Receiving the Eucharist in Divine Liturgy

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Communion served in Eastern Catholic tradition. When receiving the Eucharist in an Eastern Catholic Ruthenian Church, the priest will say your name, and if he doesn’t know it, he will ask your name. The Eucharist is served on a communion spoon. Photo credit: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.

“I think what people find is a very rich liturgy that’s very focused on the mystical dimension of the Eucharist.” – Father Kevin Kennedy, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Russian Catholic Church, San Francisco CA.
altar surrounded by apostles
“Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” – Jesus (John 6:53). Altar in sanctuary at Holy Trinity Chapel, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania; surrounded by Jesus, two Archangels and the Apostles.

Pascha Feast Day

resurrection beating death on teh crossThe Resurrection Icon.  Pascha or Easter is the most important feast in the Byzantine liturgical year. It celebrates the resurrection of our Lord and his victory over the power of death. Note: Behind Christ is written: IC XC (Jesus Christ). Holy Trinity Chapel, Jenkintown PA.

More Prominent Eastern Saints

St. Andrew (left) was the first called of the Apostles and brother of Peter and plays an important part in the Byzantine Catholic Church. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Russia, Ukraine and Scotland. St. Andrew evangelized the region known as Byzantium.

Brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius (rt), “Apostles to the Slavs” (Ukrainian) are the Patron Saints of Europe and play an important part in the founding of the Eastern Byzantine Church. The followers of these Byzantine Greek missionaries converted the Ruthenian people, creating the modern day Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church.

There are many eastern saints, some with their feast days are shown in calendar here.

Sign of the Cross

sign of the cross eastern rite

Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics place great emphasis on the sign of the Cross. The Eastern Catholics make the sign of the Cross in the same way as the Orthodox, forehead to chest, then from right to left, with the thumb, index and middle fingers joined in honor of the Trinity. The other two fingers are pressed to the palm, in honor of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, in one Person.

In most parishes, no one will kneel during the sanctification of the gifts. There are other parishes where some will kneel and some will stand. Some parishes have no kneelers in the pews at all. This could be based on the first Christians who stood in the great churches of the time and would read the icons since many did not read or write.


St. Nicholas of Myra (left) or Holy Father Nicholas plays a prominent role in Eastern Christianity from the Latin Rites.

The famous Icon of the Nativity (right) showing Christ born into a stone coffin, a sarcophagus, a symbol of His death. His mother is lying next to him, dressed in red.

In some Eastern Churches, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th instead of December 25th. This is because Byzantine Catholic churches follow the Julian calendar in which Christmas falls 13 days after that of the Gregorian calendar.


The Old Testament prophets play a special role in Eastern Christianity. Their books are read and icons viewed as a critical voice to listeners. Icons share a mystical look into the soul of a prophet. Here are several prophets of distinction:


Prophetess Anna, a seer, speaking with foreknowledge on God’s behalf. “She joyfully told of the child” – Luke. She was very old and spent all her time worshiping God by fasting and praying at the temple. Holy Trinity Chapel.

“Upon seeing the baby Jesus, Anna praised God; in the community seeking deliverance for Jerusalem.”

king david
“Kings of distant lands will come” Psalms 72. King David prophesied foreign kings bringing gifts to the Messiah. Holy Trinity Chapel.

prophet moses
“A Star Will Come out of Bethlehem” – Numbers 24:17 predicts where the Messiah will be born. Holy Trinity Chapel.

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Prophet Isaiah (Michaelangelo). Prophet Isaiah foretold: “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel.” Isaiah 7:14


St. John the Baptist icon created by The Monks of Tabor, California.

He laid his hands upon Him as the prophets foretold, showing himself to be the forerunner of the Word of God. Eastern Catholics hold St. John the Baptist in high regard, with multiple feast days throughout the year.

Weekly Cycle of Dedications

From the Weekly Cycle one can see the emphasis on prayer and dedication of Eastern Catholics:
– Sunday dedicated to Christ’s Resurrection
– Monday to Angels and Archangels
– Tuesday to the Prophets
– Wednesday to St. John the Forerunner (Baptist)
– Thursday honors Holy Apostles and Hierarchs
– Friday is The Cross and Crucification
– Saturday to All Saints and Theotokos (Mother of God) and all faithful departed

Angels and Archangels

michael the archangel

Typically, Mondays dedicated to Angels and Archangels. Icon: Archangel Michael, Holy Trinity Chapel, The Sisters of Saint Basil the Great, Jenkintown, PA. The Sisters who established Manor College in 1947, were founded in the 4th century by Saint Basil the Great and his sister Saint Macrina.

Prayer: Archangel Michael, O leader of the heavenly armies, we beseech you to encircle us with your protection.

“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people.” Daniel 12:1

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Icon: Archangel Gabriel at Holy Trinity Chapel.

Archangel Gabriel, watch over us as we bow low, deliver us from trouble, O Prince of the Heavenly Armies.

Gabriel was rapt in amazement, the splendor of her purity, O Mother of God, I am lost – “Hail O Woman full of grace!”

