Friday, January 27, 2023

Thirty Third Sunday after Pentecost (Sunday of Zacchaeus)

Hello all, and happy late January to you! It's been pretty frosty in my part of the world, though thankfully no blizzards to speak of! It's been lots of brushing off of the cars in the mornings and chilly walks with our beloved dog, Barney, but otherwise we're able to function quite well. 

This past Sunday we were back at Divine Liturgy armed with our new parish envelopes, and really feeling like we belonged. 


Christmas decorations were down, and I saw this week somewhere the time between Theophany and upcoming Candlemas referred to as "long Christmas season." Not sure if this is a defined thing or just someone's way of articulating a larger phenomena, but I got the feeling that Christmas decor stays up through Theophany, and then comes down sometime shortly after that, although the season doesn't officially end until Candlemas on February 2nd. This week had a theme of the Gospel story regarding Zacchaeus, the tax collector, and Father's homily focused on our faith, especially as we journey towards what he called Great Lent. 


Our first sighting of the phrase Great Lent!


I AM SO EXCITED. Yes, I get excited about Lent! And how much better when the word Great is added to it!! ๐Ÿ˜‚ This coming Sunday is officially our first pre-Lenten preparation Sunday, and I'm simpering with delight! Our first focus is on the Publican and the Pharisee, and I'll be reporting in alllll the details to you next week!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Thirty Second Sunday after Pentecost

Hello all, and for those of us that are members of the Latin rite, happy return to Ordinary Time! ๐Ÿ˜Š Our Byzantine rite parish remains decorated for Christmas, though I note that we return to our journey from Pentecost with the themes of the week. Does the Byzantine rite consider it Christmas season up until Candlemas/Feast of the Presentation of the Lord? I'm not sure. ๐Ÿค”Father did mention that there would be a Christmas play after the Ukrainian liturgy, so I'm thinking it's a distinct possibility! I have lots of interesting things to report this week, so settle in and grab your beverage of choice!

*selects favorite rosary themed coffee mug*

Divine Liturgy this past week was, as ever, a de-LIGHT. I've been noticing that the call and response after liturgy has been changed up for the Christmas season. Usually, after Divine Liturgy concludes, Father says in Ukrainian something that I once looked up, and determined meant something akin to:

"Glory Be to Jesus Christ."

And the congregation answers:

"Glory to Him forever."

But now, since Christmas, he says something else, and a few people in the English language liturgy crowd known the response, but I am not one of those people. ๐Ÿ˜‚ I will keep researching on this one. Back out in the gathering space outside of the sanctuary, parish envelopes for the year as well as calendars with all of the feast days of the Byzantine rite were awaiting us. These were both eagerly scooped up forthwith by your Catholic Librarian. 

This week, after the Ukrainian liturgy, I came back for the annual Christmas lunch and parish meeting. Apparently, this used to be a dinner and a regular big deal, but it hasn't been held since before the pandemic. Everyone was excited to have it back, and it combines the attendees of both the English and Ukrainian liturgies. I had baked some cookies in anticipation of the event, as baked good were requested for donation, but the parish provided a delicious catered lunch. I located a few fellow attendees of the English liturgy whose faces I recognized, and sat at their table. I chatted happily with all of them until it was time for Father to give the parish financial report. 

And that part of the story isn't quite as rosy, unfortunately. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ The facilities for this parish, the church itself, the parish hall, and the rectory, are large and gorgeous. But as you can image, such large spaces are expensive to maintain. Complicating matters is that the number of attending families has plummeted over time. The population has been aging for some time, and in the past 10 years, there have been a lot of deaths of faithful members. Another Byzantine rite parish in the area closing and merging with ours brought over a few faithful families, but not nearly as many as had passed away during that same time period. 

So, the longterm financial prognosis for our little parish is unknown. We're back to in-person events and fundraisers, and that should help, but the parish needs more members for it to be a sustainable situation going into the longterm future. I am praying very much for this to come to pass. 

I have to say, participating in the lunch and parish meeting brought about a new sense of belonging in me. I felt a part of the group, and I could feel the group's warmth and their very much wanting us to be there as a part of them. I don't know many of the attendees of the Ukrainian language liturgy, but those that I have met *actually remembered my name* ๐Ÿ˜ฎ and always greet and welcome me. I worried about not feeling as much a part of the community because I am not Ukrainian, but none of the Ukrainian members feel that way at all. They want me to be there, and are happy that have been coming and attending Divine Liturgy at the parish. For the first time, I could see myself as a part of this little parish-that-could. 

