A Month of Typica


OUR Byzantine Catholic Parish has one priest assigned plus three others who help out from time to time. By an untimely coincidence of schedules, we are in the midst of 3 weeks without a priest to serve the Divine Liturgy. This week, in fact, we had no Deacon as well. There’s a conference in Vienna. There are prayers to say in such a case, known as the Typica. This is, essentially, the Divine Liturgy with the priest’s and deacon’s content removed. What remains is a suitable devotion for the Laity. To this is prepended the 3rd and 6th liturgical Hours from the Daily Office. The resultant service takes about one hour to read, maybe a little more. If there is a Deacon present he can (with a blessing) give out communion from the reserved sacrament. He can also preach as needed.

In the Orthodox Church where (in my experience) such a service can be common – but parishes few and far between – the whole community arrives in a timely manner and prays together. In the Byzantine Catholic Church, it seems that some would rather go to a local Latin-rite parish, even though they are on a different liturgical calendar. In such a situation, there are often multiple options. We rent our chapel from a Latin rite parish and I walk by three other Latin rite parishes (including our Cathedral) to get to this community. Any of these had Mass today – or for the other times we have Typica. Multiple Masses, in fact.

Why would one go to Typica instead? To answer this question highlights the difference between religion and relationship.

Two weeks ago the pastor reminded me of St Mary of Egypt (Late 4th, early 5th Century) who went from a life of libertine indulgence to ascetic struggle and sanctity in the Judean wilderness. She took communion twice – as we have it recorded in her hagiography. Only twice. The rest of her life was prayer and ascetic struggle, pardon the tautology. This is what the Christian life is: struggle for sanctity. Struggle – ascesis in Greek, podvig in Slavonic, Jihad in Arabic – is what it takes to submit the human will to God’s love. That requires a relationship: the human will does not come into its full submission to God’s love (that is, God’s self) until the will is in love with God. This is why God calls the soul his Beloved. This is why there is so much marriage imagery in the Bible. God created us to be his, not as slaves but as deeply intimate friends, in fact, as Sons and Daughters.

But it is very easy to turn that into rules. To turn that into religion.

I spent this last week watching a series of videos from Fr John Behr, an Orthodox Priest, doing a retreat for the Brothers and Sisters of Charity in Arkansas. It’s interesting – and encouraging – to think of an Orthodox Priest doing a retreat for a Roman Catholic Community! But they do miss his points often – and he’s not very familiar with Western liturgy either. So they are sometimes talking at cross purposes. Over nine (or so) sessions with the Community, Fr John points out that the early Church used what we think of today as Eucharistic Language not for the Eucharistic elements, but for humanity in God’s image – especially in the martyrs. At the earliest stages of the tradition the “words of institution” are not even in the Eucharistic prayers. But the martyrs (even women) are described as Christ made visible. Fr John says that for the earliest Christians, the scriptures were only understood in the light of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. In fact, he says, it’s the Pascha that comes first. Scripture flows out from the Pasch (even backward through history). There is no plan B: the Lamb is slain from before the foundation of the world. This is how God is loving us.

All of human history is us coming to understand this love. That is, all of human history is us entering into this relationship that we cannot consummate until our Death.

But we have a tendency to make rules and to put structures around this relationship. We are terrified of death – which Jesus has destroyed. But still, we don’t want to die. And we will do anything to feel better about things. So maybe I can manipulate God – that is religion. Maybe I can do enough Good Things to get Him to do Good Things (one form of legalism) or maybe I can not-do enough bad things to get Him to not-do a bad thing to me (another form of legalism).

Imagine if you governed your marriage by only positive and negative commands.

Instead of by love.

I think we are much happier stressing over rules than working on relationships. We want to make sure that God is on our side – so we can go do whatever. That is the stereotype of Roman Catholicism, right? Do whatever, go to confession… boom. Yet, that’s not how it works. A priest once called me out (in confession) for using the sacrament like a Car Wash. It’s more like marriage counseling.

And I think we have a tendency to treat the Most Holy Eucharist as if it were rings in Sonic the Hedgehog: Collect, collect, collect, collect, hit something bad (mortal sin) and boom! All the rings fall away.

