Sin and the Identity Crisis

If you have been following the liturgical cycle for the past week, you would have noticed an unintentional but common theme in the epistle readings from yesterday and today. (Peter and Paul alongside the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost). Yesterday, we read from 1 Corinthians and today we read from Romans. There were two specific verses that stood out to me which basically have the same meaning.

In Corinthians, we read about the thorn in Paul’s side and how God’s grace is enough, with the ending phrase being “through weakness, power is made perfect.” Today, midway through the reading we see “through affliction we get perseverance, through perseverance, tested virtue, and through tested virtue (which is also translated as character), hope. In essence, we can draw from both scripture readings that by battling and enduring sin, we develop the virtue.

Ok, great. What does this have to do with sin and identity?

Have you ever wondered the reason why people sin? It isn’t just due to desire for pleasure. When Adam and Eve were created, God said “let us create man in our own image and likeness.” In essence, we were like God. But what did Satan tell us. “If you eat this, you will become like gods.” Satan basically tells us that we were NOT like God and would not be until we consumed the fruit that we were commanded not to. We lost our sense of identity and did whatever we could to get it back. And most people turn to sin to do so.

Every sin has a story behind it. The young man addicted to pornography usually began as someone with a simple curiosity. It could be for any number of reasons. Perhaps the world told him that he could never find a girl, so the only way he would be able to see what one looked like or know what sex was like was to watch in on his computer. Or maybe he had a girlfriend and heard all the television comedies and gossip shows (or even saw articles in magazines in the store checkout) about how he was worthless if he didn’t know how to maximize her pleasure, so he turned to porn for advice.

It could be the girl that thinks that her boyfriend won’t truly love her unless she sleeps with him. Or that he doesn’t love her if he says he wants to wait until marriage. Perhaps it is the desire to experience the pleasure over and over again and the lie that it isn’t so wrong since it really isn’t hurting anyone.

Perhaps it is the man who believes his worth is based off of how much money he has, thus does everything to accrue wealth, at the cost of his own neighbors. It could be the young boy who turns into a bully since he thinks that it will give him respect from the weak and popularity among the cool kids. It could be the elderly woman who thinks she is worthless because her grandkids don’t call her anymore.

In every one of these cases, we sin because we believe a lie. We do not know our true identities as children of God when we sin. Maybe we think we are worth more than others when we hurt others. Maybe we think we are less when we hurt ourselves. But if we truly know who we are and who we are called to be, we know we must turn away from sin.

We must endure the sufferings patiently and grow in virtue so that we can too experience the hope of salvation through and in Jesus Christ.

The Sound of Silence

One of my common trends in my writing whether it be here or on other media such as Instagram, I tend to write about what the West can learn from the East. However, one notable fact that I failed to mention previously (and it is an important note) is that the West has or at least had all of these. They just fell into disuse either culturally or liturgically, and an implementation of some of these would be simply a return to tradition (and no, simply returning to the usage of the TLM is not what I’m implying. Sad to say, but the TLM as we know it today is also wrought with deficiencies due to a multitude of reasons. But since this is an EC blog, I’ll stay in my lane and stick to EC issues).

One thing that I haven’t touched on is what we can learn from the West. As a Byzantine Catholic, I can personally attest that we lack some things, maybe not liturgically, but in our own spiritual lives as a result of the Oculture. The one which I want to write about today is silence.


One of the greatest charms of our liturgy (keep in mind I’m writing about the Byzantine Rite, particularly the Ruthenian Church) is that we sing everything and there is basically no silent moments of any significant length. As a cantor, I stand throughout the entire service, excluding the homily, and there is no time for contemplative silence. There is nothing wrong with that. That is the tradition as it was handed down to us and it makes sense that our Eucharist is completely focused on offering to God rather than trying to draw meaning for ourselves (although we receive a lot from God).

Yet, if you look at the Latin low mass, you see pretty much the opposite. I live in relatively close proximity to the Latin mass church and I worked out an arrangement where I would bring one of their sopranos to our church to assist us with our singing (we are working on 3 part harmonies) and then I would go to her church later that day to assist her with the same thing. The first thing I noticed was the power of the silence. There was little to no noise in the church aside from the quiet whispers of prayer. In their particular rite, the emphasis is on internal participation at Mass. It was almost like I found something akin to a missing ingredient, that I needed in my prayer life.


