O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, v. Alleluia! For His mercy endures forever, alleluia! (after each verse) O give thanks to the God of gods, O give thanks to the Lord of lords, To Him who alone has wrought great wonders, To Him who made the heavens with understanding, To Him who established the earth upon the waters, To Him who alone has made great lights, The sun for dominion of the day, The moon and the stars for dominion of the night, To Him who smote Egypt with their first-born, And led forth Israel out of the midst of them, With a strong hand and lofty arm, To Him who divided the Red Sea into parts, And led Israel through the midst of it, And overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, To Him who led His people through the wilderness, To Him who smote great kings, And slew mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, And Og, king of the land of Basan, And gave their land for an inheritance, An inheritance for Israel, His Servant, For in our humiliation the Lord remembered us, And redeemed us from our enemies, He that gives food to all flesh, O give thanks to the God of Heaven, O Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, alleluia! For His mercy endures forever, alleluia!
by Rt. Rev. Philip Raczka
- Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.
- 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).
- Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.
- Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.
- Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).
- Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.
by Father Philip Raczka
IntroductionThe marriage ceremony of the Eastern Churches, called the Mystery of Crowning, is quite different than that of the Western Churches. The greatest difference is the lack of the crowning ritual in the western ceremonies. But, there are other differences as well and it is good to understand our own beautiful ceremony.
HistoryThe marriage ceremony at the time of Our Lord in the Holy Land consisted of two parts the Betrothal and the Crowning. The Betrothal was held in the home of the bride after the marriage contract and bride price had been paid. The father of the family, who was considered to be the priest of the family, would celebrate the exchange of rings between the couple with a prayer. Usually a year later the couple was married. The groom would go to the bride’s father’s house where the father would impose the marriage crowns on the couple, join their right hands and say a prayer. The crowning of a groom is mentioned in Isaiah 61:10. Then the groom would lead the bride to his house. This procession consisted of the groom’s friends and the bride’s family while Psalms were sung. The Psalms were sung to celebrate a new marriage and family thus insuring the continuation of the Jewish people and fulfilling the promise that God made to Abraham that he would have countless descendants (Genesis 15:5). At the groom’s house, where the wedding banquet was ready, the groom’s father would say a prayer over a cup of wine. This cup was shared by the couple as a sign of their new life together and then the party followed. The Eastern Christians, who were the majority of Christians until 1453, took this ceremony and made it refer to Christ. The name of Christ was introduced into the prayers and eventually an Epistle, Gospel and Sermon were added to the ceremony. St. John Chrysostom (+407 AD) mentions that priests and bishops were being called upon to perform the ceremony instead of the father of the family. The earliest copy we have of the actual marriage prayers is found in the Barberini Codex #336, which dates from 750 AD. In it we find the same marriage prayers as we use today. Since the Codex was copied in Southern Italy, a remote part of the Empire, we can assume that the prayers are much older than the manuscript. Let us examine this ceremony which has roots in the Old Testament times.
The BetrothalThe Betrothal is first in the ceremony and may be performed independently of the crowning. Two prayers are said and the couple exchanges rings. The rings symbolize the promise of the partners to be faithful to each other. The entire marriage ceremony is full of prayers asking for faithfulness and stating that lawfully married couples are chaste in the eyes of God.
The ConsentThe consent is the first element of the actual crowning ceremony. The love of God is deep and sacrificial and it is a choice. The couple is asked to have the same Agapé or Covenant love for each other that God has for us. It is a choice to be faithful, loving and true no matter what happens. They express this choice and commitment in the expression of consent.
Marriage PrayersThe heart of the ceremony is the Marriage Prayers after the Litany of Peace. In these prayers the priest prays remembering the origin of mankind and marriage in the Garden of Eden. He asks the Heavenly Father to join the couple together and to grant them all of the good things and blessings that they will need to have a happy life. It is during these prayers that the couple is wed together by the Lord Himself. As a sign of this divine joining together the priest joins the hands of the couple together. Thus he shows that Christ, the Great High Priest of the Church, is the real celebrant of the wedding ceremony.
The CrowningThe priest crowns the couple as a sign of their union. St. John Chrysostom says that the crowns symbolize the victory of Christ over sin, death and evil. The couple, as baptized Christians, lawfully joined in a sacramental marriage share in this victory. They have overcome the lusts of the world, which seek to separate the soul from the body and love from sex, and are united together in the love of God and each other. They are now joined as God intended man and woman to be joined together; giving themselves totally and freely to the other. The crowns also symbolize the crown of martyrdom or witnessing to Christ for the couple incarnates the love of Christ for the Church. They also represent the royal authority of the children of God. After the crowning the clergy and assembly sing together the coronation hymn (Psalm 8:6 & 7): Crown them O Lord our God with glory and honor and grant them dominion over the works of your hands. This is a prayer and wish for the newly weds from all present.
Epistle and GospelThe Epistle to the Ephesians is the only place in the Bible that calls marriage a Sacrament or Mystery. The couple is called to incarnate the love of Christ for the Church proven by his death on the cross. In other words it is a total love and commitment. The Gospel is the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12). In this story Jesus turns water into wine. Water is good but wine is better. This is understood to be the point when Christ took Old Testament marriage, which was good, and made it into a Sacrament by which the couple brings the love of God into the world and grow in spiritual perfection.
The Cup of WineThe cup of wine symbolizes the unity of married life. The spouses complete each other and share one life together. The Unity Candle is performing the same function in western ceremonies, but it is unofficial and not an actual part of the ceremony. There is no need for a Unity Candle in our ceremony since it would duplicate the function of the cup of wine.
The Wedding ProcessionIn the wedding procession the couple takes their first steps together as man and wife. It is a pilgrimage that will end with death. They go around the table with the Gospel Book on it. Christ is their Sun around which their lives must revolve. This procession also dedicates them to Christ as a couple and reminds them of their priestly role in their new family. They must watch over each other and their future children spiritually as well as physically and emotionally.
The Crown RemovalAfter all of the prayers and ceremonies have been accomplished the crowns are removed. We ask God to preserve their crowns and marriage forever in his Kingdom. The newlyweds must leave the Church and cooperate together with the Holy Spirit to build their new life day by day.
The Western CeremonyThe earliest witness to the western style ceremony is from Saint Cyprian of Carthage (ca. 250 AD). He mentions that after the couple performs the civil requirements and ceremonies for marriage that they come to the church. There the priest imposes the bridal veil on the bride. He then says a prayer blessing their union followed by giving them Holy Communion together. This reception of Communion recognizes their married state and incorporates them into the Church as a married couple. In the Middle Ages the contract and civil ceremonies were performed in front of the church door. This is when the vows started to loom larger in the consciousness of the participants; whereas previously they were almost never mentioned in sermons and commentaries. The couple then entered the church for the veiling, blessing and Holy Communion. Saint Thomas Aquinas (13th century) said that the vows were the essential matter of the sacrament; this lead to them receiving more importance and the other parts of the ceremony being diminished. According to the Canon Law of the Eastern Catholic Churches the essential elements of our ceremony are the consent, the prayers and blessings of the priest and the marriage crowns.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.
- 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).
- Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.
- Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.
- Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).
- Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.
by Father Philip Raczka
The Apostolic Origins of Christian InitiationIntroduction: There are several places in the Bible where Baptism is mentioned. Perhaps the most important is Christ’s commission to the Apostles: to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). The most famous passage from the Epistles on baptism is Romans 6:3-11 which is read in our baptismal ceremony and refers to baptism as joining Christ in his death and burial. Below I give three examples from the Acts of the Apostles of baptismal ceremonies. These stories show us how Christian Initiation came to be organized in the apostolic times and that the same basic patterns are still with us today. The Conversion of Saint Paul (Acts 9:10-19): In the early years of the Christian Movement, after the death of Saint Stephen, Saul (Paul) of Tarsus was converted by an appearance of Jesus Christ while he was on the way to Damascus in order to persecute the Christians there. This event was memorialized in art over the ages with the most famous painting being that by Michelangelo Caravaggio in the church of Santa Maria Del Popolo in Rome. It was the artists who had him falling off a horse for the Scripture says nothing about any kind of a beast of burden; Saint Paul was probably walking to Damascus and not riding. Any way it is important to note that although Christ appeared to Saul (Paul) this was not sufficient to make him a Christian for he still had to receive baptism. Acts tells us that he fasted for three days after seeing Christ and before being baptized. A pre-baptismal fast became common practice and eventually became the origins of Great Lent. A disciple named Ananias was sent by Jesus to baptize Paul. He first laid hands on him to receive the Holy Spirit and then baptized him. After this they ate. At this time the Eucharist was still connected to a full meal as at the Last Supper so most likely “when he had eaten” means that Paul also received Communion. So in this story we see that conversion is separate from becoming a Christian, fasting precedes baptism and the ceremony of initiation consists of three actions: receiving the Holy Spirit, baptism and the reception of the Eucharist. Also, we see the importance of an agent of the Church for Christ did not directly incorporate Paul into the Church but called him to convert and sent Ananias to baptize him. The Conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-49): Cornelius was a Roman centurion (leader of 100 men in the Army) who lived in Caesarea of Palestine. He was a Gentile admirer of Judaism called in the New Testament times a “God fearer.” An angel appeared to him and told him to send for Saint Peter who was visiting in Joppa at that time. When Saint Peter arrived Cornelius called together his family and friends and the Apostle explained to them about Jesus Christ. While they were listening the Holy Spirit descended upon them and Saint Peter ordered them to be baptized and afterwards he stayed with them for a few days and naturally ate with them. Here we see a pre-baptismal teaching, the Gift of the Holy Spirit, baptism and Eucharist. Again we see the importance of an agent of the Church for seeing an angel was not enough to make Cornelius a Christian but Saint Peter and his helpers had to baptize him. The Conversion of the Jailer of Philippi (Acts 16:25-34): Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi praying at midnight and an earthquake freed them. The implication is that the earthquake was of divine origin for St. Peter was freed from his chains by an angel (Acts 12:7). The jailer asked what to do and was told to believe in Christ. Then in the man’s house Paul and Silas preached to the members of the household after which they were baptized and ate. It was still dark when they ate and this was in no way a normal practice but the meal was served in order to have the Lord’s Supper (Holy Eucharist). So, once again we see here the celebration of the Eucharist connected to the meal and after baptism. This story has in it pre-baptismal preaching followed by baptism and Eucharist and again we see the importance of the role of the Apostles despite the fact that the earthquake was caused by the Lord. Summary: When we add together the different elements of these stories we arrive at the basic pattern of Christian Initiation as practiced in the Early Church and still followed today in our Church. First, there is something that makes the person interested in Christ and then there is pre-baptismal teaching (catechesis). There should also be a pre-baptismal fast even if it is only for a few hours as a preparation to receiving the Eucharist. Then the three Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation) and Eucharist are administered at one time. Only after receiving these Sacraments is a person a Christian and they must be administered by another person – the priest or bishop. No one may baptize himself or chrismate herself. In this Christian baptism is different from Jewish ceremonial washings (mikvot) wherein one purifies oneself.
The Catechumen RitesIntroduction: The Catechumen Rites are held in the entryway (narthex) of the church. They may be held prior to the actual baptism ceremony or immediately before it. In the ancient Church when most candidates for baptism were adults they were usually held on Good Friday at 3 PM when Jesus died on the cross and thus overcame the power of Satan. The people were then baptized on Easter at the Saturday evening vigil service. Whenever an adult is baptized these rites are very moving for the person speaking for himself renounces Satan and accepts Jesus Christ as their God and Savior. When a child is baptized the god-parents do it in the name of the child. Exorcisms: Our present day ceremony begins with several exorcisms or prayers to expel the evil powers. These prayers originally entered the ceremony because the Saints considered pagan worship to be the worship of demons placing the devotee of the pagan gods under the power of the devils. The demons would need to be expelled for the person to belong to Christ. When these prayers are done over children they protect the child from evil and expel any evil presence near the child. We should never doubt the reality of evil and the evil powers for to deny their existence gives them the opportunity to deceive us and trick us into sinning. Breaking your Contract with Satan: While the candidates and sponsors face west (away from the altar in the east) they renounce Satan. This is an act of the will to cut relations with Satan and anything evil. It is also a commitment not to participate in pagan worship or witchcraft. Making your Contract with Christ: The candidates and sponsors then turn and face the altar in the east in order to accept Christ. The altar represents Christ and is on the east side of the church to remind us that He is risen (like the sun), He is the Sun of Righteousness foretold by the Prophet Malachi (Malachi 3:20) and that He will come again. By accepting and believing in Christ the candidate is attaching himself to Christ by an act of the will. Belief is indeed an act of the will and a decision. The person is giving herself to Christ as fiancés commit themselves to each other. The Creed: The Nicene Creed that we use in baptism, the Divine Liturgy and some other services as well was composed at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325 AD. It was completed at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381 AD with the further expansion of the clause on the Holy Spirit. In this Creed we express the basic beliefs of our Faith that God is the Trinity; He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each divine person is briefly described; the Father and Creator, the Son and Savior and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. Although brief, the Creed is the source of all of our beliefs and theology. Every other article of faith or theology is somehow rooted in it. This Creed is used by the Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans and is thus a point of Christian unity.
The Main CeremonyThe Blessing of the Water: The Blessing of the Baptismal Water begins with the Litany of the deacon. In any litany the lines of the priest or deacon are the intentions, not the prayer. The prayer is when the people respond: Lord, have mercy. Therefore, it is very important that all of those present at the ceremony chant the response. The priest’s prayer for the blessing recalls what Christ did for us especially his incarnation and baptism. We petition our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit into the water; this is called the Epiclesis or invocation. We believe that this petition is always answered because of a conversation between Christ and the Apostles in the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 11:9-13). In this teaching Christ tells the Apostles, who know how to give good things to their children, that our Heavenly Father (who is perfect) will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. The Blessing of the Olive Oil and Anointing: The Word Messiah means the “Anointed One” chosen by God to perform some special function for the benefit of his people. The person would be anointed with olive oil and receive gifts from the Holy Spirit to perform their ministry. Each follower of Christ is anointed in baptism with blessed olive oil to share in the ministry of Christ and perform a ministry that will benefit the Christian people as a whole. Priest, Prophet and King: When Aaron and his sons were chosen to be the priests of the Jewish people they were bathed by Moses, then anointed with olive oil mixed with spices (called chrism) and then dressed in their vestments after which they offered sacrifices (Exodus 29). Christ is our Great High Priest who offered his own life to the Father for us (Hebrews 9). We all share in his General Priesthood by praying for others and offering our time, talents and treasure to God. Those who are clergy share in Christ’s ministerial priesthood for the good of the believing community. Shortly before he was taken to heaven the Prophet Elias was told by God to anoint Elisha to take his place (1 Kings 19). The main function of the prophet is to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word of God. We see this in our Lord’s life especially in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). We too are called to know and preach the Word of God to a world that is dying without it. The best way to do this is by the good example of a Christian life and sharing our stories with others of how God touched our life. When Saul was chosen by God to be the first king of Israel the Prophet Samuel went to him and did not crown him but rather anointed him with olive oil thus he became king (1 Samuel 10). Jesus is the Messiah or Anointed One because He is King by two rights: as God and as the Descendant of King David who rules forever and ever (Luke 1, 2 Samuel 7). We share in the royal authority of Christ exercising authority over our homes and serving our community with the talents that He has given us for the good of others. Christ also sacrificed his life on the cross for his people. Whenever we sacrifice our life or desires for the good of others we are sharing in Christ’s royal office. The Sign of the Cross: In the Book of Revelation those who belong to God are marked with a sign on their foreheads (Revelation 7). From the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 9) we learn that this mark is a cross “+”. The priest makes a cross with olive oil on the forehead of the person to be baptized thus marking them as belonging to God forever. We may run away from God with our sins but He never runs away from us. He accepts us and we belong to Him forever and the sign of the cross remains on our souls forever. The Final Preparation to Receive Christ as did the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation: When the Virgin Mary accepted to become the Mother of our Lord the Holy Spirit descended upon her and prepared her to receive Jesus in her womb and after the preparation was completed the Spirit placed Christ in her womb (Luke 1: 26-38). As the candidate is anointed with olive oil by the priest the Holy Spirit is preparing him/her for Christ so that when they enter the water Jesus may enter and dwell in their heart. Immersion in Water: The person is immersed three times in the water signifying the three days of Christ in the tomb. By this action all sin is removed from the person, he/she is born again as the adopted child of God and God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit comes to live in them. They begin a new life as a royal child of the Heavenly Father and temple of God. God is not far away from the person but dwelling in them. We use a generous amount of water in the ceremony to show these mystical realities of spiritual birth, death and cleansing. The Baptismal Formula: The person is baptized by the priest saying: The servant of God N. is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This formula comes from the lips of Christ Himself (Matthew 28:19). By it we know that God is 3 in 1 or Trinity. The Holy Spirit leads us to Christ and Christ leads to the Father and thus God lives in us and we in Him. New Clothes: After the immersion in the font the newly baptized person is clothed in pure white. Other colors are not used at all not even as decoration or trim. The pure white baptismal robe is an ancient custom going back to the 5th century if not earlier and has several scriptural origins. One is the robe of Christ at the Transfiguration which was a brilliant white (Matthew 17:2) and when He appeared to St. John in the Book of Revelation He was also clothed in white (Revelation 1:13-15). So we see white as a color indicating the glory of Christ and his divine light. Psalm 103:2 tells us that God wears light like a cloak referring to the fact that God is the Source of Light and that God is light and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). Light also is symbolic of the glory of the Lord because of the story of the Transfiguration and in icons of the resurrection Jesus is always in white. The Book of Revelation says the Saints in heaven wear white robes (Revelation 7:9). This shows that they share in the light and life of God and their sins were removed by the blood of Christ. White robes were also associated with the temple priests (Exodus 39:27) and thus show the newly baptized now worship God. Chrismation: After the blessing of the white clothes the newly baptized are signed with chrism on the forehead, sense organs, chest, back, hands and feet. While doing this the priest says: The seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, to which all reply: Amen. Chrism from the Patriarch: Chrism is a combination of olive oil and spices that are cooked together so that they will not separate out and thus making a type of oily perfume. In the Old Testament Moses was commanded by God to make it and then use it for the dedication of the Tabernacle and the consecration of the priests (Exodus 30:22-33). In the Melkite Church it is made every several years by the Patriarch who then distributes it to the bishops who in turn give it to the priests. Thus the chrism used in the churches shows the unity of the parish with the bishop and the bishop with the Patriarch and Synod. Chrism is also used to dedicate churches and icons that are used in churches. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit: The purpose of the Chrismation of the newly baptized is that they may receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. These are given that the person may share in the life of God and show this in their actions. These gifts are also given so that the Church may be built up with each person contributing their part by fulfilling the special mission that God has given them in life.
The Eucharistic SynaxisThe Sacraments of Initiation are completed with the reception of the Holy Eucharist which is the Body and Blood of Christ. By receiving the Eucharist Christ enters us physically as well as spiritually. At the same time because there is only one Jesus, whom all receive, we are united together by Christ. Christ is the principle of unity of the Church dwelling in the hearts of all of the baptized. The Procession: The procession brings the newly baptized to the altar to receive the Eucharist. It is solemnized by several elements which deserve explanation. During the procession we sing: All of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, Alleluia (Galatians 3:27). This chant refers to the fact that by being baptized Christ lives in us and this is symbolized by the beautiful white garments that are worn. During the procession the sponsors, newly baptized and sometimes the entire congregation carry lit candles. These candles remind us that Christ is the Light of the World (John 8:12) and He now gives us light. They also remind us that we must be vigilant for the return of the Lord as were the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). The Epistle – Romans 6:3-11: Once we arrive in front of the iconostasis the Liturgy continues with the proclamation of the Word of God. We hear the Prokimenon and then the Epistle to the Romans. This reading reminds us that by baptism we join Christ in his death and burial that we may live for God. The cross destroyed the power of sin and by being baptized this victory is extended to us. We must now live for God and forget the old ways of sin and corruption. The Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20: After the Epistle we prepare for the Gospel with the usual ceremonies: Incense to purify us; lit candles to show Christ is the Light of the World and the singing of Alleluia (Praise the Lord) to welcome Christ who speaks to us in the Gospel reading. The lection used is the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus commands the Apostles to go into the whole world and preach and baptize. It must be noted here that the original Greek of this passage is frequently mistranslated. A better translation would be: Go, therefore and disciple all the nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit and by teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. One makes Disciples of Christ by baptizing and teaching, both are needed. Making disciples is not separate from these two actions as some people propose. Holy Communion: After the proclamation of the Word of God we receive Holy Communion either at the Divine Liturgy or from the Sacrament reserved from an earlier celebration of the Liturgy. The Bread and Wine are the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ. Christ is one Person now glorious in heaven thus when He comes to us we receive his Body and Blood and soul and divinity. He is one Person and not chopped up into bits. The change of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood takes place by the power of the Holy Spirit during the Anaphora. Christ is present all over the world and to each believer also by the power of the Holy Spirit. For this reason the Divine Liturgy is offered all over the world wherever Christians gather and not just in one place like the Jewish Temple. Christianity has sacred places where Christ lived or Saints are buried but the presence of Jesus is in no way limited to these places. A Liturgy in Boston is just as sacred as one in Rome or Jerusalem. The Divine Liturgy would be best at Christian Initiation: At the Divine Liturgy we hear the Word of God and then offer our gifts to God which includes our life. This self-offering is symbolized by the bringing of the bread and wine to the altar during the Great Entrance. During the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) the Holy Spirit turns these humble gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive from the pre-consecrated Gifts there is no offering on our part. At the full Liturgy we offer and then receive. For this reason it would be best if baptism preceded the Liturgy or was combined with it. This was the tradition of the Early Church for more than 1,000 years. Now it is gradually being restored. It is to be hoped that more and more people will realize the value of this apostolic tradition and willing agree to have their Christian Initiation ceremony be part of the Divine Liturgy.
The 8th Day RitesThe baptismal ceremony ends with several rites that were originally done on the 8th day after baptism which would be the following Sunday. They closed a whole week of celebration during which the newly baptized attended the Liturgy and received Holy Communion each day. This is vastly different from those people in today’s world who leave the church after the baptism ceremony and do not come back again until the next baptism in the family. The Washing: The priest washes the face of the newly baptized with a clean cloth, water and soap. This is to remove the chrism and olive oil. It has become the tradition that the god-mother would continue this process at home and wash the entire baby and dispose of the water on the grass and not in the sewer since it would contain the remnants of the sacred oils. The Tonsure: In some places the priest tonsures the baby. Tonsure is a ceremony by which the hair is cut on the four sides of the head to form a cross. This is a symbol of obedience and is performed on new monks and those receiving minor orders (lector and sub-deacon). When it comes to a newly baptized infant the hair is understood as an offering by the child to God in thanksgiving for the gifts of spiritual life and physical life.
ConclusionAll the ceremonies of our Church have a profound meaning and scriptural origins. By taking some time to learn about them we can participate better in them and come to a greater understanding of God’s gifts and mercy to us.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.
- 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).
- Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.
- Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.
- Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).
- Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.
by Fr. Philip Raczka
The Great IncensationBefore the Divine Liturgy starts the deacon or priest incenses the entire church beginning at the altar. Since the altar represents Christ he says a prayer to Christ while censing it: Being God You were present in the tomb with your body, in Hades with your soul, in Paradise with the Thief, on the throne with the Father and the Spirit filling all things but encompassed by none. Thus we see that the censing of the altar honors both the Holy Table and Jesus Christ. The deacon then continues censing the Prothesis Table where the bread and wine are prepared, the Iconostasis and the congregation while saying the penitential Psalm 50. This shows that the incensation is also seen as purification to begin the service. In the Latin Rite this purification is accomplished on Sundays by sprinkling the church with Holy Water. We desire that we be purified of all evil that we may praise and worship with clean hearts focused on God. Incense is mentioned in the Old Testament and has several meanings. Psalm 140:2 mentions that it represents our prayers rising to God. The Magi offered incense to the Christ Child because the burning of incense was a way to honor gods and kings and Jesus is indeed our King and God (Matthew 2:11). Incense is also a purification and sacrifice to God and was commanded to be offered in the Old Testament Temple every morning and evening. In Exodus God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush and led the people out of Egypt by a pillar of cloud (Exodus 3:2 & 13:21-22). When the Tabernacle in the wilderness was dedicated God came to it and filled it with smoke and the same happened when Solomon dedicated the First Temple (Exodus 40:34 & 1 Kings 8: 10-11). So a cloud reminds us that God is present with us and the incense creates a kind of cloud in the church. The smell of the incense cannot be seen yet is present. So too God cannot be seen but is present.
The Initial BlessingThe priest begins the Liturgy by proclaiming the Kingdom of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father made the universe through the Son and Holy Spirit. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father and was incarnate of the Virgin by the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and sanctifies and enlightens all the believers and draws the non-believers to come to Christ. We encounter the Trinity when we meditate on creation and experience salvation. This is why all of our prayers conclude with a doxology glorifying the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Church is God’s Kingdom in an incomplete form. It began with the resurrection of Christ and will be completed when He comes again in glory. In the meantime we have a foretaste of the Messianic Banquet in the Divine Liturgy and we are called to bring in new members to share in salvation and the life of God.
The Litany of PeaceThe most ancient location for the petitions of the people in the Divine Liturgy is after the Sermon. Acts tells us that St. Paul preached to the presbyters of Ephesus at Miletus and then knelt and prayed with them (Acts 20:17ff). In ancient Constantinople the Litany of Peace followed by a prayer was placed at the beginning of the Three Antiphons in order to begin the procession that use to inaugurate the Liturgy for the Clergy and laity of ancient Constantinople use to process each Sunday and Feast Day from the center of the city to the Cathedral during the Antiphons. When these processions were no longer held the second Litany of Peace which was after the Sermon was dropped and the one at the beginning of the Liturgy was kept. In I Timothy we are admonished to pray for everyone including those in the government (I Timothy 2: 1ff). Thus the Litany of Peace (which was originally after the sermon) is worldwide in scope. It is our duty as Christians to pray for all, not just for those whom we like or love. The petitions of the priest or deacon are not the prayer; they are only directions to the congregation of what they should pray for. The actual prayer is when everyone sings, Lord, have mercy. Since this response is the actual prayer, it behooves all present to sing this response with all of their heart and to focus their mind on the petitions that they may offer their intercessions to the Lord for the stated intentions.
The AntiphonsAn Antiphon is a Psalm chanted by the cantor with a response sung by the congregation. The First Antiphon always refers to the Theotokos; the Second to Christ and the Third response is the Troparion of the Sunday or the Feast. There are three antiphons to represent the three days that Christ was in the tomb thus pointing to the resurrection. Originally the Antiphons were sung while the clergy and people processed from the Forum to the cathedral. Later on these Antiphons became so popular that they were sung even when there was no procession as is the case today. For pastoral reasons today it is permitted to sing only one Antiphon so as to slightly abbreviate the Liturgy. The Psalm verses refer either to worshipping God or to the Feast being celebrated that day.
The Incarnation HymnThe Incarnation Hymn: Only Begotten Son and Word of God… is sung at every Liturgy except a Vespers-St Basil Liturgy (4 times per year). This hymn from the 6th century summarizes our principle beliefs in Christ focusing on his incarnation, death and resurrection and ascension. By these mysteries Christ saved us. He left Heaven and became a man through the power of the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin. Then later as an adult He laid down his life for us and died on the cross. On Easter He made his human nature immortal and rose from the tomb thus preparing for our future immortality and resurrection. The ancestor of this hymn is Philippians 2:6-11 which is an early Christian hymn that also mentions the incarnation, cross, resurrection and glorification of Christ. Such hymns about Christ go back to the beginning of Christianity and we are happy to continue this tradition of singing hymns about Christ.
The Little EntranceDuring the Little Entrance or first procession the deacon carries the Gospel Book around the church accompanied by candles, the cross, the fans and incense. Christ is present in the Gospel Book and to honor it is to honor Him. That is why we kiss it after it is read; we adore Him who just spoke to us. Because Christ is present He is accompanied by candles to show that He is the Light of the World. The cross is Christ’s standard or flag and the ripidia (fans) show that the angels worship Him. The incense shows that Jesus is King and God. The procession of the Gospel around the Church is a way for Christ to be with us and reminds us of how He walked around the Middle East preaching to the people and inviting them to enter the Kingdom of God. The normal Sunday Entrance Chant: Come let us worship and bow down before Christ is obviously an invitation to worship our Lord. On Feasts of Christ it is changed to reflect the occasion thus on Christmas we are told that Jesus is divine and on Ascension that He ascended etc.
The TropariaThe Troparion originated as the response to the Third Antiphon. It is always a poetic piece that refers to the Resurrection on Sundays and to the Feast on other days. To the initial Troparion we can add those of the Saint of the day, the patron Saint or Feast of the church and finally the last one is the Kondakion or concluding Troparion that refers to the Mother of God or the Feast. Some of these Kondakia were written by St Romanos the Melodist in the 6th century. The most famous one that he wrote is for Christmas: Today the Virgin gives birth… These Troparia tell us what we are observing that day. By singing about the Feast or Saint of the day we are celebrating and not just reading an announcement. When everyone sings these Troparia then all are joining in equally in the celebration. The Troparia were not originally intended as solo pieces to be sung by the cantor alone but by the entire congregation.
The Trisagion HymnOn most Sundays, after the Troparia and Kondakion, we sing the Trisagion - “Holy God, Holy Might One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.” This very popular hymn was first sung by the Byzantine Bishops at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. It quickly spread and is currently used by the Maronites, Syriacs, Armenians and Latins (only on Good Friday and in the Divine Mercy Chaplet) in addition to the Byzantine Churches. Following the teachings of St. John of Damascus we understand the hymn as an invocation to the most Holy Trinity. “Holy God” refers to the Father, the Source of the Divine Nature. “Holy Mighty One” refers to the Son, Who conquered sin and the Devil. “Holy Immortal One” refers to the Holy Spirit, Who is the Lord and Giver of Life. Because the hymn refers to the Holy Trinity we bow and make the sign of the cross during it. The Hymn is called Trisagion or “thrice holy” because the word “holy” appears three times, as in the worship of the angels before God in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6: 3). We normally sing it in English, Arabic and Greek following the directives of +Archbishop Joseph E. Tawil: Greek is the original language of the hymn, Arabic for our old country origins and English for this country. On several occasions we sing, All of you, who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ, Alleluia (Galatians 3:27). This hymn is sung on the original baptismal days of the Early Church: Christmas, Theophany, and Lazarus Saturday, Holy Saturday, Easter and Pentecost. It refers to the light of Christ that now covers us and that He lives in and through us. On those occasions when we venerate the Holy Cross (September 14, 3rd Sunday of Lent, and August 1) we sing, We bow in worship before your Cross, O Master, and we give praise to your holy Resurrection. This chant draws attention to the unity of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. There is no resurrection without the cross and Jesus’ story did not end with his death on Good Friday but continues with his resurrection on Pascha.
The Prokimenon and Psalms in the LiturgyThe Prokimenon, immediately before the Epistle, is a few verses of a Psalm that was originally the entire Psalm sung with the people chanting the refrain. Psalms are sung in the Liturgy because they are the original hymns of the early Church coming from Jewish worship. The early Saints called them the “Hymns of the Holy Spirit” because they are inspired by the Holy Spirit as is the entire Bible. Currently Psalm verses are used in the Divine Liturgy for the Antiphon verses, the Prokimenon, the Alleluia Psalm and the Kinonikon before Holy Communion. These various Psalm verses refer to the “theme” or feast of the day. On Sundays everything relates to the Resurrection of Christ. On great Feasts all of the Psalm verses express the meaning of the Feast being celebrated. On weekdays they refer to the Saint of the day, i.e. Tuesday in honor of St. John the Baptist and Thursdays in honor of St. Nicholas, etc. We use the Psalms in the Liturgy to glorify God and state our faith. They are also God’s word to us as well as our words to God. Let us be attentive to the message of the “Hymns of the Holy Spirit.”
The EpistleThe first biblical reading in the Divine Liturgy is the Epistle. “Epistle” means letter, so the “Epistle of St. Paul to N,” means the Letter of St. Paul to N. Normally the Epistle is an exhortation to lead a Christian moral life or an explanation of the meaning of Salvation in Christ. Starting with the day after Pentecost we begin to read Romans. We then continue reading the New Testament Epistles in order, completing their reading in the course of one year. On great Feasts the Epistle always refers to the Feast. During Great Lent we read Hebrews which speaks so eloquently of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. From Easter to Pentecost it is the universal custom in all of the Christian Churches since the 4th century to read the Acts of the Apostles. The Epistle is read by a layperson, going back to the usage of the Synagogue where any adult male was allowed to read the Scriptures. Because of the reading of the Epistle, St. Paul the Apostle and his theology is know and beloved by most Christians.
The Gospel CeremoniesAfter the Epistle is finished we start to sing Alleluia. Alleluia means literally praise Yahweh (God). It is sung with several psalm verses to express our joy at the presence of Christ in our midst through the reading of the Bible, especially the Gospel. During the Alleluia the priest recites a prayer that he may be worthy to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation. He or the deacon incenses the Gospel Book to honor it, and the congregation to purify them in preparation to hear the Gospel with sincerity. The servers hold lit candles to signify that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World (John 8: 12). The children come forward for the reading of the Gospel in memory of Christ saying, Let the little children come to me (Matthew 19: 14). In the Eastern Churches the Gospel Book is always treated with the greatest respect because Christ is present in it through his Word.
The GospelJesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). Because Our Lord does not change, neither do his words. He means them as much today as He did 2,000 years ago. For this reason we always listen to the Gospel with respect and attention and humble submission to the will of God. The priest or deacon chants the Gospel with a simple intonation to lend it solemnity and to aid in our memorization of it. By humming the eison we allow the Gospel to penetrate our whole being. We stand at attention because it is Jesus, not the priest or deacon, who is speaking. After the Gospel those standing nearby kiss the Book to render love and homage to Jesus Christ. The Gospel of St. John is read from Easter to Pentecost. St. Matthew is read from Pentecost Monday to the Feast of the Holy Cross on September 14. After the Feast of the Holy Cross St. Luke is read until the beginning of Great Lent. During Great Lent we read St. Mark and the Gospels of the Feasts always refer to the event being celebrated. Thus during the course of one year the four Gospels are read in their totality.
The SermonFollowing the reading of the Bible with the sermon goes back to Jesus Himself and the Apostles. St. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke in the Synagogue of Nazareth after the reading of the Prophet Isaiah (Luke 4: 16-30). St. Paul spoke in the Synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13: 15ff) after the reading of the Law and the Prophets. Having the Sermon in this location insures that its content will be related to the readings of the day and not be used as the private agenda of the preacher. Normally the sermon is a reflection on the Gospel and application of it to our life today. It is based on the fact that the Word of God is living and applies just as much today as it did when it was written many years ago. It is a great responsibility of the priest to preach to his congregation, he can only do so because of his ordination and the special grace of the Holy Spirit that he received at that time. The parishioners perform a great kindness for their priest when they pray for him and ask God to guide him in his labors, especially preaching.
The Ecumenic LitanyAfter the sermon there follows the Ecumenic Litany with its response of the triple, Lord, have mercy. This is the most ancient location for the prayers of the people in the Divine Liturgy. Acts tells us that St. Paul preached to the presbyters of Ephesus at Miletus and then knelt and prayed with them (Acts 20: 17ff). In I Timothy we are admonished to pray for everyone including the government (I Timothy 2: 1ff). Thus the Litany of Peace (which was originally also after the sermon) and the Ecumenic Litany are worldwide in their scope. There is a place for special petitions, but these are in addition to the regular ones. It is our duty as Christians to pray for all, not just for those whom we like or love. The petitions of the priest or deacon are not the prayer; they are only directions to the congregation of what they should pray for. The actual prayer is when everyone sings, Lord, have mercy. Since this response is the actual prayer, it behooves all present to sing this response with all of their heart and to focus their mind on the petitions that they may offer their intercessions to the Lord for the stated intentions. The Ecumenic Litany concludes the Liturgy of the Word or Bible.
