Introduction, please?


I’m a latin-rite Catholic, but I’m interested in the eastern rites (not in the sense of changing my rite, but as a fellowship kind of thing). Anyway… I’m overwhelmed. I’m trying to read through some of the threads on here and it seems almost alien to me. Could some eastern Catholics who know their faith well please post their rite and give me a bit of a introduction to that rite? Thank you very much.

Byzantine Rite
Developed in Constantinople, spread throughout the east of Europe over the centuries.
Most noted for the Great Schism of the 11th Cenutry.

Three primary Divine Liturgies: St John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. James.
The regular Daily and Sunday liturgy is the DL of St John; St. Basil is used for certain feasts, and St. James is used in some Byzantine Rite particular churches on certain feasts.

Communion is given by spoon, under both species, simultaneously.
Deacons are presumed in the liturgical texts; they have a role in all liturgies, and a specific duty to lead the litanies, and to wield the censor, and prompt the priest. Liturgies without a deacon are common enough, but the texts are based upon a common practice of having deacons.

Most Byzantine Particular Churches have married priests as well as celibate priests; most also have permanent deacons, and many retain the minor orders.

Byzantine Churches are divided into 3 areas: The narthex, the nave, and the sanctuary. The sanctuary is usually delineated by a floor to ceiling wall holding 3 doorways (and 4 doors), with the center doorway being a double door called the Royal Doors. This wall is decorated with many Icons, specific religious imagery, with a minimum of Christ-Pantrocrator and Mary-Theoktokos. Also common are icons of the patron of the parish, and of St. Nicholas, then the 4 gospel writers, St. Steven, the Last Supper, and the major feasts of the year. Aside from the Pantrocrator and Theotokos Icons flanking the royal doors, specifics for the rest vary somewhat by particular church.

The Nave is next; usually the people stand in the nave during the liturgies, tho in some particular churches, pews and/or chairs are permitted. Generally, there is a table, the tetrapod, in the middle, with an icon of the day, feast, or period of the church year upon it, plus a cross and candles.
Usually, there are two candlestands for people to place intention candles into; one each in front of the Pantrocrator and Theotokos icons.

The Sunday liturgical cycle begins with Vespers Saturday night, often followed by confession; Matins in the morning before liturgy, and then Divine Liturgy; sometimes there is no break between matins and liturgy, sometimes there is, again varying by particular church and even by pastor. The Sunday obligation is to assist in at least one, preferably all three.

Shortly before the start of liturgy, the celebrant prepares the gifts, a ritual called proskomedia, at a side table in the sanctuary, often called the proskomedia table. This does involve slicing the bread, called a prosphora, with a lance, and cutting small pieces for those commemorated, as well as a square large chunk called the lamb. In some particular churches 3, 5, or 7 prosphorae are prepared; others permit a single. The specific number of prosphorae may be increased if the prosphorae are small or the faithful are a great many.

There are a riot of colors used liturgically; the rubrics call for dark or light, and may indicate which particular colors are most appropriate; clerics generally wear the closest they have for the shade required. My pastor, for example, normally wears white; our deacon-candidate wears a gold dalmatic, for that is what he has. On marian feasts, the pastor wears white with blue, instead of his normal white with silver or red with gold. A former pastor would wear sky blue on marian feasts.

The liturgy in the byzantine church is usually sung in entirety, sometimes excepting the priests prayers, and usually excepting the sermon/homily. The readings are usually chanted, sometimes even multiple times in multiple languages (for Pascha and Nativity this is common, rare otherwise).

The common saying is that the liturgy is the catechism of the Byzantine Rite. The Divine Liturgy, Vespers, and Matins Propers are, in fact, an encapsulation of the theology for why that feast is celebrated. Paschal propers include literally dozens of hymns teaching the theology of salvation. The most common changeable parts are the Troparion, Kontakion, Prokeimenon, communion hymn, and Alleluia. These change in sets, even week by week, the 8 tones differ in text, and special feasts may add to or supplant the normal tones. Vespers propers vary day by day within the 8 week system. Each week has specific melodies associated with the 8 weeks; the melodies vary by particular church, tho musically, all seem to derive from hebrew liturgical singing.
Today, for example, the Ruthenian Church celebrates the Transfiguration. The festal proper replace the Troparion, the Kontakion, the alleluia, the prokeimenon, the Irmos is replaced with a glorification, the Second Entrance Hymn is replaced, as is the communion hymn… 5 pages of changes just for Divine Liturgy.

