Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 
Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy

Lord Jesus Christ, You have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, And have told us that whoever sees You sees Him. Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Mathew from being enslaved by money; The adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; Made Peter weep after his betrayal, And assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, The words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!” You are the visible face of the invisible Father, Of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: Let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness In order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: Let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, So that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, And your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, Proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, And restore sight to the blind. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
Jan 012016
 
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!
 
An Explanation of the Hajmeh Ceremony
by Rt. Rev. Philip Raczka
PDF, 2 pages, 134KB
The Hajmeh Ceremony that we perform on Holy Saturday Night is a short but beautiful ceremony. Most people enjoy it very much and look forward to it all year. All though the ceremony is brief, it is full of meaning and can be enjoyed even more if it is understood properly. The ceremony starts in the darkened church recalling the darkness of sin, death and life without God (Matthew 22:13 ). The main celebrant lights the Paschal Candle, which represents that Christ is the Light of the World (John 8:12 ). He comes to the Holy Doors with the Light of Christ shining in his hand representing that Christ shone in the darkness and was not overcome by it (John 1:5 ). The priest invites all to light their candles saying: Come all you faithful and take light from the Light that never fades, come and glorify Christ who is risen from the dead. Baptism is called Holy Illumination for by it Christ enlightens our whole being with his presence, knowledge and glory. That is why our baptismal clothes are white showing the glory of the Lord that we share because He is in our hearts (John 14:23 ). White is the color of the glory of the Lord as shown to us by the clothing of the Christ at the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:2 ). So the Ceremony of Light reminds us that Christ is the Light and that Light is in us because we are baptized (Ephesians 5:14 ). After our candles are lit we make a procession to leave the church. We have many processions in our church services. They serve different purposes but they all help us to realize that we are pilgrim people. Our permanent home is not here but with the Lord in heaven (Philippians 3:20 ). Even the words “parish” and “parishioners” mean a group of exiles.1 This idea of exile is very strong in the New Testament, St. Peter uses it in the opening of his First Epistle (1 Peter 1:1 ) as does St. James (James 1:1 ). So our procession reminds us that we are pilgrims, but with a mission to proclaim the resurrection as we sing: O Christ our Savior, the angels in heaven sing a hymn of praise to your resurrection. As for us who dwell on earth, make us worthy to glorify You with pure hearts. Outside of the front door of the church the main celebrant reads the resurrection Gospel according to St. Mark (Mark 16:1-8 ). We incense the Gospel Book before the reading because Christ is present in it, and we carry lit candles because He is the Light of the World (John 8:12 ). We listen with complete attention to the proclamation because when the Gospel is read in the Liturgy it is Christ Himself speaking to us.2 The Holy Spirit prepares our souls to hear the Gospel so that in listening to it the Logos may abide in us as He did the Virgin at the Annunciation.3 Christ contains in Himself all that He accomplished for our salvation, therefore when the Resurrection Gospel is read that Mystery is present also.4 So outside the doors of the church by the reading of the Gospel, Christ and his glorious resurrection become present to us. Our reaction to this divine and salvific Presence is to proclaim and celebrate. Taking the Paschal Candle and the censer the priest announces solemnly the Paschal Troparion: Christ is risen from the dead and by his death He has trampled upon death and has given life to those who are in the tombs. All present repeat the refrain twice making the proclamation and the celebration their own. The custom of singing a hymn after the reading of the Gospel, in order to proclaim and celebrate the mystery made present, goes back to 4th century Jerusalem.5 It is maintained by the Byzantine Rite after the Orthros Gospel and by the Syriac Rite after the Divine Liturgy Gospel. The priest now continues to incense around the table holding the Gospel Book, while chanting Psalm 67 with the congregation alternating the Paschal Troparion. This incensation is a solemn homage offered to the risen Lord present in the Gospel Book and the Gospel proclamation. When the priest starts to sing the doxology he incenses the entire congregation who are the living Temples of God (I Corinthians 3:16-17 ). Then the deacon intones the Litany of Peace which is augmented by 5 additional petitions. The proclamation of the Word of God in the Divine Liturgy, Vespers and most other services is followed by intercessions. Christ is our Great High Priest who intercedes for us with the Father (Hebrews 7:25 & 9:24 ). Being present in the Gospel Book, the Gospel Proclamation and in the hearts of the Faithful we join our voices with Christ’s to offer intercessions to the Father. We intercede for the whole world as the Apostle commands, not just for ourselves and our friends (1 Timothy 2:1-3 ). To intercede for others is a special ministry of the Christian tied to our adoptive sonship and union with Christ (Galatians 4:6 ). St. John Chrysostom (+407 AD) comments on this special ministry of the baptized in his Baptismal Catechesis as do other early Christian Fathers.6 The 5 special petitions added to the Litany pray for our participation in the victory of Christ over sin and the Devil. After this, the priest knocks on the doors of the church with the hand cross, while chanting Psalm 23/4 with the Sacristan answering from inside the church. This represents Christ opening for us the gates of Paradise that were closed by the sin of Adam (Genesis 3:23-24 ). Christ now enters heaven with us, who had been captive to sin and death (Ephesians 4:8 ). Thus the priest leads the entire congregation into the church to represent Christ leading us into heaven. While we enter the church we notice that all of the lights are on, the Holy Doors of the Iconostasis are open and that fragrant incense is burning. At the same time the choir begins to sing the 1st Ode of the Paschal Canon of St. John of Damascus (+749 AD): Today is the day of the resurrection… We are now entering a foretaste of Paradise, as much as is possible in this life, we are by the grace of God in his eternal Kingdom. Thus, we do not kneel or fast and we rejoice without limit for the next 50 days. It is the ancient tradition of the Church that our Lord Jesus will return for the Final Judgment and Resurrection of the Dead at midnight on Pascha.7 That means that a time will come, when we will enter the church after the Hajmeh ceremony, to find that we are with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17 ). To Him be glory now and forever. Amen.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 
An Explanation of the Crowning Ceremony
by Father Philip Raczka
PDF, 3 pages, 98KB

Introduction

The 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.

