ByzLife 101: From beginner to extreme, we are going to have fun going through things that make life more Byzantine! At the end, let me know in the comments what would make your list of top five things that make for a ByzLife.
Number 1 – ByzLife Icons
Life would not be Byzantine without icons. Icons are our windows into heaven. And no Byzantine household would be complete without them. Just as a Ukrainian would say there can never be too much garlic in a dish, we say there can never be too many icons in a house!
Number 2 – Byzantine Theotokos Devotion
One major shift in devotion experienced when I started to experience the ByzLife was the way we relate to the Mother of God. Devotion to the Theotokos is very present in the Divine Liturgy. Devotion to Mary during the Roman Mass pales in comparison (sorry fellow Roman Catholics. Something probably got lost in translation after Vatican II). In the ByzLife we really enter into the mysteries of her life. Some of these I hadn’t even heard of as feasts before experiencing them in the Byzantine rite. In fact, the Byzantine Rosary has 25 mysteries instead of just 15.
Some highlights of those feasts include: the Maternity of Anna, the Nativity of Mary, the Annunciation, and the Dormition. We also have an article on my favourite icon of the Theotokos: Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Number 3 – ByzLife Prayers
As someone tradition from living a Roman Catholic life to the ByzFamily, learning the prayers has been super helpful. It really helps one appreciate the deeper intracacies of Byzantine spirituality. For example, in the Roman Catholic morning prayer there is a four week rotation of different Psalms. However, in Byzantine Matins, it is the same Psalms every day, with one changing depending on the day of the week. However, there is an 8 week rotation for what tone things are chanted in. There are other differences, of course, but these ones are the first that I think of.
I have been working on learning to pray various Byzantine prayer hours. Particularly Matins and Vespers, but also Evening Prayer (which is mercifully short for a tired mom). I have mentioned in previous articles that O Joyful Light is my favourite prayer from Vespers. Before big feast days it is customary for a church to hold a Great Vespers liturgy. Before the start of the Great Fast, Byzantine Churches hold Forgiveness Vespers. And during Great Lent, Vespers is celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays in the the Presanctified Liturgy.
Number 4 – Prayer Rope
Prayer without ceasing! The ByzLife method of continual prayer is accomplished through praying the prayer rope. Adding this prayer rope to your day is a big accomplishment in living the ByzLife. Check out our article on the topic here.
The main prayer rope prayer is the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me a sinner). Here are some other prayers you can do on your prayer rope.
- O Most Holy Theotokos, save us
- God be merciful to me a Sinner
- God cleanse me of my sin and have mercy on me
- Come Holy Spirit and dwell with us
- Holy Guardian, Angel of God, pray for me
- St. (N.), pray for me
Number 5 – The ByzLife Fast
The ByzLife is all about that fasting! I thought fasting was hard when I was trying do to it to the current RC standards (no meat Wednsdays and Fridays during Lent, and two small meals which don’t add up to a regular meal, plus one regularish meal). Yeah, well that is nothing compared to no meat, no dairy, and then no oils or fish or all those other things I can’t list from the top of my head. (That is why I have articles on fasting to refer back to, right?). Anyone who can follow the complete ByzFast gets 5 stars from me for their ability to live the Byz Life.
Great Lent is not even the only major fasting period in the East. There is also a fast before the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. And one before Dormition. And the Nativity/St. Philip’s Fast before Christmas.
The Byzantine Life
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