There are three major “flavors” of Byzantines: Greek, Slavic, and Syro-Byzantines. Each tradition does some things differently; further, each particular church within one may differ notably. In almost all cases, there are Orthodox and Catholic churches in almost all “national churches” and those will generally be very similar, if not nigh identical, in form. THe Melkites are Catholic Syro-Byzantines, and the Antiochian Orthodox are Orthodox Syro-Byzantines; when the Melkites came into union, a portion of the Synod did not, and later became the Antiochian Orthodox Church; prior, they were one church. The Ruthenian Pittsburgh Metropolia are Catholics and the American Carpetho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese are Orthodox, and both are American Carpetho-Rusyn Slavic Byzantine Particular Churches; in this case, the ACROD split off from the catholics over the suppression of married priests in the US.

Each Byzantine particular church has subtle differences; to the casual observer, all they might notice is the particular cut of the vestments, the languages used, and whether or not the deacons all wear their orarion (stole) looped around their body.

There are three varieties of Christian churches in this world which are recognised as of apostolic origin. Catholic, Byzantine orthodox and Oriental orthodox.
Catholic church contains 22 or 23 churches united with the headship of Roman Pope. The largest one in this is Lain church. Others are Eastern catholic churches which were transformed from orthodox churches in the colonial and crusade periods. The latin church in Rome is of apostolic origin which is believed to be from St Paul and (St Peter).
The Byzantine orthodox churches (or Eastern orthodox) are churches under the headship of Patriarch of Constantinople. They include Moscow, Greek orthodox church of antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and a lot more. The Patriarchate of Constantinople was declared in the 3rd century only. I think it was the decision of the Council of bishops and may be from the intervention of Byzantine emperor. Before that they say that it is from Apostle Andrew. It is a tradition. Before 3rd century there is no sign on the existence of a bishop at Constantinople. I think it is from the bishop of Ephesus. Up to 12th century, there was unity between Rome and Constantinople.
The oriental orthodox churches are those resulted from the Council of Chalcedon which was held in AD 451. They do not accept the declaration of the council. Rome and Constantinople agreed with the declaration of that council. In the council, a declaration was made on the two natures of Christ. Also Roman Pope declared that Apostle Peter is speaking through him. Thus a schism occurred between those who accept the council and reject the council. The effect was a split in many of the ancient apostolic sees. Patriarchate of antioch and Alexandria split into two. Antioch was split into Greek orthodox church and Syriac orthodox church in the years followed. Alexandria was split into Coptic orthodox church and greek orthodox church.
The church of Rome says that the Pope is the successor of apostle Peter and in turn he is the supreme head of the universal church. The same view is held by the Syriac orthodox patriarch of Antioch. But Byzantine orthodox churches reject this and they say that Apostle Peter or Christ himself is present in each diocese. Every bishop is a successor of Peter.
Any way formation of all these churches were resulted from the influence of political powers. In the first centuries up to 10th century, it was from Roman and Byzantine emperors. Then from 7th century to 20th century, there was influence from Muslim powers in the middle east. From 12th century, there was influence from crusaders sent by Roman Pope. From 13th century, there was influence form colonial powers such as Portuguese, Dutch, French. In 19th and 20 th centuries, from British.
In the 3rd century, Emperor Constanine allowed freedom to church. He convened council of Nichea. That council declared 3 patriarchates, Rome, Antioch and Alexandria.
After that Emperor changed his capital to Constantinople. Then Constantinople was declared a patriarchate. After that Rome was invaded by Barbarians. The influence of Constantinople in the affiars of churches resulted in great problems. Othodox churches were slit into Byzantine and Oriental. Later in the 6th century, Islam was spread throughout middle east. Actually middle east was the centre of Christianity. One reason for the spread of Islam was the schisms in the orthodox churches due to political interventions of Constantinople and byzantine emperors on the apostolic churches such as Antioch and Alexandria.
As a result Islam spread, a lot of wars. Then may be a lot of forceful conversions to Islam took place. This cannot be blamed. This is because during the period of Byzanine emperor Justinian in 5th century same thing happened in Roman empire. Civil rights were denied to non chritsians. In that way Roman empire was fully transformed to Christian. This can be regarded as by force.
Then many churches opposing Byzantine emperor took shelter in Muslim caliphates and sultans. In 7th century church of Rome became under barbarians. Muslims reached up to Spain. Barbarians defeated muslims there. Otherwise the entire Europle would be full of muslims now. As a result a new Roma nempire was declared under Charlemagne. After that Rome was also called church of barbarians by Byzantine forces.
After that in 8th century Roman church went into dark ages. The events which occurred I cannot explain.
In 11th century, Byzantine empire weakened due to attack of Islam. Roman church became somewhat strong. By this time the holy land that is Jerusalem was fell in to Muslim hands. Pope asked european powers to liberate Holy land. Crusades began. Crusaders created a vast amount of damage to the orthodox churches in the middle east. They appointed latin patriarhs in the ancient aposltolic sees Antioch and then in Jerusalem. As a result orthodox patriarchs fled from there. Crusaders were partly victoriuos but only for a short time. Again these regions fell into the hands of muslims. in 14 th century, the byzantine empire became extinct because of Islam. Then came mongol powers in the middle east. Also started colonialisation. Potuguese and SPanish began expediitons. Their basic intention was missionary activity. They found orthodox christians in different parts of the world. They tried to convert them to be under Rome. As a result a number of splits occurred in the eastern churches resulted in eastern catholic churches.
Rome used the fake document ‘Donation of Constanine’ for fixing its authority in different times. From 9th century to middle ages this forged document was used to fix its powers. It was created in 7th century. It was though that it is a legible document awarded by Emperor in 3rd century giving a lot of authorities to Pope, mainly in relation with papal states. As aresulted a vast area or entire Italy came under the authority of Pope.

