To Breathe Again…


What is an Eastern Catholic Church?

An Eastern Catholic Church is a distinct community of faith in communion with the Pope, the bishop of Rome. Each Church shares with all other Catholic Churches the one profession of faith, celebrates the same sacraments (mysteries) and acknowledges the primacy of the Pope, the successor of Peter. It is in these three ways that the unity of the Catholic Church is expressed while the diversity, autonomy and independence of each of the Churches are maintained.

The various Catholic Churches were established by the apostles and their successors. The Eastern Catholic Churches are those particular Churches which are founded on one of the apostles – Peter, Mark or Andrew – and which trace their traditions to one of the ancient patriarchal sees of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria or Constantinople.

While in communion with the Pope as the visible head of the Catholic Church, each particular Eastern Catholic Church has its own distinct theology, spirituality, liturgy and law. As well, each is characterised by its own linguistic and cultural influences which include history and cultural identity.
Eastern Catholic Churches, although embodying their own particular spirit and culture, share with one another many common elements, attitudes and emphases. Some examples of these are:

  • a love of tradition and the Eastern Fathers (tradition is honoured because it manifests the values of the past within the values of today);
  • an emphasis on interior or contemplative prayer. The ‘prayer of the heart’ is widely practised in the Christian East and focuses on the purification of the heart by acknowledging human ‘nothingness’ without the mercy of God;
  • the importance of Great Lent and the feast of the Resurrection. The Great Lent is the major liturgical event of the year. It is the central fasting period which moves into the joy and festivity of the Resurrection;
  • a sense of the sacred and transcendent in the celebration of the mysteries.


The Armenian Church of Cilicia (The Armenian Catholic Church), Liturgical Family: Antiochene

1. Cultural Background of Adherents

Countries of origin and history of migration to Australia

According to the NSW Registry, the first arrival of Armenians in Australia was in 1908, when twelve young Armenian Catholics migrated from Aleppo, Syria.

A few Armenians migrated to Australia after the First World War. A second wave of migration occurred after the Second World War when many Armenians arrived in Australia from Indonesia, Java, Singapore, China, India and other countries of the Pacific.

In the 1960s, groups of Armenians began to arrive from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Soviet Armenia, Iran, Ethiopia, Sudan, France and England.

On 27 July 1968, Father Serge Ouzounian arrived in Sydney from Lebanon. He was the first Armenian Catholic priest to land on Australian soil. His task was to ‘organise his people’. The Armenian Church community in Australia has grown significantly since that time.

A church at Lidcombe in Sydney was purchased by Mgr Sarkis Ouzounian sometime in October 1978. It was dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. An Armenian school has also been established at Beaumont Hills in Sydney where instruction is given in Armenian and English. Armenian children attend the school along with Roman Catholic students who live in the area.

In Melbourne, the Armenian Church is dedicated to the Holiest Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It is located in Station Street, Ferntree Gully.

The language of the Liturgy

The liturgical language is Classical Armenian. Classical Armenian is the old Armenian language and is used only during the Divine Liturgy. English is used for the sermon and readings during the Divine Liturgy. Armenian and French are also used for other parts of the liturgy.

2. Liturgical Seasons

The Season of Advent/Christmas

This is the season of ‘Aratchavorats’. It begins on the Feast of Christ the King. This season lasts for six to eight weeks. It is a time of preparation to receive the Word of God through the birth of Christ. We adore our God and celebrate the Good News, recognising that the Nativity is the beginning of our redemption. There are no particular symbols associated with this season. The emphasis is on teaching that Jesus came to redeem us. There are special songs and canticles sung during the Divine Liturgies.

Families have a Christmas tree in their homes and exchange gifts. These customs have been adopted from the northern European culture and are not traditionally Armenian.

The Vigil of the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Christmas Eve. Families come to the Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day. Most Armenian families make a kind of bread called ‘kata’ which is made from flour and the water from fetta cheese. Sometimes pieces of cheese are mixed in. This bread is blessed at the Church and taken home to be shared.

The Season of the Epiphany and Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

This season, ‘Haidnootiun Yev Mugurdootioon’, lasts for three to four weeks and begins with the celebration of the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. On this day, there is a ceremony of the Baptism of Jesus during a very solemn Divine Liturgy.

The Season between Epiphany and Lent

This season, ‘Aratchavorats Paregentan’, lasts for two or three weeks. It marks preparation for the season of Lent.

The Season of Lent and Easter

The season of ‘Bahots’ (Lent) begins on Ash Monday. On this day blessed olive branches are burnt. The season lasts six weeks. Lent is a time to reflect on the life of Jesus in preparation to receive him in his body and blood and to receive him in our hearts on the Resurrection day. Fasting, mortification, penance and other spiritual virtues, and most of all repentance and reconciliation, are necessary if we are to be worthy of that union. The icons in the church are covered and a curtain is placed around the altar.

Each of the six Sundays of Lent has a particular theme.

  1. The First Sunday of Lent commemorates the entering of Adam and Eve into Eden.
  2. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden is the focus for the Second Sunday.
  3. The Third Sunday is known as the Prodigal Son’s Sunday.
  4. The Fourth Sunday is called the Crafty Steward’s Sunday.
  5. The Fifth Sunday is the Humble Publican’s Sunday (Luke 18:9–14)
  6. The Sixth Sunday is entitled the Sevenfold Indictment of the Scribes and Pharisees’ Sunday (Matthew 23:13–32).

Fasting starts on the Sunday before Ash Monday and concludes on Palm Sunday. Traditionally the fasting is severe, i.e. no meat, butter, cheese or milk. Vegetables, oil and fish can be eaten. There has been some relaxation of these rules and young families may not adhere strictly.

The week of ‘Dzaghgazart’ (Palm Sunday) is just one day of celebration when the church doors are opened. This symbolises the opening of the doors of Heaven. During the ceremony, the veils of the icons and the curtain around the altar are removed. On Palm Sunday, olive and palm branches are used in procession to decorate the church and for blessing.

On the Easter Vigil, people gather in their homes and share egg salads. The symbols of Easter include the lamb, eggs, ears of wheat and grapes. On Easter Sunday, coloured eggs are blessed during or at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. These eggs have been coloured at home with the family. The eggs, symbolising the Resurrection of Christ, are brought to the church by the families. After the Divine Liturgy, the people process to the parish hall to receive the last blessing, together with the blessing of the hall. This hall blessing symbolises the homes of the families. Later, the priest blesses each family home. In the hall, the people greet one another with, ‘Christ has risen from the dead’, and respond, ‘Blessed be the resurrection of Jesus’. They then kiss one another and exchange Easter greetings and wishes.

The Season of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ

The season, ‘Zadig Harootyan Diarn Mero Hisoosi-Cris-Oosi’, lasts seven weeks. During this season the triumph of Jesus Christ is celebrated.

The Season of Pentecost

The season of Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit), ‘Pentecoste, Caloosd Hokvooin Serpo’, commemorates the mission of the apostles to announce the Good News. It lasts about seven weeks.

The Season of Transfiguration

The season of the Transfiguration, ‘Vartavar’, lasts for three or four weeks.

The Season of the Assumption

The feast occurs on the nearest Sunday to August 15. The Lent of Our Lady begins a week prior to this and includes optional fasting. During the Divine Liturgy of the Feast, grapes are blessed and families take them home to share. The orchards are blessed during the season of the Assumption. This season, known as the Assumption of Our Lady, Virgin Mary, ‘Pokhman Surpo Goosin’, lasts three weeks.

The Season of the Holy Cross

The season of ‘Soorp Khatch’ begins with the Lent of the Holy Cross in preparation for the solemnity of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. The Lent lasts one week but the season lasts ten weeks.

Ordinary time

This occurs after each season. It is a quieter time for reflection on the Scripture.

3. Significant Feast Days and Holy Days of Obligation

The following are some of the significant days for Armenian Catholics:

St Gregory Illuminator (Third Saturday after Pentecost)
St Gregory is the patron of the Armenian nation. He converted the king and the Armenian nation to the Christian faith in 310 AD.

Ss Vartan and Martyrs (date depends on Easter)
This day is celebrated on the Thursday before Lent begins. St Vartan was an Armenian General, defender of the Christian faith. He fought against the Mazdaism (the Persian pagan faith) which the Persian king wanted to impose on the people of Armenia. In 451 AD he was martyred with his army but won the freedom of Armenian Christian faith.

The Epiphany
The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. It celebrates the Baptism of Jesus. During the Divine Liturgy, the priest chooses a sponsor who holds a cross and then places it in a basin of water, symbolising the Baptism of Jesus. The white dove is another baptismal symbol. Many families gather at parties to celebrate this feast.

The Assumption
The feast of the Assumption is celebrated on the nearest Sunday to 15 August. This feast has been celebrated by Armenians since the fifth century and signifies that the body of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was transported to Heaven by the angels without corruption. On this day women who are named Mary celebrate their feast day. The feast of the Assumption is celebrated with a solemn Divine Liturgy. The solemn blessing of grapes is carried out during the Divine Liturgy, with special hymns. This commemorates the Last Supper where Jesus consecrated the bread and the wine at the first Divine Liturgy.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated on the nearest Sunday to 14 September. This special feast commemorates the triumph of the Holy Cross. It is a very significant feast for the Armenians because of their suffering and persecution. They have a deep affinity with the suffering of Jesus in the hope of sharing his triumph both in this world and in Heaven. In Armenia there are many crosses sculptured on rocks and in churches. These are called ‘khatchar’, a word which means ‘stone crosses’. A solemn Divine Liturgy is celebrated on this day, with liturgical hymns which express the power of the Holy Cross as a weapon of salvation, a shield against temptations, an altar of immolation, the wood of redemption and salvation, a vehicle to Heaven and a sign of victory.

4. The Reception of Mysteries (Sacraments)

In the Armenian language the word ‘Khorhourt’ is used to mean Mystery and Sacrament.

Baptism and Confirmation

According to the Armenian tradition, Baptism and Confirmation are received forty days or more after birth. There is no formal preparation required to receive these sacraments. These sacraments welcome the person to the faith community.

The mother stays at home for forty days after the birth. On the fortieth day, the mother and father bring the child to the door of the church. Here the ceremony and liturgy of the mother’s purification are done with the sprinkling of the holy water on her head and that of the child. They then proceed, led by the celebrant, to the altar for the ceremony of presentation. When the purification and presentation ceremony are done, the day of Baptism is decided.

Baptism and Confirmation are received in the same ceremony but the ceremonies are different in substance.

It’s different being Armenian because when my class made their Confirmation last year I didn’t. I made mine as a baby when I was baptised. (Joseph – Year 7)

Baptism: In keeping with the Presentation of the Lord, the mother presents her child for Baptism. Baptism is by immersion. The symbols of Baptism are a white garment (worn by the infant) which symbolises innocence, and a lit candle which symbolises the living faith inJesus who said, ‘I am the Light .’ The lit candle and white garment (before being worn by the child) are blessed. The lit candle is given to the godfather because he is obliged to instruct the child in faith.

Confirmation/Chrismation: In this sacrament the celebrant anoints the infant with chrism. The head is anointed as a symbol of heavenly and divine gifts and graces. The eyes, to symbolise spiritual alertness. The ears, as a symbol of hearing the Commandments of God, whilst the mouth and lips symbolise the fragrance and sweetness of life eternal. The hands are anointed to symbolise charitable works and offerings, whilst the heart is anointed to symbolise the foundation of a holy heart in the baby and a steadfast soul in its body. The kidneys symbolise strength and a shield against all kinds of evil and the feet symbolise the walk towards life eternal. To mark this special occasion, families gather for a meal and celebration.


This sacrament is received by the child around 7–8 years of age. The children are usually prepared in the Roman Catholic primary school which they attend. Traditionally, the Armenian Church celebrates the Third Rite of Reconciliation. The emphasis and focus are on helping children to understand forgiveness and on being made whole. The Holy Cross is an important symbol for this sacrament. Families gather for a meal and celebration.

First Communion

This sacrament is also received by the child around 7–8 years of age. Here in Australia, the children are prepared in the Roman Catholic primary school. It is important for them to understand that Holy Communion is the Body of Jesus Christ under the form of bread. The children must be thankful for this privilege, respectful of it and adore it in their hearts. To do this they must understand, at their capacity, the mystery of the breaking of bread. The children generally receive their First Communion with their school. On the following Sunday, they come to the Armenian Church to receive Communion. Families usually gather for a meal and celebration.


There is no formal preparation for this sacrament in the Armenian Church. Couples are required to understand the responsibility of marriage and the life commitment ahead. Marriage is a ceremony in its own right. Rings and wine are blessed. The blessed wine is offered to the bride and bridegroom, symbolising the unity they now share. Family and friends then gather to celebrate.

Holy Orders

This sacrament is usually received around 25 years-of-age. In Australia, candidates attend Roman Catholic seminaries but remain within their Armenian Church. The candidates must understand the responsibility of priesthood and be devoted to offering and sacrifice. During their formation, candidates deepen their understanding of being called to serve, not to be served. The ordination takes place during the Divine Liturgy where the main celebrant places his hands on the candidate. During the ceremony the candidate asks the congregation whether or not they believe he is worthy of ordination. The congregation answer ‘Yes’. After the ordination, those present kiss the hands of the newly ordained priest and ask for his blessing. Family and friends gather to celebrate with a special meal.

The Armenian priests do not marry. However, in some exceptional circumstances, marriage is permitted. There are married Armenian priests in Egypt.

