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Author Topic: Some questions about the Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy  (Read 3635 times) Average Rating: 0
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Arystarcus
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« on: May 17, 2004, 12:18:10 AM »

Greetings all!

I have a few questions about the Divine Liturgy as celebrated in Eastern Orthodox churches.

This morning I attended Liturgy at a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and I had a few questions about some things in regards to the Divine Liturgy.

I noticed some differences in the liturgy as it was celebrated there as compared to other Orthodox Churches I have been to. I was hoping someone could tell me more about these things and let me know if these are practices that are only followed by the Ukrainian Churches or not.

When it came time for the Epistle readings, a gentleman read the day's reading in Ukrainian and when he had finished a female choir member then proceeded to read the Epistle in English.

According to the bulletin, next week's Reader of the Hours is also a female and the Reader of the English Epistle will be the First Confession Class.

I remember being in another Orthodox Church some time back and hearing a woman chant and announce the Prokeimenon and what tone it was in and then proceed with the Prokeimenon. It was in English, so I am thinking OCA or AOC.

Is it common place to have women or others (such as the First Confession Class) read the Epistle, Hours or Prokeimenon?

What exactly is the Prokeimenon?

Before the Holy Gospels were read, the priest carried out the Gospel book and then people filed into lines in the aisles of the church and the priest went about the church and the parishioners approached to venerate the book of the Gospels.

When the Holy Gospels were read, three women came forward and stood right near the edge of the ambo steps and stood there during the readings and when the reading was finished, the priest then held out the open Gospels and the women kissed the pages of the Gospels.

As the priest was saying "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood" he stood to the right hand side of the altar and he had the his right hand palm up, with his fingernails touching the top of the chalice. To describe his position, he was standing facing the congregation and looking at the chalice. with his right hand in position described.

After people received from the chalice, they made their way to the back of the church to partake of the after-supper. The wine was poured into individual plastic cups. I am assuming this is for hynegic purposes, but I've also never seen this before either.

After everyone had finished communing, several people lined up again in the center aisle and made their way to the ambo and the priest then touched the bottom of the chalice to the top of their heads and then the people just went back to their places in the church.

After the liturgy was ended, there was a Panikhida for the 40th day and it was much shorter in length than a Panikhida I had seen served at a ROCOR church. Do the Panikhida services get shorter as the days progress?

I had not seen any of the above situations occur before when I went to other Orthodox Churches - are these practices limited to Ukrainian Churches?

Also, the priest wore a tall red cylindrical hat during parts of the Liturgy, which I have only seen one other time at a ROCOR church. Is there a meaning to the wearing of this hat?

Oh, I almost forgot - the pews in the church had kneelers and the bulletin said that "we do not kneel from Pascha to Pentecost". I only recall kneelers being in GOA churches and also hearing from people that ACROD churches have them as well. Do Ukrainian Orthodox Churches usually have kneelers too?

Even with all my questions about the things above, I did like the church and enjoyed being able to worship there. The priest and the people were very welcoming and kind.

I am looking forward to reading your informative replies.

In Christ,
Aaron

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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2004, 03:02:29 AM »

Why I cannot reply to every question you asked, most of what you mentioned sounded like reasonable variations of the liturgy.  My parish, which is more of a conservative one, would never dream of having women read the Epistle or function in the place of tonsured readers.  I'm in the OCA Diocese of the South (Archbishop Dmitri). However, there are OCA churches that do have women read the Epistle.  Some other Orthodox jurisdictions do as well. Some don't.  While I am not wild about the idea, as my mother would say "it won't hairlip the nation."  Life goes on.  
     The Prokeimenon is a series of psalm verses that are read before the Epistle.
     Venerating the Gospel and blessing people with the Chalice are local traditions in Orthodoxy that vary from place to place.  In some places many people will go forward and venerate the Gospel Book as it is carried out in the Little Entrance.  In other places, no one does.  Both are quite acceptable.
     I've never heard of using individual cups for the Zeon (the Blessed Wine mixed with Warm Water), we drink ours from a common cup.  Sounds more like an American fixation with "germs" than it does a sound Orthodox practice to me.  I doubt you'll see individual cups in the Old Country.  Nevertheless, its not gonna hairlip the nation either.  
     In regard to the pews and kneelers, you won't find either if you go to the Ukraine.  However, here in the US many Orthodox Churches do have them.  Again, while not in the best Orthodox tradition, pews are an accomidation to human weakness, sore feet and aching backs and thus can at least be tolerated.  The reason for the kneelers is that you can't do a real prostration with pews. so kneeling is the next best thing.  The Church is quite correct in not kneeling from Pascha to Pentecost.  Kudos to the priest for making that clear.  
   I'm not exactly sure what you are describing at the Consecration of the Eucharist.  Perhaps you could elaborate.
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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2004, 04:51:44 AM »

If I can add a little to Tikhon29605's post, The UOC-USA and UOC-Canada are very recently out of the "unia" having rejoined Orthodoxy within the last 15-20 years. It would be no surprise that some "westernizations" or other variations might be found in their worship practises.

