Heaven on Earth: Divine Liturgy Graces Convention
In a beautiful and reverent Eastern Catholic liturgy filled with chanting, song and solemn ceremony, the Knights of Columbus highlighted its recent expansion into Ukraine and expressed solidarity with the people of that country, who have suffered war and unrest in recent years.
The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was celebrated Wednesday morning, Aug. 5, during the Supreme Convention in Philadelphia. The liturgy for the Prefeast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord was offered by Archbishop Stefan Soroka, archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, who is Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States. Concelebrating were many of the cardinals, bishops and priests at the convention.
Providing music and chanted responses was the Choir of the Ukrainian National Shrine of the Holy Family, from Washington, D.C.
Eastern liturgies are marked by many litanies, called “Great” and “Small,” hymns to Christ and the Blessed Mother, and repetition of intercessions. The sanctuary is decorated with numerous icons that are rich in symbolism and designed to bring worshipers into a close and immediate relationship with God and the saints. Communion is offered under both species, with the host dipped in precious blood and placed by a holy spoon into the open mouth of the communicant.
In his homily, Archbishop Soroka said that there are 23 Eastern Catholic Churches that are in communion with the pope, and 18 of them are established in the United States. The legitimacy and importance of the Eastern Churches and their liturgies were re-emphasized by the Second Vatican Council and have been supported by statements and documents of the popes since then, the archbishop said. A common theme of Eastern theology is that God became man so that man could begin on earth a transfiguration into the life of God, he noted.
“My brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us begin our journey of transformation, of transfiguration, in this path of divinization from the moment of our Baptism,” he stated. “At that moment we have been baptized into Christ, we have put on Christ. We begin to experience the real and transformative union with God as we humans begin to acquire our mantle of divinity.”
He continued, “In a special way, men who choose to become Knights of Columbus, following in the footsteps of our founder, Father Michael McGivney, also experience a special transformation as they are transfigured on this path of divinization.”
When Archbishop Soroka was a pastor, he told the congregation, a Knights of Columbus council was formed in his parish. He noticed how men who were weak in their practice of the faith became strong and active. Shy and quiet men became bold leaders. The parish was transformed by the witness and work of the Knights, he said.
“The power of fraternal prayer and works of charity in an atmosphere of unity with patriotic love for God, Church and country transformed these men and their families,” Archbishop Soroka said. “They began to live a transformed life of love and grace in the ways of Our Lord. They now lived a life in union with a God who unconditionally loves them.”
The power of the Knights has been evident in the transformation of men in Ukraine, where the Order has been active for the past few years. Especially noteworthy has been the charitable and spiritual outreach by the Knights to those who have suffered from the recent violence in that country, he added.
“I personally know how thousands of people in Ukraine, including those wounded and psychologically scarred by war, have had their lives enhanced by the generous humanitarian aid of the Knights of Columbus, for which we are extremely grateful,” the archbishop said.
He urged all Knights and their families to go forth in the spirit of God, and with the intercession of the Blessed Mother, to transform their lives, their families and their communities.