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Catholic Sentinel | Portland, OR Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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7/20/2017 7:23:00 AM
Discover the Christian East in Oregon
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Maria Andrukhiv lights a candle to say a prayer at St. Irene Church in Portland in 2005.
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Maria Andrukhiv lights a candle to say a prayer at St. Irene Church in Portland in 2005.

Paul Senz

BEAVERTON — On July 24, we celebrate the feast of St. Sharbel, one of the most underappreciated saints of the last 150 years. A monk and priest who hailed from Lebanon, Sharbel is one of the bright shining stars of the Eastern Catholic churches.

When most people think of the Catholic Church, they think of the Vatican. Sometimes they think of medieval chants in Latin; often they think of “Roman Catholic Church” as an alternate, or more formal, name. Too few people are aware of these “other” Catholic churches.

St. John Paul II said the church breathes with both its lungs. By this, he meant the Western and Eastern Catholic traditions. The majority of Catholics the world over are Western or Latin rite, or “Roman Catholics.” However, there are 23 particular Eastern churches in full communion with the pope.

These churches have their own hierarchies (again, still ending ultimately with the pope), their own liturgical traditions, even their own ecclesiastical law. They have valid sacraments, and Catholics of all stripes can freely partake of the sacraments of any of these churches.

Here in the Archdiocese of Portland, there are three parishes that are part of Eastern-rite Catholic churches: St. Sharbel Church in Portland is a Maronite parish, tracing its roots back to Lebanon in the fifth century; St. Irene Church in Portland is a Byzantine rite parish, with chants in Slavonic and a liturgical history dating back to third-century Constantinople; and Nativity of the Mother of God Church in Springfield is a Ukrainian-rite parish.

The Eastern rites are several different liturgical traditions. The Maronite liturgy is largely conducted in the Syriac language, with the eucharistic prayer (or anaphora) in Aramaic, the language Jesus likely spoke at the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. There is nothing quite so moving as hearing a Maronite priest chant the words of consecration, “This is my body, given up for you,” in the tongue of Our Lord and Savior, while his hands flutter over the bread and wine, imploring the Holy Spirit to consecrate the earthly gifts.

There is something profound in the fact that these Eastern liturgies, while aesthetically very different from each other and from the Latin rite, offer the same sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is truly offered; the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ are made really, truly and substantially present. This speaks to the power of the sacraments and God’s gift of himself.

If you have the opportunity, I truly encourage you to attend Mass at one of our Eastern-rite parishes. Of course, be careful not to attend as a “spectator” of some kind — we are called to participate fully and actively in the sacrifice of the Mass, no matter the liturgical tradition. Let yourself be overwhelmed by the profound beauty of the liturgy. And, finally, bring it home with you.

The writer works for Ignatius Press.

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