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The Eastern Catholic Liturgical Experience Among Romans

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Jesús Brea:
Since in my country there is no TLM, I currently attend a maronite Liturgy.  It is hopelessly embedded with the Spirit of Vatican II (women lectors, ocasional cheesy NO music, bland homilies, versus populum, etc), but fortunately there are many prayers which reek of propitiation; I dare say there is even more emphasis on  propitiatory sacrifice than in the TLM (at one point the priest,  kneeling in front of the Consecrated Host, right before the Epiklesis, cries "please hear us Oh Lord, that your Grace bestows upon us and this Sacrifice" and right after that,  we sing Kyrie Eleison) and the prayers asking for the forgiveness of our sins and for the departed are too numerous to count, perhaps it is not as explained as in the Latin Mass but still it is very "in your face" so to speak.

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Mr Brea,

  I can relate with the Maronite Liturgy being heavily influenced by the NO, especially at the parish level.  It is supposedly the one most touched of the Eastern rites.
  I used to go to a Maronite Monastery years ago.  Several things finally stopped me from going, being sede being the main factor, but there are other problems.  Since they permit NO ordained men to say Mass at their places or even be the regular priest there, that is problematic. 
 Also, having women lectors.  I would go, years ago, on occasion to a Byzantine seminary.  It was on a Sunday, during the summer, but there were people attached to the seminary around.  I go up and left the place when I heard and saw a middle-aged woman in the middle of the isle, close to the sanctuary, there saying one of the readings.  Why did this happen when they had seminarians around?  I do not support it, but they could not find a man for the job.
  The Eastern Liturgies have been a lifeboat for many since VII.  However, there are serious pitfalls to many of the places, especially over time.  Just sharing what I have experienced.


I have not had the privilege of attending an oriental divine liturgy. Hopefully, I will one day.

I have only experienced the Eastern Rites twice, the first being a Ukrainian Divine Liturgy  and the other a Maronite Liturgy. I came to both Divine Liturgies out of curiosity and to experience the liturgical richness of the Universal church  which unites both East and West.   As a Roman, I would like to share my thoughts on both rites, accepting correction if needed from an Easterner since I am not such a connoisseur on Eastern Rites.  I will first share my experience with the Ukrainian Liturgy:

The Ukrainian Liturgy was celebrated in Downtown San Francisco, just less than 5 miles  of where I serve my TLM. Interestingly, the church is called Immaculate Conception, just like the church where I serve the Tridentine Mass. There were latinizations present in the chapel, with pews and confessional booths. The majority of the whole rite was in Ukrainian, with some English for the prayers for the Church and the Pope, whose name is mentioned at least 3 times if I recall.  There was only one server, who translated the Epistle and Gospel. The priest wore blue vestments,  and the congregation, only around twenty, essentially was the whole choir. I know the Ukrainians though have a more active presence in their monastery 40 miles to the south in San Jose. This chapel could be termed  as a "mass center" for lack of a better term  Unlike the Tridentine Mass, the vast majority of the Ukrainian rite( I would say 95%) is sung and chanted by the priest and choir.  I recall that the Sanctus came before the creed , the ordering of the propers thus  different from the Roman rite. There were missals provided in the pews, which translated the Ukrainian text into English. This did not really help me too much because I was not at all literate of the Ukrainian alphabet. However, I was able to follow the Divine Liturgy due to the assistance of a very kind elderly woman, who guided me through the missal, telling me which part of the rite we were on. She even translated word from word  the sermon of the priest, which was only offered in Ukrainian. The priest sermonized mainly  on miracles, and the fact that there are miracles all around us that we do not see. He furthermore emphasized that one can see miracles just in the beauty of the world that God had created and encouraged active confession.

