Yesterday, for the feast of the Annunciation, I attended Divine Liturgy at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia. I attend Holy Transfiguration a few times a year, and I am always glad when I can make it. For those unaware, the Melkites are one of the 23 “sui juris” churches that make up the Catholic Church. Most people are aware of only one of these churches – the Roman one – because its members make up the vast majority of the overall Catholic Church. However, the Eastern Catholic churches are a vital and important part of the universal Church. Most of them historically were created when members of an Orthodox church decided to reunite with the bishop of Rome. For example, the Melkite Church was formed out of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
If you have never attended an Eastern Liturgy, I urge you to do so. It is beautiful beyond description. The title of this post is a quote from the 10th century ambassadors of Vladmir, the prince of Kiev, who were traveling the world trying to determine which religion was true based on how they worshipped God. The quote was their description of the Liturgy of St. Sophia in Constantinople. And it is a true statement: nothing is more heavenly on this earth than an Eastern liturgy.
Personally, I am somewhat diverse in my liturgical tastes: I love the simplicity of the Roman rite, especially at daily Mass, but I also greatly appreciate the grandeur and beauty of an Eastern liturgy. For me, a daily Mass reminds me of the simplicity of the original Last Supper in the Upper Room, while the Eastern liturgy takes me to the final “Last Supper” to be celebrated for all eternity in heaven.
Again, if you have never attended an Eastern liturgy, please do so. If you live in the DC-area, I especially encourage you to attend Holy Transfiguration – it is a vibrant, faithful parish which maintains its Eastern traditions in full.