Category Archives: Eastern Church

Saint John Damascene

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Grant, we pray, O Lord, that we may be helped by the prayers of the Priest Saint John Damascene, so that the true faith, which he excelled in teaching, may always be our light and our strength.

Saint John of Damascus (c. 676-749) is a pretty amazing man, priest, and Father of the Church; noted as the last of the Greek Fathers. He’s known as the “golden speaker” and while he was not an original or brilliant theologian, his gift is his ability to compile what the Church believed in his era. In many ways Avery Dulles was the same.

Much of his preaching and teaching was a defense of the faith in the face of severe opposition, particularly with the rise of Islam.

The Damascene is revered as a saint by the Churches of East and West.

From The Statement of Faith by Saint John Damascene:

O Lord, you led me from my father’s loins and formed me in my mother’s womb. You brought me, a naked babe, into the light of day, for nature’s laws always obey your commands.

By the blessing of the Holy Spirit, you prepared my creation and my existence, not because man willed it or flesh desired it, but by your ineffable grace. The birth you prepared for me was such that it surpassed the laws of our nature. You sent me forth into the light by adopting me as your son and you enrolled me among the children of your holy and spotless Church.

You nursed me with the spiritual milk of your divine utterances. You kept me alive with the solid food of the body of Jesus Christ, your only-begotten Son for our redemption. And he undertook the task willingly and did not shrink from it. Indeed, he applied himself to it as though destined for sacrifice, like an innocent lamb. Although he was God, he became man, and in his human will, became obedient to you, God his Father, unto death, even death on a cross.

In this way you have humbled yourself, Christ my God, so that you might carry me, your stray sheep, on your shoulders. You let me graze in green pastures, refreshing me with the waters of orthodox teaching at the hands of your shepherds. You pastured these shepherds, and now they in turn tend your chosen and special flock. Now you have called me, Lord, by the hand of your bishop to minister to your people. I do not know why you have done so, for you alone know that. Lord, lighten the heavy burden of the sins through which I have seriously transgressed. Purify my mind and heart. Like a shining lamp, lead me along the straight path. When I open my mouth, tell me what I should say. By the fiery tongue of your Spirit make my own tongue ready. Stay with me always and keep me in your sight.

Lead me to pastures, Lord, and graze there with me. Do not let my heart lean either to the right or to the left, but let your good Spirit guide me along the straight path. Whatever I do, let it be in accordance with your will, now until the end.

And you, O Church, are a most excellent assembly, the noble summit of perfect purity, whose assistance comes from God. You in whom God lives, receive from us an exposition of the faith that is free from error, to strengthen the Church, just as our Fathers handed it down to us.

The Season of Advent proposes reclaiming the Garden of Eden

I love the Syriac tradition of liturgical theology. Often I find it a far more satisfying liturgical tradition than the Latin church craziness I face. It is Semitic, very biblical and rich in humanity. I recommend that you immerse yourself in the poetry of Saint Ephrem, deacon and Doctor of the Church.

The Maronite Church is one of whose heritage is West Syrian theologically; historically it’s rooted in the mountains of Lebanon. Their Advent Season has already begun with what is called the Season of Announcements (follow this link for more info on the season). This past Sunday was the Announcement to Mary. This coming weekend the Maronites will celebrate the Visitation of Elizabeth.
Father Steven Bonian, SJ, writes frequently on the sacred Liturgy of the West Syrian Church, the Maronites. See how he connects the Creator, creation and the Liturgy; the image of the Garden is key here for us Christians who are seeking salvation, that is, to dwell again in the Garden of Eden. 
Father Bonian said about the Sunday of Mary’s Announcement:

