The Byzantine Rite is the complex of worship rituals normally used by the, uh, well BYZANTINE Orthodox Churches (Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Antiochians - the other Antiochians that is, etc., etc.) and the Churches related to them which are in communion with, and under the jurisdiction of, the Pope (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Melkites, Ruthenians, etc., etc.) Descended from the most ancient liturgies of Jerusalem and Antioch (as is the Armenian Rite and our own West Syrian Rite), it developed in Constantinople (aka Byzantium) with input over the centuries from various monasteries. Above all, the Byzantine Rite is beautiful.
Fr. Stephen compares it - rightly, I might add - to a symphony:
"The Strange Land of Liturgical Knowledge"
and then there is this Baptist preacher in Texas who discovers this major brand of Orthodox worship:
"Not for Lightweights"
"St. Anthony the Great, Part 2"
"This Sunday - St. Joseph in Houston"
What Fr. Stephen long ago learned and what Baptist Pastor Gordon Atkinson is just now discovering is that revelation is not confined to the Bible, nor even to the rest of the Tradition as recorded in the various narrative and poetic writings which bear it witness. No, the Christian revelation is manifested in a very real way in the celebration of authentic liturgy. But this revelation is not simply the presentation of information. It is also encounter and communion, a real confrontation with the glorified Christ, He Who Is glorified precisely because he is first crucified and, as such, is himself the revelation of his unseen Father. The early Christians summed it up this way: "The rule of prayer is the rule of faith."
Every discussion of the Byzantine Rite, no matter how cursory, must include the following:
Many years ago, over 1,000 years ago actually, a pagan prince in Southeastern Europe began investigating the monotheistic religions with a view toward adopting one for himself and his people. He sent representatives to speak with Jews and with Muslims, to visit Rome and Germany, and then, to travel to Constantinople. After experiencing the faith and worship of Christ as found in Byzantium, they reported the following back to the Prince, whose name was Vladimir:
"We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendour or beauty anywhere upon earth. We cannot describe it to you: only this we know, that God dwells there among men, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. For we cannot forget that beauty."
All of the ancient rites have their own ethos, their own genius. That of the Byzantine Rite is beauty, effulgent beauty. If you have never experienced the Byzantine Rite, you should. At least once.