Sunday, December 18, 2005
Gregorian chant at Our Lady of Protection Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church
Because both the lady in my life (Anne) and myself are lovers of early church music we tend to end up in churches a fair bit on weekends even though we are both unbelievers. Mentally, I am as atheist as you can get but emotionally I am still Christian. And I can assure you that that apparent inconsistency bothers me not one iota. I have an enormous appreciation (and considerable knowledge) of my Christian heritage.
Last night we went to a concert held after the regular service at Our Lady of Protection Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church here in Brisbane. How a church can be both Byzantine and Catholic is a considerable puzzle. Byzantium is the home of Orthodoxy. But I assume that there was a schism some time in the past where an Orthodox church kept all its Greek rites but decided to recognize the magisterium of the Pope as well. The fact that the church still had a version of the mediaeval "rude screen" between the altar and the congregation supports that. There was also no organ in evidence -- which seemed very strange to an old Protestant like me. Presbyterian/Methodist churches that I know always have an organ with a pulpit in front of it as the focus of attention in a church (rather than an altar).
The first thing I noted in the church was the large number of children and young people in attendance. It made me feel very grateful for our Ukrainian immigrants. After the genocide inflicted on the Ukrainians by Stalin, perhaps they feel an urge to restore their numbers. And, unlike Muslims, Ukrainians don't make the news by harassing Anglo-Australians. I guess having a religion that says "love your neighbour" is a bit different from having a religion that says "Kill the infidel".
The main attraction on the program was a series of Latin chants by "Schola Cantorum" -- a Brisbane choir who seem to specialize in that. The male members dressed in monk's robes so one got a very good feel for how the chants were originally intended. And hearing them in a church with such a prominent mediaeval feature as a rude screen helped with that too.
And the priest was YOUNG! Still in his 20s by all appearances. Great to see that Christianity is alive and vital among this subsection of the Australian population at least.