A Catholic reader writes:
We went to a Ukrainian Catholic Church yesterday. Wow. Why should we have to fight so hard in the Roman Church to have good liturgy? I like the Liturgy of St. John Chrysotom; there is no pussy footing around, no apologizing, just worshiping God in spirit and truth. Seriously, this is what life is about: worshiping, adoring, and glorifying God. I don’t know how anyone can compare what passes for most liturgy in the Roman Church with the Divine Liturgy. If we really believed we are worshiping the all loving and good Creator of the Universe would we sign Marty Haugen?
Well, friend, does it help to sing the hathotic Haugen classic “Gather Us In” in Latin? No? I didn’t think so.
We had a great long weekend here in the ‘ville. Father Matthew Harrington, an Orthodox priest from ROCOR, came to visit with his wife and a deacon — all from St. Silouan’s parish in Walla Walla, Washington. Our small group of Orthodox believers around here are considering establishing a mission church in town, and we invited Fr. Matthew and crew down to meet with us to discuss the possibilities.
On Saturday night we prayed Vespers, and on Sunday morning, we celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the Market Hall on Royal Street. It’s awesome to imagine that in the same building from which human beings were sold into slavery in the 19th century, a divine liturgy was celebrated this past weekend. And even stranger: a liturgy the core of which was composed in the fifth century, said here in a tiny river town in the American Deep South, Anno Domini 2012.
This liturgy is the standard liturgy of the Orthodox Church, and it’s also the standard liturgy of most (but not all) Eastern Rite Catholic churches. And it is staggeringly beautiful. It’s the kind of thing that, when you see it for the first time, you may think: This is how worship of the all-holy God is supposed to be.
If you’re a Catholic, and have a Byzantine parish in your neighborhood, I encourage you to visit it. It’s perfectly licit for you to take communion there, and it’s really something else to see how other Catholics pray and worship on Sunday morning. Or, Catholic or not, come see us in the Orthodox Church. Don’t forget that the Orthodox theologian Bradley Nassif is certainly correct: that gorgeous liturgy won’t save any of us on its own. Still…
UPDATE: A friend e-mails to point out that the core of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom dates to the first century Liturgy of St. James The Apostle (circa 60 A.D.), the liturgy of the Church in Jerusalem; St. John Chrysostom shortened it for the liturgy that bears his name.