Need advice from Catholics of the Ruthenian Byzantine tradition!

I am a RC who has just recently begun experiencing Eastern spirituality. I didn’t even know about the various Eastern Catholic Churches until several years ago :frowning: I have been taking my family once in awhile to a Ruthenian Byzantine parish a couple hours north of where we are but I’m encountering a dilemma. I absolutely love the parish. The Divine Liturgy is beautiful and reverent, the community is top notch (everyone is so welcoming every time we attend). There are kids around my children’s age which makes it even more desirable to integrate my family into the community so we can start having some stability in our spiritual/communal life. For reasons I won’t go into here (as every time I speak of it I get flagged by moderators) my family is in a position that we can no longer, in good faith, attend novus ordo parishes for Mass. They are just unacceptable and I will leave it at that. I am responding openly and very well to the Divine Liturgy but my wife struggles. She feels it is too “protestant” because of how the East does things differently.

Not that long ago we had discovered the Latin Mass and also spend time commuting close to two hours south in order to attend a High Mass offered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. I have tried speaking with her on a point-by-point basis for her concerns she has (she think’s it’s irreverent that EC’s don’t genuflect at all during the Liturgy, she doesn’t like how “wild” the Liturgy is with people just coming and going as they please, children doing what they want, etc.) Most of her grievances come from the fact that we are both ignorant on Eastern Catholicism. I’ve done some reading, I’ve spoken with fellow parishioners there who are or were Roman Catholics but haven’t really gotten much advise. I tried emailing the priest but he recently got moved to another parish and I’m waiting for the new priest to get settled in before I start bombarding him with requests for counsel lol.

Anyone here been in a similar position? How would you suggest I guide my wife into being more open to the wealth of beauty that stems from the Divine Liturgy?

There are many explanations for behavior of rejecting changes, and perhaps this is protecting. The ideal is to continue in and to preserve the liturgical tradition that one was baptized into or has officially transferred to, based, for example, upon marriage to someone in another ritual church. Eastern expressions of reverence are different, for the norm is to stand and to make profound bows (which can be onto the knees) rather than to kneel, however especially on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, is not a penitential day for low bows (except three times in the anaphora). There is kneeling during the Great and Holy Fast (Lent) at the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts which is only done on weekdays (Mon-Fri).

Are there any other things I can point out to her that stand out in the DL? Things that show how beautiful the DL is and how reverently it is being worshipped? For example, how in the DL the sign of the cross is made a multitude of times more than in a RC Mass.

Well I don’t think we can force your wife to appreciate the Divine Liturgy. However, perhaps we can help her understanding of the liturgy. Here are just a few things I can mention.

  1. Genuflecting is not an Eastern custom of respect. It’s like Western visitors who might visit Japan or Korea and want to leave a good tip to the waiter out of a sign of goodwill for the service. However, that can be received as an insult to receive a tip. Likewise slurping soup in Chinese culture is something you should do, while it is rude in Western etiquette. Also, doing metanoia’s is how one gives respect towards the tabernacle and is something that is done (normally) when walking across the middle aisle.
  2. Also kneeling/putting your knee to the ground (genuflecting) is not allowed in Sunday worship. St. Justin Martyr says that it is forbidden to pray on bended knee on the Lord’s day, and the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea has a canon that says the same. Liturgically/discipline wise, Eastern Christians have kept this rule so no. The Western Churches also during the first millenium kept this practice. It was (I assume) only with the introduction of pews during the time of the Protestant reformation that kneeling became the common practice. Not saying kneeling is a bad thing, as I think it’s a totally pious and great custom for the West, but this used to be the original historical practice of the Catholic Church as well.
  3. In terms of children doing what they want, in my experience, most parents want the Liturgical space a comfortable one for children. It is a place of reverence and worship, but it’s also a place we should feel at home, and definitely I think children should learn not to dislike going to church.
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  1. Eastern and Western liturgics follow different customs. The West really emphasizes the value of silence during the liturgy, such as how God is heard in a whisper. The East liturgically follows the idea of the heavenly choir, which appears a number of times in scripture (where Angels are praising the Lord in heaven). This is why everything in the Divine Liturgy is chanted or intoned and not just plainly read. It’s why our censers have bells, and is why the sanctuary is lit during divine liturgy (if you look at vespers, the lights are shut out, but during Matins there is a hymn that is sung that signals the entrance of Christ and the lights/candles are on onward all the way through Liturgy).
  2. The icon screen doesn’t function to “separate” the laity and the clergy. In simple terms, icons are windows into heaven. So the icon screen doesn’t function to separate the heavenly and lower realms, but seeks to connect them.
  3. The icon arrangement has meaning as well. To the left of the middle icon screen door is the Theotokos with Christ, which signals the first coming of Jesus. The icon on the right is of an adult Christ, and this is His second coming for the last judgement. The priest (who represents Christ) comes in between these two icons and also brings the chalice of the body and blood through, symbolizing that we are in the age between these two.
  4. Archangel Michael is usually on the left deacon door while Archangel Gabriel is on the right deacon door. Also during processions, the clergy primarily go out through the left door. This is because Michael is the leader of the heavenly army, and as such prevents those out of communion with God from entering (and with the fall, we are thrust out of relationship with God). But they enter the right deacon door, because it was through Archangel Gabriel’s message that heralded Christ’s incarnation and salvation of mankind.
  5. Iconography of the saints on the walls, along with all the people present, make up the heavenly choir of heaven, making it a dynamic reality of heaven and earth coinciding. The dome of Christ (if it has one) can represent the coming down of heaven coming together with us on Earth, making the divine liturgy a point of contact with heaven.
    Hope this helps. Just a few things I appreciate.
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Here’s actually something pretty cool. The divine liturgy used by the Eastern churches is actually from the tradition of St John chrysostom who lived in the 300s to 400 and is over 1200 years older than even the tridentine Mass. In fact at one point a similar liturgy was used in even Rome. Once you shed some light on the history of the Divine Liturgy and the history of the Catholic Mass to your wife maybe she will open up if she likes traditional things as I have inferred from the text above

