OLPH Church
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Byzantine Catholic Church

Frequently Asked Questions
Are you really Catholic?
Yes, most definitely. Our Bishops and Clergy are fully united with the Pope of Rome and we follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Can I fulfill my Sunday obligation at your Divine Liturgy
Yes. You may also receive the Eucharist providing you are a Catholic in good standing, properly disposed and in a state of grace.
Why do you have a different cross?
The exact origins and use of the 3-bar cross are unclear. The symbolism, however is more defined. The top bar represents the name plate that Pilate ordered nailed to the top of Christ's cross. The long middle bar is the cross to which Christ was nailed. The slanted bar has several possible traditions. It depicts the footrest of the cross and it is tilted to symbolize heaven(up) and hades(down). Such references call to mind the fate of the "good" thief and the "bad" thief: one went to heaven the other went to hades. Some scholars believe it also may be a representation of the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified (x-shaped). The 3-bar cross has been a tradition for well over 1000 years.
Do you genuflect?
No. In the early Byzantine Church, the protocol for greeting royalty was a profound bow. The custom was applied to Godly matters as well. We bow and make the sign of the cross.
Why do you make the sign of the cross backwards?
The Sign of the Cross is made with the right-hand, thumb and the first two fingers placed together proclaiming our belief in the Blessed Trinity. The remaining two fingers are put in the palm of the hand, indicating the two distinct natures of Jesus, Human and Divine. In the tradition of the Byzantine Rite, the forehead is touched first, followed by the chest, then the right shoulder followed by the left, confirming that we love God with all of our mind, heart, and strength. This way of blessing oneself is very ancient and was in use in the west until the middle ages. Symbolically and historically Christ sits at the right hand of His Father (The Nicene Creed). Thus when we bless ourselves it is " In the name of the Father-forehead (pinnacle of heaven) to our waist(bowels of earth) and then to the right shoulder because His son Jesus Christ sits at his right hand and to the left shoulder for the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit" .

If Lent is 40 days long, why does the Byzantine Lent start on Monday instead of on Ash Wednesday?
In the early church, the forty day period was computed backwards from Good Friday, the day of Crucifixion. This was a six week period. In Constantinople, the solemn Baptism was originally held in conjunction with Easter. The Baptism ceremony was later transferred to the Saturday of Lazarus to allow the Resurrection celebration to have total focus. Accordingly, Lent was deemed to be concluded prior to this Baptism which had been synonymous with the Resurrection. Thus the Lenten season of preparation also had to be started a week earlier. Therefore, according to the Byzantine practice, the Great Fast began seven weeks before Easter and ended on the Friday before the Saturday of Lazarus. Liturgically, then, Lent ends on the Friday before the Saturday of Lazarus and is exactly forty days long. Additionally, Sundays are counted as part of Lent.

Holy Week, in the Byzantine Rite, is considered as a "special week" and is not included in the Forty-Days Fast.

In the Roman Rite, Holy Week was included into the Lenten season and the Lenten season was of six week duration. But later, when the Sundays in Lent were exempt from fasting in the West, Lent became only thirty-six days long. This situation was remedied in the seventh century by adding four more days of fasting at the beginning of the Lenten season with the first day of Lent on Ash Wednesday. This is the reason for the difference in the first day of Lent between the Byzantine Rite and the Roman Rite.

Here's the math: Byz: Week 1 = 6 Days (Mon-Sat), Weeks 2-5 = 7 Days each or 28 Days, Week 6 = 6 Days (Sun - Friday) or a total of 40 days. (Not including Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday or Holy Week)

Roman: 6 weeks of 6 days each (Sundays not included, but Holy Week included) = 36 days, plus Wed through Sat of the first week of Lent for a total of 40 days.

It basically evens out because Lent in the Byzantine tradition includes Sundays, but the Roman tradition does not. That gives the Byzantines 7 more days of Lent which are then consumed by not counting Holy Week. Each Rite excludes certain days during the Lenten season, they just don't do it at the same time. (Get a calendar and try it for yourself!)

Do you use guitars, organs and other instruments in the Liturgy?
No. All divine Services including the epistle and Gospel are sung to melodies passed down and preserved for generations. Byzantine liturgical tradition emphasizes that we offer ourselves to God as we are, bringing only ourselves and worship with our God-given voices. Therefore the use of musical instruments during the divine services is not permitted; all liturgical prayer is sung a cappella (without accompaniment).
What is the difference between a Mass and a Divine Liturgy?
The term "Mass" is derived from the Late Latin word missa (dismissal), a word used in the concluding formula of Mass in Latin. The word liturgy, is derived from the technical term in ancient Greek, leitourgia which itself is a combination of two other Greek words: Latos means people in Greek and Ergon signifies their work. The word signifies the work of the people for their God. Both words are used for the Eucharistic services. One has a Western cultural origin and the other Eastern.