What is the difference between the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church?
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is one of the particular Churches within the Catholic Communion. In Roman Catholic theology and canon law, a particular Church is any of the individual constituent ecclesial communities in full communion with the Church of Rome. Particular Churches follow one of five major traditions:
- Alexandrian: Coptic & Ethiopic
- Anthiochian: Malankara, Maronite & Syrian
- Armenian: Armenian
- Chaldean/East-Syrian: Chaldean, Malabar
- Byzantine: Albanian, Belarussian, Bulgarian, Greek-Melkite, Greek, Hungarian, Italo-Albanian, Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian & Ukrainian.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is a successor church to the Kyvian-Rus Church established when Prince Volodymyr accepted Christianity in 988. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the second largest church in the Catholic Communion.
In addition to having a different ritual and lectionary, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is governed by a separate Synod of hierarchs (i.e., bishops), under the leadership of its Patriarch in Ukraine, and has its own Particular Law and customs. Its liturgical practices found their genesis in the ritual of the Great Church of Constantinople, making it more similar in its liturgical life to the Orthodox Churches that follow the Byzantine Tradition. The calendar of saints and feast day cycles follow that of the Byzantine tradition. Its sacramental ritual of initiation is that of the Eastern Church and consists of the celebration of the Mysteries (i.e., sacraments) of Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church maintains its own hierarchy throughout the world. The American Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is a “province” of the Church in Ukraine.
How is worship in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church different from that of the Roman Catholic Church?
The basic structure of our worship is the same, testifying to the fact that there were several common formats for worship in the Early Church. The sequence is the same: Scriptural Readings, Offering of Gifts, Consecration of Gifts, Communion, Thanksgiving and Closing. The ritual surrounding these basic actions, however, is considerably different. For example, all Byzantine services begin with the “Great Litany” or the “Litany of Peace”. The first action of Byzantine worshipers is to seek “peace from on high” so that God can be truly worshiped. True worship can only flow from a person who is at peace.
One of the truly unique characteristics of Byzantine services is the use of “litanies”. This prayer form consists of a dialogue between the deacon (or priest) and the people. Petitions are articulated on behalf of the community and the community responds to confirm its unity with the petitions.
Another truly unique characteristic of Byzantine services is that the entire service is sung (chanted) and is interactive. The clergy and people intensely interactive. In the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church the singing is always acappella (without musical instruments) and, most frequently, in three-part harmony.
Worship in our Church is truly a sensual experience. There are sounds (singing and bells), sights (icons and richly colored vestments), odors (incense), tastes (Communion) and postures (stand, sitting, kneeling and, at certain times, making deep prostrations) that uniquely engage participants in a complete human experience of the worship. The ritual engages us as humans that learn and experience through their senses. It is not the type of worship for people who only want to go and sit quietly in a church. It calls us to become actively involved and to worship God with their whole heart and soul. Our worship calls us to worship God as Jesus worshiped Him, by offering our life back to God in thanksgiving.
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