Tag Archives: Eastern Christianity

The Season of Advent proposes reclaiming the Garden of Eden

I love the Syriac tradition of liturgical theology. Often I find it a far more satisfying liturgical tradition than the Latin church craziness I face. It is Semitic, very biblical and rich in humanity. I recommend that you immerse yourself in the poetry of Saint Ephrem, deacon and Doctor of the Church.

The Maronite Church is one of whose heritage is West Syrian theologically; historically it’s rooted in the mountains of Lebanon. Their Advent Season has already begun with what is called the Season of Announcements (follow this link for more info on the season). This past Sunday was the Announcement to Mary. This coming weekend the Maronites will celebrate the Visitation of Elizabeth.
Father Steven Bonian, SJ, writes frequently on the sacred Liturgy of the West Syrian Church, the Maronites. See how he connects the Creator, creation and the Liturgy; the image of the Garden is key here for us Christians who are seeking salvation, that is, to dwell again in the Garden of Eden. 
Father Bonian said about the Sunday of Mary’s Announcement:

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Today, the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians (3:15-22), reminds us of how the promise made to Abraham is now being fulfilled through those who believe; those who live by the Law and the Torah of the heart through righteousness. To such as these –like Mary– is the gift of God and his promise handed down through his angels. The Gospel of Luke makes it clear that Mary is the righteous one who has gained the favor of God, and thus, inherited this Gift (Christ) and the Promise (Salvation).
In the Gospel-Icon of Mary and the Angel drawn for us by Saint Luke, and framed for us in this Sunday’s prayers –in the context of the relationship of the creator with his creation –the mountains, the earth, the sea, and the waves are rejoicing in God’s Word! Mary herself has become the New Earth (as Saint Ephrem would teach us) and true representative for all of God’s creation. The Son of God comes to dwell in her, and through her God has returned to live –as in Paradise— in the midst of his creation. Now in Mary, the new covenant, and God’s plan of salvation is being fulfilled. She has become the Cloud, the Pure Womb, the Fountain of Life and Blessings!

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Saint Josaphat Kuncevyc

St. Josaphat, Ukrainian bp.jpgToday, with the feast of Saint Josaphat (c. 1580-1623), we ought to mourn the sad division of the Church that exists between East and West.

The Church prays,
Stir up in your Church, we pray, O Lord, the Spirit that filled Saint Josaphat as he laid down his life for the sheep, so that through his intercession we, too, may be strengthened by the same Spirit and not be afraid to lay down our life for others.
Notice that the prayer calls to our attention that we too, are called to be witnesses to the work of unity, even to the point of laying down our lives for others. Here the use of the word ‘witness’ is used in two ways: giving testimony by word and deed and dying, if need be, with our own lives. Here’s the dual meaning of the martyr (witness).
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New pope elected … for the Coptic Orthodox Church

boy and acting pope.jpegThe electors, nearly 2,406 people, in the Coptic Orthodox Church selected the 118th successor to Saint Mark, Tawadros II. The new pope is the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa. Until now, Tawadros has been an auxiliary bishop to the Archbishop Pachomius who’s been serving as the acting pope. Tawadros studied pharmaceutical sciences and was ordained a bishop in 1997. 

Bishop Tawadros received 1623 votes, or about 25% of the votes.
Each of the electors, asking God to provide for them a good shepherd, were blindfold in casting their ballot for three of five previously vetted candidates. The three names were placed in a ceremonial box, then the Divine Liturgy was celebrated before a blindfolded child selected one of the three names to be the next pope. The new pope succeeds Pope Shenounda III who died at the age of 88 in March, after serving since 1971.
Pope Tawadros II, 60, will be installed on November 18.

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Christians in Egypt number about 10% of the 83 million population. The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian Church in Egypt.
So far, the key Muslim groups have offered their hands in friendship upon Pope Tawadros announcement.
Vatican Radio has an informative piece to read and to listen.

Residences of Maronite and Melkite Bishops in Aleppo, Syria

Archbishops Youssef Anis Abi-Aad, 72, and Jean-Clément Jeanbart, 69, have taken refuge in other places since their residences were ransacked in the past few days. Clashes between Assad’s forces and other groups are to blame. It is said that “unidentified groups, who want to foster a sectarian war and involve the Syrian people in a sectarian strife.” Not a much more is known at this point.

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Maronite Archbishop Youssef Anis Abi-Aad (left) said his residence and a local Christian museum were ransacked destroying personal and professional affects including icons.

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Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart (right) and some of his priests went to Lebanon in the face of violence.
It is reported that Christians make up about 7.5 to 10% of the Syrian 20 million population.
Both Maronite and Melkite Churches are in full communion with the Bishop of Rome.
We pray,
O God, author and lover of peace, to know you is to live, to serve you is reign; defend against every attack those who cry to you, so that we, who trust in your protection, may not fear the weapons of any foe.
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Catholic University Looks East

Rev. Mark Morozowich.jpgSalvation comes from the East! You’ve heard that before, no? If not, then it is news you ought to welcome, not just because an Eastern Catholic priest, Father Mark Morozowich is the new Dean of the School of Theology at the Catholic University of America.

Father Mark is a longtime friend, and I rejoice in his selection. A brilliant choice! CUA could use a deeper appreciation for the Christian East and with Mark, perhaps they’ll get it.
Perhaps Father Mark’s appointment will be an opportunity for all the Eastern Churches in the USA to send their seminarians to CUA for their theological education. The Maronites and Ukrainian Byzantines already do so; can the Melkites and Reuthenians do likewise? No sense in being too provincial, is there?
The National Catholic Register carries an interview with Father Mark here.
May the Holy Theotokos guide Father Mark’s work for Christ and the Church.
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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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