Sunday, March 05, 2006

Our Lady Of The Cedars

We visited the Melkite Catholic Church this morning. We usually have to wait until there is a week with no Sunday School at our own church before we can visit elsewhere, as one of is usually teaching. A friend from long ago is the priest there. After a career in the police force, he studied for the priesthood, and is now, I believe the only Catholic priest in the area who is married with children.

The Melkites are a Middle-Eastern church -- this particular congregation is historically Lebanese -- which is something of a bridge between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. In the first millenium of the Church, they disagreed with some doctrine and practice from Constantinople, and thus did not formally sever ties with the Roman church. But living under Muslim domination, with only Orthodox churches around them, they developed in a less-western fashion. Those interested can learn more here.

I am much more Catholic and Orthodox in sympathy than most Protestants, so I had been meaning to visit for some months now. I did worry whether the quantity of incense would be beyond my tolerance, but I was looking forward to the chanted liturgy and the icons.

It was more different than I could adjust to. The incense was very heavy -- I worried for my wife, who gets headaches from such things -- and after 20-30 minutes, the chanting became too repetitive for me. I imagine that I could adjust somewhat over time, but there would be a very long way to go. Switching into occasional Greek and Arabic threw me for a loop as well. Chris was with us, and the incense did not trouble his Romanian nose, but he did find it tedious.

But it was nice to notice some emphases that are less-frequent in other churches. "Be attentive!" and "Wisdom!" announced at the reading of the Scriptures. The prayers were for living in peace, though the possibility of war and of nations which delight in war, were interwoven throughout.

I saw much from my childhood in this city in the names of the bulletin: Baroody, Daghir, Ashooh. But I don't see how I could make the adjustment unless God insisted.

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