So it was an interesting week. I'm excited to be back next week with my envelopes in tow like I really belong there, and to see what is coming up next as we journey towards Lent. I think our preparation is soon to begin, and I cannot wait! Only Catholics would have a Time of Preparation for the Big Upcoming Time of Preparation. ๐Ÿ˜‚I love it so much. ๐Ÿ˜

Friday, January 13, 2023

Sunday after Theophany

Hello all, and happy mid-January! It was a bit of a tough week for your Catholic Librarian, but I'm persevering. The new year is starting off with a bit of an element of stress, but we'll get there. 

This past weekend we were once again back at Divine Liturgy, with the worship space still happily decorated for Christmas. The end of last week featured the feast of the Theophany, or the baptism of Christ, in the Eastern Church. I didn't make the connection until last Sunday that the Eastern tradition of Theophany is so connected to what we would call the Epiphany in the Western Church. When I think of the Epiphany I think of the Magi bringing gifts to the infant Jesus, which is separate from the celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the Western Church, usually the weekend after Epiphany. But it looks to me like in the Eastern Church, they celebrate these both as revelations of Christ's incarnation. I'm still learning about all of this, so I'm definitely making some surprising connections along the way, and not always making those connections particularly quickly! 

I did have all of our Epiphany candles lit for the feast on January 6th, and look at how beautiful! I cherished having this Eastern style wreath this year, I was so sad to tuck it away in storage until next year. The table feels empty without it. We have our Theophany icon displayed until the next Great Feast (Candlemas in early February):

And given the focus on baptism this week, I was delighted to hear in Father's homily his mention of the holy water vat being refilled in the back of the church, that we are welcome to collect in our own containers and bring home with us. One of the things I missed the most during the pandemic was the holy water fonts in the entrances to our Latin rite parish! I love having holy water in our home. Eastern Catholic Churches, in my limited experience, do not have this tradition, but they still value and bless water and offer it to their parishoners. So I'll be bringing my bottle in for a refill! Father even mentioned that holy water can be consumed, which I didn't know and never even thought about! 

Another focus last Sunday that accompanies the feast of Theophany in the Byzantine tradition is house blessing. I LOVE THIS. I overheard a few people asking Father to come bless their houses. I need to get in on this action next year, I was too afraid to ask this year since we're so new. ๐Ÿ˜‚

So our first Theophany was a resounding success! I also enjoyed praying the Liturgy of the Hours for the Epiphany, and then concluding the Christmas season on Monday with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Latin rite. 

My little blending of East and West is going well. How was your Epiphany/Theophany last weekend? ๐Ÿ˜€

Friday, January 6, 2023

Sunday before the Theophany of Our Lord/The Circumcision of Our Lord

Hello all and Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas season is progressing peacefully and joyfully. We're doing well here and regrouping after the blizzard. We had to dig out, helped by post-storm milder weather that caused a lot of melting. And then we celebrated Christmas with our extended families later that week. :)

Last weekend we were happily able to return to Divine Liturgy, and New Year's Day this year heralded a focus on the coming feast of Theophany (Baptism of the Lord) and the circumcision of Our Lord. Father's homily addressed how circumcision was a sign of faith, and now that sign is baptism. We should all celebrate our baptism as a constant sign of the reality of our faith. It was all quite lovely. ๐Ÿ˜Š

It was nice to be back with the small congregation again, and everyone seemed pleased to see us again. The kids have expressed to me that they do prefer attending the Divine Liturgy, for a myriad of reasons that are not exactly theological, but I do appreciate them talking to me about spiritual things in any capacity, and I want to do what is best for all of us. Mostly, they're better able to pay attention at Divine Liturgy because it is shorter (the English language liturgy is spoken and not chanted at this parish) and it, plus the Eastern style art and surroundings, engage them more. So for the time being, we're going to keep focusing our attending on attending here on Sundays as often as we can

This week, I have enjoyed using our Eastern style Advent wreath (6 tapers with one white pillar for Christmas day) with the Epiphany candles that came with it. All are white, and I surmised that we would light one every other day between Christmas and Epiphany, with the large pillar also being lit on the Epiphany itself (which as I type this, is today!). In the Eastern Church, Epiphany is always celebrated on January 6th, whereas the Latin rite celebrates it on the Sunday immediately following. You can see from my mid-week photo how we were moving through lighting the candles, and I think the entire family enjoyed this devotion, especially since we light the candles pretty much every evening now while we eat dinner, adding a new one every other day, whereas during Advent, we just light the candles on Sundays. This wreath has truly been a delight, and I'll be sad to put it away after tonight. I'll have a photo of the entire wreath lit up for next week's post!

