This weekend was busy as always. Saturday I went with the Rector and two other Seminarians to the Maronite Catholic Seminary in D.C. for a special Mass. For those that might not be familiar, Maronites are one of several "rites" within the Catholic Church. Most of us only think of the Roman Catholic Church, when we hear the word Catholic mentioned. However, what we often forget that within the Catholic Church there are many rites, one of which is the "Roman" church we are all familiar with. The best way I can explain it is that there are different branches in the Church, all of which are Catholic, the differences are not in the sacraments or dogmas, just in the way we celebrate parts of our faith,the traditions there in and the language of faith. For example the Maronite Church represents the early Catholic Church in Lebanon. All of the rites are united under the leadership of the Pope.
The Mass was very much the same but celebrated a little bit differently. There was a lot incense, the Mass was in English, Arabic and Syriac. We never knelt, responded differently at different points, etc... The Maronite Catholic Mass had a great beauty to it and was unlike anything I have ever attended before, yet similar as it was the same miracle of the Eucharist and the very same Catholic Church. As a Roman Catholic seminarian, I am studying to be a Catholic priest in the "Roman" rite of the Catholic church. This of course means that I will be learning the way the "Roman" church prays, celebrates, etc... The "Roman" rite of the Catholic Church makes up over 90% of the Catholic Church in the world. Hope this helps and does not confuse you. After the Mass we shared in a giant Lebanese feast. It was amazing food. Humus, lamb, etc...... I ate and ate and ate and then went home to sleep it off.
The Various Rites and Churches of the Catholic Church
Western Rites and Churches
Immediately subject to the Supreme Pontiff as Patriarch of the West
ROMAN (also called Latin)
The Church of Rome is the Primatial See of the world and the Patriarchal See of Western Christianity. Founded by St. Peter in 42 AD it was consecrated by the blood of Sts. Peter and Paul during the persecution of Nero (63-67 AD). It has maintained a continual existence since then and is the source of a family of Rites in the West.
• Ambrosian - The Rite of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy, thought to be of early origin and probably consolidated, but not originated, by St. Ambrose. Pope Paul VI was from this Roman Rite. It continues to be celebrated in Milan, though not by all parishes.
• Bragan - Rite of the Archdiocese of Braga, the Primatial See of Portugal, it derives from the 12th century or earlier. It continues to be of occasional use
Eastern Rites and Churches
They have their own hierarchy distinct from the Latin Rite, system of governance (synods) and general law, the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches. The Supreme Pontiff exercises his authority over them through the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.
The Church of Antioch in Syria (on the Mediterranean coast) is considered an apostolic see by virtue of having been founded by St. Peter. It was one of the ancient centers of the Church, as the New Testament attests, and is the source of a family of similar Rites using the ancient Syriac language (the Semitic dialect used in Jesus' time and better known as Aramaic). Its Liturgy is attributed to St. James and the Church of Jerusalem.
1. WEST SYRIAN
• Maronite - Never separated from Rome. Maronite Patriarch of Antioch. The liturgical language is Aramaic. The 3 million Maronites are found in Lebanon (origin), Cyprus, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Australia.
• Syriac - Syrian Catholics who returned to Rome in 1781 from the monophysite heresy. Syriac Patriarch of Antioch. The 110,000 Syrian Catholics are found in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Canada and the US.
• Malankarese - Catholics from the South of India evangelized by St. Thomas, uses the West Syriac liturgy. Reunited with Rome in 1930. Liturgical languages today are West Syriac and Malayalam. The 350,000 Malankarese Catholics are found in India and North America.
2. EAST SYRIAN
• Chaldean - Babylonian Catholics returned to Rome in 1692 from the Nestorian heresy. Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans. Liturgical languages are Syriac and Arabic. The 310,000 Chaldean Catholics are found in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and the US).
• Syro-Malabarese - Catholics from Southern India using the East Syriac liturgy. Returned to Rome in the 16th century from the Nestorian heresy. Liturgical languages are Syriac and Malayalam. Over 3 million Syro-Malabarese Catholics can be found in the state of Kerela, in SW India.
The Church of Constantinople became the political and religious center of the eastern Roman Empire after the Emperor Constantine built a new capital there (324-330) on the site of the ancient town of Byzantium. Constantinople developed its own liturgical rite from the Liturgy of St. James, in one form as modified by St. Basil, and in a more commonly used form, as modified by St. John Chrysostom. After 1054, except for brief periods of reunion, most Byzantine Christians have not been in communion with Rome. They make up the Orthodox Churches of the East, whose titular head is the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Orthodox Churches are mostly auto-cephalous, meaning self-headed, united to each other by communion with Constantinople, which exercises no real authority over them. They are typically divided into Churches along nation lines. Those that have returned to communion with the Holy See are represented among the Eastern Churches and Rites of the Catholic Church.