History

The 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 Betrothal

The 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 Consent

The 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 Prayers

The 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 Crowning

The 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 Gospel

The 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 Wine

The 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 Procession

In 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 Removal

After 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 Ceremony

The 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.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 
An Explanation of the Ceremonies of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist)
by Father Philip Raczka
PDF, 6 pages, 94KB

The Apostolic Origins of Christian Initiation

Introduction: 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 Rites

Introduction: 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 Ceremony

The 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 Synaxis

The 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 Rites

The 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.

Conclusion

All 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.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 
An Explanation of the Divine Liturgy
by Fr. Philip Raczka
PDF, 11 pages, 141KB

The Great Incensation

Before 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 Blessing

The 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 Peace

The 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 Antiphons

An 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 Hymn

The 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 Entrance

During 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 Troparia

The 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 Hymn

On 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 Liturgy

The 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 Epistle

The 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 Ceremonies

After 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 Gospel

Jesus 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 Sermon

Following 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 Litany

After 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 Hymn

The 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: Ceremonies

While 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 Peace

After 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 Creed

After 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 Sacrifice

We 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 Angels

Almost 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 Spirit

Jesus 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 Prayer

The 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 Prayer

The 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 Father

This 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 Bread

When 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 Prayers

After 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 Christ

Melkites 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 Communion

The 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 Prayer

O 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 Dismissal

There 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.

Conclusion

When 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.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 

Marriage and the Family

Indissolubility of Marriage

In an intervention on September 29, 1965 concerning the schema "The Church in the Modern World," Archbishop Elias Zoghby, Patriarchal Vicar for Egypt and the Sudan, spoke to the council about the trauma of the innocent spouse and asked whether a solution could be provided in the Catholic Church, especially in view of tradition in the Orthodox Church, which considers adultery a cause for the dissolution of marriage. Here is the complete text of Archbishop Zoghby's intervention.

There is a problem even more agonizing than that of birth control: it is the problem of the innocent spouse who, in the prime of life and through no fault of his or her own, is left alone through the other spouse's fault.

Shortly after entering into a marriage that seems to be happy, one of the spouses, through weakness or with premeditation, abandons the family and contracts a new union. The innocent spouse comes to his or her pastor or bishop and receives only one answer, "I can do nothing for you. Pray and be resigned to live alone and to practice continence for the rest of your life!" This solution presupposes heroic virtue, a rare faith, and an exceptional temperament. It is not, therefore, a solution that everyone can accept.

The young man or woman who had married because he or she did not feel called to perpetual continence is thus very often driven, in order not to become a bundle of nerves, to contract a new and illegitimate union outside the Church. Although up to then a practicing Catholic, he or she is henceforth doomed to be tortured in conscience. Only one choice is offered: either become an exceptional soul overnight or... perish!

We know on this subject that this solution of perpetual continence is not one for the ordinary Christian. In other words, we know that we leave these young victims without an answer. We ask them to depend on faith that works miracles; but faith that works miracles is not given to everyone. Many among us, bishops of the Church, still have to struggle hard and pray in order to obtain it.

Therefore, the question that these anguished souls are asking the council today is this: has the Church the right to answer an innocent faithful, whatever the nature of the problem that is torturing him or her, "Make the best of it; I have no solution for your case!" Or can the Church in this case offer only an exceptional solution that it knows is meant only for exceptional persons?

The Church has certainly received from Christ sufficient authority to offer all its children the means of salvation proportionate to their strength, and, of course, with the help of divine grace. Heroism, the state of perfection, has never been demanded by Christ under pain of damnation. Christ says, "If you wish to be perfect" ... if you wish it!

The Church therefore cannot lack sufficient authority to protect the innocent spouse against the consequences of sins of the other spouse. It does not seem normal that perpetual continence, which belongs to the state of perfection, can be imposed, like a punishment, on the innocent spouse because the other spouse has been unfaithful.

The Eastern Churches have always been aware of having this authority, and they have always exercised it in favor of the innocent spouse.

The bond of matrimony has certainly been made indissoluble by the positive law of Christ, but, as the Gospel of Saint Matthew indicates (5:32, 19:9) "except on the grounds of adultery." It is up to the Church to judge the meaning of this clause; even though the Church of Rome has always interpreted it in a restrictive sense, the same has not been true in the East, where the Church interpreted it, from the earliest times, in favor of the possible remarriage of an innocent spouse.

It is true that the Council of Trent in its 24th Session (Canon 7 of De Matrimonio) sanctioned the restrictive Roman interpretation. However, it is widely known that the formula adopted at that holy council in that canon has been revised intentionally so as not to exclude the Eastern tradition that followed a practice contrary to that of the Church of Rome. Credit for this is due to the Venetian orators who were well acquainted with the Greek tradition based on the interpretation of the Greek Fathers, and even of certain Western Fathers such as St. Ambrose of Milan .

We know how much the Fathers of the Eastern Church tried to dissuade widowers and widows from a second marriage, thus following the Apostle's advice, but they have never wished to deprive the innocent spouse who has been unjustly abandoned of the right to remarry. This tradition, preserved in the East, and which was never reproved during the ten centuries of union, could be accepted again and adopted by Catholics. Progress in patristic studies has indeed brought to the fore the doctrine of the Eastern Fathers who were no less qualified exegetes or moralists than the Western ones.

Pastoral concern for sorely tried spouses has been manifested among the Western canonists in another way. By means of a subtle casuistry that sometimes borders on acrobatics, they have applied themselves to detecting all possible impediments that could vitiate the marriage contract. They have certainly done this out of pastoral concern, but the result sometimes been detrimental to souls. For instance, if it happens that after ten or twenty years of marriage a previously unsuspected impediment of affinity is discovered, it is permitted to resolve everything as if by magic. The jurists find this quite normal and natural, but we pastors must admit that it sometimes amazes and scandalizes our faithful.

Is not the tradition of the Eastern Fathers, cited above, more appropriate than these impediments to marriage for granting divine mercy to Christian spouses?