Silence and stillness is one of the hardest things for us to accomplish, especially at a divine service. With all the singing and fervent worship, I (especially as a cantor) sometimes lose sight of the worship while focusing on the music quality. The sad thing is that music is easy to turn into a performance. While singing about God, we forget that we are singing TO God. Anyone can fall into this issue, whether it be a cantor, reader, subdeacon, deacon, priest, etc. Whenever there is a group of people, there is always a desire to shine. I’ve seen people in pews (and I have been one, sadly) who will act especially reverent not because they love God, but they want to impress the others around them. To steal from my priest’s sermon from last Sunday “we say and do all of the right things, but do we really believe them in our hearts?” The cause of this? A lack of interior silence.

St. Gregory Palamas is known for his teachings on hesychia, which literally means stillness. His prayer method, known as hesychasm, is intended to bring stillness and silence to the innermost of our souls. He taught that as we breath, we breath the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Some of the most advanced hesychists are actually able to pray this with their heartbeats, which is why this prayer is also referred to as the “prayer of the heart.” He believed that in the stillness and silence, we will be able to see God.

If our hearts and souls are still, we aren’t concerned about how good the music sounds or about how other people perceive our worship. In fact, we also won’t be taking note of the worship of others either. However, this isn’t something that can be forced on us. Only we know if we are doing this. No one will know if you are still in your heart. That is between you and God. But this is a way to bring silence into the hustle and bustle of liturgy and your every day life.


We like to drown ourselves in noise and in media, whether it be the news, music, or memes. When we get into our cars, a lot of us will turn the radio up and allow the music to fill us. Or we spend every waking minute texting or talking to someone. Why do we do this? Is there something inside of us that we are trying to escape from? Why not drive in silence, put the phone down for half an hour, put down the controller, etc. Instead, breath and say “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Silence the seething passions in your soul, and then you will be able to hear the small voice of God calling out to you.


Metamorphosis is defined as a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means. Typically, this is used to describe the life cycle of moths or butterflies in which caterpillars enter a cocoon and come out completely different.

However, that is not the only kind of metamorphosis. We can change from sinners into saints in the cocoon of the Church. That is indeed my favorite thing about Byzantine spirituality. When I was first becoming Catholic, I was doing so through the Latin rite. One of the ideas that seemed to permeate the mentality of sin was that we cannot change who we are. We are sinners and although we may stop sinning for a time, we will indeed sin again. We are incapable of changing who we are.

To a degree that statement isn’t incorrect. We very much are incapable of changing ourselves. However, in the East, we believe Christ offers us something better. Change. After all, Christ never said “go forth and come back when you slip” but “go and sin no more.” We can be transformed in the presence of Jesus Christ. Christ offers us a roadmap for that goal: Prayer, Fasting, Alms.

But AGAIN! That isn’t the end all, be all. Those are TOOLS to get us to our metamorphosis in Christ. We can be praying, fasting, and giving to the poor, but the prayer is just empty words, the fasting is just a diet, and the alms are just charity, if we aren’t using them to sanctify ourselves.

We are halfway during Lent. It is never too late for us to correct our Lenten practices if we drifted away. Let us commit ourselves back to the Fast so that we may see the Risen Christ.

The Eastern Churches & Their Influence on the West

In this article we will be discussing the traditions of the Eastern Churches and explain how they have had a impact on the Latin Church throughout the centuries. In a predominately Western world in which hardly recognizes the existence of the Eastern Churches, we aim to not only inform our viewers for the sake of educational purposes, but to also show the equal importance of the Eastern Churches.

