Sunday, February 05, 2017
"Functionally biritual"?! How does that work?
Biritualism is officially a clergy thing. A Roman Rite priest can get permission from an Eastern Catholic church to serve in it if he knows the rite well enough, etc., so he can help out in a parish, for example. To pray specifically for the Russian Orthodox to return to the church and for Communism to end in Russia, Fulton Sheen got that from the Ruthenian Church. I'm just a layman, but with my background and with a Ukrainian Catholic parish now almost in my neighborhood, having moved from a dying city, I say I'm functionally biritual. Divine Liturgy once a month and prayers in the Byzantine Rite often daily at home in front of icons from a late Russian gentleman (half are medieval style, half 19th-century; all very tsarist).
So, since that and the traditional Roman Rite are often not in sync, how does that work for me? If you're not closely following the office/hours, it's not hard.
First, you have to pick the dates for Easter and Christmas (and other fixed-date feasts) to follow. Most people don't know that the Catholic Church has two Easters and two Christmases! (Alas, not double the presents.) No problem. It's not doctrine, not about two Christs; just commemorations. Easy to choose in America, where most Greek Catholic (Byzantine Rite Catholic) churches have adopted both the Western date for Easter and the Gregorian calendar for fixed-date feasts. Until the '50s they were old-calendar here; nothing to do with Vatican II. The Orthodox are mixed: here they all keep their old, usually later date for Easter, but most have gone with the Gregorian calendar, so they have two Christmases too. Why the two calendars? The Julian calendar from Roman times was falling behind, so in the late 1500s the Pope's astronomers corrected it. That affected the calculation of the date for Easter and of course fixed-date feasts. Anti-Catholic countries put off adopting the new calendar; England (and thus America) didn't until the mid-1700s and Russia didn't until 1918 (and then only for secular use)! There is no doctrinal reason to keep the old calendar; it's science, not theology. But the Orthodox want to spite the Catholic Church. To which the church says, "No matter. It's not de fide. Want to use the old dates? Fine with us." Catholics in the Ukraine do, for example, just like the Russians.
With more informal versions of the offices, having a foot in each rite is doable; for example, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, sort of a quick tour of the Roman Breviary for laymen. Likewise, the Byzantine Rite has daily troparia and kontakia (equivalent to collects) that are tied to days of the week (the angels on Monday, St. John the Baptist on Tuesday, the cross on Wednesday and Friday, the apostles and St. Nicholas on Thursday, and all saints and the dead on Saturday; this includes the eves, the liturgical way). Just like the rosary is independent of the liturgical calendar.
So in Byzantine mode I follow the Gregorian calendar except for something big such as Russian Christmas, Jan. 7: troparion and kontakion of the day.
I keep Friday abstinence year round (that famous Catholic thing*) but not Wednesday, and the modern Roman Rite's fasting rules** but the traditional Roman and Orthodox midnight fast for Communion. Ideally I'd go to a friendly OCA (long story short, Russian Orthodox) parish for Saturday Vespers (since the Catholic parishes don't do it), part of the Russian discipline for receiving Communion, but my Saturday evenings aren't free. Don't worry; I wouldn't try to preach to anyone.
*You're supposed to pick an alternative self-discipline/self-denial/penance if you eat meat, but who does that? In practice the change was a sellout, a disparagement of fasting and a weakening of, yes, Catholic community. And by the way you don't have to eat fish; the story about Pope helping Italian fishermen's a joke.
**I can't do extreme fasting; deal with it. Thanks to "economy," many of the Orthodox don't do it either.