Instruction for applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches 
On Theophany 1996 the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches issued the English translation of the INSTRUCTION to assist the hierarchs of the autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in applying the liturgical prescriptions of the new code of canons. The INSTRUCTIONS express the wishes of the Holy Father that the Eastern Catholic Churches sui juris strive to recover their authentic traditions lost through their own indifference and/or as a result of the influences of the prevailing Roman Catholic Church. Where the Eastern Catholic Churches have deviated from their traditions by losing the same or by adopting practices foreign to their own, they are to seek diligently to recover what is authentic and proper in their own traditions eschewing, as far as practicable, foreign influences.
Repeatedly in his speeches, letters, instructions and in meetings with Eastern hierarchs, Catholic and Orthodox, the Pontiff has expressed his desire that the Eastern Catholic Churches serve as the bridge to the Orthodox brethren in furtherance of his quest that the unity of the Churches which existed in the first millenium and was breached in the second would be restored in the third. Encountering Orthodox suspicion that union with Rome leads to corruption of the traditions of the East, the Holy Father urges the Eastern Catholic Churches to recover their authentic traditions, thereby reducing to the extent possible the differences which exist between the Eastern Catholic Churches and their corresponding Orthodox sister churches.
The version of the INSTRUCTION excerpted below is the official one issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches and published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Should the reader find the language somewhat awkward, the reason probably lies in the fact that English may not be the translator's mother tongue.
1) THE LITURGY
The liturgy of the Church is first of all celebration, by means of the Holy Spirit, of the mystery of our salvation, accompanied in the Passover of the Lord Jesus, in obedience to the eternal will of the heavenly Father.
2) LITURGY IN THE EASTERN CHURCHES
… John Paul II invites one to listen to the Churches of the East, living interpreters of the treasure of tradition they preserve … Indeed, in comparison to any other culture, the Christian East has an unique and privileged role as the original setting where the Church was born.
3) SOME OBJECTIVES OF THE INSTRUCTION
1) to lead to a more profound understanding of the immense richness of the authentic Eastern traditions, which are to be scrupulously maintained and communicated to all the faithful
2) to arrange the liturgical norms valid for all the Catholic Eastern Churches in an organic summary and to introduce recovery, where necessary, of the Eastern liturgical authenticity, according to the Tradition which each Eastern Church has inherited from the Apostles through the [Church] Fathers.
The Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen, particularly emphasizes the irreplaceable role of the Catholic Eastern faithful, living bearers, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, of the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches. p. 12
The Council [Vatican II] specifies that changes in the rites and disciplines of these Churches are not admitted except by reason of their own organic progress and adds that whenever they have fallen short, due to circumstances of time and persons, they are to strive to return to their ancestral traditions. The Holy Father John Paul II sees in this a symbol of the firm attitude held by the Apostolic See, that the Council so efficiently expressed by asking the Eastern Churches in full communion with it to have the courage to rediscover the authentic traditions of their own identity, restoring the original purity where necessary.
5) SPIRITUAL PRE-EMINENCE OF THE EASTERN LITURGIES
The pre-eminence of the liturgical patrimony is even greater in the Eastern Churches because they have maintained in a special way the primacy of the liturgy as the summit of Christian life, remaining thus completely faithful to the Church of the Fathers … The whole life of the Church was, therefore, summarized in the liturgy … The prayer of the Churches of the East is strongly communitarian … the liturgical life remains more essentially in the center of ecclesial concerns …
6) LITURGICAL HERITAGE AND IDENTITY
The Eastern Catholic Churches, although having been influenced by the weight of Western [viz. Roman Catholic] tradition, have maintained in the field of liturgy a more faithful conformity to their true traditions … It is precisely their liturgies, restored to greater authenticity and vitality by eliminating that which has altered them, that should be the best starting point for a growth of their specific identity …
7) IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION
Since a heritage of faith is received through Tradition, which guarantees its continuity and authenticity throughout time, ever since antiquity and especially since the testimony of the Apostles … It is an intangible divine deposit … Applied to liturgy, Tradition has shown an extraordinary vitality in the Eastern Churches …
8) LITURGICAL RENEWAL
The first requirement of every Eastern liturgical renewal … is that of rediscovering full fidelity to their own liturgical traditions, benefiting from their riches and eliminating that which altered their authenticity … It is once again John Paul II who declares; “If, therefore, you must trim extraneous forms and developments, deriving from various influences that come from liturgical and paraliturgical traditions foreign to your tradition, it is possible that you will have to also correct some popular habits.”
9) ECUMENICAL VALUE OF COMMON LITURGICAL HERITAGE
[We] underscore the need to promote union with the Eastern Churches that are not yet in full communion with the See of Peter, indicating the conditions: religious fidelity to ancient traditions of the Eastern Churches, better knowledge of one another, and collaboration and fraternal respect of persons and things … In every effort of liturgical renewal … that practice of the Orthodox brethren should be taken into account knowing it, respecting it and distancing from it as little as possible so as not to increase the existing separation …
10) LITURGICAL BOOKS AND ECUMENISM
… some Eastern Catholic Churches lack their own editions of liturgical books, or at least some, and must use editions … used by the corresponding Orthodox Churches … any unnccessary differentiation between the liturgical books of the Eastern Catholic Churches and those for the Orthodox should be avoided. Rather, common editions, in the measure in which it is possible, are encouraged.