1. The Liturgy and the Nicene Creed

As we are all aware, the Creed of the first Ecumenical Council was written by the Council Fathers to preserve orthodoxy and to combat the heresy of the Arians. Before catechumens were baptized into the Church, they were first required to profess the Nicene Creed before the church to prove that they accepted the true faith and renounced the evils of the world. This is still practiced in the Roman Rite. The recitation of the Nicene Creed within the Divine Liturgy before the Eucharist was later adopted by the Church of Antioch in the 5th century. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “The recitation of all the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan Creed at the Eucharist seems to have begun, according to Theodore the Reader, at Antioch under Peter the Fuller in 471 (though James of Edessa says that it was adopted as soon as it was composed), and to have been adopted by Constantinople by Patriarch Timotheus in 511.” (1). The Church of the West did not adopt the use of the Nicene Creed until 589 within the churches of Spain and Galicia. The third Council of Toledo states: “That the creed of the faith be said in all churches of Spain and Galicia in accordance with the form of the Oriental churches and of the council of Constantinople at which 150 bishops were present, that it be sung with a clear voice by the people before the Lord’s Prayer is said.” (2). The Pope of Rome, His Holiness Pope Benedict XIV, confirms this to be a historical fact. (3).

2. Holy Friday (Good Friday).

As we are all aware, it is on Holy (Good) Friday that we commemorate the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for having saved us through His death on the cross. In the Latin Church, this is done by kissing the Crucifix after a procession is done. In the East we have a similar practice of venerating the Crucifix on Holy Friday. However, the Body of Christ is also removed from the Cross, wrapped in a white cloth, and carried to the altar during the Apokathylosis Service. The clergy also process with what is called a “Epitaphios” which is an icon of Christ on linen depicting him after he has been removed from the cross. The practices in which we can now see being used during Holy Friday comes from a night procession that was practiced within the Church of Jerusalem during the 4th century. A series of readings would also be read to the faithful as they would gather at Calvary for the hours that Jesus was crucified and died. The ceremony concluded with the veneration of the Holy Cross. The Pope of Rome, St. Sergius, later introduced the practice of venerating the cross to the Latin Church for Good Friday and established it as a practice in the Lateran Basilica. (4). Earlier, we have referenced the Papal Bull ‘Allatae Sunt’ by Pope Benedict XIV. Within this same Papal Bull, he also confirms that this is a historical fact. “Continuing with Our topic, Amalarius in his de Divinis Officiis, chap. 14 (relying on the authority of St. Paulinus’ Epistolary ad Severum) relates that the Cross on which Christ hung was exposed for adoration of the faithful in the church of Jerusalem on Good Friday of Holy Week only. He declares that the ceremony of the adoration of the Holy Cross which forms part of the Good Friday service in every Latin Church until the present day derived from the practice of the Greeks.” With that in mind, it opens to the next subject.

3. The Use of Crucifixes

In his book “The Cross of Christ” by John R.W. Stott, he states: “The crucifix (that is, a cross to which a figure of Christ is attached) does not appear to have been used before the sixth century”. (5). His Eminence the Most Reverend Archbishop Joseph Tawil of blessed memory, former Eparch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the United States, agrees with this. “Before the sixth century the crucifixion was a hated and shameful image, depicted only symbolically.” He continues, “It was the Syrian monks who first represented Christ on the cross, to better emphasize the humanity of the Word. This representation was at first shocking in Gaul where it was covered with a veil. The crucifixion scene in the manuscript of the Syrian monk, Rabbula (sixth century), became the prototype of all representations of this type in the west during the seventh century.” (6).

4. Monasticism

When examining Church history, it is evident that monasticism was started by Eastern Christians within the desert of Alexandria. This was done by Early Christians in order to get away from the world to live a life of perfection through prayer and fasting. Great examples of Early Christian monastics include St. Paul of Thebes, St. Anthony of Egypt, St. Pachomius the Great, St. Moses the Black, St. Sabbas the Sanctified, etc. While monasticism is attributed to St. Paul of Thebes, St. Pachomius was the originator of monastic rule since it was not common in the early monastic communities. This is something that we continue to see within Latin religious orders, something that was also adopted by St. Benedict after monasticism was introduced to the West by St. Athanasius in 340 A.D. (See ‘Western Monasticism’ within the Catholic Encyclopedia for more info). Because the East had such an huge impact on the West in this regard, not only was the date for Easter adopted by the Alexandrian Church, but also the Lenten Fast. The Fast began in the monasteries of Egypt. When the custom was brought to the west, it was first rejected by the Roman Church since the observance of a 40 day fast seemed to be too harsh. However, St. Athanasius insisted that this practice become the normal custom of the Latin Church after he requested Bishop Thumis to make it so.

