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Our Origin and Identity

Welcome! We invite you to come and see the Byzantine St-Peters-BasilicaCatholic Church!

The Byzantine Catholic Church is an Eastern branch of the Universal, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  The Western branch of the church of course is the Roman Catholic Church, numerically the largest in the United States. Saint John Paul the Great, in referring to the Eastern and Western branches of the Universal Church said, “The Church must breathe with her two lungs, both Eastern and Western.”

Jesus

Jerusalem

Great diversity in the church has existed from the time of the Apostles, commissioned by Jesus Christ to announce the gospel.  Evangelization within the cultures, languages and traditions of diverse people, the church developed differently throughout the world. Beginning in Jerusalem, four other centers of Christianity arose:  Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Rome. The eastern centers for Christianity spread to the north and into eastern Europe; to the east into the Middle East; to the south into Africa.  The Roman church developed to the west and remains the center of Latin Catholicism today. Each of the eastern centers developed its own distinctive liturgical, mystical and spiritual tradition and faith experience.

Ancient Churches

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Three Holy Fathers2The Christian identity of these eastern churches was formulated and expressed by the lives, works and teachings of the Church Fathers and Councils. The Byzantine Catholic Church is an ancient Christian Church that is part of the greater Catholic communion of more than 20 autonomous, apostolic churches. Though differing in practice they are unified as the Eastern branch of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.  Their individual stories are rich and fascinating, should you wish to pursue them further.

 

Saints Cyril and Methodius were Christian missionaries from Thessalonica who, in the 9th Century, brought Christianity, the Eastern Tradition and a written language to the people of Eastern Europe that included the region of the Carpathian Mountains. This was the homeland of many of the people who first established Eastern Churches in America. The first Byzantine, Ruthenian, Catholic Church was Sr. Mary, Freeland, Pennsylvania, established in 1886 and active today.

The Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States is heir to the early center of Christianity in Constantinople.  We use the Greek form of worship and follow the Greek tradition.  We stand united with Francis, Pope of Rome who is both Head of the Universal Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  We are an independent, sui juris, Catholic Church carrying on the mysticism, tradition, spirituality and faith experience of our forefathers.  We are one Eastern Church among many. With the Western Church, we belong to the Universal Catholic Church.

 

Throughout the website, we will show you this Church, its traditions, mysteries, worship, music, art, customs and life within the Church. We also will share the life and practices of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius.  Breathe the Eastern air and experience the fullness of the Universal Catholic Church. What we pray is what we believe and what we live.  Come and see!

We begin by having you meet the Metropolitan of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America and Archbishop of Pittsburgh, William C. Skurla, D.D.

Today

Our Leaders

Right Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America and
Archbishop of Pittsburgh
President of the Seminary

Archbishop William_C_SkurlaGlory to Jesus Christ!  Welcome to the Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary website.

This website is your doorway to learning the Byzantine Catholic Tradition of prayer and worship of Jesus Christ through classes at the seminary or classes on the internet.

I am Metropolitan Archbishop William Skurla who, beside being President of Saints Cyril and Methodius I am leader of both the Byzantine Archeparchy (or Diocese) of Pittsburgh and Metropolitan of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States.

As Archbishop I have the task of listening to the needs and ideas of faithful members and then responding by providing spiritual services and programs for our people.

As you explore the website, I hope you will find courses of interest. Click to register for one of our upcoming courses, our online lectures and accredited Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology programs, beginning online in January of 2015.

We pray the Lord will guide your studies and enrich your spiritual life.

Click to play Metropolitan William’s Welcome Message.

Bishop John Kudrick B.C, Eparchy of Parma

Bishop John Kudrick Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma

Bishop Gerald N. Dino B. C. Eparchy of Phoenix

Bishop Gerald N. Dino Byzantine Catholic B. C. Eparchy of Phoenix

Bishop Kurt Burnette Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic

Bishop Kurt Burnette
Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic

Bishop Nicholas Samra

Melekite Eparchy of Newtown, MA

Bishop John Michael Botean

Romain Catholic Diocese Eparchy of Canton, OH

Bishop John Pazak

C. Ss. R. Slovak Catholic Eparchy of Toronto, Canada

Our Churches Today

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Our Worship

“When we sing, we pray twice.”  St. Augustine    

The presence of singing is abundantly evident in the Byzantine Catholic Church’s Liturgy and other religious services. The priest and faithful, together, share a musical dialogue in their worship of God.

