Some General Characteristics of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
- Eastern Christian Heritage – a deep awareness and a concern to deepen (to foster and to be formative) the treasure of the Byzantine-Kyivan tradition: the Liturgy, theology, doctrine, spiritual life, ministry, and discipline.
- Focus on the Person – a recognition and acceptance of the conviction that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life for every person. This anthropology addresses the centrality of life, the person, work, creation, faith, grace, salvation, relationality with the Triune God (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit).
- Spirit of Renunciation for the sake of Jesus Christ – in theological terms we use the word kenosis. Our theology is kenotic because we believe in the virtue, and desirability for self-sacrifice in the reality which has been given to us by God.
- Giving witness to and being in service of Unity with the Successor of St. Peter – we are in communion with the Bishop of Rome (the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff), as members of the Church Universal (Catholic). What St. John the Theologian said in the fourth Gospel is true for us: “That all be one.”
- There is an accessibility and openness – we have a willingness to share the spiritual treasures given to us through Tradition and a lived experience with all who desire to meet Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In this meeting, this encounter, we come to know, love, serve the Lord of Life.
What is the Church? Every Catholic believes and teaches that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ founded the Church and sustains the Church –a community of faith, hope and love. The gathering of the Christian faithful is the community of faith which we call His Church. Without debate based on Divine Revelation and sacred Tradition, the Church that Jesus Christ founded is, in fact, the Catholic Church. As church, we are a body of believers on the road to Salvation in Christ; the Church is both divine and human; and as such, the arthly structure is formal and continues until today and continues under His authority and protection.
The Lord called the 12 Apostles and he appointed Simon Peter to be the visible head of the Church. Jesus said to Peter, “You are Rock and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16: 18). What Jesus meant when He used the word “build” means to create a structure to be of service to man and woman for their sanctification. through St Peter and the other 11 Apostles and disciples Jesus built His structure on earth. Several other points to make.
- Jesus gave Peter and the apostles the power and authority to carry out His work. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven “(Matthew 16:19; 18:18).
- Jesus gave the divine power to forgive sins when He said: “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:23).
- Jesus gave Peter and the apostles the sacraments of Priesthood and Holy Eucharist at at the last supper when He commanded, “Do this in memory of Me” (Luke 22:19).
- Jesus commanded the Apostles and disciples to “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
The Catholic Church is the only church that makes the truthful and real claim to have been personally founded by the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ. Every other faith community was founded by man traces such as Martin Luther or John Wesley. The Catholic Church trace her lineage back to the Son of God who appointed St. Peter as the first pope. This line of popes has continued unbroken for almost 2,000 years.
The Nicean Creed which we recite at every Byzantine Liturgy speaks of the Church as one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. In the Creed the Church is referred as the Catholic Church and not, properly speaking, the Roman Catholic Church, but simply the Catholic Church. The use of the term of “Roman Catholic” is not used by the teaching authority of the Church; it is a relatively modern term, and one, that is confined largely to the English language.
Historically we know and recognize that the Diocese of Rome is central to the Catholic Church, but this does not mean that the “Roman rite,” equals THE with the universal Church. To believe that the Catholic equals that which is exclusively done in Rome neglect the fact that there is the Byzantine, Chaldean, Maronite or other Eastern Churches which are all very much make the Catholic Church today.
The Second Vatican Council taught in the document, Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches), that the Eastern Churches are in communion with the Catholic Church, and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (Latin Church) and Christ Our Pascha (2016), attends to the distinctive liturgies, feasts, fast, laws, manner of governance, the traditions and spirituality of these Eastern Churches.
Recently, the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Synod Bishops stated, “The inculturation of the Gospel bore fruit in the formation of various Christian traditions: Byzantine, Latin, Coptic, Syrian, Armenian, and others. In this way the Gospel of Jesus Christ took flesh in the multitude of cultures of Christian peoples; the one Tradition of the Word of God was expressed in a diversity of traditions” (Christ Our Pascha, 61-62).
We worship God in Trinity, glorifying equally the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; that He is truly God, of one essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We believe that Christ Incarnate is also truly man, like us in all respects except sin. We worship the Holy Spirit as Lord and Giver of Life Who proceeds from the Father. We honor the Saints as those who have matured “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”(Ephesians 4:13). We ask their intercession before God knowing that they live in Jesus Christ and that nothing, not even death, breaks the bond of love we share with them in Christ. Of the saints, the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Theotokos (Greek: Mother of God), holds a special place as “more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim” (cf. Luke 1:48).
The sacraments in the Byzantine Church are officially called the “holy mysteries.” The very ancient and traditional practice of the Byzantine Church is to consider all things which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical. In her wisdom the Church identifies seven sacraments (mysteries): baptism, chrismation (or confirmation), holy eucharist, penance, matrimony, holy orders and the anointing of the sick. Each draw us more deeply into the life of the Church as given to us by the Lord.
