St. Basil Byzantine Catholic Church in Irving, Texas. a northern suburb of Dallas. It's small, reminiscent of the rural 16th Century churches in the Carpatho Rusyn villages of old Austria-Hungary, present day Slovakia. The yellow flag is not the Vatican flag, but the Byzantine flag, the flag of old Byzantium, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The flag was yellow in time of peace and red in a time of war. Notice the two horizontal beams and one diagonal beam on the cross. The top one is the place of Christ's head and the bottom one pointing to Heaven is for His feet.
July 2020 we came down from southeastern Ohio to Dallas for the wedding of our son John-Paul and Elizabeth
During that time, we stayed with our daughter Stephanie & Daniel. Since
they decided to stay in Rome (the Western Church), we went to Mass at
Mater Dei Latin Mass Parish on Sundays. Now staying with our son John-Paul and
Elizabeth, who decided to go East, we're spending this year attending the
Sunday liturgies in old Constantinople, also called Byzantium, the ancient capital of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire where the predominant language was Greek. That is St. Basil the Great Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic
Church in Irving, Texas, a western suburb of Dallas.
the vigil of the Ascension, we attended in the same church a Melkite liturgy which has an Arabic and Greek flavor,
originating in Antioch. Most Palestinian Christians are Melkites.
Arabic came in after the conquest by Islam.
There are in fact many eastern rites in the Catholic Church, all
under the Pope, equal in dignity and validity. Although there is
some disagreement as to what constitutes a rite, it represents
an ecclesiastical tradition about how the liturgy and the sacraments
are to be celebrated.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists
seven rites: Latin, Byzantine (Greek Catholic), Alexandrian where St. Mark preached
(Coptic – Egypt & Ethiopia), Syriac (Antioch – Syria that
St. James founded and uses Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ),
Armenian (Armenia), Maronite (Lebanon), and Chaldean (Iraq and Iran)
Rites of the Catholic Church (catholicnewsagency.com, Catholic
particular churches and liturgical rites – Wikipedia, Chart
of the rites (catholicnewsagency.com)).
or Roman Rite
is by far the largest rite and dominates Western Europe and the New
World. Several minor rather obscure rites are lumped together with
the Roman Rite.......the
Mozarabic rite from Spain, the Ambrosian rite from Milan, Italy,
named after St. Ambrose (340-397), the Bragan rite from Portugal, and
the order liturgies of the Dominican, Carmelite, and Carthusian
Rite dominates the East and is an umbrella
for many nationalities.....Ruthenian Carpatho-Rusyns), Hungarian, Slovak, Ukrainian,
Belarussian, Bulgarian, Russian, Croatian, Greek, Italo-Albanian, and
Melkite (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, parts
of Egypt and the Sudan). Most have their own bishops.
In most of these countries the separated Orthodox Christians still predominate as a result of the 1054 Eastern Schism, but a significant number of Ruthenian Orthodox despite controversy returned to Rome as stipulated in the Union of Brest in 1596. The Hungarian Orthodox returned after the Union of Ushgorod (then Ungvar) in 1646 as the Byzantine Catholic Rite under the condition of being allowed to preserve their traditions and customs, including married clergy. They
are often called the Greek Catholic Church because of the Hellenistic
(Greek) influence. Greek
was the language spoken in Byzantium and much of the Eastern Roman
The glory and crown jewel of Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire under Greek influence) is the magnificent Hagia Sophia, the patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople), built in 531 by Justinian I. As part of the 1054 Eastern Schism (at least partly political) that separated the Church into two, the Hagia Sophia came under the control of the Orthodox. In 1453 the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, changed the name of the city to the current Istanbul, and turned the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Notice the four minarets (towers) from which Muslims are called to pray during different times of the day. The Bosporus Strait is in the background.
The splendid interior of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. It was the largest church in the world for centuries.
This mosaic icon mural portrays the Theotokos (Greek for the Mother of God). Notice the Greek influence in the inscriptions. Under Muslim control after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the conquerors covered the beautiful Byzantine mosaic icons with plaster. In 1936 the secular government of Ataturk turned the Hagia Sophia into a museum and uncovered the exquisite mosaic murals (made of tiny colored stones) that were unwittingly preserved for posterity. In 2020 the Erdogan government of Turkey, despite worldwide protests, again turned this gem of early Christian architecture into a mosque as can be seen above.
and Iran (the Assyrians of the Old Testament) have the Chaldean
(Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil,
Iraq was the main graduation speaker at Franciscan University and the
Catholic University of Dallas in May 2021). The Maronite
is common in Lebanon and by law its president must be a Maronite.
Southern India has two brother rites, Malankarese
which date to the missionary journeys of St. Thomas.
On the First Pentecost the Holy Spirit set the apostles on fire and with their newly found zeal they went out to teach all nations. At the same time the Holy Spirit inspired them to tailor their teaching to the people they evangelized with no compromise of the truth. Beautiful is
the tremendous diversity in the Church that adapts to local cultures,
languages, and traditions, while
maintaining a strict uniformity in doctrine. That reflects the
tremendous diversity in God's creation. Arun Nelli adds further
clarity with a chart at http://arunnelli.blogspot.com/.
rites of the Catholic Church the principal parts of the Mass or
Divine Liturgy, as called in the East, are essentially the
same.........Offertory, Consecration, and the Communion. By the
Holy Spirit the bread and wine are transformed in a mysterious way
into the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and
wine. Then the priest as another Christ offers it to God as an
unbloody sacrifice for the reparation of the sins of the world. In a
mysterious way that transcends time, the Last Supper and Calvary are
brought to us and we participate with the priest in offering this
sacrifice. Then as the Jews consumed the lamb, we consume the Lamb of
God in Holy Communion.......body and blood, soul and divinity.
Great Importance of the Eastern Rites. Ever
since the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Vatican saw a great need to
preserve the Byzantine Catholic rite because when Russia is converted
as Mary promised in Fatima, it will be through the Byzantine rite.
If the Orthodox ever return to the Church after the schism of 1054,
it will be through the eastern rites. After all the Byzantine Rite is very similar to the Orthodox and the Vatican considers their sacraments to be valid. In fact a religious revival
has already begun in Russia.
