Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Slavonic Moment

In what I call "my former life," I was married to a Byzantine Rite Catholic, whose family came from Slovakia. We baptized and chrismated our son, Paul, in the little church outside the Beltway. It was basically an "ethnic parish" back then, with most families originating from either Slovakia or Ruthenia (a region in the Carpathian Mountains now covered by eastern Slovakia and western Ukrainia). The day before Christmas was devoted to fasting and abstinance.

We waited to decorate the tree until the evening. Then would follow the "Holy Supper." It consisted of mushroom soup, handmade pirohi from the Ladies Guild, and unleavened wafers known as "oplatky" dipped in honey. We placed straw underneath the dinner table to resemble the stable where Christ was born, and set an extra place for "the unseen guest." The father of the household would anoint those at the table with blessed oil. We then drank a toast to the season: "Christos Razdajetsja! (Christ is Born!)" "Slavite Jeho! (Glorify Him!)"

To this day, I wait until Christmas Eve to decorate the tree, which drives Sal crazy. If Paul is in town, we exchange gifts at that time. I used to go to that little church for years after things fell apart, for the Matins and Divine Liturgy. It came to an end last year, when I began my duties as master of ceremonies for the Traditional Latin Mass. But there are moments in the evening, where a little part of me is elsewhere.

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