The Great Entrance: The Cherubic HymnThe Great Entrance, or procession with the bread and wine to the altar, begins the Liturgy of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the second part of the Divine Liturgy. This procession parallels the Little Entrance, or procession with the Gospel Book, that commences the Liturgy of the Word or Bible. During the preparations for the procession and after it is completion we sing the Cherubic Hymn. This beautiful chant was first sung in our Liturgy in 574 AD. The Hymn focuses our attention on what is about to happen. During the Anaphora we will sing the Thrice Holy Hymn of the Angels (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth...) before the Throne of God (Isaiah 6: 3), thus we should put aside all of our earthly concerns that we may worship God and offer our sacrifice with all of our being. We then will receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. Jesus is the King of all, and wherever He is, the holy angels are there worshipping Him and escorting Him. Thus during the Liturgy the hosts of angels are present with us, and with us they glorify the King of the Universe.
The Great Entrance: CeremoniesWhile the people are singing the Cherubic Hymn the priest is preparing the Holy Table for the Eucharistic Sacrifice. First, he spreads the Antimension, which is a special cloth containing relics and blessed by the current Patriarch or diocesan bishop, on this cloth will be placed the chalice and discos. Then he says a prayer asking Christ to make him worthy to offer the Holy Oblation. He or the deacon then performs the small incensation, which consists of incensing the Holy Table, the icons of Christ and the Theotokos, the west and the people. This is done to prepare and purify the Altar and congregation for the offering of the Sacrifice. Before beginning the procession the priest bows to the congregation and asks them to forgive him. During the procession of the bread and wine the priests and deacons mention the various intentions of that particular Divine Liturgy. After the procession the chalice and discos are placed on the Antimension and covered with the great veil or aer. It is part of the uniqueness of the Byzantine Liturgy that the Great Entrance is more solemn than in other Rites. It is considered one of the most beautiful ceremonies of the Liturgy and often depicted in iconography.
The Kiss Of PeaceAfter the Great Entrance is completed, and the Bread and Wine have been placed upon the Altar, we continue our preparation for the Eucharistic Sacrifice with the Kiss of Peace. The Kiss is mentioned several times in the New Testament by St. Paul (I Corinthians 16: 20, Romans 16: 16, II Corinthians 13: 12 & I Thessalonians 5: 26) and St. Peter also mentions it as well (I Peter 5: 14). We see then that the Kiss of Peace is one of the original parts of the Liturgy going back to the apostolic times. It originated in the Jewish Synagogue as a sign of the brotherhood of all the believers. When we exchange it we are admitting that we are God’s family and brothers and sisters in Christ. Secondly it is a sign of reconciliation and forgiveness. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said: Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5: 23 & 24). Thus when we are about to offer the Holy Sacrifice we must be at peace with our fellow Christians. When the Kiss of Peace is given we say: Christ is with us! He is and always will be! By these simple phrases we express our faith in the presence of Christ in the believers and the whole Church. You should only give the Kiss of Peace to two or three people next to you. It is like a chain consisting of many links. It is not the purpose to run around the whole church and greet everyone. Rather by greeting only those who are next to us we show the brotherhood of the believers, since these persons will greet others as well. This also maintains decorum in the Church, again the purpose is not to greet everyone, but to show the brotherhood of the faithful and that we forgive each other.
The CreedAfter the Kiss of Peace and immediately before the Eucharistic Prayer (Anaphora), we say the Nicene Creed. This brief prayer expresses the essence of our Faith: That we believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the One God. It is in the name of this same God that we were baptized at the orders of Jesus Himself (Matthew 28: 19). Through Baptism God lives in us, therefore when we profess our faith we are doing so from experience. We know that God is Father because Christ has revealed Him as such. We know that Christ is true God and Man because the Holy Spirit reveals Him as such. We know that the Holy Spirit exists because His love and grace are in our hearts. We guard this reality with our whole being. If anyone comes and wishes to deny the Fatherhood of God, or the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, or the divinity of the Holy Spirit, they are denying our salvation and the Trinity that lives in our hearts. We know that this cannot be! We profess, with all of those who have gone before us that God does exist and lives in Heaven and with us! The Creed as we have it now was promulgated at the 1st Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and the 1st Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. Originally it was the Creed of Caesarea in Palestine, which the Holy Fathers took as being the best one in use and therefore made it universal for all Christians. It is used today by the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran Churches, which constitute the overwhelming majority of Christians in the World.
The Anaphora: Our SacrificeWe begin the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) with a dialogue between the priest and people that goes back to the origins of Christianity. First, we are called to attention: Let us stand well...to offer the holy oblation in peace. This sentence points out two truths, first the people offer the Sacrifice together with the priest. The priest leads his people in prayer, that is why he faces East with them. The priest stands at the head of his community, not over it. He cannot offer the Liturgy without the faithful being present. Second, the Liturgy is a Sacrifice. The Sacrifice is our gifts, our lives and above all Christ Himself on the Cross. It is not re-enacted, but rather we are present at the original event through the power of the Holy Spirit. This Sacrificial nature of the Liturgy is expressed in the words that we use: Quran for the bread means sacrifice; the Maronites call the Liturgy the Qorbono which means sacrifice, and the Latin word Host means sacrificial victim. The people answer: A mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise. This phrase acknowledges that Christ made peace with the Father for us by his death on the Cross (Romans 5: 1). We also offer our praises and our very lives as a sacrifice to God along with Christ. This sacrificial nature of the offering is confirmed in the Words of Institution. When Christ said: This is my Body... This is my Blood (Matthew 26: 26-28); He was using the same words that a 1st century Jew used when he presented a sacrificial lamb in the Temple. The difference of course being that Christ presented not a lamb, but Himself as the Sacrifice (Hebrews 9: 12). This supreme Sacrifice is made present at each Holy and Divine Liturgy.
The Anaphora: We praise God with the AngelsAlmost every church member knows by heart the Angelic Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth... These words of the Angels found in the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6: 3) become ours as we praise God for his majesty and all of his Gifts to us. The greatest Gift that God the Father ever gave us was Jesus Christ and the work of Salvation that He accomplished. The Salvation that we have received from Jesus Christ is the main reason that we come together to praise and worship God. In the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) the work of Christ is the main theme. We glorify God with the Angelic Hosts because we have experienced Salvation through Baptism and our Christian Life. We look forward to when the Lord will come again and perfect the Kingdom. In the meantime, we continue to glorify and praise Him. Where ever Christ is present - He is present in church through the various modes of the Icons, Gospel, priest, Holy Communion and in the hearts of the faithful according to the Second Vatican Council - the Angels are there to worship Him. So the icons of the Angels in our church are expressing the spiritual reality of their presence with us as we glorify God together. In the Liturgy the Church on earth and the Church in Heaven are united before the throne of God in praise and worship.
The Anaphora: the role of the Holy SpiritJesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1: 35), and He offered Himself on the Cross to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). Likewise during the Anaphora, when the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, this is also the work of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the great spiritual insights of the Eastern Churches to recognize the operation and presence of the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation. This theological insight is clearly expressed in the Anaphora when the priest asks the Father to send down your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered, and make this bread the precious Body of your Christ. This happens after the people sing, we praise You, we bless You... We believe that our Heavenly Father always answers this petition because in St. Luke’s Gospel Jesus said: If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11: 13)? We further believe that all of the Sacraments are likewise accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why we use passive formulas for them, i.e. The servant of God is baptized... because it is Christ Who is the true Priest, and the Holy Spirit is the true Agent of action in church. We are able to eat the Bread from Heaven (John 6: 33) because the Holy Spirit placed Christ in the womb of the Virgin, and that same Holy Spirit changes our simple bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Anaphora of the Divine and Holy Liturgy.
The Litany before the Lord’s PrayerThe Litany before the Lord’s Prayer consists of two different Litanies. To the first we answer, Lord, have mercy, and to the second we respond, Grant this, O Lord. The first Litany prays for the renewal of the grace of Pentecost. We ask God the Father to send us the grace of the Holy Spirit because He has received our Sacrifice (Christ) on the Heavenly Altar. The Sacred Body and Blood are the Vehicle of this grace because the human nature of Christ is anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit due to His baptism (Mark 1: 10). In the second Litany we ask God for a peaceful and sinless life. We ask for an Angel of Peace (guardian angel) to help us in staying free from sin, and we ask for God’s forgiveness of our sins. The priest’s prayer at the end of the Litany ties both litanies together by asking God to make us worthy of receiving Holy Communion for the purpose of having our sins forgiven and communion in the Holy Spirit. This Pneumatological emphasis on the Body and Blood of Christ is part of our unique understanding of the meaning of Holy Communion as Byzantine Melkites.
The Lord’s PrayerThe Lord’s Prayer is inserted at this point in the Divine Liturgy in order to be a collective prayer in preparation for Holy Communion. The early Saints of the Church understood daily bread as including not only the food for our bodies, but for our souls as well. The sacred Body and Blood of Christ nourish both our soul and body in preparation for eternal life. Jesus said quite plainly in St. John’s Gospel, I am the Bread of Life (John 6: 35). He also said, I am the living Bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this Bread will live forever; and the Bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world (John 6: 51). There is also an early Christian translation of the Lord’s Prayer that rendered daily bread as divine bread. So during the Lord’s Prayer we pray together that we may receive Holy Communion and that the fullness of the Lord’s Kingdom will come. Our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ is already a foretaste of the Messianic Banquet in the Age to Come (Revelations Chaps. 19-22).
The Prayer after the Our FatherThis is the second presbyteral prayer in preparation for Holy Communion. It is perhaps the most ancient prepatory prayer, even predating St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 AD). This prayer is important because it mentions that Jesus goes forth from the church with us. When we receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ become part of our own body by being digested and absorbed into our system. Christ truly becomes physically part of us as well as spiritually part of us. Thus, He leaves the Church with us to be with us in whatever we may do or need. Therefore, we ask Him to protect us as we travel and heal us if we are sick. St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 110 AD) calls Holy Communion the Medicine of Immortality echoing the words of Christ in St. John’s Gospel, Whoever eats this Bread will live forever (John 6: 58). The Holy Fathers even said that when Jesus comes back to raise our bodies from the dead, He will do so looking for His own Body which has become part of us in Holy Communion.
The Rite of Holy Communion: The Fraction of the BreadWhen the priest says, Holy Things to the Holy, the Rite of the reception of Holy Communion begins. The first action that he performs is to break the Lamb (short for Lamb of God) into four pieces. This Lamb is a large piece of Bread with a Cross imprinted on it and the Greek words for: Jesus Christ Conquers (IC XC NIKA). This symbol is often found several places in a church including the altar. One piece of the Lamb is placed in the chalice, the priest receives the second for Holy Communion, and the other two are used for the other clergy or the congregation. This act of breaking the Lamb goes back to the early Church when one large loaf of bread was used for the Liturgy. This loaf was not cut ahead of time, but broken apart by the deacons at Communion time. Now we cut the bread at the Prothesis before the Liturgy starts, only the Lamb is now broken. The bread from which the particles are cut is usually only one loaf, if possible, and placed on only one discos, if possible. This is done to show the unity of the Church. St. Paul says: The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf (I Corinthians 10:16 & 17). Our Byzantine way of preparing the bread for Holy Communion is much closer to the early Church than that of the Western Church which uses round hosts that were never part of the same loaf of bread. If possible only one chalice is used for the Liturgy also, again to show the unity of the Church. If more chalices are needed they are limited in number and frequently the sacred Blood is only poured into them from one large chalice at this time.
The Rite of Holy Communion: The Prepatory PrayersAfter the singing of the Kinonikon, which is a Psalm verse (Praise the Lord… in honor of the resurrection of Christ), everyone says together the Prayers before Holy Communion. These prayers were originally said only by the clergy. They started to be said by the laity first in the Slavic Byzantine Churches, and since 1968 they have been said by the laity in the Melkite Church as well. The first prayer, I believe Lord and profess... tells us how to approach Holy Communion. First, we must believe that Christ is the Son of the Living God and He is our Savior. In this we echo the faith of St. Peter (Matthew 16:16). Second, we admit that we are sinners, just as St. Paul did (I Timothy 1:15). Third, we profess that the Bread and Wine are truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ as He stated at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-30). Finally, we admit that only God can make us worthy to receive Holy Communion. To partake of the Body and Blood of Christ is a great gift and mercy from God. We never can be worthy to receive it on our own merit.
The Rite of Holy Communion: Receiving the Body and Blood of ChristMelkites receive Holy Communion by the priest dipping the sacred Body in the chalice. This is called intinction. We have only done it this way for about 120 years. Previously, the sacred Body was placed in the chalice and the priest used a spoon to communicate the faithful, as is still done in the Slavic Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Intinction was first used in Aleppo, Syria due to a plague. It was remarked that more people approached to receive Holy Communion with the new method, so other Eparchies followed their example. It is good to note that the movement for frequent reception of Holy Communion started in the Melkite Church about 20 years before it started in Latin Church with Pope Saint Pius X. Also, as Melkite Catholics we always receive both the Bread and Wine, and not just the Bread as is frequently the case in the Western Churches. Christ instituted the Sacrament in two parts, bread and wine, not just one or the other. Normally during Holy Communion we sing the hymn, Make me this day... This piece comes from the Holy Thursday Vespers-Liturgy, and was first introduced there in 573 AD. It restates the themes of the Communion Prayers that we discussed previously, but in a more poetic fashion. It also poignantly recalls the cry of the Good Thief, Remember me in your kingdom (Luke 23:42). This simple phrase once again reminds us that we are utterly dependent upon the mercy of God to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Litany and Prayer of Thanksgiving After CommunionThe word Mystery is very important in our prayers. It reminds us that what is taking place in the Liturgy defies human logic. Also, that it takes place by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, which also defies human reasoning. In the Thanksgiving Litany and Prayer after Holy Communion this term is used reminding us that we have done something and received Someone (Christ) because of the power and mercy of God. We just received the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Why Christ would be willing to give Himself to us is beyond our comprehension, yet He does it. How his human Body can be present in churches all over the world at the same time is explained only by referring to the ineffable power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, we acknowledge that only God made us worthy to partake of this great Mystery. In the face of all of this wonder, that bursts the bonds of our limited understanding, we can only thank and praise the Lord for his great love and mercy for us.
The Ambon PrayerO Lord who bless those who bless You... in this prayer, originally read from the middle of the church, the priest invokes the blessing of God first upon the Church and then upon the whole world. We ask God to safeguard the fullness of the Church; we do not want to lose church members or the truths of salvation. We remember those who love the beauty of the house of God because it takes money and work to build and maintain the edifices that we use for our various church activities. We ask for peace for the Church and the whole world. When we use this word peace in the Church, we understand first of all not the absence of hostilities, but the peace of soul from Christ. Peace is a gift of Christ (John 14:27), and therefore can only come from Him. Indeed we spend the entire Liturgy mentioning this peace. In peace let us pray to the Lord... Peace be to all. Let us go forth in peace. When the Liturgy ends it is our job to bring the peace of Christ into the world around us. May we do so with His help.
The DismissalThere are several blessings that end the prayers of the Liturgy. Originally these blessings were reserved for the servers and singers after the people received the antidoron. The kissing of the Cross and receiving the Blessed Bread (Antidoron) is very important. The people approach the priest to receive a personal blessing by kissing the Cross. This custom of the personal blessing goes back to Jesus. After the Feeding of the Five Thousand the Gospel tells us that Jesus dismissed the crowd while the Apostles left in a boat (Matthew 14:22). This seems to refer to a personal blessing for those present, and not just a general one for all. Jesus also dismissed the crowds in the Feeding of the Four Thousand (Matthew 15: 39). More important the Gospel tells us that Jesus laid his hands on the children and prayed, and then went away (Matthew 19: 13-15). So it seems that giving a personal blessing to the members of the congregation as they leave goes back to the Lord. In our Church it gives the priest a chance to personally greet and bless his flock. The Antidoron is a remnant of the ancient Agapé or Love Feast of the Church. We all share the Sacred Meal of the Body of Christ together, and then we share together the beginning of our earthly meal by sharing in bread that has received a simple blessing. One of the realities of Christian Life is that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. By sharing this bread together at the end of the Liturgy we show that we are God’s Family.
ConclusionWhen we leave the church we do so to bring Christ, who is in our hearts, into a world that needs Him desperately. This is our evangelical mission. If you do not have the words to speak to others about Christ let Him shine through to others by your love, good works and peace of mind.
- 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).
- Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.
The Episcopate and the Roman Curia
This memorandum was presented at the February 1962 meeting of the Central Commission. In an analysis of the schema "On the Relations between the Bishops and the Congregations of the Roman Curia," the patriarch established the theological foundations of decentralization.
This schema could be entitled "On Decentralization in the Church." It states the desire to recognize broader powers for the bishops and at the same time limit the competences, which we believe are too broad, of the dicasteries (offices, congregations, tribunals, etc.) of the Roman Curia.
I. The least felicitous part of this schema, it seems to us, is its preamble. Certain doctrines are insinuated in it that seem to us to be at the very least debatable.
1. Thus, after affirming in the first paragraph that the episcopate stems immediately from Christ, the preamble continues: "Jurisdictio particularis, quam singuli Episcopi vi officio pastoralis in suas dioeceses exercent, a Romano Pontifice, tanquam ex causa proxima, est derivanda" (The particular jurisdiction which the individual bishops, by the power of their pastoral office, exercise in their dioceses, must be derived from the Roman pontiff, as if from the immediate cause).
First of all, this theory, which makes the Roman pontiff the immediate source of the pastoral power in their dioceses, is in no sense a dogma. It is not even a necessary consequence of a dogma, since the Roman primacy does not necessarily determine that the pope be the source of all episcopal power in a specific diocese. Inasmuch as the bishops are by divine right the successors of the Apostles, they receive their power over a specific diocese through the authority that presided over their election or nomination.
In the West, for many centuries but not always, no bishop has been nominated except through the definitive intervention of the Roman pontiff. Thus the proponents of the theory that prevails in the preamble have been able to find a certain basis in this fortuitous canonical custom. In the East, however, it is unanimously agreed that the bishops were neither named nor confirmed by the popes. This was recognized not only by Eastern Christians but also by the popes themselves, who, in classical Christian antiquity before the great separations, never asserted that the designation of the bishops or their investiture depended solely on them, either explicitly or implicitly. What, then, is the basis for the theory which the preamble sets forth?
It is true that this theory is currently called a "common doctrine." We would prefer to call it a "current theory." However, in our opinion, not only is this theory not defined, but it is very debatable, to say the least. It is therefore not appropriate to insinuate it as a doctrine peaceably accepted by everyone, because it is heavy with consequences for a dialogue between the East and the West. We see it as one of the ever-growing number of theories popularized by certain modern theologians and canonists in order to exalt papal power at all costs, to the detriment of the power of the bishops. Besides, the preamble finds no document to support this theory other than a reference to the canonists Wernz-Vidal. We believe that this is not sufficient and that nothing in the authentic tradition of the Fathers could be found to support such an extreme theory. It is better, therefore, to remain in the traditional line of the dogma defined by the First Vatican Council: the Roman pontiff has a direct power over each of the pastors and the faithful. But it does not logically follow from this that he is the ultimate and exclusive source of all power in the Church.
2. Furthermore, the preamble states that the Roman pontiff, by reason of his right of primacy "jurisdictionem episcopalem plus minusve amplificare vel restringere potest" (He is able to widen or restrict the episcopal power to a greater or lesser degree). Asserted in this way without any nuances, this proposition is not correct. It is true that in view of the common good, the synods, the patriarchs, and the popes can, up to a certain point, limit the exercise of the power of the bishops in order to better coordinate their pastoral activity. It is also true that the pope can reserve for himself as many "major causes" as the common good of the Church demands. But it is false to insinuate, as the preamble does, that the limits of episcopal power depend unconditionally on the will of the pope who can widen them or restrict them arbitrarily. This would make the bishops simply legal representatives of the pope, having no attributes except those that the pope cares to give them. Such insinuations are very serious.
3. Then, the preamble gives the reasons why the popes have reserved for themselves certain "major causes." We must say that the extensive extension of these "major causes" has been the principal reason for the excessive Roman centralization about which the Catholic world is now complaining almost unanimously. Before a "major cause" can be reserved to the pope, there must be assurance that this reservation is demanded by the higher good of the Holy Church, and not by the human desire to "centralize." All power has a natural tendency to monopolize as many prerogatives as possible at the expense of the powers of others. The trend toward centralization that for certain fortuitous historical reasons has dominated the Roman organizations for centuries must now give way to a trend toward decentralization, for the greatest good of the Catholic Church and of the Roman organizations themselves.
4. Finally, the preamble, in response to the almost unanimous hopes of prelates and Catholic universities, proposes that broader faculties be granted to the bishops. On this subject we take the liberty to point out that the power of the bishops must not be conceived as the aggregate of the faculties that are granted to them by the pope. A bishop in his diocese should have all the powers necessary for his apostolic ministry, certain cases being reserved to the synods, to his patriarch or metropolitan, or to the pope. It is not a question of giving the bishops powers they would not already have; it is a question rather of enumerating the cases that are believed to be reserved to supra-episcopal authority for the common good.
Therefore, instead of drawing up a list of faculties, whether quinquennial or other, there is need to pinpoint more precisely a list of reservations that are truly "major causes," while limiting them considerably. It is not a question of giving more to the bishops; the need is to take less away from them. This change in perspective is of the greatest importance.
II. Turning now to the details of the measures taken to decentralize the Church, we make the following comments:
1. The schema proposes that certain more important "faculties" be reserved to the nuncios and apostolic delegates. It seems to us that this is not expedient, for it would contribute still more to having these representatives of the Holy See considered as super-bishops. Now this falsifies the true notion of the episcopacy. Either the "faculty" in question can be left to the bishop, or else, if it is a very serious matter involving the general good of the Church, the bishop must have recourse to the supreme authority. But the representatives of the Holy See must not be made into viceroys of sorts, commanding "prefects" (bishops) guided from afar by central organizations. This does not seem to us to be the authentic concept of the Church.
2. Once again we propose the elimination of the "secrecy of the Holy Office" which might open the way to abuses, just as we also propose the reform of the Holy Office itself, which must be reorganized in such a way as to avoid the numerous complaints that are justifiably being leveled against it from all sides, even if one does not always dare to say so because of the climate of fear that the Holy Office has created in the Church.
3. Among the proposed reforms should be added the internationalization of the Roman Curia. At least seventy-five percent of the central government of the Church and the external representation of the Holy See is in fact reserved today to Italians who are tempted to consider the Holy See a little like a family patrimony, a source of advantage and an opportunity for a career. An internationalization of the curia would broaden the horizons of the central government, permit a wider choice of personnel, lead to a salutary renewal in ideas, and make the Church appear as truly and effectively catholic. There is still too much nationalist chauvinism in the Roman Curia. We hold no brief against the Italians, whose beautiful human qualities on the contrary we esteem, but we must affirm that they are not the whole Catholic Church and therefore must not have a monopoly on it. These are things that everyone thinks deep in their hearts and about which there is talk in small committees, but concerning which unfortunately few of the ecclesiastical leaders dare express their opinions openly, in order to avoid the annoyances and trouble that it might cause them. As for us, we owe it to our conscience, to God, and to the Church to be very frank on this point as well as on all others, even at the risk of displeasing persons who are most dear to us.
The comments that we have just made on this schema are of a very serious nature. If certain theologians insist on applying to the papacy ideas that do not adequately conform to dogma, and if there is a militant effort to have them accepted, we run the great risk of seeing this council fail lamentably from the point of view of Christian unity. Far more, we would have definitively created an insurmountable obstacle to union between the Eastern Church and the Western Church. This is enough to make every soul that loves our Lord and who wishes to accomplish his divine desire for unity tremble with fear.
For a "Synod of Bishops" around the Pope
This is one of the most important interventions of Patriarch Maximos IV. It took place on November 6, 1963, at the end of the sixty-first General Congregation. Received with applause, it was to encounter strong opposition in certain quarters. We know that ultimately the pope constituted around himself a "Synod of Bishops," an eloquent sign of episcopal collegiality in the central administration of the Church.
Chapter I of this schema on "The Bishops and the Government of the Dioceses" envisions, around the supreme pontiff and to help him in his primatial ministry with respect to the universal Church, only the congregations, the tribunals, and the offices which in their totality form what has come to be called the "Roman Curia." In No. 5, it is true, our text proposes a small and timid reform, envisioning the possibility of inviting bishops from the entire world to take part in the dicasteries of the Roman Curia in the role of members or counselors.
It seems to me that this way of limiting to the Roman Curia the collaboration of the Catholic episcopate in the central government of the Church corresponds neither to the real needs of the Church of our time nor to the collegial responsibility of the episcopate with respect to the Church.
Likewise, may I be allowed to propose a new solution, which appears to me to meet more fully the needs of our time and to agree with sound theological principles: Peter with the Apostles, that is the pope with the episcopal body.
The pope is the Bishop of Rome, the Primate of Italy, and the Patriarch of the West. Yet these roles are secondary although real—by comparison with his universal primacy. Such being the case, it follows that when the pope governs the universal Church, he associates to himself, to share his responsibility, the college of bishops which succeeds the college of the Apostles, and not the priests, deacons, and other clerics of the Diocese of Rome.
The particular court of Rome, which belongs specifically to the Diocese of Rome, must not take the place of the college of the Apostles living in their successors the bishops. It is therefore the duty of this holy council to use the means necessary to bring to light this truth beclouded by an age-old practice wrapped in ever-deepening shadows, to the point where many, even among us, have come to think of the situation as being normal, even though it is something else. With the present court of the pope it is difficult for those who are outside the Catholic Church and for some who are in it to see the ecumenical stance of the Church, and they see instead the particularism of a particular Church to which men, time, and favorable circumstances have given a considerable human and temporal increment of grandeur, power, and wealth. The very fact of assigning the cardinals to particular churches in Rome clearly shows that the cardinals belong to the particular Church of Rome, and not to the universal Church of Christ.
It goes without saying that all the bishops of the world cannot be constantly assembled in council. This concrete responsibility of helping the pope in the general government of the Church must devolve upon a small group of bishops representing their colleagues. This is the group that could form the true holy college of the universal Church. It would consist of the principal bishops of the Church. These would be first of all the residential and apostolic patriarchs, as recognized by the ecumenical councils of the first centuries; then the cardinal-archbishops as a prerogative of their cathedral and not of a Roman parish; and finally there would be bishops chosen in the episcopal conferences of every country. The last suggestion should be studied in order to be made perfectly clear. This universal holy college could be convoked by the pope at certain fixed times and when the need is felt to debate the general concerns of the Church.
Yet, of course, that is not enough. There would be a need to have constantly in Rome what the Eastern Church calls the "synodos endimousa," that is to say, a few members of this apostolic and universal holy college succeeding one another so as to be at the side of the pope, their leader, who always has the last word by primatial right. That is where the supreme council of the Church, the "suprema," would be, the executive and decisive supreme council of the universal church. All the Roman bureaus must be submissive to it. This suprema will have its special rules concerning its constitution. It will make Christ shine out over the entire world, especially the pagan world. Since it will not be closed in on itself, it will not even think of wishing to monopolize everything, regulate everything, dominate everything in a uniform and sometimes petty way. It will understand that the problem of peoples must be settled by themselves or with them but never without them.
To sum up, we say that the Holy Father cannot, any more than anyone else in the world, whoever he or she may be, govern with his confidants an institution as large as the universal Church in which the best interests of Christianity in the whole world are at stake. And all this is in conformity with the Gospel, for while the Church has been entrusted in a special way to Peter and to his successors, it has also been entrusted to the Apostles and their successors. And if this government is entrusted to nonconstitutional persons, such as confidants and the local clergy, the general good would not be served and real disasters could ensue. History gives us examples of this.
In our time, these truths of a theological, constitutional, and practical order take on an aspect of urgency and gravity.
In the lands of the Mediterranean civilization of the ancient Roman Empire of the East and the West, or in lands that have sprung up from it, things might work out for an indeterminate time if we are content to grant great powers to the episcopal conferences, which, after all, are a modern form of the historical patriarchates. However, in the countries with great agglomerations of peoples like China and India, lands of great and ancient civilizations that have nothing in common with Mediterranean civilization, something more is needed and it must be found with the help of Christianity itself. The same can be said of the African Churches, which are so rich in their dynamism.
This will involve a great and fundamental effort so that these Churches may feel at home with respect to their language, mentality, ways, and customs. They must feel that Christianity is not foreign to them, that it can become the soul of their soul. These peoples should also enjoy a greater internal autonomy than that of the Mediterranean lands, while preserving the necessary link at the highest level with the See of Peter. Only what is essential to the constitution of the Church should be imposed on them, as was decided by the first council at Jerusalem in the early days with respect to the Gentiles. After so much very meritorious work, dedication, expense, and sacrifice, can we say that Christianity has won the hearts of these lands? However, this must be achieved.
Is up to the new holy college to elucidate these great problems and to give them the solution they require, with the help of prayer, study, time, and the necessary prudence. The members of the holy college, coming from all parts of the world and thus having an ecumenical mentality, will be in a position to bring this work to a successful conclusion and to endow the Church with an organization capable of leading all peoples to Catholic unity.
Seeing that the Holy Spirit, through the intermediary of Pope John XXIII of holy memory, inspired the holding of this council to bring about openness and dialogue on the part of the Church with the entire world, and seeing that after his death, the Holy Spirit inspired the choice of our Holy Father Paul VI to continue and organize this divine work, it is because He is still in His Church to guide and vivify it. "Send forth your Spirit and He will renew the face of the earth."
First of all, here is a memorandum presented by Patriarch Maximos at the meeting of February 1962 of the Central Commission. It is dated February 9, 1962. It comments on the draft of a schema "On the Meetings or Conferences of Bishops."
I approve the schema as a whole. The idea of encouraging episcopal conferences on the national level coincides with one of the concerns of the Eastern Catholic Churches: the restoration in Catholicism of the idea and the exercise of episcopal collegiality. The Church is not made up of individuals directly linked to the head, or even of bishops directly and exclusively subject to the pope. The Church is an organic body, constituted not of individual cells and of a head, but of organs, diversely constituted, diversely grouped, and with diverse functions. The bishops are not responsible only for their respective dioceses. Collegially they are also responsible for the Church of their country and for the universal Church.
However, I feel that I must make the following observations on the text of the schema that is presented to us:
1. In the East, episcopal conferences or synods must be viewed overall on a twofold level: first, synods of one specific Church or rite, then synods of the entire Catholic episcopate independently of rites. The former, namely the synods, generally extend beyond the borders of one nation. The latter can usefully be confined to a specific nation. It would be good likewise to look forward to inter-ritual patriarchal synods for the East.
2. The decisions of these episcopal conferences, it is said, have no juridical value. Actually, I don't see why these conferences that assemble the entire episcopate of a country would not be able to make decisions that are binding, as long as they are not contrary to the common law of the Church. When these conferences are held annually or frequently, synods or plenary councils will be rather rare. Why then, not grant these conferences the juridical strength that the decisions of the plenary councils have, especially since constitutionally there is no difference between the episcopal conferences and the plenary councils?
3. It is said that if in these episcopal conferences a question requires a juridical solution there must be recourse to the Holy See and they must abide by its decision. It seems to me that the plenary assembly of the bishops of a whole nation unquestionably possesses a legislative power. It would be desirable to recognize that the synods of bishops, even in the Latin Church, possess a genuine power in the Church, without requiring that their decisions have binding power only through recourse to the Holy See. What one bishop can do in his diocese where he possesses legislative power, as is recognized by No. 4 of this paragraph, all bishops of a country can do collegially for all their dioceses. Papal confirmation has been necessary only according to recent ecclesiastical law. In the past, even in the West, provincial or regional synods were held and made decisions having the power of law for the province or region, without anyone believing it necessary to have a confirmation by the Roman pontiff. It would wise to step back a bit and recognize in the bishops, whether individually or collegially, the powers that the authentic tradition of the Church admits that they have. This contributes to the decentralization that is necessary in the Church.
4. The schema envisions episcopal conferences only at the national level. Today international conferences are increasing in number. Why would the Catholic Church be the last to profit from the benefits of these international gatherings? Episcopal congresses or conferences on the regional or continental level would be useful.
On the same subject of the episcopal conferences, here is the text of the intervention at the Council on November 15, 1963, by Archishop Elias Zoghby, Patriarchal Vicar for Egypt and the Sudan
I sum up my intervention on the subject of the episcopal conferences in the four following considerations, some of which have ecumenical importance.
1. The Roman Church was involved with the Orthodox East through ten centuries of union, during which it not only recognized its collegial and synodal system, but even lived this system, in common with the traditional or apostolic Churches of the East.
Indeed, apart from the great ecumenical councils that assembled the episcopates of the East and the West, the Roman Church exchanged with the traditional or apostolic Churches of the East synodal letters that dealt with problems concerning both the local Churches and the universal Church.
In our own era, when the Catholic Church is striving to become more accessible to communion with the Orthodox East and is preparing for ecumenical dialogue, the Second Vatican Council cannot propose to the Churches of the East any ecclesiastical system other than the synodal system, i.e., the system of active and effective episcopal conferences. To speak of purely consultative conferences is to condemn all dialogue to failure beforehand.
2. The synods or episcopal conferences in the Eastern Catholic Churches have been stripped of all real power to the advantage of the Roman dicasteries, and especially of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church. In order to realize this, it is sufficient to consult the new code of Eastern canon law. This congregation actually assumes the role of a pseudo-patriarchate.
It is true that the six patriarchs have been named adjunct members of the Congregation for the Eastern Church, which already has some thirty members, all of them cardinals. This solution is neither efficacious, nor honorable, nor ecumenical.
To make the patriarchs, who are the presidents de iure of their own synods, inferior members, numerically in the minority, in a congregation responsible for the affairs of their own patriarchates is in fact to condemn the synodal system.
In the place of this congregation there should be an organization whose members would be delegates of the episcopal synods or conferences of the Churches of the Eastern rite.
3. The bishops are the pastors and have primary responsibility for Catholic action and for the entire lay apostolate. Now, this apostolate is no longer circumscribed within the limits of specific parishes or dioceses. It is organized on a national or worldwide scale. Only the collective power of the episcopate will enable it to exercise its pastoral function at the level of the national or universal organizations of the lay apostolate which the bishops must control and direct.
4. In this hall the specter of danger of nationalism has been raised in opposition to collegiality and to episcopal conferences with jurisdiction.
Now, we live in an era when nationalism, as long as it is not exclusive and dedicated to centralization, no longer constitutes an obstacle to the general welfare, but is rather a principle of enrichment for the whole of human society.
Indeed, while young nations are rising and attaining liberty, we see international organizations arise with greater prestige than ever, in which all peoples participate on an equal basis.
Can churchmen be less generous and less open-minded than statesmen?
Episcopal "Faculties" or Pontifical "Reservations"?
The patriarch discussed this question in a memorandum presented at the meeting of the Central Commission in May, 1962.
In my opinion, there should be no question in the Catholic Church of "faculties conceded to the bishops," permanently or for a specific time, since the bishop has in his own Church by divine right all the powers necessary to rule his flock, without any limitation. However, when there is a higher interest, certain powers are reserved to the metropolitan, to the patriarch, to the synod, or to the Roman pontiff. We should speak of "reservations" rather than "faculties." In other words, we must not draw up a list of "faculties" but a list of "reservations." Moreover, these reservations must be limited to serious cases in which the general interest of the Church requires that the bishop not use his rightful power. But to reserve to the Holy See the blessing of stations of the cross or permission for those in cloisters to leave their enclosure to go to the dentist, and then to cede the "faculty" for this to the ordinaries is a manifest abuse. If the bishop cannot by his own right bless stations of the cross, what else can he do? We have started from the false principle that the Holy See has all the powers and that it alone has them; it then cedes their use, sometimes and as it chooses, to the bishops, as a favor. This concept, never formally stated but applied in practice, is inadmissible.
We even suggest that the future Eastern canon law, even if it is worked out in Rome in the interest of greater uniformity, be promulgated not by the Holy See but by the highest authority of each Eastern Church. The consequence of its promulgation by the Holy See is that every dispensation, even the most minimal, is reserved to the Holy See. If this canon law is promulgated by the highest local authority, there will be no need to have recourse to the Holy See for dispensations in very trivial matters. Only certain serious cases of general interest will be reserved to the Holy See.
A memorandum presented by Patriarch Maximos at the session of the Preparatory Commission in February, 1962. It deals with the problem of "personal dioceses" for Eastern emigrants.
