Byzantine Architecture

 

 

Enter a Byzantine Catholic Church and it will look quite similar to an Orthodox Church in every detail except for a picture of the Holy Father in Rome, and perhaps a Vatican flag.  Experience the Divine Liturgy and it will have the same content except for when the community prays for “the Pope of Rome.”  That would be the Catholics, of course. What will vary is the tonality of the music, based upon the musical cultural tradition of the worshipping community. Byzantines use no musical instruments in worship, but are led a cappella by a cantor or a choir. The entire service is sung or chanted, including readings from Scripture. 

 

 

 

First to the “holy place,” the sacred altar.  The entire space behind the icon screen is the altar, the place of consecration and sacred action. Central to that space is the “holy table,” which is commonly misconstrued as the altar itself. It is more proper, in terms of the evolution of Byzantine practices from ancient Jewish service ritual to think first of the entire space as “the Holy of Holies,” and within it certain furniture that has liturgical/theological function.

 

In Jewish synagogues, the central furnishings in the holy space are “the Ark,” containing the sacred Torah scrolls, and the table upon which the Torah scroll is placed with great reverence and unrolled for reading.  In Eastern Churches, there is a tabernacle placed upon the Holy Table for the reserved Eucharist, the true presence of Our Lord in our midst. The Holy Table also contains the Gospel Book and is the place upon which the rituals of Eucharistic consecration are performed.