As St. Pope John Paul II stated in his
1995 encyclical, Ut
they may be one), “The
Church must breathe with both of her lungs” the Eastern and the
Western Rites, inviting greater unity among the rites and with the
Orthodox, “a unity bestowed by the Holy Spirit”. See https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint.html.
the United States this was not always recognized. During the 20th
Century, Byzantine Catholics, many if not most being immigrants and
not educated, were considered by the dominant Latin Rite as second
class Catholics. Old timers are still resentful for this treatment.
Roman Catholic Bishops pushed for uniformity and a certain
latinization while the immigrants did want to assimilate.
Particularly galling to celibate Latin Rite priests was the Byzantine
Catholic tradition of married clergy.......“they can marry and we
can't” so to speak.
1929 for the sake of uniformity and less confusion the Vatican
declared that all newly ordained Catholic priests in the United
States, Canada, and Australia must be permanently celibate. Married
women could not imagine confessing to a bachelor priest. This caused
a minor schism as thousands of Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics and even entire
parishes became Orthodox. Pope John Paul II encouraged eastern rite
traditions and recently, Pope Francis restored their tradition of
marriage before ordination. Bishops, however, always had
to be celibate and often belonged to a religious order.
Our Family Heritage. The
pastor of St. Basil's is a very dedicated and energetic bi-ritual Benedictine priest from New
Zealand, Fr. Christopher Andrews. He officiated at the wedding of our son John-Paul and Elizabeth in the Roman Rite. Although both were
baptized in the Roman Rite, they go regularly to St. Basil's for
Sunday liturgies. I'm proud of them for maintaining our Byzantine Catholic heritage.
After all, John-Paul's great grandfather, Rev. Vladimir
Mihalich was a Byzantine Rite Catholic priest and pastor (1928-1943)
of St. Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Duquesne,
Pennsylvania, then a steel town and a suburb of Pittsburgh. Both he
and his wife Olga come from a centuries long line of priests since
seminarians gravitated toward daughters of priests (seminarians may
marry, but before their ordination, the same as deacons). The same might be said of Fr. Vladimir's successor in Duquesne for over 25 years, another great and faithful priest, Fr. Stephen Loya. I played with his kids growing up.
of priests tended to mix socially with other families of priests in the same circle of friends.......get-togethers and picnics before television. Thus my mother told me
stories of seminarians knocking on parish house doors, prospecting
for daughters of priests with little time left before their
Married clergy seemed to work out well in the simple societies of the Carpathian mountains and through the 1950s as I observed in America. However, there is a lot of wisdom in having celibate clergy who are able to devote themselves completely to their large and complex parishes.......administering the buildings, school, and parish groups while caring for the spiritual needs of the faithful and keeping up with their prayer life without the distractions of family life. True, some of them did violate their vow of celibacy and fell into clerical sexual abuse. The priest's family would live in a fish bowl subject to gossip under the scrutiny of the parishioners and the community. If a son or daughter strayed, everybody knew about it. And let us not forget the experience of our separated brethren......preachers' kids also get pregnant and have many of the same problems as American teens have today. Their divorce rate is high.
In the old days priest families would get together for dinner, talk, and play cards while the kids would play games. The big picnic of the year was at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, called "Ruskie Djen", also called Carpatho-Rusyn Day and Greek Catholic Day. Thousands of priests and faithful would come for socializing, fun, and rides in one of the largest amusement parks in the world in the late 1940s. Priests, mostly celibate by then, would buy up batches of tickets and give them to the kids.
The other big event of the year was the annual pilgrimage to Mt. St. Macrina Shrine in Uniontown, PA over the Labor Day Weekend. Buses would bring hundreds of pilgrims from the surrounding states. They would stay in area hotels or simply camp out in a camper or tent.
Fr. Thomas Loya married Jaga and me (baptized Roman Catholics from our fathers) in the Byzantine Rite in 1988. Our son John-Paul and Elizabeth love the dynamic Byzantine liturgy and he was in the St. Basil choir for a good while and is now a lector there. They are thinking of possibly switching rites and will baptize their baby on the way in the Byzantine Rite.
The Byzantine Rite seems to be more mystical and solemn than the
Roman Rite (certainly when compared to some of the so called guitar Masses) with a greater emphasis upon the majesty of Christ and
the awesomeness of God. For centuries the Byzantines have had a much
greater focus upon God's mercy. The Roman Rite has greatly deepened
its emphasis upon the Lord's mercy because of the message of Christ
to St. Faustina in His apparitions to her in the 1930s as well as St.
Pope John-Paul's encyclical on Divine Mercy and his establishing the
First Sunday after Easter as the world wide Feast of Divine Mercy.
It seems that the West has a greater emphasis upon rationally knowing about God while the approach of the East is more mystical.....to know God. The Church needs both lungs! St. Thomas Aquinas knew all about God as shown in his Summa Theologica, but he complemented that by knowing God through his intense prayer life. Deacon David Thomas did a great job of showing the development of spiritual thought, attitudes, and mentality between Eastern and Western Christians in Appendix II. His reflection is based upon highlighting an article by Kyriacos C. Markides, "The Mountain of Silence (A Search For Orthodox Spirituality)".
The traditional Roman Catholic Low Mass has a lot of silence for meditation while altar servers do the responses in Latin. Its High Mass is accompanied by a beautiful uplifting choir, but the person in the pew is a spectator more than a participant although all are encouraged to follow along with their missals. However, the Byzantines not only follow along, they actively participate in chanting responses to the celebrant. The Vatican II Council (1962-65) mandated greater participation of the laity in the Mass. The Byzantine laity have been actively participating in their liturgies for centuries before Vatican II.
Byzantine Catholics bless themselves with the index finger and the middle finger touching the thumb, symbolizing the Holy Trinity. The two remaining fingers symbolize the divine and human nature of Christ. In making the sign of the cross, the Byzantines touch the right shoulder first (not the left shoulder first as in the Latin Rite.......mirror images of each other). That's to symbolize that Christ sits at the right hand of the father and traditionally the left has a negative connotation (sinistro).
