Saturday, March 25, 2023

Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast (St. John Climacus)

 Hello everyone, and welcome back to our Lenten journey! ๐Ÿ˜ We're really getting there, aren't we? We lit the 4th candle on our festal wreath this past weekend, and by now we're nearly done with the 5th week, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. We are indeed past the halfway point of this important liturgical season, and I always evaluate how my goals are going at that juncture. As is so often the case, they're not going nearly as well as I'd like. ๐Ÿ˜‚ I haven't been very consistent with my Liturgy of the Hours, and the book I planned to read this Lent hasn't even been cracked open. My brain has been pretty busy these days fretting over lots of changes with my kids. Totally normal growing up stuff, mind you, but very difficult for anxious mothers!

However, I'm not abandoning ship with Liturgy of the Hours! I'm getting it in when I can, and I just read a new booklet on this devotion that I will be sharing with you next week, stay tuned for that! Very excited about a book review post. And Holy Week will be here soon which always entails magical liturgical things and so many spiritual blessings, so soldier on we must.

This past weekend in the Byzantine rite was themed on St. John Climacus, who is known for describing the image of the Ladder of Divine Ascent in the spiritual life:

From the Orthodox Wiki:

The Ladder of Divine Ascent is an ascetical treatise on avoiding vice and practicing virtue so that at the end, salvation can be obtained. Written by Saint John Climacus initially for monastics, it has become one of the most highly influential and important works used by the Church as far as guiding the faithful to a God-centered life, second only to Holy Scripture.

There is also a related icon known by the same title. It depicts many people climbing a ladder; at the top is Jesus Christ, prepared to receive the climbers into Heaven. Also shown are angels helping the climbers, and demons attempting to shoot with arrows or drag down the climbers, no matter how high up the ladder they may be. Most versions of the icon show at least one person falling.

Fascinating stuff! We gathered after liturgy to chat details about the upcoming Easter Bazaar, and Anne and I are putting together a basket for the raffle themed around gardening. We've had a fun time putting it together! More details on all of that next week.

How is your Lent going as we near Holy Week, friends? I love taking this journey together each year! ๐Ÿค—

Friday, March 17, 2023

Third Sunday of the Great Fast (Veneration of the Holy Cross)

Hello friends and happy Friday! We're about halfway through Great Lent, and time is just flying! This is one of my favorite times of the year, outside of the autumn and Christmas. In mid-March, Lent is always in full swing, spring weather and activities are on the horizon, March Madness basketball is happening, and life just feels full of new promise and possibilities. It's just wonderful!

This past Sunday in the Byzantine rite was themed after the Veneration of the Cross. This is an additional contemplation of this particular meditation, as it is also on the Byzantine Church calendar for mid-September. Father was wearing beautiful red vestments for the occasion, and there was a special litany following Divine Liturgy in which we all venerated the cross. It was a beautiful addition to the liturgy. We're still praying along with the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, though I know many churches use the Liturgy of St. Basil during Great Lent. I have never attended that particular liturgy. :)

We lit our 3 candles though Easter still seems a bit off, Lent is feeling settled in in the best possible way. I added a few new additions to our family icon library. St. Patrick, of course!

My new favorite icon of Our Lady, the Theotokos of Vladimir:

Sts. Monica and Augustine, so perfect for this philosophical household!

Adorable micro icons: Christ and Theotokos iconostasis set, the famous Christ the Pantocrator from Mount Sinai, the Protection of the Theotokos, and red Golgotha Cross. Also a new Guardian Angel friend who came as a free gift!

We also have out the very first icon I ever purchased from last year, commemorating Great Lent:

It's been such a special season so far, and I'm so grateful to be spending it with all of you! How is your Lent progressing this year?

Friday, March 10, 2023

Second Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Gregory Palamas)

Hello everyone, and I hope that your Great Lent is continuing to bear spiritual fruit! We're really speeding along, aren't we?... towards the halfway point of the season. This past weekend found us at Divine Liturgy once again, and the theme for the Second Sunday of Great Lent is on St. Gregory Palamas. Thus, Father's homily spoke about monasticism and how we can live that out in our daily lives as laypeople. Especially during Lent, I love thinking about the home as our domestic monastery!

Speaking of such, we lit the second candle on our Lenten festal wreath on Sunday! Our Byzantine rite parish also hosted the first coffee hour of the new year (we brought some danish!), and we're really feeling more and more at home there. Everyone who attends the 9 am English language liturgy knows us know, and we feel a lovely kinship with them. It was nice to socialize and unwind with everyone for a spell after liturgy. Planning is in high gear for the Easter Bazaar, and I'm looking forward to helping out and becoming more immersed in parish life. Thus, when I found out that the parish was having a meeting on Thursday evening for all interested parishoners, I put that into my calendar. 

Thursday evening found me knitting at a table surrounded by icons and learning more about the challenging financial place that the parish is in. At this particular parish, it's difficult to get any kind of influx of new members outside of family members of existing members, and as the parish ages, there are less and less active members. Less active members means less income in the form of donations, and of course, the pandemic meant less events in the past few years from which quite a bit of fundraising usually resulted. So we spent some time strategizing events for the remainder of the calendar year, which was a great feeling. I'm currently praying a novena to St. Patrick that the parish is able to raise the funds that it needs to pay its' debts and stay afloat financially. ๐Ÿ™ The Easter Bazaar is Palm Sunday weekend and we're all looking forward to it.