In general I approve this schema "de Episcopis et dioecesium regimine" (on bishops and the administration of dioceses) presented by the commission. I take the liberty, however, of making the following comments:
1. Article I sets out to define what a diocese is. Very felicitously, it stresses that the diocese is a Church in the particular sense of the word, entrusted to a bishop, who is a successor of the Apostles, to govern it, and it adds: "sub Romani Pontificis auctoritate" (under the authority of the Roman pontiff). We think that this definition should be amplified by saying: "sub Romani Pontificis auctoritate aliorumque qui, iure ecclesiastico, potestate supra-episcopali gaudent" (under the authority of the Roman pontiff or of others who by ecclesiastical right, enjoy supra-episcopal power), such as patriarchs, archbishops, metropolitans, etc. In fact, it is not correct to present the pope as being the only one to have supra-episcopal power in the Church. Other hierarchs likewise enjoy this power, but only by ecclesiastical right.
2. Paragraph 6 recommends that an episcopal commission in each nation have the responsibility of proposing to the Holy See the fixing of boundaries of dioceses. We know that changes in the boundaries of dioceses are not reserved directly to the Holy See in Eastern law. It is therefore also necessary to amend the text of the schema as follows: "Sanctae Sedi vel aliae auctoritati competenti ad normam iuris proponat" (Let it propose it to the Holy See or to another competent authority according to the precepts of the law.)
3. The same comment applies to Paragraph 8, which deals with the union of two dioceses that are "equal in importance." Inasmuch as this matter is not directly reserved to the Holy See in Eastern law, the text of the schema must be amended as follows: "nisi Sedes Apostolica vel alia competens auctoritas ad normam iuris aliter decreverit" (unless the Apostolic See or another competent authority according to the precepts of the law should decree otherwise).
4. Article 12 envisions the creation in each country of a commission of bishops with the responsibility of proposing to the Holy See all the necessary mutations in the boundaries of the dioceses, allowing the rights of the Eastern Church to remain unchanged. We think that even for the Latin Church the formation of such a commission is inopportune. We propose that this work be the responsibility of the national episcopal conference itself. It is useless to create new organizations.
5. Paragraph 13 envisions the possibility of creating personal dioceses for the faithful of a different rite. Yet the terms that it uses appear to us inadequate because they are either too weak or too elastic: "erigi poterunt" (they could be erected). This paragraph must be harmonized with an article already presented by the Commission of the Eastern Churches in which it is said that whenever the number of the faithful of another rite is sufficient and the welfare of souls requires it, the maintenance and development of the Eastern rites must be provided for by the creation of personal dioceses.
The Latin Church has divided up the entire world in such a way that there is not a single parcel of land that is not subject to a Latin jurisdiction. Even in places where there is only one Eastern Catholic jurisdiction, a Latin jurisdiction has been created for the benefit of the Latins, thus doubling the local Catholic hierarchy. By contrast, even for tens of thousands of Eastern Catholics, the Latin hierarchy of certain countries still refuses to allow a personal diocese of the Eastern rite to be created by the Holy See, under the pretext that it wishes to remain alone and free in its movements on its own territory. The modern history of the Eastern Catholic Churches also offers many examples of such discriminatory measures that unjustly affect Eastern Catholics, especially in India and in America.
We think that the Council, by using more categorical terms, must request the creation of these personal dioceses of the Eastern rite whenever the number of the faithful permits it and the welfare of souls requires it, so that the long-standing opposition of certain territorial bishops may at last be seen by them to be prejudicial to the good of the Church. In the countries of emigration our Orthodox brethren have their own hierarchy, organize themselves, and develop. We, on the contrary, because we are Catholic, see ourselves deprived of a hierarchy, which not only places us in a state of inferiority by comparison with the Orthodox, but also prevents us from assuring the spiritual service of our faithful and the effective oversight of our priests. This results in a veritable confusion in our parishes of the diaspora, and as a consequence the loss of our children in many localities.
Internationalization of the Roman Curia
In its "Comments on the schemas of the Council" (1963), the Holy Synod proposed the practical means of internationalizing the Roman Curia. The comment is made on the subject of a paragraph of the schema "On the Bishops and the Government of Dioceses."
The schema proposes that certain members of the episcopate, designated by the episcopal conferences of each country, be named members or consultors of the Roman congregations. This, it is hoped, will accomplish the internationalization of the Roman Curia, which is so strongly desired. We believe that this measure is not sufficient. To accomplish this internationalization we think that the following measures must be taken:
1. Have the courage to face reality clearly: the Catholic Church, in its central administration, is not very universal, not very international. More than ninety percent of the representative staff of the Holy See consists of Italians: at the Roman Curia the percentage must not be much lower. The same holds true of the Roman universities as a whole. How can we prevent anyone from thinking that the administration of the Catholic Church is de facto monopolized by the Italian nation, which, for that matter, is extremely venerable and obliging? A thousand reasons will be given to justify this state of things. Yet, are these authentic reasons, valid before God, or self-interested pretexts? If the Council does not remedy this situation, the reforms it plans to accomplish in the Church will not be complete. Whether we like it or not, we are faced with an abnormal situation, which can perhaps be explained by the historical evolution of pontifical power, but which is no longer justifiable.
2. In order that the bishops of the entire world be appointed members of the Roman congregations, current canon law, according to which only cardinals can be members of a Roman Congregation, must be changed. Even recently, His Holiness Pope John XXIII, favorably accepting a suggestion that we had made to him, wished to introduce the Eastern patriarchs into the "plenary" assemblies of the Eastern congregation. It seems that in order not to contravene canon law it was considered adequate to give the patriarchs the title of ''adjunct-members'': a useless insult to the patriarchs whom the Holy Father intended to honor.
3. The practice of the Roman congregations, which holds that the members be neither convoked nor regularly consulted, must also be changed. If, in fact, one of them is temporarily in Rome, and if by chance a "plenary" is held during that time, he is permitted to attend. But no file is sent to him ahead of time to study. In reality, to be a member of a Roman congregation, for those members who live outside Rome, is a purely honorary title. As a matter of fact, this has been the case for the Eastern patriarchs who have been appointed "adjunct-members" of the Eastern Congregation. L'Osservatore Romano and other newspapers have outdone themselves in pointing out this gesture of "special benevolence" by the Holy See for the Eastern patriarchs. In fact, since they were named, the patriarchs have never been convoked; they have never received a file to study; they have never been asked for their opinion. That is how the most generous reforming intentions are neutralized by the routine of administration.
4. In actual fact, the most important questions must be reserved for the deliberations of all the members and not be settled by the Cardinal Prefect or the Secretary, with at most one or two officials of his department.
Naturally, the text of the schema is not opposed to these reforms, but it does not require them. It is content to make theoretical assertions, but it would be good for it to go into a few details on this point.
One would also like to see provision made for a sort of supreme council around the pope, composed of the Eastern patriarchs (as incumbents of the great apostolic sees of Christendom), the cardinals, and even the primates (under whatever title they are called) of all the Churches (for example, the presidents of the national episcopal conferences).
Reform of the Holy Office
The Holy Synod, in its "Comments on the Schemas of the Council" (1963) asked for the reform of the Roman Curia in general and of the Holy Office in particular.
In our opinion, the Council owes it to itself to provide the fundamental principles of a reform of the Roman Curia. The faithful will be shocked to see the Council begin the reform of dioceses, of parishes, of religious institutions, of associations of the faithful, etc., and not touch on the reform of the organizations of the Roman administration. More than one will think that this indicates the premeditated intention to avoid all reform of the curia, whereas this reform, according to the universal view of popes, bishops, and the faithful is necessary for the good of the Church.
The reform of all dicasteries of the Roman Curia requires detailed studies which are more within the province of the post-Conciliar commission. The council should merely order the reform and indicate its broad outlines.
Reform is especially necessary in what concerns the "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office." With respect to this congregation there is something like a conspiracy of silence: a respectful silence perhaps, but above all a silence of fear. We think that on the contrary, through love of the Church and of the Holy See, the Fathers of the Council should speak out, always respectfully but frankly and courageously, for God will hold them accountable for having seen the evil, of complaining about it in secret, and not denouncing it. We shall simply say what we think. But others than ourselves have certainly much more to say.
Every physical or moral body owes it to itself to possess a structure capable of defending itself against ailments. Likewise, the Catholic Church must have within its bosom an effective structure to defend the faith and sound morals. The necessity of a congregation "De Fide et Moribus" is therefore not called into question. Yet between such an organization and a "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office" with its current form and procedures, there is a difference, and what a difference!
Thus a reform of the Holy Office is indispensable. Here are the reforms that, in our opinion, are the most urgent ones:
1. First of all, the spirit that dominates at the Holy Office must be changed. This spirit does not seem to us to be the spirit of Christ and of His holy Gospel. From its origins, the Holy Office has inherited an absolutism of thought and procedures that was inherent in the customs of the time, but that our contemporaries, with good right, can no longer tolerate. The spirit of Christ is a spirit of non-violence, of charity with respect to those who sin or who involuntarily go astray, a spirit of humble search for the truth, of graciousness, service, openness, forgiveness, etc. The members of the Holy Office can be, and we believe are in fact holy persons who individually possess all these qualities. However, as a body, they do not act according to the spirit of Christ. As a result, they give the faithful and others a false idea of Christianity. The Christian virtues must be practiced, not only individually but also collectively, in a body.
2. In particular, what shocks our contemporaries is this self-assurance that the Holy Office displays in every domain, dogmatic as well as moral, political, artistic, etc., so that in its view everything is clear, evident, and certain. The Holy Office acts as if it were endowed with infallibility.
3. It is also necessary that the Holy Office no longer remain above the Law. Its public legislation must be widely known. In legislating on procedure, the Code begins by excepting the Holy Office (can. 1555, #1), which would have its own particular norms, which would remain secret. The procedure of the Holy Office must cease to give the impression of being left to the arbitrariness of the members of this congregation.
4. The Holy Office must also have a clearly-defined jurisdiction. Under the pretext of safeguarding faith and morals, it must not take care of everything. In fact, the entire discipline and the entire administration, and in the last analysis everything in the Church stems in a certain respect from faith. The Holy Office has been seen to meddle in the liturgy, the apostolate, politics, art, nominations, everything, under cover of faith and morals, for example, when it sought to prohibit priests of the Byzantine rite from using the vernacular language in the liturgy or to forbid an Eastern bishop from exercising the apostolate with regard to certain non-Christians of his diocese in order to reserve it for Latin authority of the same diocese.
5. Likewise, it must never happen that a sentence handed down in the first instance by the Holy Office be final. When the Holy Office pronounces on appeal, it is normal that its sentence be final, but when it pronounces in the first instance, an appeal must be assured.
6. Moreover, no sentence of the Holy Office must be handed down without the interested party's having knowledge of the grievances imputed to him and very ample means available to him for defending himself.
7. The system of "secret accusation," tolerated if not encouraged by the Holy Office, must be eliminated. The accusers must be severely punished. Except in very rare and very serious cases, such accusing, even when it is not false, harms the Church by creating an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, and terror.
8. No member of the laity, and especially no ecclesiastic, must be judged and condemned by the Holy Office except after his hierarchic leader has been heard. That is ordinary common sense.
9. The Holy Office must no longer condemn ex informata conscientia, by arrogating omnipotent and absolute power over consciences. Justice, and even simple decency, condemns such a method.
10. We must put an end to this terror of the "Secretum Sancti Officii" (under the secrecy of the Holy Office), which forbids speaking under pain of very serious censures or which imposes commands that are sometimes repugnant to the conscience. Such for example would be the case when the Holy Office directs a bishop "sub secreto Sancti Officii" to take a stern measure against a priest while making the priest believe that this measure comes from his bishop and not from the Holy Office. Such procedures are repugnant to the natural conscience and create mistrust in the Church. It is even immoral.
In a word, the Holy Office can no longer live in the Middle Ages. The Inquisition of Torquemada is over. The Holy Office, which inherited its spirit, must also come to an end in its present form and with the procedures that it still uses, in order to give way to a normal Congregation "De Fide et Moribus" (On Faith and Morals).
We for our part acknowledge that throughout our life we have never heard anything but complaints, and often very bitter ones, concerning the Holy Office. Yet very few are those who dare to raise their voices. We have done so, and we shall do it again, because we deem that our patriarchal and episcopal duty demands that we speak out openly but also with respect for the venerable members of this congregation.
Ecclesiastical Censures and the Holy Office
A memorandum presented by Patriarch Maximos at the May 1962 meeting of the Central Commission concerning two schemas on ecclesiastical penalties that will not be retained in the future.
I completely approve of this schema which has introduced into the penal administration of the Church some indispensable guarantees of justice. It was a point of weakness in the procedures of the Church to commit the accused to the prudent judgement of the ordinary. Certainly, the ordinaries must have our trust, but trust must also be inspired in the accused, and he should not be given reason to believe that the Church refuses him the guarantees of defense and equity that all the tribunals of the free world today now provide. On this point the Church law was still manifesting the customs of the Middle Ages.
And yet the tribunal that, in the Church, is most seriously accused of not observing these formal guarantees of justice will still escape, according to the schema, this absolutely indispensable reform. I speak of the Holy Office, which Canon Law still dispenses from these rules of common procedure.
We do not doubt the virtue and good intentions of the members of the Holy Office, but that is not the question. What is at stake is whether the Church will continue to tolerate in the mid-20th century that the Holy Office will continue to proceed like the Holy Inquisition of the Middle Ages, for example by condemning someone ex informata conscientia, without having heard him, without giving him the opportunity to defend himself, and by reserving for itself the rights to inflict penalties not provided by law and to follow an unknown procedure. Such ways of acting degrade the Church in the eyes of unbelievers, and of believers as well. They embitter Catholics. They give the Holy Office an exaggerated power in the Church, to the point of sometimes allowing it to neutralize the wishes of the supreme pontiff. They humiliate the Catholic hierarchy. They surround this organization, which should be only a simple dicastery of the Roman Curia like the others, with a reputation for shadowy terror, something that is most contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. The Holy Office must defend faith and morals, but by evangelical means, not by the means, mitigated it is true, of the Holy Inquisition of the Middle Ages, and, in any case, with the formal and external guarantees of justice that all tribunals of the free world approve.
For all these reasons, we ask that the Holy Office be obliged to observe the common procedures of the Church and not constitute an exceptional tribunal either as to jurisdiction, procedure, or penalties. For the honor of the Church, a radical reform is absolutely indispensable.
I approve all the simplifications in the penal law accomplished by this schema. I would even wish for greater simplification. Ecclesiastical penalties are most often vestiges of a past medieval society. It is enough to have ten or so censures or penalties for really serious cases, intended to avoid scandal and to put an end to contumacy.
The censure foreseen for No. 16 (censure latae sententiae reserved for the Holy See against clerics or religious who become guilty of moral offenses with minors under the age of 16) should not be introduced, in our opinion. First of all, the statement of such an offense in conciliar acts does not befit the honor of the Church and the dignity of the clergy. Besides, there is no need to inflict a censure on this sin. Inasmuch as it is concerned with clerics or religious, the evil of the sin, in itself, should suffice to deter them from such a shameful offense. Finally, and above all, it is not fitting that the censure be reserved for the Holy See. This would be interpreted as an indirect means used by the Holy See to dominate consciences. It suffices that confessors warn their penitents of their serious duty, under certain circumstances, to denounce their accomplice to the ordinary who will take the appropriate measures, since he knows the circumstances of place and persons. Generally speaking, the custom of informing, even if anonymous, must not be introduced into the Church. In fact, if informing to the Holy See is anonymous, it has little usefulness; if it reveals the name of the guilty party it transforms the Holy See into a bureau of police investigation, which is odious.
Restoring the Free Election of Bishops in the Eastern Church
This is a post-conciliar memorandum written by the patriarch in Damascus on April 9, 1965. In its "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches," the Council had decided to restore to the patriarchs together with their synods the right to freely elect, without need of pontifical confirmation, the bishops of their rite within the limits of the patriarchal territory. However, when, after the Council, it was necessary to exercise this right, difficulties arose. This memorandum had to be written in order to defend the decision of the Council.
1. Nothing in Holy Scripture or in the Tradition of the Fathers reserves to the Roman pontiff the election or confirmation of bishops in the entire world.
In the East, after the variety of customs in the first three centuries, the designation of bishops was always carried out by way of an election in a provincial synod, presided over by the metropolitan, by the patriarchal synod, presided over by patriarch, or by any other synod possessing internal canonical autocephaly.
This in no way denies the right of the supreme pontiff to intervene by directly naming a bishop. However, this intervention is only sporadic, motivated by extraordinary urgent circumstances or by the supreme interest of the universal Church. Apart from these cases, the supreme pontiff respects the normal functioning of the institutions of the East that reserve to the holy synod the free election of bishops.
Once the Eastern bishops have been elected in a synod, they do not need, according to authentic Eastern law, to be confirmed by the supreme pontiff.
Never during the thousand years that the union of the East and the West endured did the Bishop of Rome intervene to confirm the election of an Eastern bishop.
Even in the West, it was only very recently that the nomination or confirmation of bishops was reserved to the Roman pontiffs. This is an evident proof that there is question here of a reservation of a purely disciplinary nature, not demanded by Catholic dogma. Now, in a purely disciplinary matter, not only is evolution accepted, but also divergence between the East and the West must be accepted. On this question of the designation of bishops, the East does not impose its discipline on the West. Conversely, neither must the West impose its discipline on the East.
2. Unfortunately, it has happened that when segments of the Eastern Churches united with Rome during the last few centuries, the West did impose its own discipline on them in this matter. Whether due to ignorance of the institutions of the East or to an erroneous conviction that this was a point of doctrine, the fact is that little by little the various Eastern Catholic Churches have been compelled in this matter of the designation of bishops to follow measures that have been progressively restrictive of their internal canonical autonomy, even when the right to freely elect their bishops was not completely taken from them and reserved entirely to the Roman pontiff.
The Eastern Catholic Churches allowed this to be done to them. It did not even occur to them that they could do anything else, since their hierarchs were for the most part imbued with the theories of the Counter-Reformation, according to which all power in the Church issues from the pope and no bishop can be received into the college of the successors of the Apostles unless he is directly named or at least confirmed by the pope.
In this general atmosphere of submissiveness amid the forgetfulness of the authentic discipline of the East, which is more ancient on this point than the discipline of the West, the Melkite Church and the Maronite Church refused to allow themselves to be latinized. The Melkite Synod, presided over by the patriarch, has always proceeded freely in the election of bishops without being held to any previous authorization or confirmation by the Holy See of Rome. Out of deference to the supreme pontiff, the patriarch simply transmitted to Rome, purely by way of information, the name of the elected bishop. Thus Rome knew that there was a new bishop in the Melkite Church and could deal with him. It was in no sense a request for confirmation, but simply the transmission of information. The name of the bishop was not cited by the pope in consistory, and he received no bull of nomination or confirmation.
It was only under Benedict XV that the Eastern Congregation took the initiative on its own to publish in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, when learning of a new bishop elected among the Melkites or the Maronites, that the Holy Father "ratam habuit" this election. This does not mean that he "ratified" it, but that he simply "recognized it as valid." On the other hand, with respect to the other communities subject to a latinizing discipline that demanded the confirmation of the pope (the Armenians, the Copts, the Syrians, and the Chaldeans), the Acta said that the pope "electionem confirmavit" (confirmed the election). (Cf. on this question A. Coussa, "Epitome praeelectionum de jure ecclesiastico orientali," Vol. I, Rome, 1948, No. 296, pp. 297-8.) As for the communities that had no patriarch, such as the Ukrainians, the Ruthenians, the Romanians, the Malabarese, etc., Rome named the bishops directly.
3. This last vestige of internal canonical autonomy, this last trace of authentic Eastern discipline miraculously preserved by the Melkite Church and the Maronite Church, was destroyed by Pope Pius XII.
Under his orders, the Sacred Eastern Congregation, by a letter of December 15, 1951 (No. 389-51), addressed to all the heads of the Eastern Churches, made obligatory the part of the proposed codification of Eastern law which concerns the elections of bishops. This new discipline went into effect immediately, but it was to remain secret by the order of the pope. It was to be made public by the publication of the Motu Proprio "Cleri sanctitati" of June 2, 1957. We have energetically protested against these measures, but in vain.
The most serious aspect of this new discipline is the obligation, henceforth unlimited and extended to all the Eastern Churches, including the Melkite Church and the Maronite Church, to receive from the Holy See either the confirmation of bishops elected or else the prior approbation of lists of those under consideration for elevation to the episcopacy, to be renewed every six months. In each alternative, there is the same obvious and serious infraction of authentic Eastern discipline.
More serious still is the principle adopted for legitimizing this restriction of the freedom of election of bishops. According to the letter of the Sacred Eastern Congregation mentioned above, it is "the intention to provide that these promotions to the episcopal dignity more perfectly reflect the fundamental principles of doctrine..."
This allusion in turn reflects not Catholic doctrine but a certain theory, very much honored in certain quarters, notably the Roman, according to which Catholic dogma requires that no bishop be designated except by the pope, directly or indirectly. This is the theory that inspired the first draft of the schema "De Ecclesia," still completely imbued with the above-mentioned theory. This draft said in substance that no bishop is received into the apostolic college except through the direct or indirect intervention of the pope. The Melkite representative and also the late Cardinal Acacius Coussa demonstrated to the Central Commission, where this first draft was submitted for discussion, how lacking this theory was in scriptural, patristic, and historical foundation. It projected on the universal Church what was simply a fortuitous disciplinary and rather recent custom of the Western patriarchate alone, while elevating it to the level of a theological doctrine.
In the face of these criticisms and others that came later, this theory was abandoned, and a new draft was adopted by the Theological Commission that respects the truth of revelation and of history.
This new draft, with slight modifications, found a place in the dogmatic constitution "On the Church," approved by the Council on November 21, 1964, which says the following in the last paragraph of No. 24:
"The canonical mission of bishops can come about:
-by legitimate customs which have not been revoked by the supreme and universal authority of the Church,
-or by laws made or recognized by the same authority,
-or directly through the successor of Peter himself. If the latter refuses or denies apostolic communion, a bishop cannot assume office."
Of the three possibilities envisioned by this text, the third is the one that suits the Latin Church, in which the pope directly names all bishops; the second has been applied to those Eastern Catholic Churches upon which a so-called "Eastern" legislation has been imposed in this matter, which is really only a stage of latinization. Only first possibility constitutes the true and authentic law of the East, in which bishops are elected by the Holy Synod, by virtue of legitimate customs and of a conciliar law that should not be revoked.
4. In other words, the transitory law that is the latinizing legislation of the motu proprio "Cleri Sanctitati" must be replaced by an authentically Eastern law. On this point, as on so many others, the authentic Eastern law must be restored.
a. This is absolutely necessary if we wish to enter into discussions with Orthodoxy with a view to union. Orthodoxy will never accept union if it knows that its bishops will be nominated or confirmed by Rome, as are the Latin bishops.
b. The Latin Church must not absorb the Eastern Churches. We must be Catholic, but not necessarily Latin. In everything that does not concern dogma and the necessary communion with the successor of Peter, it is necessary to recognize the broadest disciplinary autonomy of the Eastern Churches.
c. One must have confidence in the synods of bishops. The candidate whom they will elect is better known and judged by a group of 15 or 20 bishops assembled in synod than by a "minutante" or by another functionary of the Roman Curia, who necessarily judges on the basis of reports that are not always truthful. In our own time especially, the episcopate is demonstrating great maturity of judgment, and we believe that no pernicious influence could make it deviate from its course.
d. It is necessary to avoid the shame of having to receive approbation of lists of those qualified to become bishops and of having the approbation renewed every six months. Likewise, it is necessary to avoid the shame of electing a bishop in synod, and then waiting at least one month until Rome has studied his file, as if the judgment of the bishops assembled in synod had no value compared with the judgment of a "minutante" of the Roman court. Meanwhile the Catholic episcopate is the laughing-stock of Orthodox Christians.
e. The council, aware of these difficulties, has made serious decisions that radically remedy the situation and must now be put into practice.
Referring to the Eastern patriarchs, the Council in its "Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches" sets forth in No. 9 three governing principles that absolutely require a radical recasting of the "latinizing" legislation in force until now.
The first principle: "This sacred Synod, therefore, decrees that their rights and privileges should be re-established in accord with the ancient traditions of each Church and the decrees of the ecumenical Synods."
Now, it is evident, absolutely evident, that the free election of bishops is one of the moat authentic and most serious prerogatives of the Eastern patriarchs with their synods, according to the ancient traditions of the Eastern Churches and the decisions of the ecumenical councils.
The second principle specifies how we are to understand this restoration and what are these rights and privileges to be restored. It says: "The rights and privileges in question are those which flourished when the East and West were in union, though they should be somewhat adapted to modern conditions."
Therefore this restoration must be accomplished not according to a hybrid and latinizing law conceived by the Roman Curia, but according to the authentic Eastern law as it was applied during the thousand years of union between the East and the West. Now, during the time of union, never, absolutely never, would it have come to anyone's mind that the bishops of the East must be elected or confirmed by Rome. Those who think otherwise are ignorant of the elements of history. It is all the more true in that even until the twentieth century, and more precisely until the end of 1951, no Melkite bishop ever needed confirmation by Rome.
It is true that this authentic Eastern law can and sometimes must be "somewhat adapted to modern conditions." But these modern conditions in no way require, quite to the contrary, that the Eastern bishops be confirmed by Rome.
The third principle removes all doubt about this matter, since it considers our case in particular. It says: "The patriarchs with their synods constitute the superior authority for all affairs of the patriarchate, including the right to establish new eparchies and to nominate bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."
According to this conciliar text, the patriarchs with their synods are normally the superior authority for all the business of their patriarchates, including the right to name the bishops of their rite within the patriarchal territory. This could not be stated more clearly. The pope can certainly intervene whenever he so wishes, but if he does not intervene for reasons of exceptional gravity in which the general welfare of the Church is at stake, the nomination of bishops, as well as all the other business of the patriarchate, is under the jurisdiction of the patriarch with his synod.
5. The three principles naturally call for a complete recasting of the current Eastern codification in the direction of greater internal canonical autonomy, but this work will no doubt require several years.
Meanwhile, one must conclude that through these principles the Council virtually abrogates the directly contrary restrictive provisions of the motu proprio "Cleri sanctitati," in particular Canons 253 and 254, that require the confirmation the confirmation by Rome of elected candidates or the prior approbation of lists of those being considered as potential bishops.
6. Practical conclusion
In order to avoid any doubt as to interpretation, and while awaiting the recasting of Eastern canon law, we humbly suggest that the Holy Father, as an application of the decrees of the council, abrogate or suspend the effect of the two above-cited canons by declaring that the Eastern patriarchs with their synods can freely proceed to the election the consecration and the installation of the bishops of their rites within the limits of the patriarchal territory.
This point, which is of very great importance, is, as it were, the touchstone which will indicate the sincere determination of the central administration to apply the reforming decisions of the Council in accordance with the spirit of the Council.
Indeed, the decisions of the Second Vatican Council approved and promulgated by Pope Paul VI must not remain dead letters, in the state of futile solemn declarations but never applied, as happened with all those that were proclaimed by Leo XIII and a few other popes but never put into force by their central administration. For the honor of the Roman Church, these decisions of the Second Vatican Council must be put into practice.
The Oriental Congregation had expressed interest in gathering the opinions of the Eastern patriarchs on the practical way of applying Article 9 of the conciliar "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches." Patriarch Maximos again assembled his Synod in Beirut on January 11, 1966. The Synod proposed to Rome a procedure which would allow the Holy See of Rome to intervene on occasion if the good of the Church required it, and allow the Eastern Churches to exercise their prerogative of free election.
The patriarch, as of January 18, 1966, transmitted to His Eminence Gustave Cardinal Testa, Pro-Prefect of the Oriental Congregation, the deliberations of the Holy Synod.
Following up on my letter of November 27th last, relating to the practical procedure proposed by Your Eminence for applying Article 9 of the Conciliar Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, I hasten to inform Your Eminence that I convoked the Synod of our Bishops on Tuesday, the eleventh of this month, in Beirut. Seventeen bishops were able to attend; five excused themselves from coming for reasons of health or work...
The Fathers asked me to transmit their response to you in writing the following text:
1. The Synod, by law as well as in conscience, must hold to Article 9 of the Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, restoring to the said Churches their full freedom in episcopal elections that they enjoyed previously. That is why the Synod does not wish to give an opinion in what concerns the procedure of the elections that could be interpreted as if we were renouncing a right that the council has recognized that we have.
2. Inasmuch as the patriarch is obliged by reason of his function to consult before proposing the candidacy of anyone for episcopal election, it is natural that he consult the Holy See of Rome, on condition, however, that this consultation not be considered as a renunciation of our rights or as the recognition of a new right of others.
3. The procedure of consultation indicated below must be considered not as an obligatory juridical norm to be inserted in the Codex, but as a practical measure of the pastoral order.
Here, then, is the practical procedure of consultation before the election:
a. The patriarch writes to the Holy See of Rome to present to it at the opportune time a list of names of priests who seem to him deserving of being candidates in future episcopal elections.
b. This presentation of names does not have as its purpose to obtain approval or confirmation of future candidates. However, its purpose is to provide information that enables the Roman pontiff to intervene in each election if he judges it appropriate, as the Second Vatican Council says (Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, 9).
c. The list presented by the patriarch can be increased by new names, or reduced, according to the circumstances of times and persons and the needs of the Church.
d. The names on this list that have been formally vetoed by the Holy See of Rome will be the objects of explanation or definitively excluded. The other names can be presented to the electoral Synod, as candidates for episcopal election.
As soon as they are elected, they can, without other prior notice, be proclaimed bishops.
e. However, out of deference to the Holy See of Rome, the first notification shall be made to the pope through the intermediary of his representative in the locality.
In transmitting this response of the Holy Synod, I am certain that Your Eminence will understand the underlying reasons why our Church wishes to retain the freedom of elections restored by the Council, and at the same time benefit from the authoritative opinions of the Holy See of Rome. I believe that the proposed procedure allows Rome to exercise its right and allows our Church to exercise its prerogatives...
Meanwhile, the patriarch learned that the post-conciliar Central Commission, as of January 31, 1966, had given Article 9 of the conciliar "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches" an interpretation contrary to the text and spirit of the decree. The patriarch convoked his Synod once again, at Ain-Traz on April 25 and 29, 1966. On April 30 he wrote an urgent letter to the Holy Father, begging him to please defer the publication of this interpretation. The Holy Father in fact suspended the effect of this interpretation. In a second letter dated May 11, 1966, the patriarch transmitted to the Holy Father the reasons why he, together with his Synod, believed that the interpretation of the post-conciliar commission was inadmissible. He accompanied his letter with an explanatory memorandum; the full text follows:
Memorandum on the Interpretation of No. 9, sentence 4, of the Conciliar Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches I The Context
The fourth sentence of No. 9 of the conciliar "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches" states the following:
"The patriarchs with their synods constitute the superior authority for all affairs of the patriarchate, including the right to establish new eparchies and to nominate bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."
In order to understand this text it is advisable first of all to place it in its context. Several interventions of the conciliar Fathers stressed that in the current discipline of the Catholic Church the authentic rights of the Eastern patriarchs were greatly reduced. This appeared to be an obstacle to ecumenical dialogue with Orthodoxy, in which the patriarchal dignity is held in high esteem. That is why the Eastern Commission submitted to the Council, which approved them, a series of measures intended to restore the dignity and the powers of the Eastern patriarchs.
After explicitly affirming in the first sentence of this No. 9 that "the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches are to be accorded exceptional respect," the second sentence goes further and says: "This sacred Synod, therefore, decrees that their rights and privileges should be re-established in accord with the ancient traditions of each Church and the decrees of the ecumenical Synods." Thus, the Council presumes that at the present time, according to the discipline in force (in particular, the discipline of the motu proprio "Cleri sanctitati"), the patriarchs are deprived of at least certain of their rights and privileges and the Council decides that they must be given back to them. Therefore, if the pre-conciliar law of the motu proprio is maintained as such, the Council, which decided to restore the rights and privileges of the Eastern patriarchs, is not being obeyed.
In order to make for still greater clarity, the third sentence indicates in what direction this restoration must be made. The Council says: "The rights and privileges in question are those which flourished when the East and West were in union, though they should be somewhat adapted to modern conditions." The Council therefore commands that the inspiration for the restoration of the rights and privileges of the patriarchs be drawn not from the recent law of the motu proprio of Pius XII, or even from the recent synods of the communities united with Rome, which have often introduced a very shocking hybrid law, but from the classical and authentic Eastern law such as it was practiced during the millennium of union between the East and the West. It is the Council's thought, therefore, that we must pass over a certain recent period of legislation and return to the ancient law. It is not in accordance with the thinking of the Council to refer constantly to the motu proprio of Pius XII and cling to it as to an immutable law. The interpretation of the conciliar texts on this matter need not culminate in the confirmation of pre-conciliar legislation. If that were to happen, the Council would have accomplished nothing. There was no need to assemble a Council in order to confirm, purely and simply, the status quo ante.
To conclude, the Council approved, in the fourth sentence, an important application of the principles of restoration that it had just set forth. The fourth sentence is intended to return to the patriarchs with their synods a certain internal canonical autonomy insofar as it is reconcilable with the recognition of the dogma of Roman supremacy. We must not allow ourselves to be impressed by the expression of opinion that has indeed been used at the Council by eminent orators, such as Cardinal Francis Koenig himself. There is no question of autonomy in the sense of independence vis-a-vis Rome or of autocephaly such as the Orthodox understand it. It is a question of recognizing the right of the Eastern Churches to govern themselves internally, with full recognition of the prerogatives of Roman primacy, without being obliged to have recourse, constantly and often for administrative details, to previous authorizations and to subsequent confirmations by the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as is the practice today, according to the current law in which the patriarch cannot even give a celebret to a priest who is going to America for two or three months without obtaining an authorization from Rome, etc.
The Council has sought to react against this state of affairs and to liberate the patriarchs from these administrative servitudes by recognizing their right, as in former days of union, to govern their patriarchates as leaders of particular Churches, conscious of their duties and responsible for their apostolic mission, not as executive agents of the Sacred Eastern Congregation. This does not mean that Roman primacy and the exercise of that primacy are denied. However, from the fact that the pope can intervene in all ecclesiastical matters, even the smallest, it does not follow that he must intervene in all matters and that no measure can be taken without his consent or his confirmation.
The East was closely united with Rome before the great rupture of the eleventh century and fully recognized Roman primacy. However, it governed itself freely, while the pope retained the right to intervene when he deemed it advisable for the good of the Church; and in fact he did intervene, more or less frequently, according to the gravity of the cases.
It is this perfectly Catholic state of affairs, during the millennium of union between the East and the West, that the Council intends to give as the model for the future codification of the Eastern Canon Law when it pronounces the following principle contained in the fourth sentence of No. 9: "The patriarchs with their synods constitute the superior authority for all affairs of the patriarchate, including the right to establish new eparchies and to nominate bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."
Before passing to the commentary on this text, it is perhaps appropriate to recall that this text is henceforth a conciliar text. Whether it please certain persons or not, whether it has been presented by the Melkites or by others, whether it has been bitterly debated at the Eastern Commission or not, it belongs from now on to the incontestable heritage of the universal Church. Those who were formerly opposed to it at the preparatory stage should not be authorized today to raise doubts about it or to cleverly empty it of its efficacy by the devious means of all sorts of interpretations that do not respect its original meaning.
II. What Does This Text Grant to the Patriarchs with Their Synods?
The council is deciding that "for all the affairs of the patriarchate" without exception "the patriarchs with their synods constitute the superior authority."
The affairs that the patriarchate deals with are many and unlimited: the discipline of the clergy and of the faithful, seminaries, the apostolate, etc. No exception is made.
In all these affairs, the patriarchs, alone or with their respective synods, according to the determinations of positive law, constitute the "superior authority." The term "supreme" is not used, in order to respect the "more superior" or "supreme" authority of the Holy See of Rome. And yet, the Council says that normally all the affairs of the patriarchate are under the authority of the patriarch with his synod. This is the obvious meaning of the Council's statement. In accordance with this principle it will therefore be necessary to review completely current legislation which takes an infinite number of affairs of the patriarchate away from the patriarchs with their synods. The council has chosen to set bounds to these countless limitations on the rights of the patriarchs, in order to restore it to the situation that prevailed "during the time of union."