Ooops. Time to start over.

I think this starts by putting anything – even the Eucharist itself – before the relationship with God. Anything that goes before that relationship can become locked into something other than what God intended it to be. Source and summit does not mean end-all and be-all.

If St Mary of Egypt can do her entire life with only two communions (and one of those was outside of Liturgy) then what about us? Generations of Saintly Catholics and Eastern Orthodox were raised without any form of regular communion. And when we think of “full, conscious, and active participation” but then we see people not singing, not praying… but they get their communion… what are we doing?

And so, Typica.

This is what Christians do on a Sunday: Christian things with other Christians. When there is a priest present, Christian things include the Eucharist. But If there is no priest, the Community still gathers. We worship God, we venerate the living Icons of God in each other and in his saints, and we eat together. Sometimes it’s Eucharist but today it was just some bread and wine, unblessed. This what God’s people does on a Sunday: enter deeper into our relationship with Him by entering deeper into our relationship with each other. The deeper that relationship is, the more we are being saved.

Fr John suggested that much of the Resourcement movement of the last century, both in the East and in the West, engaged in a sort of patristic proof-texting. Instead of reading the Fathers as they wrote, we looked for validation of our beliefs and (at that time) theological conversations. Although I think I understood what he meant, he did not seem to offer something else instead, so I’m not sure where that point should take me. Yet it raises a very valid question. Is Church-as-Communion only a modern reading of the Fathers – is there something else there that we’re missing?

Typica, at least, has me thinking that Church as Communion does not mean Church as Eucharistic Buffet or Sacramental Slot Machine. We can worship God on a Sunday even in the absence of a priest. And it may even be more for our salvation to do so from time to time.

Barren Trees Die


The Readings for the 8th Friday of Ordinary Time

And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Mark 11:14 (RSVCE)

SO MANY SERMONS ON this passage make it out to be about Israel, or the Temple priesthood. In fact, the footnotes on the USCCB website say this as well. If we read the entire pericope we might see a different interpretation. If every pericope is supposed to teach the whole Gospel, then what can we see here? Certainly condemning those who say they reject Jesus might make feel good those who say they accept him. What does Jesus actually say though?

Pull back a bit and you’ll see that the story of the cursed fig tree is framed. He’s leaving Bethany, which name means House of Figs. And he sees a fig tree… It also means House of Affliction. Interesting. So we’re about to afflict this fig tree, right? Jesus is hungry. He wants a fig. It’s not the time for figs though. So he curses the tree. And yes, then he cleanses the temple. But when his disciples ask him about the tree, what’s he make it out to be? Not the temple but rather about the fruit of righteousness in the hearts of the disciples: prayer. Forgiveness. Mercy.

Yes, it would seem the Temple is a visible parallel to the fig tree. But we need to be consistent in our readings: if Israel is a type and foreshadow of the universal (Catholic) Community of the Messiah, then what is done in the Temple is not “done to them…” but to all of us in symbol. Figs are Israel, I get it: but the Church is the Israel of God. The House of Figs is filled with followers of the Messiah.

That means that it is his followers from whom the Messiah is driving out the money changers. It is we who are in danger of being cursed if we do not bear fruit, “in season and out of season.”

Jesus comes to the Temple. He sees what’s going on. He goes to the house of Figs. He – also there – sees what’s going on. He curses the barren tree, drives out the money changers, and the tree dies.

Jesus cleanses us from our sins, restores us to God. But if we are bare, we will die.

Nothing Ordinary


The Readings for the Visitation of Mary
8th Wednesday of Ordinary Time

The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 (RSVCE)

WHEN MARY Visits Elizabeth their unborn children greet each other: the Forerunner leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother, at the presence of the Savior come in the womb of the Latter’s mother, Mary. The Church celebrates this today as a feast, but it comes rather late in the history of the Church. It’s from about the middle of the 13th Century, at least in the West. It shows up in the East only in the 19th! It’s the newness of the feast that I want to run with today.

