Tag Archives: Eastern Christianity

Reconciliation & communion among Churches?


Pope Benedict.jpgHere 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.

New Patriarch for the Syrian Catholics: +Joseph Younan

Joseph Younan.jpgYesterday, Bishop Joseph Younan, 65, eparch of the New Jersey centered Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance (in the USA & Canada) was elected Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians today. His Beatitude, Ignace Joseph III Younan succeeds His Beatitude Mar Ignace Pierre Abdel-Ahad and a temporary administration of the patriarchate.

Pope Benedict accepted a request for full ecclesiastical communion with the new patriarch (according to the Eastern Code of Canon Law), here is the letter of concession. The granted the request of communion “willingly, thus performing a part of the Petrine ministry which gives me particular pleasure. Communion with the Bishop of Rome, Peter’s Successor, established by the Lord as the visible foundation of unity in faith and charity, guarantees the bond with Christ the Pastor and introduces the particular Churches into the mystery of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”.

Pope Benedict XVIs address (in French) to the new patriarch and the bishops of the synod.

In brief, the Pope said: “My hope is that in the East, where the Gospel was first announced, Christian communities may continue to live and bear witness to their faith, as they have over the centuries. At the same time I hope that all those outside their homeland may receive adequate pastoral care so as to maintain the bond with their religious roots”. The Pope then voiced his hope that the Eastern Churches, “wherever they may be, are able to integrate themselves into their new social and ecclesial surroundings without losing their own identity and conserving the imprint of their Eastern spirituality, so that, using the words East and West, the Church may speak effectively of Christ to modern mankind”. 

The bishops of the Syrian Catholic Church have been meeting in synod in Rome since the 18th.

More info about the new patriarch and the Syrian Catholic Church can be had at a H2O News video segment, a 2008 CNEWA article and in a Wiki article.

May Mary, Mother of God intercede for the new patriarch and the Syrian Catholic Church before the Throne of Grace.

Turkey Threatens Christian Monastery

The rights of Christians in Muslim countries is always threatened. A Reuters story sheds some light on the problems that the Mor Gabriel monastery in Midyat, Turkey faces right now. The monastery of Syriac Christian monks has been present on this site for 1600 years and now faces a reduction if not factual extinction. Can you imagine the extinction of a monastery built in A.D. 397 dedicated to the witness to Jesus Christ???

Is this one more reason to consider NOT admitting Turkey to the European Union??? Religious freedom is not a valued in Muslim countries and there are countless examples of this fact. Many will point to the fact that millions of dollars of land and other cultural artifacts have been stolen by the Turkish government over the years but the matter is not merely about the material wealth but about the existence of the Christian presence in the land of their birth. What has to be done is to convince the nations of Islamic rule that religious reciprocity is a value and significant to the greater freedom of all people as well as a part of the cultural heritage of the respective countries. Now a minority Christians were once a majority in many of these Muslim countries.

This article is interesting because of the facts presented, particularly the facts that show how the Christians have diminished since the radical state secularization of the country.

Let us pray to Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11th, on whose feast day the court will determine the fate of the Mor Gabriel monastery.

Saint Saba, abbot


St Saba.jpg

The just man will flourish like the palm tree. Planted in the courts of God’s house, he will grow great like the cedars of Lebanon. (Psalm 91:13-14).

Lord our God, in your providence you raised up blessed Saba to foster the monastic life and to defend and uphold the truth of the faith. May we always live that truth in love and serve only you until we attain everlasting joy and glory.

A hagiographical note:

There are several “Saint Saba (Sava),” among the liturgical calendars. This man, Saint Saba the abbot (439-532) whom we honor today, is a Cappadocian monk and priest.

Saint Saba is of particular importance for several reasons, three that are key for us: 1.) his attention to Christian maturity; 2.) his attention to correct teaching about Jesus; and 3.) his composing of a monastic rule, known as the “Jerusalem Typikon” for liturgical rites used in the Palestinian Churches (used till the 19th century).

Saint Saba is revered by monks of the East and West because he was an example of anchorite living, that is monks living in hermitages and coming together periodically for communal activities. Saba is the founder of monasteries. In a manner of speaking, Saba was influential in other monastic rules that are in exist today.

He is invoked for rain, healings and relief of temptations by Satan.

Advent in the Maronite Church

Do you know if Advent’s begun? It has if you are a Maronite Catholic. The typical 4 week Advent season for many Catholics of the Latin Church is not the norm for all Catholics.


qoorbono.jpgSeason of the Glorious Birth of the Lord

(Season of soboorey, or “Happy Announcements”)

Visitation1.jpgThe pre-Christmas Cycle has six Sundays, which all focus on the unfolding revelation of the Birth of the Messiah. This is done in the context of the immediate family of Jesus, centering on Mary and Joseph (Matthew 1, 2; Luke 1, 2). This is certainly in line with the Antiochene emphasis on the humanity of Jesus and its appreciation of the historical aspect of Scripture. The greatest Announcement, of course, is that of the angels on Christmas.

 

There are one or two Sundays after Christmas (depending upon the day of the week that Christmas occurs), one of which is always celebrated: the Finding in the Temple. On 1 January the liturgical commemoration is Feast of the Circumcision (Naming) of the Child Jesus, with a second commemoration of the common Eastern observance of Saint Basil.

 

The Sundays of the Advent Season in the Maronite Church are:

 

  • Announcement to Zechariah
  • Announcement to the Virgin Mary
  • Visitation to Elizabeth
  • Birth of John the Baptizer
  • Revelation to Joseph
  • Genealogy Sunday
  • The Finding in the Temple

In celebrating the Finding in the Temple (Sunday after Christmas) the Maronite Church uses the 3rd Infancy Narrative of Luke (chapter 2) to parallel closely the Gospel development of Jesus’ own growth. He is seen in the Temple, recognizing his true “Father” (his divine Origin) and preparing himself for his Baptism and public life. In addition, Joseph disappears from all the Gospel narratives: Joseph’s earthly fathering is done, and Jesus will now proclaim the heavenly Father. The Twelve Days of Christmas take us to the Feast of the Epiphany (Theophany).

 

Season of Epiphany (in Syriac this feast is called Denho)


Jesus lover of humanity.jpgTaking the Baptism of Jesus (6 January) as the model, the Maronite Church celebrates our new life of Baptism and Chrismation in this Season. In Syriac it is called denho. For some Syriac Churches, this season is the traditional time of reception of catechumens into the Church. But for all Syriac Christians, denho is a time to reflect on our baptism. During the first three days of the Sixth Week of Epiphany (Monday-Wednesday) the Maronite Church observes “Nineveh Days.” These three days are penitential and serve to anticipate the Season of Great Lent. In one form or another, these days are observed by all the Syriac Churches, East and West.

(Thanks to R. Dom Bartholomew Leon, OSB, Saint Rafka Mission, Greenville, SC)

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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