Friday, October 21, 2011

Hopelessly in Love

I did not think my way into the Byzantine Church as many do having left their previous churches seeking more.   There could be no other explanation than I was like a loyal dog, on a leash, led by God.  At the time I was a lost little college student.  I had dumped my engineering major and was seeking out a new major.   I landed on philosophy a short time later.  One might think being a learned individual, I was searching more in faith, a thinking man's worship—deeper theology, greater reverence, greater tradition.   Let’s be honest,  who isn’t looking for deeper faith.  But, at the time I felt quite sound in my faith and confident in the Roman Catholic Church.  Seeking theology, reverence and tradition were decidedly not what brought me to the doorstep of a Byzantine church.

I had a boyfriend whom I had actually tried not to date.  I had told him I had sworn off dating and I was just praying for God to guide me to my future husband or religious vocation.  But, he said that was okay, because he did not want to date either.  He wanted to court with the intention to marry.  Whoa!  I was not ready for that.  But in truth, there were a lot of signs, not lost on either of us, that God was bringing us together.  With courtship in mind, we fell hopelessly in love.

I was Catholic and he was Orthodox.  We were very much in favor of our own particular denominations.  Where he saw trouble, I saw reconcilability and vice versa.  We came to an impasse, either we find commonality in faith and worship or split ways, and neither of us was budging.  Finally, he told me there was a way, but he was not keen on leaving his church, which had nurtured him into true faith.  We visited a Byzantine Catholic church--a church of ancient Eastern theology, under the umbrella of Rome.  I was startled by the Liturgy.  I was unlike any Liturgy I had ever experienced.  It was long, chanted, everything was said three times; there was lots of incense and some language I had never heard before.  However, during the Liturgy I naively identified all the parts of the Roman Liturgy within the Byzantine; and later told my boyfriend that it was acceptable in my eyes.

Everyone at the church was friendly and coached us along.  The cantor told us how when she entered the Byzantine church the priest had told her that soon she would be chanting the hymns and prayers throughout her day.  She was sweet, but I thought it would be a while before I got the hang of the chanting.  In actuality, it was about four Sundays and my boyfriend and I were chanting in the car to each other.

In time I became more knowledgeable of the deep theology behind the most ancient Christian Liturgy (I am still a novice).  But, immediately I enjoyed the deeper reverence and greater tradition.  And best of all, I was able to worship with my best friend and soon to be husband.  Within the doors of the Byzantine Church, we determined that we did see eye to eye in matters of faith.  We were crowned in the marriage crowning in the Byzantine Church.  We remain Byzantine today.  We raise our children in the Byzantine tradition.  It will be nine years this January that we first celebrated the Lamb’s Supper in the Byzantine Church.

We used to live just 25 minutes from that Byzantine church.   I grew up in a small town.  To me, that was a long way to go for church.  Little did I know that later I would need to drive 1h45 to get to a Byzantine church.  In my opinion, the drive is worth it.  We have been trying to get to the Byzantine Liturgy more often this year.   Especially since our children can receive the Eucharist there.  Last Sunday, after being away for about six weeks we made the trek to the Byzantine church.  As we rounded the corner and the church was in view, tears welled up in my eyes.  It was a total rush of relief like when you come home after being away.  As I gathered my emotions, I realized I am hopelessly in love--Byzantine style.

On the day of our betrothal in the Byzantine church.
February 2005

Bethrothal 035





kayleen said...

I love this post!

How did I miss Andrew was Orthodox? Did he grow up in it or did he convert? You'll have to do another post about his reasons for wanting to be Orthodox. There is an Orthodox priest and his wife (and children) coming into the Catholic church soon. They are a neat family, very interesting conversion stories.

I am in love, too. I can understand your tears at seeing the Byzantine church after being away for a while. There have been a few times over the last 4 years that I've been Eastern rite where we've missed a few weeks (maybe 3 in a row, tops) and I just long for the Byzantine liturgy. It DOES feel like coming home when I take in the incense, the chanting, the long beautiful prayers. It's a feast for the senses, no doubt!

Do you have the prayer book (the little black one?) I love it and have many of the evening, morning, and various prayers memorized now. I felt the same way in the beginning about feeling like I would never catch on to anything. But now it's in my heart and in my head too, and Louisa is already chanting while she plays...oh I just love it! Thanks for the wonderful post - you should link to it on your facebook!

Michelle M. said...

such a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

Crunchy Defender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Renee Clayton said...

Yes, my husband was Orthodox. He converted as a high school junior along with his parents. His family searched a long time for the right church. As they put it, "They searched a long time looking to be fed." His father had a lot of problems with the Catholic church itself and I understand his problems completely. They are things that really do not even occur to a cradle Catholic like myself. However, they are meaningful.

As said before, my husband was not keen on leaving Orthodoxy. And entering the Byzantine church is not at all an acceptable compromise to most Orthodox. Andrew made a profession of faith to Rome before we were married. Basically, he converted again. But essentially in the Byzantine church they viewed it as nothing more than a pledge of allegiance to the Church.

Just because the Byzantine church is under Rome becoming Byzantine is not the same as becoming Roman. The Eastern Christian Catholic church believes the same Eastern theology as the Orthodox do. The Byzantine Church celebrates the same Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as the Orthodox. The Roman Church has stated clearly that the Byzantine Church must maintain their Eastern identity. Further many of the problems that cause the great schism between Rome and the Orthodox have been reconcile in modern times.

In leaving Orthodoxy for Byzantine Rite, my husband really lost nothing. In fact what he gained was ecumenism with fellow Catholics. Further, I gained the great tradition and theology of the East.

Renee Clayton said...

Kayleen, we do have the black Byzantine prayer book. We use it to keep the feast. But, the prayers I use most often are the morning and evening prayers from the Orthodox Study Bible. Those prayers, I feel are more complete and organized. They of course begin with the Trisagion prayers, but then go through a multitude of petitions and adoration that I have not found anywhere else. You may recognize some of the petitions from the Liturgy.

Pat said...

So when Andrew was Orthodox and in Spokane, did he attend St. John's out in Post Falls or somewhere else?

Renee Clayton said...

I should mention that as a personal policy I normally delete comments from anonymous profiles. If you would like to continue to comment you will have to enable me to view your profile.

A vast majority of people who read and comment on this blog are friends and family.

Jocelyn said...

Thank you for a beautiful testimony! I grew up Roman Catholic, but my husband (then boyfriend) was Melkite (also Byzantine) Catholic. When I first went it was a real shock for didn't feel "Catholic" because all I knew of "Catholic" was the Roman way. Now, 3 years later I have really grown in appreciation for both the Mass and our Divine Liturgy, but I love the Byzantine way and would have a hard time going back to a Roman Catholic church. Our parish is so tiny, we regularly have dinner with our parish priest. I love having access to him to show our children a vocation well-lived! Now I teach Sunday School and have a blog to share the subjects we discuss. It is amazing how far my transformation has come!