Pascha was new at one time (seemingly it arose in the communities around St John in Ephesus). Christmas arose in the West. Epiphany arose in the East. Both of these feasts celebrated the Incarnation, but over time they combined and bifurcated. East and West now celebrate both.

The Incarnation of God in the flesh is the entrance of Eternity into Time. Everything that God does – even in time – is a fixed point in Eternity. Everything that happens in time is a result of the Incarnation. Full Stop. Everything in our world carries the echoes of that one event, like a wave rolling outward. There will, therefore, always be new feasts in the Church as we unfold the revelation ever more. Since Eternity is, of course, also Infinity, there is room for infinite unfolding, for more discovery.

The LORD is in our midst. He who made heaven and earth is here, today, celebrated as a foetus, or as the feminists would have it, a lump of cells. The humility of Eternity before he creation he made is staggering: fully dependent on the womb of the woman he chose, on her blood for his life, on her breathing for his breath, on the sounds of her womb for the knowledge of the world that a baby can have (we do not know). And here is God loving us even so for still, eternity, on the throne of Glory with his Father, breathing all of life in his Spirit, rolling the waves and the stars.

Silent and dumb in the present. Mary is the Living Ark of the Covenant, carrying within her the living word of the Torah, no longer script on scrolls, but here as flesh and blood. The Baptist leaps like David before the Ark.

How can we fail to weep for his love? How can we not be awestruck like his Aunt here? How can we fail to leap for joy like the Forerunner? How can we not cry out in strength like his mother?

In the Eucharist no less than in the womb.

And we become his living tabernacles through communion, the Ark of the Covenant walking through the streets unseen. We are Mary, making visitation.

So, when you greet people today, after the Eucharist makes his dwelling within you, will others leap for joy, or will they worry that you’ve not yet had your coffee?

Overcoming the World


The Readings for 7th Monday after Easter

I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

JESUS SAYS HE HAS OVERCOME the world. Yet, this is before his Crucifixion, before the Agony in the Garden – just before the High Priestly prayer. How has he already overcome the world? What does this mean for us? John Chrysostom says these words were spoken for our comfort and out of love for us. So I think we see here a little Transfiguration as it were: which happened to tell the Disciples that Jesus went to his death not as someone taken by surprise, but voluntarily as God.

When I was younger I had the sigil “IX XC + NIKA” on my email signature file. A friend who was Greek (but her family had been protestant for at least four generations) said to me, “I hope you know that means ‘en totou'”. Jesus Christ Conquers all. In fact the Greek in John 16:33 uses a form of that verb, “Nika” with νενίκηκα nenikeka. Jesus says he has already conquered. But we know he’s about to go to a false arrest, a rigged trial, and a politically motivated murder. How has he conquered? How can we say he has done so in spite of all this?

Christians tend to hyper-focus on the crucifixion. They do this either by making it out to be more important or less than everything else. I had a friend say the Resurrection and Ascension were irrelevant to his salvation. A Catholic priest even agreed with him no matter what I said to the contrary. The Catechism says, though, it is the entire incarnation that is salvific. Everything about Jesus is salvation happening. Other folks try to coverup the scandal of the death of God on a cross. Look at the Ascension by Salvador Dali:

Notice anything missing? Those hands and feet look might solid, no? Where are the wounds?

Everything about Jesus is salvation happening. Or, really, none of it is.

It’s popular among those who want to inspire Antisemitism, and also with those who want to downplay this moment as a defeat, to say this was something of a nightmare for Jesus. Some go so far as to say the Apostles made up the stories that come after Good Friday out of sheer guilt for leaving Jesus alone at his arrest. No one goes to their death for a lie they made up out of guilt, though.

The disciples knew that Jesus had conquered. He told them so. They forgot for a day or two… but he reminded them.

The world is not the thing that can damage us as Children of God. Yes, it can hurt us. Yes, it can tempt us. Yes, it can even kill us.