The council, naturally, could not enter into the details of a reform of legislation. Nevertheless, in order to avoid possible hesitations, it mentions two affairs among the most important ones of the patriarchate, to make it clear that even these two matters are under the jurisdiction of the patriarchs with their synods. It says: "including the right to establish new eparchies and to nominate bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate..." If the council felt the need to mention these two matters, it is because they had in fact during modern times been withdrawn, in certain rites, from the competence of the patriarchs and of their synods. The council commands that they be restored to them.
III. What is the Role of the Roman pontiff?
This role is indicated in the conciliar decree by the final clause "without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."
In order to fully understand this clause, it is necessary to take note of the following:
1. This clause is general in character. It is found, in this form or in similar form, hundreds of times in the documents of the council. Actually, it would suffice to affirm the prerogatives of the Roman primacy once and for all, without having to repeat this clause each time. It is clearly understood, in fact, that the pope can intervene everywhere, always, in all matters. The reason that a special need has been felt to insert this clause in the section that we are discussing is that the text lays the foundations for a certain internal canonical autonomy for the Eastern Churches. Now, in order that there may be no misinterpretation of the meaning of this internal autonomy and so that it may not be confused with autocephaly as it is practiced in the Orthodox Churches, the authors of the decree have felt the need to add the clause cited above in order to show clearly that the internal autonomy in question presumes respect for the prerogatives of the Roman primacy. Yet this clause, once again, is of a general nature and has no more authority in this paragraph than anywhere else. It simply signifies this: the broad jurisdiction recognized for the patriarchs and their synods to manage their own affairs must remain compatible with the rights of Roman primacy, such as they have been defined by Vatican I and clarified by Vatican II in the light of the powers of the episcopate.
2. Having said this, the conciliar text affirms that the pope has the right to intervene in every case, and that this right is inalienable. The difficulty—if there is a difficulty—would relate to the meaning of the words "jus interveniendi" (right to intervene) and "in singulis casibus" (in individual cases).
a. "In singulis casibus" does not mean "in aliquibus casibus" (in some cases) or "in particularibus casibus" (in particular cases). According to Catholic doctrine, the right of the pope extends to all persons and all cases. If necessary, according to the letter of the law, there is not a single ecclesiastical matter in the world of which it can be said to the pope: "this is not within your competence as pope." According to the letter of the law, the pope can intervene even to name a pastor in a parish, the rector of a church, or a school principal, etc.
"In singulis casibus" includes "in omnibus casibus," but adds a nuance to it. It could be translated "in all cases, these being considered each in particular." The nuance is not to be scorned; it is in each case in particular (it does not say: in certain particular cases) that the pope can intervene. This therefore presumes not a general rule commanding intervention, but a particular determination appropriate for each case in particular, even if, in an extreme hypothesis, this determination were to be repeated for all cases.
b. "The right to intervene" means the power to intervene, if the pope deems it appropriate. The right to intervene does not involve the obligation to intervene, namely, the necessary exercise of this right. The fact that the pope can intervene even in the nomination of pastors of parishes does not signify that he must intervene for each nomination of a pastor and that the ordinary of the place cannot name a pastor without the previous or subsequent intervention of the pope. Likewise, the fact that the pope has the right to intervene in each nomination of a bishop or in the erection of a new diocese does not signify that he must necessarily intervene, and that without his prior or subsequent intervention the patriarch with his synod cannot validly and licitly perform the acts in question.
It should be noted that we do not distinguish here, as certain persons do abusively, between the right and the exercise of the right. If the pope has the right, he can always exercise it. What we affirm is that neither the obligation nor the necessity to intervene logically result from the right to intervene.
It is true that the pope's right to intervene involves a corresponding obligation for the patriarch and the synod. But this is the obligation not to prevent this right from being exercised whenever the pope wishes to do so.
Nothing more can logically be deduced from the conciliar text.
Since the conciliar decree of November 21, 1964, sufficient time has not elapsed to permit discerning from experience whether the clause in question is the object of abuse on the part of the Eastern Churches. If in spite of this the pope wishes to assume the responsibility of imposing on the patriarchs and on their synods a new obligation by restricting the jurisdiction which the council has acknowledged in them, he can according to the letter of the law do so by relying on his supreme power. However, one must not have recourse to a violent interpretation of a text by making the council say what it has not said.
To make our explanation clearer, let us imagine a similar text, for example this one: "Ordinarii locorum suorum cum suis variis Consiliis superiorem constituunt instantiam pro quibusvis negotiis suae dioeceseos, non secluso jure constituendi paroecias novas atque nominandi parochos sui ritus intra fines territorii dioecesani, salvo inalienabili Romani Pontificis jure in singulis casibus interveniendi." (The ordinaries of their locations with their various councils constitute the superior authority for all the affairs of the diocese, including right to establish new parishes and to nominate pastors of their rite within the territorial bounds of the diocese, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases.)
By virtue of such a canon the pope could certainly, if he so desired, intervene in the establishment of a new parish or the nomination of a pastor, and even, in the last analysis, if the welfare of the Church demanded it (a purely extreme hypothesis) intervene in the establishment of all new parishes and the nomination of all pastors. But does that mean that the ordinary of the place cannot validly and licitly establish new parishes and name pastors without the intervention of the pope?
Let it not be said that the analogy is invalid since the founding of a parish is not the founding of a diocese, and the nomination of a pastor is not the nomination of a bishop. Admittedly, these matters are not of equal importance. But that is not the question. The question is to recognize that, through the conciliar text, the founding of a diocese and the nomination of a bishop have been said to be within the superior authority of the patriarch and of his synod, just as the formation of a parish or the nomination of a pastor is within the jurisdiction of the ordinary of the place with or without his council.
In the light of what precedes, it is possible to pass sounder judgment on the interpretation given by the Central Commission on January 31, 1966: "Utrum per clausulam 'salvo inalienabili Romani Pontificis jure in singulis casibus interveniendi', de qua in No. 9, comm. 4 Decreti ‘Orientalium Ecclesiarum' statuatur, quod spectat ad elegendos episcopos, plena facultas indicandi singulis in casibus, ante electionem, utrum candidatus dignus et idoneus sit?" "Affirmative." (Whether through the clause "without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases," which appears in No. 9, sentence 4, of the "Decree on Eastern Churches," which pertains to nominating bishops, there is a full faculty for the Roman pontiff of indicating in individual cases, before the election, whether the candidate is worthy and suitable? In the affirmative.)
In our opinion "facultas" (faculty) says no more than "jus" (right). We remain at a standstill. We would even say that this interpretation, rightly understood, actually restricts the power of the pope unduly, for he has not only the "faculty of indicating in individual cases before the election." He can intervene just as much after the election as before the election. The council places no limitation on the pope's power of intervention.
However, the interpretation has not touched the crux of the problem. No one can deny that the pope has the full faculty to intervene either before or after the election.
Yet the question remains whether he must intervene, or at least whether it is necessary that he intervene so that the acts laid down by the patriarch and his synod may be valid and licit. To this question the interpretation of January 31, 1966, gives no answer, at least if it is understood in its obvious sense. The answer is given in the Central Commission's proceedings. In it we read, "All members...have unanimously decided to reply that the Holy Father has the right to intervene. Consequently, the patriarchs must present a request before the election of bishops. More precisely, that the patriarchs present the names of the candidates and wait until the Holy See gives the answer as to their suitability."
This interpretation appears to us to be erroneous on two points:
a. In that it passes from the right to intervene to the obligation to intervene;
b. In that it limits the unconditional right of the pope to intervene in every case to an intervention only prior to the election, as if the pope could not intervene even after the election.
After this statement of a canonical nature, may we be permitted to add a few words on the human and ecclesial level.
The whole history comes down to this: the conciliar text in question won in the Eastern Commission the necessary majority of two-thirds plus one vote. It displeased certain members and consultors of the commission. When afterwards it was almost unanimously approved by the council, it displeased certain groups that see in it a diminution in Roman control over the activities of the patriarchs. The reform of the former legislation on this point displeased them. Since they were unable to block the conciliar text, they are now trying to empty it of its content. With this violent interpretation of the text there is practically a return to the prior situation and we act as if the council had never existed. That is the whole story.However, this conciliar text is of primordial importance from the pastoral and ecumenical point of view. It marks the beginning of decentralization. It indicates that there is an ever-growing desire to place trust in the patriarchs with their synods. In the ecumenical dialogue, it places before the eyes of Orthodoxy the state of affairs that Catholicism can offer it in the event of union. In the eyes of Catholics themselves it is a test that will show if there is a decision to go forward according to the spirit of the council, or if, by evasions through more or less violent interpretations we wish to nullify the council and come back, whatever the cost, to the prior situation. The problem is more serious than it appears.
On June 22, 1966, the Sacred Eastern Congregation transmitted to the patriarch a new solution adopted by the postconciliar Central Commission to solve the problem arising over the interpretation of Article 9 of the "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches." This solution, which conformed essentially to the practical procedure proposed by the Melkite Synod of January, 1966, was received by the Synod of August, 1966. Thus, the freedom of episcopal elections and of the erection of new eparchies was confirmed, at the same time that the pastoral utility of a previous and private consultation between the patriarchs and the Holy Father was recognized.
 Actually, at the first session of the Council the representatives of the Roman See did not obtain any precedence, but occupied their rightful places as bishops, which is altogether normal.
 A few copies of this memorandum were sent to Archbishop Felici in a letter dated September 27, 1962, No. 1435/14.
 Here the patriarch unwittingly subscribes to the rhetoric of uniatism from which both the Roman Church (in the Balamand Statement) and the Melkite Church (in the bishop's 1995 Profession of Faith) subsequently distanced themselves.
- 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).
- Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.
|A Practical Guide to Evangelization for Eastern Catholic Parishes|
A Practical Guide to Evangelization for Eastern Catholic Parishes
by Anthony T. Dragani, MA, re-edited by Shawn A. Dorisian (reprinted with permission, all rights reserved by the authors)
I would like to start this presentation with a prayer from the Maronite Sedro:By your wisdom, make us worthy / To be your faithful witnesses in the world And to be renewed in our commitment / To the Christian Life. We Praise you O Christ,Your FatherAnd your living Holy Spirit Now and for ever, Amen.
The Catholic Church teaches that the Word of Christ be brought to all persons in such a way that anyone who hears will want to come to Christ and be baptized (see Romans 10:10-17), that this will and work be known and believed. This is the mission of the Church known as evangelization and it should be the desire of all committed Christians to want to tell of their Savior 
This guide labors to present a practical strategy of parish-based evangelization. Many of the concepts utilized have been carefully selected from the writings of Protestant evangelists, who have demonstrated a high aptitude in this field. Other ideas have also been drawn from the writings of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox evangelists. However, I have only included those approaches that are well suited for the typical Eastern Catholic parish. Our parishes have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and these have been taken into consideration when writing this guide.
In the Protestant world, much research has gone into the study of evangelization. Many Protestant scholars have become experts on the subject, and have developed it into a "science" known as church growth. Drawing on insights from sociology, psychology, and other fields of study, church growth experts have developed approaches to evangelization that yield proven results. In a very real sense church growth can be considered a true science "with theories that can be tested and proven."
The strategy presented in this guide is essentially parish-based. For numerous reasons, denomination wide evangelization is not as effective. Ultimately, it is the quality and outreach of the local congregation that will attract new membership. Given this circumstance, what role should a Eparchial office or committee of evangelization play? It should first and foremost serve to assist individual parishes in implementing a plan of evangelization. Likewise, it should only focus its efforts on those parishes that wish to grow. Some parishes unfortunately have no desire to expand their membership. An Eparchial office would be wasting its time trying to help a congregation (and typically pastor) that has no desire for growth. Instead, the Eparchial office should only expend its energy and resources supporting those parishes that request its aid in implementing a strategy for growth.
Before proceeding, a few words of caution are in order. First and foremost, evangelization must be pursued with integrity. In no way can the theology or worship of the parish be diluted in an attempt to increase attendance. As warned by evangelization expert Peter Barna, "any church growth strategy that is geared to increasing the number of people without emphasizing the necessity of commitment to Jesus Christ is working in opposition to scriptural command." In incorporating new members into the Church, it is crucial that the Gospel message is not watered down. Barna warns against following the example of a certain well-known Protestant "cathedral":
A church in Southern California began with less than a dozen people attending the first week's service. You cannot find a seat in the sanctuary today, because more than 10,000 people regularly file into the church every Sunday. But the growth of the church occurred as a consequence of spiritual compromise. People who attend that church see a good show, but they don't hear the gospel the way Jesus proclaimed it. Yes, this church is well marketed, but it is marketed for a different purpose than to serve Jesus Christ.
It is also important to remember that there are no magic formulas for successful evangelization. Ultimately, it is not slick tactics or brilliant strategies that cause a parish to flourish, but the work of the Holy Spirit. Hence, persistent prayer must accompany all efforts.
The Necessity of Evangelization
In recent centuries, Eastern Christianity has been very lax in the field of evangelization. We have rightly focused on serving the needs of our people, but sometimes to the exclusion of spreading the Gospel to those who have not heard it. Historically, this has not always been the case. In the ninth century, SS. Cyril and Methodius conducted a successful mission to the Slavs, under the patronage of St. Photius the Great. And in the nineteenth century the Russian Orthodox mission to Alaska bore great fruit. It is unfortunate that the missionary imperative seems to have fallen on the back burner since then.
The most compelling reason to evangelize is to fulfill Jesus' command:
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
The tendency of Eastern Christian Churches to minister exclusively to one ethnic group, failing to "make disciples of all nations" directly contradicts the will of Christ. Christ's Church is to be universal, spreading the Gospel to all persons of every racial and ethnic background. In as much as we neglect evangelization, we fail to be Christ's Church.
Archeparch Joseph Tawil, a revered leader of the Melkite Catholic Church, cautioned against an emphasis on ethnicity. Archeparch Tawil envisioned Eastern Catholic Churches open to all Americans, and in turn the World. He eloquently spoke of this in a famous Christmas pastoral letter:
One day all of our ethnic traits – language, folklore, customs – will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we cannot think of our communities as ethnic parishes, primarily for the service of the immigrant or ethnically oriented, unless we wish to assure the death of our community. Our Churches are not only for our own people but are also for any of our fellow Americans who are attracted to our traditions which show forth the beauty of the universal Church and the variety of its riches.
Archeparch Joseph warns of the danger of our Churches vanishing in North America, and in turn the West. Research indicates that this is a very real possibility. The best evidence clearly suggests that parishes that neglect evangelization tend to stagnate or decline in America. Studies show that the typical congregation will lose 6% to 10% of its membership annually. This loss is attributed to parishioners dying, relocating, and dropping out. For a parish to thrive, it must annually replace these lost members – or face eventual extinction.
There is a prevalent false assumption in how these lost members are to be replaced. Most Eastern Catholic parishes wrongly assume that the children will take their place. The sad truth is that most of the children raised in our parishes will not be there as adults. In our transient societies, most of these children will either move away or join other Churches. Very often less than 10% of the children found in a parish will remain there in adulthood.
Also, denominational loyalty is not nearly as strong as it was in previous generations. In our consumer-oriented cultures, young people are accustomed to shopping for the institution that best meets their needs. The reality that they were raised in a specific tradition is unlikely to assure that they will not leave for something more appealing. One fact is clear: the parishes that grow and flourish are those that actively evangelize.
In the past decade, Eastern Christianity has demonstrated an unprecedented appeal in the United States. While there are no firm figures, it is probable that as many as ten thousand Evangelical Protestants have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in the past ten years. Father Peter Gillquist, a former Protestant minister whom once led Campus Crusade for Christ, is now director of evangelization for the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. He believes that Orthodoxy's present success is largely due to dispelling the myth that it is an exclusively ethnic Church. Orthodoxy offers magnificent worship, sound theology, and a rich treasury of spirituality. Once North Americans were made aware of its existence, and that they were welcome to join, many jumped at the opportunity. I am firmly convinced that Eastern Catholicism is also capable of attracting an influx of new members, provided that we also unambiguously open our parishes to all.
Phase I: Preparing the Parish
Before beginning evangelization per se, it is crucial to prepare the parish for what is about to occur. Many Eastern Catholic congregations are not familiar with visitors, and often times do not know how to properly welcome perceived "outsiders." Well-intentioned parishioners are often prone to ask visitors such questions as "Are you a Ukrainian, Lebanese, and the like?" or the infamous "What is your last name?" Questions such as these send a strong signal of exclusivity to visitors, who most likely will never return.
What typically needs to occur is a change in a parish's self-perception. Most of our parishioners subconsciously believe their parishes to exist for the preservation of ethnic identity. There is some historical warrant for this belief. In our Old Countries the Church was a crucial means of safeguarding national identity. However, this approach is not tenable in the West. Our young people think of themselves as Americans, Canadians, European or Brazilians for example first and usually have little ethnic consciousness. They are attracted to the Roman Church, which they perceive as being universal. Hence, the hyper-ethnic parish often unwittingly drives out the young people, and excludes potential new members – ensuring its immanent demise.
To be successful, an Eastern parish must become conscious of a greater purpose. The congregation must first come to understand that Christ's Church exists to spread the Good News to all persons. Evangelization is a fundamental aspect of the Church's mission, not an optional activity. This must be clearly communicated to the congregation. Regular homilies are an effective tool in conveying this message. If there is still resistance, it may be necessary to warn of the eventual likelihood of the parish dying through lack of membership.
Most visitors will have their first contact with the parish at Sunday morning Divine Liturgy. It is important that this first impression be a positive one. To ensure that it is, certain practices must be implemented before the visitors arrive. One of the best things that a parish can do in preparation for growth is to assign greeters to the main entrance and exits. Greeters must be carefully selected, and briefly trained to recognize and welcome visitors. The greeter must understand that he or she is there first and foremost to make the newcomer feel welcome and comfortable. Today, many Roman Catholic parishes have greeters, and find them to be a true blessing.
It is especially necessary that the greeters interact with the visitors immediately after worship, as well as before. According to Robert Bast, Minister of Evangelism for the Reformed Church in America, the moments following the end of Sunday worship are among the most important in determining whether or not a visitor will return. Rev. Bast cautions that "this can be the loneliest moment of all, if everyone is greeting friends, while the visitor goes up the aisle in a pocket of isolated silence." Designated greeters with good hospitality skills can prevent such awkwardness from occurring. Experience proves that "when visitors feel that no one cares whether or not they have come, they are not likely to return."
It is also useful to give the visitor something to take home as a reminder of the visit. A simple visitor's packet, distributed by the greeters, can make a powerful impact. It is not necessary to arrange an elaborate selection of information, as it can overwhelm the reader. Rather, a successful visitor's packet need only consist of a manila envelope containing a parish brochure, a brief introduction to Eastern Catholicism, and an invitation to join the parish.
I also highly recommend erecting a literature rack near the church entrance. Both the Maronite and Melkite offices of religious education in the United States offers a wonderful selection of leaflets on their forms of Catholicism at a very reasonable price. A literature rack stocked with such leaflets can sufficiently answer many questions that the visitor may have. Nearby there should also be a guest book, where visitors can leave their names, addresses and e-mails to receive parish mailings.
One of the most effective preparations for evangelization is already in place in many of our parishes: the post-Liturgy coffee hour. Most visitors are looking for a community where they can feel comfortable. The friendliness of a congregation is perhaps the most important factor in attracting a new member. According to Bast, "Coffee/fellowship time after worship is indispensable for the church that intends to attract and keep visitors. It provides an immediate occasion for inviting, and an excellent opportunity for socializing. Without it, visitors are unlikely to remain long enough to meet anyone in the church."
During this phase of preparation, I strongly recommend that the pastor appoint an evangelization task force to implement the strategy. This will usually consist of a group of five to seven people who show genuine interest in the growth of the parish. As many of our pastors are already stressed for time, it is essential for them to delegate responsibility to a task force. If the parish is blessed with a permanent deacon, it would be wise to place him in charge of the effort.
Phase II: Attracting the Visitor
Once the parish has been properly prepared, it is time to begin attracting visitors. Our chief obstacle in this task is overcoming widespread ignorance. Most Americans are oblivious to the existence of Eastern Christianity. The common presupposition is that the Christian world is divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants. An educated few may be aware of Eastern Orthodoxy. Even less are aware of Eastern Catholicism.
Among those who know about Eastern Christianity, it is commonly believed that Eastern Christian parishes are ethnic enclaves. Most Westerners are not aware that they are welcome to attend and join an Eastern parish. Therefore, our task is two-fold. First, we must make others aware of our existence. And second, we must inform them that they are welcome to join our parishes.
With these two objectives in mind, we will now briefly explore some of the best techniques for attracting visitors. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does present what I believe to be the most effective techniques available.
The Church Sign
This is one of the most overlooked tools of evangelization. A visible sign with accurate liturgy times can have significant impact. Bast remarks that "possibly the single most important advertising a church can do is through the sign it has in front of its building." He recommends a readable, simple sign that is perpendicular to the road. Service times are a must, and accuracy is crucial. Very often our parishes neglect posting Liturgy times outside of the building. The assumption is that everyone who needs to know the Liturgy times can just look in the bulletin. This presumption fails to consider the possibility of visitors.
Because of the widespread belief that Eastern parishes are exclusively ethnic, we must take extra measures to let potential visitors know that they are welcome. The sign is an excellent place to do this. A simple phrase such as "Everyone is Welcome" can go a long way in this regard.
The Telephone Directory
Market research indicates that people under the age of forty use the telephone directory extensively. Frequently, families who have recently moved into the area will consult the telephone directory pages to find a church to join. This is a golden opportunity for parish growth that should not be passed up. It is recommended that the parish take as large an advertisement as is affordable. Include in the ad liturgy times, an attractive description of the parish, and a phone number and address. Further, if the directory permits, setup a separate Eastern Catholic subsection, or even better a section that lists the tradition of the Churches like the Byzantine or Syro-Antiochene Catholic Churches. I suggest emphasizing our majestic, mystical worship. Again, a slogan such as "Everyone is Welcome" is essential.
The Mailing/E-Mailing Lists
A mailing/e-mailing list of previous visitors and friends of the parish can be an invaluable resource. Such a list can be cultivated through the guest book mentioned earlier. A well-maintained list can be used to regularly send out notices of upcoming events, as well as invitations to worship with the parish during holidays. Such letters of invitation can bring back someone who otherwise may have forgotten about the parish. With every mailing, I strongly suggest sending an attractive, professionally designed parish brochure. A professional copying establishment can produce such a brochure for a very reasonable price. Be certain to include in it accurate Liturgy times, directions to the parish, and activities such as scripture studies and youth education classes. If you are e-mailing make sure that it is not cluttered with too many graphics.
An information night is an opportunity to introduce the church to the local community. Eastern Orthodox missions throughout the West have used such information nights with great success. Frederica Matthews-Green, a famous convert to Orthodoxy from Protestantism, writes of the use of information nights by her growing mission parish:
We hold evenings like this a couple of times a year, and from past experience I know that some of these strangers will be joining us as regulars at Holy Cross. We sing through Vespers… After I describe my conversion to Christ and journey to Orthodoxy, Carl speaks a little more knowledgeably about the Orthodox Church; after all, he has a recent doctorate in Byzantine history… As the meeting breaks up we move to the fellowship room for platters of snacks that include plenty of cold cuts and sausages, since everyone's clearing out refrigerators. The crowd is jovial, and the conversations go on for hours.
A successful information night has several key ingredients. First, it must be well advertised. A noticeable newspaper advertisement is called for, inviting the community to discover the rich spirituality of the Eastern Church. If a guest speaker will be present, his or her name and credentials should also be mentioned. A flyer should also be sent to everyone on the mailing list.
Second, an engaging speaker must deliver the talk. Absolutely nothing is more effective than a convert to Eastern Catholicism telling his or her story. The advertisements are likely to attract spiritual seekers who will readily identify with conversion stories. Such accounts are easy to relate to, and are almost never boring. If the parish does not have any converts, one should be recruited from a neighboring parish for the event. Most converts are full of zeal for their newfound Church, and will gladly share their stories.
Third, contacts must be made. An information night is an excellent opportunity for visitors to meet regular parishioners. Much like a coffee hour, the information night is also a chance to demonstrate the sense of fellowship present in the parish. Also, every visitor should be given a printout inviting him or her to join the parish, with instructions on how to do so. Visitor addresses should also be collected, and added to the mailing list. With a minimal amount of planning, information nights can be as effective for Eastern parishes as they have been for Orthodox missions.
Many people do not see the connection between effective evangelization, but tithes are the lifeblood of the Church. If we get our parish to become a Tithing Community then we will have the financial resources to grow. Below are a couple of web sites that outline the Catholic Principal of Tithing.
Adopt A Community
There are Eastern Catholics around the world have no organized parishes.To use my own Maronite Church as an example, in Sweden, Ecuador, Ghana and West Africa, England, either have no parishes or do not have the resources to own their own Church (as is the case in England) We can also look at adopting communities in our own homelands.
Let me use Ecuador as an example because it stands out most in my mind.
When I was in Ecuador, I was shocked to see Statues of St. Maron, St.Sharbel, and St. Rafka in the Amazon Jungle side of Ecuador. There are noMaronite Churches there (even though there are thousands, and LebaneseMaronites have served as president of Ecuador), but the Maronites arestruggling to keep their heritage and faith.
A. We can help our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters by sending money down there help build Eastern Catholic Churches.
B. We can send ourselves. How better than to spend a week building a New Home for God? It helps bind a parish as a family, also for our teens, and young adults it will give them a sense of service.
C. Our establish parishes can adopt a priest. The cost of living is very inexpensive in many third world countries, so even a few hundred a month could support one priest.
All of these activities help show an active form of evangelization. Many Protestant Churches are doing this now and we can see how they are growing in leaps and bounds.
Canvass Your Local Parishes Neighborhood
This is one of the easy things that a group can do, especially a youth or young adults group. Leave a small note inviting the neighbors to services. You would be surprised at how many people will usually respond. Also, if you are having a special event after liturgy, such as a Church Carnival, this helps the neighbors feel that "OUR" Church is really every ones Church.
Phase III: Incorporating New Members into the Parish
Once a visitor expresses interest in the parish, it is imperative to provide opportunities for him or her to become incorporated into the life of the community. The key principle is that a visitor will not remain in the parish unless he develops friendships within the church. As evangelization experts testify, "without friendships within the congregation, most new members will not stay." Here we will look at two proven vehicles for developing these friendships.
The Small Group
The number one personal problem in our modern age is loneliness. National surveys conducted in recent years indicate that loneliness is one of the major, fastest growing problems in Western Nations. Although we generally are living in closer proximity to one another, we know each other less and less. Most visitors to parishes are not searching for theological purity, but for friendships. It is the responsibility of Christ's Church to try and meet this need by providing opportunities for Christian friendships to develop. Thom Rainer, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, writes of this crucial necessity:
In the early church, people caring for one another, eating in each other's homes, and giving out of love was the norm. Today city-dwellers do not know even the names of the family living three houses down the street.
Historically, one of the most effective ways to counter loneliness and develop friendships in the parish is through small group studies. These studies usually meet weekly and feature "a combination of Bible study, prayer, and personal sharing." For a Eastern Catholic community, the structure can be tailored to incorporate liturgical prayer and patristics. These small groups are an excellent way to incorporate potential members into the parish. Very often a person becomes heavily involved in a small group long before officially joining the church.
Today, there is a serious spiritual thirst. Many adults are longing for in-depth, substantive spiritual learning. It is impossible to fulfill this need solely through Sunday morning homilies. One of the main reasons that Catholics join evangelical Protestant congregations is to study the scriptures. As well as facilitating friendships, a small group can also serve as a valuable tool for adult religious education. And usually from these small groups, parish leaders will emerge who will take positions of responsibility, easing the burden of the pastor.
The Inquirers Class
One variation on the small group is the inquirers class, a small group study for those interested in joining the Church. Roman Catholic parishes have had tremendous success with this concept, which they refer to as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). As a result of RCIA classes, thousands of converts join the Roman Catholic Church every Easter Vigil. In the RCIA program, each new member is assigned a sponsor who acts as his or her guide in exploring the faith. This program has borne great fruit.
Every parish should offer an annual inquirers class. Even parishes that seem to have little growth should make the class available, demonstrating an expectancy of new members. To quote a recent adage, "if you build it, they will come." Some parishes expect no growth, and believe planning for such a class to be an unnecessary expenditure of time. Bast frowns upon this negative attitude:
It is ideal to plan and announce a year's schedule of new member classes. Unfortunately, many congregations hold new member classes only when enough potential participants can be identified to warrant scheduling. This passive approach is "reactive" rather than "active" and may be characteristic in other areas of church life, which then becomes a "self-fulfilling" prophecy. The result of a planned and publicized schedule is a sense of expectancy… "we are going to receive new members."
A successful inquirers class places no pressure on the prospective members. No commitment is asked for until the end. I propose that the RCIA program developed by the Roman Church could serve as a valuable model in developing an authentically Eastern class. The RCIA process is based on the initiation of Christians conducted by the early Church, and prepares the convert for reception of the Christian Mysteries. It has proven to be one of the brightest spots in the Roman Church today, and could also be a source of growth for the Eastern Catholic Church.
Needed: Parishes with Vision
The plan of evangelization outlined in this guide is by no means the final word on the subject. There are many other approaches that can also bear fruit. However, I believe that I have presented a very practical plan of action that almost any parish can implement.
If we become disciples by the Mysteries of Initiation, and thereby here the Word of the Lord, we may not afford ourselves the luxury of thinking that hearing the Word is enough. By our Chrismation the Holy Spirit sends us out on mission – to share the Good News of Christ with others. 
By sharing the Word in a gentle, yet powerful and persuasive way, we follow in the steps of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Forerunner, who were, from the beginning of the Christian adventure, teachers and evangelist. 
This guide was not written for my pleasure, or the pleasure of any reader. Rather, it is to be put into practice. It is very easy to bewail the problems in our Church. But it is much harder to take the necessary actions to make a difference. Today, the Eastern Orthodox Church is growing at an astounding rate. The Roman Catholic Church is flourishing, winning thousands of new converts daily in Africa and Asia. And yet there are still millions of people who have not heard the Gospel, right here in North America, and in Europe, Australia, and Central and South America. Will we sit by and quietly watch our Eastern Catholic Churches die? Or will we take the actions necessary to spread the Good News to the unchurched, and in the process usher Eastern Catholicism into a whole new era of growth and prosperity?
The Eastern Catholic Churches
It was in the bosom of the Eastern Commission that the Melkite Greek hierarchy displayed its greatest activity. It was represented there, in the preparatory stage, by Archbishop Neophytos Edelby, Archimandrite Athanasius Hage, and Archimandrite Maurice Blondeel; in the conciliar stage by the patriarch himself and by Archbishop Edelby. As early as November, 1960, Archbishop Edelby presented to the commission a complete project of a schema "On the Rites in the Church." Although modified many times in the course of the discussions, it continued to form the basis of Chapter I of the conciliar decree "On the Eastern Catholic Churches." The lasting value of this project resides in its commentaries, which reflect very well the thought of the patriarch and his hierarchy on this point. One will notice that the author speaks of the "Rites in the Church," and not of the "Eastern Rites," for in the Church there are not only "Eastern Rites." The Latin Church itself is one of the "rites" in the Church.
The "Rites" in the Church
Relative to the Eastern rites, it seems to me more opportune for our commission to propose to the central commission and, through it, to the Fathers of the council, not by one or another article responding to a particular need (for example, the change from one rite to another), but the schema of a "decree," that is to say, of a chapter that embraces all this question in an organic manner. For, in the first place, that presents a greater logical interest. In the second place, it is not every day that we have a council; now it seems that the very existence of "rites" in the Catholic Church, their content, their innate rights and obligations will remain material for discussion as long as, on all these points, the council itself has not manifested definitely and with ruling authority the thought of the Church. I propose that this chapter "On Rites in the Church" be composed of the ten following articles:
Article 1. On the Variety of Rites in the Church
"The Holy and Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is organically composed not only of the individual faithful who are united in the same faith and the same Christian life, but also of many groups joined to the hierarchy, or particular Churches, which are improperly called ‘rites.' These rites or particular Churches, even though they may differ in part in liturgy, intimate constitution, ecclesiastical discipline, and other proper qualities of the spiritual patrimony, yet in an equal manner are committed to the pastoral solicitude of the Roman pontiff, who divinely succeeds Saint Peter in his primacy over the universal Church."
a. This affirmation of principle aims in the first place at dispelling an exclusively "individualistic" concept of the Church. The universal Church is not solely or above all a society of individuals, but also, and in the first place, a communion of Churches (in the particular sense of the word), that is to say, of hierarchical groups (eparchies. metropolitan jurisdictions, archbishoprics, catholicates). This remark has a great importance for the union of the Churches: union should not appear as the absorption of all the Christian communities by one of them, (the Latin community or Church), but as the communion of all the Churches (including the Latin Church) in the same faith, the same sacraments, and the same supernatural life, under the paternal and fraternal vigilance of the Roman pontiff, to constitute the "Catholica."
b. In the second place, in dispelling this "individualistic" concept of the Church, the Eastern Churches, or, as they are called, the "Eastern rites," no longer appear as a concession of the Roman Church, as a privilege, as a more or less inconvenient exception. Too many still consider the Latin Church as being, in brief, the Church, and the communities of Eastern rites as simply tolerated in the midst of Catholicism. They are, some say, "uniate" Churches, a sort of appendix, something annexed, and nothing more than that. This concept is absolutely false. The "Catholica" is composed of all the Churches in communion with one another and with the Roman pontiff. Among the particular Churches in communion among themselves and with the Roman pontiff, there are the Latin Church and a certain number of other Churches, of Eastern rite, today inferior in numbers, in the expectation of the universal reunion of all the Christian Churches.
c. In the third place, one wishes to dispel by the same act the concept—formerly dear to those around Pope Pius IX and still too widespread in certain Western circles—which makes the Eastern Churches a simple affair of "liturgical rite," differing from the "normal" rite of the Church, which is the Latin rite. "Eastern Churches" is not at all synonymous with "Eastern rites." The liturgical rite is only one of the points by which one Church can be distinguished from another Church. But the rite can be the same, while the Churches are distinct (for example, the Byzantine rite is common to a number of Churches); nothing prevents there being different rites in one Church (for example, at Toledo). What constitutes the different Eastern Churches is not only a difference from the Western Church in the liturgical rite. There can be also, and there are in fact, differences in spirituality, in theological points of view, in discipline, in constitution, in organization, in art, etc., so much so that when one "respects" the "Eastern rites" (in the liturgical sense), one has not thereby respected the "Eastern Churches." Now, for the union of Churches, one would wish to arrive at respecting, in the "Catholica," not only the different liturgical rites but also every other difference compatible with the faith and communion with the Roman pontiff.
d. Thus an organic concept of the Church is favored, in which catholicity is not synonymous with Romanism and unity not synonymous with uniformity, in which there is a place for different modes of being, of thinking and acting, not only in liturgy but also in organization and in discipline. Nobody can ignore how much such a concept is indispensable for every effort for union with the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and not only with individuals.
Article 2. On the Equality of Rites
"While retaining the honor due to the Roman Church, all those particular Churches that constitute the universal or catholic Church possess equal holiness and dignity, enjoy equal rights and privileges, and are held to equal obligations. No superiority or domination or hegemony is allowed in the Church by reason of rite. Therefore all Churches or Rites are with equal right entitled to a just increment and are held by an equally grave obligation of preaching the Christian faith in the whole world, under the vigilance of the ecclesiastic pastors in the place, and also under the moderation of the Roman pontiff."
a. This article aims first at affirming vigorously the equality of all Churches in the bosom of the universal church. If the Church is catholic by right, one cannot deny that it has nevertheless to make efforts to be always more catholic in fact, that is to say, to realize always better a greater universality of spirit, of tendencies, of representation, of authority, of service, etc. The Catholic Church is not a monopoly for any person, any race, any nation, any continent, any rite. It is the great gift of God to all humanity, and all humanity should equally share in its cares, as well as in its honors, its services, its representation, etc. Too often, the Catholic Church appears to be allied to the human interests of certain fixed groups. It would not be difficult to draw up a list of grievances that could be asserted by certain groups that feel that they have been injured or that have the impression of being like poor relatives in catholicity. It is enough for us to affirm the principle of the equality of all the faithful and of all the Churches in the bosom of the "Catholica." Its concrete realization will require many years and much effort. In other words there is in the Church a "pre-eminence of the Roman pontiff," but there should not be a "pre-eminence of the Latin rite."
b. The article aims equally at eliminating from the discipline in force every measure discriminating against a particular Church. An equality of rights should correspond to an equality of situation, of needs, and of aptitudes. Nobody in the Church should feel himself impaired because of the rite to which he belongs.
c. Finally, the article aims at eliminating the intolerance that still weighs, here and there, on Eastern Catholics, and that unjustly deprives them of the right, insofar as they are Eastern Catholics, to evangelize the infidels of a particular region, as if the Eastern Churches were closed communities, destined to disappear rather than expand. No human authority can forbid a bishop to preach the Gospel to the infidels of his eparchy, to baptize them, and to incorporate them in his Church. If, in fact, two or more Catholic bishops are established in the same territory, all and each equally have the right and the duty to evangelize, to baptize, and to incorporate in their Church. The prohibition of evangelizing the infidels should not, above all, weigh upon the hierarchy that represents, better than the others, the native Church.