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Today, the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians (3:15-22), reminds us of how the promise made to Abraham is now being fulfilled through those who believe; those who live by the Law and the Torah of the heart through righteousness. To such as these –like Mary– is the gift of God and his promise handed down through his angels. The Gospel of Luke makes it clear that Mary is the righteous one who has gained the favor of God, and thus, inherited this Gift (Christ) and the Promise (Salvation).
In the Gospel-Icon of Mary and the Angel drawn for us by Saint Luke, and framed for us in this Sunday’s prayers –in the context of the relationship of the creator with his creation –the mountains, the earth, the sea, and the waves are rejoicing in God’s Word! Mary herself has become the New Earth (as Saint Ephrem would teach us) and true representative for all of God’s creation. The Son of God comes to dwell in her, and through her God has returned to live –as in Paradise— in the midst of his creation. Now in Mary, the new covenant, and God’s plan of salvation is being fulfilled. She has become the Cloud, the Pure Womb, the Fountain of Life and Blessings!

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Saint Josaphat Kuncevyc

St. Josaphat, Ukrainian bp.jpgToday, with the feast of Saint Josaphat (c. 1580-1623), we ought to mourn the sad division of the Church that exists between East and West.

The Church prays,
Stir up in your Church, we pray, O Lord, the Spirit that filled Saint Josaphat as he laid down his life for the sheep, so that through his intercession we, too, may be strengthened by the same Spirit and not be afraid to lay down our life for others.
Notice that the prayer calls to our attention that we too, are called to be witnesses to the work of unity, even to the point of laying down our lives for others. Here the use of the word ‘witness’ is used in two ways: giving testimony by word and deed and dying, if need be, with our own lives. Here’s the dual meaning of the martyr (witness).
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As with the married couple, so with the Church: love and forgiveness given and received

Being really Catholic
opens one’s point of view to a great richness of the entire Church, East and West; being Catholic as John Paul II reminded us, is to breath with both lungs to invigorate the whole body. Most often Latin Catholics are too skeptical, too closed-minded to look beyond their parochial understanding of God and Church.

Each Sunday Jesuit Father Steve Bonian, a
Maronite Catholic American priest reflects on the liturgical theology of his
church. If you done a little reading in the liturgical history of the Church you will recall with joy that the Maronites have an incredibly rich liturgical tradition that ought to be appreciated more. For one thing the Maronite Liturgy is wonderfully Semitic in its pattern of prayer.

The Maronite Church, the majority of Catholics from Lebanon, celebrated
yesterday the Sunday of the Consecration of the Church. The Roman Church does
not have an equivalent liturgical observance, unless you make a connection with
the Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the Roman Church’s year.  
The Maronite liturgical theology for the Sunday of the Consecration of the Church you note that “the Bride-Church re-consecrates herself and her children, the faithful, to Christ.”

Father Bonian writes,


letter to the Hebrews reminds us that the Temple in Jerusalem and it’s rituals
was only a temporal preparation for the “new order” that would be established
between Christ and his Church and her children.

From now on the Children of God
would worship him in Spirit and Truth on earth as in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
For it is not God’s will to dwell among stones, but in the caring hearts of his
faithful people, and among them to establish his Kingdom. Our Church Community
is this New Temple!

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New pope elected … for the Coptic Orthodox Church

boy and acting pope.jpegThe electors, nearly 2,406 people, in the Coptic Orthodox Church selected the 118th successor to Saint Mark, Tawadros II. The new pope is the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa. Until now, Tawadros has been an auxiliary bishop to the Archbishop Pachomius who’s been serving as the acting pope. Tawadros studied pharmaceutical sciences and was ordained a bishop in 1997. 

Bishop Tawadros received 1623 votes, or about 25% of the votes.
Each of the electors, asking God to provide for them a good shepherd, were blindfold in casting their ballot for three of five previously vetted candidates. The three names were placed in a ceremonial box, then the Divine Liturgy was celebrated before a blindfolded child selected one of the three names to be the next pope. The new pope succeeds Pope Shenounda III who died at the age of 88 in March, after serving since 1971.
Pope Tawadros II, 60, will be installed on November 18.

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Christians in Egypt number about 10% of the 83 million population. The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian Church in Egypt.
So far, the key Muslim groups have offered their hands in friendship upon Pope Tawadros announcement.
Vatican Radio has an informative piece to read and to listen.

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]
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