Monday, April 5, 2010

Arabic Easter Sunday

Yesterday I celebrated Easter with my Lebanese family at St. Charbel Lebanese Catholic Church. 

Admittedly, it was a bit confusing when we pulled up and saw a sea of Filipino people. Turns out we share the building with a Filipino Catholic community. They were getting out as we were filing in. Though both our communities have dark hair, I spotted a crowd congregating over a table of colored hard boiled eggs, eyeing which one would be theirs (more on why later). We found our people and headed in ourselves.

 It was great to be there. I found myself taking mental note of the different things that set that Sunday apart. Here's my list of things you'd only find in a Lebanese Church on Easter (not in any order of importance).

 1. A 3 hour service... but not in the Protestant Charismatic way you spend 3 hours. Since the Mass was for the Lebanese and Lebanese American community, the priest gave the whole mass in English and Arabic. Add another hour for greeting everyone (3 kisses on the cheek), chit chatting and 'playing eggs' after Mass and there you go.

 2. The Priest calling you out on your extra rowdy kids... Lebanese people have a high threshold for noise, activity, and chaos... it's true! So with an influx of families joining for Easter, there were about 40 kids. While many were seated relatively near their parents... most were running up and down the isles. I'm not sure what was more 'Lebanese', the priest pausing before the homily to get parents to gather their kids... or the Lebanese parents thinking it's really funny to see their kid flying down the isle like an airplane. Honestly, the Lebanese community is very strong willed and needs someone who can be bold and pastoring at the same time.

3. A mid-Mass Processional....I need to find out more about this but here's what I saw. A white sheet filled with cut flowers was brought to the alter at the beginning of mass. All the kids gathered to the front and lifted the sheet (each holding an side or end) and followed the priest as they walked around the room three times. I know on Palm Sunday the whole church gathers outside and walks around the church building 3 times carrying palm branches.

4. Arabic Sign of the Peace... It began with the priest. He puts his hands together (as if praying but pointed towards the person next to him). The alter boy then put his hands over the priests praying hands (hand over hand) and pulls his hands towards him until his hands are in praying position and then faces the next person until the whole community has it. I always enjoy this. There is something lovely about this word-less 'passing of the peace' that spoke volumes.

5. Arabic call and respond... Call: Al-Masih-Qam! (Christ is Risen) Response: Hakkan Qam! (Truly He is Risen) Everyone says this to each other. It's the Easter greeting. At the end of mass we said it in English, Greek and Arabic.

6. In Lebanese church only the priest serves communion. He dips it in wine and places it directly in your mouth. While growing up Catholic, my mom, brother, and I only took communion from the priest when we were in his 'section'... and were fine with that... however, my dad wouldn't. No matter where we were sitting, he'd get up and walk up to the line with the priest. I always though it was a bit obsessive... but I understand now.

7. The Egg Game.... I've never seen any rules but thought it was funny it made the bulletin. Easter Egg Cracking Game You will need: eggs Rules: *Test the egg first by knocking them against their tooth, and then choose the best egg to use for the game. *The contestants must agree beforehand on how much of their eggs will be covered by their hands as revealing a large part of the egg's shell is more risky. *The game begins with the contestants trying to crack the pointed ends of each other's eggs. *The person who loses must then turn his or her egg upside down. If player cracks both ends of someone's egg, they win the egg. 

My cousins and I were just talking about when we first realized that none of our other (non-Lebanese) friends played the egg game...for all of us it was well into adulthood! We each had our story of when we realized... it was a bit like hearing when you found out Santa wasn't real... (for me, it was post-college, when my roommates and I hard boiled eggs for breakfast and I held mine waiting to be cracked as my roommate rolled hers on the counter. I had never even seen that as a way of cracking your eggs!)

 Never mind the time when my brother was 6 or 7 and had the egg that beat all eggs and saved it in the fridge. I was so jealous I snuck in and gave it a hairline fracture tapping it on my tooth. Of course I convinced my brother to play me one last time... only to emerge as the victor... he got so mad he karate kicked my chin.

It's no joke.. .we're serious about cracking eggs!

 All in all, I was blessed to celebrate Easter with my big fat Lebanese family.

 It was 13 years ago, Easter, that something opened up in my heart as I heard the story of Easter and prayed (as if for the first time) to the Lord with tears in my eyes as I reveled in the gift of the cross and His power over it. Al-Masih-Qam!


Teri said...

Fascinating hearing about all those traditions.
I'm not sure I'll implement the Easter egg cracking game since it can result in karate kicks to the chin. Ah, lovely Easter memories.
Hope your time in Vegas was all good.

heathorock said...

very fascinating!
let's hear more updates please!!!!!

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