Article 3. On the Usefulness of Rites
"This diversity in the Church, rather than harming its catholicity, instead declares it and makes it concrete. For the Church greatly wishes that that nearly infinite abundance of ecclesiastical traditions remain uncorrupted and entire, as it wishes its rule of life to adapt to the various spiritual needs of each and every Christian community."
The article affirms the usefulness of this diversity in the Church. One will note that it concerns not only a diversity of liturgical rites. Even the diversity of disciplines in the Church is a good thing in itself, and one should not seek to minimize it or to make it disappear for the sole reason of a greater uniformity. The variety of rites and disciplines responds to a natural variety of needs and of mentalities. To wish to reduce everything to uniformity is to deprive oneself uselessly of the charisms of each Church and to close catholicity to every culture other than our own. Pope Saint Leo IX said it so well in his first letter to Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, no. 29 (Mansi XIX, 652): "For [the Roman Church] knows that customs differing according to the place and time are no hindrance to the salvation of the believers, when one faith, working through love the good things that it can do, commends all to the one God."
Article 4 On the Rite of the Roman Pontiff
"The Roman pontiff, in his capacity as successor of Saint Peter in his primacy over the universal Church, is not bound to any liturgical rite."
The sovereign pontiff is first the Bishop of Rome, and it is according to that title that he succeeds to the blessed Peter in his primacy. Nobody is astonished that he is a part, from this point of view, of the Western Church, and thus of the Latin rite. The principle aims only at affirming that the Holy Father, insofar as he is father of the universal Church, is not more Western than Eastern, for many of the Westerners have drawn the argument in favor of the "pre-eminence of the Latin rite" from the fact that that rite was that of the Pope of Rome.
It goes without saying that the Roman pontiff can use one or another of the Eastern rites, according to what he judges opportune.
Article 5 On the Safeguarding of Rites
"All and each of the faithful ought to preserve the proper rite that they have, and cultivate it, and, unless they are legitimately impeded, practice it wherever they are located. Therefore all attempts of any rite to absorb other rites is to be severely condemned."
a. Since diversity in the Church is a good thing in itself, this article wishes to affirm the perpetuity of this state of things. The existence of the Eastern Churches is not a transitory concession, in the expectation of the definitive passing to the Latin rite.
b. The article also affirms that this diversity is admitted throughout the world, that it is not limited to the East alone.
c. Finally, this article forbids any Church, Latin or Eastern, to develop at the expense of other Churches by absorbing them. Through it there is a particular condemnation of the latinization of the East, which has been pursued for centuries, often contrary to the directives of the Holy See of Rome.
Article 6 On the Rite of Those Returning to Catholic Unity.
"In restoring unity with the Catholic Church, the faithful who have been up to now separated ought to be received in their proper rite, and to keep it. Therefore, every attempt to draw them into another rite or to admit them to a foreign rite is to be severely condemned."
This article recommends the return to the discipline of "Orientalium Dignitas," as opposed to the dangerous innovation of canon 11, No. 1, of the motu proprio "Cleri Sanctitati." The subject deserves being studied a bit more closely.
a. The innovation of canon 11, cited above, is contrary to the declarations of popes and to the legislation in force before now.
1. Declarations of the popes:
-Benedict XIV, in the constitution "Allatae Sunt" of July 26, 1755, no. 33, intended to summarize the constant norm followed by the popes by declaring: "Never have the Roman pontiffs required from those who return to the Catholic faith that they abandon their rite and embrace by obligation the Latin rite. That would be, in fact, the disappearance of the Eastern Church and of all the Greek and Eastern rites, something that not only has never been attempted, but has always been and today still is absolutely alien to the spirit of the Holy See."
-The Propaganda equally replied, on June 1, 1885 (Collectanea II, No. 1633, second) that missionaries, in receiving into the Catholic Church those who were born in schism, must inscribe them in their own Eastern rite, and not in the Latin rite, except by special authorization of the Holy See.
2 Legislation until now in force
-The Easterners who return to Catholic unity may choose, among the Eastern rites, that which they prefer. See the Decree of the Propaganda dated November 20, 1838 (Collectanea, I, No. 878). Likewise, Letter of the Propaganda dated February 4, 1895.
-Apostates who, abandoning the Catholic faith, have become heretics or schismatics, cannot, on returning to the Catholic faith, enjoy the liberty of this choice, but remain enrolled in their former rite. See the letter of the Propaganda of April 7, 1859.
-Eastern Catholics who have previously passed over to a Western heresy (for example, Protestantism) cannot on reconverting embrace the Latin rite. See Instruction of the Propaganda of July 15, 1876 (Collect. II, No. 1458).
-"If, among the dissidents, a community, a family, or a person shall return to the Catholic unity, while a necessary condition has been set down that they embrace the Latin rite, let them remain for the time being enrolled in that rite, with the ability to return one day to their original Catholic rite. If such a condition has not been set down, but the said community, family, or person are served by Latin priests because of a lack of Eastern priests, they are obliged to return to their rite as soon as there is an availability of an Eastern priest" (Leo XIII, Constitution "Orientalium Dignitas," No. 11).
-If no condition has been laid down and no choice of another Eastern rite has been made, the convert must be admitted into the Eastern rite corresponding to his own.
b. The new canon, it is true, does not oblige non-Catholics to pass over by obligation to the Latin rite. But for the "latinizers" it is sufficient that such is permitted for them to redouble their fervor to deprive the Eastern Catholic Churches of all new help of a nature to nourish them. Certainly, there is nothing improper in that the Holy Roman See, taking into consideration the particular needs of certain individuals, authorizes them to change by exception to the Latin rite, whether at the moment of their return to the Catholic faith or even after they have adhered to it. For the ultimate goal of all legislation must be the good of souls, not a satisfaction of self-love. But, to permit the Latins to admit to their Latin rite the Eastern non-Catholics who wish to return to unity is, under the present circumstances and given the considerable means at the disposal of the latinizers in personnel, in works, and in resources, to condemn the Eastern Catholic Churches to an inability to expand. Thus the equality desired by the canon is equivalent in practice to delivering the weak to the mercy of the strong.
c. Leo XIII had prescribed severe sanctions against those who pushed Easterners to adopt the Latin rite. The sanctions have in practice remained without execution, and the movement of latinization of the East has continued as before. Now, what the severest sanctions have not been able to prevent, will a simple wish, stealthily set at the end of the canon, to encourage the Easterners to remain in their rite, do any more to prevent?
d. While the new canon authorizes the Eastern non-Catholics to pass over to the Latin rite, the law presently in force forbids the Western non-Catholics to pass over to the Eastern rite. Is it normal that the Protestants of Rome, for example, in converting to Catholicism, should pass over to an Eastern rite? It is not more normal for Eastern non-Catholics to pass over to the Latin rite.
Conclusion: If one wishes that the Eastern Catholic Churches should grow and continue to fulfill their mission, it is necessary to forbid the latinization of the East, unless there is a personal exception.
Article 7. "The faithful of Eastern rites who, notwithstanding the instructions of the Roman pontiffs, for whatever reason have at certain times been enticed to desert their native rite in order to embrace the Latin rite, are paternally invited by this holy council to return to their former and original rite."
That is, in other words, the intention of "Orientalium Dignitas" No. 11: "If, among the dissidents, any community or family or person shall return to the Catholic unity, while a necessary condition has been set down that they embrace the Latin rite, let them remain for the time being enrolled in that rite, with the ability to return one day to their original Catholic rite. If such a condition has not been set down, but the said community, family, or person are served by Latin priests because of a lack of Eastern priests, they are obliged to return to their rite as soon as there is an availability of an Eastern priest."
Article. 8. On Change to Another Rite
"It is the prerogative of only the Roman pontiff, having heard from the interested hierarchs, to permit Catholic faithful, for grave and personal reasons, to transfer to another rite."
There can be presented particular cases in which the higher good of a soul requires the change to another rite. In order to avoid all kinds of conflict and above all the abuse which a too easy procedure would produce on this point, it is thought that the best method would be to reserve these transfers to the judgment of the sovereign pontiff.
Article 9. On the Eastern Rites outside the Eastern Regions
"As a Latin hierarchy has been set up in the East for the good of the faithful of the Latin rite dwelling there, likewise there will be a provision throughout the world for the safeguarding and growth of Churches of the Eastern rites through setting up an Eastern hierarchy wherever the number and the spiritual good of the faithful of Eastern rites require it."
The Roman Holy See establishes everywhere in the world its own hierarchy for the benefit of the faithful of the Latin rite (no corner of the world lacks a Latin hierarchy), whereas it does not establish for the benefit of the numerous Eastern faithful of the diaspora its own hierarchy. The most frequent reason for this is the opposition of Latin ordinaries who do not wish a jurisdiction parallel to theirs in the same territory. The above principle aims to affirm the normal character of this multiplicity of jurisdiction everywhere in the world wherever the number of the faithful and their spiritual good require it.
The Orthodox have established a hierarchy almost everywhere in the diaspora. Prevented by the opposition of Latin ordinaries, Eastern Catholics are, in the emigration, almost everywhere without their own hierarchy, which causes considerable injury to them and slowly undermines their existence. While our Orthodox brothers are established in the emigration, we must state that we delay. Thus, for example, the Melkite Church has nearly half of its members outside the East, without a hierarchy, sometimes even without a parish priest. On this point, our union puts us in a position of inferiority compared with our Orthodox brethren.
Article 10. On the Cooperation of Rites
"When there is a multiplicity of various rites of the Catholic hierarchy in the same territory, let more extensive faculties be granted, on behalf of the common good and for nourishing the coordination of apostolic efforts, to the synod of all hierarchs who possess jurisdiction in that territory."
The multiplicity of rites can be, in the absence of organization, a regrettable dispersion of forces. Certain persons do not cease to extol the suppression of different rites and their replacement by a single rite precisely because of the inconveniences which result from the multiplicity of jurisdictions. Now these inconveniences can easily be avoided if there is installed in the Church a system of synodalism charged with all questions of general interest. Concretely, in a fixed territory with multiple jurisdiction, most serious questions will arise even if there is a single authority that, in the place of that of a single hierarch, becomes that of a synod of hierarchs: which is, to be definite, an excellent thing and introduces into the Church a moderated democratic element, more consistent with the traditions of the East. Naturally, all of this must be clearly specified in the future code of canon law.
Each of the propositions mentioned above, taken by itself, could be a subject for discussion, for there is no human institution that does not present some drawbacks. But if one has in view that the principal reason for the existence of us Eastern Catholics is to promote Christian union, these proposals acquire a capital importance and assert themselves on their own merit.
In conformity with the above project, the Eastern Commission prepared a draft of a distinct schema "On the Eastern Rites." The patriarch approved it as a whole, but made a criticism of a detail. The text was read at the third meeting of the Central Commission, held in January 1962.
This schema "On Rites in the Church" corresponds to the ideas that I have always defended on the situation and the mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the bosom of Catholicity. Thus I am happy to approve the main part of this schema.
I shall make only one criticism of a passage in the preamble where it is said that the Catholic Church does not place any limits to the recognition and expansion of the Eastern rites other than those "that produce a danger for souls and derogate from ecclesiastical respectability." This phrase, borrowed from the Fourth Lateran Council, is not fortunate. It is indelicate, in fact, and also absolutely false, to suspect that only in the "Eastern rites" as such there is a "danger for souls" or a "derogation of ecclesiastical respectability." The Eastern rites are an integral part of the Catholic tradition. They are not heretical or schismatic rites. Likewise, in the Eastern discipline there is absolutely nothing that constitutes a danger for souls or a violation of ecclesiastical respectability. This phrase of the Fourth Lateran Council is explained by the mentality of the epoch.
Observations of the Synod on the First Conciliar Schema "On the Eastern Churches" (1963)
The first schema "On the Eastern Churches," distributed to the Fathers of the Council, was submitted to an intensive review by the Holy Synod of August, 1963. The text of these first observations of the synod deserves to be published in major part, because of its historic importance. It follows step by step the text of the conciliar schema.
1. Criticism of the Preamble
The council considers itself as belonging to a Church which venerates the Eastern Churches, as if they were not part of the Church. Thus this preamble should be done over, according to the following observations:
-Eliminate the interpolation: "the very large and honorable crown of the Eastern patriarchs and prelates." This expression seems a bit hyperbolic. It is true that at the Second Vatican Council the number of Eastern prelates is greater than at the First Vatican Council, but it still remains only modest, compared with the first councils of antiquity, and also with the total of the Fathers in attendance, who are about 95% Latin.
-"Earnestly desiring therefore to manifest its solicitude for these venerable Churches." These words are paternalistic. Besides, they have been used too frequently. The Eastern Church should not be pampered like a weak child or coaxed like an unmanageable child. There is no need for special "solicitude." It is a branch of the Church, which wishes only that it be granted a just place in Catholicism, which is presently too massively Latin in constitution and in mentality.
-Omit the expression: "Among the people of the East." In fact, the proper mission of the Eastern Church is not limited to only the people of the East. The Church of the East is not today a geographical expression. It is a branch of the Church, nowadays spread out a bit everywhere. It is fitting, therefore, that it display its activity everywhere. The schema reveals, here and there, a mentality that is not very favorable to the East, as we shall see. For the schema, the Latin Church is the rule, the norm. The Eastern Church, the Eastern discipline, the patriarchs are the exception, which it is fitting to limit as much as possible. There are favorable wishes that the Eastern Church live and work, but "among the people of the East." Outside the East, it has nothing to do, and its faithful of the diaspora are normally destined to be latinized. It is necessary to react against this mentality.
-Omit the clause: "proposed by the Eastern patriarchs and prelates." For, to begin with, it is not true. One should not attribute to the patriarchs and prelates of the East this schema, which is not their work, and which is, to be definitive, not very favorable to them. In the second place, it is not fitting that the council be content to affirm what a portion of its members has proposed. The conciliar texts are the work of all the Fathers, even if they have been prepared by one group.
2. Particular Churches
Commence this portion with this affirmation of principle, which has as its aim showing that the epithet "particular Churches" applies not only to the Eastern Churches, as it is said, but to all Churches, including the Latin Church: "All Churches of the apostolic tradition, of whatever rite, whether Eastern or Western, are particular Churches."
-Omit the word "Orientalium." In fact it is not the variety of Eastern Churches that, "far from harming the Church, demonstrates its Catholicity." It is the variety of all the particular Churches. It is not only the Eastern Churches that are particular Churches. Even the Latin Church is a particular Church in the universal Church.
-Replace "of the nation or of the region" with "of the Church." Indeed, it is not a matter of safeguarding the traditions of each "nation or region," but of each "Church." It is not a matter of folklore, but of ecclesial traditions.
3. The Eastern Churches and the Roman Pontiff
One cannot say that all the particular Churches are "in an equal manner" entrusted to the pope. The Church of Rome is entrusted to him as its immediate bishop. The Western Church is entrusted to him as its patriarch. But the Eastern Churches and all the Churches are entrusted to him as the successor of Peter.
4. Easterners not provided with hierarchs
Add the following phrase: "Where indeed an ordinary of any rite has jurisdiction over the clergy and faithful of another rite, he should rule them with paternal love according to the spirit of their own rite. The spirit of the rite is that which thrives in the patriarchate or in other superior authority of that rite."
This addition is intended to prevent certain abuses: contamination of the rite, serious negligence in liturgical and disciplinary matters, etc. Since Latin ordinaries, for example, have jurisdiction over some Eastern faithful, they should govern them according to the spirit of their Eastern rite, and the source of this spirit should be the superior authority of the rite.
5. Religious Institutes working in the East
Add the following proposal: "among whom not only is the Eastern rite observed, but also the Eastern spirit prevails."
To us, this proposal seems to be necessary. In fact, it is not enough for Latin religious institutes to open houses or provinces of the Eastern rite; it is necessary that these foundations be animated by the Eastern spirituality, and, above all, it is necessary that they have the love of the East. The rite does not make the Easterner. One has seen strangers make themselves Eastern in regard to the rite, and at the same time nourish much aversion for the discipline, spirituality, apostolate, etc. of the Eastern Church. One should rather forbid these persons to adopt the Eastern rite.
6. Rite of the Orthodox Passing over to Catholic Unity
This number 9, as it is shown in the schema, is absolutely inadmissible. It constitutes a serious injustice, that we shall never tolerate, and a fatal blow to the Eastern Catholic Church. Therefore, given the gravity of the matter, we must expand a bit on this point.
First, it is appropriate to recall that this number, absolutely unexpectedly, has replaced a paragraph that the Eastern Commission had approved by a large majority, after long discussions. We thought that the affair was closed. But "certain persons"—we do not know which ones—have improperly replaced that former paragraph, favorable to the Easterners, with this new text, which constitutes a true injustice. Naturally, to cover up doing things in this manner, care was taken not to convene the conciliar commission, so that the Fathers of the council would be confronted with an accomplished deed. We protest vigorously against this abuse of confidence.
a. State of the question
While awaiting the blessed general reunion of all the Churches, to which we aspire with all our hearts, and for which we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, we must state that there are inevitably in Christianity some individuals or groups not united to Rome who ask access to union with it. For these cases, which we cannot ignore, we must establish applicable norms that are provisional—that is to say, until the global union of the Churches—to regulate these individual or partial unions.
The working out of these norms should not offend our Orthodox brethren or be considered as an indication of a proselytism of a bad type that "nibbles away" at their Church. We proceed here as would the Orthodox Church itself, which, in its canon laws and in its liturgical books, legitimately decrees prescriptions to be applied to other Christians who come to Orthodoxy.
In this section, it is a matter of baptized non-Catholics who come to the Catholic Church. To which rite should they belong? For example, an American Protestant who becomes Catholic, must he belong to the Latin Church, or should he, at the moment of his conversion, be able to choose to enter the rite that he wishes, for example, the Malabar rite? Common sense will doubtless reply: an American Protestant, if he becomes Catholic, normally should only be made a part of the Latin Catholic Church of America. If particular circumstances require that he become Malabar or Armenian, he has only to make application to the Holy See.
And if it is a question of non-Catholic (Orthodox) Easterners, what should one think? For example, an Ethiopian Orthodox who wishes to become Catholic, to what rite should he belong? Common sense replies: Normally, he will belong to the Ethiopian Catholic Church. However, for personal reasons that are completely special, of which superior authority remains the judge, he will be able exceptionally to become Malabar, Armenian, Ukrainian, or Latin. This is the point of view that we have always defended: Eastern Orthodox, in becoming Catholic, must normally remain not only Eastern (that is to say, not Latin), but also, in a more precise manner, Easterners of the same rite to which they may belong in Orthodoxy, except for personal reasons which may require their change to another rite, with the consent of the Holy See.
Unfortunately, such has not been the opinion of those who wrote this last schema, who have succeeded in maneuvering in such a way as to let the text voted by the preparatory commission fall into oblivion, to avoid summoning the conciliar commission and thus to present, as if it were coming from the Eastern prelates, a latinizing theory which is contrary to the constant attitude of the Holy See on this point.
This requires some explanations. We shall show first the discipline that was in force until now, then we shall review the text that is presented to us now, to defend afterwards the text which was voted by the preparatory Eastern Commission of the council, and which we shall continually defend with vigor, for the very future of Catholicism in the East is involve
b. Discipline in force until 1958
Until 1958, that is to say until the motu proprio "Cleri Sanctitati" of June 2, 1957, came into force, non-Catholic baptized Easterners who came over to Catholicism could choose, among the Eastern rites, whichever one pleased them. Thus, an Orthodox Ethiopian, on becoming Catholic, could become Armenian, Coptic, or Malabar, but he had to remain at least Eastern. To become Latin, he needed either an express indult of the Holy See, or to pose a condition, as it were a sine qua non, of not being willing to become Catholic except in the Latin rite. In practice, the apostles of latinization were not much bothered by this, and they counseled all whom they "converted" to set down this condition sine qua non. Entire regions were latinized in this manner. The Easterners protested vigorously, but the latinizers found powerful support at the Roman Curia and among the representatives of the Holy See in the locale. The most generous intentions of the popes thus remained a dead letter.
This discipline, in force until 1958, had an advantage and presented a drawback. The advantage was that it aimed at normally leaving the Easterners in the Eastern Church, without excluding the possibility of changing into the Latin rite, if special conditions were realized in the judgement of the Holy See. The drawback was that it authorized the Easterners, at the moment of their passing over to the Catholic Church, to join freely any Eastern Church whatsoever. Thus an Ethiopian could become Ukrainian, an Armenian could become Malabar, and a Russian could become Malankar. In practice, that did not happen, for each one remained in fact in his rite, but the legislation was defective in theory. It called for an improvement, in the sense of greater precision.
c. Discipline in force since 1958
The motu proprio "Cleri Sanctitati" of June 2, 1957, instead of improving the situation, aggravated it. Canon 11 of this motu proprio, in fact, gives to baptized non-Catholics of an Eastern rite, on becoming Catholic, the option of choosing the rite that they wish: "they can embrace the rite that they prefer." And that is just as true in the East as outside it. It is well known what vigorous protests our Melkite Church has raised, since the Synod of Cairo in 1958, against this canon. Here we summarize them briefly for the attention of those who have not become aware of them:
i. Canon 11, which was an innovation, is contrary to the declarations of the popes and the legislation which was in force until then. In particular, Pope Benedict XIV, in the constitution "Allatae Sunt" of July 26, 1755, no. 33, intended to summarize the constant norm followed by the popes when he said: "Never have the Roman pontiffs required from those who return to the Catholic faith that they abandon their rite and embrace by obligation the Latin rite. That would be, in fact, the disappearance of the Eastern Church and of all the Greek and Eastern rites, something that not only has never been attempted, but has always been and today still is absolutely alien to the spirit of the Holy See." And the Propaganda equally replied, on June 1, 1885 (Collectanea II, No. 1633, second) that missionaries, in receiving into the Catholic Church those who were born in Orthodoxy, must inscribe them in their Eastern rite, and not in the Latin rite, except by special authorization of the Holy See. Finally, it is clear, from what we have said under letter b, that canon 11 is contrary to the legislation which was in force until then.
ii. The new canon, it is true, does not oblige the Eastern non-Catholics to enter, by obligation, the Latin rite. But it is sufficient that they are permitted to do so in order for the "latinizers," still very numerous in the East and in the West, to redouble their fervor and to deprive the Eastern Catholic Churches of nearly all new development. Certainly, there is nothing improper in that the Roman Holy See, taking into consideration the particular needs of certain individuals, authorizes them to change by exception to the Latin rite, or to an Eastern rite other than their own, for the ultimate goal of all legislation in the Church must be the good of souls. But Church law should anticipate what is normal, not what is exceptional. Normally an Ethiopian Orthodox will be an Ethiopian Catholic, a Malabar Orthodox will be a Malabar Catholic, etc. But it is not normal for a Greek Orthodox to become Latin or Malabar. Besides, to permit the Latins to admit into their Latin rite, on a normal and regular basis, non-Catholic Easterners who wish to come to unity, is in the present concrete circumstances, given the considerable means that the latinizers have at their disposal in personnel, in works, and in resources, to condemn the Eastern Catholic Churches not to develop normally. Thus the liberty and the apparent equality intended by the canon are in practice equivalent to delivering the weak to the mercy of the strong.
iii. Leo XIII had prescribed severe sanctions, going as far as the deprivation of office, against those who pushed Easterners to adopt the Latin rite. The sanctions have in practice remained a dead letter, and the movement of latinization of the East has continued as before. Now, what the severest sanctions have not been able to prevent, will a simple wish, stealthily set at the end of the canon, to encourage the Easterners to remain in their rite, do any more to prevent? Canon 11 says, in fact: "Baptized non-Catholics of Eastern rite, who are admitted into the Catholic Church, can embrace the rite that they prefer; yet it is hoped that they retain their own rite." A platonic wish, which does not deceive anyone.
iv. While this canon 11 authorizes the Eastern non-Catholics to pass over to the Latin rite, the law presently in force forbids the Western non-Catholics to pass over to the Eastern rite! It is quietly admitted, in fact, that an Italian Protestant who wishes to become Catholic cannot normally adopt the Eastern rite, but will belong to the Latin rite. Besides, does it make good sense that Protestants of Rome, for example, in converting to Catholicism, pass into an Eastern rite? It does not make any better sense for Eastern Orthodox to become Latin.
For all these reasons we have protested vigorously against the innovation of canon 11 of the motu proprio "Cleri Sanctitati," and, benefiting from the fact that the Eastern Commission was studying this question anew, the Melkite delegate proposed an amendment to this canon to be submitted to the council. Here is how things have gone:
d. The Text Proposed by the Eastern Commission
The Commission "On the Eastern Churches," preparatory to the Council, approved by a large majority, in its session XVI, of April 21, 1961, the following text (See document No. 81-1961, pp. 2 & 3):
"Baptized non-Catholics, who are admitted to the Catholic Church, are obliged to retain their own rite, while the right is preserved, in particular cases, of having recourse to the Apostolic See."
This text presented the following advantages:
i. It does not set up any discrimination between the Latin rite and the Eastern rites. The rule that it proposes is equally valid for Western non-Catholics and for Eastern non-Catholics.
ii. It indicates that this must be the rule, the norm: each one must remain faithful to his rite, Western or Eastern.
iii. It sufficiently takes into account particular cases: the Holy See can give as many dispensations as it judges expedient.
Nevertheless, in spite of this opening that it allows for passing into another rite, the text has not pleased certain persons, who seem to wish at any price to favor the latinization of Easterners. Not taking into account the majority vote of the commission, they have tried, by the means at their disposal, to change the text, and that by stages, very cleverly, as one will see.
e. Modifications brought about successively to the text voted by the Eastern Commission
A first retouching, made in a photocopied communication entitled "Amended and Abridged Text," and dated December 15, 1962, reduced the text to the following:
"Baptized non-Catholics, in regions of particular rites, who are admitted to the Catholic Church, must retain their own rite; outside the regions of the particular rites they can embrace the rite that they prefer, although it is hoped that they retain their own rite, while the right is preserved, in particular cases, of having recourse to the Apostolic See."
Thus this first retouching, by interpolating very cleverly the addition "in regions of particular rites," limits the norm voted by the commission to Eastern regions alone; outside the Eastern regions, Eastern non-Catholics, on becoming Catholic, are not held to remaining Eastern, and of their original rite, but could choose the rites that they should wish, that is to say, in practice to pass into the Latin rite.
Thus we have protested with extreme vigor both this interpolation and the proceedings that consisted of scorning the deliberative vote of the commission in order to substitute in place of its text a text made in secret by unknown persons.
The result of our protest: the same persons who interpolated the first text drew up a text still more unfavorable to the East, that of the present schema No. 9, which reads as follows:
"Baptized non-Catholics, returning to the Catholic Church, in regions of their own rites, are admonished to retain their own rite..."
Thus, not only has the rule of remaining in one's own rite been limited to the East ("in regions of their own rites") but this obligation itself has disappeared; the verb "must" is cleverly replaced by the verb "are admonished"; after the admonishing, one is free to do what one wishes. And the prelates of the East, who had struggled so hard for the safeguarding of their rights, have been duped. And with the summit of the cleverness it is all presented as if coming from the Eastern prelates themselves: "to approve several chapters, proposed by the Eastern patriarchs and prelates." There is no need to comment.
i. The text on which the preparatory commission "On the Eastern Churches" had decided by a large majority should be respected. It can only be changed by a formal decision of the Conciliar Commission, which has no meeting until the middle of September, 1963.
ii. Again we declare that it is the province of the Fathers of the Council alone to approve or reject the only text legitimately proposed by the competent preparatory commission, namely the following:
g. Text proposed to the Council
"Baptized non-Catholics, who are admitted to the Catholic Church, are obliged to retain their own rite, while the right is preserved, in particular cases, of having recourse to the Apostolic See."
This discipline, which does not favor one or another Eastern Church that does not have an Orthodox branch, does not as such close to them the door to a wide apostolate of union. For they still have the possibility of recourse to the Holy See, and of working directly among non-Christians to lead them to the Catholic Church according to their particular rite. Happily, these Churches constitute an exception in the Christian East.
We regret that the study of this No. 9 of the schema has occupied us so long; but the question that is raised is of vital importance to the Eastern Catholic Churches.
7. The Patriarchs
One cannot say "thus and simply" that the patriarchal institution has been bestowed or recognized by the popes or by the ecumenical councils. That is historically false. It is not the Popes of Rome who have created the true and great Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. It is not even the ecumenical councils that created the institution of the patriarchate. The first Ecumenical Council of Nicea, in mentioning the three principal sees of Christianity (Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch), already implied the patriarchal institution, not as to the name, but as to the reality. This supra-episcopal reality that is the patriarchate has its roots in the apostolic age. The councils approved an accomplished fact. The popes have only created certain united patriarchates of recent institution. The patriarchate, as such, if it is not of divine right, is nevertheless apostolic and founded on the most ancient patristic tradition.
No. 12 of the schema can therefore remain as a wish that the council expresses to see the patriarchal institution honored in the Catholic Church. But to follow up on this wish, it will be necessary to do much work. For, truly, in the Catholic Church the patriarchal institution appears to the partisans of centralization as the principal enemy. However, nothing supports the primacy of the successor of Peter as much as the crown of his brothers, the patriarchs of the great sees of Christianity. To depreciate Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, or Jerusalem is to depreciate Peter and his successor. One should recall the words of Pope St. Gregory: "My honor is in the honor of my brothers." But it will doubtless be necessary to wait another century for Catholicity to become aware of what the institution of the patriarchate is. The West has forgotten that it has a patriarch, who is the Bishop of Rome, and that the East, its senior in Christianity, has several patriarchs. To measure the incomprehension of the Catholic West on the subject of the patriarchal institution, it is sufficient to read the three-fourths of a page that the schema "On the Eastern Churches" devotes to it.
We repeat: in a hundred years, it will be necessary to take up this theme again. Knowing the present state of minds, we have no hope of being able to achieve the adoption of a text on the patriarchates which will truly conform to Tradition and to what the Church has a right to expect from an institution that has presided, with the primacy of the successor of Peter, over the destinies of the faith across twenty centuries.
That is why we propose that either the Council should not speak of the patriarchates, rather than speak of them in this manner, or else that it be content with the following few lines, leaving to future generations the care of maturing this question: "The patriarchs are the principal bishops in the Catholic Church. That is to say that they enjoy full episcopal power, which is minimally or little bound by canonical limitation, as it is for other bishops. For it does not exceed the innate power of the successors of the Apostles that the senior bishops, each for his own region, should create other bishops, with whom they collegially govern the same territory, and over whom they preside as princes of the pastors.
"What, however, concerns the title or number or the territorial limits or the precedence of sees, that pertains to ecclesiastical law.
"According to the ancient tradition of the Church and of the ecumenical councils, the following are the titles and order of the major patriarchal sees: the first see is the Roman one of Saint Peter, the leader of the Apostles, the second Constantinople, the third Alexandria, the fourth Antioch, and the fifth Jerusalem."
This very brief text has for its aim first to combat the thesis that underlies the schema, according to which the patriarchate is constituted by the pure privileges that the pope concedes, and which he can modify at will. Now, one would wish to know the name of the pope or the council that erected as patriarchates the sees of Antioch and of Alexandria. On the contrary, for Saint Leo and Saint Gregory the Great, the three sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch draw their authority from the Apostle Peter: Peter at Antioch, Peter at Alexandria through his disciple Mark, Peter at Rome. Even if today one does not share the opinion of these two great popes, it still remains none the less true that the patriarchate is not a simple question of privileges granted by the pope or by the council to bishops taken at random.
In the second place, the council owes it to itself to cite the five patriarchal seats of Christianity. In setting aside the Roman seat, and making the patriarchate an institution that is purely Eastern, and almost non-Catholic, one distorts the facts of history and the very character of the patriarchal institution.
If one wishes nevertheless to go into some canonical details, we would propose to add also the following text:
"Except for the Roman See, there exists no patriarchal see, properly so-called, of the Latin rite. "The patriarchs who are called Eastern, by the force of their dignity, power, and traditional pre-eminence, whether in ecumenical councils or outside councils of that type, that is to say in handling all affairs, are, together with the Roman pontiff, their chief leader, special bishops of that Church which is everywhere. "That power of the patriarchs over their own bishops, clergy, and faithful, which has flourished from most ancient times, indeed from apostolic times, is produced by the Holy Spirit in the Mystical Body of Christ.
"The patriarchs thus constitute, by traditional and canonical right, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the supreme college in the Church.
"What the Synod of Florence and after it the Roman pontiffs have affirmed very frequently concerning not reducing substantially the rights and privileges of the patriarchs, this holy synod solemnly confirms. These rights and privileges are those that were in force during the thousand-year union of the East and the West, and even if they should occasionally be adapted to our times, they are truly not to be diminished appreciably."
8. Minister of Confirmation
One knows that the Council of Trent has defined that the "ordinary" minister of the sacrament of confirmation is the bishop. Besides, the expression "ordinary minister" is not a happy one when applied to the Eastern discipline. It is manifestly inspired by the Latin practice, in which the bishop is in fact the minister who ordinarily administers this sacrament, whereas, in the authentic Eastern discipline it is the priest who ordinarily administers this sacrament, and the bishop quite extraordinarily. On the other hand, the Eastern priest can confirm only when using the Myron or Holy Chrism, which only the patriarch or bishop can consecrate. To reconcile these two practices, it is proposed to say that the bishop is the "minister said to be the ordinary, or rather primary or original." To understand the Eastern point of view on this point of terminology, let the Latin theologians pose this question to themselves: if the Latin Church had confirmation ordinarily administered by the priests and not by the bishops, would they have called the bishop the "ordinary minister" of confirmation? It is thus necessary to find a term which fits both the Eastern discipline and the Western one, and not to make the Eastern point of view bend each time to the Latin practice.
9. The Eucharist to the Newly Baptized
As the Easterners have remained faithful to the usage of conferring the sacrament of confirmation at the same time as baptism, it is logical to confer also the third of the "three sacraments of Christian initiation," which is the Holy Eucharist. All those who have been baptized in Christ are at the same time confirmed in Him and receive His Body and His precious Blood. There is no reason to give confirmation to infants and to refuse to them the Holy Eucharist. It is a universal and very beautiful usage of the Eastern Church, which it is fitting to preserve or to restore.
10. Mixed Marriages
The Eastern Commission has voted a text to ease the present discipline of mixed marriages in the East. It was believed necessary to have this text preceded by a preface that is inspired by a spirit that is rather opposed to the open-mindedness of the section that follows, not to mention that this preface is complicated, a bit offensive to non-Catholics, and definitely unnecessary. It begins by saying that it is not easy to avoid mixed marriages. That is obvious, as well for the East as for the West. However, the text adds, it is necessary to warn the faithful to avoid these mixed marriages. That is to establish as a principle that these marriages are something bad. Then it is said that if one cannot avoid them, one should watch out that the spouses avoid the dangers that they comprise, etc. To remark that the non-Catholics take the same measures to protect themselves against us is to put the faithful in a very tormented state of conscience.