Anointing of the Sick

This sacrament is administered when people invite the priest to come and anoint an individual who is unwell. There is no formal preparation required. The focus within the mystery is on the healing of spirit and body. During this ceremony the hands, heart, head and kidneys are anointed with oil. Prayers of Absolution are said and Holy Communion is given. The family gathers together when the individual is being anointed.


The Church of Babylon for the Chaldeans, Liturgical Family: Antiochene

1. Cultural Background of Adherents

Countries of origin and history of migration to Australia

Very few Chaldeans emigrated to Australia in the 1960s because most preferred the USA, particularly Detroit, where the Chaldean community was well established. There are now more than 90,000 Chaldeans in the USA. The main migration to Australia began in the 1970s. There are now about 13,000 Chaldeans in Sydney and around 9,000 in Melbourne. In recent years there has been increased migration of Chaldeans to Australia, due to the war in Iraq. There are also thousands of Chaldeans living as refugees in countries such as Greece, Turkey, Iran and Syria.

The first Chaldean Church, St Thomas’ Chaldean and Assyrian Catholic Church, was established in Sydney in August 1978. Father Z. Toma was appointed as the Chaldean parish priest. The sisters of the Order of the Immaculate Conception live at Bossley Park and are involved in child care and parish work.

The second Chaldean parish was established in Melbourne in 1982, when Father Emmanuel Khoshaba was appointed as the Chaldean parish priest. The parish is called Our Lady Guardian of Plants, Chaldean and Assyrian Catholic Church. It is in Somerset Road, Campbellfield. In Melbourne, the majority of the Chaldean and Assyrian Catholic community reside in the north-western suburbs, such as Broadmeadows, Roxburgh Park, Meadow Heights, Campbellfield, Coburg and Brunswick. However, some families live in Moorabbin and nearby areas.

The language used in the Liturgy

The common language of communication within the Chaldean Catholic Church is a dialect of Aramaic. However, few people study Aramaic or use it as a written language. Liturgical books, hymns and prayers are reproduced in Arabic and English.

2. Liturgical Seasons

The Chaldean Church celebrates nine liturgical seasons, each with special prayers and readings from the Scriptures.

The Season of ‘Soubara’ (Advent/Nativity)

This season lasts for four weeks and celebrates the Good News of the birth of Our Lord.

The Season of ‘Denha’ (Epiphany)

This season varies from four to seven weeks. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 with a special Divine Liturgy commemorating the Baptism of Jesus.

The season of ‘Saouma’ (Lent)

This season lasts seven weeks and is a time to reflect on Jesus and the significance of our faith. It is a time for repentance and reconciliation.

The Season of ‘Qyamta’ (the Resurrection)

This season focuses on Christ’s conquering of death and lasts for seven weeks.

The Season of ‘Shlile’ (the Apostles)

The season of Shlile commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost. The Spirit remains with us as the seal and guarantee of the Kingdom to come. It also lasts for seven weeks.

The Season of ‘Qayta’ (Summer)

This season is a time of repentance. The feast of the Ascension falls in this season and indicates the beginning of the summer season. During summer, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated outside the church building.

The Season of ‘Elya/Sliwa’ (Elia/Cross)

This season varies in length from two to five weeks and is observed as a preparation for the second coming of Jesus.

The Season of ‘Moushe’ (Moses)

This season includes the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and varies from one to four weeks.

The Season of ‘Quoudashe-Edta’ (The Church)

This season focuses on the strength and foundation of the Church. We remember that Jesus takes the good, faithful people with him into Heaven.

3. Significant Feast Days and Holy Days of Obligation

The liturgical calendar for the Chaldean Church includes holy days of obligation as well as a series of feasts and special commemorations. Some of these holy days, feasts and commemorations are only observed in the traditional way in countries of origin.

St Thomas (Mar Toma) the Apostle
The feast of St Thomas is celebrated on the nearest Sunday to July 3.
St Thomas was the first apostle to the East. It is also the Chaldean Patriarchal Day.

Simeon Sawa (Oldman)
This feast celebrates the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The focus is on the role of Simeon rather than on Jesus.
Candles are lit by everyone during the Divine Liturgy. The candles are a symbol of Jesus (the Light) entering the Temple. It is celebrated on February 2.

Our Lady Guardian of Fields (Plants) (May 15)
This feast is observed in countries where the people depend on growing wheat and barley for their living. Our Lady is asked to protect these fields from insects, pests, drought and natural disasters. This is an ancient celebration in honour of Mary. This feast symbolises Mary’s protection of Jesus and of us. Many monasteries and churches are dedicated to Mary under this title.

St George (April 24)
On this day, people take food to the village church for a shared picnic. An animal is slaughtered on this feast day.

4. The Reception of Mysteries (Sacraments)

Baptism and Confirmation

Baptism and Confirmation are administered to infants. They are usually administered after the Divine Liturgy on Sundays. Infants are baptised by both full immersion and pouring water over the head. After the child is taken out of the water a lighted candle (symbol of new faith) is given to a boy and girl to hold. A white garment is wrapped around the child. The child is then anointed with chrism on the forehead (Mystery of Chrismation). After this anointing two white ribbons are tied around the left arm of the child and godparent. Parents choose one godparent of the same gender as the child. The ceremony concludes with a prayer for the child and a benediction for all those present.


Children make their first Confession between the ages 8–10 and always before receiving their first Communion. This mystery is made available every Sunday before the Divine Liturgy (in the church) or in the presbytery. The confessional is used in the church. The language used for this mystery is Aramaic, unless people request Arabic or English. The mystery is received between Palm Sunday and the Ascension, and again prior to Christmas and before the Epiphany (by Church regulation). Children have their own times to receive the mystery.


First Communion is administered to children around the age of 7 or 8 years.
Preparation courses are arranged at the church for the children. The role of the parents is to encourage and support their children. First Communion is seen as a community celebration. The host is dipped in the wine and placed on the tongue.

I’ve noticed the difference when I’ve gone to Church with my school. Chaldeans take Communion as both bread and wine. (John)


This mystery is not received during a Divine Liturgy unless the couple request this arrangement. Prior to the ceremony the couple are required to receive instruction and go to Confession and Communion.

During the ceremony vows are exchanged. Rings are exchanged by the priest, handing the ring to the groom to give to the bride, and vice versa. Two witnesses are required (usually the best man and bridesmaid). Readings for the ceremony are taken from St Paul’s letters and the Gospel of Matthew. These are chosen by the priest.

Holy Orders

The Chaldean Church (like the Coptic Church) has three orders of Deacon:

  1. Reader who reads the Old Testament reading and readings from the Acts of the Apostles, at the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days;
  2. Sub-deacon who reads the letters of St Paul;
  3. Deacon (Evangelist) who reads the Gospels, baptises, gives Holy Communion, marries couples and conducts funerals. The deacon also accompanies the priest during the Divine Liturgy and recites all prayers with the priest, apart from the consecration and invocation of the Holy Spirit.

In addition, there are the orders of priest, bishop and patriarch. The ordination ceremony consists of the bishop laying his right hand on the head of the new priest, the placing of the Gospels in the hands of the priest to signify his work and role, an anointing with chrism on the priest’s forehead, and processions where the new priest is led by ordained priests around the altar. Vestments are handed to the bishop who then assists the new priest to vest. At the end of the ceremony the new priest kisses the hand of the bishop as a sign of the acceptance of his authority and receives a special blessing from the bishop.

Anointing of the Sick

This ceremony includes the recitation of Psalm 51, the Lord’s Prayer and an anointing with chrism of the eyes, mouth, ears, hands and feet of the person. There are many prayers said for the person and relatives. The mysteries of Confession and Communion are administered prior to this mystery if the person is well enough to receive these. If the person is near death then general absolution is given and special prayers are recited. Where possible the family is present at the anointing and they join in the recitation of the prayers.


The Coptic Church of Alexandria, Liturgical Family: Alexandrian

1. Cultural Background of Adherents

Countries of origin and history of migration to Australia

Coptic means Egyptian. The Coptic Church was founded by St Mark in Alexandria in 62 AD. There are approximately two hundred thousand Catholic Copts in Egypt and approximately ten thousand living in other countries. The migration of Coptic Catholics from Egypt to Australia began in the late 1960s and is still continuing.

The language used in the Liturgy

The liturgical language of the Coptic Church is Coptic. However, Coptic is only used in part of the liturgy. The other languages used are Arabic (incorporated in the 12th century as a result of Islamic influence) and Greek (incorporated in the 11th century as a result of the influence of the Church of Antioch). Most families use Arabic at home. Divine Liturgies in Melbourne also use a phonetic translation of Coptic into English script/sounds to help children to participate. Children are encouraged to read at the Divine Liturgy and this is undertaken in English.

2. Liturgical Seasons

The Season of Christmas

Traditionally, this season began on November 25 with a period of fasting and abstinence from all foods obtained from animals. However, the Coptic Catholic Synod of Bishops along with the Patriarch determined a shorter period of time. Today, the fast begins around December 10 for a period of fifteen days. Special texts from the Bible are read by families during this time.

Advent is celebrated as a season of preparation for Christmas. Christmas is celebrated on two days in Egypt according to the calendar followed. Catholics in the largest cities of Cairo and Alexandria celebrate on December 25, according to the Gregorian calendar. Catholics living in Upper Egypt celebrate Christmas on January 7, with the Orthodox Church, according to the Julian calendar.

The traditional Christmas Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Christmas Eve. Strict fasting occurs on this day until the Divine Liturgy. The day is known as ‘Baramoni el Mellad’. A nativity scene is set up in the church for this celebration. After the Divine Liturgy the people gather to celebrate and to break the fast. There is no Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day itself.

The Baptism of Jesus is celebrated on January 6 (if Christmas is celebrated on December 25). The prayers of the baptismal rite, which is a long, separate rite, are said before the Divine Liturgy. People bring bottles of water to the Divine Liturgy and place them under the altar. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the people take the water home. Before leaving the church, the priest signs each person on the forehead with water. The families then use the water to bless their homes. During this season, the priest also visits the homes and blesses them with water.

The Season of the Great Fast

The Great Fasting starts on 1 March. Within the Coptic tradition there is no Ash Wednesday or Ash Monday. Special prayers and readings are included each Sunday during this time. The focus during Lent is on forgiveness and salvation. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are special fast days. The other days of the week are no longer fast days. Fasting is optional for children but most would observe the family custom.

To be a Coptic Catholic is very important. We go to Church in Flemington with our community. We know everyone there. Our family is very strict in following our religion. We have faith in God. (Anthony)

The Great Week

The Great Fast culminates in Holy Week. Holy Week begins on Hosanna Sunday (Palm Sunday) and concludes on Easter Sunday. The Sunday before Hosanna Sunday is known as Baptism Sunday. Families traditionally present children for Baptism on this day.

The ceremonies on this day include a procession around the inside of the church, with the people carrying palm branches and candles. After the first reading, water is blessed which is then used to bless the palms. The palms are taken home. One of the four accounts of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is read in each of the corners of the church. The children process from one corner to the next after each reading. During the readings, children carry palm branches and candles and stand in front of the reader. The priest gives a homily on the significance of the day. There are no Divine Liturgies from Hosanna Sunday until Holy Thursday.

Divine Liturgy on Holy Thursday is held during the afternoon. The ceremony of the washing of the feet takes place before the Divine Liturgy. The feet of twelve boys are washed by the priest. During this ceremony an altar boy reads the account of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles.

During the ceremony on Great Friday, the priest carries a picture of the crucifixion of Jesus around the inside of the church three times. After the third time the picture is placed on the altar and covered with a cloth. This action represents the burial of Christ. The picture remains covered on the altar until Easter Saturday night. People bring flowers, candles and incense to place in front of the altar on Friday evening. They also bring a small bottle of oil. The priest reads the last section of the Book of Revelation, after which the people place the bottles of oil on the altar around the cross and candles. A Divine Liturgy is celebrated in a shorter form after midnight and the people then begin a special fast until the Saturday night.

The main ceremonies of Easter are held on Easter Saturday evening around eight o’clock. After the first reading, the lights in the church are turned out (except for the candles on the altar). The priest prays a special prayer and an altar boy responds from the sacristy in question and answer format. The lights are turned on again and the people sing a special hymn of the Resurrection. During this hymn the altar boys carry candles, a picture of the Resurrection and the Cross, and a procession moves three times around the inside of the church. Then the Divine Liturgy continues as usual. After the Divine Liturgy, the people return home.

There are no fast days between Easter and Pentecost. The Divine Liturgy of the Ascension is celebrated forty days after Easter on Ascension Thursday. Ten days later the Divine Liturgy of Pentecost is celebrated. This marks the end of the season of Easter.

Pentecost, the Assumption and New Year

The next season starts after Pentecost and finishes on 29 June. During this time the people fast for fifteen days. From July 30 to August 15 the season of the Assumption is celebrated. During this season, special readings from the bible are undertaken by the people as a community. They also pray the rosary.

The new Coptic liturgical year begins on 29 September. The day is celebrated with special prayers and blessings.

3. Significant Feast Days and Holy Days of Obligation

The following are some of the significant days for Coptic Catholics:

The Assumption (15 August)
The community celebrates the feast of the Assumption with the Rosary and processions. Children carry pictures and process three times around the church and then around the altar. Special prayers are said and songs are sung in both Coptic and Arabic. This concludes this season.

Ss Peter and Paul (12 July)

St Mark (8 May)
On this day the Church commemorates the death of St Mark. A Divine Liturgy is held in his memory.

4. The Reception of Sacraments

All sacraments have two aspects which are celebrated – the symbolic (actions, rituals, ceremonies, artefacts) and the spiritual dimensions. Through Baptism, the child has the right to receive and participate fully in all other sacraments and in the full life of the Church.