The Church as community of the faithful, is frequently defined as being new life in Jesus Christ. Orthodox theologian Father Alexander Schmemann taught,
“The Fathers, we are told, have not left with us any precise definition of the Church’s nature or essence. Consequently, theologians reconstruct what seems to them to be the patristic ecclesiology, not discerning too often that, in fact, this overwhelmingly “organic” ecclesiology reflects some contemporary philosophical and sociological doctrines more than the experience of the early Church. The Church is a society, this society is an organism, this organism is the Body of Christ. Such a sequence of direct identifications, typical of the present ecclesiological trend, gives the idea of “organism” an almost biological connotation. It makes the Church a substantial Being, whose “organic unity” and “organic life” overshadow the personal, spiritual and dynamic aspects of unity and life. Unity is no longer understood as, first of all, the union of many, fulfilling itself in unity, becoming unity; it is a reality in which one “participates” and the category of participation leaves almost no room for that of becoming and fulfillment. The Church is a given reality, an organism whose life is conveyed and communicated to its members through the sacraments, the latter, and especially the Eucharist, being the means of this communication and participation.The Church is a given reality, an organism whose life is conveyed and communicated to its members through the sacraments, the latter, and especially the Eucharist, being the means of this communication and participation.”
This is why we say that man and woman’s life is lived in and by the Holy Spirit, hence we say in communion with God. And this communion is made possible by the faithful reception of the holy mysteries (sacraments). All aspects of one’s new life of the Church participate in the mystery of salvation. In Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit everything which is sinful and dead becomes holy and alive (re-generated, re-newed) by the power of God the Father. Therefore, we believe that in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit everything in the Church becomes a sacrament, an element of the mystery of the Kingdom of God as it is already being experienced in the life of this world.
Reception of Holy Communion
All Catholics may receive Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy who are in a state of grace. Infants and children of the Eastern Churches (Canon 710) who have received Holy Communion at the time of their Baptism and Chrismation, may receive Holy Communion at any Liturgy thereafter. The Faithful of the Orthodox Church may also receive Holy Communion (Canon 671) but ought to be mindful of the theology and sacramental discipline of the Orthodox Church. If you have a question or would like to be part of our community, please kindly see Father Iura.
The Spiritual Life – our Life of Prayer
The Jesus Prayer
The shortest, simplest, and most powerful prayer is the prayerful use of the most holy name of Jesus. The Church Fathers have spoken of this prayer as the the “Jesus Prayer.” The Jesus Prayer is simply saying “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner” or even more simply speaking the single word “Jesus” (or “Lord Jesus”). We pray the Holy Name of Jesus all day, in any circumstance, at any time and place, either aloud or silently.
“The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always…. This prayer is possible ‘at all times’ because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus” (CCC 2668).
In Gospel of St. John there is this summary: “These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). In the Acts of the Apostles (3:1-10) we see revealed that Peter and John heal a man lame from birth by using the Holy Name of Jesus: “In the name of Jesus Christ, walk.” There are many other biblical warrants for the use of the Holy Name. This is why we believe that “The name of Jesus Christ” is not only the key to power of prayer but the key which opens the door to our salvation.
Hence, by no other name, no other prayer are we healed, saved and brought into full communion with the Blessed Trinity. Say with faith: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner”
Church history and the lives of the saints reveal the miracles related to the prayerful use of the name of Jesus. healing have been done “in his name.” Physical and spiritual healings, and exorcisms are performed “in his name”. We know from Divine Revelation and from personal experience that the name of Jesus is so powerful that it can throws the devil out of a soul!
St. John Cassian recommends the Jesus Prayer for all his monks because he believed it to be the best when he called it the “arrow” prayer: short and to the point. How can some go wrong in saying with conviction: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner“? The Jesus Prayer was taught by the 6th century monk and teacher of the faith Diadochos who showed that the quiet repetition of the Jesus Prayer leads to inner healing and stillness. “To pray ‘Jesus’ is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies” (CCC 2666).
“The principal thing is to stand before God with the mind in the heart, and to go on standing before Him unceasingly day and night, until the end of life” (Bishop Theophan, quoted by Kallistos Ware in The Power of the Name: The Jesus Prayer in Orthodox Spirituality).
The name of Jesus is our salvation.
- More on prayer may be found at this link here.
- You may want to avail yourself to this booklet of daily-prayers (.pdf).
Our Life in Community
Our Life in Service to the Church and to Society
One of the resolutions of the 2016 Synod of Bishops of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) which met September 04-11, 2016, in Lviv-Brukhovychi, is the following:
In order to evoke an interest to the social ministering among faithful of UGCC and behave a virtue of sacrifice and mercy, to announce in UGCC:
- Sunday of a Prodigal Son – Day of the extreme care for prisoners; Sunday of Meatfare – Day of Social service and charity;
- Restoring a tradition of Social days initiated by righteous Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky;
- To organize days between Sundays, mentioned as previous points as Social days and be involved in intellectual and charitable activities at the parishes.
His Beatitude, Patriarch Sviatoslav is encouraging us to look at the ways we can implement these items in our life of faith on a personal level and in our parish.