Byzantine Catholics receive Holy Communion under both species.......leavened bread soaked in wine and dispensed with a small spoon as each communicant holds his/her head back with mouth wide open. Byzantine
Catholics receive Holy Communion under both species.......leavened
bread soaked in wine and dispensed with a small spoon as each
communicant holds his/her head back with mouth wide open. The Latin
Rite consecrates unleavened bread (flour & water only as at the
Jewish Passover meal and the Last Supper) as being more perfect. The
Byzantines, on the other hand, use leavened bread that rises,
symbolizing the risen Christ.
Interesting is the revival of an old custom in the liturgy, the repedia that resembles a large fan of old. The two repedias symbolize the angels of the cherubim and the seraphim.
remember as a kid when all Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic liturgies
were in Old Slav, also called Church Slavonic which is still used in
liturgies in Slavic countries (i.e., Ruthenian or Rusyn which some
consider to be a dead language). For more detail see
https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&ei=UTF-8&p=Church+Slovonic&type=E211US105G91370#id=1&vid=cee2b06f1985833b1b090b563d833b5e&action=click. Ruthenia was once a
country south of Poland in the Carpathian Mountains in the middle age. There was
usually only one cantor who had a deep resonant voice. That made the
liturgy in Old Slav more powerful.......“Hospodi pomoli (Lord Have Mercy)”. I found the same again when we visited the Ukraine. The separated
Russian Orthodox are good at it. It seems that something is lost in
the translation to English. I
would like to see at least on occasion if not every Sunday small
portions of the liturgy in Old Slav as some Latin Rite parishes sing
the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin. This reminds us of our roots.
A common greeting in Old Slav at Easter, both in the church as well as among family and friends, was Hristos voskrese! (Christ is risen!) and the reply was “Voistinu voskrese! (Indeed He is risen!). Some churches still say the greeting at Easter in both English and Church Slavonic as they relive the first Easter morning. This custom would be good for Roman Catholics to adopt.
Byzantine Rite liturgy is generally longer than the Latin Rite. They take their time. Sometimes in the large Roman Catholic parishes, it seems the attitude
is to get the Mass over with and the cars out of the parking lot in
time for the next Mass.
when work must be done in a large Roman Catholic parish, one can “let
George do it”. In the small Byzantine Catholic parish guess what?
You're George. People pitch in and the work gets done.......whether
it's making pirohies and nut rolls or holding a fund raising church festival.
That helps parish solidarity and everybody knows everybody.
Roman Catholics have their smells and bells. The Greek Catholics
have less bells, but a lot more smells.......incense to the point of
creating a cloud that permeates throughout the church that
symbolically rises to Heaven with the prayers and hymns.
The Byzantines love their blessings. Traditionally, the priest visits every home in his parish around Epiphany. That's great for bonding between the pastor and his parishioners. For Easter the priest blesses baskets of bread, eggs, and other food. After one liturgy Fr. Thomas Loya blessed all the cars in the parking lot........one by one. My car, a battered 1976 Volkswagen Dasher on its last legs, really needed that blessing.
For some reason the rosary never really caught on among Byzantine Rite Catholics, probably because it was considered to be western (St. Dominic). Pani Olga, the widow of Fr. Vladimir, however, did get into the habit of saying the rosary every evening when she lived with our family and helped to raise us. Natalie Loya spent her career leading Blue Army pilgrimages to Fatima and her father, Rev. John Loya was its chaplain for a number of years. In addition there is a Byzantine Catholic chapel at Fatima.
Because of the length of the liturgy, Byzantine priests do not say it every day as the Roman Catholic priests do with a special Mass intention each day. However, the Byzantines have more holy days; at least it was that way in the old days.
The Atmosphere at St. Basil's.
reminds me very much of the four small rustic churches that Fr.
Vladimir Mihalich pastored in the vicinity of the Carpatho-Rusyn village of Rozadomb, Austria-Hungary (now Bodrujal, Slovakia). He
the Divine Liturgy at a different church every Sunday, traveling by
horse and buggy during the first two decades of the 20th
Century (https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/history/historians-ancient-biographies/carpatho-rusyns). See his main church below.
The Greek Catholic Union (GCU), ---a Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic non-profit fraternal association that sells life insurance---, built a replica (see https://gcuusa.com/pages/history-heritage) of one of these rural churches of the Carpathians south of Poland at its recreation center in Beaver, Pennsylvania. My mother (Dr. Stephanie Mihalich Sebastian) gave them information from her childhood memories to help to make the replica as authentic as possible.
The Texas sun shines through the roof window of St. Basil's Byzantine Catholic Church onto the tetrapod, the little people's altar with a beautiful small icon in front of the icon screen (iconostasis), which lies between the altar and the congregation, symbolizing the gate to Heaven. The sanctuary behind the screen symbolizes Heaven. It is reminiscent of the Jewish Holy of Holies in the temple of the Old Testament.
A closeup view of the tetrapod or People's Altar in front of the Icon Screen or Iconostasis, open during the liturgy. Notice that in the Byzantine Rite there are no statues, but rather icons. At one time many eastern Christians believed that statues were graven images like in idol worship and used icons instead. Both statues and icons serve to remind the faithful of Christ and saints, the same as we have pictures to remind us of our deceased loved ones and to honor them in our little domestic hall of fame. Each icon tells a story and is full of symbols. Images on stained glass windows have been used as catechetical tools (training aids) to teach the people.
anachronism to that 16th
century flavor is Texas air conditioning. I thought I was entering a
refrigerator (perhaps my age is showing) until I saw the beautiful
icon screen that dominates the interior. However, it is most welcome in the 95 plus Texas heat in summer.
To conserve space in the
small church chairs are placed along the walls and most of the people
stand while the small children crawl around and work on their
coloring books. The enthusiastic singing drowns out the low level
background noise of the kids. The chanting by the priest and/or the congregation is nearly constant. Even the scripture readings are chanted. My son John-Paul is a lector. I noted a real vibrancy there; it
seemed that everybody participated in the crowded little church and
of course, Texans don't worry much about masks and social distancing. To
attend a liturgy on line go to the St. Basil the Great Byzantine
Catholic Church, Irving, TX Facebook page at any time and live on
Sundays at 10 am Central, 11 am Eastern.
Byzantine liturgy is hard for me to follow. Each person
receives a bound green book that contains the fixed parts of the
liturgy with up to five versions of each hymn, the Our Father for
example. That is supplemented by xeroxed sheets and booklets
for the changeable parts of the liturgy particular to each Sunday.
