"How does your Hail Mary differ? Is the difference in the sign of the cros just the order of the shoulders (right, then left)?"
Yes, our sign of the cross simply goes from right to left. The Roman Catholic Church also used to cross themselves this way until the 15th or 16th centiruy- I'm not sure why they changed, as the meaning is: God favors the right-hand- with this we bless ourselves, on this right side the priest blesses us, censing of the Ikonostasis, the Holy Table, the Congregation and of the Church itself always begins with the right side, etc. I have also heard that our use of vernacular in saying "Holy Ghost" (or "Spirit") corresponds with touching the left shoulder upon the word "Ghost/Spirit"
Our Hail Mary (or, "Angelic Salutation") is:
Rejoice O Virgin Theotokos!
Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women, and Blessed is the Fruit of your womb.
For you have borne Christ
The Saviour and Deliverer of our souls.
Not so very much different, but a bit :)
"Yes, I imagine it would be difficult for an infant to genuflect. (Just kidding... I know what you meant) Do infants receive communion on a regular basis, or do they receive the first time as an infant and then begin receiving regularly at an older age? If the latter, is there a typical age or some other criteria? What about confirmation?"
LOL yeah, we are not THAT demanding on our precious babies, that they genuflect- just that they be perfect in every other way ;) Yes, infants can receive communion, since we use intinction method, and they do so regularly, and we do have confirmation/Chrismation as infants. I have met Roman Catholic priests who are both okay and not okay with giving communion to Byzantine children "beneath the age of reason" when they go to RC mass.
"What is St. Philip's fast? Do you have any type of preparation for Christmas? Do you celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6, or is that the Orthodox? What is your understanding of the Immaculate Conception?"
St. Philip's Fast begins the day after the Feast of St. Philip (so, on Nov 15th) and lasts the 40 days before Christmas. There is typically exemption for Thanksgiving. It is like Lent, wherein you make some personal choices to abstain from certain things, and you are also meant to abstain from particular items on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during this time. These items are up for interpretation by your priest (as our priests may celebrate and interpret feasts and fasts in different ways- we have a different sort of idea of hierarchy than the West). These foods typically include dairy, meat, wine, and oils- much like we do at Lent!
We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day, and we also do celebrate Epiphany as a second, mini-Christmas (sort of). Many families, mine included, celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas and exchange a small gift on every day up to the 6th- on the 6th we get our Christmas stocking and have another large dinner :) Some may celebrate it a little differently -shrug-
The Immaculate Conception....this is one that threw me for a loop last year, and I still try to research it on and off. We believe that she was born without sin. Sinless. And that Ann's womb was sanctified. Now, this is different from the Western interpretation of it. We see her as a new being, fashioned by the Holy Ghost without the stain of sin upon her, and never meant to say "No" to God; whereas the West believes more in something like: by the grace of God, a mortal born without sin, whom He chose to bear Jesus, as He knew she would not refuse. What it all boils down to is we both see her as sinless- but the understanding the theology perpetuating it is the challenge...Eastern Catholics do not typically suscribe to exuberating Marian dogmas, such as Immaculate Conception, her Crowning, Annunciation, etc. The East never questioned the Real Presence, and thus any devotion outside of the Divine Liturgy was not seen as necessary. Like the rosary, it is a good thing, as no devotion is wrong, but it was never a large focus. I in particular have a very very very strong deovtion to our Lady, our Theotokos, for an Eastern Catholic :) I hope someday I can exemplify her, as close to her perfectiona s I can, as wife and mother
"We receive a general absolution at Mass before Communion that forgives venial sins."
I have noticed this, that verbage used in mass typically sounds like a group confession and such, however so many Catholics I know will not receive communion if they have not been to confession, even if they do not know or reccolect any of their sins, they feel innately sinful (Catholic Guilt?) and so refuse to receive communion without having had confession....this I never really understood of the West, because if you feel you are not worthy to receive, then why is God still within you as the Holy Ghost? The temple of the body is always worthy to recieve, what is in question is are you ready to accept your sins personally - it is this unacceptance of your sins, and non-examination of conscience, that is the grave sin wherein we are not one with God, and thus unworthy.
"The notion of earning salvation is not part of our faith either, though it seems to be a very common misunderstanding."
I understand it does not typically seem to be part of the faith in and of itself, such as if you were to go to Rome you might not witness it as much, and perhaps it is only the Calvinistic approach Americans have become accostumed to, but I do see it a lot, myself. Western Catholics, that I see, and observe in prayer and text, see themselves as unworthy, that we deserve to be punished for our sins (wherein we believe Jesus took that punishment for us). However, Easterners typically idealize that: Hell is not meant for humans. We are not meant to go there, and it is in fact rather difficult for God to want us to go there. We are meant to go to Heaven, and so our faith is based on that love that God is, the love that allows us to exist on Earth in order to be with Him in Heaven. So, the West might say: God will put us in Heaven or Hell based on our choices on Earth, whereas we say, God always puts us in Heaven, and we love him for that, thus, we obey him out of love, not out of fear of damnation (of course it is entirely possible, but we pray for the must sinful hearts, alive and deceased, for a reason. The best way I heard it put, and I did have a RC priest agree with this, ;) is that in the West, we start at the bottom and work our way up, but in the East we start at the top and work our way down...
