San Rocco Oratory

of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Eucharistic Prayer
The priest sings the Preface and the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer (the "Anaphora") facing the altar, not the people. This is the universal custom in the East and was widespread in the West until 1970. Note the icon of the Virgin Mary in the front; the Copts have brought their own icons to the oratory, for veneration during the Divine Liturgy.

Prostration of the priest, at the consecration of the bread
After what we would call the consecration of the bread, the priest makes a prostration. He does this again, after the consecration of the wine.

Our Father in the Divine Liturgy
During the Our Father, the priest and people hold their hands in the traditional Orans position. The Copts do this also at other times in the liturgy. In the West, this gesture was introduced by the bishops of Italy, in their 1986 sacramentary. Above, note that, as in the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest prays facing the altar, not the people.

Preparation for Holy Communion
For Communion, the priest breaks the bread at a small table, at the head of the congregation. As is universal in the East and was so in the West till the eighth century, the bread is leavened. Unlike many Protestants, the Orthodox share the Catholic faith that the consecrated bread is truly the Body of Christ.

Communion of the Body of Christ
The priest puts the consecrated bread, the Body of Christ, in the mouth of each communicant. Children receive Communion, together with their families. Note that this little girl is wearing a veil. The people have been fasting before Communion, since midnight.

Holy Communion: the Blood of Christ
After all have received the consecrated bread, the priest goes to the altar and retrieves the chalice from a box on the altar, something like a tabernacle. He then comes down to the people and gives Communion in the form of wine, using a spoon. Most of the congregation goes to Communion and receives under both forms.

Deacons consume any left-over consecrated bread and wine.
Whatever consecrated bread and wine are left over are consumed with the help of the deacons.

Hope for the Near Future: Communion

Both Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II are working for full reconciliation among their Churches.  In that event, there would be only one Coptic patriarch of Alexandria, not two.  After all, the ancient adversary of the Coptic Church was Constantinople, not Rome.  Today, again, the adversary is the Muslim religion, not Rome.  In 1973, in fact, the two patriarchs said that divisions between the two Churches had been largely due to "non-theological" factors. Many later statements of both Churches on the nature of Jesus Christ have definitively removed that question as an obstacle to reunion.  That question, christology, was the source of division in the fifth century.  Now, the obstacle is gone.  There is, therefore, genuine hope for full communion, as it was in the early centuries of the Church.

Should full communion be restored, perhaps in our lifetime, neither Church would change.  The Patriarch of Alexandria would continue to appoint bishops and priests, on his own, as he has done from the beginning of Christianity in Egypt.  This is already more or less the case with seven Churches of the East that  are in communion with the Bishop of Rome.  They elect their own patriarch and/or synod;  they also choose their own bishops and create their own dioceses, as needed. These Churches have their own traditions, customs, and liturgies, even their own canon law. In this sense, then, they are self-governing.  Such is the case, as mentioned, with seven of the twenty-one Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, for example, the Armenian Church, the  Chaldean  Church,  the Catholic Coptic Church,  the Maronite Church of Lebanon, the Melkite Church,  and the Syrian Church.    The Syro-Malabar Church of India doesn't have a patriarch, but it is self-governing in the same way. 

What unites Catholics and Orthodox around the world  is not their rituals or customs but their faith, which comes from the apostles.  It is remarkable that some of the Orthodox Churches of the East have preserved traditions that they hold in common with us, for example, veneration of the Virgin Mary or prayer for the dead, as preached by St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century.  These common traditions are an indication that some Protestants of 400 years ago were all wet, when they said that the Church of Rome invented these practices in the Middle Ages.  The Catholic faith, then, has not been lost in these ancient Churches.  Against Muslims and others who persecuted them, these Eastern Churches have fought the good fight and kept the faith.

The Coptic Church long ago sent out its own missionaries to other parts of Africa.  Today, most of Ethiopia and part of Eritrea share much the same tradition as that of the Coptic Church; there are other Christians of this tradition in Armenia, Syria, India, and elsewhere.  So, reconciliation with the Coptic Orthodox Church may well lead to  full communion with these Churches as well. 

Let us continue to pray for Christian unity and for reconciliation among all who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

San Rocco Oratory

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