- The first time I ever heard about the Melkites, I was attending a retreat given by Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy at a Pax Christi retreat. I could only stay for a day. He was a very powerful speaker. The thing that impressed me the most was his story about how his youngest daughter, Benedicta, named after Edith Stein or Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was miraculously saved by Tylenol poisoning by prayers to Edith Stein. This is the miracle that allowed St. Teresa Benedicta to be named a saint. I have a special tenderness for St. Edith Stein, since she was Jewish and converted to Catholicism by reading a book by St. Theresa of Avila. My husband is Jewish. I've struggled with atheism (as did Edith Stein) and my mother's favorite saint was St. Teresa of Avila. So all this resonated in my heart. Hannah even took the name St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross for her confirmation name. Since that retreat (and this retreat happened when Hannah was a baby, so probably about 18 years ago) I 've been wanting to visit a Melkite Church. Well, there is one about 5 minutes from my house. It only took me 18 years to get there!
- I love the rich ritual, the ikons, the chanting, the ancient and profound reverence found in the church and its liturgy. So different from the dry, stripped down version of my parish church. Not that my parish doesn't try and isn't full of faithful people and a wonderful pastor, but it is not poetic, lyrical, moving, replete with so many symbols that raise one's spirit to God. I know I am not supposed to be entertained at Mass, that it depends on me and what I bring to the Mass, but in other liturgies the sheer beauty of the liturgy definitely helps one's soul long for union with God! Why do these other liturgies get to have this beauty, while I in my weakness must struggle against such spiritual dryness?
- I have long been attracted to Orthodox Christianity but feel like I am being a traitor to the Roman Catholic faith. This is probably an unreasonable feeling. In the Melkite church both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christian can partake of the Eucharist there.
- I was very attracted to the Byzantine Catholic faith, however, they are all of a Slavic ethnicity. The liturgy was beautiful but the history and language are not my history and language. The Melkite however trace their origin to Antioch and to the first apostles. They are descended from the very first Christian tradition! They use both Greek and Arabic. The Arabic came later. But the Greek spoken by that first Christian community is the Koine Greek that the New Testament is written in. This makes me feel a connection even though Greek is not my native language. Also the Arabic is a Semitic language, similar to Hebrew.
- I love that the Melkites really emphasize the Old Testament and the Prophets. These prophets are placed on the same plain with the saints of the New Testament. The connection to Judaism is much more palatable. The sound of the chants has a very Jewish sound. This speaks to me because of Rick's Judaism, our family celebrating Jewish holidays and also I love that that connection, that foundation of Judaism has been preserved for two thousand years in such a tangible way.
1. My family. Becky and Sean are not confirmed. Would they be able to receive the Eucharist there? I wonder if the priest confirms children coming from the Roman rite?
2. Do they follow the same liturgical year? I think so. But that would be really confusing if they didn't.
3. I think the Melkites are much stricter in fasting and other things like that. It would probably be good for us as a change. It is so easy to be lazy in the Roman rite.
4. Sunday school - this may not be a problem. But the Sunday school classes look much, much better than the one's offered at our parish which are of the most watered down variety. The kids really learn deeply about the faith. I've been looking at lesson plans and the expectations are much higher at Holy Transfiguration then at St. Mark. You expected to really read the Bible. Parents are held accountable. I was amazed at what was expected of a 4th grader to know and do.
5. Josh and CLC. We do love the Catholic Life Community at St. Mark and the Youth Group activites, like Workcamp. I don't know if we'd have to give those up though.
6. I'd feel like I was betraying our parish. I do have a sense of loyalty to it. I love that it works so hard to help the poor. I love Father Pat; for all his faults, he is a wonderful, godly man who tries his best.
While I sort through all this I thought I'd incorporate some Melkite lessons plans into our daily living. Here's a resource for that http://www.melkite.org/OES-celebrate.htm