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.


Moonshadow said...

I drove past this place yesterday ... I was lost in Scranton ... Nice to see the inside!

Scranton has lovely churches ... of all kinds ... I noted many during my twenty-minute, GPS-assisted wanderings.

Matt said...

You were in my back yard!

Usually, I'm not keen on meeting internet friends but we've gone back and forth on our blogs so many times I wouldn't mind. Next time you are around, send an email if you'd like.

As for all the churches, Scranton I guess you could say, had a "church building competition" going on for about a hundred years. There is one on almost every street corner and they were all built by poor immigrants who struggled to build their beautiful places. The vast majority of the churches in Scranton are Catholic.

St. Mary's is a gem, but so is the Roman Cathedral St. Peter's.

Moonshadow said...

Oh, gee, no, sorry, my mistake.

It was St. Michael the Archangel in Dunmore.

I was trying to avoid that horrible construction on 81S, so I took Route 11 from exit 194 but missed the turn back to 81. Somehow, I ended up taking Main Ave., to E. Market, to Sanderson, to Green Ridge, to S. Blakely to E. Drinker - all during rush hour - and then, huh, almost got on 81S again but at the last second, opted for 380!

I'm not always happy with the choices my GPS offers - I think the kids have fiddled with the settings, choosing "scenic route" over "optimal!"

But that all-Beatles station was on, so I didn't really mind. And getting a close-up look at all the churches that I've only ever seen from the highway.

Matt said...

The traffic jams are daily and worthless. I avoid them like the plague when I go to the city.

Dunmore is the place where that entire episcopal church converted under the Catholic Anglican Use, btw. My parish is also St. Micheal the Archangel but we are in West Scranton over by St. Patrick's and St. Ann's Basilica.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton