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!