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“When the Greeks led us to the place where they worship their God, we did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations, for we cannot forget that beauty. Every man, after tasting something sweet, is afterward unwilling to accept that which is bitter, and therefore we cannot dwell longer here.” Thereupon St. Vladimir accepted baptism and decreed the acceptance of Christianity in its Eastern form for his people. From these beginnings have arisen the Ukrainian, Russian and Byelorussian Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, now resplendently arrayed in the purple raiment of martyrdom.

As Christianity penetrated into Russia from Ukraine, so too the Catholic Church of the Russian Rite owes its organization to the saintly patriarch of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the servant of God Metropolitan Andrew Sheptitsky, who served as archbishop from 1901 to 1944. When Metropolitan Andrew inquired about the liturgical norms that should be observed by Russian Catholics, Cardinal Merry del Val replied that they must be identical to those of the Orthodox Church – nec plus, nec minus, nec aliter. (No more, no less, no differently.) Metropolitan Andrew realized that many of the latinizing practices that had crept into his church’s liturgical life were actually hindering the work of reconciliation with the Orthodox.

During his entire episcopate he strove to purify his rite from these popular yet alien practices. Now, at least in the Russian branch of his Church, he could foster ritual purity as a basis for a shared liturgical life with the Orthodox.

Thus it was that the Russian Catholic Church received its organization, with Exarch Leonid Feodorov as its leader. Its members are perhaps more numerous today outside of Russia in scattered communities throughout the world: Sao Paolo and Santos in Brazil; San Francisco and El Segundo in California; Montreal in Canada; Boston, Massachusetts and St. Michael’s in lower Manhattan.

For nearly half a century St. Michael’s Russian Catholic Chapel has dispensed the treasures of the pure Eastern tradition to those who, whether by birth or by choice, have been attracted to these truly soul-satisfying means of salvation. The Byzantine rite makes use of all the senses in its striving “to restore the image of the fallen Adam.” The holy icons and sacred vestments gratify the sense of sight, while the choral music and clouds of incense sanctify the senses of hearing and smell. The fluid motions of the faithful during the services – veneration of icons, prostrations, anointings, the signs of the Cross – elevate the sense of touch to Divinity. But the sense of taste, the means of man’s fall in Eden, becomes the richest channel of grace in the New Paradise as it receives the Divine and Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ under both forms of leavened bread and wine.

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Tags: Christianity Prayers/Hymns/Saints Russian Catholic Church