Sunday and refuse to venerate the holy icons. It betrays either a genuine lack of spiritual education or a complete misunderstanding of the teachings of the Church regarding holy images.