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ

 Hello all, and Merry Christmas! It was a bit of a wild one for us, which I'll describe below, but I feel very grateful to be in this blessed season. I'm back and consistent on my Liturgy of the Hours train, and praying the O Antiphons this year just took my breath away. It is SO BEAUTIFUL. I enjoyed all of my prayer time, and my preparation time for this special feast. You can see both of our Advent wreaths fully lit up here in this post, and the whole family really enjoyed this traditon this year. I have an Advent wreath every year, of course, but having both this year, and having the longer lasting Eastern wreath in the center of our kitchen table really kept that devotion in the forefront of our minds since mid-November. It felt very special to finally light the 6th and final taper candle, and then the large white pillar on Christmas eve and Christmas day. This has become a cherished family tradition that I know we'll keep every single year now, and I'm very grateful for the increased closeness in faith that I feel with the kids now that we've started going to Divine Liturgy.

Our icon corner too has become a family favoite, but I keep the 12 feast icons on the dinner table with us, and of course we got to unveil the Nativity:

Love it. I have this whole set of the 12 Great Feast icons now in this extra small and am excited to continue to build our collection of holy reminders.

So, that's the normal part of our Christmasy celebration. Unfortunately, we could not attend either Divine Liturgy or Mass this weekend, because my part of the world experienced quite an epic blizzard, and we could not venture outside for two straight days, including Christmas eve. This is our house:


It was quite something to behold. We were dispensed from our obligation to attend liturgy, of course, because it simply wasn't safe to be outdoors in those conditions, let alone travel. Christmas day was spent trying to dig out of the driveway so that we could get out in an emergency, but there was a driving ban in our town until the next morning. So it was an unusual Christmas to be sure, but we were safe and together, and that's what matters. We watched the papal Mass on EWTN (thankfully we never lost power!) and enjoyed time together and opening gifts. 

It was an unusual end to Advent and start of the Christmas season, but I'm grateful for everything that we have, and cherishing the quiet prayer time that I was able to indulge in.

How was your Christmas? I'll be back next week to talk more about Christmas season and some new Epiphany preparations! ๐Ÿ™Œ

Friday, December 23, 2022

Sunday before the Nativity (Sunday of the Ancestors)

Hello all! I can hardly believe it's just a few days before Christmas, wow! And this week we did make it back to Divine Liturgy after a few weeks back at Mass in our home parish. 

And I was so thrilled that this particular weekend was the one that we were able to attend, because it is one of two special themed Sundays leading up to the Nativity after mostly counting up the weeks since Pentecost for quite some months now. This last Sunday prior to Christmas is called Sunday of the Ancestors (I see it on our specific church bulletin as Sunday of the Holy Fathers) and I could immediately see why once the liturgy began: the Gospel reading was the genaeology narrative from Matthew. It was lovely, so perfect for the Sunday before the Nativity!

We hadn't been back for a few weeks, and thus had not yet seen the church decorated for the upcoming feast with a big, beautiful nativity scene and a lit Christmas tree. It felt very festive, and it was so special to be there and a part of it all. Everyone in that small 9 am Divine Liturgy congregation welcomed us back with open arms, expressing how happy they were that we were back. And we were, too!

Meanwhile, I've been duitifully following along in both Nativity fast/Advent traditions (aside from the dietary recommendations, not brave enough for that yet ๐Ÿ˜‚) and have been enjoying the heck out of it:

I have to say, center stage this Advent has been my time with the Liturgy of the Hours Morning and Evening Prayer. Although I do own a gorgeous 4 volume set of the breviaries, I have subscribed to the Word on Fire monthly booklets, and they make it so easy that I've gotten quite addicted to them. The booklet is so easy to toss in my work bag, and with no flipping around to figure out what Propers I need for the day, it makes it ideal for never missing an installment of Morning Prayer:

But I love blending both traditions into my life. Liturgy of the Hours, plus some candlelight and Advent incense. Life is good for this Catholic Nerd!

