Questions about piety, devotions, and iconography.

Charismatic Renewal

Is the charismatic renewal present in the Eastern Churches?

It depends on how one defines the Charismatic Renewal. In the minds of some the charismatic renewal is (mistakenly) associated only with guitar praise and worship music. Obviously, we don’t have that.

However, the deeper aspects of the renewal, including a personal intimacy with the Holy Spirit and charismatic gifts, are found in Eastern Christianity. Eastern Christian spirituality has always placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, some would argue that the charismatic renewal was necessary in the West because the role of the Holy Spirit was obscured in some of the popular piety. Eastern piety has always focused on the Holy Spirit.

The renewal, as a movement, has had an impact in some of the Eastern Catholic Churches. I have been told that in the Maronite Church (primarily in Lebanon) there are numerous charismatic prayer groups. I also know at least one charismatic Byzantine Catholic priest.

Eucharistic Adoration

I would like to know if the Eastern churches practice Eucharistic Adoration, reserve the Eucharist in a tabernacle, or have other similar practices?

The Latin devotion of Eucharistic adoration is generally not practiced among the Eastern Churches. We place less emphasis on visually seeing the Eucharist, and a greater emphasis on physically consuming it. The primary Eastern understanding of the Eucharist is as the “medicine of immortality.” A medicine is most effective when consumend and ingested.

Also, the exposition of the Eucharist really isn’t in harmony with our Eastern sensibilities. We refer to the sacraments as the “Holy Mysteries,” and it isn’t in keeping with our spirituality to visually expose a mystery. Rather, we believe that a mystery is to be concealed and guarded.

Of course, while we do not have Eucharistic adoration we ALWAYS show the utmost respect for the Eucharist that is reserved on our altars. Praying before Him is always encouraged.

Also, I personally think that Eucharistic adoration is very beneficial for the Western Church. For many centuries the West has had to battle against a denial of the Real Presence, and Eucharistic adoration helps to counteract this heresy. In Eastern Christianity there has never been a denial of the Real Presence.

St. Photius

I noticed that Photius is an Orthodox Saint. Now, from what I read Photius was not the greatest person and it seems to me that some of his actions didn’t do much to serve Christ and his Church. So on one hand I wonder, why is he a saint?

The Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church also venerates St. Photius, and he is on the calendar of saints.

Please be advised that most of the literature written against him is highly polemical in nature, and distorts the facts of his case. Francis Dvornik, one of the greatest Church historians of modern times, has demonstrated that many of the charges against Photius are simply myths with no factual basis. I would recommend reading his book on the subject, “The Photian Schism.”

Some of Photius’s theological opinions were somewhat reactionary, but he was not canonized because of his theological reasoning, but because of his personal holiness. In particular, Photius had a zeal for evangelization, and it was him who sent SS. Cyril and Methodius on their mission to the Slavs.

Significance of Icons

Does the Eastern Catholic Church believe that it is wrong to use statues in Church and that flat icons are to be used in religious services?

Eastern Catholics would not go so far as to say it is “wrong” to have statues in a parish. We respect the traditions of our Latin brothers and sisters. But traditionally, Eastern Catholics only use flat images during religious services for a multitude of reasons.

First, icons are written according to specific canons. Every color, shape, and object in an icon means something. They speak a theological language, and hence convery doctrine.

Second, icons are always “unrealistic,” and do not depict earthly realities. They try to depict heavenly realities, which we cannot fully comprehend.

Third, icons in and of themselves are not objects of devotion. Rather, we understand them to be windows into heaven.