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  I live within an hour of a small Byzantine Church.  I have so often considered going, and now that Winter is over I could easily visit some Sunday morning.  I am held back by fear of the unknown!  My main reason for visiting would be to see if I could find something more like a Traditional Latin Mass, which is not an option for me here.  Perhaps I am dreaming, so if anyone has any comments on my objective or in helping me to understand what the experience might be like, please do speak up!  I am totally in the dark here!  Do women cover their heads?
Jeanannemarie, thank you for expressing your interest in the Byzantine Rite!

Unless an Eastern Catholic parish has been heavily affected by the Latin-rite Vatican II mindset, women generally do veil their heads.

As for what to expect:

If the parish is faithfully Byzantine, the Liturgy should be at least an hour and a half. Often, "Orthros" (Matins) is prayed in the hour before the Liturgy is scheduled to begin. There are often many parishioners milling around before the holy Liturgy.

You do not genuflect at any time, but instead make a profound bow to the altar, even if it has a tabernacle. If you come across an icon of a saint whom you love, you bow, kiss the hand of the person depicted in the icon, and then cross yourself. Every time the Trinity or the Lord Jesus or Mary the Theotokos are invoked, you cross yourself.

Most action in the liturgy is within the sanctuary, behind an iconostasis, or icon-screen. It is not for us laity to go inside. A non-clerical person needs a blessing just to enter beyond the doors of the screen.

The general layout is very similar to the Mass, but it has more "meat":

It begins "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit..."
Instead of the Kyrie-Christe-Kyrie eleison, you have 11 Kyrie eleisons interspersed between 11 petitions in the "Great Litany"
Psalm 102 (103) follows...
Antiphons and psalms follow...
A hymn to Christ as the only-begotten Son of God
Various hymns (kontakion, prokeimenon) proper to the day
Epistle reading
Gospel reading
(sometimes a sermon here, sometimes at the end)
Creed
The whole anaphora/canon of the Eucharist...

I advise you not to receive holy communion on your first visit, especially if you just want to observe. The process is quite different from the Latin rite, old or new. I'd personally just stand, watch, and pray (or sit, if there are pews!).

Here is an entire Mekite Catholic (i.e. Byzantine Rite) liturgy without an iconostasis, so it's easy to see what's going on in the sanctuary:

[video=youtube]YzFOuz_hAbw[/video]

Simply beautiful (but give me austere Roman elegance any day)  :grin:
(04-06-2014, 02:52 PM)loggats Wrote: [ -> ]Simply beautiful (but give me austere Roman elegance any day)  :grin:

That's a good point, loggats; though elegant, the Eastern rites are definitely not austere in the Roman sense.  :)

There's a story about repetition in the liturgy that is worth sharing: once, there was a Byzantine priest serving at the holy altar at the time when he was preparing the gifts for consecration. A humongous spider suddenly made his presence known, crawling up out of the priest's phelonion (chasuble), where it had been hiding up until that point. The spider went up and down the collar of the vestment exactly 3 times before disappearing. Although everyone was horrified, they were at least satisfied that this was a Byzantine spider!  :LOL:

The Roman Liturgy has certainly become austere since the olden days (pre-Gregory the Great). I like it for its own merits, but the seemingly endless Byzantine liturgy is glorious to my soul. If you come into church late one day while still unfamiliar with the Rite, you will have no idea where you are within the sacred action. You can be sure of two things, however: 1. you are somewhere in Heaven with Christ, and 2. whatever you've missed is probably going to be repeated soon anyway.

Here is a shorter, more tolerable video from a Ukrainian-Greek parish (still Byzantine Rite!), showing the Consecration celebrated by a bishop:

"Let us stand well; let us stand with fear; let us offer, in peace, the holy oblation".

[video=youtube]MNwJk0hSD3s[/video]
Some personal and random thoughts: I admire the Eastern liturgies. There's something very ancient seeming about the continuous repetition, a holy-minded OCD. With the Roman rite, each gesture and each word is definitive - its stop/starts and repetitions are controlled, as though it's aware of this tendency to swell into prolixity but restrains itself from entertaining that "Alice at the Hatter's tea party" impulse. Maybe that's the conflict I find so appealing, capturing the human spirit between abyss and aspiration. No earthly liturgy no matter how beautiful will be anything but a pale cipher of the liturgy we're promised in the Book of Revelation. While synesthetic rhapsodizing has its charms, I don't think I'm able to go there wholeheartedly (this probably ties in with my views on late modernity). God extends in the fragility of our humanity, and I see that most wonderfully and pathetically expressed in the actions of the Roman cleric, exerting utmost control to hold himself together before the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.
It's interesting that you focus on the Roman priest's need for decorum and self-restraint, as opposed to the Eastern priest's potential for ... over-exuberance? In my experience of the Eastern Rite, the clergy seem to be very serious and self-contained. I do not believe there is much of a divide between the demands of the Traditional Latin Mass and the Divine Liturgy in this respect.