Abuses are always possible, but abuse of authority does not eliminate authority.

In this age of ecumenism and dialogue, may the Catholic Church recognize the immemorial tradition of the Eastern Church, and may theologians apply themselves to the study of this problem, in order to bring a remedy to the anguish of innocent spouses permanently abandoned by their spouses, and in order to deliver them from the danger that seriously threatens their souls.

On October 2, 1965, Patriarch Maximos gave some "clarifications" to La Croix on the delicate subject of the indissolubility of marriage. When he was consulted in regard to the intervention of Archbishop Elias Zoghby, his Vicar General in Egypt and the Sudan , on the indissolubility of marriage in the event of infidelity of one of the spouses, he offered La Croix the following clarifications:

Archbishop Zoghby, like all Fathers of the council, enjoys full freedom to say what he thinks. And although he is our vicar in Egypt , he naturally speaks only for himself personally.

As for me, I knew about this intervention only at the time I heard it at the session of the council.

With respect to the heart of the problem, the Church must hold fast to the indissolubility of marriage, for, even though in certain cases the innocent spouse is sorely tried because of this law, the whole of family life would be shaken and ruined without this law. Moreover, if divorce in the strict sense were to be allowed on the grounds of adultery, nothing would be easier for less conscientious spouses than to create this cause.

The contrary practice of the Eastern Orthodox Churches can be supported by a few texts by certain Fathers. But these texts are contradicted by others and do not in every case constitute a sufficiently constant and universal tradition to induce the Catholic Church to change its discipline on this point.

Nevertheless, this question, with the proper nuances, could have been brought before the council as a serious difficulty to be resolved in the dialogue with Orthodoxy. Yet, presented as it is now, without the necessary precision, it can create confusion in many minds.

On October 4, 1965, in a new intervention at the council, Archbishop Zoghby made his ideas more precise.

Since certain publications have attached too much importance to my last intervention at the council concerning the frequent and unfortunate particular case of the innocent spouse abandoned by his or her spouse, and since they have broadcast the text of this intervention throughout the world, I have asked to speak again in the assembly, not to retract or change what I have said, but to call to mind briefly the following:

1. The purpose of my intervention was strictly pastoral, i.e., to discover a solution to the problem of so many young spouses condemned to live alone, in forced continence, through no fault of their part.

2. I clearly affirmed in my intervention the immutable principle of the indissolubility of marriage, and I intentionally avoided using the word "divorce," because in Catholic usage this word signifies an infraction of the immutable principle of the indissolubility of marriage.

3. This indissolubility of marriage is so deeply rooted in the tradition of Eastern and Western Churches , both Catholic and Orthodox, that it could not be called into question in a conciliar intervention. In fact, Orthodox tradition has always held marriage to be indissoluble, as indissoluble as the union of Christ and His Spouse, the Church, a union that remains the "exemplary model" of the monogamic and sacramental marriage of Christians.

In Orthodox theology, divorce is simply a dispensation granted to the innocent spouse in very clearly defined cases and with a purely pastoral concern, by virtue of what the Orthodox call the "principle of economy," which signifies "dispensation," or better, "condescension." This dispensation does not exclude the principle of indissolubility of marriage. It is even placed at its service, like the dispensation from valid and consummated marriages granted by the Catholic Church by virtue of the Petrine privilege. We shall not speak about the abuses, which are always possible but do not change the theological reality.

4. It is therefore a "dispensation" in favor of the innocent spouse that I was suggesting in my intervention. Referring to the traditional interpretation in the East of Saint Matthew's texts (Chapters 5 and 19), I envisioned the possibility of adding to the grounds for a dispensation already accepted by the Catholic Church those of fornication and of permanent abandonment of one spouse by the other, to avert the peril of damnation that threatens the innocent spouse. Such a dispensation would not have the effect of placing the validity of the indissolubility of marriage in doubt any more than the other dispensations.

5. This is not a frivolous proposal. It is based on the incontestable authority of the holy Fathers and of the holy Doctors of the Eastern Churches, who cannot without rashness be accused of having yielded to political or human considerations when they interpreted the Lord's words in the way they did.

6. It is in this perspective, in the East as in the West, of universal fidelity to the principle of the indissolubility of marriage, that the Roman Church, during the long centuries of union as well as after the separation, has not contested the legitimacy of the Eastern discipline favorable to the remarriage of the innocent spouse.

That is the meaning, the tenor of my last intervention at the council. It involves an exegetical, canonical, and pastoral problem that must not be disregarded. As to the opportuneness of accepting new grounds for a dispensation, analogous to those already introduced by virtue of the Petrine privilege, it is up to the Church to decide.

After studying the entire file of the question reopened by the intervention of Archbishop Zoghby, Patriarch Maximos IV wrote the following memorandum in Paris during the month of November 1966, which he requested be inserted in this anthology. "The important thing," he declared, "is that the door on further research should not be closed."

The interventions made at the conciliar assembly on the subject of the dissolution of a marriage when one of the two spouses is abandoned by the other have had worldwide reverberations and stirred up reaction among people and in the press. Yet they had no practical effect on the council or even held its attention, for we find no trace of them in the explanations of the amendments or in those of the modi. Moreover, it seems that they have hardened the contrary position, when it might have been possible, by revealing this difficulty with the required prudence and discretion, to open the door to a study or even to an ecumenical dialogue that could have thrown more light on it.

It seems that this difficulty could have been set forth to the council in the following way, in the hope of holding its attention:

1. The indissolubility of marriage has been solemnly defined by the Council of Trent. It is an object of faith for every Catholic and closes the door to all discussion. Period.

2. In the Catholic Church, as well as in the world, there are cases, which civilization and the love of well-being make increasingly frequent, cases of truly revolting injustice that forces human beings, whose vocation is to live in a normal state of marriage according to the laws of nature created by God, and who are unjustly prevented from doing so through no fault of their own, to endure this abnormal state for the remainder of their lives, although they are not able to do so, humanly speaking. Generally speaking, the world has found a way out of this impasse either by divorce or by other means that the Church does not accept. As for Catholics who find themselves in this situation, they turn their anxious eyes toward the Church, their mother, because they wish to be able to live honorably in the world according to their consciences.

