AMMAN, Jordan — When I was a student at the old Institute for Pastoral Liturgical Ministries operated by the Archdiocese of Detroit, one priest who taught a class looked askance at the practice of some Catholics to memorize the Mass schedules of nearby churches, then drive to each church and stay for the priest’s words of institution during the Eucharistic Prayer, at which point the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, then scoot off to the next church to do the same, and repeat the process all Sunday. He dismissed their staying only for what he called “the gaze that saves.”
I hadn’t thought about that in years and years until I was on my way to Jordan to participate in a tour of holy and sacred biblical sites in the nation. Another trip participant had said before he left, “I’ll get to celebrate Easter twice this year!” This year, Eastern Catholic churches and churches in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — which includes Jordan — began celebrating Easter with the Orthodox, according to the Julian calendar.
A little girl stares at the candle held by her mother during the Easter Vigil at St. Peter Church in Amman, Jordan. (CNS/Mark Pattison)
I could see the participant’s point if one were ordained clergy or a liturgical minister who got the chance to “go civilian” and take in Easter as a member of the assembly. But I had argued to myself, wasn’t the 8 a.m. Mass I went to on Easter Sunday enough? And that reminded me of a second priest whose name I can’t remember who once said, “Every Sunday isn’t a ‘little Easter.’ Easter is a big Sunday!”
But our schedule dictated a visit to a Melkite Catholic church in Amman, Jordan’s capital and largest city, for the Easter Vigil. So I kept my consternation to myself and hopped in the van with everyone else.
The church was packed. My estimate is that the small church, even with extra chairs along the sides and in the front, held a standing-room-only crowd of 350.
I had gone to a Melkite Divine Liturgy last June while on assignment for Catholic News Service, but hardly an Easter Vigil. It was comforting to hear the melody of the Exultet, albeit in Arabic. I started in the back of the church, then worked my way to a comfortable leaning position against a side wall of the church (Read More)