Next week I'll be back to talk about the Nativity! ๐Ÿ˜ We were planning on attending Mass at our Latin rite parish (the Divine Liturgy times didn't fit well with our hosting of Christmas eve dinner/our Christmas morning traditions with the kids) but the bummer news is that we are currently experiencing a blizzard of quite epic proportions, and are currently under a travel advisory. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ The bishop has given us permission to say in this weekend and is encouraging parishes to live stream their liturgies. So I'm thinking that we might not be able to make it to Christmas Mass in person, which makes me incredibly sad! But it is what it is, I'll be reporting in regardless, because life will still be quite Catholicy in the house of the Catholic Librarian, even during blizzard conditions. :-)

Friday, December 16, 2022

Second Sunday before the Nativity (Sunday of the Forefathers)

Hello everyone, and hope that your Advent continues to go swimmingly. :) I'm having a lovely Advent, to be sure, but our Byzantine journey has been thwarted a bit these past few weekends in that we haven't been able to get to Divine Liturgy. This past weekend, both children were feeling under the weather. It's been a rough winter for illnesses, to be sure! I was bummed, because these two Sundays leading up to Christmas have special themes in the Byzantine rite, and we weren't able to explore this Sunday of the Forefathers. I do think we'll be able to attend this coming weekend, so I'll definitely be reporting in! Our beautiful Eastern style Advent wreath has been getting quite a workout since November 15th, nearly all the candles are now lit. I believe I mentioned last week how much I've been enjoying having the wreath right in the middle of our family dinner table, it really brings the season to the forefront. I'll definitely be keeping this tradition going int he years to come.


However, I was able to attend Mass on my own for Gaudete Sunday, and I have to say it was a DELIGHT. It's so lovely to see our parish full of people and life again, and I adored seeing the three Advent candles, including the rose one, lit at the start of Mass.

I was sad the kids weren't with me, but it was nice to get to Mass again. Gaudete Sunday always feels so fresh and new, that the Christmas season is soon to be upon us amidst the cold winter air. I even wore pink to Mass to commemorate the occasion.


I will return next week with hopefully an actual Byzantine rite update! But so long as this journey involves growing in my faith, I see it all as a very good thing. :)

Friday, December 9, 2022

Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (and the 2nd Sunday of Advent!)

Hello all, and happy 2nd week of Advent in the Latin rite! I hope everyone is enjoying this lovely season of expectation. ๐Ÿ˜Š

We're still going strong with our Eastern style Advent wreath (and also our Latin rite one, see below). So in the Byzantine rite, we now have four candles lit, with two to go, plus the large white candle for Christmas day. We've made great progress! I definitely like having a longer time to enjoy the wreath and candles in our family dinnertime space. I'm not as connected to the colors as I am with the purple and rose of my childhood (though I do love the blue one in honor of Our Lady, and the Eastern reference to her as the Theotokos is SO SWOON!), but this wreath has a fond place in my heart as a reminder of how much I'm enjoying exploring this part of our faith with my kids. 

This week, though, we did not attend Divine Liturgy. Due to all of us having events Saturday evening, we decided to sleep in (Divine Liturgy requires us to get up at 8 am Sunday mornings) and instead go to Mass at our home parish at 11 am. It's been a while since we've been there, many months at this point, because, with very few exceptions, we've been exclusively going to the Ukrainian parish since the summer. I have to say, it was lovely to be back!

There were FAR more people there than I have seen in a long time (resulting from the pandemic, I'm thinking) and it was nice to feel a part of a larger community again. The English liturgy congregation at the Byzantine rite parish, while incredibly kind and welcoming, is extremely small. I also enjoyed seeing the Advent wreath flikering up on the altar, and all of the purple accoutrements that accompany Advent in the Latin rite. I happily picked up a bulletin and a church calendar for next year.

To my surprise, Anne perked up with interest when they announced that Children's Liturgy of the Word was back (had not resumed since before the pandemic last time we attended Mass there) and she went into the sacristy with the other kids for that. At 11, she's a bit "old" for that, lol, but I figure if she's interested in something faith related, I'm not going to complain! Even if she ends up just helping out the Religious Ed. coordinator, that was totally fine with me.