It seems to this greenhorn that we're jumping all through these
sources. So I have to constantly ask my son, "Where are
we?". All in all, it's a beautiful liturgy, more so when one understands it. Somebody announcing the page number would be a big help.
was surprised to see something that I never saw in Byzantine
liturgies since I was a Pre-Vatican II little boy when the liturgy
was in Old Slav while their Roman counterparts had their Masses in
Latin. During the Easter tide, the people sing: “Christ is risen
from the dead. By his death He trampled death”. At that moment
everybody stamps their feet! When I asked Fr. Christopher about
that, he replied: “It's a Texas thing.” (See the amusing short
True, sometimes pastors improvise too much, but I love this for the
vibrancy it gives.
witnessed a Byzantine Catholic Baptism
which begins outside before the liturgy starts with an exorcism of
any possible evil spirit affecting the one to be baptized. That
makes sense when one considers that the devil has been very active
from shortly after Pentecost until now still intense, heresies,
schisms, the breakup of western Christianity in the Protestant
Reformation, internal corruption, plagues, human sacrifice, abortion,
wars, discord, etc.......in sum, old fashioned sin while the Church
miraculously survives crisis after crisis, century after century
because Christ is always with us as He promised (Matthew 28:20). The
battle between good and evil is constant.
is followed inside with the Baptism by immersion to the forehead before the liturgy
starts. At the end of the liturgy, the priests raises the
baby over his head and processes with
him/her around the altar, consecrating the child to God as Mary and
Joseph did with the Christ child. The baby receives the three
sacraments of initiation at the same time.......Baptism, Confirmation
to deepen the first sacrament, and the Eucharist with only a morsel.
The child will make his/her first confession at about the age of
seven or eight. There
was a period of latinization for uniformity as to Baptism and First
Communion at the age of seven or eight. However in recent years the
Vatican has allowed the eastern churches to return to their
traditions in the United States.
the late 1990s we attended a Byzantine Catholic liturgy with Jaga
holding our Baby Joseph. The priest came through the standing
room only congregation, dispensing Holy Communion. We were
taken by surprise when our Roman Catholic Joseph received his First
Holy Communion at the age of one.
After the liturgy there is some nice fellowship......sometimes not coffee and donuts, but coffee and animal crackers........something for the Guiness Book of Records. I love it and so do the kids........and a lot cheaper than donuts.......a lot less calories too. Yup, that's a major difference.......coffee & donuts in Rome, coffee & animal crackers in Byzantium.
three or four families (the ones who started the parish in about 1986), comprising about
10% of the approximately 150 parishioners of St. Basil's, are of ethnic Ruthenian
(Carpatho-Rusyn) heritage and the rest are converts or Roman Catholic
migrants from many backgrounds who love the liturgy, including a
lovely black family, one of its members an altar boy.
A painting of St. Cyril & Methodius by Jan Mantejko
A Little History. St. Cyril & Methodius, two brothers from
Greece were sent from Byzantium to initiate the process of evangelizing the present day Slavic
countries in 862 A.D.......Poland, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ruthenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, etc. The western Slavic countries (the first four) went to the
Latin Rite and the remainder to the Byzantine Rite. They wrote the
first Slavic civil code and established the first Cyrillic alphabet
to transcribe the Gospel into the Slavic language. We still have my
grandfather's breviary printed in Cyrilic from the late 19th
Due to theological factors intensified by political and economic considerations, the Eastern Church separated from the Western Church and Rome in the great Schism of 1054 that tore Christianity apart. Predominant was the "Filioque" (with the son) controversy. The Western Church asserted that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son together while the Eastern Church asserted that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father. Later in the 13th Century St. Thomas Aquinas supported the Filioque, explaining the Trinity as the intense love of the Father begot the Son, His own image. Then the intense love between them is the Holy Spirit.
After certain segments returned to Rome as the eastern rites in the centuries that followed, what remained is the Orthodox Church of today.
the 19th Century the Carpatho-Rusyns, both Orthodox and Catholic, were mostly poor
peasant farmers in present day Slovakia south of Poland. Hearing of
opportunity in the United States, waves of them immigrated towards
the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th
Century to work in the coal mines and the steel mills of the
northeast under difficult working conditions and low wages. However,
that provided the steel magnates great profits, which were reinvested
in industrial expansion. That gave impetus to the self sustaining
economic takeoff of the United States without the need to depend
upon foreign investment.
these uneducated immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe and
their children contributed significantly toward making our country an
economic power and also a world power by their participation in two
world wars. They were part of the “Great Generation” that won
World War II at home in the the coal mines, the steel mills, and the
assembly line as well as on the front lines in Africa, Europe, and
the Pacific, even giving their lives for our country. They worked hard, struggled and built churches, but
their children prospered and found their way west and
south.....Florida, Texas, California, etc. where they built more
uncle, Fr. Emil Gulyassy, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in
Bridgeport, CT until his death in 1956 had to be ordained in Canada in about 1923 because the
Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics did not yet have their own bishop,
being subject to the local Roman Catholic prelate. Finally the
Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Pittsburgh was established
under Bishop Basil Takach in 1924. He died in 1948 at the age of 68 after my mother, a dentist discovered that he had cancer (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_Takach). Today there are four Byzantine
Catholic eparchies in the United States.......Pittsburgh, Passaic-NJ,
Parma-Ohio near Cleveland, and Phoenix-Arizona (see
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruthenian_Greek_Catholic_Church. For more history on the Byzantine (Greek) Catholic Church see the well done article by Nicholas Bakaysa in Appendix I.
The Byzantine Catholics had parish councils a half century before their Roman Catholic counterparts. However before Vatican II, the meetings were sometimes contentious, not simply advisory, not always recognizing that the pastor must have the last word as in Roman Catholic parish councils. Fr. Vladimir would fear these council meetings because some elements would insolently try to make him accountable to the council members more so than to the Bishop.
The Greek Catholic Union (GCU), a non-profit fraternal organization founded in 1892, was a real innovation of lay Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics well before they were granted their own diocese and bishop in 1924. A similar fraternal organization for Catholic men, the Knights of Columbus was founded a few years before. The GCU has lodges all over the country, mostly in the east and midwest, serving local parishes and the community and holding social events.
the Knights of Columbus, the GCU sells insurance to its members since
commercial insurance companies at the time would not insure those who worked in
dangerous jobs in the mines and the steel mills, giving generous
dividends and using profits not for stockholders, but for charity.
