Category Archives: Eastern Church

A New Doctor of the Church: Saint Gregory of Narek

stgregoryThe Catholic Church has a new Doctor –an Armenian saint —Saint Gregory of Narek.

“St. Gregory of Narek is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. Born in the city of Narek in about 950 A.D., St. Gregory came from a line of scholars and churchmen.”

Saint Gregory of Narek’s feast day in the Armenian Church is October 13.

On the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian people (2001) Saint John Paul said of Saint Gregory: “Among these illustrious figures, I would like to recall here Gregory of Narek, who probed the dark depths of human desperation and glimpsed the blazing light of grace that shines even there for believers.”

You will note that Saint Gregory, a monk in the Armenian Church, lived at a time when his Church was not formally in communion with Rome and Constantinople. Christian history can be complex to understand.

The Vatican Radio report is here.

The title of “Doctor of the Church” is bestowed on a saint because of his or her contribution to theology or doctrine. There are now 36 Doctors of the Church recognized by the Catholic Church, 4 of whom are women. The Eastern Churches may have a different list for their “Doctors of the Church.”

 

21 Egyptian martyrs

21 Egyptian Martyrs 2015The Coptic Orthodox Church announced that they recognize the 21 men killed last week in Libya by ISIS as martyrs and their have names have been inscribed into Coptic Synaxarium. This was an ecclesial act, similar to the Latin Church’s canonization, by Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.

A  Synaxarium is the equivalent to the Roman Martyrology for the Eastern Churches (each of the church has its own list of saints). As one commentator said, the 21 Egyptian martyrs are not merely for the Copts, but for all Christians. Their witness to the Christian faith is critical for all of us who find it difficult to bear the burden of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

The Coptic Orthodox Pope stated that the martyrs will be commemorated on the 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar, or February 15th of the Gregorian calendar. The commemoration falls on the feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

Something Tertullian said comes to mind:

“Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers that we thus suffer…. a taint on our purity is considered among us something more terrible than any punishment and any death. Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you… The more often you mow us down, the more we grow in number; the blood of Christian martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

~ Tertullian in “Apologeticum (The Apology)” – writing in Carthage, North Africa c. 200 AD

The 21 martyrs are not vague group of men; each has a name and genealogy:

1. Milad Makeen Zaky
2. Abanub Ayad Atiya
3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
6. Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
7. Somaily Astafanus Kamel
8. Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
11. Mina Fayez Aziz
12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
14. Samuel Alham Wilson
15. Worker from Awr village
16. Ezat Bishri Naseef
17. Loqa Nagaty
18. Gaber Munir Adly
19. Esam Badir Samir
20. Malak Farag Abram
21. Sameh Salah Faruq

Rainbow coalition

Rainbow coalitionThis is a rather unfortunate photograph of some Russian Orthodox bishops. While I am confident that they have no idea of the cultural critique, it is funny as hell.

The first thing I thought of was “Here is  ecclesiastical candy.”

Amel Shamon Nona as new bishop of Chaldeans in Sydney

Amel Shamon NonaToday, Pope Francis nominated Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona, 46, as the new bishop of the Chaldean eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle in Sydney, Australia. Nona is now the former Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Iraq, he retains the dignity of archbishop and succeeds Msgr. Djibrail Kassab, whose resignation was accepted.

We know the horror Christians have faced in Mosul as ISIS forced Catholics and other Christians to flee, including the intrepid this archbishop. Nona famously said that the first time in history no Mass was offered in his diocese in about 1700 years: he lost his diocese.

The diocese, until 2003, was home to 35,000 souls; Mosul is 95 miles north of Baghdad.

Archbishop Nona has been living in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan at the Chaldean seminary.

Back in August, Jesuit Father James Schall wrote, quoting the archbishop:

“Try to understand us,” Archbishop Nona pleads. “Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here.” Indeed, we can even argue that these principles paralyze us and make us blind to the reality of persecution by and in Islamic spheres. “You must reconsider our reality in the Middle East because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims.” We think these immigrants are coming to find jobs or to escape violence. But in fact many are coming with missionary purposes, to convert in one way or another everyone to Islam. The Christians of Mosul were given the standard Muslim choice—conversion or death. Some managed to flee.  The Islamic State means business.

“Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions even at the cost of contradicting your principles.” We wonder: What is the man saying? “Contradict our principles?” Are these principles not what make us free? The Archbishop sees them as the avenues by which the Islam that is now destroying his diocese and city will destroy European and American cities. We find this preposterous. Hence, we will not consider that the Archbishop may well be right. This is just some religious aberration in some far-off place.

Seems to me that this is coming true. No?

God bless Archbishop Nona in his new assignment. May God prosper the work of his hands.

Blessing of pomegranates by the Armenian Catholicos Karekin II

Karekin blessing pompegranates 2015Here is a unique Christian tradition with the 2015 Blessing of pomegranates by His Holiness,  Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. It is a tradition on New Year’s Eve (or day).

The custom of blessing fruits was known among the Israelites; the Jewish custom originated in that the first harvest was offered to the temple: harvest gifts included wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey.

Pomegranates are considered by many faith traditions to be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and they are also a symbol of plenty and life.

In the Christian Church, the pomegranate symbolically represents the Church. “The seeds of the pomegranate, though separated by thin membranes yet hold tight together, same way Christian Church holds all Christians around the world together in Christ’s love; though separate but not divided. Pomegranate shows unity in diversity. The crown of Pomegranate represents Jesus’ crown and His sovereignty over the world. The red color symbolizes His Salvific Blood that was shed for All. It also contains 365 seeds as the number of days in a year symbolizing new life in Christ the new year.”

Armenia accepted Christianity as its official religion in AD 301.

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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