What Do Byzantine Catholics Believe?
The first seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church had a focus on preserving and articulating the essential truths of our faith embodied in the two theologically freighted terms: Trinity and Incarnation. Together these two terms encompass our understanding of God, God’s action of love towards creation, particularly humanity, and our salvation, not to mention our worship and spirituality. Of course, this is a deep well beyond human emptying, but it is the well of our faith.
Everything comes back to these two interrelated essential dogmas of our faith. It was the task of these first seven councils to combat heresy and define orthodoxy. For various cultural and historical reasons, these seven councils all convened in the Christian East. At the same time, they received the full sanction and support of the Pope in Rome. Many of the rich writings of the early Church Fathers were essential reading and preparation for the bishops attending these councils.
Our liturgy and our hymns, our worship and prayers, our worship space, and our spiritual practices all overlap. As you reflect upon the Divine Liturgy, you will note that several times the phrase “Christians of the true faith” comes up. Far from being arrogant posturing, this statement speaks directly to our grasp of Trinity and Incarnation.
In understanding Byzantine practices and spirituality, the themes of Trinity and of Incarnation are predominant throughout. In the Incarnation of our Lord, God, and Savior, heaven and earth literally meet in the womb of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary through the loving action of the Holy Trinity. (Luke 1:30-35) Our salvation, indeed the renewal of all creation, is thus effected through “the Word of God made flesh and dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) Everything else follows from this – including the theological function of worship space and the unique form of art in the Christian East, the icon.