Considered either its own Rite or an older version of the Byzantine. Its exact form is not used by any other Byzantine Rite. It is composed of Catholics from the first people to convert as a nation, the Armenians (N.E. of Turkey), and who returned to Rome at the time of the Crusades. Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians. The liturgical language is classical Armenian. It's 350,000 Armenian Catholics are found in Armenia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Ukraine, France, Romania, United States and Argentina. Most Armenians are Orthodox, not in union with Rome.
• Albanian - Albanian Christians, numbering only 1400 today, who resumed communion with Rome in 1628. Liturgical language is Albanian. Most Albanian Christians are Albanian Orthodox.
• Belarussian/Byelorussian - Unknown number of Belarussians who returned to Rome in the 17th century. The liturgical language is Old Slavonic. The faithful can be found in Belarus, as well as Europe, the Americas and Australia.
• Bulgarian - Bulgarians who returned to Rome in 1861. Liturgical language is Old Slavonic. The 20,000 faithful can be found in Bulgaria. Most Bulgarian Christians are Bulgarian Orthodox.
• Czech - Czech Catholics of Byzantine Rite organized into a jurisdiction in 1996.
• Krizevci - Croatian Catholics of Byzantine Rite who resumed communion with Rome in 1611. The liturgical language is Old Slavonic. The 50,000 faithful can be found in Croatia and the Americas. Most Croatians are Roman (Rite) Catholics.
• Greek - Greek Christians who returned to Rome in 1829. The liturgical language is Greek. Only 2500 faithful in Greece, Asia Minor (Turkey) and Europe. Greek Christians are almost all Orthodox. Their Patriarch is the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople.
• Hungarian - Descendants of Ruthenians who returned to Rome in 1646. The liturgical languages are Greek, Hungarian and English. The 300,000 faithful are found in Hungary, Europe and the Americas.
• Italo-Albanian - Never separated from Rome, these 60,000 Byzantine Rite Catholics are found in Italy, Sicily and the Americas. The liturgical languages are Greek and Italo-Albanian.
• Melkite - Catholics from among those separated from Rome in Syria and Egypt who resumed Communion with Rome at the time of the Crusades. However, definitive union only came in the 18th century. Melkite Greek Patriarch of Damascus. Liturgical languages are Greek, Arabic, English, Portuguese and Spanish. The over 1 million Melkite Catholics can be found in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Australia.
• Romanian - Romanians who returned to Rome in 1697. The liturgical language is Romanian. There are over 1 million Romanian Catholics in Romania, Europe and the Americas. Most Romanian Christians are Romanian Orthodox.
• Russian - Russians who returned to communion with Rome in 1905. The liturgical language is Old Slavonic. An unknown number of the faithful in Russia, China, the Americas and Australia. Most Russian Christians are Russian Orthodox. Their Patriarch is the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow.
• Ruthenian - Catholics from among those separated from Rome in Russia, Hungary and Croatia who reunited with Rome in 1596 (Brest-Litovsk) and 1646 (Uzhorod).
• Slovak - Byzantine Rite Catholics of Slovakian origin numbering 225,000 and found in Slovakia and Canada.
• Ukrainian - Catholics from among those separated from Rome by the Greek Schism and reunited about 1595. Patriarch of Lvov. Liturgical languages are Old Slavonic and Ukrainian. The 5.5 million Ukrainian Catholics can be found in Ukraine, Poland, England, Germany, France, Canada, US, Brazil, Argentina and Australia. During the Soviet era Ukrainian Catholics were violently forced to join the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Their hierarchy, which continued to exist outside the homeland, has since be re-established in the Ukraine.
The Church of Alexandria in Egypt was one of the original centers of Christianity, since like Rome and Antioch it had a large Jewish population which was the initial object of apostolic evangelization. Its Liturgy is attributed to St. Mark the evangelist, and shows the later influence of the Byzantine Liturgy, in addition to its unique elements.
• Coptic - Egyptian Catholics who returned to communion with Rome in 1741. The Patriarch of Alexandria leads the 200,000 faithful of this ritual Church spread throughout Egypt and the near east. The liturgical languages are Coptic (Egyptian) and Arabic. Most Copts are not Catholics.
• Ethiopian/Abyssinian - Ethiopian Coptic Christians who returned to Rome in 1846. The liturgical language is Geez. The 200,000 faithful are found in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Jerusalem.