From Staff Reports

KALKASKA — The Rev. James R. Barrand likes the pageantry, the formality, the enrichment and the oldness of the Byzantine liturgy. He enjoys the hour and a half it takes to celebrate it. He likes the bowing, the kissing, the praying, the incense and the chants. And he knows many Catholics do, too.

So Barrand, a "biritual" priest, celebrates the Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Kalkaska’s St. Mary of the Woods every Sunday at 4:30 p.m. He hopes the tradition takes off during Lent and on Easter. The liturgy opens to the public March 1.

Barrand took time to explain the liturgy.

Who are the Byzantine Catholics?

The Catholic church is a unity of some 22 different churches, rich in their own historic traditions and spirituality. The largest, though not the only church of the Western Catholic tradition, is the Roman Catholic church with its tradition of elegant simplicity in divine worship. The Eastern Catholic churches (about 20) trace their roots from one of three patriarchal centers — Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch or Constantinople (Turkey). The Byzantines originated in Constantinople and spread the faith throughout Greece and the Baltic and Slavic lands.

The Roman Catholic Church and some of the Eastern churches divided because of theological and political disagreement in approximately the 11th century (the Great Schism). Others had separated from the West because of historic and cultural factors. Over the course of the next several hundred years there were many attempts at reunions — some successful and others not. The portions of the Eastern Christian churches that reestablished union with Rome became known as Eastern Catholic or Eastern Rite churches.

Each of these churches retained their own traditions, spirituality, bishops and jurisdictions and unique ways of offering the Divine Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. The Byzantine Ruthenian church returned to full unity with the church of Rome in 1646 at a synod in Uzhorod, Ukraine.

The beliefs and doctrines are basically the same. The calendar is now the same. The Byzantines view the seven sacraments more like seven mysteries.

Are Byzantine Catholics really Catholic?

Emphatically, yes. The Byzantine Church is in complete communion and allegiance with the pope in Rome and has all of the same valid sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church.

Roman Catholics may be overcome by the beauty of the Byzantine church, which is more elaborate, like the churches in Europe. Once the liturgy starts, they may feel a little out of place. The liturgy is more Eastern, more Slavic. The prayers can go on and on and on for a page or two. We think, if you’re going to pray something once, you might as well say it three times for the Trinity. We use colorful adjectives for God and derogatory adjectives for us. There’s lots of incense and icons. The music isn’t really catchy; it’s more like chants.

But there are many familiar aspects as well.

Does the Byzantine Divine Liturgy fulfill the Sunday obligation?

Yes. The Byzantine Divine Liturgy is the same re-presentation of the Last Supper and Calvary as the Roman Rite Mass. The Divine Liturgy is offered by a validly ordained priest recognized by and in union with Rome.

Does the Byzantine Liturgy use musical instruments?

No, Byzantine liturgical tradition emphasizes that we offer ourselves to God as we are. We bring only ourselves and stand before the creator and we worship with our God-given voices without any manmade instruments. All liturgical prayer, therefore, is sung a cappella (without accompaniment).

Other than English, what language is used in the liturgy?

St. John Chrysostom originally wrote the Divine Liturgy in Greek. Later, as Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius brought Christianity to the Slavs, they translated the services into Slavonic. In the Byzantine Catholic Church in America, the Divine Liturgy was translated into English in the 1950s, but many churches continue to include some traditional Slavonic in worship, especially the second verse of the hymns and seasonal greetings.

Why does the priest have his back to the congregation?

Actually, he is facing to pray in the same direction as the worshipping faithful. The priest leads the people on their pilgrimage to salvation. The priest is both the representative of the congregation and of the Almighty. Hence, since the sanctuary, altar and tabernacle are the heavenly throne of God, the priest faces God, the object of our prayers, and he speaks to God on our behalf. And, at other times, he will leave the Holy of Holies to impact Divine Blessings and instructions.

Why start celebrating the Divine Liturgy now in northern Michigan?

It is a response to the requests of a few Byzantine families who have moved to northern Michigan and did not have access to a Byzantine Divine Liturgy. We are hoping to find other Byzantines living in the area who might like to reconnect with their spiritual heritage and to share this rich Christian heritage with others, who might not have a church home.

Couldn’t an Eastern Catholic fulfill his/her obligation at a Roman Catholic parish?

Yes, of course. However, if a person were to attend a celebration of the Divine Liturgy, even in the smallest church, he or she would find the answer. The Byzantine Liturgy, having grown from the imperial court of ancient Rome, emphasizes the majesty and glory of our Lord and his benevolent mother with the divine through contemplation of the sacred icons and chanting the prayers of our ancestors (some 1,500-1,700 years old).

St. Mary of the Woods, 438 County Road 612, a third of a mile east of U.S. 131 in Kalkaska, will celebrate a public Byzantine liturgy the first Sunday of Lent, March 1, at 4:30 p.m. Barrand encourages people to show up at 4:15 for a "a little instruction to explain the flow of the Liturgy." For more information, call 258-5021.

A family service?

The Rev. James Barrand says kids are surprisingly intrigued by the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, which takes about 1 1/2 hours to celebrate.

"There’s a short procession, then a long procession and, of course, the censer," he said. The priest fills the censer with incense, then walks around the sanctuary at different points during the service.

"The place is rather smoky by the time we’re done," Barrand says.

The censer has bells on it, which add to the fascination, he said.

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