Today, we’ll talk about how attending a Korean Mass proved my own desire to worship as a Byzantine Catholic and how that should change our modern view of how we view worship.
I’ve lived in a house with four other young Catholic dudes for the past four years.
We live by a little community Catholic parish on the East Coast that started about five years ago. Every year I’ve lived here, we’ve always kick off the year by going on retreat.
My housemates and I wanted to get a cheap Airbnb but suddenly realized we had fallen short since we all had varying schedules and commitments, and waited until the last minute to book only to find out that the one place we wanted was booked for that weekend.
Through a mutual Korean friend who attended retreats before at this monastery, she connected us to the hospitable Benedictine monks for the weekend away.
God provided and we heeded his call accepting the invitation.
Retreat House or Poustinia
Experience the bells and smells wherever you go.
It was a quiet little retreat center that once was a school since the building looked like a Communist compound barren of any beauty or art. The Korean brothers had taken over in 2001 and had been there ever since.
We had our time of prayer, fellowship (sneaking beer into our rooms), meditations that each of us gave and reflected on, walking along trailheads on the monastery grounds, and of course good food.
On Saturday night, we joined the brothers together in prayer as all of their times of prayer and Masses were open to the public. Deciding to pray together with our fellow brothers in Christ was a fantastic idea and a profound experience.
The Prayers of the Church
The chapel, if you looked directly at the altar, seemed like a locker room in an in-door pool before you enter the common swimming area.
It was dark except for a single dim light on the crucified Lord when suddenly the lights flashed on and a single monk walked forward. He solemnly lit the candles and bowed reverently as two more monks entered seemingly from the “pool area” into the “locker room”. We began to pray Compline (Night Prayer), right before bed, part of the Liturgy of the Hours.
The prayer of the Catholic Church in the Western Roman Catholic Church is a series of prayers that one prays at specific hours of the day to join in the endless praise and worship of God with the angels and saints. Priests and monks take vows to pray certain hours every day. This beautiful set of prayers have been established and formed through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Countless generations and time of prayer and meditating on the Holy Scriptures, created and brought the fruitful prayers to all lay people and religious alike.
The Hours are not my cup of tea nor is my spirituality and I find the prayers rarely strike me.
When I discerned with a religious community of brothers, the Hours had become a set of pagan rituals. They seemed like they were a way to earn my salvation instead of just being in the presence of our God who is a loving Father. Since that time, I have had a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to praying the Hours.
But on this peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of my life with my good friends and roommates, the monks whose first language is Korean started to chant the psalms in Latin and then finished beautifully as they sang in English.
Beauty in the Liturgy
As the brothers began to chant, my soul was immediately lifted to God. It drew my miserable and wretched spirit to think of the higher things of our loving God and Savior Jesus Christ. My mind was at ease and no longer foggy with my darkened intellect. My senses were enhanced and I could think about my day, the struggles and sorrows but also the joys and consolations I had received.
I didn’t know the melody or psalm tone, I didn’t know these brothers, and I didn’t even sing because I didn’t know the tune. I only knew some of it since I had remembered and had done similar tones before, but it didn’t matter. I was praying. I was entering into the Heavenly worship with the angels and saints in Heaven. The monks weren’t even singing that well, it was decent, they could carry a tune, but it wasn’t the greatest singing I had ever heard. But how the tones were constructed, how the ancient melodies from long ago had been woven together by the early Church was beautiful, it was otherworldly. My heart was being elevated towards God.
This simple act of chanting, using the proper tones the Church has provided led me to grow closer to God in this moment of prayer. And that is important!
That is the most important item the Church needs to pay attention to. Not to be inclusive, or diverse, or listening in the Holy Spirit, no! Their mission is to draw the soul closer to God who is Love.
Only Jesus can lead us to salvation; only Him. No course, book, person, community, or ideology, not even ourselves, can save us! We need a savior and that is Jesus Christ the God-man, who alone can redeem us.
So as I soaked in the riches and the goodness that God offered to me, my soul was content and the Holy Spirit drew me closer to my loving Father.
Breaking Down the Dividing Wall of Hostility
The next day we had Mass but instead of English, it was in Korean. I have never heard anyone before in my life speak Korean and knew no word to say, not even hello.
Sitting in the pew annoyed, I listened distracted because I had no idea what the priest said. But I knew how the Mass flowed.
The beauty of our faith shined through showing me that the Mass binds us all together. I knew when to bless myself, knew when to kneel, and knew that my Lord was present in the Eucharist. It was beautiful and comforting to know the healing power of Jesus, knocking down the dividing wall of hostility and breaking through the social and cultural barriers of Man.
But as it went on, they chanted in Latin; the language of the Church. Silence was the tone of the liturgy; the language of God.
Again I didn’t know the chants, I didn’t know their language, but we were united by our faith and fellowship in the Most Holy Trinity, Latin, the prayers, and chants of the Mass bringing our souls closer to Him who loved us and brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Hand Me Downs
The Western Novus Ordo Lib Church where everyone wants their own hymns and own ways of worship where their own tastes and what kind of music they like blind them from what the Church offers have forgotten what matters. The simplicity and beautiful obedience of following the rubrics of the liturgy as it should be celebrated should be handled with the most precious care.
We, here, especially in the US have forgotten the leisure and profound beauty of the Catholic Church. I understand why folks love the TLM and Byzantine rites of the Church and I understand why people are angry when a liturgy isn’t edifying.
Sundays should be a “retreat” from the world to be refreshed and your soul elevated towards God for our own salvation first and foremost, then for the souls of your spouse, family, and eventually to your broader family and church community.
These simple gestures of showing reverence to Christ and wanting to worship which edifies are little acts that in the end add up to the disposition of our hearts, our attitudes to our family, and interior lives.
“Oh, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord…”
Everyone worships something. Bob Dylan in his song, Gotta Serve Somebody sings, “Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
Who do you serve?
Do we worship God, or do we worship the liturgy? Do we worship the social aspect too much, or do we worship the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do we desire only hanging out with our friends after Mass talking football, eating donuts, and drinking coffee or do we desire communion with our Lord Jesus?
These are questions we all must face and answer honestly to draw closer to our Good Loving Father.