Martha! So I'm going to be attending my local Byzantine Catholic Church for Mass. I'm so excited, but I don't want to look like an idiot. Any do's/don'ts i should be aware of?
AAAAAAAAH, my friend you’re going to love it. Like I’m most definitely biased but I think the Eastern Church is the most beautiful form of worship on earth and I always get excited when people decide to attend liturgy.
•So you should definitely venerate the icons! They’ll most likely have one on a podium thing, standing front and center (sometimes as many as three). I usually venerate the icon as soon as I enter and the last thing i do before I leave. It’s super simple: stand before the icon, cross yourself twice, kiss the icon on the lower corner, and then cross yourself again.
• Don’t venerate the icons while wearing lipstick tho because the last thing you want is a bright pink kiss mark on it😂
•Cross yourself and bow in the direction of the iconostasis (the beautiful screen of icons which connects the knave of the church to the sanctuary, where the altar and tabernacle are kept) before entering your pew! There may not be pews, if not that’s okay. Bow upon entering and exiting the church.
• Don’t genuflect or kneel. In the east kneeling is is viewed as an act of penance and sorrow. But Sunday is a little Easter, it is a joyous occasion! So rejoice!!!! Stand during the consecration and after receiving the Eucharist😁
• The whole liturgy is in song! Your church will most likely have a little book that contains all the prayers and hymns if you want to follow along! Even if you can’t find the book, there’s a few parts that are repeated a LOT! By the end of Liturgy you’ll be singing “Lord have mercy” like a pro
• Before the Homily, the priest may say “Glory to Jesus Christ” and you’ll respond by saying, “Glory to him forever.”
• Do receive the Eucharist! (As long as you’re properly disposed to receive of course. Any Catholic may receive the Eucharist at any Catholic Church, Roman or Eastern. But Catholics aren’t permitted to receive Eucharist from an Orthodox Church.) The Byzantine Church use leavened bread, not communion wafers. It’s cut into little sugar cube sizes and and mixed with the wine. The priest administers the Eucharist directly into your mouth with a spoon. You’ll walk up with your hands folded over your chest, tilt your head back, open your mouth (but don’t stick out your tongue), and the priest will give you the Eucharist. He may ask your name right before too.
• Don’t shut your mouth down on the spoon! Don’t stick your tongue out because the Body might fall. And if you’re not going to receive communion, don’t walk up for a blessing, just remain standing.
•Do venerate the cross! Anyone can do it, Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant whatever. It’s super easy. The priest will say the proper greeting for the Liturgical season, and you reply with the proper response. As of right now the priest would say something along the lines of “Christ is among us”, to which you would reply, “He is and ever shall be” (these change during Christmas and Easter though) After that you’ll kiss the cross and then kiss the priest’s hand that’s holding the base of the cross. We kiss the cross because it’s the instrument of our salvation and we kiss the priest’s hand because his hands have held the most holy Body and Blood of Jesus.
•Some parishes don’t do the hand kiss though, so you may want to double check.
•Do partake in the antidoron, just like venerating the cross anyone can do it! After you kiss the cross you’ll walk past an altar server carrying a bowl or a basket. It’s filled with bread. Blessed but not consecrated, so it’s not the Eucharist, just bread. Take it. Not the whole bowl though because rude, take one piece. If there’s extra they’ll pass it around and then you can get more if you’d like.
•Cross yourself as often as you’d like and whenever you feel it’s appropriate. There are a few parts where you bow but the priest will tell you “bow your heads to the lord” so you don’t need to worry about knowing when, and you can also just take queues from those around you! ☺️
• If you have an Eastern Christian friend, ask them to go with you. They can help answer any questions about why something is or how something should be done. If you don’t know anyone from the Church already, I would get there a little early and introduce yourself to the priest or deacon or just a friendly looking lay person. These are usually very small communities so if you introduce yourself to one person you’ll quickly become acquainted with just about everyone.
I know it sounds like a lot, but everyone there is going to be so kind and understanding, so don’t worry about doing everything _perfect_ Your primary concern should just be being there, and worshiping Christ and encountering him with all your senses. Like literally hearing, feeling, taste, touch, smell; It’s amazing. I wish I could go with you! There’s nothing I love more than bringing friends to Liturgy with me!