This is a very long rite. After prayers and blessing of the oil of catechumens, the priest anoints the forehead, breast, hands and back of the child. Then there is an exorcism, renunciation and profession of faith by the godparents. The water is blessed at great length. Three lessons and a Gospel passage are read and prayers for the sick, dead, family and friends are included. A little oil of catechumens is poured into the water three times and it is breathed upon cross-wise each time. Then the two godparents bring the child ‘from the west to the east over the Jordan’ (the font), and the priest immerses the child in the water three times saying, ‘N —— , I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’

After the ceremony, advice is given to the godparents and grandparents to care for and watch over the child. The priest then places a white stole on the child, tying it from the right shoulder to the waist, and processes with the child three times around the church and three times around the altar. Children follow with two candles and the cross. This expresses the rejoicing of the Church that this child has joined the Church.


Confirmation follows Baptism immediately. It is a separate ceremony. The child is anointed with chrism on the forehead, mouth and heart in such a way as to make thirty-six anointings, with varying prayers. This symbolises that the child is being protected from evil.


Around the age of 12 the child receives the sacrament of Penance. Before this time, preparation is undertaken for approximately six months. Each Sunday the child goes to Sunday school for instruction.

Absolution is given in a long prayer. The first part of this prayer asks Christ’s forgiveness. The second part is an invocation of forgiveness from the Blessed Trinity, through the Church. The penitent says, ‘I have sinned; absolve me’, to which the priest replies, ‘Be absolved by the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and through the mouth of my weak self’.

The administration of this sacrament is less formal than in the Latin Rite. There are no set times, and people can request the sacrament before the Divine Liturgy on Sunday or at any time during the year. The ceremony takes place in a confessional room.


Communion is received under both species. The words of ministration are, ‘This is in truth the Body and Blood of Emmanuel our God’. The receiver answers, ‘Amen’. The Eucharist is given to children at Baptism. One family elects to prepare the bread for the Eucharist for each Sunday. Five or seven loaves are prepared and baked at home on the day of the Divine Liturgy. Special prayers are said. The loaves are round in shape and about the size of a saucer. Each one is stamped with a Coptic Cross. The priest selects one loaf for the Eucharist which is blessed and broken during Divine Liturgy. Communicants stand in a line in front of the altar. The bread is dipped into the chalice and placed directly into the communicant’s mouth. At Beptism, the child receives the Blood of Christ from the priest’s index finger which is dipped into the chalice. They receive the Body of Christ for the first time at around 10 years-of-age when they make their First Solemn Communion. Communion is not given in the hand. Communicants pass a plate to one another which is held under the chin to receive Communion.

Altar boys, carrying lighted candles, stand each side of the priest as he administers Communion. Following Communion the altar boys cut up the other loaves. Pieces are given out to the congregation and these are consumed before they leave the church.


Marriage has two parts: the betrothal and the crowning.

In the betrothal ceremony the priest anoints both parties on the head and the wrists. The rite is conducted by exhortations and broken up by antiphons sung by the choir. The betrothal has special prayers which are said. The priest asks the young man if he would accept the young lady to be his fiancé. On acceptance, the priest asks the young lady the same question. (This procedure is regarded as an announcement to the people present and the Church that the couple is engaged.) After this there is a reception where the families celebrate the engagement.

The marriage ceremony has special prayers which are different from the engagement prayers. During the ceremony the priest anoints with oil the forehead, wrists and front of the neck of the bride and the bridegroom. After this, there is a small homily and wedding vows are exchanged by the bride and groom. Then the rings are changed from the right hands, on which they were placed at the engagement, to the left hands. This signifies that the rings are now closer to the heart.

Holy Orders

The orders are: reader, sub-deacon, deacon, priest, bishop, Patriarch and Pope. Readers, sub-deacons and deacons all provide altar service throughout the Divine Liturgy. They undertake the readings and carry candles during the reading of the Bible and during Communion. They carry candles, crosses and pictures during processions. Readers, sub-deacons and deacons are not permitted to distribute communion.

Anointing of the Sick

The priest puts oil in a plate with three or seven candles. A prayer is said over each candle. Once the prayers are concluded, the priest uses the oil to anoint the sick person on the forehead, wrists and front of the neck. The remainder of the oil remains in the house to be used in future events. The priest also prays over water, and blesses the house with the holy water. Finally, the priest offers the sick person communion.


The Maronite Church of Antioch, Liturgical family: Antiochene

1. Cultural Background of Adherents

Countries of origin and history of migration to Australia

The first migrants came to Australia in the 1880s. The first Maronite priest came to Sydney in 1895 and established a Church in Redfern – St Maron’s. Few families migrated to Australia before the Second World War.

The second wave of migration took place after the Second World War. This brought whole families from the north of Lebanon and new parishes were established in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. The Melbourne parish was established in 1955 by Monsignor Paul El-Koury, the first parish priest. In 1974, the Maronite Diocese in Australia was formed with the appointment of Archbishop Abdo Khalife as Maronite Bishop of Australia. He was appointed by Pope Paul VI.

Due to the civil war in Lebanon, that began in 1975, a third wave of Lebanese migrants came to  Australia. During this time, religious orders of Maronite priests and nuns have been established throughout Australia.

Most of the new arrivals to the Maronite parish are from Lebanon, though some are from Syria, Egypt and parts of the Middle East.

The language used in the Liturgy

The liturgical language of the Maronite Church is Aramaic, a language that is now used a few parts of the  liturgy. The main language of the Maronite Church  is Arabic, but  in Australia, English has become the main language for Liturgy.

2. Liturgical Seasons

The beginning of the liturgical year in the Maronite Church occurs on the first Sunday of November and is marked by ‘the consecration and renewal of the Church’.

The Season of the Glorious Birth of the Lord

This is a season of preparation for the birth of Christ which includes:
1. Renewal and consecration of the Church
2. Announcement to Zachariah
3. Announcement to the Virgin Mary
4. Visitation to Elizabeth
5. Birth of John the Baptist
6. Revelation to Joseph
7. Genealogy Sunday
8. Glorious Birth of the Lord
9. Finding of the Lord in the Temple
10. New Year’s Day – World Day of Peace

The Season of Epiphany

This season commemorates the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The Syriac word for epiphany is ‘Denho’. It has the same meaning as apparition and manifestation. It celebrates the betrothal between Christ and his people and is seen as a ‘new passage’. It is the passage through water for a new people (the Church) toward a new promised land (the Kingdom). The season begins on January 6. Its duration varies from four to seven weeks according to the date of Easter each year. The weeks include: Epiphany, Sunday of the Priests, Sunday of the Righteous and the Just, and Sunday of the Faithful Departed. On the Epiphany, people bring bottles of water to the church for a blessing ceremony during the liturgy. Many children are baptised and confirmed on this day. Parishioners’ homes are usually blessed during this season.

The Season of the Great Fast (Lent and Holy Week)

This season begins on Ash Monday and calls Christians to repentance through prayer, fasting and abstinence and acts of charity. Fasting usually lasts until midday each day in Lent. It means no food or drink until 12 noon unless one is sick. Many people also give up meat, dairy products, and food cooked in oil. The season is marked by a special call to prayer which includes the Stations of the Cross, special Lenten devotions, special hymns and prayers in the liturgy, and the celebration of the Mystery of Reconciliation. The Sundays are: Cana Sunday, Sunday of the Man with Leprosy, Sunday of the Haemorrhaging Woman, Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Sunday of the Man who was Paralysed and Sunday of the  Blind. The season of the Great Fast culminates in Holy Week. Holy Week is characterised by solemn chants and processions during the liturgy. Each of the following days has a specific focus:

Hosanna Sunday (Palm Sunday) celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. This is a special children’s day. All children carry candles or olive branches, and are led in procession around the church by their parents or godparents. It marks the beginning of Hosanna Week.

Thursday of Mysteries (Holy Thursday) commemorates the Last Supper and the washing of the feet of the disciples.

Great Friday (Good Friday) the liturgy incorporates the Adoration of the Cross and the Liturgy of the Burial of the Lord. People bring flowers to the service as they would to a funeral, and ladies generally wear black. The ceremony incorporates prayers, readings, a procession, the burial and the Adoration of the Cross. Special food is prepared for meals on Good Friday.

The Season of Resurrection and Pentecost

This season celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus and the new life gained through it.
It begins with the Easter Vigil. It is a time of great rejoicing and includes special music and hymns in the liturgy. The Cross, buried in the flowers brought for Great Friday, is carried in a procession in the church during the Easter Vigil liturgy. The ritual of removing the Cross from its burial place symbolises resurrection and the empty tomb. The flowers from Great Friday are distributed to the people. The celebration marks the end of the fast.

Ascension Thursday is celebrated forty days after the Resurrection.

The feast of Pentecost completes the Easter celebration of new life in the spirit and water is blessed to symbolise this new life. The ceremony recalls the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The water is used by people to bless themselves and their homes.

The Season of Pentecost

This season celebrates the establishment of the Church. It commemorates the missionary activity of the apostles and the teachings of the prophets. It includes: Trinity Sunday; Memorials of the Lord’s Resurrection; Angels; Prophets, the Just, and Confessors; Bishops, Priests, Doctors and Monks; the Virgin Mary, Mother of God; the Faithful Departed; the Apostles Peter and Paul; the Twelve Apostles; the Transfiguration; the Assumption.

The Season of the Exaltation of the Life-giving Cross

In this season we celebrate and remember that through the life-giving Cross, Jesus saved all people and overcame darkness by spreading light over the world.
This season begins on September 14th and concludes the liturgical year during the last week of October.

3. Significant Feast Days and Holy Days of Obligation

The following are some of the significant days for Maronite Catholics:

  • Baptism of Jesus January 6
  • St Joseph – March 19
  • St Maron – February 9
  • St John Maron – March 2
  • Saint Rafka –  March 23
  • St Charbel – 3rd Sunday in July
  • Transfiguration – August 6
  • Saint Nemtallah –  December 14

Feast Days for the Maronite Parish in Victoria

In Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite parish, the main parish celebration is the feast of the Assumption on August 15th. There is a nine-day preparation for this feast which includes fasting. The celebration is usually the main Sunday liturgy followed by a parish luncheon. St Charbel is a significant feast day for Maronites, especially the Lebanese. It is celebrated on the third Sunday of July. St Maron is the patron.

Orders of Priests and Nuns

The Maronite Rite has many Orders of priests and Nuns.  In Melbourne  The Antonine Order is represented  by the Antonine Sisters who came to work in the Parish in 1980.  The Sisters run the Child Care Centre, Antonine College and Saint Paul’s Hostel.  The Antonine Monks arrived in1998 and  they minister in the Parish with Diocesan Clergy.

In Sydney The Lebanese Maronite Order, The Lebanese Missionary Order
(Kreimists), and the Holy Family Sisters work in different Parishes and Offer different ministries.

4. The Reception of Mysteries (Sacraments)

Initiation Mysteries


Through the Mystery of Baptism a person is washed clean of Adam’s sin and becomes part of the priestly community, a child of God, brother of Jesus, temple of the Holy Spirit, and a sharer in the divine life.

Chrismation ( Confirmation)

The celebration of the Mystery of Chrismation seals the call to life for, in and through Christ, and intensifies what Baptism begins. This mystery is administered at Baptism.


The Eucharist is the centre of life and source of nourishment for all Christians. It is a means of power to witness, worship God and serve others. It helps the initiated Christian reach the promised glory and is the sign and cause of unity. Baptism begins the process of divinisation, Chrismation perfects it and Eucharist fulfils it.

Healing Mysteries


This mystery has a communal aspect since the healing of the Church occurs through the reconciliation of its individual members. The penitent confesses sins, receives absolution, forgiveness and spiritual healing. Then penance is given.

Anointing of the Sick

This mystery is given when a Christian is seriously ill. The Divine Physician (Jesus) is called upon to heal, forgive and restore the sick person.

Commitment Mysteries


This mystery unites a man and a woman in the sacred union of love. It establishes a life-long covenant and intimate relationship between the couple and Christ, the Bridegroom.

Holy Orders

The mystery of Holy Orders manifests a continuation of the divine priesthood of Christ. Its goals are to serve at the altar, administer the mysteries and to build the Church.


The Greek Melkite Catholic Church of Antioch, Liturgical Family: Constantinople

1. Cultural Background of Adherents

Countries of origin and history of migration to Australia

Members of the Melkite community are mainly from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, the Holy Land, Jordan and Iraq. The majority of the Melkite community resides in Sydney and in Melbourne. The Head of the Eparchy is Located in NSW. The other parishes are in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide and Canberra.

The Melkite presence in Australia began in 1896 when a priest of the Eastern Rite, Archimandrite Silwanos Mansour, was sent to Sydney. He set to work immediately and established the Church of St Michael in Redfern.

In Melbourne, the Melkite-Greek Catholic faithful depended on a Maronite priest, Monsignor Paul Al-Khoury, for their spiritual needs until 1972. It was then that, at their own request, the Patriarch sent them a Melkite priest – Archimandrite Joseph Awaad. After his arrival in 1972, he and his parishioners made great efforts to establish a church for the community. The church of St Joseph was inaugurated in 1976 by Archbishop Francis Little, then Archbishop of Melbourne, and a strong supporter of the Melkites.

The language used in the Liturgy

In liturgical celebrations, formal Arabic, which is different from the dialects spoken in homes, and Greek are used. While the liturgical language of the Melkite Church is Greek, it is only used in a few parts of the liturgy. The use of Greek in the liturgy is informal and the parts sung in Greek are chosen by either the priest or the choir.