The text of the schema adds two other phrases that we propose to eliminate. The first sets up a condition: "and if there likewise should be danger lest the non-Catholic partner oblige the Catholic partner to join him." This condition is not necessary to permit the bishop to dispense from the form of marriage. It occurs sometimes; at other times it does not. If it is put in the conciliar text, theologians are going to believe that henceforth the Church demands another condition. The second phrase is: "Yet the conscience of the hierarchs is gravely burdened by the observance of the precautions that are prescribed in the law." According to a widespread opinion, which has been officially communicated to us by the Eastern Congregation, the Church only requires of the Catholic party that he or she promise to do as much as possible to ensure that the children are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church. Nothing more seems to have been demanded, above all of the non-Catholic party, except respect of his Catholic spouse. Given that opinion and the practice that it inspires, it seems to us that the phrase of the schema "gravely burdened conscience" becomes a bit excessive. What sort of Catholic party is one who does not wish to do what is possible?
11. Sacred Times
It seems to us that this matter "of sacred times" should be rather in the jurisdiction of the future code of Eastern canon law. It is not appropriate that the council descend to these details, unless it wishes to totally renew and unify this rather complicated matter. Now, this is not the case, for each number of the schema leaves an opening for the regulations of the particular law. Thus, nothing is accomplished. After the council, as before it, each Church will continue pretty much to be guided by its own intentions. Besides, it seems difficult to unify this discipline in all the countries of the world at the same time. It is better, it seems, that the council invite the hierarchs having jurisdiction in the same country to unify the discipline in the matters of the feasts, of fasting, and of abstinence. This is a question of local interest that synods or episcopal conferences can handle more advantageously.
12. Living Language in the Liturgy
The Church is dynamic, living, adapting continuously. Although we Melkites, for example, have passed from the Greek to Syriac, then from Syriac to Arabic, it isn't that we should stop there. In the United States, our "Arabic" is English; in Paris, French; in Argentina, Spanish; etc. Since we are permitted to celebrate everywhere in the living language, we do not have to inform the hierarch of the place, for it is a general law of the Church, which is supposed to be known and respected. Likewise, we do not inform him that we wish to celebrate with leavened bread. But, if we habitually wish to celebrate in a language that is not the living language of the country, or if we wish to celebrate in a language that is not habitually in use in our Church, then, in that case, we must inform the hierarch of the place. For example, if we have to celebrate in Spanish in New York. But if, in New York, we wish to celebrate in English, we do not have to give notice to the ordinary of the place, for the general law of the Church authorizes us to celebrate everywhere in the vernacular, therefore in English in New York.
13. Union of Christians
This second part of the schema deserves complete praise. We say that all the more willingly in that we have been severe on the first part, on the canonical aspect. We shall make one or another remark, primarily of details, so that the text may be even better, if possible, but the spirit with which this second part has been composed is clearly different from the spirit of the first part. One feels there respect and love with regard to the Christian East. All our congratulations, without reservations.
These amendments are proposed to soften what the expressions of the schema may have that is uselessly offensive; for example: "that they may come to Catholic unity." Catholic unity is the unity of all Churches in the universal Church, the "catholica." It is not fitting to present union as the return of our brethren to us, but rather our reunion in the Catholic Church: a matter of nuances, but very important in ecumenical dialogue. Likewise, it is necessary at all cost to eliminate the clause "and that they may participate in the fullness of revelation," for our Orthodox brethren do participate in the fullness of revelation, since they do not deny the Scriptures, nor Tradition, nor the magisterium of the Church. Likewise, it is not completely exact to say that only by their joining Catholicism will our separated brethren "be made members in fact of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ." What were they formerly? The schema "On the Church" has corrected, on this point, the theories of certain too rigid theologians; it is fitting to take this into account.
Having said this, it pleases us to renew our congratulations for this second part, while wishing that the first be done over in the same spirit. We also wish, with the Fathers of the first session of the council, that a single text "On the Union of Eastern Christians" be drawn up in collaboration with the Secretariat for the Union of Christians. A frank collaboration should be sought.
Observations of the Synod on the Second Conciliar Schema "On the Eastern Churches" (1964)
Profiting from the written remarks that had been made to it, the Eastern Commission reviewed its schema, reducing it considerably. The Holy Synod of August 1964 made new observations on it, which were copied and distributed to the Fathers of the council at the time of their Session III (Autumn, 1964). They deserve, like the preceding synodal observations, to be published in major part, in light of their historical importance.
I. Preliminary Question: Is This Schema Necessary?
Many Fathers have thought that a special schema "On the Eastern Churches" was not necessary and that its matter could advantageously be included in other schemas. In fact, the Eastern Churches are not Churches on the margin of the Church, distinct from the Church, of such a sort that the Council should devote a separate schema to them. They are of the Church as much as the Latin Church. There is thus a danger that in addressing itself in a particular manner to the Eastern Churches, the council might identify itself with the Latin Church addressing itself, with a touch of paternalistic benevolence, to the Eastern Churches.
This danger is not chimerical, but it can be avoided by appropriate clarifications, some of which already appear in the text of the schema, and others should be added. The council is the universal Catholic Church, which is no more Latin than Greek, Armenian, or other. Through the council, it is the Catholic Church itself that addresses sometimes the Latin Church to bring about reforms (which is the case for the mass of the canonical schemas), sometimes to the Eastern Churches, which have particular needs, sometimes to the Church as a whole, the Latin and Eastern, without distinction. The confusion between the Catholic Church and the Latin Church can thus be easily avoided.
Besides, numerous positive reasons provide evidence in favor of a particular schema "On the Eastern Churches": a. The Eastern Catholic Churches today certainly have problems to be resolved, which are not posed to the Latin Church as a whole: the effort to resist massive latinization and to remain faithful to their Eastern vocation, the restoration of the patriarchal and synodal privileges, return to a truly Eastern canonical discipline, inter-ritual collaboration, wider inter-confessional relations with our Orthodox brothers, etc. These problems, special to the East, should receive a particular solution and cannot be dispersed among the other schemas, with the risk of being unnoticed, or of receiving a less than adequate solution. Nevertheless, in all the other schemas, institutions particular to the East are often taken into account, in the manner of a lure announcing the schema devoted to the Eastern Churches.
b. In the second place, the present schema has profited from the tendency of the Council, the supreme authority, to abolish, in the present Eastern canonical legislation (done by way of the Roman authority), that which appeared inopportune or contrary to sound Eastern tradition. If it should happen that this schema were eliminated, the codification commission, sitting at Rome, would risk either indefinitely postponing its work or codifying it in a sense unfavorable to the Easterners. See, for example, the measures taken by the schema to forbid massive latinization (No. 4, p. 6, lines 6-7: "and also the baptized non-Catholics coming to the Catholic Church"), to make known everywhere the validity of the sacrament of confirmation administered by Eastern priests (No. 13-14), to widen the Sunday precept (No. 15), to facilitate confessions (No. 16), to restore the sub-diaconate among the minor orders (No. 17), to effect a reasonable easing of mixed marriages in the East (No. 18), etc. Taking everything into consideration, the present schema, even if it can be improved on more than one point, is good, and it will help the Eastern Churches to rediscover themselves.
c. Finally, what is a considerable advantage, the presence of a particular schema on the East, prepared by a special commission, will open the way for the creation of a post-conciliar commission, which will take up the work that has been commenced and will improve it. Like all the other post-conciliar commissions, it will be international, with wide horizons and piously audacious. The progress of the East will thus be, in large part, the work of the Easterners themselves or of brothers who are friends of the East.
For all these reasons, we believe that the present schema should be maintained as a distinct schema, and that it is written well enough to be proposed to the council. It must be corrected on certain points. On other points, it can be improved, but, as it is, it represents an improvement.
II. Title of the Schema
Since the term "Eastern Churches" applies to the Eastern Orthodox Churches as well as to the Eastern Catholic Churches, and since, on the other hand, the council intends to legislate only for Catholics, we propose saying "On the Eastern Catholic Churches." "Eastern" and "Western" are understood not so much as of a geographical position, but as of two manners of being in the Church, of two partially distinct forms of ecclesial life. For, geographically, there are today Easterners in the "West," and Westerners in the "East," in Africa, everywhere. To permit the Easterners, as well as the Westerners, to be "at home" wherever they are, one should no longer speak of the "Eastern territories" and the "Western territories": there are faithful of the Eastern rites and faithful of the Latin rite dispersed throughout the world, and everywhere they are all at home in the bosom of the same Catholic Church.
III. The Preamble
The preamble is not felicitous. It does not sufficiently avoid giving the impression that the Catholic Church is speaking of the Eastern Churches as entities distinct from it. Well, the Catholic Church is composed of the Eastern Churches as well as of the Latin Church.
In the second place, the Catholic Church gratuitously pays the compliment of "having always held in high esteem" the institutions, the rites, the ecclesiastical traditions, and the discipline of the Eastern Churches. Well, apart from the liturgical rites (again!), the other institutions of the East have generally been so little respected in the Catholic Church that, without the relatively recent awareness of certain Easterners, they were running a great risk of disappearing. The latinization of the East is not only a phenomenon of the past; today it is still extolled openly and upheld secretly and even publicly by very weighty authorities of the Catholic Church, in spite of the warnings of the popes, which have been severe and repeated a hundredfold. To say after that that the Catholic Church, represented, to be sure, by Catholics, leaders and faithful, has always held in high esteem the institutions of the East, appears to be almost ironic.
We propose saying more clearly and more humbly: "All the Christian faithful and leaders everywhere must hold... the institutions of the Eastern Churches."
One can also purely and simply eliminate this preamble and substitute for it Number 2, which is, in general, a good introduction to the existence, in the bosom of the Church, of hierarchical groups such as that of the Latin Church or the different Eastern Churches.
IV. The Particular Churches
One is a bit surprised by this title. Not that the expression "particular Churches" causes any difficulty today, as it is widely used in the schema "On the Church." But one is astonished that the council speaks of "particular Churches" right at the beginning of the schema devoted to the "Eastern Churches," as if only the Eastern Churches were particular Churches, and the Latin Church synonymous with the universal Church. This impression, contrary to Catholic doctrine, can be dispelled if there is inserted in the text a word of clarification.
We would willingly propose that Number 2 serve as a preamble to the whole schema, in case the present preamble could not be sufficiently improved. Besides, it repeats an idea, expressed in greater depth in the schema "On the Church," on the origin of Churches within the Church. In every case, this should be sustained in order to exclude all confusion between particular Church and liturgical rite. The same rite can be common to several Churches, for example the Byzantine rite, employed not only by the Greek Church but also by the Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Melkite Churches, etc. Likewise, a Church can have, in itself, different liturgical rites, for example the Church of Lyons, which practices the Lyons rite and the Roman rite. It is thus necessary to distinguish these ideas, and above all to avoid seeing in the Eastern Churches nothing more than different liturgical rites. It is that that Number 2 has wished to avoid doing.
To avoid promoting the belief that only the Eastern Churches are particular Churches and that the Latin Church is the universal Church, it is absolutely necessary to modify the beginning of paragraph 3, as follows: "Particular Churches of this type, whether Eastern or Latin, although in rites, etc...." It is necessary at any cost to declare, once and for all, that the Latin Church is, in the bosom of the Catholic Church, one of the particular Churches, although today it is in fact the most numerous. Thus the Eastern Churches in Catholicism would no longer appear as exceptions, as annexes, but as Churches, as much as the Latin Church.
The expression "yet in an equal manner they are entrusted to the guidance of the Roman pontiff..." does not correspond to theological and historical truth, and that for two reasons:
a. First, it is not true that all the Churches are entrusted in an equal manner to the Roman pontiff. The Church of Rome is entrusted to him as its immediate bishop; the province of Latium, as its metropolitan; Italy, as its primate; the West as its patriarch; finally, all the Churches as the successor of Peter in his universal primacy. It is certain, for example, that over the West the pope exercises prerogatives that are of a rather patriarchal character, which are normally and traditionally reserved, in the East, to the patriarchs and their synods, for example the designation of bishops. These distinctions are bit by bit blurred in the teaching and practice of the Latin West, where ecclesiastical organization is reduced in practice to two ecclesial realities: on one hand, an infinity of dioceses, on the other, a central power directing all of them equally. The East has remained faithful to a more hierarchical organization, and, above all, to a more nuanced conception of the ecclesiastical order. That is why the expression "in an equal manner" appears inadequate.
b. In the second place, the text begins by indicating those things by which the particular Churches differ among themselves: liturgy, discipline, and spiritual heritage. Then it tries to indicate the common bond between these Churches, and it finds only the fact that they are all "equally entrusted to the pastoral guidance of the Roman pontiff." That is very little and purely extrinsic. The different Churches, although having certain particular things, nevertheless and above all have many things in common: adherence to Jesus Christ by faith, the same sacraments, the same morality, the same mission in the world, etc. And even in the matters in which they present some variety, as liturgy, discipline, etc., the points of convergence are infinitely more numerous than the points of divergence.
That is why we propose the following amendment:
"Such particular Churches, although they differ somewhat among themselves in what are called rites, that is in liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage, yet all with equal right constitute one Church."
The rest of the sentence can be omitted. If one nevertheless persists, although it is not necessary to repeat it everywhere, in mentioning the Roman primate, who is the visible basis of the unity among the Churches, one can add: "which (Church) is entrusted to the pastoral guidance of all bishops in communion with the Roman pontiff, who divinely succeeds to Saint Peter in the primacy over the whole Church."
The rest of the paragraph is excellent. It repeals with a stroke of the pen the theory of the pre-eminence of the Latin rite, and affirms the right of the Eastern Churches to have their indispensable part in the evangelization of the world: two fundamental truths, still to a large extent unrecognized.
This schema opens new horizons and sets new landmarks for a radical reform of attitude with regard to the Christian East.
V. New and Important Improvements
Number 4 is very weighty and we request the Council to vote it as a whole without adding any modifications for each word has been carefully weighed. It represents on behalf of the Eastern Churches three new and important improvements, obtained after numerous and laborious discussions in the Commission:
a. The right of Easterners to have their hierarchy everywhere, "wherever the spiritual good of the faithful so demands," that is to say, in practice, wherever they are in sufficient numbers.
Until now, the Latin hierarchy considered itself master of the universe. The Latin Church partitioned the world for itself. It was present everywhere. There is not a point of the globe where there isn't a territorial Latin hierarchy, considering itself fully at home, even at the heart of Constantinople or Moscow. Even where there were only 500 Latins, for the greater part foreigners in the country, a local Latin hierarchy has been installed. Eastern authority could not raise its voice in protest, without the anxiety of being viewed in a bad light or having its Catholic faith suspected.
On the contrary, there are hundreds of thousands of Eastern Catholics who have settled in Europe, in Africa, in Australia, and especially in America. For numerous years we have entreated for the establishment of a hierarchy for them, even a simple personal one, to look after their priests, their works, their future, because the Latin hierarchy, even with the best good will, cannot take care of them effectively. They need not only priests of their rite, but also bishops of their rite. Wasted effort!
Thousands of reasons are found to refuse us what we ask, not for ourselves, but for our poor faithful who are on the road to being separated and lost. The episcopacy of the affected country refuses, we are told. As for us, when a Latin hierarchy has been installed in the very heart of the East, our opinion has not been requested. And when we have succeeded, after an infinite number of proceedings, in convincing the one who had the right to accept an Eastern bishop, there appeared other difficulties of the financial, political, local, or personnel order. Without our faith in God and our love for souls, we would have despaired while seeing our children drifting away more and more because our hands have been tied, when we could save them. We have undergone these misfortunes because we are Easterners united with Rome, while the Orthodox, because they are not united with Rome, are organized and expand.
This injustice must cease. The first part of this paragraph affirms that the good of souls surpasses everything. It goes without saying that this should apply to us also. In the same manner that Latin parishes and hierarchies have been installed in the East on behalf of the faithful of the Latin rite, even when their number is sometimes minimal, one should also in justice without talking about charity and the good of souls—install parishes and hierarchies in the "West" (Europe, Africa, Australia, and especially America) on behalf of the faithful of Eastern rite.
As for the method of bringing about this principal reform, we place our confidence in the common Father, the sovereign pontiff of Rome. The Council, in this beginning of paragraph 4, respectfully calls upon him in this sense, and in doing so shatters the opposition, very prejudicial to souls, of all those who still do not wish to understand.
b. Inter-ritual Cooperation: Although having a single jurisdiction in a territory may be in principle the best formula, there are great advantages and sometimes the necessity for having Churches of various rites and different traditions, existing in the same territory, entrusted to different hierarchies. The fact is that it is impossible, without very serious inconveniences both for the Church and for the faithful, to make at the present time an abstract rule for this state of things. Nevertheless, in spite of the multiplicity of jurisdictions, unity of action in the Church should be protected by inter-ritual synods. This particular form of episcopal collegiality requires that, if for the good of the faithful, several hierarchs have jurisdiction in the same territory, they should take in common, collegially, timely decisions to unify the action of the Church in their territory.
There are thus new attitudes of thought and of action that the bishops have urged, above all in the East. For all the questions that are not of a strictly ritual order or pertaining to a community, it is necessary to collaborate, to unite efforts, to decide in common, collegially, to avoid dispersion of forces: schools, press, radio-television, charitable works, pastoral care of the whole, catechism, preaching, etc.
The different Churches have until now lived as rather shut in on themselves, jealous of their prerogatives. Today, a new mentality should correspond to new times. Although the jurisdictions cannot be united, there can and should be a unification of action, to take the maximum advantage of the possibilities of episcopal collegiality, of synodalism, so dear to the East.
c. Latinization Is Forbidden: The third part of this paragraph is of the greatest importance: it closes the door once and for all to the latinization of the East. In our observations on the preceding schemas, distributed in the course of the second session of the council, we have related the history of this serious question.
With only three votes short of unanimity (in a total of 17 votes), the Eastern Commission has voted the present text, and we beseech the Fathers of the council who have at heart the future of the East to approve it as it is. In brief, the idea is as follows:
Each of the faithful must remain in his rite, that is to say, in the particular Church in which Providence has placed him: if Latin, he must remain Latin everywhere, even in the East; if Eastern, he will remain Eastern everywhere, even in the West.
This rule does not present any difficulty when it is a matter of the Catholic faithful, who can change rite only for reasons that are grave and, except in the case of marriage, with the authorization of the Holy See itself.
Does that also apply to baptized non-Catholics (Orthodox and others) who ask to enter the Catholic communion? That is the whole question. We are not unaware of the great ecumenical movement that impels a dialogue of union between one Church and another. We wish even to confirm again our desire to condemn all proselytism that would diminish one Church in order to expand another.
But, while awaiting the happy general unification of all Churches, we must state that there are inevitably in Christianity some individuals or groups not united with Rome who ask to come to union with it. In these cases, which are not abstract ones, certain applicable norms must be established provisionally—that is to say, until the general unification of Churches—to regulate these individual or partial unions.
It is not necessary that the working out of these norms offend our Orthodox brothers or be considered an indication of a proselytism of a bad kind which seeks to "nibble away" at their Church. We are here acting like the Orthodox Church itself, which, in its canonical and liturgical books, legitimately issues regulations that apply to other Christians who approach Orthodoxy.
Neither should our brethren of the Latin Church be offended if we wish to hinder, under normal circumstances, the changing of these Orthodox to the Latin rite. We respect and love our sister Church of the Latin rite, but we re-emphasize that Easterners should remain Easterners in the Catholic Church, and this for the very good of the Catholic Church.
That having been said, there are three possible attitudes in regard to this problem of the other Christians who wish to join the Catholic Church.
1. Viewpoint of the "latinizers"
They say, let non-Catholics be free to choose, at the moment of their becoming Catholic, the rite which they wish, at least when they set down their joining the Latin rite as a condition sine qua non of their "conversion." Arguments of the latinizers:
a) It is the present discipline of the Church. See canon 11 of the motu proprio "Cleri Sanctitati" of June 2, 1957.
b) Non-Catholics do not belong to any rite. Each (missionary) can admit them, in "converting" them, to his own rite, a bit like the Jews, the Muslims, or the pagans. That creates a rivalry among missionaries as to who can "convert" more.
c) Eastern non-Catholics themselves, that is to say the Orthodox, in becoming Catholic, generally refuse to remain in the Eastern rite and demand that they become Latin.
d) The Eastern Catholic clergy does not try hard enough to "convert" Orthodox. If one wishes to "convert" all the Orthodox, one must let the Latin missionaries do it.
e) Eastern Catholics are "imperfectly Catholics," "of dubious faith." One must avoid having Orthodox transfer to them. "Easterners will never be fully Catholic unless they become Latin."
f) To compel the Orthodox who become Catholic to remain Eastern is to abridge human liberty, which is an element of the person and guaranteed by the "United Nations Charter."
Reply to the Arguments of the Latinizers:
a) The discipline contained in canon 11 of the motu proprio "Cleri sanctitati" dates only from 1957. It was imposed on the Easterners in spite of themselves, following obscure maneuvers which history will one day reveal. The former discipline gave the Orthodox who wished to become Catholic the choice of joining the Eastern rite that they preferred, and not the Latin rite, unless they placed becoming Latin as a condition sine qua non of their joining Catholicism. In practice, the latinizers arranged to have their "converts," each time, place this condition sine qua non. They even had forms printed in advance and distributed beforehand to be signed. What in the thought of the legislators should be an exception became the normal practice. The motu proprio of 1957 suppressed even this theoretical impediment, opening wide the door to latinization. It is this provision of the motu proprio of 1957 that the schema intends to reform.
b) It is not true that the Orthodox are not of any rite. They very definitely belong to a rite, to a Church, and in becoming Catholic they must remain faithful to their rite, as to a calling. The case of the non-baptized is completely different.
c) Orthodox who wish to become Catholic do not demand becoming Latin except when the priests counseling them put this idea into their heads. The best proof of this is that everywhere in the East, except in a region which the latinizers have chosen as their own (Palestine), Orthodox do not place this condition. If they place it in that region, it is because they have been urged to do so by a clergy that has an interest in latinizing them. If the clergy counseled them to remain Eastern, or left them free to choose, the Orthodox would not ask for more. (See our booklet Catholicism or Latinism?)
d) It is not right to accuse the Eastern Catholic clergy of not "converting" sufficiently. The Orthodox do not need to be "converted" but to be "reconciled;" one must show them the ideal of Catholic communion and invite them to restore unity, by showing them by deeds how the Holy See of Rome respects their rites, their discipline, all their spiritual heritage.
e) The latinizers do not believe in our full Catholic faith, although we have defended it, over the centuries, at the price of thousands of sacrifices. But it is certain that Catholicism does not represent for us what they would wish. We wish to be Catholic and Eastern at the same time. That is the only good formula for ecumenism.
f) There is nothing contrary to human freedom in obliging Easterners to remain in their rites. Every law, by definition, places some restraint on human freedom with the view to assuring a higher good, that of society. In this case, the higher good of the society that is the Church requires that Easterners do not become Latin, that they understand their mission and their vocation. Nevertheless, if for personal reasons one or another Easterner is absolutely determined to become Latin, we see no objection to it. That is why the text of the schema anticipates these particular cases by stating: "while retaining the right, in particular cases, of having recourse to the Apostolic See." We prefer, in these cases, recourse to the Holy See, rather than the former condition sine qua non, which has proved to be inefficacious, as we have said. But it is not right, under the pretext of respecting each one's freedom, to utilize the wealth and personnel at the disposal of the Latin missionaries in the East to impel the Easterners towards latinization. Let us help them to regain the Catholic communion, while remaining at the same time Eastern, like their fathers, as Providence has made them.
2.- Another Viewpoint
It is said that the Orthodox should not become Latin. That is agreed. But let us at least permit them, at the time of their joining Catholicism, to choose, among the Eastern rites, whichever they prefer.
a) Thus, it is said, the danger of latinization is averted on the one hand.
b) In addition, this is a return to the discipline existing prior to that of 1957.
c) More freedom is provided for the Orthodox desiring to be reconciled with the Roman Church.
a) This theory does not entirely avert the danger of latinization, for the latinizers can object: why do you permit an Armenian Orthodox to become Maronite, and do not permit him to become Latin? Isn't the Latin rite a Catholic rite like the Eastern rites?
b) The discipline prior to that of 1957 represented an objectionable order of logic. It is not normal, in fact, that an Ethiopian Orthodox should become Ukrainian Catholic, or that an Armenian Orthodox should become Greek Catholic. If each one has a mission to fulfill in the Church in which Providence has set him, he should normally remain there and not leave it except for personal reasons, and under extraordinary circumstances.
c) Ecclesiastical law must not guarantee the freedom of escaping from one's vocation, from the mission that is assigned to everyone in his Church.
In other words, when we ask that the Easterners remain in their own rite, in their own Church, it is in order that, at the moment of the so greatly desired general union of Churches they can rejoin their Orthodox brothers of the same rite, and, once again, constitute with them one single Church, united and in communion with the universal Church.
In this perspective, we believe that each Easterner must remain in his own rite.
However, among the Eastern rites there is a community of origin, of thought, and of apostolate, so that an Easterner who changes to another Eastern rite is not at all in the situation of an Easterner who changes to the Latin rite. That is why we state that if the other Eastern communities so prefer, we ourselves give our concurrence for a pure and simple return to the discipline prior to 1957, which is that Orthodox passing into the Catholic Church can ask to join the Eastern rite of their choice, while it remains forbidden to pass into the Latin rite, unless there is recourse, in particular cases, to the Holy Roman See.
3.-Viewpoint of the Great Majority of Easterners
On becoming Catholic, the Orthodox (and non-Catholics in general) will normally remain each in his rite. That is the rule. Exceptionally, if the good of his soul requires it, he can always request the Holy Roman See to grant permission to change to another rite. It will readily be granted, since the final and supreme goal is the good of souls. But outside of these particular cases, each one, as the Apostle says, "should remain in the vocation to which he has been called." That is what the text of the schema has very successfully codified, and we hope that the Fathers of the council will approve it in full.
VI. The Eastern Patriarchs
This chapter is the least pleasing of all those in the present schema. On certain points, it is even inadmissible.
a. Deficiencies of this Chapter
1. The schema, in speaking of the rights and privileges of the Eastern patriarchs, refers to the ecumenical councils and to a "very ancient tradition in the Church." Well, the ecumenical councils and Tradition have not spoken of the "Eastern patriarchs." They have never considered the patriarchate as an institution of the Eastern Churches, but rather as an institution of the Church, conciliar, in which the See of Rome belongs in the first place.
Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, by asserting constantly that the sovereign pontificate must not hinder their being the regular bishops of Rome and their being personally involved in their diocese, have put an end to this false conception of a papacy detached from the episcopacy, presiding over the episcopal college without being part of it. The pope is the leading bishop of Christianity, but he has not ceased thereby to be the Bishop of Rome.
The pope, the Bishop of Rome, is also the Patriarch of the West. Patristic tradition and the ecumenical councils have always considered him as such, without ever believing that it could jeopardize his primacy. Why should the pope, who does not feel himself belittled by the fact that he is Bishop of Rome, and in this capacity equal to the bishops, feel himself belittled by the fact that he is also Patriarch of the West, equal, on this level, to the patriarchs of the East?
Any attempt to place the papacy above and outside of the episcopacy and the Church would damage the serenity and the sincerity of the dialogue with Orthodoxy.
Is not the secretary general of the council always there to solemnly inform the Fathers of the council of the program of the papal ceremonies in the "patriarchal basilica" of St. John Lateran, the "patriarchal basilica" of St. Peter at Rome, the "patriarchal basilica" of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls, and the "patriarchal basilica" of St. Mary Major? As for the Lateran palace, where the popes live, the archives and the stones have preserved its name: it is named the "patriarchium."
The title of patriarch is thus not a purely Eastern title that does not pertain to the popes of the Roman Church.
2. On the other hand, the schema speaks of the Eastern patriarchs without mentioning, at least in passing, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the three apostolic sees of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The schema exalts the patriarchal dignity, referring to ancient traditions and to the ecumenical councils. Well, the ancient traditions and the ecumenical councils have not exalted an anonymous patriarchal institution, as the schema does. They recognized for certain specific sees, which they have cited by name, a particular dignity, based on precise reasons, proper to these sees alone.
Moreover, these sees have been declared the foremost in the Church—after Rome—by the oldest tradition of the Church and by the ecumenical councils, even before they were invested in the fifth century with the title of patriarchate. To exalt the institution of the patriarchate, on the basis of tradition and the councils, while remaining silent on the names of the sees to which the patriarchal institution owes its existence, is to give the title priority over the see, and the insignia priority over the person. That could be interpreted as a premeditated desire to submerge the four patriarchates, which are always at the head of the Eastern Churches, in the multitude of the sees to which this title or its equivalent has been granted by stretching and in a secondary manner.
On the contrary, what should have been done is to name—as the councils have done—the five traditional patriarchal sees that have priority over the others, and to put at their head the See of Rome. That was the place to say again in three lines what these councils have wished to say, which is that in the Church there are five traditional sees that have priority over the others and which should be listed as follows: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
These councils have not said that, in the Eastern Church Constantinople had priority over Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, but they have said that in the Church of God, the Church everywhere, Constantinople was the first see after Rome, Alexandria the second see after Rome, Antioch the third see after Rome, and Jerusalem the fourth. And, in fact, the incumbents of these four patriarchal sees of the East have shared in the solicitude of the whole Church, in collaboration with the Bishop of Rome and under his primacy. And, in fact, the incumbents of the four great Eastern sees have exercised, in the course of the thousand years of union with Rome, a role of the first order in the life of the universal Church.
Popes and Eastern patriarchs were, during the time of the union, the summits of the universal episcopacy. As soon as he was elected, the Bishop of Rome sent his profession of faith to the four incumbents at Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and only to them. And the latter, on the occasion of their enthronement did the same among themselves and for their consideration exclusively. Thus there was established in the Church a patriarchal college, a "summit" of general care, through which was brought about the visible collegial communion of all the Churches, of all the episcopacy, as was confirmed by this exchange only among themselves of letters which were "irenical," according to the nomenclature used in Orthodoxy.
It should not surprise anyone that at the Fourth Council of Constantinople, called the Eighth Ecumenical, a council that started with a dozen bishops and never had a very full attendance, just the presence, direct or through representatives, of the four Eastern patriarchs would have sufficed to have it considered up to our day as universal. The agreement of the four patriarchs, canonically and actively united with their episcopate as with the Bishop of Rome, appeared sufficient to have it recognized as having such an ecumenical standing. (Canon 21 of this council stated: "We decree that those who preside over the patriarchal sees should be considered worthy of all honor, especially the very holy Pope of Old Rome, then the Patriarch of Constantinople, then the one of Alexandria, then those of Antioch and Jerusalem.")
Likewise, there was nothing astonishing when the Council of Florence, in its turn, after the eighth ecumenical council, stating the order of the foremost seats of Christianity, called patriarchal, as in the ninth century they had already existed for many centuries, listed them in the following order: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and pronounced that in doing so it "renewed the ancient tradition."
From these facts, from so many others, from the esteem, for example, in which Pope St. Gregory held the incumbents of Alexandria and of Antioch, whom he considered as successors with him on the same seat, that of Peter, from all the reality with which today's Orthodoxy in particular is nourished and lives, there bursts forth forcefully the more particularly universal care of the patriarchs in the Church.
There are also all the consequences that this implies: care manifesting itself very specially again through the wonderful missionary activity of Constantinople in eastern Europe, notably through its sons Cyril and Methodius, of Alexandria in Nubia and Ethiopia, of Antioch in Armenia, in Persia, and through the extension of its daughter of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, as far as India and China.
b. Proposed Amendments:
Title: Say "On Patriarchs," without adding "Eastern."
1. To No. 7: Eliminate in this number all the words that could make one believe that the patriarchate is an institution peculiar to the East.
"The institution of the patriarchate has flourished in the Church (eliminate the word "Eastern") from the earliest times, and was recognized by the first ecumenical synods. By the name of patriarch (eliminate the word "Eastern") is meant the bishop to whom canon law grants jurisdiction over all bishops, including metropolitans, clergy, and people of that territory or rite." (Eliminate the rest.)
The remainder of that sentence, "to be exercised in accordance with the norms of the law and without prejudice to the primacy of the Roman pontiff," should be eliminated for two reasons:
a) It is evident that patriarchal power must be exercised "in accordance with the norms of law." What power is there which can be exercised "contrary to the law"? It is also evident that the patriarchal power is exercised "without prejudice to the primacy of the Roman pontiff." Nothing in the Church can be done contrary to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome or not taking it into account. Is it necessary to repeat this truth on every occasion, until there is a surfeit?
b) Since the pope of Rome himself is also a patriarch, it is not logically appropriate to say, in speaking of him as a patriarch, that his patriarchal power is exercised "without prejudice to the primacy of the Roman pontiff."
2. To No. 8: Start this number with this very important reminder: "According to the ancient tradition of the Church and the decrees of the ecumenical councils, these are the titles and order of the major patriarchal sees: first, the Roman see of Saint Peter, leader of the Apostles, second Constantinople, third Alexandria, fourth Antioch, fifth Jerusalem."
Then replace the text of No. 8 with the following text: "Although some patriarchates are of later origin than others, all are equal to the major patriarchal sees as far as the exercise of patriarchal power is concerned, retaining among themselves the precedence of honor that has been legitimately established."
In all cases, the word "Eastern" should be eliminated in this No. 8, for the reasons set forth above.
a) "The patriarchs with their synods constitute the supreme authority for all affairs of their patriarchates, including the right to establish new eparchies and to freely name bishops of their rite wherever this appears to be suitable, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."
b) "The patriarchs who are called Eastern, by the force of their dignity, power, and traditional pre-eminence, whether in ecumenical councils or outside such councils, that is to say in carrying out all affairs, have constituted from ancient times and constitute, in communion with the Roman pontiff and under his primacy, the supreme hierarchical council in the Church."
c) "What the Council of Florence and the Roman pontiffs after it have affirmed very frequently concerning not reducing substantially the rights and privileges of the patriarchs, this holy synod solemnly confirms. These rights and privileges are those that were in force during the thousand-year union of the East and the West, and even if they should occasionally be adapted to our times, they are truly not to be diminished appreciably."
d) "Wherever a hierarchy of whatever rite is established, it is under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of the same rite, even outside the boundaries of the patriarchal territory."
N.B. On the subject of the patriarchs and of the institution of the patriarchate, many other things should be said. This matter is still too much ignored in the Catholic theology of our day. The progress of historical and patristic studies will prepare bit by bit the basis for a more complete view of the subject.
3. To No. 11: It is not normal to speak, in this schema, of the patriarchs, without saying a word about the patriarchal synods and their competence. Thus we would gladly propose a Number llb, which would be devoted to these two points.
In fact, the authentically Eastern concept of the patriarchate is inseparable from the synodal system. The patriarch is the president of the synod of the bishops of his region, the one who coordinates collegially the activity of the bishops, his brothers. Beside him and under his direction, his holy synod holds a principal place. A patriarch is inconceivable without his synod. As this synodal institution has been somewhat forgotten in the majority of the Eastern Churches, in imitation of the West where synodalism is not honored, the schema should revive it.
In the second place, it is appropriate to allow the holy synod its full powers, in particular relative to the election of bishops, which it should be able to do freely, without the necessity of obtaining a previous authorization or a subsequent confirmation by the Holy See of Rome. In sound theology, based on Holy Scripture, patristic tradition, and the history of the Church, the naming of bishops is not reserved for the Holy See of Rome, not even the right of later confirmation. It was Pope Pius XII who, only 16 years ago, extended to all the Eastern Catholic patriarchs the obligation to draw up in the synod lists of the candidates for the episcopacy, previously approved by Rome, or to obtain subsequent confirmation by Rome. But this measure, far from being required by the theology of the Church, as we have said, is contrary to constant Eastern tradition, and it is fitting to return to the respect for the competence of the Holy Synod on this point. When all the bishops, around their patriarch, elect a candidate to the episcopacy, one must recognize the free exercise of their right. In some particular cases, for motives of the general good of the Church, the Roman Holy See can use its right of universal primacy, but, outside of those exceptional circumstances, one must respect the normal action of Eastern institutions and allow the patriarchal synods their full competence, as in the past.
As for this proposal, it is also necessary to say that the present canonical procedure permits, without due cause, going over the heads of normal judicial instances to introduce the instance in the court in Rome. This method is frequently utilized by one of the parties to harass the other party, to cause him excessive expenses, or to draw out the length of the process. Thus we propose the normal succession of instances in the procedure be respected.
We also propose that judgement in the matter of marriage "ratified but not consummated" be reserved not to the pope, but to the Eastern patriarchs for their respective faithful.
