Well I had a wonderful experience at the Melkite parish. As I walked into the Church I was awestruck with the colors and the iconography. Saints, Prophets, the Theotokos, and the Lord Jesus were all beautifully represented. What I thought was REALLY amazing was that this small Church houses a piece of bone from St. Ignatius of Antioch himself. Glory be to God!
I stayed for Orthros which were beginning prayers. The cantor sung the Psalms and we sometimes sung with him, bowing and making the sign of the Cross. When the Divine Liturgy began the Church was filled up with people and the Liturgy of the Word began. There was no reading from the prophets, but only from the Epistles and the Gospel. There was alot of chanting and processions. Everything was very beautiful.
It was VERY different from the Liturgy I was used to, but the structure was the same.
Still, in a difficult to expain way going to Divine Liturgy was a not what I expected.
I was hoping to be caught up in the beauty and splendor of the Heaven on Earth experience, but I wasn’t. Everything was alien to me. There were so many icons that I became somewhat distracted, and I didn’t know when to bow or anything like that. The chanting was also different.
In short, I simply wasn’t focusing on God. I was so busy trying to keep up with the Liturgy that I became distracted and I lost my focus. Also I was totally lost during the consecration of the Eucharistic gifts. They did the Words of Institution FIRST and THEN the Epiclesis. I wasn’t sure when the Body and the Blood became present!
However, upon reflection I know WHY this is. I was not accustomed to this particular form of worship. I was too embarassed to worship around strangers I didn’t know, in a Church that wasn’t “mine.”
Next time I will know what to expect and I will be able to worship God much easier as I won’t be distracted.
Still, I was surprised at how my experience made me proud about being a Roman Catholic. While I was happy and joyful to be worshipping God in the Melkite Church, I got the overwhelming feeling that this wasn’t MY style of worship. It was too extravagant for my tastes.
I am so stupid! I was so enthralled by the prospect of going to an Eastern Church, that I was missing the beauty of the ROMAN expression of the Faith.
NOBLE ROMAN SIMPLICITY!
When I am at the Roman Mass there are few distractions so it is easier for me to focus on Jesus, especially in His Presence in the Eucharist. I find it easier to worship Him here, than amidst all the chanting and such.
But again this is perhaps simply because I have not LEARNED how to worship in the Byzantine way. It will take time for me to learn how to worship in the Melkite fashion.
After all, it has taken me almost two years now to get accustommed to worshipping God in the Roman Mass.
It will also take time to learn how to worship in the Byzantine way.
Still, I look foward to worshipping in the Byzantine Church again!
My plan is, after my Initiation into the Faith, to go to the Byzantine Church on Sundays for the Divine Liturgy, and to go to Mass daily since it is near my house.
The greatest part of all this is that, no matter which Church I go to worship the LORD, I will be worshipping as God intended:
Offering up the Holy Eucharist in the One True Church that Jesus founded! Amen!!!