Tag Archives: Eastern Christianity

The fate of Eastern Christianity to be discussed in October; but what about now?

The hard work of collaborating and witnessing to Jesus Christ for 14 million Eastern Christians is indeed a difficult task, but one that is only sustained by prayer, mutuality and study.

During his trip to Cyprus Pope Benedict released what he things is a reasonable agenda for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops for Christians in the Middle East. But don’t be fooled in thinking that this Synod is merely for those in funny hats doing the Liturgy in a different manner. On the contrary, this Synod, as all Synods, have a direct impact on our Christian lives here in the USA for those living outside of the Middle East. What happens to our brothers and sisters in the East impacts the life of the Church across the world whether we realize it or not. So often, we neglect our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world because there seems to be little identifiable connections between what and how they live there, and what and how we live here. Remember, Christ our Lord and Savior lived, died and resurrected in the Middle East. Why wouldn’t we be concerned with the Christians in the Holy Land and neighboring countries? You and I don’t have to be Melkite, Maronite, Coptic, Syriac or Hebrew Catholics to care for the other. Let’s not wait to later to do this caring, let’s do it now.
The Lineamenta (the agenda for the Synod of Bishops) is built under the title of “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.” Acts 4:32 sets the framework: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”
The heads (and assistants) of Eastern Churches in the Middle East have been preparing for the Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome 10-24 October 2010.
An H2O News interview explores some themes.
The Holy Father in consultation with the bishops and many experts speaks of the point of the Synod in this manner, which sets the bar pretty high in my opinion:
1. to confirm and strengthen Christians in their identity through the Word of God and the sacraments;
2. to deepen ecclesial communion among the particular Churches, so that they can bear witness to the Christian life in an authentic, joyful and winsome manner.
In the Pope’s mind these 2 goals are only possible through an ecumenical approach “if Christian witness is to be genuine and credible.” For Pope Benedict, and I pray for all the bishops and religious orders and secular institutes in the Middle East, and for this blog dedicated to communion theology, that communion among Christians will lead to a unified Christian mind and heart which will in turn revitalize Christian life together. That is, that one day full, visible communion among the Churches and ecclesial communities will be a fact.
I urge you to read the working document (the lineamenta) noted above. Beg the Holy Spirit to guide your reading. Take the questions posed in the document with a degree of seriousness to see what can be done from your context to build a deeper bond of communion with Christians in the Middle East and with those who have immigrated to the West.
Let us all be united in prayer to the Holy Spirit and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, to assist the bishops and the experts in dealin with the critical issues being faced by Eastern Christians at this time.

Saint Sharbel Makhlouf

St CharbelThe mountain heights of Lebanon
Resound with songs of joy;
The cedars of that ancient land
Stand tall as we employ
Our hymns of praise and thankfulness
For Sharbel’s saintly ways,
Lived out in strict humility
That guided all his days.

True monk and hermit of the hills,
Saint Maron’s modest son
Scorned wealth and comfort in his life
That heaven’s crown be won.
Of Mary, heaven’s Queen and Gate,
Devoted son was he,
Who cherished all the ancient rites
With great humility.

Fierce lover of the lowly life,
True father of the poor,
As you have done, so help us all
To struggle and endure,
That Christ be praised in ev’ry life,
That riches not ensnare
Or rule us in our daily walk;
That strong may be our prayer!

O Father, Son, and Spirit blest,
One God in persons three,
Receive this hymn we offer now,
And keep your Church e’er free
To follow, as Saint Sharbel did,
Enflamed with love so bright
That we, with eyes fixed firm on Christ,
May vanquish sin’s dark night.

J. Michael Thompson
Copyright © 2009, World Library Publications
CMD; FOREST GREEN, RESIGNATION

Praying the Maronite Liturgy

Today, I was one of the acolytes at St Ann Melkite Church (Waterford, CT) for the Maronite Liturgy celebrated in the another Eastern Church, the Melkite Church. It is not typical for one Liturgy to be celebrated in a church of another Eastern Church but since there are a number of Maronite Catholics who live in southeastern Connecticut it was judged rightly to have the Maronite Liturgy this weekend. The Liturgy was done in both English and Arabic. My friend Archimandrite Edward Kakaty welcomed visiting Maronites with their priest from Our Lady of Lebanon Church, Waterbury, CT, to St Ann’s.

For nearly three years I served as acolyte for the Maronite Liturgy and frequently the Melkite Liturgy so today was like coming home.
Watch part I of the Diving Liturgy here, part II here and part III here.

Basil M. Schott, OFM, Ruthenian metropolitan archbishop RIP

BM Schott.jpgAfter struggling with Leukemia Metropolitan Basil Myron Schott, OFM, died this morning. He was 71. I have fond memories of meeting the archbishop and always found him to be a kind and holy man.

Since 2002, Archbishop Basil was the head of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church in the USA.
May his memory be eternal.
The funeral arrangements for His Eminence, Metropolitan Basil, Schott funeral arrangements.pdf.
A glimpse into the Metropolitan’s life here and here.
A Pittsburgh Tribune Obit is posted here.

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

saint-ephrem2.gifIt is indeed fitting to honor the blessed deacon of
Edessa for his desire that the preaching of the divine word and the training of
his disciples rest on the purity of Sacred Scripture. He also acquired honor as
a Christian musician and poet. He was so accomplished in both arts that he was
called the “lyre of the Holy Spirit.” From this, Venerable Brothers,
you can learn what arts promote the knowledge of sacred things. Ephrem lived
among people whose nature was attracted by the sweetness of poetry and music.
The heretics of the second century after Christ used these same allurements to
skillfully disseminate their errors. Therefore Ephrem, like youthful David
killing the giant Goliath with his own sword, opposed art with art and clothed
Catholic doctrine in melody and rhythm. These he diligently taught to boys and
girls, so that eventually all the people learned them. In this fashion he not
only renewed the education of the faithful in Christian doctrine and supported
their piety with the spirit of the sacred liturgy, but also happily kept
creeping heresy at bay.


The artistry introduced by Blessed Ephrem added dignity
to sacred matters as Theodoretus stresses. The metric rhythm, which our saint
popularized, was widely propagated both among the Greeks and the Latins. Indeed
does it seem probable that the liturgical antiphonary with its songs and
processions, introduced at Constantinople in the works of Chrysostom and at
Milan by Ambrose (whence it spread throughout all of Italy), was the work of
some other author? For the “custom of Eastern rhythm” deeply moved
the catechumen Augustine in northern Italy; Gregory the Great improved it and
we use it in a more advanced form. Critics acknowledge that that “same
Eastern rhythm” had it origins in Ephrem’s Syrian antiphonary.

It is no
wonder then that many of the Fathers of the Church stress the authority of St.
Ephrem. Nyssenus says of his writings, “Studying the Old and New
Scriptures most thoroughly, he interpreted them accurately, word for word; and
what was hidden and concealed, from the very creation of the world to the last
book of grace, he illumined with commentaries, using the light of the
Spirit.” And Chrysostom: “The great Ephrem is scourge of the
slothful, consoler of the afflicted, educator, instructor and exhorter of
youth, mirror of monks, leader of penitents, goad and sting of heretics,
reservoir of virtues, and the home and lodging of the Holy Spirit.” Certainly
nothing greater can be said in praise of a man who, however, seemed so small in
his own eyes that he claimed to be the least of all and a most vile sinner”
(12-14).

Pope Benedict XV

Principi
Apostolorum Pet
ro (On St. Ephrem the Syrian), 5 October 1920

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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