The new Syrian Patriarch, Ignace Joseph III Younan, elected on January 22nd was enthroned on February 15th in Beirut. The story of the event is here and here. It is interesting to note the theological and liturgical differences between Western & Eastern Catholics. The Patriarch was enthroned, not installed. The proper term is enthroned; one installs computer software and a new dishwasher, not a bishop. To enthrone a bishop means that he is led to his chair and seated. Of course there’s more to the rite but that’s it essentially. Worldwide the Syrian Catholics number about 200, 000.
The point of this note isn’t the size of a bishop’s chair as it was to draw attention to a new Eastern Catholic Patriarch. That said, for some, parsing the difference between enthronement vs. installation may be overly picky. The liturgical theology of the Church says that bishops sit on cathedras (substantial looking chairs), not thrones even if some look more like thrones than mere a big chair. That some bishops may look like plenipotentiaries, even act like them, they’re not. But to say that a bishop is led to a choir stall, like an abbot is upon his election, is not quiet correct either. How long has the word “installation” been used to denote the act of inaugurating a bishop’s ministry? I think some people who claim to be liturgists tend to force a new agenda on the Church using inaccurate jargon. But I defer to a great authority.
After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come. And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
Father, You brought the light of the Gospel to the Slavic nations through Saint Cyril and his brother Saint Methodius. Open our hearts to understanding Your teaching and help us to become one in faith and praise.
Writing about today’s saints Pope John Paul II said:
[Saints Cyril and Methodius made a] generous decision to identify themselves with those peoples’ life and traditions, once having purified and enlightened them by Revelation, make Cyril and Methodius true models for all the missionaries who in every period have accepted Saint Paul’s invitation to become all things to all people in order to redeem all. And in particular for the missionaries who, from ancient times until the present day, from Europe to Asia and today in every continent, have labored to translate the Bible and the texts of the liturgy into the living languages of the various peoples, so as to bring them the one word of God, thus made accessible in each civilization’s own forms of expression.
Perfect communion in love preserves the Church from all forms of particularism, ethnic exclusivism or racial prejudice, and from any nationalistic arrogance. This communion must elevate and sublimate every purely natural legitimate sentiment of the human heart. (Slavorum apostoli, 11, 1985)
February 9th the Maronite Church in Lebanon (and in the diaspora) celebrated the liturgical feast of the founder their Church, Saint Maron. It is commonly known that Saint Maron was a 4th/5th century Syriac Christian monk. Maron moved to the mountains of ancient Syria to what is known today as Lebanon. His spirituality, as would be expected of a monk, was penitential and centered on the sacred Liturgy. Studying the liturgical texts you would notice the influence of semitic forms of thinking, praying and discipline. There is a keen appreciation for Old Testament typology in Maronite theology, spirituality and Liturgy. One clear acknowledgement needs to be made: the monks (indeed, all the disciples of Saint Maron) held to the truth taught by the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). They even suffered for their orthodox Christian faith.
This is already too much information to introduce you to the fact that in Rome there is a Maronite College founded in the 16th century. Here seminarians and priests of the worldwide Maronite Church come to study the sacred sciences at the heart of the Catholic Church.
In the autumn of 2008 the Diocese of Rome and the Holy See established a parish for the Maronites living in Rome centered at the Maronite College. This news video gives a brief introduction to this new work of the Maronite Church.
ALSO, if you are interested in knowing more about Eastern Christianity, the Catholic Information Service at the Knights of Columbus published a brand new booklet on what the Eastern Christian Churches are, and the place they hold in Christianity. Read Jesuit Father Steven Hawkes-Teeples’ work Eastern Christians and Their Churches.
Here is an address of Benedict XVI to the Joint International Commission which deals with theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, given today 30 January 2009. The theme of the address ought to be a recognizable one for us this week. The Pope, the brilliant theologian and gentle churchman that he is, is working overtime to bring the various churches together. May his work bear fruit!
I extend a warm welcome to you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. At the end of this week of dedicated work we can give thanks together to the Lord for your steadfast commitment to the search for reconciliation and communion in the Body of Christ which is the Church.
Indeed, each of you brings to this task not only the richness of your own tradition, but also the commitment of the Churches involved in this dialogue to overcome the divisions of the past and to strengthen the united witness of Christians in the face of the enormous challenges facing believers today.
The world needs a visible sign of the mystery of unity that binds the three divine Persons and, that two thousand years ago, with the Incarnation of the Son of God, was revealed to us. The tangibility of the Gospel message is conveyed perfectly by John, when he declares his intention to express what he has heard and his eyes have seen and his hands have touched, so that all may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-4). Our communion through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the life that unites the Father and the Son has a perceptible dimension within the Church, the Body of Christ, “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23), and we all have a duty to work for the manifestation of that essential dimension of the Church to the world.
Your sixth meeting has taken important steps precisely in the study of the Church as communion. The very fact that the dialogue has continued over time and is hosted each year by one of the several Churches you represent is itself a sign of hope and encouragement. We need only cast our minds to the Middle East – from where many of you come – to see that true seeds of hope are urgently needed in a world wounded by the tragedy of division, conflict and immense human suffering.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has just concluded with the ceremony in the Basilica dedicated to the great apostle Paul, at which many of you were present. Paul was the first great champion and theologian of the Church’s unity. His efforts and struggles were inspired by the enduring aspiration to maintain a visible, not merely external, but real and full communion among the Lord’s disciples. Therefore, through Paul’s intercession, I ask for God’s blessings on you all, and on the Churches and the peoples you represent.