Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Wow, how is it already the end of September?! That FLEW by, our first month of living Byzantinely. ;-) I have some thoughts to share on how it's going, but let's build some anticipation and leave that for the end of the post. First, let's chronicle this past Sunday!

This weekend we went back to how the Eastern Church marks what we in the West would call Ordinary Time, and thus we were at the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Our Sunday once again dawned rainy (the new grass we planted is coming in great at least!) as we made our way to Divine Liturgy. Signs are up advertising the Christmas Bazaar that is to come right before Thanksgiving, and we're looking forward to it and feeling a bit more integrated into the parish now. We found our usual seats towards the back of the small worship space, and I let the opening words of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom wash over me:

"In peace, let us pray to the Lord."

"Lord have mercy."

"For the peace from above, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord."

"Lord have mercy."

The cadence and language of the Divine Liturgy really speaks to me. Obviously, there's this type of 'call and response', if you will, in all liturgies, including the post Vatican II one that most of us are used to. But there's something about the way it is arranged and verbalized in the Divine Liturgy that I find so spiritually nourishing. Add in the the scent and flicker of the real candles and the iconography covering the sanctuary, and this is why I feel called to come back to this style of worship week after week.

The Gospel this week featured the story of Jesus finding the fishermen and inviting them to become fishers of men. Father spoke about how we shouldn't be afraid to tackle the challenges that come our way in our daily lives, because God is always there, throughout, to support us and get us to where we need to be. 

After liturgy, we did our happy congregational chatting thing out in the entry area, accompanied by a nice sensation of being more settled and at home there. What I'm feeling at this point (very early on, to be sure) is that I may simply be a Roman Catholic who feels a pull to the Divine Liturgy and Eastern Christian spirituality; thus, I may never formally be a member of the Byzantine rite. Who knows, there are still 11 months to go, but as much as I love the liturgy and everything that I'm learning about the traditions, I'm still pretty attached to my Western ones. I also love daily Mass, as I discussed last week with regards to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. So while this all is definitely feeding my soul spiritually right now, I don't know that I see myself giving up my Roman Catholic roots. But hey. There is still quite a lot of the liturgical year to go, with the Catholic Nerd set loose with icon sprees and every Eastern prayer book imaginable each week. What could go wrong? 


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross

Icon for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Welcome back everyone, hope that you are well! It's getting decidedly fall-ish in my part of the world, and I do love this time of year, although I'm mourning the end of summer, for sure. I'm trying to see the positives in cozy fall weather and fun autumn activities like apple picking and pumpkin shopping, so keeping my spirits high! 

It was an interesting week in my little Byzantine adventure over here. Settle in with your coffee or tea and let's chat!


Last Wednesday, September 14th, was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and I happened to be off from work that day. I noted in our monthly parish bulletin that there was Divine Liturgy that day at 10 am, and excitedly I set off to attend. I had never attended a weekday Divine Liturgy (is it like daily Mass?) and I was ever so curious.

Well. 😂 I had an interesting experience, to be sure! I arrived at the church, and nearly didn't even go in, because there were no other cars in the parking lot and I was sure that I had made a mistake when I consulted the bulletin. But I figured I would try the door, and curiously, it was open. As soon as I entered that informal space at the back of the building, I could hear chanting, so I knew that somehow, I had in fact been right. When I entered the sanctuary though, I quickly tuned into the fact that it was a small crew for weekday Divine Liturgy. It was me, the lovely lady who was singing, and Father. That's it. 😬 I felt a little awkward, because I'm still so new to the Divine Liturgy, and the liturgy was taking place in Ukrainian (which I knew was likely to be the case), but I figured I would get what I could from context and just being present. I set myself up in the back and just breathed in being in that space, which I absolutely love.

In the spot before the iconostasis where the current seasonal icon is usually set up, there was a display with a cross and flowers. I was curious about liturgical colors in the Byzantine rite, so I did a little research:

Sure enough, the cloth surrounding the cross display was red. I'm already mourning the loss of rose pink for Advent, but we'll talk about that in a few months. 😅 

Quickly, Father became aware of my presence, and he *came down off the altar* to hand me a sheet with the readings and Propers on it in both Ukrainian and English, and pointed out where we were, telling me that they were so happy that I was there. After he went back to the altar, they switched to English so that I could follow along with them.


I felt very welcomed and at home. Occasionally, they switched back to Ukrainian for short stretches, but I easily followed along with the English side of my sheet. What wasn't on the sheet, I found in the Divine Liturgy missal book thingy. 😎 Slowly but surely, I'm figuring things out there.

At the end of the liturgy, there was a special session of bowing and recitations in front of the cross for both Father and our tiny congregation. 

Back out in the hallway after liturgy, Father greeted me and asked if I was able to follow along. I assured him that I was, and we chatted briefly about the kids and about how weekly envelopes work in that parish, which I had been wondering about.