5. Prayers

In the Preface of the Traditional Roman Rite, the Priest says to the faithful: “Dominus Vobiscum” (The Lord Be With You). The church responds with “Et Cum Spiritu Tuo” (And with your spirit). He then says the words “Sursum Corda” (Lift up your hearts). Finally, the faithful reply with “Habemus Ad Dominum” (We have lifted them up to The Lord). Sound familiar? This is still said within the newer form of the Roman Rite as well. The very words “Lift up your hearts” was first used within the catechism of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, explaining how the liturgy was said in his region in order to prepare catechumens for baptism. (7). This was something that the Roman Church has also adopted from the East.

Another prayer of the East in which has influenced the prayers of the West, in addition to many others, is the Troparion for the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. “Your Nativity, O Christ our God, Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshipped the stars, were taught by a star to adore you, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know You, the Orient from on High! O Lord, Glory to You!” The Latin version of this prayer, known as the Nativitas Tua, goes: “Thy Nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, announced joy to the whole world: For out of thee arose the Sun of justice, Christ Our God, who paying for the curse, gave blessing, and confounding death, gave us eternal life.”

6. The Ripidion (Liturgical Fan).

Beginning in the first – fourth century, the Churches of the East used the liturgical fans within the Divine Liturgy. The Apostolic Constitutions from the 4th century reads: “Two deacons, one on either side of the altar, are directed to hold fans formed of thin membrane of the feathers of the peacock, or of linen tissue, to drive away little flying creatures, least they should fall into the sacred vessels”. (8). It wasn’t until the 6th century that the Latin

Church began to adopt the use of liturgical fans. (9). This practice later fell out of use in the 14th century. (10).

Granted, it is evident by history that the Eastern Churches have had a huge influence on the Church of the West. As stated in the introduction, it shows that the churches of the East have an equal importance with the Church of the West in regards to traditions, customs, etc. History also shows that the Churches of the East have helped develop the practices of the Latin Church, which shows that both traditions are complimentary rather than competitive.

1. Liturgical Use of Creeds, Catholic Encyclopedia

2. Canon Two, Council of Toledo, 589 A.D.

3. Papal Bull: Allatae Sunt, Section 28, 1755, Pope Benedict XIV

4. The Patriarchate of Antioch throughout History: An Introduction, Archbishop Joseph Tawil, Sophia Press, 2001, Page. 33-34.

5. “The Cross of Christ”, John R.W. Stott, Page 27.

6. The Patriarchate of Antioch throughout History: An Introduction, Archbishop Joseph Tawil, Sophia Press, 2001, Page. 14

7. Catechetical Lecture 23, Section 4, St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

8. Apostolic Constitutions, VIII, 12.

9. Church Vestments: Their Origin & Development, Herbert Norris, Page 152.

10. Ibid. Page 155.

Ripidion Image: Church Vestments: Their Origin & Development. Herbert Norris. Page 154.

Fasting – Our Call to Theosis

On November 15, we began the Nativity Fast, and unfortunately, most of our bishops/priests don’t really give clear direction in how to undertake this fast. This seems to be the case during every fast because our church doesn’t mandate anything other than abstaining from meat on Friday and holding to a strict fast on Christmas Eve. So for most of us, we know that the Nativity Fast is supposed to be less strict when compared to Great Lent, but the rules for Great Lent aren’t particularly strict either, as the rule for Lent is no meat on Wednesday and Friday. So to make it “less strict” would be to mandate what we are supposed to be doing during every week of the year (minus 4 fast free weeks).

The reason being, the dietary component of fasting is really not what is important. The dietary restrictions due aid in struggling against sin, but remember that fasting has to be undertaken in context with Isaiah 58.

6“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.”

Essentially, the call is to live a more blameless life and to care for our brethren. St. John Chrysostom explains that the abstinence from certain materials is not what makes the fast but rather how we treat each other by abstaining from sin.

“Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.

In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.

Let the mouth fast from disgraceful and abusive words, because, what gain is there when, on the one hand we avoid eating chicken and fish and, on the other, we chew-up and consume our brothers? He who condemns and blasphemes is as if he has eaten brotherly meat, as if he has bitten into the flesh of his fellow man. It is because of this that Paul frightened us, saying: “If you chew up and consume one another be careful that you do not annihilate yourselves.”