While I would not discourage reading about the Eastern Churches, please understand that abstract expanations are never sufficient. “Come and see.”

Attend Eastern liturgies of as many liturgical families as you can.

Actually experiencing them will tell you more.

I’d love to, but there aren’t too many around here. The only place where I could attend an eastern liturgy is in a Greek Orthodox Church, but of course I’m not orthodox. Also, I was asking some questions there in what I hope was a polite manner, and was promply declared a heretic.

I am very sorry that you received that reaction.
Where are you located? There may be an Eastern Catholic church in the are of which you may not be aware.
Attend as many different services( Divine Liturgy, Vespers, Orthros, ect.) as you can. I must give you a small warning. It is highly addictive. I started out this way and I am now in my third year of study to become a Deacon in the Byzantine Catholic Church.
I wish you much joy in learning about the Christian East.

For the English Translation of the Melkite use of the Divine LIturgy of St. John Chrysostom, please go here:

Christ is in our midst!

I’m also surprised and disappointed. I’ve always found the Orthodox churches very welcoming and “sympathetic” to our differences. “Heretic” might be “accurate” depending on what you asked, but highly unhelpful language for a seeker/visitor to hear.:slight_smile: Hopefully there are others in that parish who would have been much more helpful to you. I was walking out of Liturgy yesterday at a local Greek Orthodox church and the yiya walking with me began chatting away in Greek. I said “I’m so sorry I don’t speak Greek.” It then came up that furthermore I’m Catholic. She proceeded to give me a big hug and say we all worship the same God etc. and we both talked about how much we loved the liturgy for this Feast, etc.

Attend as many different services( Divine Liturgy, Vespers, Orthros, ect.) as you can.

Let us know where you are and maybe we can find more options.

I started out this way and I am now in my third year of study to become a Deacon in the Byzantine Catholic Church.

Praise God!!! :smiley:

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