When Christianity first came to the Ruthenian people from Saints Cyril and Methodius, the original text and music was written in Greek. This was gradually replaced by the Slavonic language for the church.  Today, in Byzantine Catholic Churches in America, the predominant language is English.

Following are two selections from the Liturgy to illustrate the shared musical prayer of priest and faithful. During solemn occasions, responses to the Divine Liturgy may be sung by a choir in arranged harmony, along with congregational singing. Traditionally, the faithful are led by a Cantor to sing responses to the prayers of the priest. Also included are renditions of Liturgical hymns and a medley of folks songs for your enjoyment.

From the Enthronement of Archbishop William

Litany “Let us all say…” 

Cherubic Hymn

Some Examples of Our Music

Our Father

Today the Virgin

Cherubic Hymn

Carpathian Medley

The Holy Mysteries

“The things of the Old Testament are the shadow. Those of the New are an image. Truth is the state of things to come.”  St. Maximos the Confessor

In his letter to the Church of Colossae, the Holy Apostle Paul described his divine mission thus:

“…to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” What is this “mystery” of which the Apostles spoke? It is not an abstract theological principle. It is not the mystical precepts of a new religion. The Mystery which has been revealed is a person: Jesus Christ. Paul proclaimed, “…this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” to a people who were learning what it meant to live the new life given to them in Christ. That apostolic proclamation is still being made today, and in a unique way, within the Byzantine Tradition.

Byzantine Christians call the sacraments of the Church, the Holy Mysteries. We do not use the term “mystery” to erect a sort of sacred smokescreen of incomprehensibility. Our faith is “mystical” but not because it is full of esoteric abstractions and arcane rituals whose power depends on their ability to dazzle or baffle. We use the term “mystery” to speak of that which was hidden and has now been revealed. The revelation of the mystery comes through the encounter of faith with Christ, through being hidden with Him in God and finding the fulness of our life in His. This revelation is made to us in simple, physical ways: In the cleansing of water and fragrant oil, in bread and in wine. The sacramental mysteries point beyond themselves while embodying what they signify. They recall the great stories of the Old Testament–stories of salvation through water, of prophetic and kingly anointing, of sacrifices and redemption.

These stories are, as St. Maximos the Confessor teaches us, shadows of things to come. We live in an age of the New Testament. The shadows have given way to images: Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist. They reveal to us, in a hidden way, the Truth of the age to come. We see a child immersed in water, but in faith we see a new creation. We see a simple meal of bread and wine, but in faith we see the heavenly banquet which is intimate communion with our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is the hope of glory, the mystery hidden and revealed, Christ in you.

Baptism

“All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!”

In the baptismal liturgy of the Byzantine Church, the words of the Apostle Paul become the song of the baptized community. This is the joyful proclamation which the Church makes to those who have passed through the waters of regeneration and entered into the Kingdom. But what does it mean to be clothed with Christ? These words hint that the Mystery of Baptism is much more than a simple initiation ritual, much more than a cleansing from sin, much more than the conferral of an abstract grace. If we are indeed clothed with Christ, it is worth remembering that we are clothed in a baptized Christ.

On the Feast of Theophany we sing: “At your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, worship of the Trinity was revealed; for the Father’s voice bore witness to you, calling you his beloved son, and the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truth on these words. O Christ God, you appeared and enlightened the world. Glory to you.” Why was Jesus Baptized? To be cleansed of sin? The sinless one had no need of cleansing. To become the recipient of grace? Grace and truth have come through Him. As the hymn teaches us, Jesus was baptized to reveal. The revelation of Jesus’ identity as the beloved Son of the Father is no abstract theological fact. It is a truth that draws us into a life-giving, dynamic relationship with that same Father. Revelation is never a matter of merely personal spiritual interest, but rather is an invitation into a communion of life and love. If the baptism of Jesus was a revelation of the relationship which he has shared with the Father from before all ages, then our own baptism is likewise a revelation of relationship to the world. God recognizes us as His Beloved Son or Daughter because we have been clothed in the life of the Son who is ever by His side.