After the Divine Liturgy, there was a reception and I was warmly welcomed, meeting the priest and some other members of the congregation. I then conversed with a former Roman Rite Catholic who has now committed himself fully to the Eastern Rites since the 1970s, having been encouraged to by the priest.  He is truly an expert in theology, as he obtained a doctorate in the field, being fluent in Latin, Greek , Ukrainian and other languages I do not recall. I asked the expert on why the sermon of the priest came at the end of the liturgy, a phenomenon I had never witnessed at all. He replied that this was done for practical reasons. Apparently, Easterners are the most tardy of church goers, something I witnessed myself. I was told that the Arabs are the most notorious for being late, followed by the Greeks, and Ukrainians. The expert related to me the time when he visited the Greek Cathedral in Los Angeles. He said that at  first there were only around 30 people at the beginning of the liturgy. At the end, that number had risen to 250. Thus, the practice in the chapel where I went to was to have the sermon at the end, so that all the faithful can listen to it. I furthermore learned from the expert that the Russians have the reputation of being the most strict in following the rubrics.  Remembering that the Filoque Clause was in brackets in the text of the creed in the missal, I inquired if the Filoque Clause was said by the priest. The expert replied that at this chapel, it is not, though this practice of omitting the Filoque was not universal as I was told. The expert related to me that prior to the early 90s, every Ukrainian Uniate church never omitted the Filoque clause. Due to pressure of the Greeks, however, a substantial amount of Ukrainian Catholic priests dropped the Filoque clause in their liturgies. Heaven forbid, one must hope that  those Greeks who pressured the Ukrainians to drop the Filoque were not the Orthodox Schismatic ones. Then again, in this day of Ecumenism, one should not be surprised.

Overall, the Ukrainian Divine Liturgy was very beautiful and had no liturgical aberrations , the Protestantized  Novus Ordo service offering no comparison. However, as liturgically sane and  pleasing as the Ukrainian Divine Liturgy is, the omission of the Filoque Clause as a gesture of ecumenism to the Eastern Schismatics is concerning.  Then again, one should not be too hard on this fact, as today's Rome allows Easterners to omit the Filoque Clause as they please. In fact, as I researched, whenever Benedict XVI con-celebrates a liturgy with Eastern bishops, both Uniate and Schismatic, he always makes sure to omit the Filoque Clause. It makes one wonder whether the whole controversy regarding the Filoque Clause between the Western and Eastern Churches was a futile episode after all.

Wow, that's an interesting experience.  I attend a predominantly Arabic church, so I can vouch for the fact that Arabs are indeed frequently late.  We have a service called Orthros (which corresponds to matins) prior to liturgy, that maybe two dozen people attend regularly.  Once liturgy begins, about half the seats are filled, predominantly by the "blue-eyed Melkites" and about 10-15 minutes into the liturgy most of the Arabs arrive.  Among Mediterranean Byzantines, there is a certain sense of "coming and going" and it isn't considered as disruptive, or even inappropriate, as it is in the Latin Church, though arriving after the beginning of the liturgy is still a bit of a faux pas.

Having the sermon at the end is odd.  I've never heard of that being done in North America before.  I know during Soviet times, churches were required to omit the sermon altogether, so perhaps if it is a predominantly immigrant church (which it sounds like it may have been) they added the sermon back in but just not at the proper time.

The reason for the omission of the filioque is due to the meaning in Greek versus Latin.  In Latin, it is ambiguous enough to mean the same as proceeding through the Son, whereas the words in Greek would be heretical.  The only possible meaning of "from the Son" in Greek would have the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son as from two separate sources.  If the Ukrainians were pressured into dropping the filioque by the Greeks, it was likely schismatic Greeks.  There are very few Catholic Greeks (in fact, I think there are actually more Roman rite Greeks in Greece than there are Byzantine rite Catholic Greeks).  In North America, the largest groups of Byzantine Catholics are the Ukrainians and Ruthenians (many of whom are actually Slovakian or Hungarian), followed by the Melkites (predominantly Lebanese and Syrian, with some Palestinian and Egyptian as well) and Romanians, and occasionally you can find Russian and Italo-Greek parishes.  If you look at where the majority of Eastern Catholics come from in the world, you will see that their ancestry is predominantly in the former Austro-Hungarian empire.  All the Ukrainian Catholics are from Galicia, all the Romanian Catholics are from Transylvania, etc.


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