2. Liturgical Seasons

The Season of Easter

On Palm Sunday parents usually buy candles for their children to carry in the processions. Traditionally, the candles match the height of the child. Children dress up and walk in procession with the priest who carries an icon of Christ. Adults carry palm branches symbolising the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Special crosses are made from the palms. These are blessed and distributed to the people.

The focus of the ceremonies on Holy Thursday is the crucifixion of Christ. Sunset on Thursday night traditionally marks the beginning of Good Friday. Twelve children are chosen to have their feet washed by the bishop or priest. This is followed by a celebration of the Divine Liturgy during which all the elements of the Eucharist are consumed. This is to signify that Christ is no longer present. The liturgy is followed by the service of the Twelve Gospels during which the lights of the Church are turned out. Candles are lit and the priest carries a crucifix three times around the inside of the church. The crucifix is then placed on a special stand shaped like the hill of Golgotha. The lights are turned on and the people come up and bow before the crucifix and kiss the feet of the image of Christ.

The focus of the ceremonies on Good Friday is the burial of Christ, which is re-enacted by the priest and people. A crucifix is placed in a special casket which is filled with flowers and surrounded by candles. Four eminent men from the parish are chosen to carry the casket at the end of the service. It is carried around the inside and then the outside of the church. Once it is brought back into the church, the people come up and kiss the crucifix and take a flower. A special stand is placed in front of the altar screen doors (iconostasis). All the chalices and patens are placed there (empty) to again symbolise that Christ is no longer present.

The focus of the ceremonies on Easter Saturday is the bringing forth of the light as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. The ceremonies begin at around 11 p.m. and the focus of the prayers is on the coming of Christ back from Hades. The lights of the church are extinguished and the priest takes a candle which symbolises the light of Christ. Everyone lights their own candles inside the church and then they process outside. The congregation and priest turn and face the main doors of the church, which symbolise the gates of Heaven and the saints and prophets who died before Christ. The priest knocks on the door and a person inside the church asks three times, ‘Who is the King of Glory?’ The doors are opened and the priest and people process inside carrying their candles. The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is then celebrated at midnight. After the liturgy, eggs are given to the worshippers to break. This symbolises Christ coming out of the tomb. People carry their Easter candle home without extinguishing the flame (if possible).

3. Significant Feast Days and Holy Days of Obligation

The following are some of the significant days for Melkite Catholics:

St Joseph is the patron saint of the parish in Fairfield. The feast day falls on the first Sunday after Christmas Day but it is celebrated on March 19. The main celebration is the Divine Liturgy. This is usually celebrated by the bishop. An annual parish social follows (usually in the form of a barbecue).

Another significant day is that of Ss Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the parish at Hampton Park. This feast occurs on June 29. St Peter was the founder of the Church at Antioch before he went to Rome. The Melkite Church traces its historical development through the Antiochian Church. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated by the bishop to mark this parish feast and a social function for parishioners follows.

The feast of St Barbara is on December 4. She was one of the last female martyrs of the Church before the Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity. On this day, children wear masks to the church where vespers is said on the evening of the feast. Following the service, the people eat a meal of boiled wheat. Before the meal, the story of St Barbara is told. The sweetened, boiled wheat is prepared and brought into the church. The wheat represents the Christian saints who died before their spiritual fruits were of benefit to others or themselves. The meal of grains of wheat also represents death and the expectation of new life. The beauty of St Barbara is represented through the sweetening of the wheat. She was famous for her beautiful eyes and on this day young girls highlight their own eyes using make-up.

4. Reception of Mysteries (Sacraments)

All mysteries, except Holy Orders and first Solemn Communion, are administered outside of the Divine Liturgy.

Baptism and Chrismation

The Melkite Church has three ceremonies connected with childbirth:
i) the blessing of the new born baby;
ii) the naming of a child on the eighth day (which takes place at home);
iii) the presentation, when the child is brought to the church for the first time.

These mysteries are received at approximately 3–4 months of age. Parents are asked to bring a new bar of soap, white clothes, two large towels and a washer to the church as preparation for the mystery. On the day of the mystery, the priest speaks about the significance of Baptism and the duties of the godparents. Then the ceremony takes place. Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist as Mysteries of Initiation are administered at the same time, as was the practice of the early Church. The person, therefore, is initiated into the fullness of the life of Christ.

Baptism is administered either through immersion or by pouring water on the head of the child who sits in the font. The Mystery of Chrismation is administered by anointing the child with chrism. After Chrismation the child is washed with soap and water as it would be after birth. This is to symbolise its new birth into the Church. The priest blesses the new clothes and touches the child with them. The child is dressed and those present light candles for the procession. A special baptismal candle is decorated with material in either blue (for boys) or pink (for girls). The child is carried in procession around the church. In the centre of the church the priest reads the Epistle and Gospel. The child is given Communion for the first time. This is done by the priest dipping his finger into the Blood of Christ and placing it in the child’s mouth. A traditional gift, given to the child on this occasion, is an icon of the saint after whom he or she is named. Melkite Catholics encourage families to celebrate the baptismal day rather than the actual birthday.

There are different groups of Catholic. Melkites are just one group. Our religion is very important to our family.(Sam)


This mystery is received at around 7 or 8 years-of-age before the celebration of the First Solemn Communion. The preparation for this mystery begins with the school year when children attend Saturday school. Instruction continues after First Solemn Communion. Traditionally, the Mystery of Reconciliation is administered during the fasting periods of the liturgical year. The focus is on the penitent confessing sins to Christ through the medium of the Church. The emphasis within this mystery is on healing and repentance. Through this mystery the penitent is restored to a state of friendship with Christ. This mystery is received either in a confessional room or in front of the icon of Christ on the iconostasis.

First Solemn Communion

While children may receive the Eucharist regularly after Baptism, a special ceremony is held when the child is approximately 7 or 8 to celebrate the First Solemn Communion. Once children have made their First Solemn Communion, they approach the reception of Communion based on their own conscience rather than on the faith of their family. Before receiving Communion, during a celebration of the Divine Liturgy, the children recite as a group special prayers. They receive Communion first and on their own. Children traditionally wear a white dress and veil or a new suit. Following the liturgy, the children receive a certificate of First Solemn Communion and a gift, such as an icon, to mark the occasion.

Holy Orders

In the Melkite Church, priests train under the direction of the Melkite bishop. In Australia, candidates study in the Roman Catholic seminary as private students. Selected subjects are taken by the students. Practice and experience in rituals and tradition are under the direction of the bishop and may occur in Australia or overseas. Learning Arabic is an important part of the study.

In the Melkite Church there are three categories of holy orders: bishop, priest and deacon. Other ministries, such as cantor and reader, are conferred through ceremonies of blessing. These ministries are designed to enhance liturgies and worship. Eastern Churches ordain married men to the priesthood. However, bishops are chosen from unmarried priests. The ordination ceremony, which includes the laying on of hands by the bishop, takes place during the liturgy. The bishop places the Body of Christ in the candidate’s hand as a symbol of service to the people. The new priest is vested during the ordination. He is ordained into the community which he serves. A procession moves around the altar with two priests leading the candidate by his shoulders. This is a reminder of early Christian times when people were led to be sacrificed.

Crowning (Marriage)

The focus in this mystery is on the sanctification of the union of a man and a woman in marriage. The Mystery of Crowning does not take place within a Mass or liturgy. The ceremony consists of two services:

Ceremony of betrothal: The priest meets the couple at the door of the church and betroths the couple to each other. Candles are given to the wedding party and they are led down the nave of the church. Rings are exchanged three times between the bride and bridegroom.

Ceremony of crowning: This takes place in front of the iconostasis. The actual crowning occurs at the end of the service. The crown symbolises that both partners are heads of their house and are called to rule wisely, with justice and integrity. The crowning is followed by the reading of the wedding at Cana. Wine is then offered to the couple symbolising the ‘common cup’ of life. The priest then leads the couple around the altar, symbolising the start of their marriage journey. The gospel book is placed on the altar, symbolising that Jesus is the centre of their married life. After the final blessing the couple leave the church.

Anointing of the Sick

This mystery is administered for spiritual or physical illnesses. The anointing symbolises the person being buried and rising with Christ. This is not considered to be a last rite in the Melkite Church. The focus is on reflecting on our infirmities (spiritual or physical) and on the healing power of Christ. The priest prays, hears confession and distributes Communion. Traditionally, this ceremony is held on the Wednesday in Great Week. A floating wick in a bowl of olive oil is lit with each prayer. The oil is mixed with wine. At the end of the service the priest anoints the people with oil, in the form of a cross, on the forehead, the back of both hands, and sometimes on the cheeks. The gospel book is held over the person’s head as a sign of the power of Christ who strengthens us when we are ill. Left-over oil is often taken home to use in times of illness. Families prepare a table covered with a suitable cloth, an icon or cross, and a candle. Oil and wine are placed in a bowl on the table.


The Russian Catholic Church, Liturgical Family: Constantinople

1. Cultural Background of Believers

Origin and history of the Russian Catholics

The Russian Catholic Church understands itself to be the Russian Orthodox Church in communion with Peter’s Chair at Rome. As a movement the Russian Catholic Church began in the middle of the 19th Century when some eminent orthodox laymen and clergy felt the need for communion with the Universal Church.

Most Russians in Australia come from Harbin in Chinese Manchuria and from continental Russia. Many of the older people in the present congregation arrived after the Second World War, having lived in refugee camps in Italy, Germany and Austria. Political and religious influences operating against the Church and people have remained the main reason for migration. A small number migrated in the late 1960s and in the following decade. Since perestroika the early 1980s many people have migrated from Russia. Most now live in the large cities on our eastern coast.

The language used by the people

Old, or Church Slavonic, is the liturgical language of the Russian Church used during the divine liturgy, the Sacraments and other Church services. Outside Russia the local language is interspersed with the Slavonic. In the Melbourne Church, one Sunday per month is entirely in English. The use of English must grow if present and future generations are to understand the tradition.

2. Liturgical Seasons

The Russian Catholic Church has four penitential or fasting seasons during the liturgical year during which abstinence from meat and dairy foods is recommended. The Church discourages parties, balls, weddings or theatre attendance during these penitential times. The longest period of penitence is Great Lent which leads to the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter. There is a three-week fast leading to Christmas and two shorter periods before the feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the end of June and the Dormition of Our Lady in August.

The Season of Lent

Easter is preceded by a period of four weeks of fasting and five of the Sundays of Lent are celebrated with particular devotion but the Sunday before Lent begins is especially moving. This is called Forgiveness Sunday following Jesus’ injunction in Matthew 5:24, ‘Leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother and sister and then come and offer your gift.’ Beginning with the priest, one by one we ask of all the people present their forgiveness for anything we may have done or said that has hurt, scandalised or offended them during the year. This is done face to face and with a holy kiss.

The Church moves towards Lent gradually over four Sundays. The first is the Sunday which celebrates repentance in the story of the Publican and the Pharisee and the second the theme of forgiveness in the story of the Prodigal Son. The next Sunday is called Meatfare Sunday when abstinence from eating meat begins. The next is Cheesefare Sunday after which dairy products are removed from the diet.

Like Western Christians the Russian Church has a Pancake day, in fact a Pancake Week which occurs between Meatfare and Cheesefare. During this week pancakes are eaten with honey, cream, caviar or herring.

During Great Lent people are encouraged to make regular confession of their sins and to receive Communion more frequently. In parishes the Divine Liturgy (Mass) is only celebrated on Sundays during Lent unless a great feastday occurs during the week. This may seem very strange to Western Christians for whom daily Mass is the usual. But the Eastern practice is very ancient. On Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent, the Church celebrates what is called the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified. This is a very beautiful service and it is a surprise to learn that it is attributed to St Gregory the Great. These services are very beautiful, particularly because of the singing. The people love to pray the Repentance Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian and to make the many prostrations (metanies) that punctuate the service. This service is best celebrated in the early evening because its structure is a combination of Evening Prayer and a Communion service. As in the West, the liturgical colours are sombre and range from black and red to purple.

Great Week (Holy Week)

Pussy Willow Sunday (Palm Sunday) marks the beginning of Holy Week. Pussy willows are used because their white buds are the first signs of new life to appear after the harsh Russian winter. On the eve of Pussy Willow Sunday, the branches are blessed and distributed to the people who hold them throughout the Divine Liturgy. It is a day of joy and triumph.

The morning of Great Thursday resembles that of the Western Church. There is a mandatum in the morning, the ceremony of the washing of the feet. Twelve men take part in this ceremony if a bishop is able to preside. The Divine Liturgy also takes place in the morning, and in the evening the Service of the Twelve Gospels of the Passion are read. These twelve readings weave together the story of the Passion as it is found in all four Gospels. The great cross is placed in the centre of the church. Standing in front of the cross the Gospels are read with much incensing and the singing of odes and poems between the readings.

The morning of Great Friday sees the reading of what is called the Royal Hours. The First of these readings and prayers (or Hours) begins around 6am in the morning, the Third occurs around 9am, the Sixth at noon and the Ninth in mid afternoon.

Great Vespers of Great Friday begin in the early evening when the epitaphios, a painted cloth bearing the image of the laying of Jesus in the tomb, is placed before the great cross in the centre of the church. Vespers is followed by the Office of matins which includes the Lamentations of Our Lady (like mourning at a funeral). Ideally this should be done by the women. Great Friday Matins is a burial service during which the epitaphiosis carried around the church three times before it is placed before the cross.