3. Concerning laws that govern the Church spiritually and temporally, there have been created over the centuries and according to specific and varied modes what we might call safety valves for protecting the normal life of the Church and the life of its children. In the East, which is mystical by nature and inclined in its spirituality to consider everything within the mystery of the Church, this safety valve is called oikonomia (economy). This alters, or rather elevates, the difficulties that seem inextricable to it, and centers them on Christ, who is the fullness of the Church. In the Western Church , whose basis is more juridical, this safety valve is called a "privilege." Thus we have in the Church the "privilege" known as the "Pauline privilege," with a scriptural basis. But we have other safety valves that have no basis either in Scripture or in Tradition, such as the privilege to dissolve a marriage that has not been consummated, even though it is completely religious. Likewise, the privilege to dissolve a marriage between a baptized person and a non-baptized one through what is called the "Petrine privilege," which is also foreign to Holy Scripture and Tradition.

4. This being the case, we do not ask that the general teaching of the Church be disregarded or that we be given an immediate reply or even one in the near future. What we are asking is simply whether it would not be opportune on the occasion of the Second Vatican Council, which desires the union of the Churches and the peace of mind of souls, to seek to settle, or at least to clarify to a greater extent, this great question by creating a commission composed, if possible, of eminent members of the two Churches, Eastern and Western, in order to conduct a study in the light of faith, in a spirit of openness and charity, taking into account Holy Scripture, theology, Tradition, the Fathers, and the conduct of the Church through the centuries, by having recourse to either the oikonomia of the Eastern Church or to the "privilege" of the Western Church, in order to alleviate the unjust suffering of such a large number of souls.

We also believe that as long as the Church does not resolve, through its leaders, to do absolutely everything in its power to find a way out of this impasse, it is not entitled to enjoy a peaceful conscience; and its conscience cannot be liberated before God and man unless, after this conscientious work, it turns out to be true that the status quo is indispensable.


Birth Control

Text of the patriarch's intervention pronounced on October 29, 1964, concerning No. 21 of the schema on "The Church in the Modern World."

Today I should like to draw the attention of your venerable assembly to a special point of morals, birth control.

The fundamental virtue that is required of us, pastors assembled in a council that intends to be pastoral, is the courage to come face-to-face with the problems of the hour, in the love of Christ and of souls. Now, among the agonizing and painful problems that disturb the multitudes today, the problem of birth control stands out. It is an urgent problem if there ever was one, for it is at the root of a serious crisis of Catholic conscience. There is a situation of a variance between the official doctrine of the Church and the contrary practice of the immense majority of Christian families. The authority of the Church is called into question on a broad scale. The faithful find themselves driven to live in a state of rupture with the law of the Church, without the sacraments, in constant anxiety, for lack of finding a viable solution between two contradictory imperatives: conscience and normal conjugal life.

Besides, on the social level, demographic pressure in certain countries, especially those with teeming populations, militates under present circumstances against any rise in the standard of living and condemns hundreds of millions of human beings to a shameful and hopeless poverty.

The council must bring a valid solution to this situation. That is its pastoral duty. It must declare whether God really desires this impasse that is depressing and against nature.

Venerable Fathers, since we are aware, in the Lord who died and rose again for the salvation of men, of the painful crisis of conscience which our faithful are now suffering, let us have the courage to grapple with it without any bias.

Frankly, should not the official positions of the Church on this matter be revised in the light of modern science, theological as well as medical, psychological, and sociological?

In marriage, the development of the human being and his or her integration into the creative plan of God form a single whole. The finality of marriage must not be dissected into a primary finality and a secondary finality. This consideration opens up the horizon to new perspectives concerning the morality of conjugal behavior considered as a whole.

Besides, are we not correct in asking ourselves if certain official positions are not tributary to outworn concepts, and perhaps also, to a psychosis of celibates who are strangers to this sector of life? Are we not, without wishing to be, under the influence of that Manichean concept of man and the world, for which sexual intercourse is corrupt in itself and therefore tolerated only for having a child?

Is the external biological rectitude of acts the only criterion here of morality, independently of family life, of its conjugal and familial moral climate, and of the serious imperatives of prudence, the fundamental rule of all our human activity?

Furthermore, does not present-day exegesis urge us to greater prudence in the interpretation of two passages in Genesis—"Be fruitful and multiply," and that of Onan, which have been used so long as classical scriptural proofs of the basic condemnation of birth control?

How relieved was the Christian conscience when His Holiness Pope Paul VI announced to the world that the problem of birth control and of family morality "is under study, a study as broad and deep as possible, that is to say, as serious and honest as the great importance of this subject requires. The Church will have to proclaim this law of God in the light of scientific, social, and psychological truths that, during these recent times, have been the object of studies and documentation" (Doc. Cath. July 5, 1964).

In addition, given the extent and gravity of this problem that concerns the entire world, we ask that this projected study be carried out by theologians, physicians, psychologists, and sociologists, with the viewpoint of finding the normal solution that is needed. The collaboration of exemplary married Christians also seems necessary. Besides, is it not in harmony with the ecumenical path of the council to enter into a dialogue on this subject with other Christian Churches , and even with thinkers of other religions? Why fall back on ourselves? Are we not facing a problem that affects all humanity? Must not the Church be open to the world, both Christian and non-Christian? Is not the Church the leaven that will make the dough rise? It must also achieve positive results that give peace of conscience in this area as well as in all other areas that concern humankind.

Far be it from me to minimize the delicacy and gravity of the subject, as well as possible future abuses. But here as elsewhere, is it not the duty of the Church to educate the moral sense of its children, to train them in personal and community moral responsibility that is profoundly matured in Christ, rather than to envelop them in a network of regulations and commandments, and to ask them purely and simply to conform to them with closed eyes? As for us, let us open our eyes and be practical. Let us see things as they are and not as we would wish them to be. Otherwise we would risk talking in a desert. This involves the future of the mission of the Church in the world.