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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2004, 04:26:46 PM »

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However, there are OCA churches that do have women read the Epistle.  Some other Orthodox jurisdictions do as well. Some don't.

What jurisdictions do have tonsured female readers? Is there a list somewhere online?

Is it something that a jurisdiction as a whole does not have a position on, so it is left up to the bishops of the dioceses?

Quote
While I am not wild about the idea, as my mother would say "it won't hairlip the nation."  Life goes on.

I must say that I am not wild about it either.

The only reason I asked about it is because I have read online that being tonsured a reader was traditionally reserved for men only, because it is a degree of the priesthood.

Quote
In regard to the pews and kneelers, you won't find either if you go to the Ukraine.  However, here in the US many Orthodox Churches do have them.  Again, while not in the best Orthodox tradition, pews are an accomidation to human weakness, sore feet and aching backs and thus can at least be tolerated.  The reason for the kneelers is that you can't do a real prostration with pews. so kneeling is the next best thing.

I don't have a problem with pews being in Orthodox churches, I have come to terms with that, so it's a non-issue.  Smiley

My mother attends church with me and she has seen my growing interest in Orthodoxy and that has also made her curious and she has come to enjoy attending at the Divine Liturgy as much as I. She is unable to stand for long periods of time because of pain in her knees, so she likes being able to sit down without sticking out from the rest of the parishioners.

I was merely surprised that there were kneelers, but from what you described, that is also understandable.

Quote
I'm not exactly sure what you are describing at the Consecration of the Eucharist.  Perhaps you could elaborate.

During the Consecration, the Royal Doors were opened and the priest stood with his back to the altar and facing the congregation - he stood to the far right front corner of the altar. As he was saying the words of institution and still standing this way, he was looking at the chalice and he had his right arm was stretched out towards the chalice (since because of his standing position it was at arm length's diistance), and he had his right hand palm side up with only his fintertips touching the lip of the chalice, his left arm was at his side. He retained this position the whole time during the Consecration.

I apologize that I was not clear in my description the first time. Can you picture what I am describing a little bit better now?

I look forward to your reply!

In Christ,
Aaron
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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2004, 04:31:26 PM »

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If I can add a little to Tikhon29605's post, The UOC-USA and UOC-Canada are very recently out of the "unia" having rejoined Orthodoxy within the last 15-20 years. It would be no surprise that some "westernizations" or other variations might be found in their worship practises.

Demetri,

Wow, I had no idea that the Ukrainian Orthodox presence here in the states used to be a part of the UGCC. In all the reading I have done of both the UOC and the UGCC I had never come across that information before.

Thanks for the info!

On a side note, the Ukrainain Orthodox Church I visited on Sunday is on the same street and only a few doors down from a UGCC. I never thought I would see an Eastern Rite Catholic Church that close to an Orthodox church of the same ethnic background before. Interesting, isn't it?

In Christ,
Aaron
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« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2004, 04:43:29 PM »

As I was on my way to bed last night, I recalled something else that happened during my visit to the UOC that I had meant to ask about here, but I totally forgot to include it in my first post of questions.

At all the points during the liturgy when one would normally hear Mary referred to as the Theotokos, instead the priest would say "the Birth-giver of God".

For instance instead of:

Quote
"Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God."

the above prayer was read as

Quote
"Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Birth-giver of God and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God."

I am not sure if this is a big deal or not, but I noticed it none the less and thought I would ask about it here.

What I found interesting about this is that the Church had it's own spiral bound booklets (made specifically for the use of this church, with a picture of the church on the front) and in that book for the congregation to follow along during the Liturgy, it said Thetokos too.

Can anyone shed some light on this for me?

In Christ,
Aaron
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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2004, 04:57:26 PM »

Demetri,

Wow, I had no idea that the Ukrainian Orthodox presence here in the states used to be a part of the UGCC. In all the reading I have done of both the UOC and the UGCC I had never come across that information before.

Thanks for the info!

