Worship styles differ, but God remains the same
Lord and Author of all creation, the seasons of the year and time itself
are at your command. In your goodness bless this new year. Safeguard
our nation, bless this faith community with peace and save us through
the prayers of the Mother of God.
Sept. 1 marks the beginning of the eastern liturgical year. While it is a time for looking ahead, it is also a time for looking back, especially as we remember the summer vacation season which has come to an end. Several months ago, as the prospect of holidays approached, Both Lungs suggested that, if the opportunity were to present itself, it would be worthwhile seek out a different Catholic Church and celebrate the eucharist in a manner with which you are not familiar.
The presence of these icons brought a sort of comforting sense of being at home in these unfamiliar surroundings. They also reminded me that, in the end, no matter what outward signs we use, all Christians are worshipping the same triune God.
The next event came while a friend from France was visiting Edmonton. On one Sunday, she expressed interest in attending divine liturgy at our parish. While she participated as best she could, I could tell the experience left her with a hollow feeling. The next Sunday she attended mass at a nearby Latin church. Afterward, she said she appreciated the mass because it seemed joyous and included guitar music. On this occasion, I was reminded that worship should, indeed, be joyous, whatever you perceive that to be.
Finally, my suggestion to experience the eucharist in a form you are not familiar with was, coincidentally, followed in an extraordinary manner when the Edmonton Catholic teachers held their annual year-opening liturgy at the downtown Winspear Centre on Aug. 29. In honour of the 100th anniversary of the appointment of Blessed Nykyta Budka as the first bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in Canada, the usual Latin mass was replaced with the divine liturgy, celebrated by Bishop David Motiuk of the Eparchy of Edmonton. Also at the altar were Archbishop Richard Smith, Bishop Emeritus Joseph McNeil and numerous priests of both churches.
A choir of teachers and other staff was organized and directed by Melanie Turgeon. Prior to the divine liturgy, she explained the divine liturgy should always be sung, as the human voice is the most perfect instrument, created by God. “Our song is our prayer,” she commented, “so please join us in song as best you can.” As the liturgy was celebrated in English, she led a short practice, teaching those present some basic response melodies. For many, it was the first time they had ever participated in an eastern liturgical celebration.
In his sermon, Bishop David spoke about the Pearl of Great
Price, found in Matthew 13:45-46: “Again, the kingdom of God is like a merchant
in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went
and sold all that he had and bought it.” Asking that teachers not
later comment on his lack of scientific knowledge, Bishop David spoke
about how pearls come from oysters, as they try to expel a piece of sand,
an irritant. “In our daily lives we all come across irritants:
bishops, principals, parents. Yet the oyster fails to expel the irritant
and ends up covering the sand with layer after layer of a milky secretion
that inadvertently becomes a precious gem.” The pearl is, he noted,
the only precious gem that is made by a living organism.
DIVINE LITURGY — Bishop David Motiuk gives his sermon during the divine liturgy for Edmonton Catholic teachers and support staff. “We all have much to contribute and much to learn from each other,” writes Brent Kostyniuk. “Through sharing and accepting, we can come to appreciate that the church not only breathes through both lungs, but relies on both lungs.” (Kostyniuk photo)
“Jesus is the Pearl of Great Price, a life produced by Life, a life which has overcome the working of death. He is our supreme example in that through the irritants we experience in life, God gives us layer after layer of grace until we become precious gems for all to admire.” Bishop David then admonished all the teachers to accept in a positive way the irritants they come across. “They serve the purpose of cutting away at the rough edges in order to reveal God’s beauty in each of us. You are all called to work to turn your students into beautiful pearls. These pearls will be gathered into strings acceptable and pleasing to God.”
After the divine liturgy, many comments were heard. “I really could grow to love that singing.” “What a treat, I loved the eastern liturgy.” There were even remarks that the incense wasn’t bad at all!
Taken together, these three incidents have given me a chance to not only more fully appreciate my own eastern liturgical heritage, but to reconsider how they fit into a much bigger picture. We all have much to contribute and much to learn from each other. Through sharing and accepting, we can come to appreciate that the church not only breathes through both lungs, but relies on both lungs.
Kostyniuk, who lives in Edmonton, has a bachelor of theology from Newman and is a freelance writer. He and his wife Bev have been married for 33 years.