About a month ago, my friends from Church and I went to visit Ukraine’s “cultural capital” – Lviv.
It is a city in the Western Ukraine and it is famous for several things: amazing coffee and chocolate, incredibly beautiful Ukrainian language, and churches.
Since we were there over the weekend, I asked if anyone wants to go visit a Church on Sunday. We do not have a Nazarene Church there yet and we did not know any other protestant Churches there. Yet there are numerous Catholic cathedrals all over the city and especially in the center.
“Let’s go to a mass in one of the cathedrals we’ve visited today?” I offered.
A few other friends agreed to join me. We decided to go to the Latin Cathedral in the heart of Lviv.
While most of the group has slept in the morning, we slipped out from the apartment, stopped to get coffee at McDonald’s (it became sort of a tradition back in Kyiv), walked a bit more and entered the cathedral.
It is one thing to walk into a church when you’re just a tourist. It is a different experience when you come there with an intent to worship.
I have never been to a Catholic mass before so everything was pretty much new to me. I knew some things, but I have never experienced it.
One of the things that amazed me – the number of people who came for the Mass. All the pews were full and some people stood around. I am not sure why I expected less people.
The mass was in Polish, but I was surprised to find out that I could understand almost everything. Granted, Ukrainian and Polish have something in common, yet I was worried I would not be able to understand anything. (There were masses in Ukrainian and English, but the timing wasn’t convenient.) As it was, I could understand what was being said myself and able to translate bits and pieces to my friends.
People around us all seemed to know what would happen next. They knew the songs and sang along with the choir in all the right places. When the Creed was being said, they all said it out loud together – without overhead slides! This is definitely something I would love to see at our Church. People knowing the Creed by heart.
I have to admit, it felt rather odd not to know what would happen next. I have been in our Church since its very beginning back in ’91… I know it from the inside out and if anything changes (or about to change), I am usually among the first ones to find out.
But here was a place where I actually was humbled to realize that I have no idea what is going to happen. It took away the “mundaneness” of a Sunday service and let me worship in a new, uncharted for me, way.
It was an incredible experience.
Something less spiritual… It was very cold in the cathedral but people remained there. In our Church, I’ve often heard people complain that it was cold… I was one of them too… And indeed, our Church is not the warmest (temperature-wise) building ever but after the cathedral, it put things in perspective. I find peace in both “buildings” so the temperature does not matter.
Now I do want to visit an Orthodox church for a service. Even though Ukraine is an Orthodox country, the only time when I have been at a service was when I was 4 years old. The older women tried to shush me and make me stop looking around (not sure how that is possible with a 4 year old), so mom and I left after five minutes. I haven’t been to an Orthodox service since. But I do want to give them a chance…
Have you ever been to a Catholic mass / Orthodox service?
If you have, what had the biggest impact on you? If you haven’t, what would you expect?