But Jesus has conquered the world not by undoing it, not by overthrowing it, but by subverting it. As man he received the worst the world could throw at him: poverty, political oppression, religious persecution, social rejection, depression, torture, dejection, loneliness, and death. As God, though, he took all that in and turned them into pathways to God or, more correctly, one long pathway to God. As man he also took the best we had – familial love, friends, joy, study, teaching, humor, creativity, physical labor, and piety. He turned these, also, into one long pathway to God. As man, he took perfectly normal, everyday things like eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. He turned these into pathways to God.

This is how he has overcome the world: at one time it all just lead to death. Maybe a life well-lived, or well-partied, sure, but death.

Now – since God has done it – it all leads to life. God is at the root of everything if we can only see him: good, bad, normal, exceptional, God has overcome the world by going all the way down and coming back again. No matter how far we run, he’s gone further. That is the meaning of atonement. Or, to quote Corrie Ten Boom, “There is no pit so deep that he is not deeper still.” (It is often misquoted as “…God’s love is deeper” but it is himself that is there in the deepness.)

Jesus Christ Conquers.


Ecclesiology Final


The Assignment was to answer these two questions (in five pages or less): What is the Church? What is the Church’s mission?

IN HIS HOMILY ON 11 May 2023, Fr James Moore, OP, said, “Jesus did not leave us a book, he left us a Church!” The questions of what is the church and what is her mission are causing quite a lot of struggle: while I have a very (I think) coherent response to offer, I’m not quite sure if it’s a Catholic response or an Orthodox one that we might call “un-westerned”. Is this answer an example of “breathing with both lungs” or is it merely an Eastern Orthodox Ecclesiology with the Pope on top? If it’s the latter, is that OK? To open my struggle here’s a quote from an Orthodox priest:

The Church is not an institution although it has acquired institutional aspects… The Church is not a charitable organization although it performs charitable works. The church is not a place to have one’s needs met although it meets the most profound needs of humanity. The Church is not a building where sacraments are offered on demand. The Church is not an afterthought in the plan of salvation. 

Fr Maxym Lysack, Pastor of Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church, Ottawa, Canada: Introduction to the Church in Orthodox Theology retrieved on 5/18/2023

It’s the both-and of Catholic theology expressed as Eastern Apophaticism. We can say what the Church is-not even while saying she is, kinda that anyway. “She’s not an institution, but she has acquired institutional aspects.” She is a mystery as we experience her. De Lubac’s Chapter III, The Two Aspects of the One Church, fleshes this out, highlighting the Church’s active and passive modes. The sanctifying and the sanctified, the Bride and Daughter of Christ. 

The Church is the “vine which God has planted” (Psalm 80:14-15) she is also the trellis on which the vine grows, the structure by which God guides the vine. De Lubac says, “No children without a mother; no people without leaders; no acquired sanctity without a sanctifying power… no communion of saints… without a communication of holy things… no realized community without a society in which and through which it is realized.” (Splendor of the Church my digital copy says that’s page 47…) He notes the (seeming) opposition between hierarchic and charismatic gifts, but they are both rooted in the church, arising from the same source. This language will later be found in Lumen Gentium ¶4: “The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits.” She is all that as well as the structure that holds it all together. De Lubac quotes the Venerable Bede, “Every day the Church brings forth the Church”.

The Catechism provides another point from which to begin unpacking the identity of the Church and there, also, her Mission:

“‘The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures.’ To fulfill the Father’s will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. The Church ‘is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery.’” (CCC ¶763)

In ¶752 the Catechism points to the People of Israel as the source of the Church’s claim to be the People of God. The Church is not an entirely new thing but rather the continuation of God’s actions throughout history beginning at not only with Abraham, but back to the original domestic Church in the Garden of Eden. (“The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves.” CCC ¶761)  The people of God cannot begin until there is a people of course. Adam and Eve are the right place to begin, yet our First Parents were reflecting something or Someone: the Holy Trinity. The Church is the sharing of the Divine Life which is from eternity so, following De Lubac, we must see the Church’s origins in the mystery of Eternity. At the same time, the Church is instituted by Jesus Christ (¶763 ff) so she is, in some way, also a thing in time. This time-and-eternity aspect, again not either/or, but rather both/and, paralleled by other both/and comparisons listed in the CCC, especially in ¶761, citing Sacrosanctum Concilium:

The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest.

