This year, our liturgical calendar fairly catapults us from one season to another.
Christmas lights still liven our streets after dark, last Sunday we shared our Parish Kutia, and today we begin the first of four Sundays that prepare us for the upcoming Great Fast before Easter. From the loud and lively festivities surrounding Christ’s birth — God with us — we turn to a period of quiet introspection: what can it mean—God with me?
Now each Sunday before Lent will replay the parables that draw our focus to this question anew. What, where, how is God for the “me” that exists in this present here and now?
Every year, we are asked to enter a new personal journey into our own heart, our own being. Difficult, yes, and even scary, but the great thing is that although the trip is our own, we enter into it as a community.
The kutia we ate last Sunday, with its grain, poppy seeds, and honey, is served
for its ancient symbolism. The many grains of wheat symbolize life itself, with its sweetness (honey) and bitterness (poppy). We are nourished by the multitude of grains together. We are never alone. We belong to one body of Christ and are sustained by one another.
Each pre-lenten Sunday guides us in how to be community. We enter into our time of prayer, fasting, and contemplation, only after reflecting on how to love and forgive each other. We’re in this together!
And this year on the 17th of February our parish community will observe another ancient pre-lenten tradition of Pushchenia or Zapusty. This is the last community revelry before the Great Fast. We eat and dance together because next we will embark on our individual paths to renewal. In Canada this revelry is more commonly known as Carnival or Mardi Gras.
Like Zapusty, these names harken back to the meaning of saying good bye to meat and cheese! Our Ukrainian cultural traditions and our faith traditions are, in the main, inextricable. Knowing the meaning behind our customs and rituals affirms our membership in a vibrant heritage where generations past and future struggle and rejoice in the mystery of our sacred humanness.