To provide examples, we suggest the following formulas:
a) "Without prejudice to the right of the Roman pontiff to have jurisdiction over disputes, cases of every kind must follow the hierarchical course of the various instances, nor is it allowed, without a special mandate of the Roman pontiff, to bypass episcopal or patriarchal instances so that the case may be directly introduced before the tribunals of the Roman Holy See."
b) "The introduction and also the dispensation of cases concerning marriage that has been ratified but not consummated are reserved to the patriarch for the faithful subject to him."
VII. Sacramental discipline
This chapter is good in its entirety. It contains interesting restorations, in the Catholic Church, of the ancient Eastern discipline and pleasing adaptations to the needs of modern times.
Numbers 13 and 14 affirm the validity of the sacrament of confirmation conferred by any Eastern priest, regardless of the territory or the person. Thus the recent regulations, which are absolutely illogical, placed on the exercise of this right in certain Latin regions, are removed.
Number 15 takes account of the custom of certain Eastern Churches according to which the faithful satisfy the Sunday and feast day obligation by participating either in the Holy Eucharistic Liturgy or in other divine services. It also allows the fulfillment of the Sunday or feast day obligation to start at vespers of the vigil, since, logically, the liturgical day begins at vespers; that can facilitate the observance of the obligation by certain categories of the faithful.
No. 16 extends the "jurisdiction" for hearing confessions to all the places and to all the faithful of other rites. That facilitates the exercise of the holy ministry in the East, where several jurisdictions are intermingled.
No. 17 desires the positive restoration of an active diaconate in all the Eastern Churches. The diaconate was never abolished by law, but among nearly all Eastern Catholics, it needs to be put back into force. No. 17 restores the sub-diaconate among the minor orders, in conformity with Eastern discipline, closing a gap opened by the motu proprio "Crebrae allatae sunt" of 1948.
No. 18 proposes a solution to the acute problem of mixed marriages in the East. Every ordinary of the place can, for proper reasons, dispense the Catholic party from the form of marriage, so that he can validly contract marriage before an Orthodox minister. When everything has been well considered, we prefer to recognize purely and simply the validity of mixed marriages of the Eastern faithful entered into outside the Catholic Church, always on the condition that they are contracted before a Christian religious authority. This solution is very important from the ecumenical point of view.
VIII. Divine Worship
This chapter is equally good, and can be passed in its entirety. We only propose to shorten it.
No. 19 speaks of feast days of obligation, both those common to the whole Eastern Church and those limited to a particular Church. It decides what authority can establish these feasts, but it does not teach us anything new and, as a result, does not offer much of interest. We would willingly propose to drop it.
It is the same for No. 21, which permits the Easterners living outside the East to conform to the rule in force in the country, insofar as feasts of obligation are concerned. Spouses of different rites can equally follow one or the other discipline. All this is already known through canon law, and it is not necessary for the council to stoop to these details.
On the contrary, No. 20, discussing the date of Easter, is of very great importance.
The council has already expressed its desire to see the feast of Easter celebrated on the same day by all Christians. On this point all Christians agree. In practice, how can this wish be realized?
If, by agreement among all Churches and eventually with the cooperation of international organizations, the date of the feast of Easter is fixed (for example, the first or second Sunday of April), the problem is resolved. But this solution on the international level can be delayed, although it is necessary to do everything to hasten it.
While waiting, the Eastern Christians are losing patience. The faithful no longer want this difference in dates, which humiliates them in the view of non-Christians. It is necessary at any cost to find a solution. That will be a great step toward the union that is so much desired.
The schema, in No. 20, authorizes patriarchs and other supreme heads of the area to conclude, after unanimous consent of all those interested, local agreements so that all the Christians of a region may celebrate Easter together.
No. 22 only recalls to mind an obligation to the Divine Office, according to the standards and customs proper to each Church. It says nothing new.
No. 23 discusses the use of vernacular languages in the liturgy. It recalls that all this matter is under the exclusive right of the supreme authority in each Eastern Church, which regulates the use of vernacular languages and approves new versions, without any necessity of having recourse to the Roman See, as in the Latin Church, in which the pope has the additional office of patriarch.
As one can see, this chapter "On Divine Worship" is of clearly Eastern and decentralizing inspiration. The Fathers can pass it without hesitation.
IX. Relationships with Our Orthodox Brethren
This last chapter on the relationships with our Orthodox brethren is a true success of the Eastern Commission.
No. 24 begins by affirming the ecumenical calling of the Eastern Catholics, their "vocation as uniters." The schema indicates the circumstances in which they can fulfill this noble and great mission: prayer, authentic example of Christian life, fidelity to Eastern traditions, knowledge of Orthodoxy, and fraternal collaboration.
No. 25 justifies the necessity of adopting, with regard to our Orthodox brethren, a more lenient attitude in the matter of "communicatio in sacris." The dangers that one fears in general from this "communicatio" with non-Catholics do not occur ordinarily as far as the Orthodox are concerned. That is why, all danger in matters of faith having been dispelled, the Church deems it opportune to indicate a new turning point, with the chief aim of enhancing the advances toward union between the Catholics and the Orthodox.
No. 27 sets forth the new rule: Orthodox in good faith, if they ask of their own accord and have the right dispositions, can receive from Catholic ministers the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist, and the anointing of the sick. In their turn, Catholics can ask for these same sacraments from Orthodox ministers as often as necessity or a genuine benefit recommends such a course of action, and when access to a Catholic priest is physically or morally impossible.
No. 28 applies the same rules, a fortiori, to the "communicatio" in other sacred functions, things, and places of worship.
Finally, No. 29 entrusts this new and very delicate discipline to the prudence of the local ordinaries. Each individual must not remain the judge in this matter, for it is a matter of public order.
This chapter alone, concerning "Ecclesiastical relations with our separated brethren," will suffice to show with what depth and with what breadth of viewpoint the Eastern commission has approached these problems of disciplinary order.
We have serious reservations for the chapter "On Patriarchs," which is inadmissible in its present form.
Except for the amendments that we have indicated, we hope that this schema will receive the approval of the Fathers of the council.
This is only a beginning, but it is an indication that the Easterners are starting to find themselves again, and that they know how, proceeding from their own patrimony, to make their discipline evolve and to adapt it to the needs of the times.
Nevertheless, we hope that there will not be a final vote on this schema before it has been reviewed by the Secretariat for Christian Union.
The Rite of Easterners Desiring Union with Rome
On October 8, 1964, the patriarch published at Rome a circular letter addressed to all the Fathers of the council. In it he defended the point of view that the council would finally approve: Easterners desiring to rejoin Rome must normally remain in their native rite.
Your Excellency, Venerable Brother:
You have doubtless received a letter from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in which your vote is solicited against a section of Article 4 of the schema "On the Eastern Churches," which is expressed thus:
"Finally, each and every Catholic, as also the baptized member of every non-Catholic Church or community who enters into the fullness of Catholic communion, should everywhere retain his proper rite, without prejudice to the right of recourse to the Apostolic See in particular cases, and should cherish it and observe it to the best of his ability."
Utilizing in his argument the good of souls, fidelity to the former discipline, and respect for religious liberty, the venerable author of the letter would wish to eliminate the phrase "including baptized non-Catholics who enters into the fullness of Catholic communion," and to add the following clause: "without prejudice to the right, for baptized non-Catholics entering into the fullness of Catholic communion, of choosing another rite if that is set down by them as a necessary condition."
The alleged reasons are not convincing, as Your Excellency can ascertain from the enclosed note.
Besides, the fact that two Eastern Churches, for reasons specific to themselves, have felt that they should uphold the point of view of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, should not make one forget that they are the only ones following this road, and that the other Eastern Churches (more than twelve) are in agreement with the text of the schema.
In reality, the basic question comes down to this: the Eastern Commission, by over three-fourths of the votes has wished once and for all to close the door to the massive latinization of the East, while, as we elsewhere very freely agree, reserving the exceptional cases to the judgement of the Holy See of Rome, which can, if it deems it appropriate, endow its representatives in the area with the necessary powers ad hoc.
It is obvious that this attitude, which puts an end to centuries-old abuses, cannot please everybody. But along the line of ecumenism, in which the Council is definitely engaged, for the general good of the Catholic Church, which should not be in the position of being accused of latinizing the East, as also for the good of the Eastern Churches, which, in order to accomplish their mission, must be able to retain their children, it is necessary that Easterners remain Easterners, while exceptional cases are reserved for the judgement of Rome.
Consequently, I beseech Your Excellency to support the text of Article 4 of the schema as it is presented. With two exceptions, it is the desire of the Eastern Churches themselves and of the Latin bishops who are friends of the East.
"Concerning the Rite of Baptized Non-Catholics Entering into the Fullness of Catholic Communion"
The end of Article 4 of the schema "On the Eastern Churches" considers what the rite will be of non-Catholic faithful (Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, or others) who wish to join the Catholic Church. There are two opposing viewpoints on this subject:
I. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, to which are joined two or three Eastern communities for reasons that are particular to themselves, proposes to allow those involved the freedom of choosing the rite that they desire, if they make this freedom of choice a necessary condition of their entering the Catholic Church.
In favor of this opinion, there is an appeal to the good of souls, to previous legislation, and to respect for religious freedom. But these reasons are not at all well founded:
a. The law should provide for normal cases and seek to assure the general good of society, without harming the individual. Now, it is normal that an Easterner remains Eastern and that he continues to belong to his own rite, that is to say, to the ecclesial community in which God has placed him to work for his progress. If, in exceptional cases, a necessity of conscience impels him to choose another rite, we do not see any objection; on the contrary, one should help him. That is why the schema has provided, for this kind of exceptional cases, recourse to the Holy See of Rome, which will render judgement, either directly or by the intermediary of its representatives in the area. The good of souls is thus completely protected.
b. As for previous legislation, one knows that it has changed much. The present discipline dates only from 1957, and was imposed on the Easterners in spite of themselves. Against this new legislation, the majority of the Eastern Churches have made their serious criticisms heard. To do justice to these complaints, the Eastern Commission thus proposes to the council a just and beneficial reform, responding to the intimate desire of the Holy See, expressed many times by the popes, to see the Easterners remain Eastern and in their proper rite.
c. As for respect for religious freedom, the text of the schema does no damage to it. The Easterner who wishes to become Latin or to change to another eastern rite can ask for it and obtain it from the Holy See. But the law provides that, normally, he must remain in his own rite. All law restrains the exercise of human freedom in view of the general good of society. There is in the text of the schema no damage to human freedom, any more than in the other laws of the Church.
II. The other Eastern Churches (more than twelve) are in favor of the text of the schema:
Normally everyone must remain in his own rite; in exceptional cases, the Holy See can authorize changing to another rite. This is a wise, practical, and beneficial rule. Here are the principal reasons for it:
a. In the same manner that each Catholic must remain faithful to his rite, the non-Catholic brother who is reconciled to the Catholic Church must remain in his rite, for he already belongs to that rite, to that ecclesial community. That is a calling to which he should remain faithful.
b. It is a desire of the Roman Holy See that Easterners remain Eastern. Now, if one allows them the choice of becoming Latin, it is to be anticipated that the "latinizers" will use their numerical, cultural, and financial superiority to induce them to change to the Latin rite. This is no chimerical danger, but rather a sad reality. The result: instead of helping Easterners to be Catholic and Eastern at the same time, one "latinizes" them. Now, that is contrary to the will, repeated a thousand times, of the Holy See.
c. That "necessary condition" of changing to another rite, set down at the moment of reconciliation with the Catholic Church, is nothing more than a stratagem. There are all sorts of external pressures. Those who wish to latinize arrange in practice to have this condition always set down by their "converts." They even have printed forms that the people sign at the request of the parish priest, as if it were taken for granted. On the contrary, if one had taught the people the respect and the love for their rite, as the Holy See desires, the people would not ask for anything more than remaining in their rite.
d. In every case, the basic question returns to this: does the Catholic Church desire that the Easterners be Catholic or Latin? If it wishes them to be Catholic, why not let them be Eastern and Catholic at the same time? If it wishes them to be Latin, then let us not speak any longer of ecumenism and of union of the Churches. It is better not to put the Catholic authorities in a position of being accused for a long time more of duplicity.
Our viewpoint, expressed in No. 4 of the schema, is clear:
a. Catholics, Eastern as well as Western, must remain everywhere and always in their rite.
b. Those of our non-Catholic brothers who wish to join us must remain in their rite, in the ecclesial community to which they already belong, and which, with their cooperation, must restore its unity and develop inside the universal Church.
c. If one person or another, for personal motives, desires to change to another rite, we do not see any obstacle to it. But this change to another rite, must depend not on a condition sine qua non set by him and that simply serves to disguise the pressures put on him to make him change his rite (most frequently to latinize him), but on a decision of the Roman Holy See that will give judgment with complete objectivity.
The two solutions, basically, meet on the two most important points:
-Normally, everyone must remain in his rite;
-Exceptionally, particular circumstances can advise change to another rite. But, who will pass judgment as to how well-founded the circumstances are?
-The interested person himself, says the Latin Patriarchate.
-No, says the schema, with good reason, it is the Church, represented by the Roman See, which alone escapes local pressures. Thus: Pass No. 4 of the schema without adding any modification.
The Multiplicity of Catholic Jurisdictions in the Arab Near East
This is a serious and acute problem. The Melkite Greek Hierarchy discussed it in an Appendix to its "Observations on the Schemas of the Council" (1963).
There have been various rumors these days on the subject of an eventual unification of the multiple patriarchal and episcopal Catholic jurisdictions that are exercised in one and the same territory, in the East in general, and more particularly in the Arab Near East.
No draft has until now been officially submitted to the council, but the idea is in the air, and several attempts have been made to have one or another preparatory conciliar commission take hold of such a draft.
Fortunately, public opinion in the East has not been made aware of this.
Only some few Eastern prelates, echoed by some Western scholars who in general are not in touch with the real situation of the Church in the East, think that this question should be debated anew. The authors of this suggestion are beguiled by the possible advantages of such a unification and are not thinking of its real drawbacks and of the dangerous and incalculable reactions that it would arouse in a region that is already too much troubled. The Westerners who echo them favor in this unification a system that agrees well with their mentality and with the ecclesiastical organization to which they are accustomed.
Thus the Fathers of the council are in danger of being saddled unexpectedly with a draft, presented suddenly by the intermediary of a conciliar commission or by a request signed by a number of bishops who in reality are rarely those who can have complete and precise information on this subject.
That is why we have believed it necessary to put the Fathers of the council on guard against the possibility of such actions, which represent only the opinions of a very limited group, by providing them with the elements of brief and objective information. We deliberately limit our study to the Arab Near East, for two reasons: first, it is there that the problem of the multiplicity of jurisdiction is posed most acutely; second, because, living in this milieu and bearing its responsibilities, we are in a better position to speak of it with knowledge of its origins.
A Brief History
It is fitting to begin our inquiry with a brief historical reminder, for the present situation can only be explained through a return to the origins.
It is unfortunately the history of the gradual crumbling of Christianity in our region.
The doctrinal controversies of the first centuries created in the area Churches detached from canonical Orthodoxy, which were hierarchically organized in separate communities. First there was the Nestorian Church, then came monophysitism, which erected a national Church in each region: the Coptic Church in Egypt, the Syrian Church in Syria, the Armenian Church in Armenia. Later, monothelitism also raised up a monothelite Church, which fortunately did not last.
Opposite these Churches separated from canonical Orthodoxy, established from the fifth to the seventh century, the Orthodox-Catholic Church—also called in these regions the Melkite Church—the Church of the councils, maintained the Orthodox faith and Catholic communion with the rest of Christianity, in spite of the diminution in the number of its faithful.
The Muslim conquest of the first half of the seventh century sanctioned this division and even accentuated it. Islam recognized an autonomous status for each of these Churches, seeing in them, more than rites or different religious confessions, autonomous "nations" equally submitted to the "protection" of the conquering Muslims.
As a result of a prolonged vacancy in the Orthodox Patriarchal See of Antioch, the Maronites were also established as an autonomous nation-Church.
Thus the Arabic Near East knew, throughout the Middle Ages, six Church-nations, internally ruled by their religious leaders: the Greek nation, Orthodox or Melkite; the Nestorian nation; the Coptic nation; the Syrian nation; the Armenian nation; and the Maronite nation.
The schism between Byzantium and Rome involved, bit by bit and almost imperceptibly, the great majority of the Greek-Melkite nation in the separation from Rome. In contrast, the Maronite nation maintained constant ties with Rome, at least since the Crusades.
In the heart of these communities-Churches-nations, movements of partial union with the See of Rome began after the setback of the attempt at a global union at Florence and grew firm everywhere at the beginning of the eighteenth century. These movements of union separated from each original community more or less important groups, to which Rome gave or recognized a distinct Catholic hierarchy. Thus the communities listed above, with the exception of the Maronite community, which was entirely united, each broke into two branches, one becoming Catholic, the other remaining what it was (Orthodox, in the sense that each one understands it).
In the last century, Protestants made some recruits and were established as new autonomous churches. On their side, the Latin missionaries, abandoning their old ways that consisted of helping the Easterners ("in auxilium Orientalium"), also made recruits and established them as a new Latin community-Church-nation.
The result of all these variations is shown in the following table of the Christian communities in the Arab Near-East:
The Melkite Church at the Council
Discourses and Memoranda of Patriarch Maximos IV and of the Hierarchs of His Church at the Second Vatican Council- - - Introduction by Archimandrite Robert F. Taft
Church of the East
Syrian Orthodox Church
Syrian Catholic Church
Coptic Orthodox Church
Coptic Catholic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Catholic Church
Greek Orthodox Church
Melkite Greek Catholic Church
1. Mere consideration of the above table shows that, at least in theory, there are or can be in the Arab Near East six non-Catholic jurisdictions, as opposed to six Eastern Catholic jurisdictions and one Latin jurisdiction. All these jurisdictions are exercised, or can be exercised, simultaneously and over the same territory, but, it should be kept in mind, over distinct faithful: a multiple jurisdiction, of a character that is territorial and personal at the same time.
2. The multiplicity of Orthodox jurisdictions does not concern us. From here on we shall speak only of the multiplicity of Catholic jurisdictions. Thus everywhere in the Arab Near East there are or can be seven Catholic jurisdictions that are intermingled, for one reason or another.
3. But the intermingling is not equal everywhere, in the sense that the mixture of populations occurs in varying proportions. Although, for example, in the large cities, such as Beirut, Damascus, Aleppo, Cairo, or Alexandria, one encounters faithful of nearly all the communities, elsewhere the Catholic population is either exclusively of the same rite, or at least the faithful of the other rites are in such a minority that they can be considered as immigrants or strangers. Thus, for example, in Upper Egypt one finds only Copts; in some entire regions of Lebanon, there are practically only Maronites; in Palestine, there are practically only Melkites and Latins; in Iraq, the Chaldeans and Syrians share the population, with a minority of Armenians; in Syria, the population is more mixed, but with a Melkite predominance, etc. The mixture is such that it is difficult to draw a geographic map of the distribution of each of these communities.
4. Of the seven Catholic communities, each of the six Eastern communities has a patriarchal authority at its head: the see of Alexandria is occupied by the Melkite patriarch and by the Coptic Catholic patriarch; the See of Antioch is occupied by the Melkite patriarch, the Syrian patriarch, and the Maronite patriarch; the See of Jerusalem is occupied by the Melkite patriarch and by a Latin patriarch, who does not have the powers that are properly called patriarchal; the See of Babylon is occupied by the Chaldean patriarch; the See of Cis is occupied by the Armenian patriarch. Thus, apart from the Latin community, which does not have a unique local head, all the Eastern communities have a patriarch at their head.
5. In principle, if the number of the faithful everywhere so indicated, there could be, in each episcopal see, six Eastern bishops and one Latin bishop. In fact, this exists only in certain great cities, like Beirut, where there are six Catholic bishops, at Aleppo and at Cairo, where there are five, etc. But, even where there are not that many bishops, there are invariably seven Catholic jurisdictions, respectively represented either by bishops, or by patriarchal or episcopal vicars, or by simple pastors.
Advantages and Drawbacks
In this situation, the only one in the world, there are advantages and drawbacks.
a. The first advantage is that for each liturgical rite there is a corresponding Church, a distinct community, its own hierarchy. From the points of view of liturgy and discipline, this is certainly a perfect framework.
b. The second advantage, at least in the eyes of Catholics, is that for each Orthodox hierarchy there is everywhere, or almost everywhere, a corresponding Catholic hierarchy of the same rite.
c. The third advantage is that in principle this large number of bishops should permit a more meticulous care of the Lord's flock. Many bishops reach the point of knowing practically all the families in their diocese.
d. Finally, the great advantage is above all is that relationships have been established in such a delicate situation of Christianity. Each hierarchy has succeeded, after centuries of efforts, in organizing itself. This multiplicity is established firmly in the souls of the faithful, in their rites, in their history, in their feelings, in their hearts, in their every-day lives. This is a delicate system that it would be difficult to replace without great confusion.
But, on the other hand, this system presents numerous and real drawbacks. Let it suffice to enumerate them briefly:
a. A considerable number of Catholic bishops on the same seat and in the same city; and several patriarchs occupy the same patriarchal see.
b. Patriarchs, whatever may be their see, exercise in practice their jurisdiction over territory of other patriarchal sees, and all are in practice patriarchs of all the Near East.
c. Nobody is the sole responsible individual for the general interests of Catholicism in a given region. This drawback is the most important, for none of the hierarchs is powerful enough to look after, efficaciously and by himself, the most vital interests of the Church: teaching, Catholic action, works of charity, the press, television, social action, and relations with the state. Each one works on these things, but his action is weak. These questions can only be handled by the whole group of the Catholic hierarchs of a given region, and that is naturally more difficult than if there were a single responsible individual.
In the light of this delicate situation, some Catholic individuals or groups have conceived and proposed solutions. These efforts date quite far back. But all these solutions have the fault of being more attractive than real, more theoretical than practical. Moreover, they bring with them consequences that are still more unfavorable than the drawbacks that they are intended to avoid.
We do not pretend to enumerate them all, for new ones are invented ceaselessly. Let it suffice to mention the more fashionable ones.
1. A radical solution consists of suppressing all rites and all communities. It is said that one is Catholic, and that is enough. As for the liturgy, if one does not wish to adopt purely and simply the Latin rite, one can adopt one of the Eastern rites, or, better, one can compose a new unified rite (Arabic rite). Canon law is already unified for all the Eastern Catholic communities. It will only remain to unify the liturgical rites. Once these two things have been unified, there would be no need for more than a single Catholic bishop for each city, with a single patriarch for all, and only a single jurisdiction. In that fashion the problem is resolved.
Just the statement of these fantasies turns the head of anyone who possesses the least idea of the East and has even the slightest responsibility for souls in that region.
To suppress rites in the Church is impossible, for there would be the most serious problems everywhere. And if it were possible, it would be criminal, because that would impoverish the Church of the greatest part of its spiritual patrimony. Uniformity on this point, far from being a benefit, is a catastrophe.
It would be above all a catastrophe if the suppression of the Eastern rites must be done in favor of the Latin rite. At that moment, one would have to believe that one could only be Catholic by being Latin, that Catholicism and Latinism are synonymous. Every effort for reunion of all Christians in Catholicity would then have to be abandoned.
As for retaining only one of the Eastern rites (which one, by the way?) or devising one from pieces of all, that is pure fantasy.
Such solutions can be considered only by minds that live only an amorphous Catholicism, without roots in real life, without attachments to the past, and without a grip on the future.
Thus we do not know of any truly responsible persons who share these views.
2. Another solution intends to unify the jurisdictions, while maintaining the diversity of rites. In each diocese, there would be only one bishop, taken in turn from each rite. Thus, at Aleppo, for instance, there would be a Greek Catholic bishop; at his death, a Maronite bishop would succeed him; then, at the latter's death, an Armenian bishop, etc.
That is such a utopian solution that we do not even think that we have to refute it.
3. Others think that all bishops of the same city should remain, but there would be attributed to one of them, taken in turn, the actual administration of all Catholics of the diocese, whatever might be their rite.
This is an even more utopian solution.
4. Others have thought that in an episcopal city, one of the bishops would be truly the bishop, with territorial jurisdiction, and the others would be bishops with purely personal jurisdiction. Thus, at Beirut, for example, the Maronite bishop would be the only Bishop of Beirut, for all the Catholics of that diocese, whatever might be their rite, but there would be also a Melkite bishop for Melkites only (liturgical and communal interests), a Syrian bishop, etc. The relationships between the territorial bishop and the personal bishops would remain to be determined.
This is still imagination with no basis in reality.
5. Others maintain also that it is not necessary to have more than a single bishop, properly so called, in each diocese. This bishop would be responsible for all Catholics, of whatever rite they might be. He, in his role of bishop, would not belong to any rite, or would be, as one might say, of all rites, a bit like the pope, who is of the Latin rite, but who governs the faithful of all rites. This single bishop would have general vicars, invested, if necessary, with the episcopal character, for each of the rites sufficiently well represented in his diocese.
Still pure imagination.
6. Others are indeed content that there should be several bishops in the same city, but ask at least that certain parts of the diocese, where there are practically only faithful of a single rite, be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the bishop of that rite, and that the other bishops have nothing to do there despite the fact that they are theoretically the spiritual heads of the same diocese.
7. Others ask that in the deliberative councils of the bishops of the same city the votes should not be equal among all the bishops, but that they should be weighted in proportion to the number of faithful that each one has in fact under his jurisdiction.
8. Finally, others would be satisfied with the unification of the patriarchates. On each patriarchal seat there would be only one incumbent, with quite limited territorial jurisdiction. For this, one could proceed, if necessary, to a new partitioning of the territories belonging to each see, in such fashion that each patriarch would have an exclusive territory, even if he had suffragans of different rites.
This solution seems to receive more attention today. It has apparently the advantage of preserving the multiplicity of rites; it does not affect the multiplicity of episcopal jurisdictions; it makes the patriarch, henceforth the single incumbent of his seat, a superior head, belonging to no rite, or belonging to all rites, but one who assumes the interests of all rites, that is to say of the whole of Catholicism over all the extent of his patriarchate.
In this perspective, one gets down to some practical details, and there is proposed a division, which one wishes to be as equitable as possible, of the patriarchal sees among the different existing communities. The see of Alexandria would be assigned to the Coptic Catholic patriarch. The See of Antioch would be divided in two: the Lebanese part would be assigned to the Maronite patriarch, the Syrian part should still be contested between the Melkite patriarch (who has the more numerous faithful) and the Syrian Catholic patriarch. The See of Jerusalem would be taken away from the Latins and given to the Melkites. The See of Babylon (of Iraq) would remain occupied by the Chaldean patriarch. The Armenian patriarch would occupy the See of Sis, but he would not have a fixed territory.
General Review of All These Plans
We stop our analysis here, for all these solutions assume, basically, the idea of unifying jurisdictions, whether episcopal or patriarchal, in the Near East.
Now, we are convinced that any unification of jurisdictions in this region is 1) detrimental to the highest interests of Catholicism, 2) excessively dangerous, and 3) not realizable in fact. Here are our reasons, which are all of a general nature:
1. These solutions are detrimental to the highest interests of Catholicism.
a. Apart from the Maronite community, which has already reached its goal by being completely united in Catholicism, all the other Eastern Catholic communities are still in the stage of partial union. Now, in this stage of their mission, as Christ and the Church expect it of them, these communities, hoping ceaselessly to restore their unity in the heart of Catholicism, must not pose anything that is prejudicial to the future of union, which renders it impossible or notably more difficult.
Now, a unification of jurisdiction, whether at the episcopal or patriarchal level, is so sensitive and essential a modification brought to the fundamental institutions of each Catholic community that the corresponding Orthodox community would no longer recognize it.
Our present stage of union is not a definitive formula. We are in some sort of transitional organization. When global union will be realized between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, we must reinstate this catholic orthodoxy and dissolve our hierarchical frameworks in it. By what right will we have previously suppressed such jurisdiction or founded such another one in an organism not pertaining to any rite, in which our Orthodox brothers would not recognize themselves?
This is as equally true for liturgy and discipline as for jurisdiction: there must be no fundamental transformation of these institutions in such a way that union is not realized. When this union will be realized, the Church of that time will make the reforms that it will consider useful.
b. We must also reject any unification of jurisdiction which would result in the absorption of one Church by another. A distinct Church inside Catholicism requires, if not a distinct rite, at least a distinct hierarchy. Any fusion or absorption of a hierarchy by another marks the disappearance of a Church. Thus, the Melkites have a good 50,000 faithful in the United States. These faithful have a distinct rite, their own priests, and their own discipline. But as long as they do not have a distinct hierarchy, one cannot say that there is a Melkite Church in the United States. And if they are not part of a Church, the Melkites in the United States are continually threatened with disappearing.
Now, the Catholic Church wishes to preserve all the Churches that form it, in particular the Eastern Churches, which have the important mission of restoring Christian unity with the corresponding Orthodox branches of their rite. To deprive one or another of its own hierarchy is to prepare for the disappearance, sooner or later, of these Churches. It is to inflict considerable harm on Catholicism.
The final result, which is not acknowledged, of all these artificial efforts for unification of hierarchies will be the fatal absorption of all Churches into Latinism, equated with Catholicism.
2. These solutions are excessively dangerous
The East is extremely sensitive. In the last century, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar brought about a true schism in the Melkite Church, which required a number of years to be resolved, after having taken away from our Church a good number of its children. The direct appointment of a patriarch or a bishop immediately by Rome causes serious troubles which have embittered relations for numerous years. What can one then say about changes that are as radical as those that are proposed to us?
No prelate who knows the East and is aware of his responsibilities will dare to proceed in fact to such revolutionary changes. The difficulties and the dangers are such that it is necessary, for the love of God, to stop discussing these questions. As long as these subjects are treated in a limited circle of those dealing in theory, the harm is limited to a loss of time and to some individual commotion. But the day that these fervent questions are thrown open to the public, none of us could say what might happen.
3. These solutions cannot be realized in practice
It would be necessary to take them up one by one. Let us be content with the two principal ones:
a. First, the solution that calls for a single bishop in each city, under whatever form it is presented. Either this single bishop will be taken from a specific community, the most numerous for example, and then the faithful of other communities will feel that they have been wronged, placed in a position of inferiority, subject to an authority of another rite, or he will be "neutral," that is to say, not belonging to any rite, to any community, and that is unthinkable. What community will accept having its bishop be a bishop who is simply personal and not territorial, who is a simple vicar general in the service of a bishop of another rite, who would not have jurisdiction everywhere in the diocese, who would not have an equal vote in the deliberative councils? Only one who does not know the East could think that such solutions are possible.
b. It is the same for the solution that wishes to unify patriarchal jurisdictions:
1) An amorphous patriarch, not belonging to any rite, to any particular Church, is unthinkable: by definition, a patriarch is the head of a Church.
2) It is not normal that some faithful, clerics, and bishops be dependent on a patriarch of another rite, that is to say, of another particular Church.
3) The distribution of the patriarchal sees among the different rites arises from pure fantasy. It is a fact that doctrinal differences, then the movements of union with Rome, have multiplied the incumbents of each patriarchal see. We do not wish to enter here into interminable discussions to decide, for example, which of the three present incumbents of the see of Antioch is the successor of St. Ignatius of Antioch. Today the three are legitimate. On the seat of Alexandria, the Melkite incumbent is as authentic as the Coptic incumbent, and on the seat of Antioch each of the three patriarchs, Melkite, Syrian, and Maronite, is a legitimate incumbent. According to what criterion, therefore, is the See of Antioch to be reserved for only one of them?
All these solutions are not realizable and are dangerous
Realistic Solution: Collaboration and Synodalism
The only solution that to us appears realistic is the one that takes into account the known facts of what is real, possible, and useful. Since we are not able to suppress the multiplicity of jurisdictions, we organize them in such a way as to avoid as much as possible its drawbacks and to produce the maximum advantages.
Our program can be summed up in two words: collaboration and synodalism.
This includes the following manifestations:
a. First create a spirit of collaboration among the different communities. Learn to help one another, to work together, to love one another. It is necessary to cultivate this spirit starting with the seminary. Arrange as much as possible for contacts, encounters, congresses, etc.
b. Avoid dispersion of forces. In small centers, one church could serve two communities. In the same small village, a single Catholic school is sufficient.
c. Do not push the autonomy of jurisdiction to extremes. When the faithful of one rite are greatly outnumbered in a parish of another rite, the administration of them can very well be entrusted to the pastor of the parish, while having them visited from time to time by a priest of their rite.
d. Unify all the spheres in which the communal interest is not strictly at stake: general direction of teaching, of Catholic action, of relations with the press, radio, and television, of social action, of charity, of relations with the state, etc.
2. Synodalism: For all matters of common interest, there should be one seat of responsibility. Who will it be? It cannot be an individual person. Thus it will be the synod of all hierarchs having jurisdiction in the same territory: a patriarchal synod or an episcopal synod.
To reach this goal, patriarchal or episcopal conferences are insufficient, at least in their present form. It is necessary to have a true synod, in the Eastern manner, with power of decision.
This synod should be held more or less frequently: one or two times a year for the patriarchal or the national episcopal synod; each month, perhaps, for the bishops of the same city. Between the meetings of the synod, an executive committee always has the duty of seeing that the decisions are executed. In this fashion, to the question, "Is there in the East a seat of responsibility for all Catholic interest for the whole country or for the whole diocese?" One will be able to reply, "Yes, but this seat of responsibility is not an individual person: it is the synod of all those to whom the Lord has entrusted His Church in this corner of the Lord's field."
We think that that is the only truly realistic solution.
1. Be that as it may, we think that it is not appropriate to burden the council with such a question. It is a situation that is too specific to the Near East. In addition, the Fathers, as a whole, cannot obtain a sufficiently complete and personal conception of this question to settle it while knowing its background.
2. It is necessary at all cost to avoid causing troubles among the people by discussing this question without discretion.
3. In order to realize the collaboration of which we have spoken, it is necessary to rely on patriarchal or episcopal conferences on the spot. Only they can indicate the realistic solutions that are required.
4. It is necessary to work from now on to settle the regulation and the competencies of the patriarchal and episcopal synods that will bear collegially the responsibility for Catholicism on the spot.
We think that it is necessary, as a point of departure, to accept the special form under which the problem of the Church in this region is presented. Each country has its own difficulties to resolve. What suits one country does not necessarily suit another. For each situation it is necessary to find the solution that suits it and resolve the problems according to the given realities.
Given all the reasons that we have put forth, the firm and clear attitude of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, as opposed to the more or less fanciful projects of unification of jurisdiction in the Arab Near East, is that there should be no innovations: nihil innovetur, but that there should be constant striving to improve the collaboration among all communities with the aim of the general good of the Church.
Archbishop Joseph Tawil, Patriarchal Vicar at Damascus, took up this topic again in a brief intervention at the Council on November 13, 1963.
All the Catholic communities of Eastern rite, taken together or separately, are a miniature of the Churches that they represent. With the exception of the Maronite Church, all have an Orthodox branch, which is more or less large. All, taken together, form scarcely three per cent (3%) of the Orthodox from which they were born. The Orthodox, throughout the world, comprise about two hundred million souls, of which there are three million Syrians, five million Armenians, fifteen million Copts and Ethiopians, and a hundred and eighty million Byzantines.
But among the Catholic communities of Eastern rite, not all present an Eastern appearance; some, in truth, present a Latin appearance. Certainly, the Latin Church is very honorable, but a Church that is latinized quoad modum does not offer to the Western Church anything that it does not already have in abundance; even more, it produces a great disappointment for the Orthodox branch of the same Church, which consequently lacks an authentic witness of its own tradition in the midst of this council.
In this conciliar assembly we have already heard one or another of the Eastern Fathers request the unification of those jurisdictions where the jurisdiction, not being territorial, is in fact personal, as there exist several incumbents of different rites, whose seats are in the same place. This state of things did not arise yesterday; it dates back several centuries. The theory of the remedy is certainly fine, but often the best is the enemy of the good. This proposal seems to us utopian, and at the same time dangerous and harmful.
1. It is utopian. As there are, in fact, faithful springing from so many different rites and leading their own lives in autonomy for fifteen centuries, can they be led to live together under one and the same authority? If such an experiment were tried, it would be without doubt tempting fate and reaping misfortune.