You did not thrust your teeth into the flesh (of your neighbor) but you thrusted bad talk in his soul; you wounded it by spreading disfame, causing unestimatable damage both to yourself, to him, and to many others.”

+ St. John Chrysostom

This is all stuff that we are supposed to be doing anyways. A similar example is in our liturgy. Time after time, the Deacon (or priest, in the absence of a deacon) will say “Wisdom! Let us be attentive!” I’ve seen other translations that say “Let us attend” or “Stand aright,” which the closest parallel I can draw is to that of our military when the command “Attention!” is given. To be at “attention” means that the soldier is required to stand upright, and their body is able to perform any military command given from that position. When the soldier is in a “resting” position, he has to be called back to “attention” before he can proceed.

However, in our liturgy, we are always spiritually at “attention,” and we are standing for most of the liturgy. It would seem that these calls to be attentive – for us to pay attention with our minds and our hearts – are rather redundant, since we were doing that anyways. Yet, in our human condition, we tend to distract easily. We have to be reminded to put away the old man and put on the new through these fasts, rather frequently. In fact, I think we spend more time fasting than not in our church. This behavior is how we ought to act at all times, but we draw attention to it, since when we aren’t fasting, our discipline tends to slip.

Fasting is only a tool for reaching heavenly perfection, after all. If all you do is focus on the dietary requirements and do not fast spiritually, nothing will avail you. However, even if you were to eat meat every day, yet you abide by Isaiah 58 and by the words of St. John Chrysostom, you have kept the fast.

What The Youth Wants and How It Can Help Fix The Church.

Whether you like it or not, it has been proven that devout Catholic youth want the ancient, spotless, orthodox, unchanged, and holy Catholic faith. In other words, we desire to have our churches teach what the church has always taught, and to worship the way it has always worshiped as handed down by the fathers of the church. (Regardless of Rite). This means that we do not want churches and liturgies in which reflect what the world has to offer, but instead we want a church and a liturgy that emphasizes the heavenly reality in which we are in; contradicting the ordinary world just like how God instructed His temples to be in scripture. (Exodus 25, Chronicles 28).

It has been commonly misunderstood that the Church should reach out to the youth by “getting with the times” in where the ways of old are thrown out of the picture. Some examples involve the removal of icons and Holy images for felt banners and modernized art, substituting ancient chant for guitar and pop/rock music, celebrating liturgies where balloons are tied to the altar and even tossed throughout the church etc. (Life teen for example).

But when you truly speak with young devout Catholics with humility, especially us converts; such things are a huge turn off since what can be found in a church that behaves in this fashion can also be found in the every day world. (Or even non – Catholic Churches). Being that the younger generation is the future of the Church, this should be taken into serious consideration by the hierarchy.

When we examine the fruits of changing the church to make it more reflective of the modern world, can we honestly conclude that the church has preserved the faith, increased church attendance, and improved its vocations? If we are going to be truly honest with ourselves, we cannot come to this conclusion.

When we look at many from the generations that have gone before us in the last 50 years, it is evident that their approval of innovation has only planted seeds in which gave birth to bad fruits. It has resulted in the approval of heterodoxy; which explains why the faith has been either watered down or thrown away all together in Catholic Churches around the globe in order to please the world and reflect it. But when we examine scripture, who does it say is in charge of this world? It says the devil. (John 12:31, 2 Cor 4:4).

This explains why the church is in the scandal that it is in today. After speaking with him personally, Father. Bill Casey of the Fathers of Divine Mercy stated that: “It should be of no surprise.” This is because instead of many in the post Vatican II generation guarding the truth with prayer, fasting, and keeping what was handed down to us; they have let their guards down to later allow the church to be scourged, punched, and kicked by its enemies – to only allow it to become sick and bruised within and out; letting it suffer as they refuse to treat her wounds.

Many have given the impression that Jesus Christ shall bow to this world instead of suggesting that the world shall bow down to Christ. This can only parallel with the book of Matthew in where Satan has asked Jesus to bow to him while tempting him in the desert (Matt 4:9), offering the pleasures of this world in return. (Matt 4:8). And when we look at many of the clergy within the Church that promote error and heresy, how can we deny that such shepherds have betrayed their flock in order to be given pleasures of this world? I.E. money, fame, approval, acceptance, etc.

