What are some of the traditions of the Byzantine rite?
Sign of the Cross
In the beginning of the Catholic Church, the hand was typically brought from the right to the left shoulder. In the Byzantine rite, this is still the practice, to signify Christ enthroned at the right hand of the Father. Blessing oneself with two fingers brought to the thumb represents the Trinity. The last two fingers held to the palm represent the two natures of Jesus - God and man. According to tradition and in the words of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), the Sign of the Cross is made with three fingers because it is impressed upon us in the name of the Holy Trinity. From the forehead we pass to the breast, then from the right to the left. We bow and make the Sign of the Cross many times during the Liturgy, as a sign of our faith, and the receiving and accepting of Gods blessings. Following the making of the Sign of the Cross, reverence to God is further expressed by bowing the head. We bless ourselves every time we mention the Persons of the Trinity by name, or whenever the priest blesses the congregation. We also bow and sign ourselves whenever we enter or leave the church.
In front of the altar, the icons of Mary with the Child Jesus in her arms reminds us of the first coming of Jesus, the God-man. The icon of Jesus by Himself represents His Second Coming at the end of time. The altar beckons us to enter into Gods presence and to put aside all worldly distractions. Icons make us remember: not a passive recollection of a past person or event, but a remembrance that transforms. This is one of the foundation stones of Christian liturgy - that the remembrance makes present the reality.
We use incense as a sign of reverence for the sacred place and the sacredness of the people who are made in God's image and as a sign of preparing for something important about to happen in the Liturgy. It is our prayer ascending like the smoke of incense before the throne of God.
Our altar bread is made with yeast (leavened) to symbolize that Christ is risen! At the beginning of the Liturgy, the priest will cut a loaf of specially baked altar bread and prepare cubed particles that will be used for distribution of Holy Communion.
Q & A
I am from the Roman Catholic rite. What is the difference when I attend your Liturgy?
As part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we share the same faith and we have the same seven Sacraments. Both rites will share many familiar parts - Scripture readings, Eucharistic Prayer, and Holy Communion - but the ceremonies surrounding them will be a bit different in places. The Byzantine Catholic Church is in complete communion and allegiance with the Pope in Rome and shares the same valid sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church.
Does the Byzantine Divine Liturgy fulfill the Sunday obligation?
Yes. The Byzantine Divine Liturgy is the same re-creation of the Last Supper as the Roman Rite Mass. The Divine Liturgy is offered in our church by a validly ordained priest recognized by and in union with Rome.
Does the Byzantine Liturgy use musical instruments?
Byzantine liturgical tradition emphasizes that we offer ourselves to God as we are. We bring only ourselves and stand before the Creator and we worship with our God-given voices without any man-made instruments. All liturgical prayer is sung “a capella” (human voice only).
Why do the priest and the people all face the altar during much of Liturgy?
The priest is the representative of the congregation. The sanctuary and tabernacle are the heavenly throne of God, so the priest faces God, the object of our prayers, and he speaks to God on our behalf.
What is the difference between the Divine Liturgy and the Mass?
There is no theological difference. The word liturgy came from the Greek "leitourgia," which means a "public gathering." The term mass comes from the Latin "ite, missa est;" "go, you are dismissed," from the dismissal at the end of the Mass. Both terms, however, are synonymous in meaning and describe the same event. Both the byzantine liturgy and the roman mass are the same sacrament, namely the Eucharist.
We welcome all to our parish! We are Catholics in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, whom we recognize as the visible Head of the Catholic Church. All are welcome and invited to experience the beauty of our Liturgy.
Returning to Faith?
If you have been away from the Church or from the practice of your faith, we would like to invite you to consider becoming an active member of our Parish. St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church provides ways to welcome new Christians and welcome back inactive Catholics.
For further information or help you can also call our parish office at 905-775-8282 and we will be happy to assist you. As a first step, we welcome you to join us at one of our Masses.
Also, if you have been baptized in the Catholic Church but have not received the sacraments of First Communion and/or Confirmation and wish to do so, please call the parish office at 905-775-8282.
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