We got to see the new (granted, temporary) pastor for the first time, and he was quite nice and an excellent homilist. We all had a wonderful time, although (of course!) the children both commented on how Mass was longer than Divine Liturgy. ๐Ÿ˜‚ And I think that this is something that is unique to the specific Byzantine rite parish that we are attending in that the English liturgy there is not chanted. Everything is traditionally chanted in the Byzantine rite, but the English language congregation is so tiny there that there isn't a choir/anyone to lead the chanting. If it were chanted, I think that it would be much longer, as we encountered the one time we attended when the two liturgies (English and Ukrainian) were combined, as they have someone who leads the chanting in Ukrainian. The Mass last Sunday was not particularly long, but the kids have gotten used to the (quite short) spoken Divine Liturgy. 

Where do we go from here? I have absolutely no idea. I have to be honest and admit that if it were up to me, although I do love the Divine Liturgy and the Eastern traditions we've encountered such as iconography and those divine beeswax candles, I would go back to regularly attending Mass in the Latin rite. But I want to continue to encourage the more open conversations the kids and I have about our Sunday worship now, so I'm going to continue to pray and discern and we'll see where this journey takes us. :)

How is your Advent going so far, dear reader?

Friday, December 2, 2022

Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost and a little Advent talk...

Hello everyone, and happy Advent to all Roman Catholics (including me! ๐Ÿ˜). I always look forward to this season of preparation and the traditions surrounding it. This year, I'm very much enjoying our new Eastern version of the Advent wreath, and as of last Sunday, we're to three of the six candles. Because we only have five Sundays between November 15th and Christmas this year, I lit one the day that the Nativity Fast began, and then one each Sunday (including the blue one for the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple). Three weeks to go until we light the center Christmas candle! 

This weekend we were back at Divine Liturgy after the snowstorm amidst talk of the rescheduled Christmas Bazaar. So it turns out that we didn't miss it after all! We'll be headed there tomorrow to support the parish and eat some delicious Ukrainian food for lunch. 

Interestingly, our Byzantine rite parish is not decorated any differently for Advent. I'm not certain if this varies parish by parish, or if this is true throughout the East, though I'm guessing the latter. The Nativity Fast is emphasized as a time of penitential preparation, hence the traditional abstaining from dairy and meat throughout the season. Whereas in the West, Advent, while a time of spiritual preparation, has more of a joyful hope and expectation focus, both in decor with the wreath, candles, and nativity sets minus baby Jesus, but also in the responses and antiphons throughout the liturgy. I find this all so super interesting!

But in that vein, although I'm VERY MUCH enjoying everything that I'm learning about the full Catholic experience, both East and West, I'm still quite attached to my Latin rite experience of Advent, so in my house we have two wreaths:

Last weekend was the First Sunday of Advent in the Latin rite, and I am here for it! How has your Advent been going so far, friends? ๐Ÿค—

Friday, November 25, 2022

Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Nativity Fast Week 1
Well, it was a bit of an anti-climactic first week of the Nativity Fast for our household, in that a snowstorm hit our area, and the bishop dispensed us all from our Sunday obligation as a result. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ In my immediate area, we didn't get as much snow as others, but we had high winds with blowing and drifting snow, making driving a touch hazardous. We were still under a travel advisory Sunday morning (and actually, our Latin rite parish cancelled all of the weekend masses, because the priest couldn't get out of his driveway to make his way over) and thus no liturgy for our household this past weekend. This also meant that we missed the parish Christmas Bazaar, which was a great disappointment. 

However, I'm eagerly learning as much as I can about this preparation time for the feast of the Nativity in the East. We lit our beautiful new Eastern style Advent wreath for the first time, and since I'm flying blind over here, what you see in the photo is what I came up with. ๐Ÿ˜‚ The number of Sundays between November 15th and Christmas varies from year to year at either five or six, and this year we have five. I figure when that happens, we can light the first candle at the start of the Fast on the 15th, and then light the other five on the Sundays, so that's what did this year. Thus, why we already have two candles aglow. And Monday was the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, so I lit her blue candle since it was the vigil of that Great Feast! And speaking of the feast day, here is the icon:

I now have this full set of icons of the Twelve Great Feasts, so we'll be breaking these out together throughout the year as the feast days come round. The next one is the Nativity!

This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent in the Latin Rite, and I have to admit I'm feeling a little nostalgic for that tradition I've loved my entire life. But this has all been such a beautiful time of reawakening and learning in my faith, and I'm savoring every minute. Treasuring things from both traditions is so, so rich. We'll continue on this journey and see where it takes us at the end of the Eastern liturgical year!

How are your Advent preparation plans going? ๐Ÿ˜Ž