On the morning of Great Saturday, the Office recites fifteen prophesies, and an epistle and gospel. All the readings look forward to the Resurrection of Our Lord. Even at this point the light of Easter is beginning to dawn. The prophesies and readings are followed by the Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great. Throughout Great Saturday the people come to kiss the image of Jesus and place flowers on the tomb. The afternoon is spent decorating the church with flowers and bright colours. At half and hour before midnight there is a short service outside the closed doors of the darkened church. The church in darkness represents the descent of Our Lord into Hades. At midnight the doors are flung open when the priest intones, ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.’ The lights of the church are turned on, representing the resurrection. The tomb is now put aside and the epitaphios is placed on the altar. The Holy Eucharist is celebrated on the epitaphios until the Feast of the Ascension.

The first part of the Easter service is the Matins of the Resurrection composed by St John of Damascus. During the service the people and the church are incensed many times by the priest and deacon carrying a triple candle and proclaiming, ‘Christ is risen!’ The people respond, ‘Indeed he is risen!’ This becomes the daily greeting of Russian Catholics until the Ascension. At the end of Matins and before the commencement of the Divine Liturgy, the people exchange a holy kiss with the clergy and each other. It is a sign of Easter joy and celebration. The coloured Easter eggs and Easter foods are then blessed and the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom begins. After Easter the priest blesses the people’s homes by singing the Easter hymns with the family.

The Ascension and Pentecost

It may be a surprise to learn that the colour chosen for the celebration of Pentecost is green! This contrasts to the Western Church’s use of the colour red which represents the power of the purifying Spirit of God. The Eastern Church’s use of green is celebrating the Holy Spirit as the giver of life and all growth. On Pentecost Sunday the Church is decorated with grasses, flowers and plants.

The Christmas Fast

This season commences on 27 November after the feast of St Philip and concludes on Christmas Day. However this is not an Advent in quite the same way as the Western Church celebrates it. The Christmas Fast is much the same as for Great Lent but not quite so strict. Christmas Day is celebrated on 25 December but it must be remembered that the Russian Church follows the Julian calendar. Consequently, 25 December is actually 7 January. On Christmas Eve there is a solemn service of Compline which is followed by a meatless supper. On Christmas morning however, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated and the dinner to follow breaks the fast. Christmas trees are decorated and gifts are exchanged on Christmas night. During this joyous season, the priest, as he did at Easter, visits the people’s homes and blesses them singing the Christmas hymns.

Theophany or Epiphany

In the Russian Church, and all the Churches of the Byzantine Tradition, the Feast of the Theophany celebrates the Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan. This was also the case in the West and was linked to the coming of the Magi. Over time the Coming of the Magi came to overshadow the celebration of the Jordan Baptism. In the East, Theophany or Epiphany remains a celebration of the revelation of the Holy Trinity in the Baptism of the Divine Man, Jesus. On the eve of Theophany, the Church blesses the waters which the people then take home to bless their houses. Once more, as at Christmas and Easter, the clergy visit the people’s homes and bless them with the waters and the hymns of the Theophany.

3. Significant Feast Days

The following are some of the significant days for Russian Catholics:

Feast of St Basil – 1 January

Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple – 2 February

St Nicholas – 9 May, perhaps the most popular saint in the East and the patron of the Melbourne community. This day celebrates the transfer of his relics from Myra to Bari in ItalyFeast of Ss Peter and Paul

St Nicholas – 6 December. There is a special service on this day.

Feast of Ss Peter and Paul – 29 June

Pokrov, or the Universal Protection of Our Lady – 1 October. On this day the church colours are changed to white or blue. It must be emphasised that all feast days for Our Lady are of great importance in the East. It should be noted that many of the great Marian feastdays originated in the East and were later gifted to the Western Church.

4. Reception of Mysteries (Sacraments)

Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation)

If a child is to be baptised, it usually takes place in the first three or four weeks of life, though, in many Byzantine Churches, children may be anything up to one or two years old before they are baptised.

When the mother brings her child to be baptised, she is met at the entrance to the church where special prayers are offered, celebrating her motherhood and welcoming her back into the community after childbirth. Ideally, this service at the entrance to the church should take place separately from Baptism. It is really the ‘Churching’ of a new mother with child during which the mother is blessed and the child presented to the Lord and the Blessed Mother. The baby is even taken into the sanctuary during the service, a symbol that their final destination is communion with their God in the heavenly places.

Baptism consists of two parts. The first is a service that telescopes the catechumenate into one liturgical event. The second is the baptismal service itself. Baptism is always by total immersion and the newly baptised is clothed in a white garment as a sign of new life. Chrismation, or Confirmation, the Holy Spirit’s moment in and sealing of Baptism, follows immediately. The newly baptised is anointed with holy Myron or Chrism on the forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, chest, hands and feet. If the newly baptised is a baby or child, Holy Communion is given in the form of the Precious Blood. On being baptised the new Christian is led around the baptismal font three times, while the priest and people sing, ‘Everyone baptised in Christ has put on Christ. Alleluia!’

The Mystery of Forgiveness (Penance)

Children are encouraged to receive this mystery from around 7 years-of-age onward. There is no formal preparation for the Sacrament, but individual instruction may be given depending on the child. The Eastern Church does not use a confessional room, though this has infiltrated some churches in the diaspora. It is an unfortunate development which detracts from the liturgical-ecclesial dimension of the Sacrament. The mystery of forgiveness is a Sacrament to be celebrated. To come to Confession, the penitent takes their place before a lectern on which is found the Holy Cross and a Book of the Gospels. When a person stands at this place, it is the sign that they wish to confess. Seeing this, the priest will come and stand at their side. The penitent confesses his/her sins and the priest pronounces absolution while placing his stole on the bowed head of the penitent. The Eastern Church uses a more deprecatory form of absolution, avoiding the phrase, ‘I absolve you…’ Declaring himself also to be a sinner, the priest says, ‘The servant of God, (N.) is absolved’, emphasising that forgiveness flows from God.

Solemn Communion

Holy Communion is received for the first time at Baptism and regularly from then on. However, in the case of children, they often receive a Solemn Communion after 7 years-of-age. This is a Western innovation that has crept in to some Eastern Churches and justified as a first conscious reception of Communion. There are no special clothes, ceremonies or celebrations on such occasions.

Holy Matrimony

The celebration of Holy Matrimony is one of the liturgical jewels of the Russian Church. This mystery consists of two parts. The first is the betrothal service which, ideally should be celebrated separately from the marriage service or the crowning. The betrothal service, during which rings are blessed and exchanged, is in fact the liturgical expression of the couple’s engagement. Most usually the betrothal service occurs at the entrance of the church immediately before the wedding or crowning. During the wedding ceremony the bride and bridegroom are crowned. The couple drink from a common cup of wine symbolising their communion with each other in Christ. Originally the marriage service was followed by the celebration of a nuptial Eucharist. The common cup is a relic of that ancient practice. The wedding service takes place before an icon of Our Lord or Our Lady which is placed on a stand at the front of the church. The crowned couple are led in a sacred procession or dance three times around the icon, while the verses from the prophet Isaiah are sung, ‘behold the virgin is with child and will bear a son.’ Finally, the couple then stand before the holy doors and are greeted and congratulated by the congregation.

Holy Orders

The major clerical orders in the Eastern Church are those of deacon, priest and bishop. The Eastern Church still maintains what are called the minor orders, the most important of which is sub-deacon. The sub-deacon assists the priest during the services with such things as incense and candles. The deacon’s role in the Holy Liturgy is particularly important, being the link between the people and the sanctuary. Deacons, priests and bishops are ordained during Divine Liturgy by the laying on of hands by the bishop. The East does not have married priests, rather married men may be ordained priest, but priests and deacons may not marry after their ordination. This is an ancient rule. Bishops are usually chosen from monks or unmarried clergy.

Anointing of the Sick

This mystery is received when a person is ill and in need of Divine healing and consolation. In emergency circumstances, a short form of the Sacrament can be used, but normally the Holy Anointing is preceded by litanies, prayers and Scripture readings. If possible, the priest hears the sick person’s confession and administers Holy Communion.


The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Liturgical Family: Constantinopl

  1. Cultural Background of Adherents

Country of origin and history of migration to Australia

Ukrainians began emigrating from Germany and Austria from 1948–1951 (many of these were born in Ukraine). A large number of Ukrainians born in Yugoslavia migrated to Italy after World War II and in the early fifties came to Australia. During the 1950s and 1960s, some Ukrainians came from Poland. A new immigration arrived from former Yugoslavia in the 1970s and some have arrived very recently. After the fall of Communism some people have migrated from Ukraine.

In 1949, Fr D. Kachmar and Fr P. Smal, both married clergy, came from Ukraine to provide pastoral and spiritual care for the faithful. The Redemptorist Fathers had a very important role in the spiritual formation of Ukrainian Catholics in Australia. In the 1950s, Fr Mykola Kopyakiwsky CSsR, Fr F. Bosko CSsR and Fr S. Maslo CSsR came from Canada. Latin-Rite Australian Redemptorists, Fr Bowden and Fr E. Morrison, studied the Rite and the Ukrainian language in order to serve the Ukrainian people.

Most of the eparchial clergy came from Rome or other parts of Europe, but their roots were in Ukraine. For example, in 1950, Fr Ivan Prasko came to Australia, and from 1958–1993 served as bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. In the early fifties other clergy arrived. In 1993, Fr Peter Stasiuk CSsR, from Canada, was appointed Bishop of Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania and from July 2021, Bishop Mykola Bychok CSsR became the third Bishop. Today the Eparchy have Priests (Clergy) from Ukraine, Yugoslavia as well as a number of the priests which are Australian born. Presently there are ten parishes and several missions in the eparchy.

Two communities of Sisters serve the people in a variety of apostolic works. The Sisters of the Order of St Basil the Great came to Australia in 1967 from Argentina. In 1994, sisters from the Congregation of the Servants of Mary Immaculate came to Australia from Canada.


The language used in the Liturgy

The official language of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was old Slavonic but after the Second Vatican Council most prayers have been translated into Ukrainian which is used worldwide. In the countries outside of Ukraine, and according to needs, the language of the country is used. In Australia, Ukrainian or English is used in the liturgy.

The Christianisation of the Ukrainian people took place in 988. The faith and the Rite were officially received from Constantinople by Prince Volodymyr of Kyiv. The liturgical language did not remain Greek as did the Latin language in the Western Church. The language that was used in the liturgical worship was the language of the people, Old Slavonic. As the language of the country changed, however, the worship language remained Old Slavonic until Vatican II.

I am a Ukrainian Catholic. I belong to the Church in North Melbourne. My Church is different from other Churches I’ve been to with my school. We have a lot of special art called icons and our Divine Liturgy (Mass) is sung in our language. (George)


  1. Liturgical Seasons

A majority of the faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church follow the Julian calendar. The liturgical cycle for the Ukrainian Byzantine Rite begins September 1st which falls on September 14 according to the Gregorian calendar. This liturgical year was adopted by the Council in Nicea of 325 AD. On the first day of the liturgical year, the Church celebrates Jesus’ proclamation of the Lord’s year of favour (Lk.4:18–19) because the focal point of the year is the divine Saviour and around him are gathered all angels and saints. In the liturgical life of the Church, the Paschal Mystery is the centre of liturgical time. Here the events of salvation are made present and actual. In the Divine Services, the Church makes memorial of the saving mysteries of Jesus Christ. And while the Pascha of Christ persists in transient time, the divine worship of the Church exists in three cycles. These correspond to the three units of time—the daily, the weekly, the yearly.


The first cycle is the Daily Cycle—Horologion (Chasoslov)

The Lord God created the world in time, with an alternation of light and darkness—that is, day and night—as well as the seasons of the year: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Gn. 1:14). The sequence of night and day in the story of creation of the world is a sign of the creative act of God, who brought all from non-existence into existence. This is why, as a memorial of this act, the services of the daily cycle begin in the evening: “And there was evening and there was morning…”

Our Church’s daily cycle of prayer is built on the ideal of unceasing prayer, expressed in the biblical number seven. This number is a symbol of fullness and perfection. The Scriptures proclaim: “Seven times a day I praise you, for your righteous ordinances” (Ps.118[119]:164). Saint Basil the Great also exhorts us to such prayer: “Let it also be a rule for us, to praise God seven times a day.” The foundation of this rule of prayer is the Psalms. In Divine Services, these biblical Psalms are interspersed with other prayers: hymns, stichera, troparia, kontakia, prokeimena, litanies, etc. The services of the daily cycle—namely, Vespers, Compline, the Midnight Office, Matins, and the First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours, as well as the Service of Typica—all of these are found in the liturgical book called the Horologion (Chasoslov).


The second cycle is the Weekly Cycle (the Octoechos).

According to the Book of Genesis, during six days God did the work of creation, then “blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation” (Gn.2:3). Consequently, people also ordered their life according to a similar rhythm of seven days. Six days of the week they work, as God did. And then they set aside their cares to celebrate “the day of the Lord.”

The prayers and hymns of the weekly cycle are incorporated into the Divine Liturgy and the services of the daily cycle. These prayers are chanted according to one of the designated tones (in Greek, echos, meaning sound or echo), which occur in succession. The tradition of church singing according to eight tones flows from the Paschal event—the Eighth Day. The full cycle of eight tones lasts eight weeks. Collected together, the prayers of the eight tones comprise the liturgical book called the Octoechos (from the Greek meaning eight tones).


