It has been a while since my first post on this forum. I am still a flip flopper. But something has drastically changed in my life. I went to my first Divine Liturgy recently. Now, before you throw a party, I have to tell you that it was a Byzantine Catholic DL. But, I feel it merits a mentioning as it has profoundly rekindled my pull towards Eastern Orthodoxy. Plus, I'd like to give my opinion on my experience as well as get some answers.
The Ukrainian Catholic liturgies (I would guess they are in Slavonic) are a truncated version of the ones the Russians use, although it's nearly identical to the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox (or Carpatho-Ruthenians if you prefer). My experience is that the standard Orthodox liturgies are about 15 to 30 minutes longer than their Eastern Catholic counterparts ( the Russians are nearly two hours - from "Blessed is the kingdom" to final blessing).
The Ukrainian Catholics here were inconsistent - not all the parishes featured Vespers, although the practice here has returned to a few. In some parishes there were no subdeacons - so the priest did almost everything by himself except when distributing communion. (I can see how, in the Latin West, the subdeacon's role was subsumed by altar boys and eventually disappeared.) I'm hazarding a guess many of these parishes used "pre-cut" Lamb and most did not distribute antidoron after the liturgy. They also spent more time around the altar and less time incensing the faithful, but that depended on the parish.
Believe it or not, these were actually minor quibbles with me - I was stunned with one sermon which was nearly all based on St. Augustine and the popes (a more authentically Catholic sermon than years of Latin ones) but which had nary a reference to Eastern fathers, although the church bulletin actually reposted material from Orthodox websites! There was some communion weirdness during the H1N1 outbreak which infected both Roman and Eastern Churches here.
I think Ukrainians have a split identity, having a position which is analagous somewhat to those of Anglo-Catholics - "Roman Catholics" or "Anglo Catholics" in communion with Canterbury but who look either beyond the Tiber or to pre-Reformation for their theology and praxis. Oddly enough, I got acquainted with one lady who was a convert from Anglo-Catholicism (C of E) to the UGCC.
Attending these was not a huge cultural shock for me, despite being entirely in a foreign tongue. I've attended quite a few Latin masses, with a profound preference for those which are sung. Once you learn the basic three or four responses (to you O Lord, Lord have Mercy etc...) and can follow along the basic parts (high points: Trisagion, Cherubic hymn) attending these becomes normal. Hands down, no comparison with Novus Ordo, and my favourite liturgies, ever, in my 25 year experience in the Roman Catholic church.
After my experience with the Ukrainians I attended a few Russian Orthodox services but have spent most of my time with the Greeks and Antiochians. The music is quite different but you don't have to worry about things cut back or missing. I think the parts that I miss the most about the Greek Catholics were the liturgical music, but they use some Russian style music at the Antiochian parish, and I've REALLY taken a liking to Byzantine music.