Last night we experienced the best of the Latin rite by going to the Easter Vigil at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (where I get my weekly dose of music as a choir member).
Today we experienced the best of the East by participating in the Divine Liturgy at Fr. Loya's parish, the Byzantine Church of the Annunciation of the Mother of God, way out on the far end of Cook County (an hour's drive from downtown). Fr. Loya is not simply the pastor: he's the iconographer who covered the entire interior of the church in brilliantly vivid icons. Even the lower three feet of the wall was painted as if with a flowing, red-trimmed drape, all the way around the church! You truly feel you are "inside" of Heaven, surrounded by the "crowd of witnesses" (and clouds of incense), immersed in a thundering song. An usher kindly provided us Latin-schooled worshipers with service books, and since there is so much repetition, we pretty much managed to follow along and even sing the chants (when they were in English; some were in Greek and Old Church Slavonic). The small church was filled with parishioners and visitors (we saw a Franciscan there, too); many young families were there with small children (this is a "Theology of the Body" parish), so there was a lot of movement throughout, and not just the many processions, bows and signs of the cross that the book mentioned! After the Gospel (the prologue of John, chanted verse by verse in English, Slavonic--or maybe Greek?--and Latin), Father Loya gave a wonderful homily about God's original and overwhelming plan for our abundant life. When I experience a homily like that, I often feel a bit of regret that the audience for it is so limited; I wish I could just record it and broadcast it, podcast it, do all in my power to get that message to more and more people who are starving for a solid and well-articulated presentation of the faith. At least Fr. Loya comes for our Theology of the Body sessions here! (Reminder: This Wednesday he will give a presentation on "Humanae Vitae," that most despised encyclical of all time.)
After the Liturgy there was another short service of the blessing of the Easter baskets. These were not your everyday Easter bunny type baskets, lined up on tables in the vestibule. These were heavy duty baskets lined with linen napkins and filled with eggs (real ones), sausages, hams, butter in the shape of lambs, and Easter breads. Many had embroidered linen clothes over them, and an Easter icon propped near the handle. There was one blessing for the breads, one for the meats, and one for the dairy and egg products (not a word about chocolate! I suppose it was covered in that line about "all other foods" in the last blessing). Seeing us without a basket, Katy (in the middle) gave us her own. (On the right, you see Anastasia Northrup from Theology of the Body.net.)
What a remarkable day! (So much so that I broke my own rule about not blogging on Sunday!)
Blessed Easter, all week long!