Going to a Byzantine church tomorrow for the first time


I didn’t know that Eastern Catholics were a thing. They don’t teach that at my RC parish. I found out about it online and am very curious about it. I want to learn as much as I can.

I found a nearby Byzantine church that I plan on going to tomorrow. However I know nothing about them. The only thing that I know is that I can receive the sacraments and full fill my Sunday obligation there.

I was hoping to go to confession there due it being hard to go due to my work schedule. How does confession work there? Do I just confess mortal sin or both mortal and venial? What can I expect?

I have a feeling that I’m going to feel lost when I enter the church. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. What is the Divine Liturgy going to be like?

Any help you could give would be most welcome.


The walls are covered with icons. There is beautiful woodwork everywhere. The altar is not visible. It is screened by a large, beautiful wooden wall, punctured with three doors. There is a large one which only the priest uses. The two small ones on either side are used by the altar boys, etc. The incense gets heavy use, as do the bells. I cannot tell you much about the Easter Catholic Mass, since I have never attended one. I have only once been to a funeral in an EC church. All other information I learned from my father and grandfather, who grew up Byzantine Catholic.


The Divine Liturgy that I attended was all sung in English. That may not be the case at your location. There is a little book in the pew that they follow but for the first few times I would just listen and soak it all in. Ask if you could take the little Divine Liturgy book home with you to look over during the week. The hymnology is beautiful. I used to attend vespers on the Saturday evening and it was loaded with catechism. I learned so much. Very rich, and employs all the senses. When you see them stand, kneel or bow, just do the same. Let us know how it goes. It may feel as though you’ve just stepped into a different universe, but that’s ok. It grows on you as it gets more familiar.


Yes, we are “a thing”. :slight_smile:

The Liturgy is quite different from a Latin Rite mass. In general, just follow along with what those around you are doing. Don’t feel self-conscious about it. Most Byzantines will be more than happy to have a guest visiting the parish!

If you receive, keep in mind that we receive both species via spoon. Tilt your head back, open you mouth wide, but do not stick out your tongue!

I think you will enjoy it very much! Please let us know how it goes!


I’m sorry for using the word “thing” but I didn’t know what other words to use.

I will definitely let you know how it goes. Thank you!


Oh, no worries! I know what you meant! :slight_smile:


I always tend to arrive early normally by at least 30 minutes. Can I walk around and look at everything? Or should I just take a seat somewhere?


Take a look around! Whenever I visit a new parish I usually look around. Everything tends to be so beautfiul!


There will be no confessional and no screen. Confessions are usually heard in front of the icon screen, facing an icon of Christ. It might vary slightly, though. In my parish, we have a small alcove off to the side of the icon screen for confession. You might be standing, kneeling, or even sitting, but standing is probably most common. The priest might direct you to kneel for the absolution, or you might remain standing. The “script” we usually use is a bit different from “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…”, but it really doesn’t matter if you prefer to begin your confession that way. Don’t worry about doing it the Byzantine way, but if you wish to, many parishes have a small card to use as a guide. Confess both venial and mortal sins. The priest might give a penance, but often will not. It is not standard in the East to give a penance. When you receive absolution, the priest will place his stole on your bowed head.

This is a good guide, but keep in mind that it won’t be exactly the same in every Byzantine Church.

If you do a google image search for “Orthodox confession”, you will see some of the variety that exists.

Please update us and let us know how your visit goes!


Thank you for the link. I appreciate it. Umm… what’s an icon screen?

I just googled “orthodox” confession. It looks very humbling.


Check out this link


Remember, they do the Sign of the Cross from right to left when signing for the Holy Spirit.

Check out this video which was created for Latin Catholics who are attending their first Byzantine Catholic liturgy.

God bless!


My advice for your first liturgy…just keep your eyes open and observe, your ears attentive to listen, your nose will experience the sweet wafts of incense, touch and kiss the icons, and then the last sense, taste, a warm intermingling of the elements of the Eucharist; water, wine, bread. I burst into tears with that last one every time.


So I went to it this morning. I must have looked really lost when entered the church because someone asked if I was new. I basically shadowed her for the whole liturgy. One of the hardest things was ignoring the urge to kneel, it just felt wrong not to. There was more incence used at that liturgy than I’ve seen in 5 masses put together. It was beautiful with the incense, bells, chanting. I’m not sure how much if it I actually absorbed though. There was just too much going on between splitting my attention at what was going on at the altar and watching the person beside me to see what I was expected to do next.

Afterward the priest came up and introduced himself. Apparently the Tuesday liturgy is the least attended. There were only 3 of us and well I was the only one he didn’t know. He ended up giving me a little lesson on Byzantine liturgy and the difference between that and the Roman mass. He’s actually a transplant from New york and is on loan to the Byzantines from that diocese. Everyone was very welcoming and I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. I’m a bit overwhelmed right now. There’s just too much information to process between the Divine Liturgy and the unexpected lesson. Hopefully I can experience it a bit better tomorrow as I was mainly trying not to make a fool of myself today.


Sounds wonderful!


Actually, we tend to have small enough parishes that we recognize visitors.

it is indeed a change. Standing was the position of respect, East and West, from the beginning, and kneeling was actually prohibited on Sunday at the Nicene council,
as it is a position of repentance.

In the middle ages, however, people began kneeling to earthly kings in the west–and so certainly the King of Kings was due the same . . .

hmm, light use of incense :crazy_face::rofl::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

OK, more like “typical”.

I was able to follow my first time, and was amazed at it being pretty much a seamless and entire statement of the faith.

i wish I could go the first time again . . .



This is an iconostas. The icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God) is always to the viewer’s left and the icon of Christ is always to the viewer’s right.

(This is during Bright Week I.e. the week after Pascha [Easter]).


Thank you. Sending you a BIG hug. :heartpulse:


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