On a side note, the Ukrainain Orthodox Church I visited on Sunday is on the same street and only a few doors down from a UGCC. I never thought I would see an Eastern Rite Catholic Church that close to an Orthodox church of the same ethnic background before. Interesting, isn't it?

In Christ,
Aaron
Aaron,
I will try to direct you to my sources on this bit of recent history. I am not meaning to say ALL of the UOCOUSA/Canada are from the unia directly, but I believe a good portion are. A little hint is shown on the UOCOUSA website where it shows the UGCC tri-bar cross instead of the Orthodox tri-bar.

As to EC churches in close proximity to Orthodox ones - it's not surprising. Here in PA there are many towns with both. The EC churches being those that stayed with Rome with  the usually newer ones, those that left. Not always true however. In my town our ACROD parish (then 300 families) was among the original 37 to return to the Orthodox Church. In 1960, 50 families left to build a new BC church across the street - returning to Rome. In the late 1980's the Ukrainians left to build their own church down the street.  Then part of our parish formed a ROCOR parish here in the 1990s.
Well, we have lots of holupki dinners around here in a town of 1500 Smiley

Demetri
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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2004, 05:15:43 PM »

AFAIK, from what I've read here what you saw and heard are common, allowable variations in Eastern Orthodox practice, including having members of the congregation, including women, chant the epistle.

Many of the Ukrainian Orthodox in the US were Ukrainian Catholics to begin with but they left the UGCC in the 1930s, not 15-20 years ago.

There are two reasons why there is a separate (from the Russian Orthodox) Ukrainian Orthodox church in the US.

First, in the Ukraine after the Russian Revolution there was a wave of nationalism and a separate church got started, but no Orthodox bishop would consecrate bishops for them. So they had a group of priests and the relic of a bishop's hand 'consecrate' their leader - so for decades they didn't really have apostolic succession! I think either this 'dead hand' group died out or somehow they got real bishops later. I think some of this group, under 'Bishop' John (Theodorovich), came to the States.

Second, the Ukrainian Catholics in the US were treated badly by the RC authorities and the last straw was after 1929 when, because the US RC bishops wanted it, the Vatican banned the ordination of married men as priests and said church property had to be owned by the bishop, which scared the people because they were used to dealing with hostile RC bishops who wanted to close them down. So these people formed Ukrainian Orthodox churches, I think sometimes when Ukrainian Catholic churches seceded and managed to keep their own property.

(This sad story mirrors how 60% of what's now the OCA got started around 1900 and how ACROD began in the 1930s - ACROD, like the UOC now, is under the Greeks of Constantinople. Like the majority in the OCA they're ethnic Ruthenians from the other side of the Carpathian Mountains from the Ukrainians.)

I think somehow these two Ukrainian strains met and formed a church. Technically it was vagante (not really in the Orthodox Church) for years... until about 15-20 years ago. The patriarchate of Constantinople took them and so today they are a real Orthodox church. Very nationalistic - I've been to them twice and what struck me was they used Ukrainian, not Slavonic which they share with Great Russians as their traditional liturgical language.

I've heard their liturgical usage varies a lot, along a spectrum from all Russian Orthodox practices to all Ukrainian Catholic ones.

I've met their archbishop for Chicago, Vsevolod, who's an ethnic Ukrainian from Poland (owing to changing borders). Very nice man, deep Slavic-accented bass voice, one of the most RC-friendly real Orthodox bishops there is ... and he looks a lot like Santa Claus with his white beard.

Birthgiver of God is just an odd-sounding, literal translation into English of the Greek Theotokos, usually rendered in English as Mother of God. It looks like a case of being needlessly different but those who insist on the different wording have a point linguistically in that, in Slavonic for example, there is another word literally for Mother of God, -æ-+-¦-+-+-¦-é-¦-Ç-î. Birthgiver of God or God-bearer is -æ-+-¦-+-Ç-+-¦-+-å-¦.
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« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2004, 06:31:42 PM »

Arystarcus,

To fully answer your question, women are NOT ordained readers - they can't be, but my point in this thread was that chanting/reading Epistle/reading OT <> a reader.  Almost anything a reader can do, any lay person man or woman can also do (except go behind the iconostasis).  Its just that it is more customary to have a tonsured reader do those things if one is available.  I chant and do readings all the time, but I'm not a reader (I am a male though) - I just sing in the choir.
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« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2004, 06:38:08 PM »

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"Many of the Ukrainian Orthodox in the US were Ukrainian Catholics to begin with but they left the UGCC in the 1930s, not 15-20 years ago."