The third cycle is the Yearly Cycle of Services

The services of the liturgical year, or Church year, are built upon the immoveable and movable cycles. The former is linked to the fixed dates of the year, and the latter—to the movable date of Pascha. The liturgical year is joined to the astronomical year in such a way that the year is crowned with the goodness of God. This is accomplished by commemorating, rendering present, and experiencing all the major events of salvation history in the Divine Services.

The immoveable cycle of the Church Year begins on September 1; according to the Old (Julian) Calendar calculation, this occurs on September 14. The two calculations of the liturgical calendar (new and old) result from the fact that eventually it was noticed that every 128 years the civil calendar (in use since Julius Caesar) differed by one day from the actual astronomical cycles. In 1582, in order to renew the correspondence between the calendar year and the astronomical cycles, Gregory XIII, Pope of Rome, ordered a calendar reform, cancelling ten days from the calendar of the time. The reformed calendar was called the New or Gregorian calendar, while the unreformed remained the Old or Julian calendar. Since the time of the calendar reform, the difference between the two calendars has grown to thirteen days, and will continue to grow. A result of the different calculations is also the different dates for Pascha (Easter) and, consequently, of the feasts of the moveable cycle. Sometimes the date of Pascha coincides, but sometimes the difference between the Gregorian and Julian Calendar dates can reach five weeks.


The Movable Cycle (Lenten and Floral Triodia)

The centre and pivotal point of the liturgical year’s movable cycle of feasts is Pascha. The date of its celebration falls on the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox. This means that every year the date of Pascha will move, falling on different calendar dates. Thus, on the Gregorian calendar it can fall as early as March 22 and as late as April 25; and on the Julian calendar, as early as April 4 and as late as May 10. Accordingly, the dates of the beginning of Great Lent, and of the feasts of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem, Ascension, and Pentecost will also move. During this period, the Church accompanies the faithful with the services of the Lenten and Floral Triodia (from the Greek, meaning a three-canticle hymnic composition). The Lenten Triodion contains the services for the four Sundays before Great Lent and for Great Lent itself; the Floral Triodion for the period from Lazarus Saturday to the Sunday of All Saints. [The Floral Triodion is also called the Pentecostarion.]

The services of the Triodia guide the Christian liturgically from an awareness of their own sinfulness to a spiritual transfiguration. Great Lent is preceded by four preparatory Sundays: the Sunday of the Publican (Tax Collector) and the Pharisee; the Sunday of the Prodigal Son; Meatfare Sunday; and Cheesefare Sunday. As preparation for Great Lent, on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the Church calls us to imitate the humbleness of the Publican and shun the pride of the Pharisee. On the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Church points to the necessity of repentance as a return from the foreign land of sin to the Father’s home. On Meatfare Sunday, when the Gospel about the Divine Judgment is read (see Mt.25:31-46), the Church defines the aim of the coming Lenten fast: to recognize our sins, confess them, and perform works of mercy. On Cheesefare (or Forgiveness) Sunday the Church calls us to take the first step in repentance—mutual forgiveness.

During the Lenten fast, Christians practice restraint in eating, but this is not an aim in itself, only a means to cleanse ourselves of passions: “If you refrain from eating but do not purify yourself of the passions, then your fasting is in vain, for it will not serve for correction. Rather, through insincerity the soul will become similar to the evil demons, who in fact never eat.”


The Immovable Cycle of Feasts (the Menaion)

Another series of Church feasts—of the Lord, of the Mother of God, and of the saints—always falls on the same day of the year and they are thus called immovable (fixed) feasts. Chief among the fixed feasts of the Lord are the Birth (Nativity) of Christ (Christmas, December 25/January 7) and Theophany (January 6/19). Their meaning lies in the manifestation of Christ, the Light that overcomes the darkness of sin. On the second day of each of these feasts the Church celebrates the persons principally involved in the salvific events of Christ’s Birth and his Baptism in the River Jordan: the Synaxis of the most holy Mother of God and the Synaxis of John the Baptist, respectively (synaxis is a Greek word which means ‘gathering’ and refers to the fact that we gather for a Eucharist to celebrate their memorial). Moreover, linked to the Birth of Christ is the feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God (March 25/April 7), which is nine months before Christmas.

With particular love the Church venerates the most Blessed Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary. She is inseparably tied to the salvific work of her Son. In the course of the yearly cycle, besides the feasts of the Mother of God (the Encounter and the Annunciation), we celebrate her Nativity (September 8/21), her Entrance into the Temple (November 21/December 4), and her Dormition (August 15/28). The Nativity of the Mother of God is the beginning of our salvation, the Entrance is its proclamation, and her Dormition is a sign of its fulfilment.

Related to the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God is the feast of the Conception of Saint Anna when She Conceived the Most Holy Mother of God. This feast is also called the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Mother of God (December 9/22, nine months before her Nativity). Since in her Dormition the Mother of God “did not abandon the world,” her “standing before us in the Church” and her unfailing intercession for humankind before her Son are expressed in the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God (October 1/14). In the Dormition, the Mother of God was bodily taken up to heaven. However, she left us her precious relics—her robe and her sash—as “a powerful safeguard” for her faithful children. These relics are venerated in the feasts of the Placing of the Precious Robe of Our Most Holy Lady in the Church at Blachernae in Constantinople (July 2/15) and the Placing of the Precious Sash (August 31/September 13).

The Church also professes the Paschal mystery in the feasts of her saints, who suffered with Christ and with him were glorified. The Church offers the example of the lives of the saints to the faithful for imitation, in order to bring all to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. The liturgical commemoration of saints is effected in the services and in the veneration of their icons and their relics.

The date of the veneration of saints is usually the day of their death, that is, their birth to heaven. It can also be the day of the finding or transferral of their relics. Every day of the Church Year is dedicated to one or more particular saints. The liturgical services (hymnography) for the saints are collected month by month in twelve volumes called the Menaia (from the Greek, meaning monthly).


The Season of Christmas

Liturgically the Church re-creates the expectation of the Saviour in the history of salvation by means of the Fast that begins on November 15/28, the day after the feast of the apostle Philip. This Fast lasts until the Nativity of Christ, and is appropriately called the Nativity Fast, or popularly, Saint Philip’s Fast (in Ukrainian, Pilipivka). During the course of this Fast, the Church prepares us for the luminous feast of the Nativity of Christ, reminding us of the consequences of Adam’s sinful lack of self-control: “Refusing to fast, the first Adam tastes of the death-bearing tree.”

The Nativity of Christ

The Church celebrates the coming of the Son of God into the world with the feast of the Nativity of Christ. The birth of Christ is announced to the shepherds by the angel of the Lord: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Christ, the Lord” (Lk.2:11, rsv-ce). The Fathers of the Church extolled Christmas night as a day of joy and peace: Today the Bountiful One became poor for our sake… Today we receive a gift for which we did not ask… This present day threw open the heavenly door to our prayers… Now the Divine Being took upon himself the seal of humanity, in order for humanity to be decorated by the seal of Divinity.

In our Church’s tradition, the Eve of the Nativity feast, also called Holy Eve (in Ukrainian, Sviat Vechir), is honoured with particular solemnity. Every home becomes a Bethlehem of the family: the table symbolizes the manger; straw is placed under the tablecloth, and upon the tablecloth are placed the prosphora (Communion bread), a symbol of the Child Jesus. A lit candle is placed next to the prosphora to symbolize the star of Bethlehem. With a meatless supper, the family gathers around the table to prayerfully honour the incarnate Son of God. Christmas carols are sung by the faithful. In hospitality, homes open their doors to everyone who celebrates the Nativity of Christ. The high point of the celebration of the Nativity feast is the solemn divine service, for which all parishioners gather. The Eucharistic Supper at the Divine Liturgy crowns the family supper.


The Feast of Theophany (Epiphany)

The Theophany at the Jordan is liturgically connected with the feast of the Nativity. In her celebration of both these events, Church tradition emphasizes that both the Incarnation and the Baptism of the Lord are when God appears (in Greek, theophania). In accordance with the text of the Great Blessing of Water at Theophany, “in the preceding feast we have seen you as a babe, and in this present feast as perfect human, appearing as our perfect God.” At the Nativity, God the Word “was born,” but now he “appears in the flesh to the human race.” At the Nativity, the “Sun of Righteousness” rose, and now it “shines forth.” In the liturgical tradition of the Church, the feast of Theophany is also called the feast of Illumination. The sticheras of the feast of Theophany elucidate the bond between the feasts of the Nativity and Theophany: What was announced by the angel is now announced to the people by the Baptist; the spilling of infant blood caused Bethlehem to become childless, but through the sanctified waters of baptism, the Jordan now has many children. What was announced by the star to the magi in Bethlehem is now revealed to the world by the Father himself.

In the Ukrainian Christian tradition, the symbolism of Jordan water is closely connected with the memory of the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine  by Grand Prince Volodymyr. The river Dnipro, in which the people of Kyiv were baptized, is figuratively called the “Ukrainian Jordan.” On the feast of Theophany in Ukraine, an ice cross is erected as a sign and a memorial of baptism; during the Great Blessing of Water, three triple-branched candles are immersed into the waters. Bringing the holy water home, the faithful partake of it at the beginning of the Theophany Eve supper Shchedryi Vechir (Ukrainian, meaning Abundantly Generous Eve). They bless their homes and farms, and keep the water throughout the year to partake of it, and to bless themselves in times of difficulty and illness.


The Season of Lent and Pascha

In the Ukrainian Byzantine Rite, feast days are filled with symbolic ritual which express profound theology that can stir the depth of the soul. The Paschal season is perhaps most indicative of this reality. The Pasch was celebrated earlier than Christmas and today it is still the longest cycle in the liturgical year. The Pascha cycle begins with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, ten weeks before Pascha, and it is completed eight weeks after Pascha, with the Sunday of All Saints.

The cycle is divided, as follows:


Pre-paschal season

is the four Sundays before the Great Fast (Lent). These Sundays are known as:

  • the Publican and the Pharisee,
  • the Prodigal Son,
  • Meatfare (farewell to meat – when the strict fast was observed, no more meat was eaten after this Sunday)
  • Cheesefare (farewell to cheese).

Great Lent lasts from Cheesefare Sunday until Palm Sunday.

From Pascha to Ascension is the post-festal cycle. After the glorious week of the Resurrection, each Sunday celebrates a particular event by which it is named: Sunday of Thomas, of Myrrh-bearing Women, of the Paralytic, of the Samaritan Woman, of the Blind Man, of the Fathers of the Church, of the Descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) and of All Saints. Thus the entire Pascha cycle contains thirty-two Sundays.


Ordinary Time

The ordinary time is from the Sunday of all Saints until the Sunday of Zacchaeus.


The Great Fast (Lent)

The four Sundays before Lent begin gradually to lead people into the cycle of the fast. For each Sunday the readings and the prayers prepare the whole person for spiritual and physical transformation during the Great Fast in order that one will be ready to celebrate the great day of the Resurrection. For example, the entire service of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son speaks of the merciful love of God and of the nostalgic longing of a sinful person for God.

At one time the rules of the fast were very strict. During the entire Lent, people abstained from all meat and dairy products. Slowly the rules relaxed, but especially since the Second Vatican Council much has changed. Nevertheless, the forty-day fast is very significant. The faithful are still invited to fast not only physically but also spiritually. The most important aim of Lent is spiritual growth and transformation. In the early Church, Saturdays and Sundays were not fast days but only abstinence days; for example, fish and in some places dairy products were permitted. Today the Ukrainian Catholic Church prescribes that the faithful abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. In addition, during Lent, there will be no meat or dairy products on the first day of the Great Fast and on Great (Good) Friday. There is a greater emphasis on spiritual renewal, on receiving Penance and Communion more frequently, and also on service and alms-giving.

In the first century, during the fast, daily divine liturgies were not celebrated. Instead, the liturgy of the Presanctified gifts (vespers with Communion) were celebrated. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated only on Saturday and Sunday and on the feast of Annunciation. The liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Great Friday there is no Communion service; this is in order to participate more fully in the death of Jesus.


Holy Week

During the first three days of Holy Week, the troparion, “Behold the bridegroom is coming…” is sung during Matins, anticipating the Resurrection. On Holy Thursday, the bishop with clergy celebrate the Divine Liturgy at which he blesses the Chrism (myrrh (oil) prepared with many aromatic spices) which is used for Chrismation. The Passion Matins is celebrated in the evening of Holy Thursday with the reading of the 12 Gospels about Jesus’ suffering and death. Before each reading the congregation sings “Glory to your Passion, O Lord”, and at the end of the reading “Glory to your suffering, O Lord”.

Great Friday is a very solemn day. It is a day of prayer, silence and fast. In every church the people prepare a beautiful garden tomb where the Plaschanytsia (Holy Shroud – an icon of Jesus in the tomb) is placed for the veneration during special vespers. The vespers of Great and Holy Friday solemnly celebrate Jesus’ death and burial and culminate in a procession with the Holy Shroud. The Shroud then remains in the garden tomb for all to venerate on Great Friday and Holy Saturday. Great Friday is one of those days when the church is filled with people. In the evening of Great Friday, the melodic Jerusalem Matins (praise and lamentation of Jesus’ death) is sung.


Pascha (Passover – Easter)

The services of Pascha truly reflect the splendour of the Resurrection. Many Churches still practise the custom of celebrating the Resurrection Matins at sunrise. The service begins outside the church doors with exuberant, melodic singing “Christ is Risen from the dead, conquering death by death, and to those in the tombs, he granted life”. The faithful continue singing the Resurrection Matins as they process into the church with banners, bells ringing, all announcing that Christ is risen. The prayers of the Matins exalt the risen Lord in a variety of ways. They express that the power of the Resurrection has destroyed all hatred and all enemies are scattered. There is nothing left but to celebrate with all of creation and to embrace one another with loving forgiveness. The gloriously sung Divine Liturgy follows the Matins, with continuous echoes that Christ is risen from the dead, crushing death by his death.

