Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

Pascha Most Sacred!

“Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered. Pascha most sacred is revealed to us today; Pascha new and holy; Pascha so mystical; Pascha most ven’rable; Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer; Pascha so spotless; Pascha so very great; Pascha of the faithful; Pascha which opened for us the gates of Paradise; Pascha which sanctifies all the faithful.” (from the Paschal Hymns of Resurrection Matins)

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen!

Dressed in our Easter finery.

Dressed in our Easter finery.

On Sunday my family celebrated Easter for the first time in the Byzantine tradition. It was beautiful, edifying, moving, and inspiring. I was able to attend liturgies on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning, and each was beautiful as part of the whole story of Great and Holy Week. On Friday, we processed around the outside of the church with a Holy Shroud, an ornately embroidered cloth with an icon of Jesus laying out as though in a tomb; the icon was made of fabric, I think. We processed then took the shroud back into the church where it was laid in a “tomb” surrounded by candles and flowers. Each parishioner then approached the shroud, crawling on our knees, to kiss the face, hands, and feet of Jesus. On Saturday, the liturgy focused on the theology of baptism as passing from death into new life. During one of the songs, the priest picked up the shroud and laid it across his shoulders. He carried it out of the “tomb” and put it on the altar where it always rests. The sacrament of Holy Eucharist takes place upon the icon of Christ at every liturgy. I never noticed that before this week.

On Sunday morning, we started with the Resurrection Matins, which are sung only on Easter morning each year. Matins begins with another procession around the outside of the church, this time with the icon of the Resurrection. During Matins we sang the refrain, “Christ is risen from the dead! By death He conquered Death, and to those in the grave He granted life.” When I say we sang that refrain, what I’m saying is we sang it about five million times. After Matins, we jumped right in to Divine Liturgy. It was a long morning, but so beautiful and joyful. At the end of liturgy, Fr. Sal suggested all the parishioners go out to the front steps of the church for an Easter morning group photo. All the parishioners. That is one of the wonderful things about belonging to a smaller parish.

Our traditional Easter foods, and my natural-dyed eggs.

Our traditional Easter foods, and my natural-dyed eggs.

Jeremy and I also participated in the Ukrainian traditional Easter foods. The tradition is to fill a basket with the foods you will eat after liturgy on Easter day. You bring the basket to church Saturday and the priest blesses the food. Then, you take it home and you have to eat all of it, because it’s blessed! If you don’t want to eat that last egg, you have to bury it in the ground; you can’t just throw it away! The traditional foods are ham and/or sausage, hard cooked eggs, pascha bread, butter molded into the shape of a lamb, cream cheese, and beet horseradish relish. It was not like Easter dinners I’ve eaten before, but it was delicious!

For our Easter eggs, I decided to try natural dyes. I used some of the juice from my purple sauerkraut, and turmeric. I added a bit of water and vinegar to both. The eggs turned out blue and yellow, which happen to be the national colors of Ukraine! I did not plan that at all, those were just the natural things I had around that I thought would work to dye eggs! It was really fun using the natural dyes. I would like to experiment with other things, and I don’t see why colored eggs should belong to Easter only. I’m going to do it any old time!

So, after a long break away from my blog, I am happy to be back! We moved to a new home last week, so for a few weeks we were working flat out to pack up at the old place, then we moved and didn’t have internet yet, and we were working flat out to unpack the essential items. Now things are calming as we have reached the point that whatever is in a box isn’t urgently needed, so we can work at a more reasonable pace. And we obviously have internet again!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holy day. Remember to keep the party going: Easter lasts for fifty days!

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What I Wore Sunday: November 3

Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple.

Today we got to go to church as a whole family! And we didn’t have to visit the hospital afterwards! Yay! In other awesome news, I managed to get Stephen to go upstairs to the choir loft with me, so I got to sing with the choir! Yay! And I must say we sounded pretty darn good today, too. Today we sang Tone 7, which I remember the last time we sang it, it was not so good. We all brought our “A” game today though, and we rocked Tone 7 like nobody’s business. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks, because there are several big feasts coming up, and Advent starts soon. It’s going to be fun in the choir, especially if Stephen keeps being adorable and well-mannered in the loft. Today he wasn’t so sure at first that he liked the idea of being upstairs, but I held him up to look over the railing at the people below, and we saw Jeremy and Agnes, then I held him for a while while we sang. When I put him down he stood around mostly, looking at the other people in the choir. After the homily he became comfortable enough to walk around the little area, pause to look over the railing, play with the toy he brought, come over by me for a bit, walk around some more. I did miss communion because I waited too long to go down, then I went at a toddler’s pace down the stairs. Oh well.