How is your Great Lent progressing, friends? I need to get started on some of my spiritual reading, but I do feel like it's been quite a spiritual fruitful season for me so far!

Friday, March 3, 2023

First Sunday of the Great Fast (Sunday of Orthodoxy)

Lit the first candle on Ash Wednesday in our bi-rite family!

Happy Friday everyone, and it's all Lenty now, isn't it? ๐Ÿ˜ I had my very first official Sunday of the Great Fast, and am all excited to tell you about it! 

First of all, the fabulous Legacy Icons has added Lenten candles that will work in the festal wreath I acquired for the 6 week season of Christmas preparation/St. Philip's Fast in the Eastern rites. I was SO EXCITED for this idea, and acquired them forthwith. ๐Ÿ˜‚ There are also candles for Easter and Pentecost seasons, but we'll save that excitement for another time. ;-)

The First Sunday of Great Lent at Divine Liturgy found us focusing on iconography. I love the themed weeks in the Byzantine rite, and the lead up to Lent and then Great Lent itself has some great ones. This particular Sunday is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, and I had no idea what that even meant, and come to find out via our handy theme, that it indicates the triumph over the iconoclasts in the ninth century. So our theme for the Sunday of Orthodoxy is the Commemoration of Holy Images. Awesome, right?!

In that same vein on themes, within our Byzantine rite parish, one of the things I'm enjoying is the bigger-picture-at-a-glance monthly bulletin. As a Latin rite Catholic, I was very used to the weekly variety, which included not only information on liturgies for the week, but also parish, Catholic schools and diocesan activities. I *think* this is common in Latin rite parishes, though I'm sure that it can vary. Our Byzantine rite parish is so small (and indeed, the entire regional eparchy, which from what I understand is the Eastern rites version of dioceses), that a monthly bulletin definitely makes much more sense. At first, I missed the weekly influx of new churchy news, but this monthly style has really grown on me. The focus is almost entirely liturgical, unless there is a big parish event coming up, like one of the seasonal bazaars, or a Ukrainian fundraiser, and then that will be printed on the front or back as well. And I like how you can see what is coming up more fully in the liturgical calendar, for instance, in March we have:

  • Second Sunday of the Great Fast: St. Gregory of Palamas
  • Third Sunday of the Great Fast: Veneration of the Holy Cross
  • Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast: St. John Climacus
  • Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast: Our Venerable Mother, Mary of Egypt

St. Mary of Egypt marks the anniversay of the very first Divine Liturgy that I ever attended, and that was with Anne! This all feels so special. ๐Ÿฅฐ

I'm so happily making my way through Lent. I'm also trying to get to my Liturgy of the Hours every day in the form of Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. I'm not always successful, but I'm definitely praying the hours much more than I usuall do! And this coming Sunday, I'm looking forward to learning about St. Gregory of Palamas and to coffee klatch after Divine Liturgy. We're making cupcakes! ๐Ÿ˜‹

How is your Lent going, friends? ๐Ÿ’œ

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Cheesefare Sunday (Sunday of Forgiveness)

Hello all! I was teaching yesterday, so our post this week is slightly askew in the usual calendar, but here we are to continue our Lenten journey together! Indeed Lent has already begun, but we still need to chronicle the final Sunday prior to Lent, Cheesefare Sunday!

Sadly, there was no Feast Of All Cheeses happening at our parish on this particular Sunday ๐Ÿคฃ It serves as a reminder of the Great Fast that is to come, and all of the sacrifice that is involved. We're following (my family, that is) the Western Church fast, rather than the Eastern one, so we're still consuming dairy, but still, the point is quite impressive. 

This Sunday also features a forgiveness ritual that I found quite moving. At the end of the liturgy, Father read a prayer on this theme, and asked forgiveness for anything he may have said or did, intentionally or unintentionally, that may have hurt or offended us. We then did the same, both to him and to each other. As a lead up to the holy season of Lent, I thought this was so beautiful. 

After Divine Liturgy, there was talk of the Easter Bazaar that will be happening the Saturday of Palm Sunday weekend, and we're being recruited to come help make pierogi. :-0 I have no idea of how to make pierogi (or most things, to be honest!) but a willing heart is half the battle, yes? I can absolutely be told what to do and follow directions, and I'm excited to learn!

Great Lent began the next day on Clean Monday, where we focus on purifying our hearts. For my part, I did enjoy our Latin rite Ash Wednesday traditions, which the Eastern Churches do not include. So I'm indulging in all of the rites right now, and loving every moment. 


How is your Lent starting off, friends? 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Meatfare Sunday (Sunday of the Last Judgment)

The Byzantine rite does *not* have Ash Wednesday, I'm just still a Latin rite gal at heart! 
Hello everyone and holy cow, how is it nearly Lent?! Be the shock as it may, I am still quite excited about the upcoming change in liturgical season, and accompanying traditions. 

