One Christian Faith, many Forms of expression

We got an email from an Orthodox Christian that said:

Before I came to Canada, an Orthodox priest told me that there is no problem for Orthodox Christians living abroad, if they cannot go to an Orthodox Church, [they can get communion in a Catholic church]...I started going to an Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, some of the Orthodox Christians... deny ..the holyness of the Catholic Church. Having lived for a few years now in Quebec, I started seeing more clearly that the differences between Orthodox and Catholics are more cultural, as you say, than dogmatic.

Orthodox can receive Catholic Eucharist, but Catholics are forbidden to receive Orthodox Communion

Eastern Orthodox members may receive the Eucharist with Catholics, if there is no Orthodox Church available, since Catholics recognize no substantial barrier to communion between the two. Most Eastern Orthodox bishops will not permit Roman Catholics to receive the Eucharist at your Divine Liturgies; and we of course must respect this and not receive at Orthodox Divine Liturgies. I pray that this will change some day soon. For, we both -- East and West --clearly possess the true priesthood and true Sacraments.  There has been no interruption of this, as was the case when the Protestants denied the priesthood and the Sacraments.  And so, Christ is truly Present on the altars of both our Churches; and it is a great pity that we cannot receive Him together.  

Is there only one way to celebrate the Eucharist?

While native and regional expressions are important, it is even more important to have a universal concept of the Church and to realize that not all parts of the universal Church express themselves in the same way. In the 390's, St. Ambrose of Milan was asked a question by his flock. Ambrose was of course the bishop of Milan (in northern Italy); and the city of Milan (both then as well as now) did not subscribe to the Roman rite, but had its own Gallican rite, which is today called the Ambrosian rite. However, since the Milanese were still Italians and Roman citizens, they of course frequently traveled down to Rome on government and commercial business; and they soon noticed that the Romans worshipped in different ways than they did. So, when they returned to Milan, they asked St. Ambrose (their bishop) what the proper way to worship was. And St. Ambrose responded with the now-famous saying: 

"When in Rome, do as the Romans"  

In this, St. Ambrose showed himself to be a true Catholic. For, what he recognized was that the one Apostolic Faith has many different expressions, but only one substantial body of doctrine. So, when in Rome, we should worship as the Romans; when in Byzantium, we should worship as the Byzantines; when in Moscow, we should worship as the Russians; and when in Sofia, we should worship as the Bulgarians. For, while the modes of worship may be different, we all hold to the one Apostolic Faith --the same Apostolic substance. When all Roman Catholics and all Eastern Orthodox can appreciate this, we will indeed be one Church again. As on the day of Pentecost, we must learn to "speak in many different tongues" and not become distracted by the various cultures within our universal (Catholic) Church. 

Hugh thanks Mark Bonocore writing this response.