100_1875I’m hoping we can go to Liturgy on Friday. It’s the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Heavenly Powers, or something along those lines. Doesn’t that sound way cool? “Bodiless Heavenly Powers.” Neato.

For church today I chose my favorite skirt; I bought this at Savers in Albuquerque. I love long, full skirts. I’m also wearing a black shirt from Motherhood Maternity; it still fits me because it shrinks a tiny bit every time I launder it. Grr. Finally, I threw on that long sweater vesty thing that I like to wear during in-between seasons, plus my Clarks boots.

Today Stephen had a great time helping my dad take Quinn for a walk, and then later they raked leaves. Grandpa is pretty much awesome. Stephen also requested that grandpa do his bath tonight. It’s cute.

Today Agnes is doing pretty well; she’s been sleeping a lot. She has learned how to freak out again so that people will pick her up and hold her. I think she probably figured out in the hospital that doesn’t work too well, but at home it works every time. She sure knows what to do to get attention. I need to get her a “drama queen” shirt or something.

Tomorrow we are getting some professional photos of Agnes and Stephen! It was arranged through Palliative Care at the hospital, I think because Agnes is “special” or because she was in the NICU. Whatever, free photos of my kids. The reason doesn’t even matter!

I’m looking forward to a little more down time this week, since Agnes’ schedule isn’t so packed. The only outings we have scheduled are the photos, and hopefully church on Friday. No doctors. I’m going to go right now and start enjoying my downtime.

Head over to Fine Linen and Purple for more link ups.

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Our Journey to the East

Someone just sent me an email asking what took Jeremy and me to the Eastern Catholic tradition, and as I was writing I thought, “gee, this would make a purdy good blog post.” I hope my emailing friend doesn’t mind!
Jeremy and I had been going to Roman Catholic church, but as you can imagine, every parish has its own “vibe” and the way they do things. So when we moved to Akron, we took some time to shop around to find a parish that had the things we liked, and lacked the things we were happy to do without. We wanted a parish that celebrated reverent liturgy, with a priest who was obviously spiritual and not “tired” of his ministry. We wanted good music, or at least music that didn’t make us want to plug our ears! We wanted a parish where the prevalent mood was one in support of the Pope and keeping with Church teachings. We love the Pope and we wanted to be surrounded by others who do, too. We wanted a parish with a strong devotion to Mary the Blessed Mother. We wanted a parish where the actual church building looked like a church inside and out, rather than like a gymnasium or auditorium with an altar at one end.
So, with all that in mind, we shopped around. We actually have a few friends who worship in the Eastern Catholic tradition so we had heard about it before. The way the Catholic churches shake down is, there are two major branches: the Western (Roman, Mozarabic, and Ambrosian) and the Eastern (everything else that is Catholic). The Eastern Catholics tended to branch off more specifically according to ethnic groups, geographical regions, and language spoken. The Bishop of Rome (the Pope) is still the universal pontiff for everyone, but all the different Eastern Catholic Rites also have their own Patriarchs. And each ethnic tradition has their own Archbishop. There are several major Eastern Rites: Alexandrian (Coptic and Ethiopian Catholics); West Syrian (Maronite, Syriac, and Syro-Malankara Catholics); East Syrian (Chaldean and Syro-Malabar Catholics); Armenian (Armenian Catholics), and Byzantine (Albanian, Greek, Melkite, Ruthenian, Ukrainian and others). All these Eastern Rites are in union with the Pope of Rome, so we say all these churches are “in communion” with Rome. That is why Jeremy and I could just up and decide to go to a Ukrainian Catholic Church! There are some differences in the organization of hierarchy and stuff between East and West that I don’t feel really comfortable discussing, so I’ll move on to the liturgy!
I’m not too familiar with all the Eastern Rites, but each Rite has a favorite liturgy they use for worship. The two big ones for Byzantine Catholics are the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom and the Liturgy of Saint Basil. Any Eastern Catholic Church that uses these liturgies for worship are going to be similar to each other. The main difference will be with whichever ethnic language is thrown in. Jeremy and I have learned how to do a couple of the responses in Ukrainian!
This is the biggest difference for me between a Roman Catholic Mass and a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy. The feel of the two liturgies are totally different. The reforms of the liturgy that occurred in the 1970’s for Roman Catholics did a lot to streamline Mass, update the language, and open up some areas for a parish or diocese to do something individual. The liturgy of the Byzantine Rite didn’t go through this reform so there are lots of repetitive prayers and litanies, and the liturgy is almost entirely the same week to week. There are just a few things that change for each Sunday or feast day. I like the repetition. I like that the priest sings almost everything and the congregation sings all the responses. I like all the litanies. The Eastern Divine Liturgy feels mystical to me, with the cool chanted music, incense, bells, symbolic gestures, and icons. I love that we are hit with the fragrance of incense as soon as we walk through the door on Sunday. The fragrance of incense and pyrogies! I love gazing at the beautiful icons of Mary and Jesus and the saints.
I grew up Roman Catholic and Jeremy has been catholic for 15 years, so it’s hard for us to put aside the Roman thing! We still are more in tune with the Roman calendar of saints and feast days. We still pray the traditional Roman Catholic prayers at home. We still really like Latin! We celebrate liturgy at a Byzantine church and we try to incorporate some of the Eastern spirituality into our lives. We love icons and pray with icons at home. We try to remember to make the sign of the cross “backwards.” It’s a process, like any faith journey. And we’re enjoying it!
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Okay Friday