To use the Eastern theological language, the Church is theosis or divinization in action in the world. She is the initiation, the goal, and the process by which the goal is approached. And, since God is infinitely beyond humanity, theosis is a journey, not an endpoint or destination. Even beyond this world, there is no place at which to stop and say, “There is no more journey left to take.” God’s love will always call us (that is the Church) “further up and further in” to use C.S. Lewis’ wonderful phrase. Yet the entire journey is the same. As Catherine of Siena said, “All the way to heaven is heaven, for Jesus says, ‘I am the way’”. To enter willingly on the way (even, perhaps, unknowingly) is to enter, in some way, into the desired end. 

The Church is the sharing in the life of God by the people of God, served by their Bishop and other clergy, gathered around the Eucharist. In and through the Eucharist, the entire people, in their mutual love and worship are referred to God the Father in the self-offering of the Son, Jesus.  The Church, then, is the Reign of God breaking into this world. Her mission is to manifest the Reign of God in the world and to draw all people deeper into that reign – into union in God by Grace. (See CCC ¶768, “the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God” quoting Lumen Gentium 5; and ¶772, “in the Church that Christ fulfills and reveals his own mystery as the purpose of God’s plan: “to unite all things in him.”). 

If Christ is, as the late Pope Benedict XVI said (in Verbum Domini ¶93), Autobasileia, “the Kingdom in himself” then the final both/and is that it is he who is, himself, the Church and her mission. Christ has left us himself.  The Church is his body and he is her head, and also her heart: he is her beloved one whom her soul loves (Song of Songs, 3:4) and also her very soul himself.

For the Beauty


THE LAST Weekend was #SpringinSF at it’s finest: not too hot, yet warm and sunny with a slight breeze. It was warm enough not to require a jacket until nearly 9 and that just meant that nighttime was cool enough to sleep! Saturday I was out and about long enough to “get some color” on my wintery pallor. Out walking with a friend we did a bit over 20km as we nerded out about Bible and Ecclesiology.

Being thankful that God has blessed me to live here, to serve the poor, to stand by his Altar, to be his son. The scudding clouds in the sky today remind me of the wolfpacks that form the melody of the Kyrie in Paul Winter’s Missa Gaia. So here’s a playlistof the whole thing. Having been lucky enough to see this live at Mass at St John the Divine in NYC in the 80s, this music is the core of celebration for me. (My friend, T, says “Whew this is Spirit of V2 as heck.”)

Glory to God for all things.

Only Two Seasons


FROM THE OFFICE Of Readings for the 5th Saturday after Easter. I’m reminded of a comment made about my old Episcopal Parish. At St Gregory of Nyssa Church it seemed as if there were only two Church seasons: Easter and Easter is Comming. St Augustine appears to agree (emphasis added). Shabbat Shalom!

From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop
(Ps. 148, 1-2: CCL 40, 2165-2166)

The Easter Alleluia

Our thoughts in this present life should turn on the praise of God, because it is in praising God that we shall rejoice for ever in the life to come; and no one can be ready for the next life unless he trains himself for it now. So we praise God during our earthly life, and at the same time we make our petitions to him. Our praise is expressed with joy, our petitions with yearning. We have been promised something we do not yet possess, and because the promise was made by one who keeps his word, we trust him and are glad; but insofar as possession is delayed, we can only long and yearn for it. It is good for us to persevere in longing until we receive what was promised, and yearning is over; then praise alone will remain.

Because there are these two periods of time—the one that now is, beset with the trials and troubles of this life, and the other yet to come, a life of everlasting serenity and joy—we are given two liturgical seasons, one before Easter and the other after. The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future. What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life; what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess. This is why we keep the first season with fasting and prayer; but now the fast is over and we devote the present season to praise. Such is the meaning of the Alleluia we sing.

Both these periods are represented and demonstrated for us in Christ our head. The Lord’s passion depicts for us our present life of trial—shows how we must suffer and be afflicted and finally die. The Lord’s resurrection and glorification show us the life that will be given to us in the future.

