Here are some Frequently Asked Questions that many Roman Catholics and non-Catholics routinely have about our church:
At the time of the Early Church, there were several rich cultures in the Middle East, and each of them gave rise to a different church tradition. The traditions of our church reflect the Greek or Byzantine culture, and so we are called Greek Catholics, or Byzantine Catholics (from Byzantium, the ancient name for Constantinople). The average Greek Catholic is no more a Hellenic Greek than the average Roman Catholic is Italian.
Greek Catholics in the Middle East were also called Melkite because they followed the faith of the Byzantine emperor (melek) in supporting the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon. More about the history of the Byzantine Churches may be found here.
Our church is shepherded by the Patriarch of Antioch, the great city that St. Peter visited before Rome and where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11). He is in full communion with Holy Father in Rome. That means that our two churches, separate and distinct though they are, share the same faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Members of one church may participate in the sacraments of the other. Roman Catholics attending the Divine Liturgy (Mass) at St. George, for example, fulfill their Sunday obligation.
The form of the Sign of the Cross was common among Eastern and Western Christians for many centuries: touching the forehead, breast, right shoulder, and left shoulder. In Biblical symbolism, the right represents good. (Think of the Lord Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father.) The inversion of the sign might have come from imitating the priest, who in blessing moves from left to right so that it can be seen correctly by the congregation before him.
No, but qualified married men can be ordained to the diaconate and priesthood. This has been the practice of the Church since the time of the Apostles. The future deacon or priest must already be married before ordination, and his wife must approve.
We recite the same Creed that was adopted at the First Ecumenical Council in 325 A.D. and the Second Ecumenical Council a few years later. In the late sixth century, the Latin-speaking churches of Western Europe added the words “and the Son” (filioque in Latin) to the description of the procession of the Holy Spirit. The change to the Creed led to unfortunate misunderstandings between East and West. The Eastern Churches retain the original form handed down by the saints, and recent popes have made sure to recite the Creed without the filioque when praying with Orthodox visitors.
Baptized and chrismated (confirmed) Catholics and Orthodox who have prepared themselves may receive Eucharist in our church. Everyone is welcome to receive a piece of blessed bread at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. Called antidoron, it is the bread remaining from the loaf used to prepare the Eucharist.
Loaf? Don’t you use hosts? No, we use leavened bread specially baked and offered by parishioners. The yeast used in the recipe is alive, just like the Lord Jesus, whose Body the bread becomes.
The practice of baptizing infants and then excommunicating them for seven years is confusing to say the least. Our children have been baptized and confirmed according to the Church’s traditional order of the sacraments, and are full members of the Church. Just as parents nurture their children’s physical bodies, they also bring them to Holy Communion to nurture the seed of divine life that the children were given at Holy Baptism.
All of our services are in English. The Eastern Churches had a vernacular liturgy long before the Roman Church. In our parish, we sometimes repeat the recurring responses and festal hymns in Greek and Arabic.