Q: We're Catholic, in complete mutual communion with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, but faithful to our Eastern heritage, spirituality, and theology.
The Romanian Greek Catholic Church (We also use the term "Byzantine" because of our liturgical origins in Byzantium/Constantinople) is one of the 23 churches that make up the Catholic Church.
Q: Don't you have to be a Romanian to go there?
A: No. Our Church came to this continent from the Transylvanian region in Eastern Europe, but our faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. You will be welcome.
A: Is Divine Liturgy the same thing as Mass?
Q: Yes. We worship according to the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great and St Gregory the Dialogos, so although the prayers are different, the Sacrifice is the same. All Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (with their pastor's permission) may fulfil their obligation at Divine Liturgy.
Q: How long is Divine Liturgy?
A: Divine Liturgy can be about an hour and a half. When you arrive for Liturgy, we may already be praying. Don't worry. You aren't late. Before liturgy, we sometimes pray a portion of the Liturgical hours or have a theological talk.
Q: Who can receive Holy Communion?
A: All Catholics who are properly prepared are welcome to receive. Separated Orthodox Christians are encouraged to follow the Canons of their Church and are welcome to Holy Communion, in the spirit of Oeconomia.
Q: How do you receive Holy Communion?
A: In the Byzantine Tradition, the Holy Mysteries are in the form of leavened bread, which is cut into particles before it is consecrated and placed into the chalice with the Precious Blood.
When you approach, come up close to the cup. Tilt your head slightly back, and open your mouth widely. The priest will place the Eucharist, both the Body and Blood into your mouth. Do not say "amen". Do not extend your tongue. Once the priest has moved his hand away from you, close your mouth. Otherwise, it's very like you might expect.
Q: What can I expect at Sunday Liturgy?
A: Divine Liturgy is chanted. But it's a simple tune, so you'll know it by heart in no time. Some 80% of the responses are "Lord have mercy". It's all in the book in your pew. Follow along if you want. Some people prefer not to follow along but just to take it all in at first.
We make the sign of the Cross from right to left (push, not pull), the opposite of Roman Catholics. We make the sign of the Cross a lot during liturgy, mostly when making reference to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and generally make a small bow from the waist at the same time. This is called a reverence and is done as one might genuflect in a Roman Catholic church.
Go ahead and cross yourself the way you are comfortable. No one expects you to know all these things on your first visit. We're just glad you decided to come!
Q: But I'm not an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and I'm not Catholic. Will I like worshiping with you?
A: That's hard to say. It's been our experience that the most important part of worship is God, rather than us. We worship Him in Spirit and Truth and seek first His kingdom. The rest is up to Him. And when we stop each week with nothing in mind but to fall down before the Majesty of God, personal tastes sort of fade away as we rest in the Lord.
Q: Do we need to venerate the festal icon (on the tetrapod) when we come to the Holy Communion?
A: No. However, there is nothing wrong with it, either. Since the tetrapod is so close to the amvon (ambo), we inadvertently pass it when approaching the Holy Communion. Therefore, our desire to venerate the festal icon is quite natural and understandable. Since we are on this subject, let us remember that when we come up for Communion we should have our arms crossed on our chest, come close to the Cup and refrain from making a sign of the cross right before the Communion and immediately after, out of fear of knocking the Cup out of the priest’s hands.
Q: The First Sunday of Lent is the “Sunday of Orthodoxy.” The word “Orthodoxy” is causing me some confusion. Could you please explain?
A: The first Sunday of the Great Fast is called the “Sunday of Orthodoxy.” The English word “Orthodoxy” finds it root in the Greek word “ortodoxia” (or “thos” which means right and “doksa” which means praising) which signifies the true faith and the true worship of God. The term is not used in this context in speaking of those Eastern Christians who are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome. i.e. The Orthodox Church. You have to remember that the term “Orthodox” was applied to the whole Church both Catholic and Orthodox before the schism (of 1054.)
The “Orthodoxy” we celebrate on the first Sunday of the Great Past is the universal-catholic orthodoxy, professed by the entire Church of Christ of the first eleven centuries in the battle against the heresy of Iconoclasm. (i.e. literally “breakers of icons”).
The Council of Constantinople in the year 842 designated the first Sunday of Great Lent as the Triumph of Orthodoxy and decreed that it be celebrated yearly. The purpose of the feast is to pay solemn public homage and veneration to the holy icons of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, and all the Saints. The first celebration of this feast, that is the first public veneration of holy icons after the condemnation of the heresy of Iconoclasm, occurred on the first Sunday of Lent in 842 A.D. This Sunday, even today, is called the “Sunday of Orthodoxy” or the “Sunday of the Triumph of the Holy Images,” although this feast bears no relation to the Lenten Season.