Submitted by Reverend Father George Wendt
The little white church at the crossroads of the Mayfield and Chillicothe roads is a mystery to many Chesterlanders.
Standing amid more modern structures in the area, it is easily recognized as a unique part of our community due to its pre-Civil War design. The Most Holy Trinity Byzantine Catholic Parish has a long history in Geauga County; it belonged to several Protestant denominations before being purchased by the Catholic Church in the mid-1970s.
As an introduction to Geauga County residents, he will host an open house at 9:30 a.m. September 25.
The Byzantine Catholic Church of Most Holy Trinity Church, located at 8549 Mayfield Road, is by far the oldest building in Chesterland, having been built in 1852 and opened in September 1853. It was originally located on the across Mayfield Road from the town square until it was moved to its current location in 1892. The narthex (or entrance) and bell tower were added in 1917. The basement social hall has also was added the same year and expanded to a full basement in 1932. The presbytery was built in 1968. Most Holy Trinity is one of the smallest churches in the area, seating about 75 people.
When most of the original Byzantine Catholic congregation came from Eastern Europe and arrived in the United States in the early 20th century, they brought their Byzantine Catholic faith with them and adapted the building from the church to their particular form of worship and devotion. This is reflected inside the church, which contains many icons telling the story of Jesus Christ and his followers as reflected in the Bible. It is a church of icons, which will be explained in detail during the open day. The icons are a devotional aid and present the fundamental teachings of Christianity. They are found in great abundance inside the building.
The Byzantine Catholic Church is part of the greater Catholic community (or Roman Catholic Church) and is part of what is known as the Eastern Catholic Church. The Byzantine Catholic Church is sometimes referred to as “the Catholic Church’s best-kept secret” because it is not well known. Originally belonging to various ethnic branches of the Orthodox Church, a minority broke away several centuries ago to rejoin the Catholic Church. While keeping its cultural aspects (such as the use of icons as a devotional aid instead of statuary and its unique spirituality and prayer life), it accepted the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Byzantine Catholic Church is its primary form of worship, the Divine Liturgy (called the Mass in the Roman Church). Founded in the early centuries of Christianity, the Divine Liturgy is primarily sung and entirely in English. All present are turned towards the East and the Communion is distributed only on the tongue. Although it has undergone changes during its sixteen hundred year history (it goes back to Saint John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople in the 5th century), the Divine Liturgy retains its fundamental facets: opening prayers, biblical readings, sermon, eucharistic consecration, Lord’s Prayer, Holy Communion and dismissal. Thus, a bit of the ancient world is available to the local community on Sunday mornings.
The open house will begin September 25 at 9:30 a.m. with a tour of the icons in the church, followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10 a.m. A lunch and ice cream social will be served immediately after the Divine Liturgy. Those planning to attend should call 440-729-7636.