In Your Midst

THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC COMMUNITY:
A Mission Church at St. James Cathedral

Summer 2001

In This Issue:
Twice a month for more than 50 years Ukrainian Catholics have packed the Cathedral chapel and filled it with prayer and music. Anyone who has prayed in the Cathedral on quiet Sunday afternoons has heard this music, sometimes melancholy, more often rousing and vibrant; and perhaps caught a glimpse of splendid vestments or the sound of bells, or the strong perfume of incense. Here is a brief look behind that closed chapel door at the beauty and mystery of the Ukrainian Rite and the Ukrainian Catholic community which makes St. James its home.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest of the “Eastern Rite” churches — churches which resemble the Orthodox Church in their theology, philosophy, and liturgy, with one key difference: They acknowledge the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

The history of the Catholic Church in the Ukraine dates back to the earliest days of Christianity. St. Andrew the Apostle first preached in the Ukraine around the year A.D. 50 and Christianity became the official religion of the state with the conversion of St. Vladimir the Great in 988. In the Great Schism of 1054, the Ukrainian Church, along with the other Eastern Rite churches, were separated from the Church of Rome. In 1596 the Ukrainian bishops were reunited with Rome in what is called the “Union of Brest.” They would retain the Byzantine rite and full autonomy as a “particular” church. Thus, they have their own unique and ancient spiritual, liturgical, and canonical traditions while remaining Roman Catholic.

After the Pope, the highest authority in the Ukrainian Catholic Church is His Beatitude Lubomyer. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is divided into “eparchies” and “archeparchies” (similar to our dioceses and archdioceses), and the Mission Church of Zarvanycia Mother of God (the formal name of the community that worships here at St. James) is under the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas, centered in Chicago, Illinois. For eight years this little parish of 48 families has been served by Father Joseph Ostopowich, who makes his home in Vancouver, B.C., where in addition to keeping in close touch with his parishioners here, he is chaplain at a maximum security prison.

The dedicated families that make up the little community come from all over the state of Washington to worship at St. James (the nearest Ukrainian Catholic Church is in Eugene, Oregon). Many are immigrants from Western Ukraine; the rest are American born. The liturgies they celebrate are rich in symbolism, music, and tradition, similar to our Roman Rite in the broad outlines but differing from it in fascinating ways.

The Ukrainian Rite is intensely participatory. No instrumental music is allowed and everyone — young and old, musically-inclined or not — joins in the singing. Music is the common bond of all Ukrainian Catholics. Around the world on any given feast, they will be singing the same songs, the same melodies. These melodies are ancient: some of the psalmody dates back hundreds of years.

The Ukrainian Rite Mass begins with what is called the Preparation. This ceremony is symbolic of the birth of Christ and of his “hidden life” before he began to teach publicly. The priest dons his vestments and prepares the bread and wine to be offered in the sacrifice. The Liturgy of the Word follows. As in the Roman Rite, it consists of “litanies, prayers, hymns, psalms… an Epistle reading, a Gospel reading, a homily…” The Gospel book is processed through the church to be venerated by all the people — an action symbolic of Jesus going out among the people to teach them.

The Liturgy of the Sacrifice corresponds to our Liturgy of the Eucharist. It begins with the great “Cherubic Hymn”, in which the people are invited to join the angels to sing the Holy, Holy, Holy. The gifts of bread and wine are brought in procession from the side table to the altar, which represents the throne of God. The priest is thought of as a conduit or intermediary, petitioning God for the people; thus he stands between the people and the altar, facing East. Mass concludes with prayers and a solemn blessing.

Ukrainian Catholics follow the Gregorian calendar and their great days coincide with those of the Roman Rite. There are differences, however, in the calendar of saints and in the manner some great solemnities are celebrated. The colors of vestments associated with each season are quite different from ours. White or gold is used for Sundays, feast days, and holy days; green (signifying hope) for Pentecost; blue for the feasts of the Mother of God; red for martyrs and feasts commemorating the cross; purple during the weekdays of Lent and fasting periods; and black or purple for funerals.

At each Mass, the Ukrainian community remembers in prayer with deep gratitude Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, the Archdiocese of Seattle, and in a special way, Father Michael G. Ryan and the community of St. James Cathedral for allowing them to celebrate the Divine Liturgy here. The Ukrainians of St. James dream of having their own place of worship, and last year with the unanimous support of the community, inaugurated a building fund. They hope either to build a church or to buy an existing facility.

We are grateful to the Ukrainian community for inspiring us by their great faith. We are blessed to have this little mission church in our midst who remind us that

Õðèñòîñ ïî ñåðåä íàñ!
Christos po sered nas!

(“Christ is in our midst!”)

ª ³ áóäå!
Ye e boode!
(“He is and always will be!”)

Maria Laughlin is the author of St. James the Greater, an illustrated history of the Cathedral’s patron.


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