Our Lenten Journey. Archeparchy of Philadelphia co-hosted online liturgical seminar

On Sunday, February 28th, there was an online presentation entitled “Our Lenten Journey: Liturgical Exploration”.  The hosts were: Archeparchy of Philadelphia, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, and Eparchie Saint Volodymyr le Grand de Paris. The speakers were: Rev. Deacon Daniel Galadza, S.E.O.D. in Byzantine Liturgy, University of Regensburg, Germany, v. Rev. Mark Morozowich, S.E.O.D., Dean of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and Most Rev. Bohdan Danylo, Eparch of St. Josaphat Eparchy in Parma, Ohio.

Bishop Hlib Lonchyna of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in Paris, France welcomed the participants and opened with a prayer that the event be a “spiritually enriching experience.”

Deacon Daniel presented a “roadmap” of the Lenten services in Our Ukrainian Catholic Church.  He explained that the Great Fast, Lent, is not something negative.  “It’s not giving up something, but rather it’s something positive.  It’s a spiritual journey to Pascha, the Resurrection of Our Lord.  It is a new Passover, a spiritual renewal, a new life”, he stresses.

“We as an Eastern Catholic Church “ease into” the rhythm and pace of the Great Fast. Five Sundays before the start of Great Fast, we are preparing ourselves to enter the liturgical season of the Great Fast. The Gospels on each of these Sundays gives us a specific message, easing us into the Lenten spirit: On the Sunday of Zaccheus, the message is Don’t let Christ just pass by, seek to encounter Him. On the Sunday of Publican and Pharisee, “humility” is the virtue we all are to seek and possess. On the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the message is repentance, mercy, and forgiveness. On Meat-fare Sunday, we are told what God expects from us – be sensitive to the needs of others and help them. On Cheese-fare Sunday, we are to ask forgiveness from God and from one another.”

“During the Great Fast, we are given “intense nourishment” by the Word of God. During the prayer service of the Sixth Hour on the weekdays of Lent, we read and reflect upon the Prophecy of Isaiah. At Matins, morning prayer service, much of the readings for the Epistle is from the epistle to the Hebrews. And for the Gospel, it is from the Evangelist, St. Mark.”

“In the prayer services, we cry out for God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Christian life, as we all know and experience, is a “struggle” between the powers of good and evil. So too is it in this Lenten season. From the time of our Baptism, our senses (forehead, eyes, lips, chest, hands, and feet) have been anointed with holy oil and later sealed with holy chrism to equip us in our daily struggle with evil and discerning with what is good and have the resolve to ultimately do the good.”

“As we sojourn to the joyous celebration of Pascha, our Church calls upon all the faithful to practice prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Deacon Galadza noted that “true fasting” is to put aside all evil. The Great Fast is a call to develop a deeper personal relationship with Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Lenten season is “a promise of healing” and leads us to “the beauty of holiness.””

Rev. Dr. Mark Morozowych shared his knowledge and insight into the beauty, the treasure of our Liturgical Tradition, in particular, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.  Just as in Michelangelo’s “Creation Scene”, where God is extending His hand in the creation of man, so too the Lord God extends His “healing hand” to mankind. Following in the tradition of his mentor (Fr. Robert Taft), Father Mark’s approach is “Christocentric.”

  • Christ is the center of our daily lives. Our Church gives us the Great Fast in order to help us develop a closer, personal relationship with our Lord God. We all are called to become like Christ Himself, to become “another Christ.” That is, we are called to make Christ present to our world, to those we come into daily contact.  The Divine Liturgy is the “summit” of Christian life.
  • The Liturgy is the “expression of Christian unity.”  Besides the joyful celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, we have the penitential celebration of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.  In the Liturgy the priest says that it is Jesus Christ  ‘WHO OFFERS AND IS OFFERED.”  Jesus is really present and is so in various ways, but most of all in His Word and Sacrament (Eucharist).   We celebrate the Presanctified Liturgy in order to provide us with spiritual nourishment.  Christ’s Body and Blood is spiritual food for the soul that may not grow weary during the time of the Great Fast.
  • The Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts consists of five elements or parts:  (1)prayers of Vespers; (2) the Liturgy of the Word; (3) the Transfer of the Gifts; (4) Communion – Distribution of the Eucharist; and (5) the Dismissal prayer.
  • In the celebration of Presanctified, there are four key or main prayers: (1) Incensation of the Altar – The prayer “Let my prayer rise like incense before You”.  The third versicle is key, for it calls upon us to put a guard around our tongue.  For the tongue is like the rudder of a ship, steering the ship in the right direction.  The Great Fast is a time of “Metanoia”, repentance and conversion. What is needed is “a change of heart”, a purification.  (2) the Great Entrance Hymn – Let us approach “with faith and love”, so as to become worthy partakers of eternal life.  (3) the Prayer before the “Our Father” – We are to become living temples of the Holy Spirit so that we may obtain the blessings God promised to us along with all the Saints who have pleased Him throughout the ages.  (4) the Ambo Prayer – The Lord God brough us to “these salutary days” for the purification of soul and body and to become “victorious over sin.”

Father Mark spoke of the various effects of the Presanctified Liturgy

-salutary days

-preserve Faith inviolable

-purification of soul and body

-crush the heads of invisible serpents

-be victorious over sin

-blamelessly attain and worship the Holy Resurrection.

  • In a word, it is Christ Who brings us to perfection.  The Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts provides us with spiritual nourishment along the way.  It is the “manifestation” of our unity and our love for God and for our neighbor.

Bishop Bohdan Danylo spoke about the prayers of Holy Week, which lead us to the final destination of our Lenten spiritual journey, namely, the joyous celebration of Pascha.  Bishop Bohdan refers to the Great Fast as a “Lenten pilgrimage”.

  • Our Faith is to be vibrant – to transform “remembrance” into “reality.”  He calls our final destination ‘the eschatological paradise.”   By the distribution of blessed palms, pussy willows, we enter into that joyous event of acclaiming Jesus as Our Lord and Savior.
  • Our celebration of the Holy Week services come from three main sources:  Constantinople (Byzantium), Jerusalem and Palestine monasticism.  Due to covid-19 regulations last year, our services were modified to meet the regulations.  However, the celebration of Holy Week services according to our tradition can be found online at https://stjosaphateparchy.com.
  • We enter into the passion and death of Christ.  There is a somber remembrance of how Jesus offered Himself to the Heavenly Father in expiation of sin.  The Totally Sinless One takes upon Himself the sin of the world.  Christ is our Savior freeing us from the bonds of the devil – overcoming the powers of sin, death and the devil.
  • Just as was the entry into the holy season of the Great Fast gradual, so too the joyous celebration of Pascha – the Resurrection of Our Lord.  Already in the Jerusalem Matins service, there is not only the lament over the death and burial of Jesus but also there is also present the joy of victory announced to those faithful ones waiting in Hades for this day of victory.   The Prokimen “Arise, O Lord” is joyous and changes the tone from a somber one to that of jubilation.  Already on Holy Saturday we have the gradual liturgical movement from sadness to joy.

Bishop Hlib Lonchyna ended the online spiritual Lenten presentation with a prayer to the Mother of God.

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