Monday, July 18, 2016

Parish report: My monthly Byzantine Rite Sunday

Yesterday was my monthly Byzantine Rite Sunday at the nearest Ukrainian Catholic church. (I honor my commitment to my parish: I plan these trips and double up the collection envelopes the preceding Sunday.) My first Sunday (vs. Saturday evening) sung Liturgy (vs. spoken) there. Smallish congregation, maybe 30 to 45 people; a few relatively young ones and even a child or two. (A screaming baby is a sign of a future.) A cantor with a little help from another singer, not a choir. Singing rightly from the stand in back (the kliros, a piece of furniture, in some other Byzantine churches), not at a lectern waving his arms as in the Novus Ordo. (More below on the music.) One man doubling as server and reader, properly vested (sticharion; looks like a dalmatic but it's actually the alb's cousin), simply reading the epistle (traditionally it's chanted, such as recto tono, mostly on only one note, like in the traditional Roman Rite) but standing in the nave facing the altar as is called for. No other altar boys. Liturgy mostly in English but, contrary to what I'd read reported, some in Ukrainian (nice; no problem; I know Slavonic and Russian so it's intelligible and familiar; actually their traditional liturgical language is Slavonic, which some parishes still use). Incense of course from a Greek-style thurible jingling with many sleighbells. Hymn during the censing before Liturgy, just like the Ruthenians; in fact one of the same hymns. In the Liturgy itself, Ukrainian chant is new to me; it's in the same family as Ruthenian prostopinije (plainchant) but the tunes are different. Very memorizable and singable. (I'm retired from church singing.) No sermon on a hot day. The anaphora chanted recto tono, a modern liturgical fashion. (Traditionally except for the words of institution and a few other things, it's whispered just like the Roman Canon.) Ethnic and a very few immigrant (old exiles who escaped the Soviets) Ukrainians, not Internet-type converts attacking the teachings of the church (giving the term "Orthodox in communion with Rome" a bad name); "real people." The Ukrainianness literally isn't advertised but it's there; the people want it. But it's not about nationalism; it's about church, which is right of course. Coffee hour at which you can buy lunch, in the hall in back after the service. Thumbs up! Слава Богу (glory to God).

Liturgical colors among the Orthodox often parallel the traditional Roman Rite but not necessarily; such is the case here. White and/or gold, not green; also there was a special commemoration (of the first six ecumenical councils, I was told).

Going here part-time is something I think I'm called to do for my own edification, in reparation for how our churchmen have treated Byzantine Catholics historically (often pushed out of the church for no good reason), and of course to pray to bring the Orthodox back into the church. Maybe some good can come from my learning so much of this stuff.


  1. It hard to know what is going on in the local Catholic Ukrainian church. It seems to me they lost something when they sent that priest to the USA. The new fellow seems a lot colder. Or maybe it is just towards me?

    1. The priest here is something like second- or third-generation American. Sometimes with immigrants/exiles it's European reserve and sometimes it's just a language barrier. The first traditional Catholic Mass I went to 31 years ago had a Ukrainian exile priest who still struggled with English.


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