Therefore, as stated above, the clergy of the church and the older generation should take into consideration what has happened as a result of innovative practices. They should also consider the requests of the Catholic youth to restore authentic Catholicism since this will be the only way to fix the church. After all, what do we have to loose by restoring Orthodoxy within the Church?

If we are continuously silenced, and labeled as “rigid”, even by the Pope himself, then how is it that we will be able to fix the church? Wouldn’t silencing those that have a true care for the church make you the church’s enemy? Wouldn’t silencing devout Catholics that actually care about the faith only help spread errors throughout the church, as we have seen by clerics such as Father. James Martin in whom promotes homosexuality? (Something that is not only against Catholic teaching, but against the scriptures themselves!)

In the words of Father Bill Casey, if we are going to help fix the church in the midst of the chaos that it is in, we must “start with ourselves.” This means being obedient to what the church has always taught and not allowing our pride to influence what we believe the church should teach. This is something we have recently witnessed at the youth synod where bishops and liberal non Catholic youth have given the suggestion that the church must accept sodomy.

The unfortunate reality is that many laity and even clergy inside the church continue to defend the wickedness that we continuously see, even though they are aware that the Church has dogmatically condemned their errors. In the words of St. Augustine against the Manichees, he stated: In Christ’s Church, those are heretics, who hold mischievous and erroneous opinions, and when rebuked that they may think soundly and rightly, offer a stubborn resistance, and, refusing to mend their pernicious and deadly doctrines, persist in defending them.”

Being that we live in a time in where the church is being plagued and attacked from within by those in whom preach the heresy of homosexual acceptance and other forms of heterodoxy, how much more relevant is this quote today? Again, the voice of the devout Catholic youth shall be listened to with an open mind, and the clergy must restore orthodoxy in which we desire to have if we are going to save the church.

Disclaimer: We are not blaming the older generation as a whole for the modern crises that we are in, nor are we blaming the Second Vatican Council.

Apologetics 2.3: Iconography Pt.2


In the words of my priest: “If you deny the use of icons, you deny the Incarnation of Christ.” How is this so? Because Jesus Christ, in the flesh, is the perfect Icon of the Father. 

John 12:45 – “He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me”
John 14:6-10 – “‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?’”

Hebrews 1:3 – “the brightness of His glory and the express image [eikon] of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power” 

Collisions 1:15 – “He is the image [eikon] of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

The holy father St. John of Damascus teaches the following: “If the Word of God truly took flesh, He could be depicted in images … In the old days, the incorporeal and infinite God was never depicted. Now, however, when God has been seen clothed in flesh and talking with mortals, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honoring that matter which works my salvation.”


The following Anathemas are taken from an 1111 edition of the Synodikon by a monk of the Monastery of Oleni in Moroea. “On every innovation and action contrary to the tradition of the Church, and the teaching and pattern of the holy and celebrated Fathers, or anything that shall be done after this: Anathema!… On those who accept with their reason the incarnate economy of God the Word, but will not allow that this can be beheld through images, and therefore affect to receive our salvation in words, but deny it in reality: Anathema!

Those who apply the sayings of the divine Scripture that are directed against idols to the august icons of Christ our God and his saints: Anathema!

Those who share the opinion of those who mock and dishonor the august icons: Anathema!

Those who say that Christians treat the icons like gods: Anathema!

Those who dare to say that the Catholic Church has accepted idols, thus over-throwing the whole mystery and mocking the faith of Christians: Anathema!”

Thus, one cannot be a Christian and reject iconography, otherwise, one would have to reject the Incarnation in which is a heretical conclusion.

Do not despise the poor!

A new gospel is being taught in this capitalist and materialist society we live in: “The rich are not obliged to help the poor.” As Catholics, we cannot hold such views since these contradict the Church’s teaching on the Corporal Works of Mercy. (Matt 25:34-45).

Scripture teaches: 

1 John 3:17 – “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Proverbs 14:31 – “He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker: but he that honors him has mercy on the poor.”

Proverbs 28:27 – “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”
Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

(Note: To refuse helping the poor willingly can lead to damnation: See – Luke 16:22-24, Matt 25:41-46).

Church Fathers: 

St. Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”

St. John Chrysostom – “The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally.”

