St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral - Part III, part of a larger community


The Chandelier

Following the vibrant religious traditions in the Eastern Catholic faith, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral also establishes itself as part of a larger community. Every part of Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, its liturgy and structure has significance according to Phyllis Zaparaniuk, Business Manager of St. Nicholas.

A massive twinkling gold chandler hangs from the main cupola. The chandelier has 480 globes that was made in Greece. On the outside of the chandelier are depictions of the gospel writers of the New Testament. The chandelier represents light of Christ. Within the chandelier, it is dark, but the outside is bright with the teachings and the life of Christ.


Iconostasis divides the sanctuary from the church's body

A beautiful marble iconostasis divides the sanctuary from the body of the church. The screen marks the division between the heavenly and the earthly. The priest conducts ceremonies facing east towards Rome, where, it is believed, the second coming of Christ will occur. Therefore, the priest will lead his congregation to the second coming.

On the iconostasis, the four icons show St. Josaphat, who brought the Church back into communion with Rome, the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and St. Nicholas. The colors on Mary and Christ's robes are quite critical. According to Ukrainian Catholic iconography, red is the color of divinity and blue is the color of humanity. Mary wears a blue dress with a red robe, symbolizing how she was human and then became divine. Christ, on the other hand, wears red robes with blue covering, representing how he is divine and became human.



The Pantocrator tower high above the iconostasis

Pantocrator is the main icon above the altar. The name Pantocrator comes from Greek and means "ruler of all." In many Greek Catholic churches and cathedrals, it is typical to have the Pantocrator in such a prominent location. He is shown with a book in his left hand, signifying judgment, and his right hand upraised in blessing.

Zaparaniuk explains that the services activate each of the five senses. First, the incense and the candles activate the sense of smell. The candles in particular are made from pure beeswax, not manmade materials, in order to represent the purity of Mary. Second, the sense of hearing is stimulated by the chants and songs throughout the service. Third, the sense of sight is brought into play by the sheer glory of the Cathedral and its icons. Fourth, the sense of taste is used when one takes Communion. And fifth and finally, touch is employed when you cross yourself with the trinity in your hand.


One of the mosaics that greet you next to the front exterior doors

At the same time the Cathedral has strong religious ceremonies and icons in the Eastern Catholic faith, the Cathedral and the society of St. Nicholas are open to the community. St. Nicholas has a daily liturgy in English in addition to Ukrainian. St. Nicholas Parish School of Arts offers classes in subjects from all over the world including the Argentine tango. Moreover, many people who are neither Ukrainian nor Eastern Catholic come to services. Zaparaniuk explains: "It doesn't matter what language you pray in. You should open your arms to anyone interested in the mystery of the church."

Between the rich history of the Church and its services, its incredible architecture and art, and its inclusive community, St. Nicholas is a special institution in Chicago. Sunday English Liturgy is at 11:30 a.m. and Sunday Ukrainian Liturgy is at 7:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m., and 10:00 a.m.

For more information: Part I ; Part II

Photos by Elaine Coorens



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