"I'd be very surprised if you don't believe in original sin, as that seems to be very obvious from Scripture alone."
It's not that we don't believe in it, so much as we have a very different idea of it. There have been so many ecumenical councils on this topic...
Basically: Adam's sin had two lasting effects: weakness toward sin by all peoples, and their mortal death. Neither of these is the stain of original sin; that causes us to be born already distanced from God. They are, instead, changes to reality caused by Adam's sin. It is the nature of free will that we are corruptible.
We believe that original sin is not a cause for guilt. We believe that from the moment of coneption (ie life) we are indwelt by the Holy Ghost! We are not soulless writhing creatures until our baptism (this is an exageration lol) Therefore, if we are consumed by the Holy Ghost upon life, how is it that we should feel guilt for our mortality (the effect of Adam's sin). This also leads to our different idea of the Immaculate Conception: she was borne into a world of disgrace, without sin (because??) she was indwelt with God at the beginning of her life. Sounds fairly simmilar. So, I have even spoken with the local ORthodox priest about this matter of original sin, since his and our beliefs are identical (other than Papal infallibility of course) and he agrees it is rather up for debate, and would lead one to think we do not believe in original sin (though again, we do, just differently)
"It may be your notion of grave sin is not all that different from our mortal sin. The terminology varies quite a bit, but one common convention is to use the term 'grave' to refer to sins that are objectively very serious and capable of being mortal; the term 'mortal' is used for grave acts that meet certain subjective requirements (knowledge and full consent of the will). [In informal usage, 'mortal' is often used to describe either subjectively or objectively grave sins; it can be a bit confusing, but the intent can often be determined from the context.] It sounds like our mortal sins (in the subjective sense) may be similar to your grave sins, since if one willfully commits a grave sin they are effectively telling God to get out of their lives (whether they explicitly think of it that way or not). Of course the devil is in the details...."
I agree to a point, that context and intent are important; however, where you say they may be important, we consider it as key. Stealing a bag of flour: mortal sin? Not always. We also take to appraising sins as human error rather than intrinsically evil actions. Something such as say (parden me) masturbating can be attributed to human weakness, unless you have a more, let's say, malicious, intent than one normally would. Are you planning and deviating purposefully, are you intentionally rejecting God? Intent is a huge part of it. You steal that bag of flour: did you steal it to be cheap and sneaky, did you steal it because you were jealous and wanted it, or did you steal to help feed your family? There would be a difference. Here's an example: a friend of mine was telling a story and exaggerated a bit to impress others. They believed him and pretttty much exalted him for this story. He felt horrible and that he must go to confession for lying. That would be considered an act of human weakness, confession-worthy, but nothing you should stress over (for us the worse sin would be to not correct the story later). Whereas this same friend was in church awhile later and he, for about 20minutes, felt angry, and that he did not want God in his life or his life in God's plan. He felt alright afterward, and dismissed it, but that would be what we call a "grave" sin that you must confess. The intent to abandon God is the basis of all sin. I'm not saying we do not confess sins of human weakness, or "necessity" - we certainly do, but it is not the sin to focus so much on as abandoning God is. This leads into my mentioning "Catholic Guilt" - the notion that we should feel bad for human weakness or that we "deserve" bad things when we've done bad things. With the Holy Ghost living inside us He does not want us to suffer. Jesus died for our sins, and they have been paid for. Our job is to make sure we do not damage our faith morseo than risk going to Hell. I met a priest who believed that if a person who has committed a grave or mortal sin were to die on their way to confession, that they would go to Hell. This is baloney to us.
I'm sorry, I can go on. In short, the Eastern Catholic churches do not make a distinction between sins that are serious enough to bar one from receiving Communion and those not sufficiently serious to do so.
"What text do you use as a reference for your faith? Your Code of Canon Law would contain the disciplinary and perhaps liturgical aspects, but I wouldn't expect it to serve as a primary theological reference."
Indeed, our primary source is the Code of Canons of The Eastern Churches, hoewever, this is only a common framework under which all Eastern Catholics comune. These cannons are consequence of the common patrimony of all Eastern Rites. We also take into account the early Church Fathers' writing and discourses. Furhter along, each sui iuris rite or church has its own canons and laws on top of this code. Our Archeparchy may make further law and rules, and then our priests may interpret them further. Our churches tend to be very community-oriented, and put power in the priests hands to make decisions for his parish.
Hahaha, I told my sister about the "all Catholics are Roman Catholics" bit and she was like "Then why isn't it called ROMAN CATHOLIC Match?" hahahaha I also notice that the name of this room: Traditional Roman and Eastern Rite, in itself defines "Roman" as a rite ;)