The Didache – “Share everything with your brother. Do not say, “It is private property.” If you share what is everlasting, you should be that much more willing to share things which do not last.”

Pope Pius X – “I was born poor, I lived in poverty, I wish to die poor.”

The Singing Tradition of Byzantine Rite Churches

Technically speaking, we are “sui iuris (self-governing) Churches using the Byzantine Rite.” There are quite a few different churches using the Byzantine rite, and they can be grouped into categories of church, i.e. slavic, Greek, Russian, Antiochian, etc. The ones that most people are familiar with are churches in the slavic category (Ruthenian – which goes under the name of Byzantine Catholic Church in America, and Ukranian) as well as the Melkites. There are plenty of other Eastern Catholic sui iuris Churches that utilize different rites, i.e. Maronites, Chaldean, Syro-Malabar, etc. but for this article, I will be focusing primarily on churches using the Byzantine Rite, as this is where I have most of my experiential knowledge.

First Things First: Traditionally We Sing Everything

I know what some of you may be thinking: “at our church, we recite some liturgies.” Technically speaking, we aren’t supposed to be doing that. It continues for a few reasons:

  1. Back in the era of forced latinizations, many parishes adopted Romanesque practices such as kneeling during Sunday and Paschal liturgies (in violation of the 2nd Nicean Council) which have stuck because the people who grew up with the latinizations thing this is what a Byzantine Catholic church should look like and don’t want to change it.
  2. The parish is in a tourist area and wants to appeal to Roman Catholic visitors on vacation. Yes, this actually happens. You can tell it is a tourist church when the priest or some parishioner has to announce before liturgy that it is an Eastern Catholic Church but “we are still under the Pope, but we do things a little differently.” So, in this case, they are sacrificing their identity for tourist dollars.
  3. People and Priests are too lazy to change. Remember that this is a list of potential reasons, and I am not writing about anyone’s church specifically (i.e. I’m not calling anyone lazy or saying anyone is lazy. I’m saying that there are people who *might* be lazy. One is calumny or gossip, the other is just throwing out potential ideas. Know the difference). Let’s be honest, singing a liturgy takes effort. And it makes the liturgy take a lot longer. A recited liturgy will be over in 25 to 30 minutes, whereas a sung liturgy will take a minimum of an hour. For time reasons alone, some people prefer recited liturgies.

With this out of the way, we should understand why we sing and why it is bad when the liturgy is just recited. St. Augustine says “he who sings prays twice.” In the Metropolitan Cantor Institute (Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh), it states that singing indicates “oneness of heart.” Our singing changes liturgy from being a ritual to being a truly communal worship, a joyful, yet a reverent celebration of the resurrection. When we reduce it to a recited liturgy, the goal shifts from prayer and worship to simply receiving a sacrament. That issue will be covered in a later (and likely shorter) article.


That’s right. Just because you walk into a church using the Byzantine Rite does not mean they use the same music. They have the 8 tones and they have the same responses, but they are written to different music. This is because when churches began to develop in certain areas, popular melodies were adapted to fit the words of the liturgical words. Thus, Ruthenian tone 1 will be different than Ukranian tone 1, which will be different from Melkite tone 1, etc.

They are different sui iuris churches. Again, it is important to emphasize that there is no one single Byzantine Catholic Church.


Some churches use a cantor or two to lead the congregation in singing. Some churches use a choir to sing the responses and the people will sing along. In my church, as the cantor, my priest tells me to let the people sing. That means I start the music, and then I let the people sing it (i.e. I shut up and listen) and if they start going off track, I jump in to correct them. Yes, it takes practice to learn how to do this while still providing for a reverent liturgy, but it is possible. My priest likes it because it forces the people to sing rather than rely on me to do it for them. Some cantors are told to sing at a regular volume so that the people have a base melody to sing along to. In this case, a lot of the people will listen rather than sing. Other churches have choirs who are told to sing in plainchant (i.e. non-harmonized melody). Lastly, there are choirs who harmonize melodies and sound truly beautiful. My priest doesn’t like the idea of that because he thinks that with a harmonized choir, the people will not sing along.

