Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer
January 24, 2018 // Diocese

Byzantine Divine Liturgy celebrated at Notre Dame

Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer

Starting the week of Christian Unity, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades gave a homily at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy that took place Jan. 21 in Malloy Hall Chapel at the University of Notre Dame. The liturgy was celebrated by Father Khaled Anatolios, with Father Michael Magree, SJ. A diverse Catholic community was present; from an Egyptian Coptic Christian graduate student and his family to an elderly Lebanese woman.

Click here for a photo gallery of the event.

The circular chapel space was filled with the smell of sweet incense, gentler than that typically used in Roman Catholic churches, the sound of chanting and the sight of life-sized icons of Jesus and “Theotokos,” or “Mary, Mother of God” and multiple lit candles surrounding the sacred space.

“Bishop Rhoades’ participation today is a joy-filled confirmation of our unity, extending back to the time of our commission,” Father Anatolios explained, smiling. “We see the Melkite Church as a kind of bridge between the Eastern and Western churches.”

Father Anatolios is a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. He is also a theology professor at Notre Dame.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic churches in communion with Rome. There are 15 Eastern Catholic churches that celebrate in the Byzantine liturgical tradition.

“After Jesus’ resurrection, the early Church had a diversity of local usages with common patterns,” Father Anatolios summarized. “Around the fourth century, they became more uniform, centralized around major urban centers, such as Rome. The different rites originate from the consolidation of liturgical usages around major centers in the early Church. The Latin rite comes from Rome, the Byzantine rite from Antioch and Constantinople.” Missionaries to Slavic countries, such as Romania and Hungary, spread the Byzantine tradition as well to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, where one can find flourishing Catholic communities to this day.

There are various differences, such as spirituality, types of prayer, canon law, liturgical traditions and order of reception of sacraments between the Byzantine and Latin rites.

“I have heard it (the two rites) described as both different and the same at the same time,” Father Anatolios reflected.

The Sunday of Jan. 21 was the first Sunday in the Byzantine Catholic liturgical calendar of Triodion, a three-week period to prepare for the great fast of Lent.

Nearly the entire liturgy was chanted, led by Nicholas Russo; and a harmonious choir followed music already chosen and proscribed a thousand years ago. As a result, Bishop Rhoades joked that he felt that he should chant his homily.

He focused on the Gospel of the day, the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. “… It teaches us the very heart of authentic prayer: humility. We can make all kinds of prayer resolutions for Lent, but if we lack the humility and honesty of the publican, our prayer will be fruitless,” the bishop said.

“When he (the Pharisee) spoke to God, he was really praying to himself. He was standing in the Temple; he didn’t see the need to prostrate himself before the majesty of God. He prayed with arrogance and hypocrisy, so his prayer wasn’t fruitful. In fact, it wasn’t authentic prayer. His heart had lost its way.

“The publican was no saint. … His great virtue, maybe his only virtue, was humility. He prayed with a humble and contrite heart … the publican admitted his guilt and begged God for mercy. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that “the sinner is justified by God moving him to righteousness, he continued.

“Fundamentally, it means recognizing in truth that we need God and we need His mercy because we are sinners. It is good to pray the words of the publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

“We enjoy attending the Byzantine liturgy, first of all because it is a truly Catholic thing to do: It allows us to pray in the rich liturgical patrimony of the Eastern churches, whose prayers and devotions enrich our spiritual lives as Catholics,” said Jonathan Ciraulo, a doctoral student in theology at the university. “The Latin and the Byzantine rites each have their own distinct characteristics, each emphasizing something essential to the Christian life.” Ciraulo, his wife, their small children, as well as his mother and brother-in-law all worship regularly with the community, as well as being parishioners of St. Matthew Cathedral Parish. They say they have found a spiritual niche in the Byzantine rite to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Julia Mooney chants in the choir and worships with her husband, and two small children in the Byzantine liturgy. They are converts from Protestantism and entered the Church through the Latin rite.

“We love bringing our children to the Divine Liturgy because they get a real sense of participation in the transcendent,” Mooney explained. “God comes to meet us and our children in the icons we kiss, the incense we smell, and the tones of the chant we sing.”

Father Khaled at the Byzantine Mass at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 21, Malloy Hall, Notre Dame (Todays Catholic Photo/Joe Raymond)

Father Khaled Anatolios

The Byzantine Liturgy is currently being celebrated at the University of Notre Dame on the first and third Sundays of the month. Father Khaled Anatolios, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest, and his family, moved to South Bend from Boston for his theology position at Notre Dame. His multiple ministries, from professor to priest to biological father, keep him busy in the pastoral practice of living the Christianity he studies.

Father Anatolios was born in Madras, India, of Egyptian parents residing there for work. He later came to North America, and then the United States, for academic studies, earning his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Toronto, and doctorate from Boston College. Father Anatolios’ academic interests are in the early Church, with special emphasis on the Trinitarian and Christological doctrines of the Greek fathers and Augustine. His current writing project is a book on the theology of salvation, called “Deification through the Cross.” Father Anatolios also teaches theology to first-year undergraduate students as well as to upper-level theology graduate students. He is married and has four children, two in college and two in grade school.

Father Anatolios taught theology at Boston College and was a practicing Melkite Greek Catholic when his bishop approached and asked him six years ago if he would consider becoming a priest. His wife, Meredith, who also holds a theology degree, a masters of divinity, from Boston College, greatly supported him in this endeavor. Today, she continues to daily support his ministry, baking the bread for the Eucharist, printing the liturgy books and setting up the chapel for the liturgy as well as numerous community events throughout the year. He is especially grateful for her help and care. (Celibate priesthood is only mandatory in the Western church. Most parish priests in the Eastern Catholic Church are married. A man may only marry however before he is ordained, not afterward. Bishops may only be ordained if celibate.

Considering his own bishop spoke with him, he felt he should answer the call to serve. Father Anatolios already had the academic training required for an Eastern rite seminarian, so he simply studied the pastoral and liturgical formation unique to the priesthood. He was first ordained to the diaconate, and then three years ago ordained a priest by Bishop Nicolas Samra of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton. An eparchy is a diocese.

Bishop Rhoades was very welcoming to Father Anatolios serving in the Latin Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and gave him his blessing as well as the “mandatum” to teach theology.

Serving now professionally and pastorally in the name of the Church has been a special blessing, Father Anatolios said. He maintains his spiritual balance through daily, “consistent prayer: reading the sacred Scripture (in a Lectio Divina style) and the Sermons of St. Augustine, going over everything (such as an Examination of Conscience) at the end of the day, the Jesus Prayer, and fasting.” 

The Byzantine Liturgy is an ethnic home for Father Anatolios, especially as he first celebrated it in his native Arabic. The style of liturgy and chants are also an especially appealing aspect of the rite. To a person who has not attended the Divine Liturgy before, he “would stress the processions, icons, incense, pervasive chanting, and constant iteration of Trinitarian doxologies.”

— Jennifer Miller

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