2. It is dangerous and harmful. In fact, each Eastern Catholic Church, taken separately, forms an incomplete entity which awaits, or rather invites, its Orthodox "pleroma." Each of these Churches marks a station on the road to unity. All go forward together like the vanguard of an army that follows, and from which it cannot be separated. But what should one think of a vanguard that so separates itself from the body of the army that the latter can no longer recognize it? Pope Benedict XIV, who so often fought against latinization of the Eastern Churches, requested them to preserve the same aspect as Orthodoxy, because we must look at things not with our Catholic eyes but with Orthodox eyes.
I conclude that the proposed unification of jurisdictions, far from being the remedy for the troubles that it intends to heal, will appear worse than the troubles and will very much increase the confusion.
In fact, a rite, deprived of its own bishop, will disappear bit by bit, or at least be unsound, and its faithful will perish bit by bit.
That is why this proposal offers less a solution than a dissolution. As always, we do not have any objection if the hierarchies that consent make the experiment.
Hierarchies for Eastern Immigrants
Archbishop Philip Nabaa, Metropolitan of Beirut, presented to the Commission of Bishops the following note entitled "Erection of Eastern Dioceses in America."
In the first general session of the commission "On Bishops and Diocesan Administration," held at Rome from the 14th to the 19th of November 1960, I presented a first note on the "Necessity to create Eastern Rite Dioceses in America." Following that note, I wish, in the present report, to add certain necessary precision and suggestions relative to the following points:
I. The numerical importance of Easterners in America
We do not speak here of the Ukrainian Easterners, who already have their own hierarchy in the United States and Canada. We limit our discussion to the Maronites and Melkites, who are the most important Eastern Catholic communities in North and South America. And it is for them that we entreat for the erection of respective personal dioceses. Their present number and their future require that institution.
In the absence of a rigorously exact census, we give the figures that we find in the official annual of the Catholic Church in the United States: The Official Catholic Directory, 1959, p. 256.
Number of Maronites in the United States 125,000
Number of Melkites in the United States 50,000
There are as many and more in South America, in particular in Brazil and Argentina.
These figures constitute important dioceses in the Church in the Near East, where it is necessary to defend the faith of Christian minorities and sustain them against dominating and encroaching Islam. Now these Christians in America are an integral part of the Eastern Church, and must remain faithful to it, for the life and the growth of Catholicism in the East.
The Orthodox in America have understood very well this necessity for life and growth. They already have several bishops in the United States and Brazil. They have a hundred parish churches that are well organized. They have charitable societies that are rich and prosperous. They have an unlimited freedom of action and of growth. This is to such an extent that in the places where the Eastern Catholics are not well organized they go to the Orthodox Churches.
2. Serious and perhaps irreparable harm resulting from the lack of erection of Eastern dioceses in America
The Eastern Catholics of America, in particular the Maronites and Melkites, do not yet have any bishop, nor any hierarchical head of their own. The resulting injuries to them, and to all Eastern Catholicism, are very numerous and very serious.
Many Eastern Catholics, especially those who do not have an Eastern Catholic church near them, do not know who is their leader, nor who their pastors are, and thus lose their faith, or if there is an Orthodox church near them, they become Orthodox. And unfortunately this unhappy fact occurs frequently. As there is no leader to watch over them and to be responsible, the trouble continues and is aggravated, without any remedy being brought to it.
Where there are Eastern Catholic churches, these churches are considered sometimes as personal parish churches, sometimes as chapels under the guidance of Latin parish churches. And in these two cases the Eastern officiating ministers do not know exactly what are the limits of their powers or of their territory.
Free from the supervision of the Latin bishop, and not having an Eastern bishop to watch over them, these churches surrender, from the point of view of ritual, to all kinds of liturgical abuses. The sacred adornments take the Latin form. The religious offices are parodied. Signs of the cross are made backwards, or replaced by genuflections. Icons are replaced by statues. No trace of an iconostasis, of an Eastern altar, of beautiful liturgical processions. It is a diminution, almost a death of the Eastern rite, because of the encroachment of the Latin rite, or rather because of the absence of an Eastern hierarchical authority.
The Orthodox see these harms and abuses, and are scandalized by them, taking the occasion to distance themselves more and more from Eastern Catholicism, when they are not carrying away the discontented members of the Eastern churches.
3. Equality between Eastern and Western Catholics
All Eastern Catholics, and particularly those in America, know that the Latin immigrants in the East have a Western Catholic hierarchy. This is the case, for example, of Egypt, of Lebanon, and of Palestine, which even has a Latin patriarch in Jerusalem beside the Melkite Catholic patriarch. Knowing this, the Eastern Catholics in America entreat forcefully for their own hierarchy, capable of serving them and saving them in line with the religious and national points of view. The services that have been offered to them until now have been definitely ineffective. And if they are not provided with the institution of an Eastern hierarchy, which takes the Easterners and their interests to heart and which is capable of serving them well, the Catholics are going to lose their most sacred rights, and that will be a grave injustice.
Like their Latin brothers who have immigrated to the East and who have in this immigration their own hierarchy, likewise the Eastern Catholics who have immigrated to America have the right to have, in that country, their own hierarchy. Equality between Eastern and Western Catholics requires it. The Holy See has recognized this, and brought it about in several Western countries.
In the United States for the Ukrainians.
In Canada for the Ukrainians.
In Australia, in Germany, in France similarly for the Ukrainians.
And last of all in France for the Armenians also. And since the Holy See has done this for all these countries, it can also do it elsewhere, and for groups as important as the Maronites and Melkites of America.
4. Proclamation of Principle by the Council
So that it may not be said that there are two weights and two measures in the Catholic Church, and that the Westerners have more advantages and rights than the Easterners, we ask that the principle of equality between all Eastern and Western Catholics be proclaimed by this council and that a special mention be made for the erection of Eastern dioceses in Western countries, equal to the Latin dioceses in Eastern countries.
It would not be fitting to leave to the Oriental Congregation alone the proclamation of this principle. But it will be necessary to leave to it the de facto judgment, that is to say the realization and the legal constitution of Eastern dioceses in Western countries. The proclamation of the principle by this council will be an occasion of justice for Eastern Catholics and a great encouragement to the Orthodox, for the great catholic union, which is one of the greatest wishes of this council.
5. The legal constitution of the Eastern personal dioceses
It is necessary to give the Eastern dioceses established in America and in other parts of the West a legal constitution that will safeguard two benefits, the benefit for the Eastern faithful of the immigration and the benefit of the unity of territorial jurisdiction in the same diocese. This constitution must permit the Eastern Church, in the West, to have a rank that is worthy of it and free and effective activity among its faithful, but without creating jurisdictional conflicts. In particular, this constitution must assure to the Eastern bishops established in the West all the rights that bishops have in their dioceses. However, the jurisdiction of Eastern bishops will be principally personal and secondarily territorial. It will be exercised directly over the faithful of that rite, and indirectly over the faithful of other rites, while retaining the common rules on the administration of the sacraments and more particularly of marriage. It will extend to all the places of an ecclesiastical province and of a country where there are faithful of that rite, even if the places belong to different dioceses.
And as there is only one pope who can have and give jurisdiction over a number of dioceses, the Holy See can delegate its powers and designate an Eastern bishop as "Apostolic Exarch." He can also constitute for the Easterners a Metropolitan who, while being a Cardinal or Archbishop of a certain diocese would be also the Ordinary of all the Easterners of the country or of the province. In that case, the Eastern bishop would be the suffragan of this Metropolitan.
The concrete arrangements of this constitution will be specified by the Sacred Oriental Congregation, according to the models of the Constitutions which govern the Exarchates of the Ukrainians and the Armenians in America, Australia, Germany, and France.
6. Conclusions in brief and legal forms
The Catholic world, the Orthodox world, and the Protestant world expect from the Second Vatican Council authentic declarations and useful and effective actions for reviving the union of Christians in one single and unique Church of Christ.
The Second Vatican Council must respond to this universal Christian expectation and thus prove, in the sight of the whole world, that it is ready to do everything that is dependent on it and all that it can justifiably do for the realization of Christian unity.
As for what concerns immigrants and the erection of Eastern dioceses in Western countries, the following declarations and actions are proposed:
1) All Eastern and Western Christians, of whatever rite to which they belong, whether residing in their country of origin or in countries where they are immigrants, have the same rights in the Church of Christ, which is one and universal, that is, catholic.
2) Eastern rite dioceses will be erected in Western countries, as Latin rite dioceses will also be erected in Eastern countries, wherever it is necessary or useful for the salvation of souls and the good of the Church.
3) When several jurisdictions are established in the same place, in the East or in the West, a higher ecclesiastical authority will be constituted, in the form of an assembly of bishops or in the manner of existing metropolitans, to unify the diverse jurisdictions.
+ + +
In its "Observations on the Schemas of the Council" (1963), the Holy Synod returned to the question, asking for at least the beginning of the founding of "personal dioceses" for the Easterners outside the patriarchal territory. They referred to the schema "On Bishops and the Administration of Dioceses.") The schema, very fortunately, recommends establishing personal dioceses for the faithful of another rite, when their number requires it. In reality, this today concerns only personal dioceses of Eastern rite, for the Latin Church has divided up the terrestrial globe, and all the Latin dioceses in the world are considered as territorial. Even when the number of Latins does not reach 2000, the Holy See gives them, even in the heart of the East, a hierarchy of their own rite. But when the Easterners number more than 50,000 or 100,000, (as for example the Melkites or the Maronites in the United States), they must give up having even a simple personal diocese. If the council wishes to do something useful on this point, it must recommend that the bishops should not oppose indefinitely the establishment of personal dioceses for the Easterners, as a prelude to the establishment of true territorial and personal dioceses, for, in justice, why should the Latins be able to have territorial dioceses everywhere, even if they are a very tiny minority, and not the Easterners, when the latter are a respectable number? This system of two weights and two measures in the Catholic Church must cease. It is necessary to add to this that the opposition of certain Western ordinaries to the establishment of personal dioceses for the Easterners results in having Eastern immigrants not receiving sufficient spiritual help, and the priests that serve them lack an episcopal authority to keep them in fidelity to their rite and to their discipline. Because of their union with Rome, the Eastern Catholics of the immigration thus have their arms tied. They cannot expand, and they see their faithful diminish, while their Orthodox brothers, free in this regard, are organized and expanding. Can this unjust situation last indefinitely?
Public Discussion of the Conciliar Schema
It was on October 15, 1964, that the assembly began the public discussion of the schema "On the Eastern Churches." Patriarch Maximos attacked the part concerning patriarchs. Of all the parts of the decree, that was the least admissible. It was Archbishop Elias Zoghby, Patriarchal Vicar for Egypt and the Sudan, who expressed serious reservations against the text of the schema on October 16, 1964.
I would like to make three remarks about the schema on the Eastern Churches: the first is theological, the second historical, the third practical.
1. What was said yesterday by Cardinal Koenig and Patriarch Maximos concerning the first sentence of the prologue shows that the idea of the Catholic Church is still very inadequate. It is astonishing that after so many labors in the council on the nature of the Church, the theologians have not yet clarified this idea.
The universal Church, in fact, is composed of all the particular Churches, united by the Holy Spirit, and formed from the earliest centuries around the great sees. The principal and the most effective of these sees was Rome, and that with the consent of all, because of the apostolic succession on the Seat of Peter. But this universal Church must not be confused with that "universality" of the Western and Latin Church, which did not begin to exist as such until later, notably in the epoch of Charlemagne, and which, bit by bit, because of the canonical separation between the East and the West, one day found itself alone, having lost respect for the ancient patriarchal structure of the Church that the first Councils had authorized, and which it had the temptation to stifle.
It is true that at the time of the Crusades, undertaken by the Roman pontiffs, Latin patriarchs were placed on the Eastern seats, in the place of their legitimate pastors, but they were no more than shadows of the papacy.
Moreover, in the following centuries and still today, Latin missionaries, hardly better inspired, have established Latin churches in the East, from which have arisen rivalries unfavorable to the Eastern Churches. It is also true that certain parts of the Eastern Churches have been united with the Roman Church, but they have been incorporated into the Western structure. As for the separated Easterners, they have always kept the earlier concept, realizing that practical pluralism of which Pope Paul VI spoke in his encyclical "Ecclesiam suam."
So, when one speaks of ecclesiastical separation one does not speak the same language and one is not understood: Easterners think of a separation from the Latin Church as from a particular Church; others think of a separation from the universal Church, according to their own concept. Now, the schema on the Eastern Churches is entirely conceived in the latter manner, as if the Eastern Catholics were parts or appendices of the "universal" Latin Church, something which cannot be logically admitted. Whence the schema must be entirely remodeled so that this false perspective may be eliminated from it.
2. Concerning the primacy of the Roman pontiff, its doctrinal formulation, although declared several times in former Western councils, was not dogmatically defined until Vatican I. Until then it could be considered, at least by the Orthodox, as only a canonical doctrine. The council that re-established Photius in his office in 879 was content to draw up a modus vivendi governing the relationships of the two Churches, without a theological import. The Roman pontiff was certainly then the first bishop of the Church, enjoying undeniable powers. He had to preside over ecumenical councils, or at least to watch over their sessions and to subscribe to their decrees. The Easterners appealed to him in serious questions, and this recourse was construed as being more canonical than dogmatic.
Thus if the two Churches were not opposed concerning the doctrine of the primacy, and if the Eastern theology on the procession of the Holy Spirit were not repudiated by the formula of Filioque, as that was affirmed at Florence, one could say that the Churches of the East and of the West, even after the schism, have not been as much separated as it is believed, and that they have maintained their communion in the faith. The conflict was between two particular and local Churches, or between the Eastern patriarchs and the Roman pontiffs who wished to extend their power over the East as in the West. Easterners never had the perception of being separated from the Church, for they had the perception of being themselves the Church with the Latin Church, and with at least as much right. They constitute, in fact, the most important part of the Christianity which had defined the truths in its councils, and which had given to the Church its best theologians, and which had comprised nearly all of the Fathers at the first ecumenical councils.
When, at the First Vatican Council, there was a question of defining the primacy of the Roman pontiff, and thus determining the theological structure of the Church, practically all the Fathers were Latin. Now, that definition is very important for the Easterners, perhaps more important for them than for the Latins, because it affects the ecclesiastical structure of the East much more than that of the West.
3. I shall say briefly something about communicatio in sacris. It is very good to come back to it, because it was the prevailing pastoral practice in many regions. It didn't stop until the beginning of the 18th century, through a clumsy application of the post-Tridentine decrees in the West relating to Protestants. This was the work of some badly-informed missionaries.
As for the subject of the reception of a non-Catholic Christian into the Catholic Church, I fall in line from the very first with the opinion of the schema "On Ecumenism," according to which no type of proselytism should be encouraged. If, however, the situation occurs, the interested person must strictly retain his own rite. In exceptional cases, an appeal can be made to Holy See of Rome. In this matter, I declare that I am in full accord with the schema, with His Eminence Cardinal Cicognani, with His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos IV and all his bishops, with His Excellency Isaac Ghattas, Bishop of the Catholic Copts in Egypt, and with the great majority of the Eastern Churches.
Venerable Fathers, let us be wise, but still be good and tolerant. Let us not judge the quarrels and schisms of past times with the mentality of our ancestors, but with ours. We live, thank God, in an age of openness and of freedom, even religious. We can have at the heart of the same Church and the same council Fathers who have the right to think and to express themselves differently from the others. Such freedom was not always tolerated in past times. The Church was divided in order to defend formulas, and there were neither mixed commissions or coordinating commissions. If it should be necessary to utilize bygone methods, if we had at the head of the council a Cardinal Humbert, capable of signing a bull of excommunication in a moment of ill-humor, in the name of a pope dead for three months, how many of us, authentic Catholics, would have left the council with a bull of excommunication or of anathema, only to discover, one or two thousand years later, that the formulas were not contradictory, that the primacy was not at all opposed to collegiality, that the so-called monophysitism and the Orthodox doctrine on the procession of the Holy Spirit could be orthodox?
On October 19, 1964, it was Archbishop Joseph Tawil who explained to the assembly his criticisms of the schema.
This holy council has definitely placed the Church in the ecumenical sphere, made it a duty to think of its faith, from now on, no longer only at the frontiers of Catholicity, but also in the dimensions of Christianity, if not of the universe. And for fear of neutralizing all the work of the council, we must definitely change our ways of seeing and acting, as Pope Paul VI reaffirmed at the time of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Now, the schema "On the Eastern Churches," which is surely an improvement over that which was presented at the first session, must undergo a number of changes to be in accord with the conciliar decree "On Ecumenism," which has truly opened for the Church a new era, thus deserving all sorts of praise. Here are some observations on the schema:
1. What stands out in this schema is that it speaks of the Eastern Churches as particular Churches, without ever having given this honor even once to the Latin Church, which is equally a particular Church. As a consequence, it has presented the patriarchates as being an exclusively Eastern institution, forgetting that the West, which for a thousand years lived together with the East in this institution, still continues to live in it in our days. What is it that, in fact, distinguishes the Churches among themselves and divides them into Eastern and Western, if not the patriarchate that is at the head, and that defines a Church-source, a Church mother of other Churches? The primacy of the Roman pontiff does not suppress in any manner his capacity as patriarch of the West.
2. What also stands out in the present schema is speaking of the Eastern patriarchs and ignoring the names of their sees, which are Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, coming in that order of precedence after Rome, which is the first among them. As for the super-added Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem, which came later following wars of conquest and the unjust dispossession of legitimate incumbents, then was ended by these same wars and re-established only a century ago, it is a constant reminder of bitter memories for the East, both Catholic and Orthodox. Thanks to this patriarchate, the latinization of the East has proceeded to the state of an institution. May our brothers, the venerable Western Fathers, pardon us: we love the Latin Church, our sister, and we venerate her the more because we owe much to her. But for the good of the universal Church, this holy council must put a final end to this sad episode of history, which has lasted too long. The latinization of the Christian East, in any manner whatsoever, must no longer be tolerated.
3. Paragraph 4, page 5, treating of non-Catholics returning to unity, asks deservedly for the maintenance of their rite. This problem very much preoccupies the above-mentioned latinizers, who would wish, under the cover of respect for personal freedom, to have them join the Latin rite. In my opinion this problem should not be posed, for it is a false problem: it is the same for individuals as for portions of Eastern Churches that have returned at other times to communion with the Roman See, and which did not have to renounce their rite nor their discipline, since they did not come from nothing, but they were born into a Church endowed with sacraments and were already of a distinct rite. To make them join the Latin Church is an offense to the Church to which they belong. For them it is a matter of reconciliation, and not of renunciation.
Conclusion: At this hour of ecumenism and of the collegiality preserved by the East, rediscovered and taken up again by the West, because it is for the good of the universal Church, the Eastern Churches must be able henceforth to lead their own lives, autonomous, governed as they should be by their respective synods, in conformity with the just norms of their tradition. A postconciliar commission composed of Easterners and of specialists who are friends of the East would be entrusted with the work of the aggiornamento of these Churches in the double fidelity to the successor of Peter and to sound traditions, rid of the attachments that are foreign to them. Even the Orthodox, I am sure of it, will be grateful for this work.
The Melkite Greeks had been the principal architects of the schema "On the Eastern Catholic Churches." Those who had spoken so far seemed to recommend the pure and simple rejection of the schema. The moment was grave. Certainly, the schema was far from being perfect. But those who wished to reject it had very diverse motives: "ecumenists" who found it too "uniate," "latinizers" who found it too "Byzantine," "Latins" who found it too "Eastern." By allowing the schema to fail, one would certainly reject its imperfections, but one would lose its real advantages.
The patriarch, in these difficult circumstances, decided to save the schema. There will always be time, he thought, to improve it. But such as it is, it saves the Eastern Catholic Churches from the humiliating status of inferiority in which they found themselves until now. And also, the schema contained one or two general principles that opened the way for "internal canonical autonomy" of the Eastern Churches: the foremost condition for all ecumenical dialogue.
Thus on October 19, 1964, Archbishop Neophytos Edelby, Patriarchal Counselor, openly declared: "The schema is not perfect, but it contains enough good elements so that it should not be rejected." The Melkite hierarchy, aware of the maneuvers that were being plotted behind the scenes, adopted a realistic solution. Here is the intervention by Archbishop Edelby:
The discussion, in this conciliar assembly, of the schema "On the Eastern Churches" is for us of the East a cause of consolation, at the same time that it is for us the occasion of a certain uneasiness.
We certainly rejoice in the Lord when we hear from our Western brothers so many fine words, so many praises with respect to our institutions and to all the spiritual patrimony, of which we have become, without any merit on our part, heirs and guardians. We also rejoice in the Lord when, over and above these words and praises, we feel fraternal affection in our regard. The conciliar Fathers on the whole not only do not wish to impose on their Eastern brethren the weight of the Latin majority, but they seek, on the contrary, by all means to confirm by their votes what is pleasing to the Easterners themselves. But, after having heard the interventions of the Eastern Fathers, a question is born in your hearts, venerable Fathers, and almost rises to your lips: "Exactly what do the Easterners want? In short, does this schema please them, or not?"
The Eastern Fathers who have spoken up to now have given evidence of noteworthy differences. This diversity of opinion is for us, as I have said, a cause of uneasiness. We are ashamed of not having arrived, on all points, at securing unanimity among ourselves. But, if it is permitted to give some explanation of this diversity of attitudes, I would take the liberty of remarking first, venerable Fathers, that such diversity is very natural and should not be astonishing. Aren't there just as many differences among the Western Fathers? Besides, the differing attitudes of the Easterners most frequently depend on different perspectives of the apostolate, of local needs, and of various circumstances.
Since in human affairs, which always include advantages and drawbacks, it is difficult to secure unanimity, the good of ecclesiastical society requires conforming to the opinion of the majority. Our schema, with the amendments already approved by the commission, has already obtained the consent of the very great majority of the Eastern Churches. One can say that, apart from one or another point, the schema has received the nearly unanimous approval of the commission, as His Eminence Cardinal Cicogani, president of our commission, has so well said.
Certainly, the schema is not particularly good. It is far from being perfect. But, in the present circumstances, it was difficult to obtain a better schema.
This schema is good, simply good. It can be improved. Already many amendments have been examined by our commission and approved by it to be inserted in the text. Unfortunately time is lacking for reprinting the text as thus amended. But it is certain that through these new amendments, which are found on an attached leaflet, there has already been a response in advance to a certain number of criticisms that the Fathers have needlessly made in the assembly. Other amendments can still be proposed, and should, in my opinion, be approved so that the parts of the schema that are truly too weak, such as the preamble and the chapter devoted to patriarchs, may become acceptable. On the other hand, our schema takes into consideration the very fine doctrinal schema "On Ecumenism." If the inspiration of the one or of the other schema sometimes seems different, as has been very well remarked by Their Eminences Cardinals Koenig and Lercaro, with whom I am in full agreement, unity of inspiration can be obtained either by re-examining certain expressions in our schema, or by admitting a fruitful collaboration with the Secretariat for Christian Unity. But if the schema is purely and simply rejected, there is a great danger that the disciplinary reforms that we have obtained with great trouble, nearly in extremis, may be tabled indefinitely.
In spite of certain flaws, which can be corrected, this schema constitutes a definite progress, not very great but undeniable, for Eastern Catholics. Do not permit, Venerable Fathers, our being denied this small progress!
And now, allow me to say something about the canonical bearing of this burning question, which is the rite to which non-Catholics being reconciled with the Catholic Church must belong.
It is of little importance, Venerable Fathers, that one Easterner or several become Latin. It is not a matter of the miserable desire to retain or increase the number of one's own faithful. This question cannot be settled without taking into account the ecumenical movement that impels us nowadays, not to increase the number of the faithful of our own Church, but to establish a dialogue between the Churches themselves so that with the grace of God we may arrive at the union of the Churches themselves in a single Church of Christ. Even more, we wish to take advantage of this occasion to solemnly reaffirm our sincere desire to condemn all proselytism that tends to nothing other than nibbling away, by all means, at the number of the faithful of other Churches.
But, while awaiting the joyful union of all Churches, we cannot avoid stating a certain and universal fact, that many persons or certain groups of our Orthodox brothers, moved by the demands of their consciences, already wish to restore their union with the Roman Catholic Church. In these cases, about which we cannot talk abstractly, it is necessary to anticipate having certain disciplinary rules to determine to which rite they must belong.
Thus the fixing of these rules must not alienate us from the heart of our very dear Orthodox brothers, as if we might wish to push them surreptitiously to desert their Church. We wish only that those who, moved by the Holy Spirit, already desire to restore union with the Catholic Church, find clear and precise rules, in the same way that the Orthodox Church itself acts in regard to Catholics who desire to become Orthodox.
Finally, the fixing of these rules, which prescribe in general that the Easterners remain Eastern, and not become Latin, nor transfer to another rite than their own without an indult of the Roman See, must in the same way not alienate us from the heart of our very dear Latin brothers, whom we honor and esteem. What we are doing is only settling rules, as they themselves have done when it affected them. In the same manner that a Western non-Catholic, for example an Italian, who returns to the Catholic Church, must remain in the Western Church, that is to say, in the Latin Church, likewise an Eastern non-Catholic who desires to join the Catholic Church must remain Eastern, and even in his own rite. This is not contrary to religious freedom, or contrary to the good of souls. This is rather for the good of souls, for incorporation in a certain rite normally places each one in the situation that is the providential one for his mission.
If nevertheless special conditions of a soul require that he transfer to another rite, this will be very willingly granted by the Holy See. But it is necessary to reject that stratagem of those who place the transfer to another rite as a "necessary condition" of their joining Catholicism. Everyone knows that it is the strategy of those who wish to leave the door open to latinization of the East. The latinization of the East has already lasted for more than one hundred years. It is time to finally close this door. Otherwise, it is better to stop speaking about the union of Churches and of respect for the Eastern Churches. Easterners must remain Eastern. That is not to satisfy the self-respect of the Easterners, but for the good of the universal Church.
Doubts remained. Rumors were circulating, such as that Patriarch Maximos was against the schema. On the next day, Archbishop George Hakim of Galilee, although the discussion was closed, obtained the right to speak in the name of 70 Fathers, and took advantage of it to declare solemnly to the assembly that Patriarch Maximos and the Melkite Greek hierarchy were in favor of the schema taken as a whole. The assembly was hesitant and even had begun to lean to the contrary opinion. It was sufficient for it to be assured of the opinion of Patriarch Maximos to restore its confidence. It voted for the schema.
I speak in the name of more than 70 Fathers, Latin and Eastern.
The schema of the "Decree on Eastern Churches" is pleasing, and for that we express our gratitude to His Eminence Cardinal Cicognani and the relevant commission. Joining with the official declarations of His Eminence Cardinal Cicognani and of His Beatitude our Patriarch Maximos IV, with those of his counselor, Bishop Edelby and to those of so many other venerable Fathers, I say "placet." I humbly propose to vote in its favor, while introducing all the desirable amendments which will be taken into consideration. To accept the schema will be to perform a positive, wise, and constructive act, for that would permit obtaining all that is good in the schema. To reject it, on the contrary, destroys at the same time both the good and the bad elements. Certainly, we know that the text is not perfect. But what schema is perfect? Are we ourselves perfect? An Arabic proverb says: "Blessed is the perfect! God alone is perfect" (Soubhan el-Kamel! Al-Kamal lillah wahdahou).
Having said that, may I be permitted to add two simple remarks, which, I hope, will be taken into consideration by the commission:
1. In paragraph 3, lines 25 to 28, clarify the idea by adding a sentence through which it would be clearly recognized that, in declaring that all the Eastern and Western Churches are obliged to take care of "preaching the Gospel to the whole world," the holy council declares that all special directives laid down by any dicastery, even a supreme one, or any apostolic delegate, to restrain the apostolic activities of one or another Eastern Church for the benefit of the Latin Church, whether in the Near East, or in black Africa, or in the Indies, or elsewhere, are annulled. Let it be made clear, once and for all, that the holy council decides to put an end to all discrimination in the Church, for the benefit of one rite over another. If, in certain cases, the head of a diocese is responsible for irregularities or imprudence, let him be corrected, admonished, or even reduced in rank, but the respect owed to his Church should not be touched, in the equality owed to all rites.
2. Drawing my inspiration from what is said in number 27 about the intercommunion between Catholics and Orthodox, which we applaud with our whole hearts, I propose that the council give a fortiori the greatest freedom for concelebration among priests of different Catholic rites themselves. May the ad hoc commission find a formula authorizing the ordinary of the place or his vicar, in centers of pilgrimages, in national or international meetings, to permit priests of another rite to concelebrate with his priests, if they are capable of doing so. Communicating with one another, the priests, belonging to different Catholic Churches, will feel themselves to a greater extent brothers in the same Christ.
In fact, in everything that we ask, as in all that is decided by the Decree "On Eastern Churches," there is only one goal in view: That all may be one!
- 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).
- Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.
The Feast of the Nativity of Christ
A Collection of Reflections
by Frances Collie
ABOUT THE ICON OF THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST
The Feast of the Nativity of Christ is a celebration of both the Incarnation and re-creation of the world in Christ. The liturgical texts for the feast are reflected and represented in the icon. The icon reproduces in artistic designs and harmony the details of the narratives of the Gospels. We see in the icon what our hearts have already heard and sung.
"Today the Virgin gives birth to Him who is above all being, and the earth offers a cave to Him whom no man can approach 'The whole creation is made rich: let it rejoice and be of good cheer. The Master of all has come to live with His servants, and from the bondage of the enemy. He delivers us who were made subject to corruption (Rom. 8.20,21). In swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, He is manifest a young child, the pre-eternal God.'
The ray of light from heaven shines over the place of the Incarnation and points directly to the Christ-child who lays in the manger. In another text we see that all creation is involved in an act of gratitude and welcome to the Incarnate God:
"What shall we offer Thee, O Christ, who for our sakes has appeared on earth as man? Every creature made by Thee offers Thee thanks. The angels offer Thee a hymn; the heavens a star; the Magi, gifts; the shepherds, their wonder; the earth, its cave; the wilderness, the manger: and we offer Thee a Virgin Mother, O pre-eternal God, have mercy on us.'
The ox and the ass in the icon looking down on the Christ-child represent the fulfillment of Isaiah 1.3 The ox knows its owner and the ass its master's crib - i.e., the animal creation joins in recognition of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
The Virgin Mother lies in the center of the icon, as the second Eve. Just as the first Eve was the ‘mother of all living' (Gen.3.20) so the Virgin Mother of God is the Mother of the new humanity restored and deified through the incarnation of the Eternal Son. She is dressed in royal purple and outstretched in majesty. She is lying down because he is tired, her maternity is real and not an illusion.
The angels praise and glorify God and bring the message to the shepherds, one of whom looks in wonder and the other plays his pipe in celebration. If the shepherds symbolize simple folk and the Jewish people, the Magi symbolize wise and learned people, and the Gentile nations.
Below the Virgin, women deal with the practical consequences of a human birth - the washing of the baby. Their function in the icon is to stress the true humanity of the Incarnate God, against heretical teaching that Christ only appeared to be human. This is to show that Christ is a real human who requires caring for all His human needs.
At the bottom left corner of the icon sits Joseph, the one who is not the father of the child, and who represents those who cannot comprehend the wonder of this event, which is beyond the natural order of things. An old shepherd Thyros, representing the devil, is stirring more doubts in his heart, telling him that something went wrong with the mother because there is no human child ever without a human father. A virgin birth is not possible; it goes against all the laws of nature. The face of the Virgin is turned towards Joseph - a symbol of compassion for those beset by doubts in believing.
The homily details in the icon along with the rich coloring help to convey something of the joy of the feast.
(Baggley,, Windows of Perception, Raya, ,Christmas )
THE NATIVITY SERMON OF SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
I behold a new and wondrous mystery!
My ears resound to the shepherd's song, piping no soft melody, but loudly chanting a heavenly hymn!
The angels sing! The archangels blend their voices in harmony!
The cherubim resound their joyful praise! The seraphim exult His glory!
All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth and man in heaven. He who is above now, for our salvation, dwells here below; and we, who were lowly, are exalted by divine mercy.
Today Bethlehem resembles heaven, hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices and, in the place of the sun, witnessing the rising of the Sun of Justice!
Ask now how this was accomplished, for where God wills the order of nature is overturned. For He willed He has the power. He descended. He saved. All things move in obedience to God.
Today, He Who is born. And He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man - while not relinquishing the Godhead that is His.
And so the kings have come and they have seen the heavenly King that is come upon the earth, not bring with Him angels, nor archangels, nor thrones, nor dominations, nor powers, nor principalities, but treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His incarnation has He ceased being God.
And behold the kings have come that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;
Women, so that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child birth to joy;
Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin . . .
Infants that they might adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouths of infants He might perfect praise;
Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;
Men to Him Who became man hat He might heal the miseries of His servants;
Shepherds to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;
Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisidech;
Servants to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our stewardship with the reward of freedom;
Fishermen to the Fisher of humanity;
Publicans, to Him Who from among them named a chosen evangelist;
Sinful women to Him Who exposed His feel to the tears of the repentant woman;
And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they might look upon the lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world!
Since, therefore, all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice! I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival! But I take my part, not plucking the harp, nor with music of the pipes nor holding the torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ!
For this is all my hope! This is my life! This is my salvation! This is my pipe, my harp!
And bearing it I come, having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels sing: "Glory to God in the Highest," and with the shepherds: "and on earth peace to men of good will."
NATIVITY: BIRTH OF OUR LORD GOD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST
The Feast of the Nativity of Christ is a celebration of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, the Son of God and the fact that through this incarnation the world is transfigured and restored. With the appearance of God the world enters upon a new beginning and takes on a new direction. In incarnation, God became real man to identify with His creation, to save His creation and to divinize humanity and the universe.
St. Irenaeus, a Father of the Church in the 3rd century, speaks of the Incarnation as "the necessary means to bring about salvation that we human beings would never have attained by our own power. The Word of God became human in order that we might become God though God's graceful, divine life. He comes to restore the likeness of God in us." He comes to show us the way to the Father and to restore humanity born bankrupt in a "bank world". Humanity started in Paradise - now, with the coming of Christ, Paradise is in humanity. When we accept the person of Jesus Christ and His self-revelation, the whole wealth and beauty of God becomes ours. We have the potential to rise high above our own limitations to the light and life of God.
When we wonder in awe at this event beyond our wildest imaginings, we must marvel at the Divine pedagogy of God, to condescend out of love for our salvation to choose to send His only begotten Son to take on human flesh as the psychological means to educate humanity. .Beyond all the seasonal exhortations of loving, giving, and forgiveness, etc., the Nativity of the Son of God means that man can now have a relationship with God. We cannot have a relationship with an abstract entity. When God decided to show us His face, so that we could see Him in person and not be bewildered by perceiving the impossible to perceive, He covered His glory with an appearance we can approach and understand: He became man. St. Paul calls this generous attitude kenosis (emptiness) also "condescension". St. John Chrysostom says,"The condescension of God is when God does not appear as He really is, but according to the capacity of the one who seeks to contemplate Him."
In a relationship we can experience the otherness of the person we are relating to. So, we know God only by being united to Jesus Christ, by seeing His face, by experiencing Him in our whole being, person-to-person.
We communicate with and experience others when they reveal themselves to us and in turn we reciprocate with the revelation of ourselves. Experience is cumulative. We know God only by being united to Jesus Christ. The glory of God was revealed and made manifest in a face that invites and reveals. Divinity and humanity were united in the Incarnation, and now they appear without separation in the face of the One Divine Person of Jesus Christ. " Life was made visible. . . and we saw it."(1Jn1:1-2) Heaven and earth are now partners in a unique drama of a sublime movement of relationship. When our humanity meets the humanity of Jesus Christ, the God-made-man, we touch and meet God, Father-Son-Spirit. When His revelation of Himself is so accepted, the receiver becomes richer with all the riches of the Person revealed. God's revelation is regulated with patient love and by the measure of our own spiritual development.
The church invites us and all humanity to rejoice. The liturgy overflows with joyous praise designed to make us aware of the coming of God, who at the moment of His birth radiates goodness and love. All of creation, even mountains and valleys are equally invited "to share in the joy of the feast" because it is a celebration of God's love and care for his creation. We should feel ourselves transformed and alive with new life which we and the whole of creation share.
We, upon hearing these exhortations should be filled with joy and peace because we can "see", "hear", and "touch" the reality and truth of our divinization. We should realize that we are a product of an infinite divine love, that we are immersed in divinity in our present life, that we can experience God through Jesus Christ, and that our final destiny is God Himself.
- 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).
- Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.
- Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.