Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker Catholic Church is a parish of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of New Westminster (www.nweparchy.ca) in British Columbia, Canada.
We Welcome Visitors
Ours is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-generational congregation. Our Church came to Canada from Ukraine, but our faith in God is for everyone.
If you are a Catholic, your Sunday obligation is fulfilled by attending the Holy and Divine Liturgy (Mass) in our church. We hope you will feel at home praying with us. Please come visit us often and bring or tell a friend.
In his Apostolic Letter, Light of the East, Orientale Lumen, (1995), Pope John Paul II said:
I listen to the Churches of the East, which I know are living interpreters of the treasure of tradition they preserve. . . . Indeed, in comparison to any other culture, the Christian East has a unique and privileged role as the original setting where the Church was born. (Para 5)
St Nicholas the Wonderworker Catholic Church is an Eastern Church, one of several referred to as a Byzantine Church, descended from the traditions and customs of Greece and Ukraine rather than Rome.
The word “Byzantine” comes from the city of Byzantium, the old name for the city of Istanbul (Constantinople), which applies to us in the same way the world “Roman” does when it describes Catholics of the Western (Latin) Church. We are officially known as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC).
We believe what all Catholics believe. Our bishops are proposed by our Synod and then appointed by the Pope. However, because our ancestors Sts Olga and Volodomyr adopted Christianity as they encountered it in the Great Church of Constantinople, we learnt to think of God and to worship Him in the Eastern style. Our Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which served Ukrainians, Carpathians, Bosnians, some Hungarians and others, formally agreed to union with Rome in 1596 by means of the Union of Brest. The Pope of Rome guaranteed that we would always be permitted to retain our own Byzantine customs and most ancient traditions.
Here, at St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, our services are mostly in English, with some parts in Ukrainian.
Upon entering or leaving the church building, Byzantine Catholics make a bow (called a metany) and a sign of the Cross, instead of genuflecting. Byzantine Catholics make the sign of the Cross from the right to the left, the opposite way to Latin Catholics. Ours is an older way of making the gesture. Holy water is not used at this time, but many people either go to the tetrapod (the table in front of the screen or iconostas) or another icon where they again sign themselves three times and make three metanies (two times before and once after kissing the icon).
A Capella – No Musical Instruments
Because the early Church Fathers wanted to be sure that the people would learn and participate in the services, they forbade musical instruments in the church. We take great pride in the fact that our people can participate fully without the assistance of any instruments. Most of our divine Services are sung. The parishioners know the music and take an active part in all services. Do not feel out of place if you do not know the music. Look, listen, smell, and first of all, pray.
Icons Instead of Statues
As a rule, statues are not found in Eastern churches. Instead, icons depicting Christ, Mary, or Saints are prominently displayed and often carried in procession. Most are painted on wood although they are also crafted in other media. Appearances vary from highly stylized to what might look to be ‘folk art’, reflecting the cultures from which they originate, but all are objects of veneration. Eastern Christians do not worship icons but believe that reverence afforded to an icon is likewise accorded to the one depicted in it. So many icons tell a story of the Faith that they are often described as ‘theology in colour’.
How to Receive Holy Communion
During the Holy and Divine Liturgy (our name for what Latin Catholics call the Mass), when the time comes for the distribution of the Most Holy Body and the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, do not be afraid to receive if you are Catholic or Orthodox and in the state of Grace. Holy Communion is given under both species, bread and wine, using a golden spoon. The spoon simplifies things for us, since we use leavened bread called prosphora. This is baked with a special recipe and marked with special markings. We do not use the unleavened (flat wafer) bread used by Latin Catholics.
Communion in the hand is NOT an option. To receive communion open your mouth wide without extending your tongue and tilt your head back so that the priest can tip the contents of the communion spoon into your mouth.
What is a Rite?
A Rite is a complete tradition – the unique way that a particular community of the faithful perceives, expresses, and lives its Christian life with the Catholic Church.
How Many Rites are there in the Catholic Church?
Generally speaking, there are six main Rites of the Catholic Church: Alexandrian, Antiochean, Armenian, Byzantine, Chaldean, and Roman/Latin. However, language and national customs have brought about the formation of several sui iuris (self-governing) church communities. There are now 23 different usages (churches) using various Rites.
Would it not be better to have one Rite for everyone?
No. The many Rites are the most powerful witness the Catholic Church has to show the universality of the Church. In the essentials of our Faith – the Bible and Tradition, there must be unity. In the expression of the Faith – in liturgy and customs, there is liberty.
In the early Church, what were the major centers from which the Rites Developed?
Christianity spread from the city of Jerusalem – in other words, from the East. From Jerusalem, Christianity spread to Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople. All Eastern Christians are descendants of the Eastern centers (Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople). All Western Christians are descendants of the Western center, Rome, which until the fifth century observed the eastern “Rite” of Jerusalem.
How did the Rites begin?
The Apostles received the commission to “Go, teach all nations…”(Mt 28:19) from Our Lord, Jesus Christ. As the Apostles went forth to preach the “Good News of Salvation” through Jesus Christ, they found themselves in many different lands and among many different peoples. To all of these people they preached the Faith, as they had heard it from the lips of Our Lord. They administered all of the Sacraments instituted by Christ. Naturally, the ceremonies were performed differently, according to the customs of the people. The music used varied with the different nations, as did the language. While all Catholics (Byzantine, Latins, etc.) profess an identical faith, their method of expressing and living that faith differs accordingly as their mentality and cultural backgrounds differ. Thus, in the very early Church many diverse “ways” arose.
Why is so little known about the Eastern Churches?
For centuries there was little contact between East and West. As the result of this, there has been much misunderstanding, prejudice and rejection. It is a known fact that many Latin bishops, priests and religious have neglected to learn and teach their people about the different Rites of the Catholic Church. Sadly, most history and catechism books of the Latin Church do not even mention the various Rites.
What does the Pope of Rome say about the Eastern Churches?
The Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite, Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Solemnly promulgated by Pope Paul VI at Vatican II on November 21, 1964 says:
All members of the Eastern Rite should know and be convinced that they can and should always preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life, and that these may not be altered except to obtain for themselves an organic improvement. All these, then, must be observed by the members of the Eastern rites themselves. Besides, they should attain to an ever greater knowledge and a more exact use of them, and, if in their regard they have fallen short owing to contingencies of times and persons, they should take steps to return to their ancestral traditions. (Para 6)
Were there any Popes from among the Eastern Churches?
Yes, there were about 20 Popes of Eastern origin, mostly Greeks. For the first few centuries in Rome the Holy and Divine Liturgy was always celebrated in the Greek language.
Are all Eastern Christians Catholic?
No, in fact a greater percentage of Eastern Christians are Orthodox.
Who are the Orthodox?
The Orthodox are Eastern Christians who are not in communion with the Roman Pontiff.
Are Orthodox Sacraments valid?
Yes they are, since the Orthodox Church is of Apostolic origin. In fact, in case of an emergency, any Catholic (Byzantine or Latin) may request the Sacraments from an Orthodox Priest.