What to Expect When Visiting a Byzantine Catholic Church
Entering a Byzantine Catholic Church is a visually beautiful experience. The narthex (lobby or vestibule) was originally designed to allow those who weren’t eligible to participate in the service to nevertheless see and hear the activities taking place.
Upon entering the nave, or main part of the church, you will notice the rich iconography adorning the walls and often the ceiling. Vibrant stained glass windows are also typical.
At the opposite end of the church from the narthex is the Sanctuary, the consecrated area of the church containing the Holy Altar.
Separating the Sanctuary from the Nave is typically an icon screen or Iconostasis. It is richly adorned with icons of Our Savior, the Theotokos (Mother of God), Patron Saints, and other revered individuals. The iconostasis is literally the place in the church where Heaven meets Earth.
When we reach our seats, we bow and make the sign of the cross. We do not genuflect.
The liturgy at a Byzantine Catholic Church is almost entirely sung, not recited. A cantor (or sometimes a choir) leads the congregation in singing. Singing is intended to be without instrumental accompaniment.
We use incense throughout the Holy Liturgy to reverence the church, our people, and the important things taking place.
The Holy Eucharist is the most important part of the Divine Liturgy. The Gifts of Body and Blood are received together. To receive Holy Communion, tilt your head back slightly and open your mouth wide. Do not stick out your tongue. The priest will place the Eucharist into your mouth using a spoon (Labis). We do not say, "Amen."