And so let us loyally and effectively put into practice the declaration of Pope Paul VI at the opening of the second session of the council, "Let the world know: the Church looks out on it with profound understanding, with sincere admiration, sincerely disposed not to subjugate it, but to serve it; not to depreciate it, but to give it greater value; not to condemn it, but to give it support and to save it."

At the fourth session of the council, a public discussion of the problem was avoided. In the appropriate commission, at the last minute, the accent was placed on fertility and its primacy in marriage, calling to mind exclusively the doctrine of the encyclical of Pius XI "Casti connubii" and the discourse of Pius XII to Italian midwives. There was therefore a danger of closing the path to any possibility of evolution in the discipline of the Church on this point. The patriarch decided to write directly to the pope [letter of November 29, 1965] to entreat him not to close the door to a possible evolution.

Mixed Marriages

In its "Observations on the Schemas of the Council" [1963], the Holy Synod said what it thought about a plan for the regulation of mixed marriages, valid especially for the Latin Church, since the Eastern Commission likewise dealt with this question concerning mixed marriages between Eastern Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

We begin by asking the question: Does this chapter "on mixed marriages" apply to Easterners as well? In fact, the subject is dealt with again, in what concerns them, in the schema "On the Eastern Churches." In this case, one of the two chapters or paragraphs is a duplicate and should be eliminated. If, on the contrary, this chapter is limited to the Latin Church alone, it must be clearly stated.

However, even if this chapter were to apply only to the Latin Church, we think that it is drafted in a tone that is needlessly severe and often offensive to our non-Catholic brethren. Needlessly severe, since the percentage of mixed marriages is continuing to grow in every country, and harsh words can do nothing to prevent this. Often offensive, since it considers the non-Catholic party as necessarily being a danger, whatever his or her personal behavior may otherwise be.

At a time when Christian Churches are opening themselves to ecumenical dialogue, it is not fitting, it seems to us, for the council to speak so superficially of a very serious problem that touches the life of the faithful and of the Church itself. It is a chapter that must be reworked completely from beginning to end, in a perspective that is at once more realistic and more ecumenical.

1. We must start from the principle that mixed marriages are inevitable. Let us think above all of countries where Catholics are in a minority, or even equal in number to other Christian confessions. It is normal for love to blossom among young persons belonging to different religious faiths.

2. Mixed marriages are not necessarily bad. Everything depends on the attitudes of the contracting parties. Neither Scripture nor the Fathers absolutely forbids them.

3. Marriages between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians must not be grouped in the same classification as marriages between Catholics and non-Christians. For a young Catholic girl, there is a great difference between marrying an Orthodox Christian and marrying a Muslim. Canon Law must take this into account not only theoretically but also in a practical way, by not requiring the same conditions for the one case as for the other.

4. The Church must never countenance hypocrisy. Mixed marriages are often, from the religious point of view, a conflict between two sincerities. The Catholic spouse rightly thinks that he or she must contract the marriage in the Catholic Church, baptize the children in the Catholic Church, and then educate them in the Catholic faith. The non-Catholic spouse makes the commitment to respect the religious convictions of his or her Catholic spouse. And yet, in conscience, he or she cannot renounce his or her own religious convictions. And so he or she will also wish to baptize the children and have them educated in his or her own faith. What is to be done? Current Catholic canon law requires that the non-Catholic spouse commit himself or herself in conscience to do things against his or her conscience. Is that moral? What actually happens? If the non-Catholic spouse is an unbeliever or indifferent, he or she promises everything that is asked. And so the marriage is authorized, and on the Catholic side this mixed marriage is considered a success, when it is really based on irreligion and hypocrisy. But if, on the other hand, the non-Catholic spouse, conscious of his or her obligations, claims his or her rights, which are subjectively not less than that of the other spouse, namely, to baptize and educate the children in his or her faith, the authorization is refused. At the very least, this is an abnormal attitude.

5. Besides, might we not succeed, with a little good will on both sides, in seeing in mixed marriages not necessarily a danger but an opportunity for bringing Christians together, an apostolate, the pursuit of ecumenism? Where our Eastern countries are concerned, we frankly declare that our Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic, are shocked by the rigidity that Catholic discipline demonstrates in the authorization of mixed marriages. What scandalizes the faithful is not the fact that Christians belonging to different confessions marry one another, but the fact that they have so many difficulties getting married.

6. Finally, the concept of the cautiones ("guarantees") required by current canon law must be completely re-examined. It is normal to require that the Catholic party make a commitment to do what he or she can on behalf of his or her faith. But it is not normal to require a commitment to do what does not depend on him or her, or that he or she make the commitment to bring the non-Catholic spouse to do what his or her conscience forbids him or her to do.

This chapter on mixed marriages must be studied by the council on entirely different bases from those of the present schema, which still holds to the hypothesis of a Catholicism lived in isolation and bitterly regretting any contact with the outsider, whether he be an infidel or a non-Catholic. Fortunately, we have gotten far beyond that. If the council is to achieve a work of aggiornamento, it is certainly to be in this domain. It is necessary to see realities as they are, and to bring to them Christ's response. Harshness arising from an imaginary situation only serves to aggravate the trouble.

Now here are a few detailed remarks:

1. Why the adverb "rashly" in the expression "de matrimonio mixto temere non contrahendo" (on not contacting a mixed marriage rashly), and other similar terms? It would be better to say: "de matrimonio mixto imprudenter non contrahendo" (on not contracting a mixed marriage imprudently). The word "temere" is offensive.

2. The drafters of the schema set out to explain the reasons why the number of mixed marriages has increased, but they do it in such a simplistic way that the council risks being held up to derision if their text is adopted.

The first reason, it is claimed, is the migration of peoples which has brought Catholic populations in contact with non-Catholic populations, and this is seen as regrettable. This may be true of certain regions of Germany . However, for the world's nations taken as a whole this reason is as old as the world. Almost everywhere Catholics live side by side with non-Catholics, and that is a good thing.