In terms of the attitude of the general population of Christians towards each liturgy, there is definitely a difference. Latin-Mass traditionalists seem very focused and controlled, but Divine-Liturgy traditionalists exude a sort of congregational joy. When a Latin choir focused on reverence sings the introit "Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum" on Easter Sunday, there is no great fanfare or emotion. When a Byzantine church erupts with 9 "Christos anesti"s with the congregational response "alithos anesti" (already a big difference), there is a thunder of emotion.

The Byzantine liturgy has bells upon the censer; the Byzantine liturgy uses bright blues, pinks, golds, and whites much more often than Romans. There is a certain joie de vivre that is almost uncontainable. Compared with staid, rubric-focused Roman attitudes, there is certainly a gap.

In the Eastern liturgies, expect yourself, the clergy, and the building and icons to be incensed multiple times at the beginning, early on, the middle, later on, and at the end. Expect the entire place to reverberate with brightness - even the icon is fiery gold, over against the stoic and quiet Roman statues. I find the ardour personally invigorating.

What do you mean by synesthetic rhapsodizing, loggats?
It would be helpful to know what parish you are going to visit, or at least what jurisdiction they belong to. 
(04-06-2014, 04:31 PM)spasiisochrani Wrote: [ -> ]It would be helpful to know what parish you are going to visit, or at least what jurisdiction they belong to. 
In the Pittsburgh Eparchy (hope I spelled that right.)
Thank you everyone for taking the  time for so much explanation.  Why does it all sound so foreign, different names for the same things?  It sounds very beautiful.  I think I would just observe.  I guess I could be researching this myself, but you are telling me what I want to know.  I wanted the personal viewpoints, not a Wikipedia definition.  Do you have to be of a certain ethnicity to be Byzantine (sucessfully, I mean) or is it like the Roman in the sense of being universal, even though it started out with certain ethnic groups?
(04-06-2014, 09:58 PM)Jeanannemarie Wrote: [ -> ]Thank you everyone for taking the  time for so much explanation.  Why does it all sound so foreign, different names for the same things?  It sounds very beautiful.  I think I would just observe.  I guess I could be researching this myself, but you are telling me what I want to know.  I wanted the personal viewpoints, not a Wikipedia definition.  Do you have to be of a certain ethnicity to be Byzantine (sucessfully, I mean) or is it like the Roman in the sense of being universal, even though it started out with certain ethnic groups?

The Rite of a Church is merely the way in which it worships, no? Your Rite determines your way of celebrating the Eucharist, the Divine Office, the Sacraments, and various prayers, litanies, and traditions of worshiping God. In that sense, each rite is neutral. Any human being from any place may worship God in any Christian rite approved by the Holy Church.

Originally, the Byzantine Rite was simply a local liturgical rite: a way of worshiping with the Sacraments. In that sense, it was just like the Latin Rite of Rome, the Ambrosian Rite of Milan, the Sarum Rite of England, or the Mozarabic Rite of Madrid. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Eastern Churches who left communion with Rome in AD 1054 worship using the forms of the Byzantine Rite... and so "Byzantine Rite" has come to be associated with the Slavic, Greek, and Arab schismatics who are called the "Eastern Orthodox". There's a lot of cultural stereotyping going on there, but it has nothing to do with the objective truth of the matter: Byzantine liturgy is a valid way of worshiping God.

Universal though it is, the specific ethnic and local Churches which use the Byzantine Rite have come back to Rome in a very slow process starting after the Crusades. The Melkite Catholic Church, the Ruthenian Catholic Church, and the Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church use the Byzantine Rite. Each came back to Rome in their own good time, after many years of cultural separation from the West. Because of that circumstance, many Catholics in the Melkite & Ruthenian churches are ethnically Greek, and the vast majority of Catholics in the Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church are Ukrainian or Russian. The same goes for the Maronites, who use the West Syrian Rite, and are mostly Lebanese people.

The perception of a culture-gap is one of the biggest stumbling-blocks for people of Germanic & Latin ethnicity when coming to an Eastern Catholic Rite - we just feel a little bit like we don't belong there. What makes you a good Byzantine Catholic, however? Prayer! Love for God and neighbour! Prayer! Attending the Divine Liturgy! Prayer! Holy Communion! Prayer! The Jesus Prayer! More Jesus Prayers! Learning to see the heavenly realities through the windows of icons! Prayer! Inhaling incense like oxygen! As a person of Anglo-Saxon & Celtic blood, I would not be unwelcome in a Byzantine liturgy. Be baptized. That is all!

Just remember that there is neither Jew nor Greek... all are one in Christ Jesus. :)
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