So what is the right way? Obviously, I have my opinions and my priest has his opinion, but it really depends on the tradition of your church. One thing I learned in the Roman Catholic Church is that you do not need to be singing or saying anything to be actively participating in the mass (internal participation). This is the case in our church when parishes choose to use the language of their ethnicity rather than in the vernacular (in our case, English). Some prefer to use Church Slavonic, and despite what some may think, that is not a latinization. Many Orthodox churches will choose to sing more ancient languages rather than the vernacular. (Ironically it was Saint Cyril and Methodius who translated the original liturgy into Slavonic – the vernacular of the Slavic people, who they ministered and brought the gospel to.) Singing in Slavonic or in Ukrainian, while it may be nice for immigrants isn’t so great for potential converts or visitors. An example would be a Melkite Catholic who moves and only has a UGCC nearby, which sings solely in Ukranian.

In these cases, if the person doesn’t know the language, they cannot sing along, but they can certainly pray in the reverent atmosphere of the church, thus actively participating without saying a word. Of course, unlike a Latin Mass, this shouldn’t be the primary means of worship, but rather a way of worshipping when one cannot sing along. And yes, it is possible to sing along without actually praying along, but again – a different topic for a different day.


Overall, music is deeply ingrained in the liturgical life of Byzantine Catholics and is more than just background music or ambiance. It is truly the outpouring of one’s heart in the worship of God. The music may differ between jurisdictions, but the fact is that they all have their own music, thus a testimony to the great importance that it has in the liturgical life of the Church.

The Apostles Fast

We are about 11 days away from the conclusion of the Apostles Fast. Of course, unlike any other fasting season on the Calendar, 11 days doesn’t really have meaning since this is the one fast that does not have a set number of days. This year, the Apostles Fast began toward the end of May, so 11 days means that we are over halfway done and there isn’t much left to it. Of course, in some years, this fast only lasts 2 days, and others have been longer than Lent.

It concludes on the Feast of Peter and Paul on June 29th. But outside of that, it is really a mystery. Unlike Nativity, Dormition, or Lent, this fasting season doesn’t exactly end on a day of any particular significance. In fact, it is not even one of the 12 solemn feasts. It is a day of Obligation for those in the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburg, and it may be in other Greek Catholic sui iuris churches as well, but if you look at the Eastern Orthodox, the fast just ends on that feast day.

It is a mysterious fast, because unlike Nativity or Lent, this fast doesn’t come from pious preparation for a major feast. Yet, early Christian texts show that this was indeed one of the original fasts celebrated. And the reason? “After feasting from Pascha to Pentecost, it is only proper that we fast while our bodies are refreshed.”

Yet, upon further research, I found that the Apostles fast used to not end on June 29, but actually on August 15. Yes, the Apostles Fast and the Dormition Fast were originally 1 long fast. For whatever reason, it was decided to cut July out and just have it as a regular season.


I know that previous section seems to provide information without really providing anything else, but one thing to take away from this is that the Early Christians thought it was important enough to have a post-pentecostal fast, and that the Church Fathers for over 1500 years decided that it was worth keeping on the Calendar. Yet, for some reason, this seems to be one of the most unpopular fasts. By unpopular, I am not saying that people don’t like it. Rather, people don’t even care enough about it to even do it.

No one really knows why they are fasting during this time period, as it is not in penance or in preparation. It is essentially a fast for the sake of fasting. But despite what some may be thinking, that actually is NOT a pointless endeavor. In fact, we fast every Friday from meat as a minimum. Why? The western mentality is that they are fasting because that is the day Christ died on the Cross, and they are crucifying themselves with Christ. I assure you that despite what you may think, that is not the reason. The cross is actually not something to take sorrow over but is actually our victory over sin and death.

Rather we fast on Wednesday and Friday because the Pharisees fasted on Monday and Thursday, and the Christians while not wanting to fast with the Jews, wanted to continue the practice. Wednesday was chosen because it was the day Judas betrayed Jesus, and Friday was chosen because it was the day of the Crucifixion.

“But I thought you said we didn’t fast because of the crucifixion.”

We do fast in penitence as well as better equipping our bodies to resist sin. We, however, do not fast as a way of beating ourselves up for being the ones responsible for making Jesus die on the cross.

Likewise, the apostles fast should be for us a means of turning away from sin, not because we are preparing for a feast, but because we have feasted and are thus better equipped to fast for the sake of our souls.