The second reason, it is said, is "that it is often not possible to prevent Catholics from entering into social contacts with non-Catholics, and that these friendly relations lead to marriages." Could it be otherwise?

Finally, the third reason, it is said, is "the decline of piety." Therefore, mixed marriages are an evil, and a Catholic who wishes to be devout must abstain for that very reason from contracting marriage with a non-Catholic, and that independently of any personal attitude of the non-Catholic party. On the contrary, we think that mixed marriages are the expression of more extensive relations among Christians belonging to different confessions than in the past. It is a sign of the times.

3. As a necessary condition for authorizing a mixed marriage, it is required "that the Catholic party sincerely guarantee that he or she will fulfill his or her duty to baptize the children and to educate them in the Catholic religion." How can the Catholic party make a commitment to something whose fulfillment does not depend solely on him or her? The Catholic party must not be asked to commit himself or herself to more than he or she can do.

Rationally speaking, we must be content to ask the Catholic party to make the commitment to do everything that he or she can, sincerely and honestly, so that the children belong to his or her Church and share his or her faith. He or she cannot promise more than that.

4. The non-Catholic is required "se non repugnaturum ut proles catholice baptizetur eiusque catholicae educationi provideatur" (that he or she will not resist having the children baptized as Catholics, and that there will be provision for their Catholic education). How can a non-Catholic Christian, if he or she is sincere and deeply committed to his or her faith, make such a promise?

Only an unbeliever, an indifferent person, or a liar will do that. Thus, vices have been encouraged, in order to satisfy canon law. That is not normal.

5. Then there is the intent to show ill humor to the very end. Since mixed marriages cannot be prevented, an effort is made to show that they are authorized only reluctantly. As a result, provision is made for a diminished, private, humiliating rite. Why all that? If the mixed marriage has been authorized, it is because all the requisite conditions have been fulfilled. There is need only to bless this marriage like all others.

  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 

Formation and Life of the Clergy

We glean from Patriarch Maximos' memoranda to the Central Commission (1962) and from the "Comments of the Holy Synod on the Schemas of the Council" (1963) a few thoughts on the subject of the formation of future priests. They refer to the schema "De sacrorum alumnis formandis."

I. Concerning the "Apostolic" Visitation of Seminaries

Provision is made for a periodic apostolic visitation of the seminaries. It is also said that this visitation is requested by several Fathers of the forthcoming council. We believe that the Fathers who have asked for such a visitation do not constitute the majority. Besides, more than once the Fathers of the forthcoming council have expressed the desire to see the central administration advance in the direction of a progressive decentralization. As a matter of fact, the present centralization is excessive, burdens the Holy See of Rome with too many minor cares, and involves a considerable number of other serious disadvantages for the Church. It is not fitting at the moment when the council is preparing to initiate the movement of decentralization to introduce in the discipline of the Church a periodic apostolic visitation of the seminaries. This visitation does not appear to us to be at all appropriate. It can even cause serious conflicts between the ordinary of the place and the apostolic visitors. It can also reduce the mutual trust between the bishop and the directors of his seminary, as well as diminish the bishop's sense of his total responsibility for his seminary. Apart from a few advantages, the periodic visitation of seminaries involves a great number of disadvantages, and we therefore believe that it is not opportune. Besides, there is nothing to prevent the Holy See of Rome from ordering an extraordinary visitation, if the need arises.

II. The Teaching of the Popes

By way of introduction, there is a stress on how much the Roman pontiffs have elucidated the need for holiness in priests. On this subject we should like to make a general comment which applies to almost all the schemas proposed to date to the Central Commission. It would seem that the authors of these schemas know, in addition to the Holy Scripture, only the encyclicals of the recent popes, and above all those of Pope Pius XII. Beyond doubt, the encyclicals of the popes are very important documents of the Church's magisterium. We also understand that the writings of the most recent popes, assembled in convenient collections, provide citations that are easy to reproduce, thanks to the detailed indexes that have been carefully provided. However, it is not fitting that the council have such limited horizons.

After Holy Scripture, the texts that should be cited most often are those of the ancient ecclesiastical tradition, in which the Fathers of the East occupy a place of the first rank. Besides, the popes do not constitute the only voices of the ecclesiastical magisterium. The bishops of the entire world, the councils, the authors who are approved and truly competent on these matters should also be cited. The schemas give the invincible impression that in the Catholic Church of the present day only the Popes of Rome count for anything. This way of doing things, apart from the fact that it is false and savors of flattery, does not facilitate the acceptance and comprehension of the texts of the council by our separated brethren.

III. Education for Celibacy.

It is strongly urged that seminarians be educated in the practice of ecclesiastical celibacy "quo Ecclesiae ritus latini sacerdotes statum virginitatis christianae assumentes, integra animae et corporis deditione Domino interserviunt ..." (by which the priests of the Latin Rite Church, taking on the state of Christian virginity, serve the Lord with complete dedication of soul and body...)

The expression is inexact, for in the Eastern Church as well there are priests who vow their celibacy to God. In the Eastern Churches they are even by far in the majority. Celibacy is not an exclusive glory of the Latin Church. The difference between the Latin church and the Eastern Churches is that in the former celibacy is obligatory, whereas in the Eastern churches it is optional, but recommended and held in special honor.

IV. Latin and Greek.

Greek remains the source language not only of the Byzantines but also of all the Easterners, and was used in the Western Church as well during the earliest times. Moreover, we propose to add the following:

"In the seminaries of the Eastern rites, a place of choice will be reserved for the study of their own liturgical languages, as much for the sake of a better celebration of the liturgical services as for a greater appreciation, for the benefit of the universal Church, of the patrimony bequeathed by the Fathers and the ecclesiastical writers in that language."

V. The Teaching of Philosophy.

Philosophy is not in every sense and solely "the handmaid of theology." This formula has done too much harm to the value of pure philosophical thinking in the Church, and to the philosophical formation in Catholic seminaries and universities. It is referred to as "philosophy adapted to theology."

