Welcome to Holy Transfiguration
Holy Transfiguration is a parish of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church. Historically, the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church is the Church of Antioch in communion with the Church of Rome. In itself, a parish encapsulates the Church, unlimited by bounds of race and nationality. This universality is reflected in the membership of our parish today.
Diverse as we are among ourselves—men, women, and children of Middle East ethnic heritage and many families from other backgrounds and traditions—our community cleaves to the greater Tradition: that of the Church.
We reach out to all. To all we offer the Light of Christ. “Let Your eternal light shine upon us sinners,” says the hymn of the Transfiguration. “Glory to You, O Giver of Light.”
We Worship God
The true nature of man is revealed in the action of worship. Of all creatures of God, only you and I are able to reflect on God’s creation and wonder why all this exists. Certainly, God who made it all did not feel compelled to create. He created to manifest His love for us. He created you and me to hear of that great love for us manifested to us especially in His Son, Jesus Christ, and to say thank you.
How do we say 'Thank You' to God?
“On the night when Jesus was betrayed, He took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My Body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My Blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this food and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.’ (1 Cor. 11: 23-26)
Of all that God did for us the greatest is to give us a share in His divine life as the result of His death and resurrection. This sharing in the divine life has as its consequence the forgiveness of sins, the abolition of death, and the beginning of a process that will culminate in our partaking in the Divine Nature by adoption. (2 Peter 1:4) The whole thanksgiving for this process is called the Divine Liturgy or the Eucharist, a Greek word which means thanksgiving. During this service, God is glorified and thanked and we are changed and divinized, proceeding from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18) by participating in the body and blood of Christ our God.
Why that screen in front of the altar?
The screen, or iconostasis, reminds us that there is more of God’s glory that is yet to be revealed. What we see is just a hint of a deeper revelation which is to come. (1 Cor. 13:12)
Why those pictures?
The pictures are called icons, a Greek word that means image. Icons tell us that the unseen God who revealed Himself in the Old Testament has now revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the image of the Father. (John 14:8-9; 2 Cor. 4:4)
They also tell us that Christ was a man like us in all things except sin. He healed and restored our human nature and made it able to share in God’s Divine Nature. We honor these icons with candles and incense. This honor given is not to wood or paint, but to the person depicted. People are honored with incense because we are sharers in the Divine Nature.
Why do you make the Sign of the Cross backwards?
We cross ourselves in the ancient way formerly used by both the East and the West. The thumb, index, and middle fingers are joined tightly together to remind us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, and we touch our forehead, breast, right shoulder, and left shoulder.
In Biblical symbolism, the right represents good. (Think of the Lord Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father.) The inversion of the sign might have come from imitating the priest, who in blessing moves from left to right so that it can be seen correctly by the congregation before him.
Why do people constantly make the Sign of the Cross over themselves?
We love the cross of Christ. It is the power of God for us who are saved (1 Cor. 1:18) and our glory. (Gal. 6:14) We cross ourselves whenever we hear the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or whenever the Holy Gospels or the gifts of bread and wine are carried by us in procession.
Why do you sing everything?
"Singing is heightened speech." We used everyday speech for ordinary things, but we use special heightened speech to glorify God. Jesus and the apostles sang a hymn at the last supper they shared before His crucifixion. (Mat. 26:30)
Why do you sing so many litanies?
God wants us to praise Him and proclaim our belief that all things come from Him. (Phil. 4:6) We add our response Lord, have mercy to the prayer offered as our assent to what is being asked. Some people cross themselves to intensify their assent to the prayer being offered.
Why does the priest turn his back to the people?
He really doesn’t turn his back but, with us, faces east and, as our leader, he offers praise to God. The east is where Paradise, our ancestral homeland, was located. Light arises in the east and Christ will come again and shine forth as lightning shines from east to west. (Mat. 24:27) In our prayer we do not face any city or person, but we face God alone expecting His great mercy.
Why do you always stand?
Our worship is dynamic. It is the worship of a people who are on their way to heaven. We are not passive spectators, or people being instructed, but rather, we are active participants in the worship of God. Ideally, chairs are for the aged, the infirm, and the pregnant. Kneeling is reserved for weekdays and is not done on Sunday.
Who can receive the Holy Eucharist (Communion)?
Only those who are baptized and chrismated into the Catholic or Orthodox Church, and are not impeded by unrepented and unconfessed sins, and have prepared themselves by fasting from the previous night may approach the Holy Eucharist. Sharing the Holy Eucharist is the sign of church unity already accomplished. We long for the day when all will be one. “There is one body, one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.” (Eph. 4:4)
How do you receive the Holy Eucharist?