For example, they have a program to help parishes with their capital
projects called “Parish
Expansion Matching Funds”.
Both are solid financially with the GCU having $2.2 billion in
assets, $182.7 million in equity, and $12.8 million in net income in
2020. The GCU has its headquarters in Beaver, PA with a replica
of a wooden Carpatho-Rusyn chapel dedicated to its patron, St.
Nicholas. Nearby is its Seven Oaks Country Club with golf course
There's another Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic
Church, St. John Chrysostom in Houston (also part of the archeparchy of Pittsburgh), St. Sophia Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church, a Maronite rite church, a Chaldean Rite church, and a
Syro-Malobar Rite church (India) nearby, as well as a few eastern rite
churches in the state.......namely, San Antonio and Austin.
diversity in the Church really brings out the beauty in different
peoples, cultures, and traditions with a unity of belief as brothers
in Christ and thus members of God's human family. The recent
encyclical by Pope Francis demonstrates this. It has many of the
keys to interpersonal understanding, racial harmony, and world peace.
In sum the Pontiff asks us to put Christian love into practice in
our families, our jobs, our communities, and the world. To read
the complete document go to
In sum, it all boils down to the Mystical Body of Christ. Dana Rosemary Scallon, the great Irish singer, expresses this so beautifully in the theme song of the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado........"We are One Body". Listen to it by clicking on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuYX-J2DsFk.
A Brief History of the Greek Catholic Church
by Nicholas Bakaysa (January 26, 2020)
Bakaysa is a retired architect who enjoys writing. Since his
grandfather was a Byzantine Catholic priest, he has a special
interest in the history of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church. After doing considerable research, he wrote the following article.
The Terms Catholic and Orthodox
In this brief and oversimplified history, when I use Catholic, I mean churches under the authority of the Pope. When I use Orthodox, I mean churches whose head is a Patriarch. I am using these terms based on their use in everyday vernacular although these definitions are not technically accurate.
The Orthodox Church has multiple patriarchs such as the Patriarch of Moscow and the Patriarch of Kiev with no one patriarch having ultimate authority. The Catholic Church has one ultimate authority, the Pope in Rome.
The History of the Greek Catholic Church in a Nutshell
The Greek Catholic Church was born in 1596 when Rusyns of the Greek Orthodox faith in Poland agreed to unite with the Roman Catholic Church.
The Greek Catholic Church was established in Hungary 50 years later when Greek Orthodox Rusyns in Hungary agreed to do the same.
For around two hundred years almost all Rusyns were Greek Catholic and almost all Greek Catholics were Rusyn. Rusyn and Greek Catholic were synonymous.
This changed in 1868 when the Hungarian Greek Catholic church was established in Hungary for people who speak the Hungarian language.
Rusyns are a Slavic people who live in the Carpathian Mountains. They are similar to Russians but are a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture. In English speaking countries they are called Ruthenian which is the English word for Rusyn. To reiterate, do not confuse Rusyns with Russians; they are different ethnic groups.
Figure 1: Borders in Central Europe as of 2019
Figure 2: Borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914
All Greek Catholics come from regions that were at one time in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some come from the Austrian ruled areas and some from Hungarian ruled areas. However, the establishment of the Greek Catholic Church long predates the formation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this part of the world, borders, empires, and rulers changed multiple times with dizzying complexity.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire was established in 1867 and dissolved in 1918 at the end of World War I. Prior to 1867, Hungary had been ruled for centuries by the Austrian Empire. Under Austrian Hapsburg rule, Hungary had a fair amount of autonomy. But in the 1800’s Hungary demanded even greater control over their own affairs. The Austrian Hapsburg emperor finally acquiesced, and in 1867 the Austrian Empire was re-structured as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Roman Empire
The origins of the Greek Catholic Church trace back to events that occurred during the Roman Empire.
Figure 3: The Roman Empire around the year 300
After centuries of expansion, the Roman Empire became difficult to rule due to its enormous size. Therefore, it was divided into two administrative regions, with the western half governed from Rome and the eastern half governed from Constantinople.
The general population spoke Latin in Rome and Greek in Constantinople. This division of the Roman Empire into two separate administrative areas and the language difference between the two halves would have important consequences for the development of Christianity.
In the year 314, by decree of the Roman Emperor, Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire in both the eastern and western halves. There was one universal Christian religion throughout the empire, although a great many people remained pagan, especially in outlying provinces. Pagan is a term used for the ancient non-Christian religions of Europe such as belief in the gods of Greece, the gods of Rome as Zeus and Apollo, or the Norse gods of Scandinavia.
In 476 The Roman Empire in the west came to an end when the emperor of Rome was deposed by invading barbarians and a new emperor was never declared. The Roman Empire in the east, ruled from Constantinople, remained intact until the year 1453.
The Eastern and Western Churches Go Their Separate Ways
The Church in the west became the Roman Catholic Church with the liturgy in Latin. The Bishop of Rome became the head of the Church and was called the Pope. Europe fragmented into many small kingdoms. Much of the population was pagan having never converted to the Christian faith.
The Church in the east became the Greek Orthodox Church with the liturgy in Greek. The Bishop of Constantinople became the head of the Church and was called the Patriarch. Later there were to be other Patriarchs severing various ethnic groups. The Roman Empire in the east remained intact, powerful, and fully Christianized. People started calling the Roman Empire in the east the Byzantine Empire.
Slavs Convert to the Greek Orthodox Faith
In the 800s and 900s Slavic pagans living in kingdoms adjacent to the Byzantine Empire were converted to Christianity by the monks Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius and other missionaries that followed after them.
Cyril and Methodius translated the liturgy and Bible of the Greek Orthodox Church into Slavonic. Cyril invented a new alphabet for this project, which is named after him, the Cyrillic alphabet. This alphabet is basically the Greek Alphabet, used by the Greek speaking people of the Byzantine Empire, augmented with extra letters needed for the Slavic language.