Why always hold on to this distinction, especially in a conciliar document, if not to say this opposition between "perennial philosophy" and "modern philosophy"? Philosophy, like every science, is one. Starting out from fundamental notions, it evolves, it never ceases to be enriched by new contributions, bringing to light one or another aspect of being. Why grant Thomistic philosophical thought so much prominence in the Church? It was a stage in the evolution of philosophical thought. For this reason we propose a draft that would be along these lines:

"A philosophical formation as sound as it is broad is necessary both for education and for a deeper formation in the aggregate of the ecclesiastical disciplines, as well as for apologetics and the priestly apostolate in the modern world."

VI. Thomism.

In the Church there exist legally and in fact several theological trends, without prejudice to the fundamental identity of dogma, several ways of expressing in human terms the same revealed deposit. Divine revelation, which is universal in it's thinking, cannot be linked to one human way of thinking, whatever its merits and its richness, because it is part and parcel of a particular civilization.

VII. Formation of the Married Clergy.

There should be a paragraph in this schema on the formation of married clergy, which exists in the Eastern rites. Even though, since the introduction of certain disciplinary reforms in the West, especially since the Council of Trent, Latin theologians are loath to speak of a "married clergy," the traditional institution of this married clergy in the East is indeed a very useful and living canonical reality which the East as a whole is not prepared to abandon. That is why a paragraph on the formation of the married clergy should be included in this schema. We propose that it be drafted as follows:

"In proclaiming the superiority of the evangelical counsel of perfect chastity and the practice of ecclesiastical celibacy, the council respects the tradition of the Eastern Churches with respect to the promotion to Holy Orders of men bound by the sacrament of matrimony. It moreover directs that the greatest care be taken in their recruitment and in their priestly formation, both during their stay in the seminaries appropriate to their state, as well as after their ordination, in conformity with the holy canons in force in the above-mentioned Churches."

VIII. A Manly Formation.

We think that the schema should make a greater effort to provide a manly formation to future priests. In the Church there is too great a tendency to consider the clerics as perennial minors, as overage children who cannot assume their responsibilities. In this system, there are evidently cases that turn out successfully, but in many other cases the results are mediocre.

Reviving the Diaconate

Concerning the draft of a schema "On the Sacrament of Orders" presented to the Central Commission in its session of January, 1962, the patriarch said what he thought about the restoration of an active diaconate and about a few other related questions concerning the age of the ordinands.

1. The statement is made that the restoration of an active diaconate "ne fiat nisi de iudicio Sanctae Sedis" (should not be done except by the judgement of the Holy See). This regulation must apply only to the Latin West, for, in the Eastern Church, the institution of a functioning diaconate has always been accepted and therefore has no need of being restored, nor does it need any authorization by the Holy See of Rome.

2. It is stated that "permanent" deacons are those who do not aspire to receive priestly orders. It should be added: "normally" or "generally," for there is nothing to prevent one or another of these deacons from later being raised to the priesthood if his bishop deems it opportune and if he fulfills all of its conditions. The diaconate is not a sentence never to rise to a superior level, if all the conditions are fulfilled. Just as a priest is not necessarily destined to become a bishop, but nevertheless can become one, so, too, a deacon may always remain a deacon, but he can also become a priest if he fulfills the necessary conditions.

3. The schema sets forth the liturgical functions of the deacon. To be truthful, it is necessary to add at the end a clause such as the following: "Haec omnia juxta disciplinam unuscuiusque ritus" (all these things according to the discipline of each rite). This is because the liturgical functions enumerated in these lines relate only to the Latin rite, which, to repeat, is not the only rite of the Catholic Church and must not serve as the exclusive point of reference in the Council's decrees.

4. It is affirmed that "by a general dispensation set down for certain regions, or by a particular apostolic dispensation," married men can be ordained deacons. I completely approve this new discipline which is inspired by the age-old custom of the East and answers the needs of the Church in many countries. However, it is well understood that this general or particular dispensation is necessary only for the West. In the Eastern Church, the ordination of married deacons has always been considered licit, and is currently in force, independently of any dispensation from the Holy See of Rome or from the patriarchal See.

5. It is said that deacons, if they are celibate and fulfill all the other conditions, can be ordained priests by their bishop, "accedente dispensatione apostolica" (by means of an apostolic dispensation). This dispensation seems to me to be superfluous, for, on the one hand these deacons are celibate and fulfill all the conditions for acceding to the priesthood. What more is needed, and why is such a dispensation necessary? Such a restriction makes the situation of celibate deacons worse than the situation of celibate laity, which is contrary to all justice and to the whole ecclesiastical spirit. To repeat, the status of these deacons must not be considered as exceptional, barely tolerable, and restricted by all sorts of prohibitions.

6. The schema states that the level of education of deacons must be fixed by "instructions emanating from the Holy See," according to the needs of each nation. I think that it is more appropriate to leave to the regional councils or national conferences the responsibility for determining the level of education, since the bishops of the place are expected to be better informed on the needs of their country. Since there is talk in the entire Church of the need of a certain administrative decentralization, this is a concrete case in which decentralization should be put into practice.

7. A married deacon can continue to attend in part to his civilian functions. The schema says that that can only be done through an indult from the Holy See: "Quodsi Sancta Sedes indulserit" (insofar as the Holy See permits). I think that the bishop's authority suffices and that there is no need to have recourse to the Apostolic See for that. In my opinion, the supreme authority of the pope must never be burdened with too many responsibilities about details. That does not diminish the pope's prestige, but on the contrary reinforces it. There are matters that the local authority can regulate more easily and more effectively on the spot. The central authority should intervene only in order to provide general rules and to settle conflicts. Let it be said by way of a general principle: Excessive centralization is a danger for the Church.

8. It is said that a deacon can be reduced to the lay state through a rescript of the legitimate authority and "for just cause." It seems to me that in order not to be arbitrary it is necessary to determine what this legitimate authority is and what this just cause may be. We believe that the legitimate authority is naturally the authority of the deacon's own bishop.