This past Sunday found us with much anticipation at our Byzantine rite parish, where it was Meatfare Sunday. I knew that this involved a celebration of eating meat prior to giving it up for all of Lent until Easter/Pascha, and wondered if this would  involve a parish meal with vats of meat served about? Nope. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Just a reminder that the Great Fast is approaching!

This particular Sunday also featured the Gospel reading of the Last Judgment, which is a precursor to next Sunday, with it's focus on it being Cheesefare (Eastern Christians give up dairy for Lent, too ๐Ÿ˜ฌ) as well as Forgiveness Sunday. I read about Forgiveness Sunday in a memoir I read recently about an Orthodox congregation. I'll be excited to report in on this next week!

For my part, I have my Lenten devotions, books and icons all planned out, and am rearing to go! I'm looking forward to sharing it all with you here on this blog. Despite my happy exploration of the Byzantine rite, I am still very much a Latin rite Catholic, and thus I will be procuring ashes next week on Ash Wednesday. As I mention in the image caption, the Byzantine rite does not have a tradition of Ash Wednesday. Lent begins for them this coming Monday following Cheesefare Sunday. This day is called Clean Monday, and is officially the start of the Great Fast. 

I'm going to be honest and admit that I will not be participating in the full great fasting experience. I just know that it will not be possible to make such a dramatic shift with regards to family meals! However, we will as ever be abstaining from meat on all Fridays of Lent, as well as on Ash Wednesday, and fasting on both Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (in the Latin rite sense of 1 full meal and 2 smaller ones). I'm also going to try and do my best to incorporate abstaining from meat on all Wednesdays of Lent, so wish me luck on this! My family are meat lovers, to be sure. 

What are your plans for this upcoming Ash Wednesday and first week of Lent? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Hello friends and happy Friday! It's hard to believe that it's nearly mid-February already, and Great Lent is fast approaching! I know that many people dislike this post-holiday winter time of year more than any other, but I truly like it. I have a couple of enjoyable celebrations in January and February (my wedding anniversay, my birthday, Valentine's day) but I also treasure the start of Lent each year, and with few exceptions that also falls in Febuary! This in fact the case this year, and we have just over two weeks before all of the Lenten goodness will begin, hee hee, and my planning process is in full swing! I'll circle back to that in a moment.

This past Sunday was another themed on in the leadup to Great Lent in the Byzantine rite, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. We went old school though, if you will, in that we attended Mass at our Latin rite parish. Our Byzantine rite priest was out of town, so the only Divine Liturgy offered was in Ukrainian. The kids and I agreed it was a good week to visit back with our registered parish. 

And it was lovely. We've gotten so used to going to church earlier on Sundays (9 am Divine Liturgy) that we got up and went to the 8 am Mass rather than our habit of 11 am. I mean, the children actually advocated for the earlier timeslot, I was in disbelief. :-0 This coming weekend we're looking forward to heading back to Divine Liturgy, and it's Meatfare Sunday! 

*praise hands*

In the meantime, I've been making my plans for Lent. I am planning to make my way through "Set the World on Fire" a personal retreat featuring writings from the female doctors of the Church, and I am STOKED. It should take about a month to work through, so I'm planning on starting early on in Lent to free up space to prepare for and participate fully in Holy Week. Interestingly, in the Eastern rites, there is no Ash Wednesday tradition, Great Lent starts the Monday after Cheesefare Sunday (so this year, that is February 20th in the Gregorian Calendar). So I'll likely begin the retreat either that Monday the 20th, or the following week of the 27th. I'll keep you posted in case anybody else wants to read along! And we'll talk all about these Byzantine rite Great Lent tidbits more in the coming weeks as this all comes to pass!

How are all of your Lenten plans coming along?

Friday, February 3, 2023

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Hello everyone and happy February! Yesterday was the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord (called Candlemas in the Western Church) and I eagerly swapped out my little icon. I've definitely taken a fancy to the 12 Great Feasts and following along with them throughout the liturgical year. This icon will stay out until the next feast, which is the Annunciation in March!

Meanwhile, we continue to move closer to the start of Great Lent, and given that this will be my first one more heavily immersed in the Byzantine rite, I'm pretty excited. This past Sunday was the first official one in this pre-Lenten period of themes that the Byzantine rite focuses on, and I was looking forward to examining this more closely. As I anticipated, the Gospel and homily at Divine Liturgy focused on the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector, and Father spoke about the themes of faith and humility in our journey to Great Lent. It was wonderful! Talk in our social area after the liturgy focused on preparations for a pre-Easter bazaar and parish luncheon, so I will excitedly stay tuned for those. 

After I got home, I discovered this delightful graphic via my good friend, and Byzantine rite Catholic, Allison:

I mean ๐Ÿ˜

I'm so excited to keep following along with these themes and liturgies! Our priest will be away this weekend, so I'm unfortunately not certain we'll be at Divine Liturgy since it will be in Ukrainian. We'll likely attend Mass instead, but either way I'll keep you posted. Lenten preparations should be underway for everyone right now, regardless of rite! If you'd like to share your Lenten plans, I'd love to hear about them in the comments. :)

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!