A very important custom at Pascha is the blessing of beautifully decorated baskets of food, Pascha bread (Paska), Pascha eggs, etc. All foods are symbolic of the new life of the Resurrection. The baskets of food are blessed at the Matins or after the Divine Liturgy. This blessed food is shared by the family at breakfast.


  1. Significant Feast Days and Holy Days of Obligation

Because Jesus is the centre of the liturgical year, the first feasts in early apostolic times were dedicated to his glory. These feasts grew up around Sunday, which is the oldest Christian feast commemorating the Resurrection and the eucharist sacrifice.

The feasts honouring Mary began appearing with the proclamation of the dogma of the Divine Maternity of Mary at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. By 988 (when Prince Volodymyr the Great received the Christian faith from Byzantium), various Church Synods added or deleted feast days.

According to The Particular Law Of The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church,

the following feasts as obligatory:

  • All Sundays
  • The Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos;
  • The Universal Exaltation of the Honourable and Life-giving Cross;
  • The Entrance into the Temple of the Most Holy Theotokos;
  • The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • The Theophany of Our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • The Encounter of Our Lord;
  • The Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos;
  • The Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem;
  • The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • The Descent of the Holy Spirit;
  • The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos;

Besides these obligatory feasts, some parishes celebrate their favourite feasts, and there is always a big celebration of the patron saint of a particular Church. At the present time all parishes in Australia celebrate all holy days according to the Julian calendar.


  1. Reception of Mysteries (Sacraments)

The Holy Mysteries of Christian Initiation

Participation in the life of the Most Holy Trinity becomes a reality for us through the Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist. In other words, we partake of God’s life by being united to Christ, receiving the seal of the Holy Spirit, and sharing the Body and Blood of Christ in the community called Church. As a person after birth begins to breathe and then receives nourishment in order to live, so the newly baptized, born to new life in the baptismal font, begins to breathe by the Holy Spirit and receives the nourishment of Holy Communion in order to grow in Christ. Through the prayers and sacred actions of the liturgical rite of each of these Mysteries, the Church leads the faithful (the Greek Fathers speak of mystagogy—leading into the mystery) into an understanding of the Mystery and perceiving it as a single, unified action of God’s grace. This is why in the tradition of the Eastern Church, these three Holy Mysteries are celebrated together.



The antiphon, “All you who have been baptised into Christ, have put on the person of Christ, Alleluia!”, epitomises the rites of Baptism and Chrismation. This “putting on of Christ” is ritualised in several ways. The rite begins at the church vestibule with the baptismal party renouncing evil and proclaiming allegiance to Christ, then reciting the Creed as they process into the church. At the tetrapod (small table in front of the altar) there is the anointing of the five senses, heart and shoulders, consecrating the entire person to Christ. Baptism by triple immersion or infusion (water poured on the forehead) is the sign of the Trinity, and of dying and rising with Christ on the third day. (Baptism by triple immersion was practised by the early Church and today this practice is being restored.) Receiving the white garment denotes the putting on of Christ, and the lighted candle, the entry into the light of Christ. Baptism is the beginning of an ongoing process of life in Christ, and all the other mysteries emanate from it.


Chrismation (Confirmation)

Chrismation immediately follows Baptism. It symbolises the entrance into the new life of the Holy Spirit, and thus into the life of the Church. The priest, using Holy Chrism (Myrrh (fragrant oil) consecrated by the bishop each Holy Thursday) anoints the five senses, heart and shoulders, proclaiming “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Chrismation activates the baptismal life of Christ and it seals, sanctifies, and dedicates the whole person to this new life, making one available for divine action.



In the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Communion has always been received under two species of leavened bread and wine, and the emphasis is not only on receiving the body and the blood of Jesus but also on the forgiveness of sin.

In the Mystery of Holy Communion, Christ gives us his very self, his Body and Blood, as nourishment for our growth in the new life. At the Mystical Supper (Last Supper) Christ offered himself for us so that we might be able to offer our lives for our neighbour, as he offered his life (see Jn.13:34). Receiving Communion in the Lord’s Body and Blood, we receive a pledge of life eternal: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” ( Jn.6:54). Partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we already have eternal life, the fullness of which will be revealed in the glorious second coming of Christ. “For since he bestowed on us his own image and his own spirit and we did not guard them, he took himself a share in our poor and weak nature, in order that he might cleanse us and make us incorruptible, and establish us once more as partakers of his divinity.”

Holy Communion is received for the first time at Baptism and regularly from then on. However, in the case of children, they often receive a Solemn Communion after 7 years-of-age. This is a Western innovation that has crept in to some Eastern Churches and justified as a first conscious reception of Communion. There are no special clothes, ceremonies or celebrations on such occasions.


The Holy Mysteries of Healing

The Mystery of Repentance (Reconciliation)

Repentance is a lifelong journey which began with Baptism. On the road of life, one experiences sin, moving away from baptismal grace. Therefore, there is a need to keep returning to Christ, to receive the gift of forgiveness granted in Baptism. This is fulfilled by confessing to a priest who is a witness of the sinners’ repentance and mediator of God’s forgiveness and the restoration of original grace through forgiveness. Frequent confession is a highly recommended practice. It is a general practice to have First Confession and Solemn Holy Communion when children reach the age of reason.

The Holy Mystery of Repentance (or Confession) is a marvellous manifestation of God’s love and mercy towards us sinners. This is because the Lord does not reject us and does not turn away from us when we, having been washed of our sins in Baptism and endowed with divine grace, sin again through malice or weakness. Indeed, the Lord awaits our repentance. He forgives us if we repent and confess our sins (see Lk.15:12-32).

The spirituality of the Ukrainian Catholic Rite encourages ongoing repentance. For example, a cherished prayer – an act of contrition – is taught to little children and prayed by everyone daily. Traditionally, the Mystery of Repentance was celebrated before an icon, confessing sins to Christ in the presence of a priest. This beautiful practice containing a deep theological meaning has been neglected for a long time. Today this custom is slowly being restored in some places, but generally the Mystery of Repentance is administered in open or closed confessionals.


Anointing of the Sick (Holy Unction)

The Mystery of Holy Anointing, received at the time of suffering and illness, is celebrated in order to strengthen our faith in Christ’s victory over sin and death. In Holy Anointing, God grants the grace to renew a person’s inner wholeness—their healing and further spiritual growth. The apostle Paul teaches that “all things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom.8:28). Therefore, our suffering and illness can have great spiritual value: “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col.1:24). The Mystery of Holy Anointing is performed collegially, by the prayer of the whole Church, for the healing of soul and body. Its purpose is to strengthen trust in God and bestow forgiveness of sins as well as physical recovery. This is why the Mystery is administered to the sick and not only to the dying. By the power of the grace of the Mystery of Holy Anointing, the sick person becomes capable of seeing their illness in the light of Divine Providence and receives the strength to bear their illness and overcome it. By changing his or her attitude toward the illness, the afflicted person joins their own suffering to the salvific sufferings of Christ.

In the Mystery of Holy Anointing, by the prayer of the Church, the sick person receives forgiveness of sins. This Mystery, however, does not replace the Mystery of Confession. Nonetheless, if the one anointed repents but for some reason does not have an opportunity to approach the Mystery of Confession, they receive forgiveness of sins. The Church teaches that the Mystery of Holy Anointing grants spiritual healing, even if physical recovery does not accompany it.

Unfortunately, in mind of faithful, the Mystery of Anointing of sick is mixes up with the Last Rite.


The Holy Mysteries of Service

The Holy Mystery of Marriage

Every mystery, according to the Byzantine tradition, brings out the dignity and divine worth of the human person. The processions and crowning rites in the Mystery of Marriage symbolise this. The rite of the engagement begins in the vestibule of the church, where the priest blesses the rings and puts them on the hands the of the bride and the groom. This is the official Church betrothal. The bridal couple solemnly process into the church, actualising their membership as a couple. This also symbolises the procession of the people of God into the Kingdom. At the tetrapod (small altar) the priest blesses and crowns the couple as the head of a new creation. Now this marriage is the beginning of a little kingdom moving toward the ultimate Kingdom of God. The rite ends with the priest leading the couple three times around the tetrapod. This symbolises the eternal journey which has begun at Baptism.

Marriage is based on the fact that the married couple mutually complements one another. The Church gives witness to this in a prayer of the Rite of Crowning: “Holy God, you created man from the dust and from his side fashioned a woman as a suitable helpmate for him, for such was the good pleasure of your majesty that man should not be alone on earth.” In their gender differentiation, a man and woman complete one another, creating an indissoluble union of one body.


Mystery of Holy Orders

Through Baptism, Jesus draws everyone into the eternal priesthood. He desires to restore and sanctify a human person and all of creation. The essence of the ordained priesthood is the service of love and to help everyone enter the royal priesthood of Jesus. The priesthood reveals the humility of the Church in its complete dependence on Christ’s love. The Mystery of Ordination actualises the gift of Christ’s love, which can transform the world.

The priesthood of Christ is the actualization in the Church of Christ’s mediation and intercession through persons chosen by God. In the Mystery of Holy Orders, the sacred ministers receive the grace of the Holy Spirit to exercise Christ’s priesthood in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries and pastoral service. In all of the sacred minister’s service “it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock… Teacher of Truth.”

But pre-eminently in the Eucharistic offering, the sacred minister acts in the name of Christ, the Supreme and Eternal High Priest. The sacred minister also acts “in the name of the whole Church presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice.”

Priestly ministry in the Church has a hierarchical structure, the essence of which is most fully manifested in the celebration of the Eucharist. In the Eucharistic assembly the bishop, as successor of the apostles, presides; the presbyters concelebrate with the bishop, while the deacons assist the bishop and the presbyters. Saint Ignatius of Antioch stresses the importance of the hierarchical ministry in the Church: “I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ.” “Apart from these [i.e., the bishops, presbyters, and deacons] there is no Church.”

The ordination of a deacon, presbyter, or bishop takes place during the Divine Liturgy. This is accomplished by the bishop’s laying on of hands (in Greek, cheirotonia) and the prayer of the Church. Laying his hand on the man being ordained, the bishop invokes upon him the grace of the Holy Spirit. Ordaining a presbyter, the bishop declares: “Divine grace, which always heals the infirm and completes that which is lacking, places the devout deacon in the presbyterate. Let us therefore pray that the grace of the Holy Spirit descend upon him, and let us all say: Lord, have mercy.” The prayer of the bishop is joined by the prayer of the Church. By the repeated acclamation Axios! (in Greek, meaning worthy), the community affirms that through divine grace the one ordained has become worthy of the presbyteral ministry. Just as Baptism and Chrismation, ordination to any hierarchical order confers an indelible seal of grace; therefore, such ordination can be received only once in a lifetime.

The Eastern Church has the tradition of both celibate and married clergy. The candidate for the priesthood has the option to marry prior to Deacon’s ordination. In the Ukrainian Catholic Church this custom, ratified by the Union of Brest-Litovsk in 1596, is still practised today.

Religious Education Curriculum


This section will assist schools and parishes in providing accurate, supportive information and learning activities for the development of the Religious Education program and general curriculum of the school community.

This section will enable and encourage teachers to:

  1. teach all students about the various traditions within the Catholic Church
  2. support students, their families and colleagues from Eastern Catholic Churches in their journey of faith
  3. develop units of work in Religious Education which incorporate Eastern Catholic perspectives by cross referrencing KWL units with this resource.


Considerations for Teachers of Eastern Catholic Students

  1. Having students from these Churches is an opportunity for growth and learning that will enrich the total class and the Religious Education program. Guiding and encouraging students to share their life experiences through the Religious Education program assists all students to gain a greater understanding of the diversity within the Catholic Church.
  2. Integrating information and experiences related to the Eastern Catholic Churches enables students to identify with and learn more about their Catholic heritage.
  3. Encouraging students of Eastern Catholic Churches to share the knowledge of their Church acknowledges and supports their involvement in the life of their respective parishes.
  4. Teachers’ knowledge and understanding of each student’s historical, cultural, linguistic and religious background contributes to the development of the classroom program, as well as curriculum knowledge and activities in other KLAs.
  5. Gathering information about the following areas affords opportunities for teachers to develop and include learning activities about the Eastern Catholic Churches in their programs:
      • the historical background of the Churches
      • the cultural background of the people who belong to each Church
      • the liturgical seasons of each Church
      • significant feast days and holy days of obligation
      • the mysteries (sacraments)
      • liturgies
      • symbols and art
      • the Church in all its traditions

The following strategies and information may be of assistance

As Christians, we are called to recognise that our faith has been expressed in many and various ways since the beginnings of the Church, and has been shaped by the languages and cultural traditions of generations of Catholics from many parts of the world. This rich diversity has been part of the Catholic Church since its foundation in Australia. Therefore, we need to consider:

  1. our views on the importance of including knowledge about the range of Catholic Churches that make up the one Catholic Church;
  2. our experience of religious practice within our own cultures and within the cultures of others;
  3. our knowledge and understanding of the Eastern Catholic communities in Australia;
  4. our ability to give all students a sense of the entirety of the Catholic Church;
  5. our knowledge of the students in our school, their place of worship and their significant priest;
  6. options that can be used to develop units from the Guidelines for Religious Education, particularly in relation to:
  • the diversity of the Catholic Church
  • approaches to the unit
  • students’ current knowledge
  • integration with Church seasons, sacramental celebrations
  • similarities and differences in the Churches
  • similarities to and differences from the Roman tradition

Strategies for Raising Awareness in the School Environment

  • Display liturgical calendars on notice boards in prominent areas. These calendars are available by contacting priests at addresses listed on The Rites of the Catholic Church wall chart.
  • Alert parents to special feast days and celebrations in the different Eastern Catholic Churches. Include these on school and parish calendars and newsletters.
  • Place religious art and symbols from different Eastern Catholic Churches (e.g. icons) in prominent areas. An explanation of the significance of the art or symbol could be provided. The art and symbols could be changed according to the seasons, feasts and celebrations of the Churches.
  • Photographs and significant items from feast days and celebrations (e.g. decorated candles, crosses made out of palms) together with explanations and descriptions could be displayed.
  • Displays for special observances (e.g. Easter) could show both the similarities and differences among the Churches.
  • Encourage students to bring newsletters from their Churches. These could be displayed in the classroom, school or church.
  • Invite priests from the different Eastern Catholic Churches to visit the school.
  • Display a copy of The Rites of the Catholic Church wall chart.

