Sunday, May 5, 2013

St. John the Baptist Church, Irakleon, Crete

On Sunday we went to one of the few Roman Catholic churches on Crete. St. John the Baptist is the Catholic parish of Irakleon, a port city on the northern coast of Crete.

St. John the Baptist, Irakleon

The church is small and was quite full. We arrived during the opening hymn (in Greek). Many others trickled in after us. It was tough to tell if they were other tourists who had a hard time finding parking as we did or people who just came late.

Nave after Mass was over

The liturgy was easier to follow since they had small books with four quadrants on each facing page, showing eight languages: Latin, Greek, French, English, German, Polish, Spanish, and one other language I couldn't identify. Many of the parts of the Mass were familiar, such as the Kyrie (which is Greek, after all) and various chants in Latin (Agnus Dei and such). They used familiar plain chant that was easy to sing along with. Interestingly, Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy") was the reply during the petitions right after the Creed.

Communion was distributed by the priest by intinction, where the host is dipped in the consecrated wine before communicants receive. I don't know if that is the local custom or the priest's preference or it was a special occasion. At the end of Mass, many of the locals went to the front of the church to kiss the feet of Jesus on the crucifix, which was interesting, but again I don't know if that was just for Easter or is a local custom.

The congregation sang all the hymns with gusto. Strangely, the recessional hymn was a few verses of the Stabat Mater, a Latin hymn about the Way of the Cross. In the Orthodox church, Easter hadn't been celebrated yet (on our Roman calendar, it was the second Sunday after Easter), so maybe it was a show of solidarity with our separated brethren?

Church name in Greek!

It was a beautiful service and we were happy to attend Mass in another country.

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