Rusyns, Bulgarians, Russians, and Ukrainians are examples of Slavic peoples who adopted the Greek Orthodox religion with the use of Slavonic for the liturgy and the Cyrillic alphabet. This language came to be called Old Church Slavonic.
The Greek Catholic Church is Born
In the late 1500’s areas to the north of the Carpathian Mountains came under the rule of the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth.
As mentioned, the Carpathian Mountains were populated by Slavic Rusyns. At the time they were almost exclusively of the Greek Orthodox faith. The Polish nobility, who were Roman Catholic and now in control, did not want their new subjects to be under the influence of the Patriarchs of Kiev and Moscow. There was a fierce desire to convert them, however, Rusyns had been Greek Orthodox for 700 years and this possibility was slim to none.
A compromise was reached when a large segment of the Rusyn Greek Orthodox bishops and priests agreed to come under the authority of the Holy See in Rome if allowed to keep the Byzantine rites and traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, be allowed to continue the use of Old Church Slavonic in the liturgy, as opposed to Latin, and continue the practice of allowing priests to marry. The average parishioner would not see any change to their beloved religious traditions. The agreement also gave the clergy social, cultural, and economic benefits. This was nothing to sneeze at considering life was difficult and poverty pervasive, even among the clergy.
And so in the year 1596 The Greek Catholic Church was born when Rusyn clergy on the north side of the Carpathian Mountains formally signed an agreement known as The Union of Brest, named after the city of Brest, Belarus, where it was signed and the word “Union” referring to the idea that the Rusyn Greek Orthodox clergy united with the Roman Catholic Church.
The Greek Catholic Church is established in Hungary
Fifty years later the same deal was reached with Rusyn Greek Orthodox clergy living in Hungary on the southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. This area was ruled jointly by the Austrian Hapsburgs and Hungarian nobility, both of whom were Roman Catholic.
And so, in 1646 the Greek Catholic Church was established in the Kingdom of Hungary when the clergy signed The Union of Uzhhorod on the grounds of the castle in Uzhhorod.
At the time Uzhhorod was called Ungvar. After World War II this area was given to Ukraine and the Hungarian name of Ungvar was changed to the Ukrainian name of Uzhhorod.
Also, at the time it was called the Uniate Church. In 1773, the church’s name was officially changed to Greek Catholic to compliment the name Roman Catholic.
Rev Alexis Bakaysa was a Greek Catholic priest in Rusyn villages on the southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. Ancestors of the Ladomérszky family were Greek Catholic priests in these same villages since at least the 1700s.
The Hungarian Greek Catholic Church is established
In 1868 the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church was established. The unique feature of the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church is that the liturgy is neither in Greek nor Old Church Slavonic but in Hungarian. Rome did not initially sanction the formation of a Hungarian Greek Catholic Church because Hungarian was not an approved holy language. Eventually Rome gave its blessing.
The need for a Hungarian wing of the Greek Catholic church came about due to a new national movement called Hungarianization that made its appearance in the 1800s.
Hungarianization was a state sponsored policy to encouraged non-Hungarians within the Kingdom of Hungary to adopt the Hungarian language and to self-identify as Hungarian.
For centuries the Austrian Empire, which included the Kingdom of Hungary, was multi-ethnic. In fact, the languages, religions, and traditions of the various ethnicities were protected by law. The first Hungarian census taken in the 1830’s showed that only 40% of the citizens of the Kingdom of Hungary identified as Magyar (Hungarian). Subsequently, a policy of national assimilation was initiated by the Hungarian government. (The Kingdom of Hungary above refers to all areas ruled by Hungary as shown in Figure 2. This area was split, roughly along ethnic lines, into multiple separate nations in 1920 as dictated by the Treaty of Trianon after World War I)
Hungarianization proved to be extremely popular with the small slice of the population that was well educated. Hungarianization was especially popular among Rusyn Greek Catholic seminarians and priests who enthusiastically welcomed the chance to act and function as Hungarians. (See Editor's Note at the end.)
A typical Rusyn Greek Catholic church of the countryside
The less educated, including Greek Catholic Rusyn peasant farmers, often retained their old ways and languages, not so much out of resistance, but because they were isolated from city life and therefore largely unaffected by the Hungarianization movement. Although the government desired universal education in Hungarian, no funds were provided for its implementation. But even among city dwellers, most non-Hungarians continued to speak the language of their ancestors at home and in shops. For them Hungarian was a second language.
Therefore, it came about that there were both Rusyn Greek Catholic and Hungarian Greek Catholic Churches in Hungary serving Rusyn and Hungarian speaking congregations. Most of the Rusyn congregations were made up of peasant farmers in the remote countryside and most Hungarian Greek Catholics congregations were made up of urban elite. The clergy for both types of congregations were almost certainly all Hungarians of Rusyn ancestry, but this is difficult to confirm.
Note that I am intentionally simplifying things. I’ve made many broad generalizations throughout this document for which there are many exceptions. For example, a group of Rusyns migrated to the southern plains of Hungary and these peasant Rusyns quickly became Hungarianized. This document is not intended to be a comprehensive history.
One should also note that most Hungarians are not Greek Catholic but are either Roman Catholic or Protestant. The Greek Catholic religion was and is to this day an important but minority religion in Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine.
Figure 4: Distribution of Religions in 2011 Hungary
Greek Catholic Churches are established in the US
Starting in the late 1800s and continuing into the early 1900s many Rusyn and Hungarian Greek Catholics immigrated to America due to poverty and lack of opportunity in the region. They came from both Austrian and Hungarian parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Rusyn immigrants were mostly unskilled peasant farmers and came to work the factories, steel mills, and coal mines of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio. Hungarians were usually better educated and often entered middle class white-color professions. Immigrants formed organizations to build churches and bring Greek Catholic priests to their new homeland.
Since they were under the authority of Rome, when the first Greek Catholic priests arrived, they were placed under the authority of local US Roman Catholic bishops. The American bishops were horrified and did not accept them as legitimate priests. For one, they had not even heard of the Greek Catholic Church and secondly, they were dumbfounded by a married priesthood. It took decades but eventually the tensions were resolved. Eventually the married priesthood was abolished in the United States. In Europe, Greek Catholic priests are still allowed to be married but follow the ancient tradition that they must marry prior to ordination.
