Category Archives: Eastern Church

Why be a Byzantine Catholic

Father David Petras, an archpriest priest of the Reuthenian eparchy of Parma, OH, and now a retired professor the sacred Liturgy at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary (Pittsburgh, PA).

Petras gave his a witness to his Byzantine faith, Why be a Byzantine Catholic, at the Parma Assembly 2013. Listen to what Father David says.

What I like about Father David’s witness is that he speaks about his experience of faith refracted through a Byzantine lens, a message of love, an experience of God who deifies us; he communicates in a real way that faith is a recognition of God who takes the initiative in calling us to Himself. Hence, the conversion that Petras speaks of is a commitment to the Church to which you belong, the decision to know, love and serve the church; the conversion Father David emphasizes so beautifully means being in love with God!!!

What is important to hear in this presentation is that Father Petras had a felt presence of the Holy Spirit, a direct experience of the Divine Majesty. Every Christian, in fact, has an experience of God and ought to reflect upon the ways in which the Spirit talks to you. But you have to listen carefully. It is true that our faith depends on how we personally engage the process of being a mature Christian seeking transfiguration into being a new creation. This is what it means to be a disciple of the Lord: to live in the graces of the Transfiguration on the mount. How will we work out the demands of being good students (disciples) of the Lord depends on our cooperating with Grace.

How do we cooperate with Grace? We cooperate with Grace by living in the heart of the Church: faithfully receiving the sacraments of confession and Eucharist, Lectio Divina, study of the faith, being a part of the community of faith in an active way, by being of service to those in need, and by having a healthy humanity. This is a robust faith.

Father David sets an agenda item for all of us: to work on a renewed theology of Holy Communion, because through communion we are united with God. He’s not advocating a theology that merely talks about the reception of Holy Communion but a manner of living in communion (Communio) with God, the Church, the self and others.

You may want to read his book, Time for the Lord to Act: A Catechetical Commentary on the Divine Liturgy.

Lights From the East, Pray For Us!

James Michael Thompson has a new book, Lights From the East, Pray For Us!  This is his second.

Published by Liguori Publications, so pre-order now.

The book provides a brief biography, a scripture reading, a reflection, a prayer, and a hymn for fifteen saints from the Eastern Churches. Lights From the East presents the Church’s incredible riches of some of the saints to English speakers, by giving the reader icons, biographies, Scripture, reflections, translated quotations from the service that honors the saint, prayers, and original hymns set to Rusyn or Galician melodies.

Thompson covers saints of the Old and New Testaments, Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths, the First-Martyr and Equal-to-the-Apostles Thecla, Martyr Barbara, Macrina the Younger, Sabbas, Xenophon & Mary, and their sons, Arcadius & John, Cyril & Methodius, Theodosius of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev, David of Thessalonica, Maximus the Confessor John Chrysostom, John of Damascus, Martyrs of the Twentieth Century.

The forward is by the Rev. Dr. Peter Galadza of the Sheptytsky Institue for Eastern Christian Studies.

J. Michael Thompson of Pittsburgh is a well-known choral director, liturgical scholar and practioner. One of his major works has been the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle of which he is the founder and artistic director. Thompson has served as professor of ecclesiastical chant at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh and was the cantor/ director of music at the Byzantine Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Munhall, Pennsylvania.

Syrian Patriarch John X Yazigi interview

Pope Francis and Patriarch John X Yazigi, the spiritual father of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East met today. It was a time to discuss the pain and suffering that Syrian Christians face daily and to express his love to Pope Francis.

 

 

It’s expected that Patriarch John will attend Mass offered by Pope Francis. Sunday is a day dedicated in the Year of Faith as a day for catechists. The Patriarch will also be meeting the foreign minister of the Italian Republic, and with the people of the ecclesial movement of Sant’Egidio at an interface conference. Sant’Egidio is on the front lines of peace making.

