Tag Archives: Byzantine

Hagia Sophia to be turned into a mosque?

I just came across an article on AsiaNews that’s disturbing to me: “Persistent rumors suggest Hagia Sophia will be turned into a mosque” (Aug 30 2013). It confirmed my worst fears that one of the greatest churches in world –after the 4 central basilicas in Rome, a few others– may be returned to the Muslims for worship.

Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was built as a Christian church, known as the great church, in 537. And, it was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople until the Ottomans oppressed the Christians.

In 1453, Hagia Sophia along with other Christian churches, were confiscated and turned into mosques.  When Mustafa Atatürk, in 1923, founded the secular state of Turkey,Hagia Sophia mosque became a museum.

From the Muslim side, the Hagia Sophia is a symbol of Islamic conquest of Christianity and it’s in their best interest to reassert themselves by taking the museum back as a place of muslim worship. If the rumors are true, this building will be a central symbol of the caliphate that is expected to formed.

Disclaimer: I want the former cathedral returned to the Christians. The church ought to be a Christian temple. I advocate the praying of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom at what would be the central altar. If not, then I will concede Patriarch Bartholomew’s view: Hagia Sophia to remain a museum.

Some people report that in 2006 a small room was made available to the staff of the museum for Christian or Muslin prayer. In 2013, the minarets ring out the call for Islamic prayer. The camel’s nose is creeping.

God help us.

Apostles’ Fast 2013

Ss Peter and Paul coptic.jpeg

Recently on the Sunday of All Saints (26 May 2013) –the Byzantine Church observes a different feast of All Saints than do the Latin Christians– the Eparch (the Greek word for bishop) of the Melkites in the in the USA, Bishop Nicholas James Samra wrote to his people about preparing for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. Yes, some Catholics do make preparations for other feasts!

One of the reasons I am drawing our attention to this matter is two-fold: 1.) being Catholic is more than merely following the Latin Church’s disciple — we can learn from others; and 2.) the discipline of those who belong to Christ is more than merely praying, fasting, and almsgiving for selfish reasons, that is, these spiritual activities are to break open our spiritual capacities. Remember what John Paul taught: Christians breathe with two lungs.

The liturgical feast of Ss. Peter and Paul is traditionally preceded by a period of concerted prayer and fasting. These saints –indeed, all of the apostles– are the pillars of our Church. In times past the period of fasting was significant while today it is much modified. The controlling idea is that before an important feast of the Lord, the Mother of God and some saints, the faithful are encouraged to prepare themselves to receive God’s graces in a worthy manner. We prepare by getting rid of sin and living virtuously: corporal and spiritual works of mercy are good things to do.

Bishop Nicholas recalls for us that the Monday after Sunday of All Saints the Byzantine Church begins a time of prayer and fasting leading us to the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on 29 June.  But now the preparation is modified to 10 days by the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Fittingly, the bishop notes: “We are given this “Apostles Fast” in order to fan into flame the grace of the Holy Spirit within us and to reflect upon the hardships endured by the Apostles as they preached Divine grace and truth to the world.”

Faith needs to be connected with reality. This is the context in which God acts. Several things in our own lives can and ought to be connected with life. Bishop Nicholas indicates that one good way to extrovert our faith by having some sense human ecology on the spiritual level is remember those suffering the effects of the war in Syria. Certainly, we pray for all but special attention to be paid to the Catholics and Orthodox peoples.

Hence, the proposal is to begin our spiritual discipline on June 19. I recommend that you make a confession of sin and receive Holy Communion, pray for the Pope’s intention for June, and name the intentions. Select a charitable organization to to make a donation of funds.

Perhaps we can also use the Apostles’ Fast to pray for those living with cancer. I am thinking of my friend Jesuit Father Edward Oakes who is in need of a miracle due to his recent diagnosis of Type 4 pancreatic and liver cancer.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Eastern Catholic Churches by the numbers, 2011

Eastern Catholic Churches 2011 stats.jpg

Just to give a sense of numbers of faithful who are members of the various Eastern Churches. While these stats are of 2011, they are basically correct. The churches that see growth are the Ukrainians, Malabars and Malakars.

More Pentecost to celebrate

pentecost feast.jpg

The Roman Church celebrated Pentecost last weekend thus concluding the Easter season. This weekend the same Church observes the feast of the Most Holy Trinity.

Also this weekend, our Orthodox sisters and brothers are celebrating the Coming of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-4).

Let us beg for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

You may read more about the Spirit’s feast here.

Lazarus Saturday


Raising of Lazarus Duccio.jpgBefore Your own death, O Christ, You raised from death
Lazarus, who was four days dead, and You have shaken the dominion of death. Through
the one man whom You loved, You have foretold the deliverance of all from
corruption. We therefore worship You and cry: Blessed are You, O Savior! 
Have mercy on us!


The observance of Lazarus Saturday is really more a Byzantine Church observance on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, but you will find it in the West, too. As the antiphon above notes, Jesus shows us what is come for us who believe in Him: triumph over death by death itself. As Jesus approaches His own death on the Cross, and then the Resurrection, we who believe in the Lord encounter the same fact.

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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