Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My first attending of the Byz. Rite

Well.......what the devil can I say? I mean, it hasn't even fully sunken in. Still, let's take it from the beginning. It's impossible not to realize that there is much, much bitterness between the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Church. I just began to look into this. Well, one of the things I was more curious about, believe it or not, wasn't what caused this childish bickering, but the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholics. I looked around, but could never get more than the smallest picture, and even then they didn't explain what was going on. Eventually, I just said "well, that guy you rode up to Richmond for an evening of recollection last month said there was a Byzantine Catholic Church -- see where it is!"

I did only a little looking into it and found it, and an address, directions, and a time of a Mass on Wednesday. So this evening came and mom was obliging enough to take me.

Wow. As soon as I walked into the door, the priest and brother immediately greeted me and knew that I had never been there before. In light of that, he asked "how did you find out about us?" (not in a manner of "what?! who sent you? what's your business?"). I said that I found them via the internet. "Hey! The internet works!" Haha!

After that, the brother escorted me to the back of the sanctuary and gave me a crash course in the difference in practice and etiquette in the Byzantine Rite. Now let me tell you now, even by this time I felt like a prince. It was seriously as if they knew I was coming. They might have had a red carpet out...I didn't notice. Anyway, the good brother was giving me a crash course which was unnecessary since my good friend Jason at Auto De Fe gave me a very sufficient course. But the brother didn't know that, so I just let him go on, smiling and nodding appreciatively.

He showed me to a pew where another guy was sitting, obviously intending that he show me through in case I get caught up. I spoke with him, and he told me that he had been going to this church for about three years. When he told me where he had been going, I wasn't surprised he left.

Anyway, the liturgy was absolutely beautiful. I won't go into very great detail, but it was wonderful singing and dialogue. We spoke of having unity into the true Christian faith, and prayed for our holy ecumenical Pontiff Benedict, the Pope of Rome. There was a lot of incense! And they had bells on the censer, so every time they swung it, they released incense and bells went ringing. Also, when we placed petitions to God, the censer would certainly swing. This is symbolic of where in Revelation; it speaks of incense of the saint's prayers rising to God.

Afterwards, I waited for people to finish they're devotions and depart. Then I planned to take pictures. Now, I was assuming that if anyone knew I was taking pictures, not that I was trying to hide it or anything, they're attitude would've been "okay but no more". Far from that, a woman asked me if I wanted the lights turned back up from their dimmed status in order for me to take better pictures. Thanks!

Still afterwards, I walked down and peered around a corner and caught Fr's eye. The unexpected just didn't seem to stop coming. I turned back but he raced around to chat and see me off. We talked a little bit about this and that, a priest we both knew who was my families pastor for a year or two, our Tridentine chapel that dad and I like to go to every now and again, and the parish we go to regularly. Then we exchanged best wishes and departed.

Then I made my way to the door and...ooop...I was caught again. The brother asked if I had any questions, but before I could ask, he gave me some literature that I look forward to reading (no, really!). He told me that he was terrible with names and sure enough, he'd forgotten my name by the end of our one-minute chat. "Bye, Gary", said he. I said "bye" back and then finally left. But even in the short time I was waiting for mom to pick me up (mom had to make dinner), I'd gotten a whole bunch of waves and "bye now's" in the parking lot. Really, it was like I'd been a long time parishioner and friend.

After seeing the reverence in the congregation, even though it be a quite small congregation, and the dignity which the liturgy was celebrated with left me feeling all the more like our team needs to practice a whole lot more. I'm only spurred on all the more to do my part in the liturgical renewal called for by Pope Benedict XVI. Team JPII Generation, onwards!

Now, just as a kid hopes to get a lolli-pop from the pharmacy drive-thru after going out on a boring trip of errands, I have some pictures to top off all this nonsense.

Glory to Christ the King, Light of the World!

Mary and the baby Jesus. We have a copy of this ikon in our living room, now that I take a closer look.

St. Nicholas the wonder-worker. Apparently, he's who the eastern orthodox and Byzantine Catholics call the St. Nicholas who dropped coins down the chimney of the man with three daughters. I got this information off a geocities site, so it might not be top-notch.

For those who don't know (hell, I barely know!), there are three doors. One is right in front of the altar, and the other two are at the sides. This is the door on the left. On it is an ikon of St. Michael the Archangel. This door is directly to the right of the St. Nicholas the wonder-worker ikon and directly to the left of the ikon of Mary.

This is an ikon of St. John the Baptist. It says, "Holy John" in the upper left corner, but that came out clear enough. The text in the upper right corner of the ikon didn't come out so well, but I remember it as said "The fore-runner of the Lord". St. John the Baptist was the same age as Christ (remember Elizabeth meets Mary with John and Jesus in the respective wombs), but John began his public ministry before Christ, of course. Notice he's wearing camel-skin.

So here's the table where the ikon is kept for congregant veneration. Jason tells me that if the ikon is of Christ, you kiss the feet. If it is a saint, you kiss the hand or face. This was an ikon of Mary and the Apostles (probably at Pentecost, though I confess my forgetfulness).