You approach the priest and make a reverence (a bow from the waist accompanied by the sign of the cross), and with your hands crossed upon your beast, you tilt your head back and open your mouth without extending your tongue. You do not say amen, but after having received the Eucharist step aside, make another reverence (as above), and return to your place.
I saw little children receive Communion at your church. They’re too young to know about the Eucharist.
The practice of baptizing infants and then excommunicating them for seven years is confusing, to say the least. Our children have been baptized and confirmed according to the Church’s traditional order of the sacraments and are full members of the Church. Just as parents nurture their children’s physical bodies, they also bring them to Holy Communion to nurture the seed of divine life that the children were given at Holy Baptism.
Do you use leavened bread rather than unleavened hosts?
We use leavened bread specially baked and offered by parishioners. The yeast used in the recipe is alive, just like the Lord Jesus, whose Body the bread becomes.
What is the bread given out to everyone at the end of Divine Liturgy?
The blessed bread, or antidoron, is what remains from the preparation of the Holy Eucharist. It is not the Body of Christ, but is still blessed and therefore given to those who participate or it is brought to shut-ins. Some people keep it in their homes and eat a small portion daily before breakfast as a blessing and a reminder of their participation in the Divine Liturgy.
We come forward to receive the antidoron and extend our hands right palm crossed over the left. We kiss the hand of the priest who places the antidoron in our hands.
Why is the Divine Liturgy so long?
For those who are new to our church, and as yet unfamiliar with its worship, things may seem confusing and lengthy. The Divine Liturgy is our entry into the joy of the Lord; for us, time and space are no more and we are in the eternal now of God’s presence. When we are in our Father’s house, we are where we ought to be. We are safe and secure in His loving presence, partaking of His holiness.
As we stand in the midst of the divine milieu and breathe the sacred atmosphere of God’s presence, we can say with St. Peter the apostle, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (Mat. 17:4) When we approach worship as joy rather than as an obligation, time spent with God is never really long enough.
What do you do after Divine Liturgy?
Since we have been to the mountain top and seen the glory of God revealed to us in the splendor of His holiness, we descend with the vision of that splendor fixed deeply in our minds and hearts.
We descend to a world that does not know God or His Son, Jesus Christ; a world disfigured by sin. We return bringing the healing and wholeness that only Christ can give. Our lives are changed and we translate into life what we have experienced in Liturgy.
I’ve never heard of Greek Catholics. Are you under the Pope?
At the time of the Early Church, there were several rich cultures in the Middle East, and each of them gave rise to a different church tradition. The traditions of our church reflect the Greek or Byzantine culture, and so we are called Greek Catholics, or Byzantine Catholics (from Byzantium, the ancient name for Constantinople). The average Greek Catholic is no more a Hellenic Greek than the average Roman Catholic is Italian.
Greek Catholics in the Middle East were also called Melkite because they followed the faith of the Byzantine emperor ("melek") in supporting the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon.
Our church is shepherded by the Patriarch of Antioch, the great city that St. Peter visited before Rome and where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11). He is in full communion with the Holy Father in Rome. That means that our two churches, separate and distinct though they are, share the same faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Members of one church may participate in the sacraments of the other. Roman Catholics attending the Divine Liturgy (Mass) at Holy Transfiguration, for example, fulfill their Sunday obligation.
Is it true that your priests can get married?
No, but qualified married men can be ordained to the diaconate and priesthood. This has been the practice of the Church since the time of the Apostles. The future deacon or priest must already be married before ordination, and his wife must approve.
Why do you use a different version of the Creed?
We recite the same Creed that was adopted at the First Ecumenical Council in 325 A.D. and the Second Ecumenical Council a few years later. In the late sixth century, the Latin-speaking churches of Western Europe added the words “and the Son” (filioque in Latin) to the description of the procession of the Holy Spirit. The change to the Creed led to unfortunate misunderstandings between East and West. The Eastern Churches retain the original form handed down by the saints, and recent popes have made sure to recite the Creed without the filioque when praying with Orthodox visitors.
What language do you use for your services?
All of our services are in English. The Eastern Churches had a vernacular liturgy long before the Roman Church. In our parish, we sometimes repeat the recurring responses and festal hymns in Greek and Arabic. We also have an Arabic choir that sings for a portion of the Divine Liturgy.