When they first immigrated to the United States, Rusyns from the eastern and western regions of the Carpathian Mountains came together and attended the same Greek Catholic Churches under the assumption that their language and culture were practically the same. It quickly became apparent that they were not as similar as they thought and ended up forming separate congregations.
Immigrants from western regions of the Carpathian Mountains formed Ruthenian Greek Catholic congregations (they adopted the English word for Rusyn) and Rusyns from eastern regions of the mountains formed Ukrainian Greek Catholic congregations. Sometimes two Greek Catholic Churches were within a mile of each other. And of course, Hungarian Greek Catholics also had their separate churches. There was communication and cooperation, but also tension, between the congregations. I think it interesting that the cultural divide was between eastern and western regions of the Carpathian Mountains, not the northern and southern slopes.
Congregations in the United States began to call their churches Byzantine Rite rather than Greek Catholic because Americans had a hard time understanding that the Greek Catholic religion is not composed of Greeks. Churches in the United States officially now go by the name Byzantine Catholic while Greek Catholic is still used in Europe.
The Greek Catholic Church in Post-Communist Europe
Religion was suppressed during the years when the Eastern Bloc states were under the thumb of Moscow. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union there has been a resurgence of religion in the area including the Greek Catholic Church. Church buildings which had been shuttered or turned over to other uses were often returned to the Greek Catholic Church.
There is even a small but fervent resurgence of Rusyn identity.
Jankowski, Tomek. Eastern Europe!: Everything You Need to Know About the History (and More) of a Region that Shaped Our World and Still Does. New Europe Books. 2013. Kindle Edition.
Magosci, Paul Robert. With Their Backs to the Mountains: A History of the Carpathian Rus’ and Carpatho-Rusyns. Central European University Press. 2017
Editor's Note: The section on Hungarianization beautifully shows why my grandfather Fr. Vladimir Mihalich and his wife Grandmother Olga Podhajeczky and their family were ethnic Ruthenians (Carpatho-Rusyns), but cultural Hungarians. That is they spoke Slovak/Ruthenian with the people of the community, but only spoke Hungarian in the home while observing both Hungarian and Ruthenian customs. They always considered their nationality to be Hungarian. As with many priest families, they may have wanted to identify themselves with the educated Hungarian intelligencia. Fr. Vladimir conducted his liturgies and administered the sacraments in Old Slav (Church Slavonic). His cerca 1890 breviary, which we still have, is in Church Slavonic and written with the Cyrillic alphabet.
and Western Christianity
by Deacon David Thomas October 17th, 2003
following excerpts were taken directly from and added to, or reformatted
MOUNTAIN of SILENCE (A Search for
by Kyriacos C. Markides, 2002
developed within the historical parameters of the Roman Empire.
Constantine, the fourth-century Roman emperor, made some crucial
decisions that had a lasting impact on both Western civilization and
Christianity. During the middle of the fourth century he elevated
Christianity from a persecuted sect to the official religion of the
Christianity and Judaism, out of which it emerged, along with Greek
philosophy and Roman law, became the third cultural pillar that
sustained what we understand as Western civilization.
that Rome had become vulnerable to barbarian tribes from the
north, Constantine the Great shifted the capital of his empire from
Rome to Constantinople. Changing the capital to “the New Rome”
was a crucial strategic decision that affected the course of Western
history. It allowed the empire to last another thousand years.
perhaps, an additional reason for relocating his capital to the east.
The old Rome was too stained with its pagan past. Constantinople
was a fresh start, a city without a history, founded exclusively on
the new religion.
Constantine’s move, the village of Byzantium had little
significance. The bishop there was subordinate to the Metropolitan
of Heraclea in Thrace. When Byzantium became Constantinople, the new
center of the Empire in the East (324 A.D.), a great change occurred
in many ways including the ecclesiastical sphere.
the First Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicaea, convened in 325
as directed by Constantine. In a little over 50 years, from the time
of the dedication of the new capital, Constantinople surpassed Rome
in imperial importance. The local bishop vaulted to a very
commanding position in the hierarchy: no longer was he under the
authority of Heraclea. He came into prominence by virtue of being
elevated to the rank of patriarch.
the second largest city in Greece, was regarded as the second most
important center of Eastern Christianity after Constantinople during
the Byzantine era. The Thessalonians received a number of Paul’s
epistles, and it was from Thessaloniki that the two scholarly monks,
Cyril and his brother, Methodius, embarked on their ninth-century
mission to spread Christianity to the Slavs.
Eastern part of the empire known as Byzantium thrived and prospered,
the social and political infrastructure of the western part of the
empire eventually collapsed under the weight of the Germanic
invasions. This development left the Roman Church (in
Constantinople) as the sole organized institution keeping a
politically fragmented and barbarized Western European society
Dark Ages descended upon Europe, a development that did not take
place in Byzantium, and this is an important point that Western
historians have often overlooked. It is interesting to note that
during the Dark Ages, Constantinople was a leading center of culture
with over a million inhabitants, whereas Paris had only a few
thousand. Here is how a medieval historian described the prevailing
conditions in the West:
leadership, which was so badly needed by the disorganized Western
society of the sixth century, could come initially only from the
Church, which had in its ranks almost all the literate men in Europe
and the strongest institutions of the age. The Church, however, had
also suffered severely from the Germanic invasions. The bishops
identified their interests with those of the lay nobility and in fact
were often relatives of kings and the more powerful aristocrats; the
secular clergy in general was ignorant, corrupt, and unable to deal
with the problem of Christianizing a society which remained intensely
heathen in spite of formal conversion of masses of Germanic warriors
to Christianity. The grossest heathen superstitions were grafted
onto Latin Christianity…. By the beginning of the seventh century,
Church discipline in Gaul was in a state of chaos, and the problem
was the most basic one of preserving sufficient rudiments of literacy
to perpetuate the liturgy at doctrines of Latin Christianity…. The
Latin Church was preserved from extinction, and European civilization
with it, by two ecclesiastical institutions which alone had the
strength and efficiency to withstand the impress of the surrounding
barbarism: the regular clergy (that is, the monks) and the Papacy.
historical developments signaled the beginning of the preoccupation
of the Western Church with the management of this world, so much so
that in some cases the Pope himself participated in military
expeditions and used the sword with the same ease as the Gospel.