Patriarch John is, as you know, the blood brother of one of the kidnapped Syrian bishops this past April. So he knows first hand not only the crisis his people live with but also deeply because his brother’s freedom (and life) is hanging in the balance.

Striking is the openness of Patriarch John for collaborating with others to bring peace and be with the people; his desire to walk the journey (a procession as the Patriarch said) to full, visible unity among Christians is evident.

Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hichen interviewed Patriarch John X and you can listen to it here.

And, an informative video on the meeting by Rome Reports.

Endogamous discrimination in the Syro-Malabar Church?

Many times when Catholics think of inculturation they mis-identify the term by saying that the Church just needs to lighten up its rule and fit to the local culture. Others will locate the philosophical and missionary effort inculturation in the liturgical sphere. Inculturation matters are a very contentious matter that gets people in crosshairs. Adapting or in some way making changes to a system  of living so that you can “fit in” is an external fact and is not the method the Catholic Church uses to bring Lord’s Good News to other peoples, that is, those who outside the European and North American context. The Catholic Church tends to focus on the interior life of the person; externals are secondary and may change in time.

There is, however, a more precise way of understanding inculturation deals with adaption in saying that it is “the incarnation of the Gospel in autonomous cultures and at the same time the introduction of these cultures into the life of the church” (John Paul II’s 1985 encyclical Slavorum Apostoli, or his address to the Pontifical Council for Culture plenary assembly on Jan. 17, 1987). It is also understood that inculturation is, as John Paul II said in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, “an intimate transformation of the authentic cultural values by their integration into Christianity and the implantation of Christianity into different human cultures.”

As Redemptoris Missio said, “By inculturation, the church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community” (52). And yet the Church speaks of a interpenetration of the Gospel into a given, that is, a particular socio-cultural context which  “gives inner fruitfulness to the spiritual qualities and gifts proper to each people …, strengthens these qualities, perfects them and restores them in Christ” (Gaudium et spes, 58). More on this issue here.

This is a long way to introduce the sticky issue of Indian Catholics retaining their customs of endogamy and not truly inculturating the Gospel. Judge for yourself: do the adherents to Knanaya customs cause a philosophical and theological problem here is that if we use the definitions noted above, or are we being “too Western” in wanting others to conform to a radical way of thinking which may weaken a culture? How would Christ judge the situation? Who bears the standard? How are the demands of the gospel really lived in this Christian caste? Who has ultimate authority, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, the Holy See, or the persons involved? Can endogamy be tolerated for a greater good?

The story of alleged discrimination among the Syro-Malabars can be read here.

Russian Patriarch losing popularity at home, and in the Ukraine

One doesn’t point to the failures of others in a mean-spirited way. No one likes it done to himself, but more importantly, it isn’t Christian. Nevertheless, we need to get to the heart of certain issues.

An article by Andriy Skumin, “Mission: Impossible” published today online on the international edition of  The Ukrainian Week raises a lot of questions about how the Orthodox see themselves as they observe 1025 years since receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Patriarch Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is facing lots of difficulties these days in places like the Ukraine, some of his own making, and some he’s been made to face from outside the Church.

Whether Skumin’s article is completely objective may be debated. But what needs to be studied are the ways by which the Christian Church’s ability to proclaim the gospel is effective today given certain cultural, political and religious factors. Also, whether the Christian Church is Orthodox or Catholic, both ecclesial communities face similar issues in their milieu; reality is crucial to acknowledge and work within. Hopefully, Patriarch Kirill will be able to service the Gospel and not his own ideology. And I would say the say for the Catholic Major Archbishop in the Ukraine.

At this time Christians are celebrating 1025 years of the reception of sacrament of Baptism of the Rus; and in particular, the Kyian Rus. I happen to think that the Russian Orthodox Church is a bit too imperialistic in their own circles but also in forcing others to follow them. They are often economical with the truth when it comes to common history.

Locally, the Catholic bishop of the Stamford Eparchy of the Ukrainians, Bishop Paul Chomnycky, had a Moleben in thanksgiving to God for the gift of baptism.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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