Mass at St Anthony’s

Originally posted on http://tessaintelaviv.blogspot.com/2011/09/bicycles-and-beaches.html

Today, my bike and I went for an excellent adventure to Jaffa. The plan was to go to an Arabic-language mass at St Anthony’s.

I copied out directions to myself, but then I forgot my map, so when I thoroughly missed the second turn of the trip it was an exciting adventure. More or less, anyway. I knew where the church was, and I knew where I was, it was just a question of finding a sidewalk to take me there. It ended up being the most circuitous route that anyone not driving with me or my mom has ever seen, but it was fun to be able to connect places I had visited from a bus to each other. Plus, I was only 10 minutes late to mass. The whole spire thing helps.

The church is beautiful, set back in a small green courtyard behind a high wall. Inside, marble pillars obstruct the view from the side pews in a way that is very homey. It gives the feeling of being a tiny cathedral, with arching ceilings and long stained glass windows. The grandeur is somewhat impaired by the oscillating fans attached to the walls and standing in the aisles.

As I said, the mass was in Arabic. I understood a word here and there, but I didn’t catch a single complete sentence. I did find that even though the language is different, the rhythm, the cadence, of the words and phrases are almost identical. Apparently, the Nicene Creed sounds like the Nicene Creed in any language.

The music struck me. It was so much better (to my ear) than the music in most other masses I’ve heard. There wasn’t a choir, only a nun, sitting on the left side of the church in the front pew, playing a little electronic organ type instrument. But everyone sang fantastically, even without the (sometimes distinctly off-key) choir help that I am accustomed to.

I was most surprised by communion. I had assumed that it would be the most instantly familiar part of the mass, but that honor was taken by a beautiful rendition of “Alleluia” (I was really excited because I totally knew every single word in that song. Be impressed). Instead of having a priest giving the wafer and a deacon or other qualified person giving the wine, the priest dipped the wafer in the wine before putting it in the person’s mouth. I was very, very glad that I was looking at the person in front of me. I can just picture myself putting out my hands, and the priest holding this dripping wafer, wondering whether I actually want it in my hands… it would have been embarrassing, and something of a break from the reverence one ought to have. To those who might know: is this style of communion common? I’ve never seen it before.

Anyways, I was glad to make it to mass, and very excited to hear it in Arabic! There were a few minutes there on the bike ride over where I thought that I might possibly get there just as it was getting out. Here is St Anthony’s from the outside, because I tend to feel a little bit weird about taking pictures of churches from the inside:

St Anthony’s in Jaffa
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