 

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St. Paul writes of baptism: “…we were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) This death is a death to sin and therefore it is also a death to alienation from God, humanity, nature and even one’s very self. What comes from this death is a newness of life that is simultaneously hidden and revealed in the mystery of the baptismal waters. “You have died,” St. Paul writes, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)

The Truth of the coming Kingdom is fully embodied in this moment, for the baptismal waters point forward to and reveal a new creation. At the very beginning of the baptized’s Christian life, we glimpse his or her future glory. In that mystery, Christ our life appears and the one who is baptized appears with Him in glory: Mystically washed, clothed in a robe of glory, bearing the candle of divine illumination. “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.”

Chrismation

How is the reality of our divine adoption as sons and daughters of the Father made manifest to us?

What makes baptism the means by which the new creation is brought into the world and not merely a quaint ritual of religious initiation? How is it that the baptized and worshipping community is able to confidently sing: “All you who have been baptized in Christ have been clothed with Christ?”

In his discussion of the old covenant, St. Paul writes of a veil that lies over the teachings of Moses. To use another figure from the words of St. Maximos, “…the things of the Old Testament are the shadow.” How will the veil be lifted and how might the shadow become a distinct image, a living icon? At the Baptism of Jesus, another was revealed, alongside the Father and the Son. Let us return to the Troparion of the Theophany: “…and the Spirit in the form of a dove, confirmed the truth of these words.” It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that confirms that Jesus is indeed the beloved Son of the Father. “ When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)

In the Byzantine Tradition, the Holy Mystery of Chrismation is given immediately after baptism as a seal and a confirmation of the hidden and revealed truth of the baptismal mystery. As the newly baptized is anointed with the fragrant myrrh-perfumed Chrism of the Holy Spirit, a profound gift of freedom is given to the Church. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The Spirit grants us the freedom to see with unveiled faces the mystery hidden in these images of water and chrism. That mystery is none other that Christ Jesus, the hope of glory. Significantly, it is at this moment when the Spirit rests upon the baptized that the community sings: “All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!”

The arrival of the Spirit is truly a moment of revelation, a revelation that draws us into a relationship. St. Paul speaks of the revelatory work of the Spirit: “As it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him,’ -these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10) It is the Spirit who gives us the mind of Christ, for “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

The Spirit does not make his own presence felt, but rather always makes Christ present to us. It is through His divine power that Christ is manifested in the baptismal font, in the life of the one baptized and in the gifts of bread and wine which the Church then turns to celebrate as the baptismal rites prepare the way for the Eucharistic liturgy.

Eucharist

The work of divine revelation that began at baptism, the undertaking of which was confirmed by the Spirit of Chrismation, is completed in the Mystery of the Eucharist. For this reason, every person baptized and chrismated in the Byzantine Tradition, even infants, approach to partake of the Lord’s Table. It is the invisible work of the Spirit to words of the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, “…we pray and beseech you, O Holy of Holies, that, according to your kind favor, your Holy Spirit may come upon us and upon these gifts here offered; and bless and sanctify them and show this bread to be truly the precious body of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. And this chalice to be truly the precious blood of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, shed for the life of the world.” The words of the epiklesis are a reminder that the same Spirit who shows us Christ mystically present for us in the Eucharistic meal is the same Spirit who reveals Christ mystically present in the gathered, baptized community of the faithful.

When Christ is revealed to us in the Eucharist, we also see the fulfillment and meaning of salvation. On the Feast of the Ascension we sing: “When you had fulfilled the plan of salvation for us and united the earthly with the heavenly, you were taken up in glory, O Christ our God. Never parting from us but remaining constantly, you proclaim to those who love you: I am with you and no one can be against you.” The plan of salvation was to unite the earthly and the heavenly and that is precisely what happens in the Eucharist. We see the whole of creation, gathered together in the gifts of bread and wine, transfigured and fully revealing the divine life. Our participation in the gifts is also, therefore, our participation in the new creation. “The things of the New Testament are an image. Truth is the state of things to come.” We fully participate in that truth, now under the form of images. The Divine Liturgy is a communal act of remembrance. We remember the great works of salvation, “…the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand, and the second coming to glory.” Our remembrance begins with a celebration of what has come before us but it does not stay in the past.

