Saturday, June 8, 2013 | By: Jake

Tugged on His Garment

Back in March for my Spring Break, I went on a pilgrimage with Notre Dame's Campus Ministry. Below is the continued reflection of my journey:

As we walked up a small staircase, I heard the noise of what sounded to me like the Muslim Call to Prayer. Quite the opposite, when I actually found that it was the pre-service hymn to the Melkite Catholic Mass that we would be attending.

The giant doors to the church were open wide and the music blared out, informing everyone that Mass was about to start. As we walked in, everyone had huge smiles on their faces, and the pastor of the church, Abu Jacobs, warmly welcomed us in. Fr. Brad, one of our trip leaders, was surprised to be given the invitation to concelebrate the Mass with Abu. The pastor informed the rest of the Church that we had travelled to their church from Notre Dame in the United States, which led the whole church to warmly welcome us with large smiles.

I had attended a Byzantine Catholic Church over by Notre Dame with some other pilgrims, so I was thankfully already somewhat familiar with the way that Eastern Churches have Mass. However, the one back by Notre Dame spoke English, whereas this Church spoke Arabic. It was definitely interesting to participate in a Christian service in a language that most people associate with another religion, which just once again proved my ignorance.

However, because Fr. Brad was concelebrating with Abu, the Mass was in half English, which definitely helped me with being able to follow along. For those of you that have never been to a Byzantine or Melkite Catholic Mass, they are a little bit different than Roman Catholic Masses. And for those of you that think the Roman Catholic Mass is too ritualistic, I would encourage you to attend a Melkite or Byzantine Catholic Mass. 

I, personally, am not too big of a fan of the numerous rituals. However, even with all of these rituals, I still saw a sense of community vastly different than Masses in the United States. One of the biggest things was the overwhelming sense of informality paired along with the sense of the importance of what was occurring. When the pastor went up to read the Gospel, he followed behind a group of children ranging from two years old up to about thirteen years old. Little kids just walking down the main aisle with candles that were swinging back and forth like crazy.

When Abu gave his Homily, a little two year old kept walking up to him. Instead of a parent rushing up to grab the kid (as I think would be the most common response in America, they let him be). The child walked up to Abu and tugged on his garment. Expecting Abu to politely ignore him and continue on with the message, he stopped his Homily and shook the child's hand. This informality helped make everyone a lot more comfortable, especially with the awkward language barrier that occurred at times. 

However, as I said before, this was paired with the idea that the Mass was something very important. As the gifts were carried forward and the Eucharist occurred, I witnessed many devoted Christians firmly showing their belief that they actually saw the bread and blood as the literal Body and Blood of Christ. Although I do not share this belief and therefore do not participate in the Eucharist, I was greatly impressed by the seriousness of the ritual. I didn't get this same feeling back at home in America, and when I speak to many Catholics, even in my own hall, they seem to be shocked with the belief of transubstantiation. 

And aside from the uneasiness that I felt when I saw a parent give her son a cookie like he was a dog after he carried the candles up the aisle, the experience was overall, not too bad.

Afterwards, Abu invited us, along with the entire parish, inside a small building next door for coffee and fellowship. This was another key difference that I saw with the churches in the Holy Land...these parishes were actually like families. They all knew what was going on in the other lives, they were all catching up with each other, and most importantly, this time lasted for a good twenty minutes.

Shortly afterwards, we met a parishioner of the church who actually went to Notre Dame and got his Master's at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, where I now study, which was really cool. Abu and the Notre Dame alum invited us to talk afterwards about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.


Post a Comment