In identifying students belonging to the Eastern Catholic Churches

  1. Ask the parents for a copy of the student’s baptismal certificate. If it is written in a language other than English, ask for a translation. The words ‘Catholic Church’ will be printed on the certificate.
  2. Ask the parents and student where they go to Church (name of Church or parish and suburb). The names and addresses of Eastern Catholic Churches are printed on The Rites of the Catholic Church wall chart.
  3. Ask the parents and student the name of their priest. Eastern Catholic priests are usually referred to by their Christian name, e.g. Father Paul. Refer to the list of contact addresses for Eastern Catholic Churches in the Melbourne metropolitan area.
  4. If you believe that a family may belong to an Eastern Catholic parish, please contact the parish priest for verification.
    You may need to redevelop your current school enrolment form in order to record the Catholic Church to which a student may belong, and related information.
  5. Eastern Catholic students are more likely to be those children born in, or who have parents born in:
    – Middle Eastern countries (e.g. Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Turkey);
    – Eastern European countries (e.g. Russia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and the Republics of Croatia, Serbia and Boznia-Hertzegovina).

Strategies for Raising Awareness in the Classroom

  • Encourage all students to talk about their experiences and expressions of faith in their various Churches. Use of religious items may be a stimulus for discussion.
  • In class prayer services, prayers in different languages may be used, as well as a variety of symbols and rituals. Use of candles, incense and icons may assist in creating an appropriate environment and increase knowledge and understanding.
  • First-hand experiences through excursions to various Catholic Churches (e.g. Ss Peter and Paul’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, St Patrick’s Cathedral) will help students to identify similarities and differences in architecture, layout, furnishings, religious objects and symbols.
  • Resources such as The Rites of the Catholic Church wall chart could be placed in all classrooms and used for research and gathering information.
  • Appropriate terminology relating to the life and faith of the various Churches should be used wherever possible in the classroom (e.g. mysteries/sacraments, Divine Liturgy/Mass). Familiarisation with the terms included in the glossary will assist in this usage.

Ideas for Extending The Rites of the Catholic Church Wall Chart

The chart was designed as a basic introduction for teachers, students and parents. It needs to be accessible for use during planning, teaching and student research. In order to undertake the following activities, supplementary information and materials must be used with the chart.

1. General information

  • Knowing the cultural backgrounds of your students may help to locate their Church on the chart. However, students from Middle Eastern backgrounds could belong to one of several Churches, e.g. Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean, Armenian or Coptic. This information could be added to student profile forms or school enrolment forms.
  • Introduce students to the various Catholic traditions or Churches. Each of these Churches has its own liturgical seasons, feast days, fast days, saints, shrines and music.
  • Within appropriate RE units, encourage students to research and present information about their own Church or other Churches listed on the chart.

2. Cultural origins of the Church and languages used in the liturgy

  • Teach students to make the Sign of the Cross according to the Byzantine tradition.
  • Teach students to make the Sign of Peace according to the Maronite tradition.
  • Encourage students to say familiar prayers in their home or liturgical languages (e.g. The Our Father, Hail Mary).
  • Organise a display of bibles, prayer books, holy cards, art, icons, thuribles, newsletters, work done at Saturday classes and photographs, according to each Church.
  • Invite students to trace, on a map, the journey of the apostles and the foundation of Churches across cultures and countries. Set up a timeline. Mark locations according to languages used. Also, mark traditional and current names of countries, and names of the apostles, in the home language.
  • Provide prayers for prayer services or liturgies in the various liturgical languages (assistance might be sought from the Eastern Catholic clergy).

3. Cultural background of adherents

  • On a large map, show the countries where the Churches were originally established and identify where these Churches are found today.
  • Using information on The Rites of the Catholic Church wall chart, draw up a world map to show the cultural backgrounds of adherents of each Church.

4. Liturgical seasons

  • Research and share family customs involved in celebrating Lent/Easter, Advent/Christmas and Epiphany.
  • Discuss the liturgical year according to the calendars of each Church. Calendars can be purchased annually from addresses on the chart.
  • Students could work in groups to design a calendar showing personal, family and parish events.
  • Develop a class and school liturgical calendar in order to identify and highlight the significant feast days for each Church across the year. The calendar could be used at home, in the classroom and in the church.
  • Celebrate the beginning of Lent according to the calendar of each Church. Check Easter dates according to the Julian calendar for the Ukrainian and Russian Churches.
  • Consider the needs of students who are fasting and/or abstaining at special times of the year when planning such things as barbecues/sausage sizzles, sports’ days or strenuous activity days.
  • Pin copies of the chart onto the church noticeboard and parent information board in the school. Highlight coming feast days and a description of their significance.
  • Include a study of the Gregorian and Julian calendars in your applied maths programs. This could be widened to include calendars from other world religions, such as Islam and Buddhism.
  • Obtain copies of liturgies from Eastern Catholic Church priests and teach the outline of the different liturgies, pointing out similarities and differences. Familiarise staff with the history and scripts of these liturgies.

Religious Education curriculum

As Christians, we are called to recognise that our faith has been expressed in many and various ways since the beginnings of the Church and has been shaped by the languages and cultural traditions of generations of Catholics from many parts of the world. This rich diversity has been part of the Catholic Church since its foundation in Australia. Therefore, we need to ask:

  • What are my views about the importance of including knowledge about the range of Catholic Churches that make up the one Catholic Church?
  • What is my experience of religious practice within my own culture and within the cultures of others?
  • What is my knowledge and understanding of the Eastern Catholic communities in Australia?
  • How do I give all students a sense of the entirety of the Catholic Church? Which Churches will I draw on to include in my program? If I have Eastern Catholic students in my group, which of the Churches will I focus on?
  • How well do I know the students in my group? What are their religious backgrounds? Do I have Eastern Catholic students in my class? Where do they worship and in what languages? Who is their significant priest?
  • What can be explored in a unit in relation to the diversity of the Catholic Church? How will I approach the unit? How will I find out what the students already know? Will it be taught in isolation or would it be better to link it to a particular Church season or celebration, a sacramental celebration, a cultural awareness activity or theme? If this is linked to a Church season or celebration, do all of the Churches included follow the same liturgical calendar and cycle?
  • Who are the parents, clergy and Catholic Education Office personnel I could speak with to broaden my understanding of the one Catholic Church?

Factors to be Considered when Planning RE Units

  • There may be students in the class or school who belong to the Eastern Catholic Churches. These students have particular views and various experiences as Catholics in Australia. Their stories enrich our faith.
  • Many Roman Catholic students come from homes where the language and lifestyle are not part of the mainstream Anglo-Celtic tradition. Their experiences of being Catholic also need to be recognised and celebrated as a living part of this community.
  • Students belonging to minority Catholic communities may need extra support and assistance in order to talk about their experiences as Catholics in the Church in Australia.

The Roman Catholic Church

Cultural Background of Believers

Origin and history of Roman Catholics in Australia

It was largely the Irish who brought the Roman Catholic faith to Australia at the time of white settlement and, for about one hundred and fifty years, the Church remained strongly Irish. Following the Second World War, European immigration began to change the face of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia. From this time the multiculturalism in the Church continued to grow. The Roman Catholic Church in Australia is now truly ‘catholic’ (universal), comprising of members from every continent in the world.

The language used in the Liturgy

Until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the language used in the liturgy of the Roman Rite was Latin. Following that Council, the liturgy began to be celebrated in English. Some parish communities also began to provide Masses in other languages such as Italian or Polish. It is not unusual now to find Mass celebrated in Vietnamese, Sudanese, Filipino or Indonesian. English, of course, remains the dominant language of the Roman liturgy here in Australia.

Liturgical Seasons


The Season of Advent begins the liturgical year and is celebrated over four weeks leading to Christmas. It is a season of preparation for the ‘coming’ or advent of Christ – past, present and future – into the world. The season is characterised by the colour violet, which symbolises the darkness of the world before the coming of Christ, who is the light of the world.

Christmas is the feast of light. It is the celebration of the light-bearing Word of God born in human flesh. The colour of Christmas is white because it is the season of celebrating the pure light of Christ. The Christmas Season is celebrated over twelve days.


The whole of the Lent/Easter season is a 90-day journey. The forty-day Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Thursday evening with the Celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Lent is primarily the Church’s time of preparation for Easter – the Season of Baptism. Lent is the penitential season of the Church – the time for purifying our lives by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The colour of Lent is violet, the colour associated with humility. In the early Church it was the period when candidates for Christian Initiation fasted and prayed more intensely before their baptism at the Easter Vigil.
Easter continues the journey with a 50-day celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Easter is truly the highest point of the whole liturgical year. It is the celebration of life triumphing over death and of light triumphing over darkness. The colour of the season is white signifying the pure new life given us by Christ, particularly in Baptism.

Ordinary Time

In the Roman Rite, the major part of the liturgical year is Ordinary Time. The word ‘ordinary’ is related to ‘ordered’ or ‘counted’ time. Each of the Sundays in Ordinary Time is counted, from 1 to 33. The colour of the season is green, symbolising growth. It is a quiet season for listening to the word of God and allowing it to grow in the ‘soil’ of the heart. It is the Church’s belief that, by listening and responding to the gospels of Ordinary Time, we will grow in all ways into Christ.

Significant Feast Days

The following are some of the significant days for Roman Catholics:

  • Christmas day
  • Mary, Mother of God
  • Epiphany
  • Baptism of the Lord
  • Presentation of the Lord
  • St Patrick
  • St Joseph
  • The Annunciation
  • Easter Sunday
  • Ascension
  • Pentecost
  • Trinity
  • Body and Blood of Christ
  • Saints Peter and Paul
  • Birth of John the Baptist
  • Sacred Heart
  • Mary of the Cross MacKillop
  • Assumption
  • Immaculate Conception

Reception of Sacraments

Sacraments of Initiation

Most candidates for baptism in the Roman Rite are infants. Baptism for infants is celebrated separately from Confirmation and Eucharist. If the candidate is an adult, he or she participates in a period of instruction and formation in faith known as the catechumenate. When an adult is baptised, he or she receives all the Sacraments of Initiation at the one time – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

Confirmation, although closely linked to the Sacrament of Baptism, is generally celebrated in late childhood (around age 12) some years after the child has received First Communion. While Confirmation is often spoken of in relation to the Holy Spirit it is important to realise that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in all the sacraments. The Holy Spirit is called upon the waters of Baptism, the oil (Chrism) of Confirmation and the bread and wine of the Eucharist but each of the sacraments of initiation have their unique emphasis. In Confirmation the candidate is sealed with the Holy Spirit and strengthened to be a witness to Christ.

Until the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church continued the practice of giving First Communion to infants at their Baptism. At this time a change in emphasis led to people attending Mass and not receiving Communion due to a sense of unworthiness. The practice of giving Communion to infants also ceased. The Council of Trent (1545–63) decreed that children would receive First Communion when they reached the age of reason (around the age of 7). Children are now prepared for their First Communion at around the age of 8 or 9. Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, Roman Catholics have understood the Eucharist as the source and summit of Roman Catholic life. The whole of life is directed toward it and flows from it.

Sacraments of Healing

Before receiving First Communion, children prepare to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, better known as Reconciliation. The Church’s Rite of Penance focuses on God’s merciful love for us. The Rite of Penance is part of the Church’s liturgy – the public worship of the Church. The Sacrament is best celebrated within a gathered community, accompanied by Scripture readings and prayers. In this context people come forward for individual confession and absolution.

Anointing of the Sick
Anointing of the sick is closely related to pastoral care within the parish. It is administered not only to the dying but also to those with less serious illnesses. The sick person is anointed with the oil of the sick and given Holy Communion. The focus of the sacrament is strengthening and healing.

Sacraments of Commitment

For a Roman Catholic marriage to be valid it must take place before a priest and two witnesses. The bride and groom actually administer the sacrament to one another as they pronounce their marriage vows.

Holy Orders
There are three Holy Orders in the Roman Catholic Church: deacon, priest and bishop.

  • The deacon is ordained to serve the Church. He assists the bishop or the priest in the celebration of the Eucharist. He can also preside at the Sacraments of Baptism and Marriage.
  • The priest is ordained to preach the word and preside over the liturgy and the celebration of the Sacraments. His role is also to care for the pastoral needs of his parish community.
  • The bishop is a priest especially ordained to lead a diocese. His role is to teach and care for the spiritual needs of the priests and people of his diocese.