Eastern Catholics and the Pope in Rome

Pope Francis in Philadelphia 2015 (lft). St. Peters Dome designed by Michelangelo. (rt)

Eastern Catholics are in union with the Pope in Rome. They share with Roman Catholics the same basic faith and the same mysteries (sacraments) and adhere to the Creed, although the Divine Liturgy follows many of the traditions of the Orthodox churches.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav ShevchukArchbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

mitresHis Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk on left with the mitre of Eastern Byzantine bishop flanked on left by Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.  Auxiliary Bishop Most Reverend John J. McIntyre (Roman Catholic Church) is in background with the white mitre of the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop. New Church Bell Tower blessing, November 2015. Photo credit: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.

The Eastern Catholic Church is open to all Roman Catholics as a means to get closer to God. The Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Catholic rite is accepted by Rome and Pope Francis for satisfying Sunday obligation for Roman Catholics.

ukrainian cathedral doors wide open

The Byzantine Catholic door is open to all Catholics, both Byzantine and Roman Catholic rites.  Photo credit: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Incense and music are used throughout an Eastern Christian liturgy service. The epistle reading are sung usually by a cantor from the congregation. The priest can sing the gospel and many parts of the Divine Liturgy.

Byzantine Chant from St. Andrew, Kontakion the Great Canon (in English) by Fr. Apostolos Hill.


Fasting is an important discipline in the Christian East. Major portions of the Liturgical cycle are taken up by periods of fasting. In the Byzantine tradition observed by Greek Catholics or Byzantine Catholics (and Orthodox Christians) the Great Lent also known as the Great Fast is a major fast lasting for 40 days.

Attempts at Reunion: Eastern Orthodox with the West

pope and Archbishop of Constantinople

Pope Francis hopes to reunite the Roman Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Church and is seen here with Archbishop of Constantinople,  Patriarch Bartholomew in Rome.

There is a separate dialogue between Pope Francis and the six Oriental Orthodox Churches of the Coptic, Armenian, Syriac, Indian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean tradition. These churches did not accept the council of Chalcedon in 5th century that professed Jesus was one person with two natures, a human and divine.

A meeting in Cuba in February 2016 between Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and Pope Francis  is the first of its kind in a 1,000 years. In November 2014, Pope Francis told Kirill: “I’ll go wherever you want. You call me and I’ll go.”


Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill exchanged a joint declaration on religious unity at the Jose Marti International airport in Havana Feb. 12, 2016. (Gregorio Borgia / AP)

There have been tensions between the two religions due to the Eastern Catholic resurgence in Russian states. John L Allen perspective:

 Russian Orthodox leaders still routinely exude hostility.

They insist that Eastern Catholic churches, which follow Orthodox traditions but are in communion with the pope, are a Trojan horse to siphon off their faithful. They complain about Catholic encroachment on their “canonical territory” in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, although they show no inhibitions about opening up shop in Western Europe and Latin America.

…Roughly half the members of the Russian Orthodox Church are in Ukraine, and if they break away, it would be a major political and financial blow for Moscow.

Many Ukrainians recall the way criticism of the Soviets was stifled in Rome for decades as part of a policy of Ostpolitik, and, to be frank, some see Friday’s joint declaration as cut from the same cloth.

coptic church fromnileCoptic Orthodox Church in Egypt

“Christians of the East and West must give common witness so that, strengthened by the Spirit of the risen Christ, they may disseminate the message of salvation to the entire world.” – Pope Francis

Likewise, Saint Pope John Paul II urged that the Catholic Church “breathe with two lungs” — East and West alike — rather than with only one Western, or Latin, lung. He underscored his point in 1985 by naming Saints Cyril and Methodius, whose feast day is celebrated Feb. 14, as co-patrons of Europe alongside St. Benedict of Nursia.

“The goal would be that we could all be celebrating the same Eucharist together and commemorating the pope in Rome and all of the Orthodox vanguards and Catholic bishops together and that we could be what we were for the first thousand years in the history of Christianity, an undivided faith. Different, but in communion with each other” – Fr Kennedy Our Lady of Fatima Russian Catholic Church, San Francisco CA.

When Pope John Paul II met the Catholic Bishops of Ukraine in the year 2001, he used the analogy of two lungs in the human body to represent the Western and Eastern elements of Christianity. Using Pope John Paul II’s analogy, the left lung represents the Latin Rite, and the right lung represents the Eastern Churches. (Note: The Eastern Churches include all of the Eastern Rites in union with Rome, and the separated Orthodox Churches.) Since the Great Schism of 1054, the separation of the Orthodox Churches from Rome has made the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church) breath with one lung for many centuries, instead of two. –  Nicholas Kovacs, O.F.S.

Politics of Unrest

ukrainian martyrs

Ukrainian Martyrs: thousands of Eastern Catholics perished under communist rule 1918-1980 from The Treasury of Faith Museum, Philadelphia PA.

Russian rebel occupation in 2014 of Eastern Ukraine and hostilities resulting in 9,500 deaths and 20,000 injuries, as of this writing. It affects Ukraine’s roughly 6 million Ukrainian Greek Catholics and also those in Orthodox Church. We pray that this conflict may come to an end.