We also remember the second coming in glory. First and foremost, the Diving Liturgy is an act of remembering the future. We remember the future kingdom when we see the baptized, clothed in the robes of their future glory. We remember the future kingdom when we see the indwelling of the Spirit given in Chrismation to those who now wear the glorious garments suitable for the Heavenly Banquet. We remember the transfiguration of the entire cosmos and our place at the right hand of the Father, when we look upon the gifts of bread and wine and by participating in them, find Christ fulfilling his promise to remain with us always by uniting heaven and earth.

Marriage

The first miracle of Jesus took place at a wedding feast. The turning of water into wine, that first of his signs in which Jesus manifested his glory, appears, at first glance, to be entirely frivolous and unnecessary. His first miracle could have been more important: giving sight to the blind, healing the lame, raising the dead. There was no pressing need which must be attended to: some revelers who had already drunk freely were faced with the minor inconvenience of having run out of wine. When Jesus’ mother alerted him to the shortage, Jesus said: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (Jn. 2:4) The hour that Jesus spoke of was the hour of his glory, the hour in which he would be lifted up on the Cross. There is a great mystery in this turning of water into wine and it is a mystery which does not point back to the wedding but forward to “the hour.”

The Mystery of Crowning, the sacramental mystery in which two people are united in the common life of marriage, points forward to and reveals an eschatological reality. The couple is crowned (either with laurel wreaths or with ornate metal crowns) at the dramatic high point of the marriage ritual. This moment in which the couple stands in the center of the church “crowned with glory and honor,” is an invitation to see, mystically present, that which is yet to come. The prayers of the marriage ritual call to mind, repeatedly, the great couples of the Old and New Testaments: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Moses and Zipporah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joachim and Anna. St. Maximos’ words are just as applicable here as they are when discussing any sacramental mystery: “The things of the Old Testament are the shadow. Those of the New are an image. Truth is the state of things to come.” By placing the married couple within the Biblical story itself, next to such great figures as Abraham and Sarah, we are invited to see them as participating within the unfolding story of salvation. In the mystery of Christ, however, marriage receives a redefinition. Marriage no longer receives its ultimate meaning from that which came before: history, human culture, even the examples of the Old Testament luminaries. While acknowledging and celebrating all that came before, we look forward to the last and final day, to the day on which “Christ who is [our] life appears” and we “appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:4) When we look upon the couple, crowned in marriage, we see an image of that final glory that they will share with Christ when he appears. The things of the New Testament are an image, Truth is the state of things to come. The crowns reveal the truth of who they will be in the coming Kingdom, mystically made present in the couple themselves at that moment of crowning.

The Miracle of Cana may have been entirely unnecessary, yet God is not a God who is satisfied with bare necessities. His gifts are to the overflowing of the cup. Water became wine. Mild disappointment suddenly became joyful surprise. Marriage itself is made capable of transcending human conventions and being transformed into a divine mystery. But how does this happen? The sign of the water made wine points forward to the “hour of glory” in which Christ would give himself upon the Cross for the life of the world. The crowns of the married couple are explicitly linked to those of the martyrs and it is in the context of martyrdom that the link between the common life of marriage and the future glory of the Kingdom is made. A martyr – witness is the meaning in Greek – bears full witness to Christ and the coming Kingdom by his or her life, even to the point of losing that life so as to be fully identified with Christ. Marriage bears witness to the same love of Christ through the self-sacrificing love which becomes the good wine of married life. That love, shared within the marriage, overflows to give new life to the world, as the couple becomes a living icon of the Mystery of the Kingdom.

Tomorrow

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Forming Future Leaders for the Church

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“Why I Am a Byzantine Catholic Priest”

A testimony featuring Very Rev. David M. Petras