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! 🙌

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 😂) 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! 😍 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. 😬 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. 😊

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. 😂 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! 😁). 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? 🤗