THE BYZANTINE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The Origin of the Byzantine Catholic Church
Jesus Christ founded His Church on Pentecost Day. By the grace received from God on Pentecost, the Apostles established the first churches throughout the ancient world.
St. Paul founded the Church of Antioch, St. Peter and St. James the Church of Jerusalem, St. Andrew, the Church of Constantinople, St. Mark, the Church of Alexandria, and Ss. Peter and Paul, the Church of Rome.
In the year of 1054 the Universal Church suffered the Great Schism. The Church of the East began to be called Orthodox with it’s See in Constantinople, and the Church of the West, Catholic, with it’s See in Rome.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, some local Orthodox Churches from Europe and the Middle East, re-established their communion with the Patriarchate of Rome, yet continued their distinctly Orthodox spirituality, liturgy, theology and discipline.
Today these Churches are known as the Byzantine Catholic Churches (present in America as the Romanian, Ukrainian, Ruthenian, and Melkite.
The Byzantine Catholic Church is one among the 22 Churches which form the Catholic (Universal) Church.
Our parish is under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of Canton. Our hierarch is the Most Rev. John Michael Botean, D.D., bishop of Canton, Ohio, in full communion with the Holy See in Rome.
The Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church, called also Greek Catholic, is actually the Orthodox Church from Transylvania, Romania, which in 1700 sought full communion with the Patriarchate of Rome.
The many Romanian Catholics, who immigrated to the US at the turn of the 20th century, established the first communities and built the first churches.
Today, these parishes are open to everyone who wishes to know the Eastern Catholic Church and its unique tradition.
The Byzantine Worship
The Greek word ‘orthodox’ means correct praise or correct teaching and in the Byzantine worship the praise and the teaching are ontologically interwoven.
The church services trace their origin back to the Old Testament. They are a treasury of Scripture reading, prayers, psalms, hymns and canons composed by the saints and pious Christians throughout the ages.
Pascha (Easter) is the Feast of all Feasts, the high point of the ecclesiastical year. During Easter, the Church shines with glory of Christ’s resurrection. Clouds of fragrant incense accompany prayers heavenward, chanting and bells sing out the triumphant news; the faithful greet one another with the holy kiss of peace and the greetings, ‘Christ is Risen’.
The Royal Doors of the iconostas are left open until the Ascension to show that Christ opens the Gates of Paradise for us sinners to receive
eternal life and the joy of heaven.
The Liturgy, as the center of the Byzantine public worship, brings all the souls in union with God and calls them to holiness through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Tradition and the Holy Scripture
Just as the Grace of the Holy Spirit, which descended on the Holy Apostles on Pentecost Day, flows in a living stream down through today’s bishops and priests, so the Holy Tradition carries the spiritual life of the Church in an unbroken stream since the apostolic time to the Byzantine Catholic faithful today.
The source of revelation is God Himself: "In time past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, final age, He has spoken to us through His Son" (Heb.1:1-2).
Revelation comes down to us expressly in a number of forms and elements.
The Holy Scripture is described as the foremost element of the Holy Tradition.
The Holy Tradition includes the unwritten acts about the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, which the Church preserves unchanged for us,
as of John 21:25, 2 Thes. 2:15, 3:6.
The power of the Holy Tradition is the power of the Holy Spirit as it influences the Byzantine Christians of all ages. Through the Holy Tradition, we are in communion with the spiritual life of all our preceding generations back to the Apostles.
The Holy Tradition and the Holy Scripture are the sole sources of Revelation.
Byzantine Catholic Belief and the Sacraments
We worship God in Trinity, glorifying equally, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, and that He is of one essence with the Father.
We believe that Christ, the incarnate Logos, is truly man, like us in all respects except sin.
We worship the Holy Spirit as Lord and the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father.
We venerate the Cross and honor the saints and ask their intercession before God. Of the saints, Mary, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God (Theotokos), Birthgiver of God, holds a special place “more Honorable than the Cherubim and more resplendent than the Seraphim.”
Baptism and Christmation are the two essential sacraments to enter into the saving shelter of the Church.
Baptism, by triple immersion washes away the original sin and personal sins. It can be performed by a clergyman or, in emergency, by anyone using holy water or simple fresh water.
Through Christmation we receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, becoming partakers of the fullness of Christ.
Confession is the fourth-essential sacrament in the life of all Byzantine Christians. Through confession we receive forgiveness of sins, and make peace with God and with ourselves. It is God Who forgives our sins, through the grace of the priest, following a sincere repentance.
In the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist we partake of the true Body and Blood of Christ, in the form of bread and wine, for the remission of sins, the healing of body and soul and for eternal life.
Ordination. By the laying on of the hands, a bishop transmits the Divine Grace to the one being ordained into the diaconate, priesthood, linking him to the continuing flow of Grace that descended over the apostles on Pentecost Day-uninterrupted succession of the Byzantine Catholic clergy.
The Divine Grace sanctifies a union of a man with a woman into the Mystery of Matrimony. In the Byzantine Catholic Church, the deacons and the priests may choose to be married or celibate. This may occur solely before ordination. Only the bishops have to be celibate.
The Sacrament of the Holy Unction heals the infirmities of the body and of the soul. Each year, on the Holy Wednesday (Holy Week) many priests concelebrate the Holy Unction. This Sacrament may be administrated as needed.
Virtually everything you see in a Byzantine Church has a meaning and it symbolizes and calls to mind various aspects of meeting with God.
The dome draws our yearning in aspiration upward toward God and the spiritual life. The circular Byzantine dome celebrates in architecture what is accomplishedwithin the Eucharistic Mystery that is the synergism between heaven and earth. A single dome symbolizes the One Head of the Church, Jesus Christ; three domes stand for the Holy Trinity, five domes point to Christ and the four evangelists.
The Cross reminds us that Christ is the King of Glory. The footboard, which wasused by the Romans during crucifixion, is slanted up to the right to signify the repentant thief and down on the left to signify the thief who mocked Christ.
Raised above the nave the sanctuary is where the Church’s ordained clergy lead the celebration of the divine services.
The altar in the center of the sanctuary is known as the Holy of Holies because the Lord God Himself is present on it in the Holy Eucharist (in the Tabernacle).
The icon screen (iconostas) is not placed in the front of the altar to hide it, but to emphasize the inner mystery of the sacraments and to symbolize the real division which exists between heaven and earth, and the piercing of the division by the incarnation of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
On small stands, on the large iconostas, encircling the walls, and even up to the highest dome, icons draw us into the spiritual life of the Church. They are silent ever-preaching sermons. The icons of Christ, of the Birthgiver of God (the Mother of God), of the saints and martyrs have profound and mystical significance in the Christian Byzantine life.
Because the Son of God took upon Himself our human nature and become incarnate as the God-man Jesus Christ, it becomes possible to portray the glory of God incarnate.
“Blessed are the eyes which see what you see” (Luke 10:3). The style of some icons (iconography) may seem austere and strange; they do not depict the natural beauty of the material world, but the spiritual beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven. Icons are honored, but not worshiped. Free from the subjective and the sentimental, the icon is part of the Holy Tradition of the Church.
As we gaze at the icons, the calm of the eternal truth falls upon us. Then we begin to realize the true beauty and the cosmic order of the visible and the invisible.
The icons are windows to heaven.