Also if you want to get that Latin Mass feel go to a mass where they read in church slavonic and if you can check out Ukrainian Byzantine Church it’s the same Rite and there are a lot more frequently built then ruthenian Catholic churches and also they have usually a more beautiful display if your wife is looking for something more appealing to the eyes

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Also another thing that can get rid of that Protestant feel is the way you make the sign of the cross the way they do. The three fingers represent the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit and the two fingers represent the two Natures of Christ which was implemented in the mass specifically to QUELL HERETICS. The whole two Natures of Christ thing is to stop people from believing the same thing that the Oriental Orthodox do that Jesus is not God and man but rather a deified man or a manified God.

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That last part is what the orientals beleive, not them

Also if you ever get to go to confession there it’s really cool because sometimes they’ve got icon screens where you look at a screen with an icon painted on it or something like that and looking at it while confessing your sins helps you feel sorrow and guilt for what you have done thus making it easier to confess with true meaning

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Even a Divine Liturgy in Church Slavonic is going to feel very different from a Latin Mass.

As far as Ukrainian vs. Ruthenian, I suspect that your experience with either is limited to your local area?

The main difference between Ukrainian and Ruthenian is in the chant. Frequency of building depends upon the locale - if there are more Ukrainian Catholics there, they build more churches. If there are more Ruthenian Catholics there, they build more churches. The beauty of the building itself depends upon the resources of the parish and the aesthetic preferences of the Community. The last Ukrainian Church I visited uses a portable icon screen. The other Ukrainian parish in town is quite simple because it is a small community.
Both build churches from the simple to the elaborate.

Here is a simple Ruthenian Church with a small community.

Now, a small Ukrainian Church with a similarly sized community.

An elaborate Ruthenian Church
An elaborate Ukrainian Church

Wow that’s interesting…

Sorry but the Orientals don’t believe that…they are miaphysite not monophysite.


It sounds like her main hang-ups are kneeling and genuflecting? This can be tough if you have been trained that kneeling and genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament is the way to show reverence. It can feel disrespectful to stand during the Consecration and particularly after receiving Communion when you want to spend a few minutes kneeling in quiet prayer. This is true because in the Latin Rite, those who have enforced standing have done so in disobedience to the directives of the Church for reasons that might seem contrary to the faith.

I think it is important for your wife, or any visitor, to take herself out of one cultural mindset and enter into another. Another poster mentioned secular cultural practices that are considered rude in one culture and polite in another. We have to learn to move in both cultures. When I go to Mass, I kneel - even on Sundays and in the period between Easter and Pentecost. We are a universal Church with great diversity and great unity.

To someone who loves the quiet and order of the Latin Mass, the Byzantine Divine Liturgy can seem disorderly and even chaotic. In some cultures, more so than others. We don’t necessarily all have to be doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. Uniformity of postures and gestures is not as expected as in the Latin Rite. The Orans posture is commonly seen among the laity, particularly in the Middle Eastern Churches and that is quite traditional. But if you approach like an anthropologist and judge the culture by its own standards and not by the standards of the Latin Rite, it is easier to appreciate the beauty and reverence that uniquely belongs to the Byzantine Rite.

As far as children (and others) doing what they want - a bit of kid noise is far less disruptive in the Divine Liturgy than in the Latin Mass because there is so much movement and no silence. I think this is a better environment for little kids and their parents because we don’t have to be so quick to remove a chattering baby for fear of distracting someone else. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t teach kids to behave and take out crying or disruptive little ones, but there is a bit more latitude.

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She’s going to have to be open to researching and learning.

Eventually through research and education she will see the way things are done in the East is nearly always the more ancient way of doing things, and the way that most of the Church Fathers would recognize over against modern Roman Catholic practice. (And by modern I mean the traditions of the Roman Church from the 1500’s to today.)

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When I said that “latin mass feel” I meant the fact that they use the official church language and that they aren’t using vernacular. Also all the ruthenian churches I have seen in my area usually don’t have any of the doors or things such as that and don’t have that many icons. And all the ukrainian churches look something like this

Some Ukrainian Churches use English. Some use Ukrainian. Some use a combination of both. It depends upon the language spoken by most in the parish.

Few use Church Slavonic. Also, Church Slavonic is not the “official” language of the Church in the same way that Latin is.

Also all the ruthenian churches I have seen in my area usually don’t have any of the doors or things such as that and don’t have that many icons.

You mean the Ruthenian churches look something like this Ukrainian Church?


I just think that you’ve really generalized here based on rather narrow personal experience and it could lead the OP (and others) astray in their conclusions.

Yea ik don’t believe everything online but this is to prove that I’m not just making up stuff

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Also I’ve heard some Eastern Churches use koine greek in the mass, not sure about the legitimacy of this claim but still

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