As I had to attend a meeting in Hobart at lunchtime, I decided to drive down earlier, and attend the 10 am Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic Chapel of the Transfiguration, where friends of mine customarily worship on Sundays.
I haven't attended a Ukrainian Liturgy in Hobart since the construction and consecration of the chapel in August 2010; it was good to join the small but devoted congregation to sing the praises of the Trinity, and receive the Sacred Mysteries.
It proved a little hard to find the chapel – it is located within the Ukrainian Club, tucked anonymously among the commercial buildings and fast food restaurants of Moonah; luckily, as I knocked at the locked front door (not knowing of the open door leading in from the back car park), their priest, Fr Tony Warwarek, heard me and let me in.
As I drove down, I recalled that it was "Octogesima", the Sunday before Septuagesima – and, as Eastern and Western Easter coincide this year, that applied to the Byzantine Rite also: and in that Rite, as I realised when the Liturgy began, that means it is the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican.
This Sunday, which is of the 8th Tone, first signals the approach of Great Lent: the Gospel pericope's call to true compunction and humble self-awareness rather than delusive pride and contempt toward others accords with this; and of course this week in the Eastern Church calendar is wholly fast-free, the last before Easter Week.
In the Byzantine Rite, next Sunday (equivalent to Septuagesima) is that of the Prodigal Son; the Sunday after that is Meatfare Sunday, equivalent to Western Carnevale, being the last day for eating flesh meat till Easter, with the week after that being Cheesefare Week, culminating in Cheesefare Sunday, last chance for dairy products and eggs till after the fast; for Great Lent begins on Monday 3rd March (Monday after Quinquagesima), rather than on the Western Ash Wednesday, 5th March 2014.
Having, especially in Melbourne, attended the Divine Liturgy off and on, I feel familiar with this form of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; I just have to remember not to sing "Gospodi" as with the Russians, but "Hospodi" with the Ukrainians. Most of the service was in English, except for the continual "Hospodi pomilui", other suchlike responses, and certain important chants, such as the Trisagion (which I managed to sing: "Svyaty Bozhe, Svyaty Kripky, Svyaty Bezsmertny, pomilui nas"), the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer.
Having received Our Saviour's Body and Blood, I recalled the advice of a prayerbook: "And after the divine Communion of the life-giving and mystic Gifts, at once give praise and great thanksgiving, and fervently and heartily sing to God: Glory to Thee, O God; Glory to Thee, O God; Glory to Thee, O God."
The noble and immemorial worship of the Byzantine Rite lifts up the heart and mind and soul to God. Would that I could attend it more often!