For some reason, I have been having “writer’s block,” or at the very least a “dry spell,” in regards to my blog. I have been reading like a crazy woman, spending time with my son and husband, and some special time with my extended family. But I haven’t felt the urge to write much. Not sure what is up with that. The sunshine is glorious and things are growing, so maybe I’ve been hit with Spring Fever! Ha-Ha!
I was reading a post about a family who’s been trying to have their daughter receive communion at a local Roman Catholic parish and the priest has been denying them. Their daughter is an infant and was baptized, chrismated, and received communion at a Melkite parish some distance away. For their local church attendance, it seems like they are going between RC and Orthodox, as there is no Byzantine parish nearby. It is such a hard place to be. I have lived it.
When we relocated from So Cal to WA State up near Seattle, we were not worried about attending a Church. We had been spoiled in So Cal by having 3 parishes, Melkite parishes, within an hour of our house in 3 different directions. There were other Byzantine parishes within the same distance, and I lost count of the number of RC parishes around us. But we never had to attend a Church that we were not familiar with. We did not have to expose ourselves to other rites, or comments by other parishioners in these rites. We were not “causing scandal” by exposing other rites to the ways of the east, or visa versa. We were safe in our own little world.
When we moved to WA, there were no Melkite parishes. There was a Melkite mission that was more than an hour north of us, and a local Monastery (Romanian) whose pastor was a retired Melkite priest, which was about an hour south of us. An hour in WA weather can seem an eternity; trust me! Locally, we tried to attend an RC church. They did not know what to do with us. We were eastern rite Catholics and the RC hierarchy just did not know where we fit in, to worship with them. To be fair, the pastor loved our input and loved eastern Catholicism; he joyfully welcomed us. But the diocese, some of the diocesan hierarchy (although not the Bishop) and most of the people, were not familiar nor comfortable, with us. We then began to explore the Byzantine world there. There was a parish in the downtown area that we tried to attend. But my husband was not welcomed there by the pastor. He was uncomfortable with us. We tried, but my husband was frustrated. He’d spent 4 years in the seminary, preparing to serve his community. And no one wanted him on their altar. He was not welcomed to even receive Our Lord with the other clergy. His vestments were not acknowledged. It was a very dispiriting time for us.
We then relocated, yet again, to an area with just one Byzantine parish to serve the entire state. Once again, not Melkite. The initial pastor, when we arrived, was also flummoxed. He just did not know how to make use of my husband. Our Bishop corresponded with the Bishop for this parish, loaning my husband indefinitely to the parish. The pastor still did not know what to do with us. Then he was transferred. We got a new priest, from Ukraine, who is not the same rite, either. It is like the UN up on the altar these days…a Ukrainian, a Melkite, and a Ruthenian…and the parish is full of all sorts of nationalities. But isn’t that what Church is supposed to be???
I laughingly commented on this post today that the family was truly “universal,” and isn’t that what our Church is supposed to be? Christ instructed the Apostles to go to all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And they did! I’ve mentioned this before, but it still amazes me how exclusionary we can be to each other. Look at all the diversity of people who followed Christ. And when the Church was founded on Pentecost, what happened to the many different languages? Everyone could speak to each other and everyone understood one another. What has happened? Has our Church become so insular that we can no longer understand or speak to each other? It makes me sad.
“They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” (Acts 2:7-11)
I am offering prayers that this Pentecost, for all of us, the Holy Spirit once again cleans things up and removes these barriers to communication, sharing, and being Christian to each other!!! Sharing Christ with one another….not excluding our brethren from receiving anything they should be allowed to, and welcome to, receive! Allowing the burning fire of faith instill us all with the sense of community, that “communion” brings with it. (And for my Pentecostal family and friends, can I get an AMEN??)