11) THE LITURGICAL YEAR
If in recent times, feasts and fasts coming from the Latin [viz. Roman Catholic] liturgy or from other incongruous liturgies have been introduced in the calendars of the Eastern Catholic Churches, necessary steps should be taken … to restore the calendar to its traditional structure eliminating the elements incomparable with the spirit and features of the Eastern heritage … the practice, already in countries of Orthodox majority, will be encouraged to celebrate Easter on the day in which it is celebrated by the Orthodox …
12) SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION
… the three sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation with the holy Myron, and Holy Communion [should be administered] in conjunction with or at least not long after another … This practice was changed during the last century [viz. 19th century] in different Eastern Catholic Churches under external pressure, based on spiritual and pastoral meanings altered by Latins [viz. Roman Catholics] … not in line with the dynamism of the Eastern patrimony.
Many liturgical books provide for the usual administration of Baptism through the rite of triple immersion. Maintained throughout the tradition of the Eastern Churches, it is a meaningful and highly expressive rite which is still present and encouraged in the Western Church, although too often abandoned by simple reasons of inconvenience. The competent authorities should therefore seek ways to restore it …
13) THE EUCHARIST
… it is the responsibility of the priest to distribute the Eucharist, or also the deacon if the particular law of the Church sui juris so disposes … reserving the distribution of the Eucharist normally to the priests has the scope of manifesting its highest sacredness.
The Eucharist should be distributed under the both species of consecrated bread and wine.
… the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches establishes that the Divine Eucharist is to be distributed in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy … except in the cases of Communion for the sick who are not present or Communion of the presanctified on non-liturgical days [usually Wednesdays and Fridays during Great Lent].
The ancient norms for fasting [Eucharistic fast] in the Eastern Catholic Churches is valued opportune, taking into account the meaning of both the traditional practice … and of the need to correspond with the different condition of life in the world today.
The presbyters should especially avoid celebrating the Divine Liturgy more than once a day without a specific pastoral reason. Practice deviating from this principle must be authorized and controlled by episcopal authority.
… liturgical vestments to be worn in the celebration must be specified by the particular law [of each Church sui juris] … Also in this area, the traditional usage should be preserved, maintaining all the value of the particular liturgical language and abstaining from the imitation of other Churches usage …
As for the non-liturgical dress of the clergy, it is appropriate that the individual Churches sui juris return to the style of the traditional Eastern usage.
… leavened bread is [used] by most of the Eastern Churches, and unleavened bread, used by the Armenians and Latins.
The rite of Zeon (the supplemental addition of hot water in the cup before Communion), present in the Churches of the Constantinoplitan branch and unfortunately forsaken in some Greek-Catholic Churches, should be recovered.
14) MINOR ORDERS TO BE MAINTAINED
… if the Eastern Catholic Churches have a special duty of fostering unity among all Eastern Churches, … through religious fidelity to ancient traditions, it would not be helpful to introduce a differentiation of usage with respect to the Orthodox Churches, all participating in the same common origin. Every change that has been improperly introduced in more or less recent times should be reexamined based on these principles.
15) RESTORATION OF THE DIVINE PRAISES
The Eastern Catholic Churches have often run the risk of omitting the communal and solemn celebration of the Divine Praises [matins, vespers, lauds and other traditional forms of worship outside of the Divine Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great] substituting it with individual recitation of the Divine Office on the part of the clergy, while the daily celebration of the Eucharist has remained often almost the only form of communal liturgy. Where such practice of celebrating the Divine Praises with the people has diminished, if not completely disappeared, the ancient tradition should be restored without delay, so as not to deprive the faithful of a privileged source of prayer nourished by treasures of authentic doctrine.
16) SACRED PLACES
The Eastern Catholic Churches are to zealously maintain and practice the use of incense in the celebration [of the Divine Services] … because it belongs in a special way to their own tradition. Every custom to the contrary is to be modified.
17) THE TEMPLE
In the Eastern Churches, sacred space is divided into various functional areas organically connected … The sanctuary is separated from the nave by a veil, gate or iconostasis, because it is the most sacred place: it contains the altar on which the Divine Liturgy is celebrated and the Oblation is offered. Only those who are entrusted with the sacred ministry [those in holy orders] can enter the sanctuary to complete the sacred acts.
… the celebrant who presides in the liturgical celebration prays facing the east, just as the people who participate. It is not a question, as is often claimed, of presiding [in] the celebration with the back turned to the people, but rather of guiding the people in pilgrimage toward the Kingdom, invoked in prayer until the return of the Lord. Such practice … is thus of profound value and should be safeguarded as truly coherent with the Eastern liturgical spirituality.
The specific meaning of icons … consists in evoking and in representing not the daily, human aspects as seen by the earthly eye, but the absolute Christian newness of what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, and that the Lord has prepared for those who love Him, making them be reborn from above and showing them the Kingdom of God. Expressing the heavenly dimension of the personages they represent, endows icons with a sacred nature and in a certain way, with participation in the divine. For this reason, icons are direct objects of human worship [veneration] and are venerated as the images of the Lord, His works, and the saints represented are venerated.
It cannot be denied that the Eastern Catholic Churches have been exposed, in rather recent times, to the influence of sacred art styles completely foreign to their heritage, concerning both the external form of sacred buildings and the arrangement of the interior space and sacred images … Fidelity [to artistic tradition] does not imply anachronistic fixation, … but rather, development that is fully coherent with the profound and immutable meaning of how it is celebrated in the liturgy.
Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches, 1996
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Copies of the official translation of the INSTRUCTION from Italian into English may be obtained from LIBRERIA EDITRICE VATICANA, 00120 Citta del Vaticano, VATICAN CITY. Its Web site may be found under the above name of the publisher as key word in any of the major search engines.