stephen wearing apron

 

There is absolutely no reason for this picture. It’s just fairly recent and represents one of Stephen’s new hobbies. He adores “helping” me cook by putting on Jeremy’s apron and standing around the kitchen being grabby and underfoot. It’s actually very precious. I think he may need his own toddler sized apron in a cool masculine boy-child type fabric (hint, hint, grandma Kathy…. :-p)

So today being Good Friday and one of the most deeply penitential days of the liturgical year, I thought it would be a good day to wake up on the wrong side of the bed and put on my cranky pants. Seriously, I spent a great deal of the day feeling tired and emotionally fragile, with a headache and a short patience fuse. Blame it on being pregnant? Yes, I think I will. It didn’t help that Stephen woke up dark and early at 5:45am, then proceeded to spend most of the morning freaking out about who-knows-what. That weird howling he does is way more aggravating than actual crying with tears.

We went to the 12 noon liturgy for Good Friday and that was really the high point of the day. Stephen behaved remarkably well considering we got there 30 minutes early to get a family-sized space in a pew near the front, then the liturgy was almost 2 hours long. The Passion reading was very beautifully done. They did a sung version, with a deacon, the monsignor, and a cantor doing the solos. The choir sang metrical composed music for all the crowd speeches. I was very impressed. The clergy had wonderful singing voices, and stayed really in tune; they were even able to work around the occasional mistake and end up in the right place at the end of the phrase. Again, I was very impressed both from a professional musician’s point of view, and as a member of the assembly there for spiritual enrichment. I really enjoy all the chanting in the liturgy at this church. When we go to the mass that has the main choir, the assembly only sings one or two hymns, but the entire ordinary is chanted, and the dialogues, and even “the word of the lord” after each reading. So I never feel like I don’t get to sing enough. I have also appreciated the choir singing psalm settings by Joseph Gelineau. I haven’t heard those in a long time, and they are some of my favorite musical settings of the psalms.

We did a few random things today, working around the liturgy schedule. We finished putting in termination orders on our utilities. We also booked another night of accommodations for our road trip. And finally, we purchased a car-top carrier box off of Craigslist. We need to have a new key cut for the lock, and Jeremy needs to make some after-marked modifications so it will screw on to our roof rack, but it’s going to be a big help on our trip! Now we won’t have to stuff the back of the car so completely full, and we will even be able to take along a whole case of diapers so we won’t have to buy some on the road. I think it will be worth the price we paid, and then some.

Things are coming together. Tomorrow is Holy Saturday, and we actually hired a babysitter so Jeremy and I will go enjoy the Easter Vigil mass babyless. It’s going to be awesome!

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