It was LOVELY. The richness in that tradition is still keeping me entranced and engaged. In the future, I'm not sure how I'll handle weekday Divine Liturgy opportunities. They went out of their way to make me feel at home, which I appreciate more than I can ever fully express, but the thought did cross my mind that it may be a better fit for me to go to daily Mass, especially when the feast days overlap in both traditions, like this one does. Plus, the schedule for daily Mass often works better with my work schedule, as I'm not often fully off from work during the week (though usually working from home 1-2 days). So the jury is still out on that one, but this weekday jaunt with something new was a very enjoyable adventure. 

The following Sunday was officially the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross on the Byzantine calendar, but at my son's Catholic high school it was the day for his class liturgy, so we went to Mass over there this week. I missed the Divine Liturgy, for sure, but it felt comfortable being back at Mass, and I was happy to be with Henry for this special event. Later the same day, we did head to our Byzantine rite parish for the big Ukrainian festival/fundraiser they were hosting, and picked up pierogies, sauerkraut and sausage for dinner. This was a collaborative effort of the three Byzantine rite parishes in our region, and the church hall was PACKED! It was nice to see.

Next week we will be back at Divine Liturgy, and our march towards Advent continues! Do they do Advent in the Byzantine rite? 🤔 We're going to be finding out soon, and I can't wait!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Sunday Before the Exaltation of the Cross

My adorable icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos      
Hello friends! Hope you're doing well this lovely        September day. This past weekend fell between two of the Great Feasts in the Eastern tradition: The Nativity of the Theotokos (Mother of God) and the Exaltation of the Cross. The Exaltation of the Cross falls on September 14th in both the East and the West, actually. But in the East, it is considered one of the twelve Great Feasts.

I am enjoying my set of small icons of the Great Feasts. I keep the current one propped up on the kitchen table, so that we can all see it, and I can pray with it there on the days when I'm working from home. This tangible reminder of the liturgical calendar is really special to me.

I have yet to catch a weekday Divine Liturgy because of my work schedule, unfortunately, but I'm hoping that will change coming up here for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. More on that next week!

But this week dawned rainy again as the kids and I made our way to Divine Liturgy. I love seeing the same Great Feast icon up near the altar as the little one we have on our kitchen table. *heart* 

In the homily, Father talked about crosses, how Christ's was literal and ours figurative in the form of challenges that we face each day. He also spoke about how Jesus lives in each of our hearts as we navigate all of this, He is always there.

It was a lovely liturgy, and afterwards during the announcements, Father reminded us that next weekend is the big Ukrainian festival in our area. The three local Byzantine rite parishes are all contributing, but our parish hall will be the venue. There will be a raffle and theme baskets, plus plenty of delicious Ukrainian food for sale, all to benefit the Ukraine. We're planning on attending, and are very excited, our first parish festival! We stayed and chatted with everyone after the liturgy, as has become our custom, and we're slowly getting to know people there. It's a nice feeling. I still don't know exactly where this is all headed, but I'm very much enjoying the journey.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Some calendar nerdiness this week, enjoy! 😎

Happy September eveyone, and happy new liturgical year to those in the Byzantine rite! 😀 I'm used to the Latin Rite changing of the Church year being a fully new liturgical season with Advent, and that's not the case in the Eastern Church. There's a definite Happy New Year vibe, but the rotation of the liturgical weeks just chugs along as it organically does, and September 1st will fall where it may. This year, we're at the Thirteenth Week after Pentecost, horray! Most (all? still looking into this) of the Byzantine rite uses the Gregorian calendar to set the date of Easter, from which so much of the rest of the liturgical calendar ebbs and flows, and this is the same as the Western Church. Our Eastern Orthodox friends use the Julian calendar, and that's why the date for Easter is oftentimes different between their tradition and ours (but occasionally it syncs up, which is lovely!). 

I did a little research (as I am wont to do 🤓) and this being the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost syncs up with the old traditional calendar that the Western Church used to use (in the modern Latin rite this past Sunday was the Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time). There are some differences between East and West still in terms of calendar feasts (there is no Ash Wednesday in the Eastern tradition, for instance, but we'll come back to that early next year!), but those in both rites that follow the traditional calendar that is used in the Catholic Extraordinary Form count the weeks from Pentecost in this fashion. Does any of this make sense as I am hoping it does? 😂 I find calendar research so fascinating, but I may be in the minority on this one!

Our first Sunday in our Year of Byzantine rite Study dawned rainy, which we were actually glad for since we had just planted a yard full of grass seed! We had our front and back porches replaced this summer, and the construction equipment tore up both sections of the yard quite badly. So we felt blessed by the rain! 

It also dawned with quite a surprise: Mike casually mentioning to me that he would like to attend Divine Liturgy with us. So we attended Divine Liturgy as a full family together for the very first time!


It was very lovely. Anne and I lit a candle after liturgy for my mom, who hadn't been feeling well, and everyone congregated outside the worship space, curious about Mike. So he got some handshakes and greetings all around, and everyone chatted for a bit, including Father. Now that he's been initiated, I'm certain that Mike will be asked after each and every week. 😁 Asking about his impressions after we were back in the car, Mike reported in enjoying the liturgy, and said that he would be back. He's not a weekly church goer, but I'm very encouraged by his interest here! It was a definite blessing as we began our new year. 💗