Now therefore, brethren, we urge you to praise God. That is what we are all telling each other when we say Alleluia. You say to your neighbor, “Praise the Lord!” and he says the same to you. We are all urging one another to praise the Lord, and all thereby doing what each of us urges the other to do. But see that your praise comes from your whole being; in other words, see that you praise God not with your lips and voices alone, but with your minds, your lives and all your actions.

We are praising God now, assembled as we are here in church; but when we go on our various ways again, it seems as if we cease to praise God. But provided we do not cease to live a good life, we shall always be praising God. You cease to praise God only when you swerve from justice and from what is pleasing to God. If you never turn aside from the good life, your tongue may be silent but your actions will cry aloud, and God will perceive your intentions; for as our ears hear each other’s voices, so do God’s ears hear our thoughts.



THE PREVIOUS Post was written and posted. Totally forgotten was the point: the bridge used by the writer to open up the “the west” for the fruits of prayer arising in the east was the Liturgy. The Vatican Two “novus ordo” is exactly the Byzantine Divine liturgy, slightly tweaked for Westerners.

By way of History, the liturgy of East and West was in times past more parallel than it had become in the last 1,000 years. It was also a bit more out-of-doors and processional. The rites of Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople were all begun in one of several locations, with processions through the city streets, to another central location. There communion was celebrated, and then deacons carried the consecrated gifts out again to other places for the people who could not attend the rite itself.

There are elements of this still in the “Station churches” of Rome: the bishop of the city would call the people to gather at one church. Prayers were said, then the people would process, singing psalms, to another church where the rest of Mass was said. In Constantinople the final location was Hagia Sophia. In Jerusalem it was often (but not always) the Holy Sepulchre. Over time the processional rites were diminished in the west. In the east, as it became increasingly impossible to do such things out of doors (because of Muslims, mostly) the chanting of Psalms was moved indoors, and what we now think of as the Three Antiphons at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy were formalized. Apart from these Antiphons, the Divine Liturgy and the Novus Ordo are basically the same:

Divine Liturgy:
  1. Holy God (Penitential), Entrance blessing & hymnody
  2. Psalm Verse
  3. Lesson (Epistle)
  4. Alleluia
  5. Gospel
  6. Homily
  7. Prayers/Litanies
  8. Offertory
  9. Creed
  10. Sursum Corda
  11. Anaphora
  12. Our Father
  13. Communion
  14. Dismissal
  15. Final Blessing
Novus Ordo
  1. Hymnody, Blessing, Penitential rite, Gloria
  2. Lessons
  3. Psalms
  4. Alleluia
  5. Gospel
  6. Homily
  7. Creed
  8. Universal Prayer
  9. Offertory
  10. Sursum Corda
  11. Anaphora
  12. Our Father
  13. Communion
  14. Dismissal
  15. Final Blessing

Apart from the Creed and the East’s propensity to often do “little litanies” the two rites are structurally the same.

It should be noted that in the Novus Ordo, while there are two lessons + Gospel assigned, it’s generally understood that the goal of the reform was one of either lessons plus Gospel but with a wider selection. We see this in the weekday Mass with only one reading, Psalm, Alleluia, then Gospel. Personally, I’m OK with three – and I think it’s strange that the Byzantine Rite has so little of the Jewish Scriptures at all – except for Psalms of course. On a “normal” Sunday, depending on the local liturgical tradition, one can get upwards of 16 full Psalms in the course of the rites of Sunday!

This would be more evident if the Ad Orientem posture was restored fully in the west (as per the actual rubrics) and the often-ignored minor propers were chanted more often. This would add more Psalm verses.

So, seeing these two rites are the same, we get a better sense of what the Council Fathers intended by the phrase, “full, conscious, and active participation.” There was no implication of something new but rather of something very old. It’s something, in fact, that the Byzantines had been doing right along in their already-vernacular liturgies! These liturgies are often chanted by the entire congregation, sung in simple folk melodies that come from the “home countries”. The Novus Ordo wasn’t a revolution, but an ecumenical (meaning the whole Church) evolution – using “both lungs” as Pope St John Paul would later say.