True, but it was in the more recent time frame that some these Ukrainians formed a diocese under the EP as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (and a mirror in Canada.) Others have stayed within the other  jurisdiction Serge refers to - one of "irregular status" here - The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Demetri
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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2004, 02:41:52 PM »

During the Consecration, the Royal Doors were opened and the priest stood with his back to the altar and facing the congregation - he stood to the far right front corner of the altar. As he was saying the words of institution and still standing this way, he was looking at the chalice and he had his right arm was stretched out towards the chalice (since because of his standing position it was at arm length's diistance), and he had his right hand palm side up with only his fintertips touching the lip of the chalice, his left arm was at his side. He retained this position the whole time during the Consecration.


Perhaps I am missing something here, but I have NEVER seen an Orthodox priest face the people for the Consecration of the Holy Eucharist.  As far as I know, and please correct me anyone if I am wrong, the priest doesn't make any moments or gestures over the Chalice at the words "This is my Body, This is my Blood".  My parish priest crosses himself and makes a metania at that point (as does the congregation), but he does NOT make the sign of the cross over the chalice at that point.  I always thought (again, anyone please correct me if I am wrong) that the reason the Chalice is not blessed with the sign of the Cross at that point is because the Holy Gifts are not consecrated until the Epiclesis.  In parishes where deacons serve with the priest, I have indeed seen deacons at the Epiclesis POINT to the Diskos and the Chalice and say "Bless, Master, the Holy Bread" and "Bless, Master, the Holy Chalice" .  Nevertheless this was always done with both the priest and the deacon facing the altar (liturgical East) and not facing the people (liturgical West).
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« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2004, 02:46:11 PM »

Quote
During the Consecration, the Royal Doors were opened and the priest stood with his back to the altar and facing the congregation - he stood to the far right front corner of the altar. As he was saying the words of institution and still standing this way, he was looking at the chalice and he had his right arm was stretched out towards the chalice (since because of his standing position it was at arm length's diistance), and he had his right hand palm side up with only his fintertips touching the lip of the chalice, his left arm was at his side. He retained this position the whole time during the Consecration.

Perhaps I am missing something here, but I have NEVER seen an Orthodox priest face the people for the Consecration of the Holy Eucharist.

Good call! I read this wrong before. I thought this was describing something I'd seen once at a Ruthenian Catholic church but never at an Orthodox one - the priest still in the proper eastward position only standing a little sideways and off-centre with his hand sort of pointing to the chalice, which may be an allowable option even though I don't like it.

I imagine like all things in extremis, thanks to economy 'versus populum' can be done but when it's not necessary, it's not kosher!
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« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2004, 08:09:59 PM »

In our parish there have been occassions such as a weekday Holy Day Liturgy and sometimes during the heavy vacation period of summer, where we are short of a male Epistle reader we will utilize a very capable women to perform this function.  Personally I dont see anything wrong in this.  As for the reading of the Hours, we utilize both male and female readers.

JoeS   Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2004, 01:43:04 AM »

I would like to thank everyone for their most informative replies!

I hope to visit the church again sometime and sit/stand somewhere with a better view so I can see the priest's positioning during the consecration.

If it differs any from what I originally described I will be sure to post here and let you know.

Thanks again,
Aaron
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2004, 11:16:12 AM »

Aaron,

Among Byzantine Catholics, our Liturgicon states that the priest blesses the  species before the words of Institution.  While saying the words of Institution the priest and the deacon both point to the Holy Gifts.   However, all this is done facing East.

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From the Liturgicon:  

Priest: With these blessed powers we also, O Master, Lover of men cry and say: Holy are You and all holy, You, and You; only-begotten Son, and Your Holy Spirit; holy are You and all holy and magnificent is Your glory, who so loved Your world that You gave Your only begotten Son, that everyone who believes in Him should not perish, but should have life everlasting; Who, having come and having fulfilled the whole Divine plan concerning us, on the night when He was betrayed, or rather, when He surrendered Himself for the life of the world, He took bread into His holy and all pure and Immaculate hands, gave thanks and blessed,   (priest blesses bread) sanctified, broke and gave it to His holy disciples and apostles, saying:

PRIEST: Take, eat, THIS IS MY BODY, which is broken for you for the remission of sins.

PEOPLE: Amen.

Priest: In like manner (priest blesses chalice) also the chalice, after the supper, saying:

PRIEST: Drink of this all of you, THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.

PEOPLE: Amen.

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« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2004, 02:41:18 PM »

Aaron,

Among Byzantine Catholics, our Liturgicon states that the priest blesses the  species before the words of Institution.  While saying the words of Institution the priest and the deacon both point to the Holy Gifts.   However, all this is done facing East.