It was a
ghastly development for the Eastern monks and holy hermits, who
objected to any form of violence. The reluctance of the Byzantine
Church to accept that ends could justify means (even to the point of
insisting that killing enemy solders in battle was sinful) led to a
feeling that no one could engage in politics, war, or commerce
without some moral taint. This put the Byzantines at a certain
disadvantage against western merchants or Crusaders, or Muslim Holy
political and military institutions of the western part of the empire
collapsed, the overall social and political infrastructure of the
eastern part of the Roman Empire remained relatively intact. The
various emperors still handled the affairs of this world, often
committing atrocious crimes against their enemies, while the Church
remained otherworldly both in its praxis and in theological
orientation, fulfilling its role as the conscience of the empire and
often serving as a countervailing power against the arbitrariness of
mystical element in Eastern Christianity, which has survived to this
day in some ancient monastic communities, may therefore be attributed
to the fact that in Byzantium, the Church, unlike its Western
counterpart did not exercise direct political power and authority
over society. There were clear and definitive boundaries between the
ecclesiastical, religious sphere on one hand and the imperial state
on the other.
as the “vicegerent of Christ” on earth perceived as his primary
role the safeguarding and protection of Orthodox Christianity. With
full economic and political support from the state, the monks were
left in peace in their monasteries to focus all their energy and
attention on the systematic exploration of inner spiritual life and
Western Christianity became more oriented toward this world, Eastern
Christianity remained monastic and eremitic in character.
essential function of both monks and nuns was seen as the pursuit of
holiness. Byzantine monasteries may have devoted less time to study,
scholarship and education than their western counterparts, but they
took seriously the obligation of hospitality and sponsored works of
charity, establishing hospitals, orphanages and houses for the poor.
different historical developments of the western and the eastern
parts of the Roman Empire paralleled and perhaps were responsible for
the rise of two distinct orientations in Christian theology.
The type which developed in the West was based on the thought of
Aristotle, the philosophical precursor to the scientific revolution
and the philosopher whose primary focus was the study of this world.
God as the “Unmoved Mover,” Aristotle taught, can be known and
proven by studying nature and through philosophical, logical
Thomas Aquinas, who introduced Aristotle to the West, was the
catalyst for the Roman Catholic Church to embrace Aristotelian
philosophy and establish it as the central orientation in Catholic
theology. Western theology, by adhering to such orientation, did in
fact plant the seeds for the scientific revolution and the rise of
rationalism that paved the way for the modern secular world as we
know it. This “scholastic” perspective, however, was at odds
with that of Eastern Christianity, which believed that God can only
be known through spiritual practice and direct mystical illumination.
eventually split formally into the Roman and the Eastern Orthodox
churches during the Great Schism of A.D. 1054. (Some
Eastern Churches, however, did not split from the recognition of
Papal authority.) Since then “two Christianities” followed their
radically different and separate ways. It would be Saint Gregory
Palamas, a fourteenth-century archbishop of Thessaloniki who would
play the decisive role in blocking Western scholastic theology,
founded on Aristotelian thought from becoming the dominant
theological orientation of Eastern Christianity.
Christianity however, underwent further radical convulsions that
led to increasing secularization. In the middle of the sixteenth
century Martin Luther nailed to the door of his church his
“Ninety-five Theses” that launched the revolution against the
Pope. With Protestantism, monasticism as an institution was
abolished altogether as well as the practice of honoring saints, who
traditionally had served as spiritual beacons. In other
words, it was as if “the heart was taken out of Christianity.”
to a cultural repudiation of cloistered life, Protestantism
redirected believers to express their faith through a “this-worldly
asceticism,” an orientation of disciplined, rational action within
this world. Western culture had, as an unintended consequence, moved
toward the development of a “Protestant work ethic” that has
played a major role in revolutionizing the world by opening the gates
to modern capitalism and the Industrial Revolution.
it may well have been the aesthetic experience of the services and
the liturgy of the Eastern Church that helped it survive over the
centuries, for it was this very aesthetic aspect of the liturgy that,
it is said, converted the Russians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern
Europeans to Orthodox Christianity. “It takes time to bake bread,”
implying that it takes time before a person may enter into the
mystical frame of mind in order to become spiritually receptive.
This is the function of the long and beautiful services that people
of (Western) rational predilection find hard to understand or
endure. It is no wonder that the West, where rationalism has become
triumphant, the liturgy is considerably shorter and replaced by
the tenth century Prince Vladimir of Kiev, a fun-loving
womanizer, wished to give his empire a common religion primarily for
purposes of political unification. He dispatched a delegation to
visit various countries and places of worship where different
religions were practiced in order to find out which one would be the
most suitable for his empire.
delegation included in its itinerary a visit to Constantinople, at
the great church of Aghia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) built by
Justinian a few centuries earlier. Upon their return they presented
their findings to the prince in a memorable report. Among many
others, they described their experiences when they visited Aghia
Sophia: “Then we went to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the
edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we
were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor
or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know
only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer
than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that
allegedly convinced Prince Vladimir to convert to Eastern
Christianity, and along with him eventually all the millions of his
to archbishop Gregory Palamas of Thessaloniki, a theology that is
based on intellectual constructs and not on the direct experience of
God is philosophy and not theology. It is a human creation that
offers neither real knowledge of God nor peace to the heart, and a
purely philosophical approach to knowing God may prevent human beings
from really knowing God.
transpersonal theorist, Ken Wilber, in his masterful critique of
Western thought, claims that Western civilization lacks a “yoga,”
or a method of acquiring knowledge beyond the senses and the
intellect. Western thought remains therefore trapped within its
intellectual and scientific constructs. Wilber, like most
transpersonal theorists today, finds this “yoga” in Eastern
philosophy and religion, particularly Zen.
both the Eastern mystical approach to God on the one hand and the
Western philosophical approach to God on the other may be two sides
of the same Christian coin, one dominant in the East and the other
dominant in the West.
a Catholic bishop in Maine once said, "has two lungs. One is Western,
meaning rational and philosophical, and the other Eastern, meaning
mystical and otherworldly. Both, he claimed, are needed for proper
breathing. Both the mystical and the rational approaches to God were
actually part of the early Church. They were only set asunder by
subsequent historical developments."