As subdeacon at the Paschal liturgy with my friend, Fr Christopher.


IT’S BEEN AN INTERESTING Year serving in a Byzantine Catholic Parish. There’s been a whole lot of learning – and some sadness. In 20 years as an Orthodox Christian, I was never once inside the Holy Place for the liturgy. Singing in choir was enough and – on those rare occasions (I can remember 3 in 20 years) when I ventured beyond the iconostasis I felt the space inside vibrate – like an electrical charge. It was not that I wasn’t supposed to be there: I had no desire to be in there at all. In becoming Roman Catholic and wrestling with the whole question of vocation again, the return to Byzantine liturgy was… what? An irony? A grace? A mark of God’s humor? Yes. And more.

What has come to is a sense of prayer that was never there before. And it seems that it’s not private prayer, not something that’s going on in me in spite of the liturgy happening around me. Instead, it’s personal prayer that’s arising from and woven intrinsically into the action that’s making me a person. And from the Byzantine Liturgy this prayer has sprung out into the Latin liturgy, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary… focused on the Name of Jesus, the venerating the icon of God present in the Church and in those served.

So, in some way I was not before, I’m a Byzantine Christian. This is the spirituality that is home. It’s the filter through which other things come to the point that I don’t know the answer to questions like this: is St Thomas Aquinas so very Byzantine because he is or because I’m hearing it that way? When I hear Byzantine context in Hebrew mysticism is it there because it is or because I’m hearing it that way? Can’t tell. I can’t tell because Latins hear it all very Latin-y. Is Aquinas or Hebrew Latin? It’s heard that way…

Then in the hearing there is a revelation of the mode of the hearer. And so the hearer has become a learner: and what is revealed is joy.

To be clear: Byzantine Catholic – not Eastern Orthodox. And yet really that is semantics. Coming into the Catholic Church I discovered I had been there all along.

God is good.

In Downers, Hope


BY WAY Of method: selected verses from Psalm 88 (BCP ’79 translation – a personal fave) interspersed with the refrain from Psalm 136. Language was ironed out to be in the third person to match the refrain. Not all the verses of Ps 88 are used, just the ones that match my current #mood. The reader is referred to Romans 8:28. Cribbing on the Psalms is either poetry or meditation. This Psalm is used for Friday’s Night Prayer. Its final line is haunting but today felt like a good day to claim it as my own.

By day and night I cry to the LORD, my God, my Savior.
– For his love endures for ever.
Let my prayer enter into his presence;
– For his love endures for ever.
He will incline his ear to my lamentation.
– For his love endures for ever.
I am full of trouble; and my life is at the brink of the grave.
– For his love endures for ever.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
– For his love endures for ever.
I have become like one who has no strength;
– For his love endures for ever.
Lost among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave,
– For his love endures for ever.
He has laid me in the depths of the Pit, in dark places, and in the abyss.
– For his love endures for ever.
His anger weighs upon me heavily, and all his great waves overwhelm me.
– For his love endures for ever.
He has put my friends far from me;
– For his love endures for ever.
He has made me to be abhorred by them;
– For his love endures for ever.
I am in prison and cannot get free.
– For his love endures for ever.
My sight has failed me because of trouble;
– For his love endures for ever.
I have stretched out my hands to the LORD and called upon him daily
– For his love endures for ever.
I cry to the LORD for help; in the morning my prayer comes before him.
– For his love endures for ever.
Why has the LORD rejected me?
– For his love endures for ever.
Why have he hidden his face from me?
– For his love endures for ever.
Ever since my youth, I have been wretched and at the
point of death;
– For his love endures for ever.
I have borne his terrors with a troubled mind.
– For his love endures for ever.
His blazing anger has swept over me;
– For his love endures for ever.
His terrors have destroyed me;
– For his love endures for ever.
They surround me all day long like a flood;
– For his love endures for ever.
They encompass me on every side.
– For his love endures for ever.
My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me
– For his love endures for ever.
Darkness is my only companion.
– For his love endures for ever.