Although someone might be shocked or horrified at my choice of a pretty, little ditty from a musical to entitle or to frame what I'd like to share briefly, it may only be an indication that I need to cut back on reading blogs and spend more time with the Church Fathers, Doctors and other approved authors. Be that as it may, with no intention to trivialize something I find "earth-shakingly" beautiful (in my little world), I'd like to share two of "my favorite things" from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as I have experienced this (for me) new world of Divine Worship, both in Ukrainian and in Church Slavonic as the Greek Catholic Church celebrates here, during my first almost four months in Ukraine.
The first is a petition, occurring two different times during the liturgy with the very same wording, sung by the deacon to which the choir and faithful respond "Grant this, O Lord." In the English translation, which I have, it reads: "That we may spend the rest of our lives in peace and repentance, let us ask the Lord."
Lex orandi, lex credendi, these words offer me a very succinct and Catholic adjunct to that first question in the old Baltimore catechism: "Why did God make me? God made me to know, love and serve Him in this life, so as to be happy with Him in the next." And with our "other lung" we could add: "And for all my trespasses, that He grant me space and time for repentance." Maybe it's just my age or time in life, perhaps chance or a little gift from the Holy Spirit, but this petition is a powerful impulse for me to be about the basic business which is mine upon this earth as one of the baptized. This petition is now mine, for each day and forever this side of Purgatory (hopefully not!) and (please, Lord, grant this) of Heaven for all eternity face to face with the Lord Whom I wish to know, love and serve.
The other day during a Christmas visit with His Beatitude the Major Archbishop, I shared with him this one and the second of my favorite things, the private prayers after Holy Communion. He told me that from childhood they were so trained and the priest is exhorted not to leave church until he has completed his private prayers as prescribed.
In my book, the rubric (in red) reads: "Immediately, after having worthily partaken of the life-giving Mystical Gifts, raise your voice in acclamation. Be very grateful and recite the prayers to God with heartfelt fervor." After the acclamation, there follow two pages of prayers, some attributed to the greats, like St. Basil, like Chrysostom and Damascene. The prayers are wonderful, but just as marvelous to me is the fact that all the bishops and priests sit down with their book in their places in the presbyterium behind the iconostasis, immediately after receiving Communion, and they pray those prayers. Yesterday, I noticed in a smaller church with a more open iconostasis, where I could see into the nave of the church, that no small number of the faithful, after devoutly receiving took out their own books to say those prayers privately. Byzantine Liturgy is to my mind a bit hectic because of the constant interplay of the different roles which intertwine and overlay each other: a Latin at heart, I could never renounce the sobriety of my own rite at any cost. Nonetheless, within our own tradition, I think we need to find ways to restore that moment, better those moments of quiet recollection after Communion.
Very simply, these are two of "my favorite things". I don't think they are particularly Byzantine or Ukrainian. I think they are thoroughly Catholic and where missing or lost in want of recovery.
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI