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.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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