Fr. Deacon Lance

Orthodox do not bless with the hand at this point merely point.
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« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2004, 02:49:56 PM »

Before the Holy Gospels were read, the priest carried out the Gospel book and then people filed into lines in the aisles of the church and the priest went about the church and the parishioners approached to venerate the book of the Gospels.

Dear-in-Christ Aaron,

I have heard of this veneration of the Gospel-book at liturgy, it is not confined to Ukrainians but it does not seem to be common.  There is veneration of the Gospel usually at Matins so it can be taken from that.

Quote
As the priest was saying "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood" he stood to the right hand side of the altar and he had the his right hand palm up, with his fingernails touching the top of the chalice. To describe his position, he was standing facing the congregation and looking at the chalice. with his right hand in position described.

The position that you describe the priest assuming during the words of institution I have only personally seen once and that was by an emigre Russian priest.  It would not appear to be common.

Quote
After people received from the chalice, they made their way to the back of the church to partake of the after-supper. The wine was poured into individual plastic cups. I am assuming this is for hynegic purposes, but I've also never seen this before either.

The drinking of some wine and water and eating of bread is commonly called zapivka, after-supper is properly speaking a service also called Compline.

Quote
After everyone had finished communing, several people lined up again in the center aisle and made their way to the ambo and the priest then touched the bottom of the chalice to the top of their heads and then the people just went back to their places in the church.

Blessing with the chalice seems to be a Galician practice that is also not common.  My OCA parish had this practice but it has not been discontinued.

Tony
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« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2004, 03:17:14 PM »

When it came time for the Epistle readings, a gentleman read the day's reading in Ukrainian and when he had finished a female choir member then proceeded to read the Epistle in English.

Usually, if a parish is attended by several monolingual speakers of different languages, this will be the case, as there's no one lingua franca.  There's a parish in Ireland a fellow parishoner of mine spoke of where there are readings in Ukranian, Slavonic, English...I think even Gaelic!...and perhaps more.  You'd think they'd all have SOME language in common, but apparently not.
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« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2011, 04:46:36 PM »

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If I can add a little to Tikhon29605's post, The UOC-USA and UOC-Canada are very recently out of the "unia" having rejoined Orthodoxy within the last 15-20 years. It would be no surprise that some "westernizations" or other variations might be found in their worship practises.

Demetri,

Wow, I had no idea that the Ukrainian Orthodox presence here in the states used to be a part of the UGCC. In all the reading I have done of both the UOC and the UGCC I had never come across that information before.

Thanks for the info!

On a side note, the Ukrainain Orthodox Church I visited on Sunday is on the same street and only a few doors down from a UGCC. I never thought I would see an Eastern Rite Catholic Church that close to an Orthodox church of the same ethnic background before. Interesting, isn't it?

In Christ,
Aaron

Sounds like Uniondale, NY--St. Vladimir's and St. Michael's are just a few streets away from each other.

My (OCA) parish women often chant the epistle. We have no tonsured readers, and in some of the more sparsely attended services insisting on a man would mean the priest would have to do it himself. I suspect that's where the tradition arose in other parishes, too. Personally, I like the feeling of many people participating, for example during the Royal Hours.

I don't like pews and wish my parish didn't have them. It's just my own thing. I like the feeling of the space being open, of people not standing in rows, all lined up. None of the traditional churches I've attended have failed to provide chairs or benches along the sides for those of us who are either old or need to sit sometimes because of health issues. But even where there are pews, it is quite possible to find a space for prostrations. The only time my parish uses kneelers is during general confession. (I believe the pews were bought second-hand and came with the kneelers attached.) We do prostrations in the aisles.
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« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2011, 04:58:20 PM »

If I can add a little to Tikhon29605's post, The UOC-USA and UOC-Canada are very recently out of the "unia" having rejoined Orthodoxy within the last 15-20 years. It would be no surprise that some "westernizations" or other variations might be found in their worship practises.

Demetri

For goodness sake, fact check stuff like this claim before you post it.

That is not true. While I am not from the UOC, I will stick up for them.

UOC-USA and Canada have been Orthodox jurisdictions since their establishment in the early 20th century. While some of their parishes and faithful came from a Greek Catholic background many did not. (I know that St. John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Johnson City, NY for example was founded as an Orthodox Church in the 1920's. The Ukrainian Catholics here built their own church after World War 2.)

You are probably referring to the reception of these Churches under the omophor of the Ecumenical Patriarch in relatively recent times when lingering questions about the canonicity of their hierarchy was settled.
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