By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — East met West in a celebration of a Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Catholic Church in an unusual setting: the library of the Diocese of Davenport’s headquarters. There, the diocese’s 10 deacon candidates joined adults and children of the Byzantine Catholic Outreach for worship. The congregation formed a half-circle in the nave, facing a series of icons on wooden frames and a set of swinging half-doors with a curtain on top. The half-doors, called the royal doors, opened to the sanctuary. In a liturgy rich with symbolism, the icons and royal doors conveyed the separation between heaven and earth.
“What we are doing here is practicing for eternity,” said Father Bryan Eyman, who presided at the Divine Liturgy and gave the homily. As Protopresbyter for the Midwest Region of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy, Fr. Eyman serves the fledgling Byzantine Catholic Outreach based at St. Joseph Church in West Liberty, Iowa.
The Byzantine Catholic Church is a church of the many Eastern Traditions while the Roman Catholic Church is a church of the Western Tradition. Both are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, but differ in their celebration of liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, Canon Law and spiritual traditions.
Fr. Eyman’s trip to Iowa was to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord with the Byzantine Catholic Outreach during which the youngest member, 7-month-old Nicholas Elias Tenney, received Chrismation (confirmation) and first Communion.
Fr. Eyman extended his stay to celebrate a Divine Liturgy with the diocese’s deacon candidates, at the request of Adam Kemner, the Byzantine Catholic Outreach cantor, and Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of Deacon Formation. Kemner is a student in the Master of Pastoral Theology program with the diocese’s deacon candidates and had invited them to attend the Divine Liturgy in West Liberty. Deacon Agnoli knew some of the deacon candidates would not be able to make it then, but he wanted them to have the opportunity to experience a Divine Liturgy. Their first weekend of the academic year occurred in the same week as Fr. Eyman’s visit.
During his homily for the deacon candidates, Fr. Eyman explained what was happening in the Divine Liturgy and why. “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be,” he quoted from Scripture. That’s why Fr. Eyman faced the altar and not the congregation, he said. “My back isn’t to you; we are all praying to the East.”
Deacon candidate Dan Freeman of St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass, an altar server for the Divine Liturgy, appreciated Fr. Eyman’s explanation that he was worshipping with the people. “That was important,” Freeman said.
Fr. Eyman further explained that “my job, by ordination, is to advise the bishop.” A chair reserved for the bishop sat empty in the sanctuary, but served as a reminder “that the bishop is always here and the celebrant of the Divine Liturgy.”
In preparation for Communion, Fr. Eyman instructed communicants to state their baptismal name first and then to open their mouths wide to receive the body and blood of Christ by spoon. Don’t let the spoon touch your mouth, he cautioned. Deacon candidate Karl Lantzky of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport was surprised that it felt natural to receive Communion in that manner.
Deacon candidate Lowell Van Wyk of St. Mary Parish in Pella, an altar server at the Divine Liturgy, was deeply moved that every person heard the Protopresbyter say their name as they received Communion. The most awesome aspect of the Divine Liturgy, for Van Wyk, was holding a special cloth beneath each person receiving Communion. “Communion is so personal,” he said.
Deacon candidate Joe Welter of the Newman Center/St. Mary Parish in Iowa City had the opportunity to assist with the Divine Liturgy in West Liberty and at diocesan headquarters in Davenport. He appreciated seeing liturgy celebrated differently than what he is accustomed to. “It was energizing,” he said. “It got us out of our comfort zone.”
Kemner was grateful for the opportunity to participate in a Divine Liturgy not once but twice in the same week. With Byzantine Catholic communities so far flung and just one Byzantine Catholic priest to serve seven of the 10 states in the Midwest Region, a Divine Liturgy can be celebrated perhaps several times a year at the outreach. “This has been a huge week for us,” Kemner said.
Byzantine Catholic Outreach
The Byzantine Catholic Outreach was officially established Aug. 15, 2014 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in West Liberty. It has approximately 35 members, from babies to adults.
Bishop Martin Amos of the Diocese of Davenport said that he is responsible to provide for the spiritual needs of Eastern Rite Catholics in the diocese, which is why he supported the outreach’s founding. It comes under the authority of Bishop John Kudrick of Parma, Ohio, for the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Church.
Deacon Sergio Ayala, a member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (Eastern rite), has received permission from his bishop to exercise primary liturgical ministry for the outreach. The deacon presides at Saturday evening Vespers and a Sunday morning service called Typika (Rite for Holy Communion without a Priest.) Adam Kemner, a Byzantine Catholic, serves as a liturgist.