Sunday, March 12, 2006
My first Divine Liturgy
This morning was my first experience with the Divine Liturgy, but it certainly will not be my last. My friend Laura and I went to Scranton today to St. Mary of the Assumption Byzantine Catholic parish. The church was stunning inside. The altar was covered in gold, and the icon screen was as well. Saints adorned the walls, and as with the Tridentine Mass, incense filled the air.
There are no instruments played in the Divine Liturgy, only singing. That is meant to mimic the voices of heaven, which the entire congregation represents. In fact, one of the prayers in the liturgy actually states this. Well, it works. The singing was certainly heavenly. For several years, I've thought I understood the role of music in the uplift of the spirit, and the whole of mankind. I've always understood its use in church was to worship God. But this was different. The Divine Liturgy brings heaven down to you, it brings heaven to earth for us to celebrate.
All that music must work, because the parishioners were definitely attentive and faithful. Many of them were blessed with afflictions and sickness. They actually had to bring in a wheel chair for a teenager who had a seizure while sitting in his pew. The man next to us was wearing a neck brace and walked with a cane. Sitting behind us was a man who obviously had surgery performed behind his ear, and you could see the deformed skin around it. There were limpers and coughers all throughout the pews. What struck me about all this wasn't the fact that I was surrounded with people who would otherwise be hospitalized, but the fact that they were all still there. Though they were all afflicted, they were still faithful in their suffering. This might be a difficult concept for those who are unfamiliar with redemptive suffering. But I believe it is truly a work of God.
Many of the women wore head coverings, but not all. This was definitely not a jeans and t-shirt modern parish by any means. The people were dressed up for church in a way that you'd normally expect to see on Christmas and Easter only in many modern services. Even though they wore nicer clothes, the people were very friendly. You'd expect a church so steeped in tradition and old ways to be less personal. That was not the case. In fact, afterwards the priest even took a second to ask us where we were from. He actually recognized that we were visitors, without us saying anything. To me, that says: this is a church family, not just an organization or a building.
Would I attend this every week? Ya know, it wouldn't be so bad honestly. Sure, its definitely different than anything I've experienced before. I think it comes down to "different strokes for different folks." For those who are bored with the regular Mass, and are losing their faith out of complacency, I would 100% recommend attending a Divine Liturgy regularly. It is filled with mystery and awe, something missing from some of the modern parishes. I have little doubt that I will go back sometime.
So as my search for a parish to begin my process with continues and narrows, it also broadens. New experiences are coming at me every week, and I love it. It is a wonder how I grew up never realizing the beauty of the Faith.
I just want to leave everyone with just one last thought. If you are a Protestant, some other religion, or even and atheist, I would encourage you to take a look at one of these great places. Even if you have a problem with the theology, the liturgy is unlike anything I've seen, and is well worth the visit. You may actually be surprised to see that what you've always thought it was like is nowhere near the reality.