One Catholic Faith, Many Ways to Life in the Trinity...,
ONE CATHOLIC FAITH, MANY WAYS TO LIFE IN THE TRINITY EASTERN CATHOLIC CHURCHES TODAY The Catholic Church The Catholic Church is made up of several autonomous Churches. These range in size from the largest, the Roman, with over 700 million members, to such small ones as the Coptic, with about 70,000. The non-Roman Churches are usually called "Eastern Churches" or "Eastern Rites." All of the Catholic Churches are equal within the One Church, and all are entrusted to the pastor care of the Pope of Rome as Successor of Saint Peter and the Vicar of Christ. Early Christian Churches All of the Churches trace their origin to Jerusalem, and from here to one of these original Mother Churches descended from Jerusalem: Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Byzantine, Roman. Within these five original traditions, we find the modern autonomous Churches. Each autonomous Church is heir to a particular spirituality, style of worship, religious art, canon law, and unique history. All of these combine so that each Church has a special way of leading people to a closer union with God. Diversity of Traditions The Roman or Latin Rite Church became the dominant form of Catholic worship in Western Europe, with only a few local exceptions. These did not survive the Reformation save in Italy (Ambrosian Rite in Milan) and Spain (Mozarabic Rite in Toledo) [sic., I believe in Lyons, France they have maintained their particular rite: KRG), both of which were merely different liturgical worship styles rather than autonomous Churches, and the small Byzantine Catholic Church (Italo-Greek) in southern Italy. Struggle for Union Some of these Churches accepted different teachings about Christ over the centuries, but all now teach the same as the Catholic Church. The split most familiar to Americans was that between Rome and the Byzantine Churches. These split into East and West; Catholic and Orthodox. Over the centuries since the split in 1054 AD, parts of Orthodoxy have decided to unite with Rome again. As early as the 1200's, this pattern was followed by parts of other Eastern Christian Churches. These communities form the eastern Catholic Churches. Catholic Churches in the U.S. In the United States there are seven autonomous Churches with dioceses (eparchies) while every other Church has parishes or missions. Since all are Catholic, each of these Churches (Armenian, Ethiopic, Maronite, Malabar, Syrian) holds to the Catholic Faith in all its fullness. Each celebrates the same seven Sacraments (Mysteries), and each is centered around the Eucharist. These Churches offer Catholics a wide variety of worship. The celebration of the Eucharist (Mass or Divine Liturgy) is done with great reverence. Parishes tend to be small and friendly communities where customs unite parishioners while celebrating the Presence of God in their lives.
Tradition Is Alive and Well In these parishes, Tradition is very much alive with the Holy Spirit encouraging the faithful to spread the Good News while keeping faithful to ancient practices. Prayer life is rich and the Churches are gradually reaching out to the larger community, eager to share their faith. Byzantine Catholic Churches The most widespread of all the Eastern Catholic Churches in the United States are the Byzantine churches. There are four jurisdictions in this country: Melkite, Romanian, Ukrainian, and Ruthenian. Originally these were based on ethnic membership, but today these Churches serve all people in the name of Jesus Christ and His Church. The Byzantine Church is usually identifiable from the outside by the three-bar cross atop the steeple or dome. The three bars represent the sign hung over Jesus' head, the crossbar for His arms, and the footrest. The slant of the footrest stands for both the Cross of St. Andrew, and to show that even in death, Jesus is the link between God and humanity. Å ÄÄ³ÄÄ ³ Å Sorry for lack of slant here Eastern Catholics and Orthodox place great emphasis on the sign of the cross as a profession of faith in the three basic doctrines of Christianity: The Holy Trinity, the double nature in Christ and the mystery of redemption. This act of faith in the teachings of Christianity is also an act of consecration to God of all human activities; thoughts, affections and actions. The interior of the church is dominated by the Iconostas or Icon Screen. This is the wall of icons, literally, with a set of doors to be used during the service. It designates the "Holy of Holies", the place where heaven and earth meet. The icons are painted according to ancient tradition and depict Our Lord, His Mother, events in their lives and their friends and Saints. The icons provide channels of God's grace to the world and give us "windows into heaven" when praying to God before them. Behind the Iconostas is the altar, with the tabernacle containing the consecrated bread, the Body of Christ. A sanctuary light is always burning acknowledging Christ's Eucharist Presence. There are two ornamental "fans" or Ripidia which represent the presence of the heavenly angels, and are often carried in procession. There are two side altars. One is the Altar of Preparation (Proskomedia) where the bread and wine are made ready, and the other is the Vestment Altar, often containing vestments, blessed oil, etc. +++++++