9. The schema reserves all dispensations concerning the age of the ordinands exclusively to the Apostolic See. If this discipline is to be applied to the East, it is fitting that the same power be granted in the East to the patriarch, as the head of a Church. Besides, he is in a better position to judge the appropriateness of this dispensation than a Roman dicastery. Once again I repeat that responsibilities must not be reserved to the supreme authority when they can be carried out by the local authority.

10. I approve the idea of having deacons spend a year in pastoral practice before their priestly ordination. But I believe that this year need not necessarily be spent in a seminary or other institution. In the East we consider that the normal place for a deacon to be is with his bishop. It is by learning from the bishop and living in community with him that he will learn the practice of the sacred ministry.

11. The schema provides that candidates for the diaconate, if they are celibate, cannot be ordained before they are thirty years old. This severity appears excessive to me. I do not see why, if priests need only be twenty-five years old, functioning deacons must be thirty years old, inasmuch as the ministry of the latter is easier and both groups are celibate.

12. The requirement for married deacons is forty years of age. It seems to me that thirty-five years suffice.

13. I should like to specify that the subdiaconate must not be a diriment impediment to marriage, for it is considered to be a minor order. In spite of a few fluctuations, this has been the classical discipline of the East and its continuing practice for centuries. Actually, in the Byzantine Church ordination to the subdiaconate is carried out not at the altar but in choir with prayers that are practically as simple as those for the lector, whereas ordination to the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopacy is performed at the altar with almost identical prayers and ceremonies for all three.


Priesthood and Celibacy

There is a serious question that all the Fathers of the Council asked themselves, but which no one justifiably dared to discuss in the conciliar assembly: the question of ecclesiastical celibacy.

From all sides the patriarch received urgent requests to speak either to defend the Eastern Custom of the married priesthood, cavalierly dismissed in a few lines by the conciliar schema, or to open a new approach to the discipline of the Latin Church.

After careful consideration the patriarch decided to intervene. He reworked his discourse several times, constantly making modifications so as not to hurt anyone's feelings, but also in order to serve more courageously the spiritual interests of the Church.

In the end, the superior authority decided that a public debate on this delicate question should be avoided.

The patriarch limited himself to sending the text of his intervention to the Holy Father, accompanying it with an explanatory letter. We are publishing both documents here. In fact, even though at the time of the council it was considered dangerous to discuss publicly a question which an ill-informed press could seize upon to cause discord in the Church, it seemed to us that after the council it was necessary to explain clearly and soberly the discipline of the Eastern Church on this point which is misunderstood in the Western Church, as we ascertained from the many letters we received.

I. The Patriarch's Discourse (not delivered) "Priesthood, Celibacy and Marriage in the Eastern Church"

Venerable Fathers:

The text being proposed to us "On the ministry and life of priests" devotes one paragraph (No. 14 in the draft, No. 16 in the final text) to the "evangelical counsels in the life of the priest," namely, perfect chastity, poverty, and obedience.

Referring to the chastity of the priest, the text emphasizes the advantages of celibacy.

Stressing the importance of celibacy, its particular fittingness for the priesthood, and the ascetic and apostolic advantages for the priesthood that result from it is truly excellent, just, and most necessary, especially today when celibacy is the object of unjust attacks.

Indeed, virginity and celibacy for the Kingdom of God are two eminently priestly virtues which illumine the Church with an aura of distinguished glory and make its action more far-reaching and more redemptive. Christ and His Mother are perfect models.

While the Council in its schema "On the Church and the Modern World" has praised the nobility of families and of conjugal love, it is no less true that voluntary consecration to celibacy constitutes the loftiest mark of a life totally dedicated to God. On this, the entire ecclesiastical tradition of the East and the West is in accord.

And yet, while stressing the beauty of celibate priesthood, we must not ruin or depreciate the parallel and equally apostolic tradition of a priesthood living within the bonds of holy matrimony, as the East has lived it and continues to live it now.

When we speak of married priests, we mean men who are already married being able to accede to the priesthood. but not men who are already priests being able to accede to marriage. For, according to the tradition of the East as well as the West, ordination establishes a man permanently in his state of life.

When they read this paragraph No. 14, the married priests of the East, and those very few married priests of the West, who are as Catholic as the others, will inevitably feel that their priesthood is simply being tolerated, or at best an expedient.

Now, that is not the case at all. The conciliar text must rise to a high enough level of Catholicity to embrace all situations.

Permit me, therefore, venerable Fathers, to present briefly to you the spiritual and apostolic advantages of a married clergy, such as it exists in the East. In doing this, I am aware of fulfilling a duty, for here is a matter of a profoundly Catholic institution that it is not fitting to dispose of in an incidental clause consisting of two lines, as the schema does in No. 14. I do this by way of information. The Christian West is free to follow the evolution that best suits its temperament and which it believes to be in the best interests of the Church. But—as on many other points—the Christian East has also preserved, for the good of the universal Church, a parallel tradition that is founded quite as much on Scripture, the Apostles, and the Fathers. And this tradition, at the moment and in the countries where the Church deems it appropriate, can be invoked in order to support a turning point in history that will perhaps be made necessary by the changing circumstances of time, place, and persons.

Now that this has been said, we offer the following considerations:

1. Neither Scripture nor Tradition, especially the Tradition of the first centuries, considers celibacy as an indispensable condition for the priesthood, a condition sine qua non. The early text of the schema affirmed that "even among the first Apostles, a few were married." The new text preferred to omit this mention, as if by omitting it we could change the truth of history. It is unnecessary to recall that Saint Peter and most of the Apostles and the first disciples were married. Those who today in the Eastern Church are likewise married deserve all our support.

2. The East clearly distinguishes between priesthood and monasticism. A man can be called to the one without being called to the other. This distinction opens up new perspectives. Celibacy is the specific vocation of the monk-religious, but it is not necessarily the specific vocation of the priest, in his capacity as a minister of the Church. The priesthood is a function before being a state of life. It is linked not to a personal striving toward perfection such as celibacy for the sake of God, but to the usefulness to the Church. Therefore celibacy can disappear if the usefulness for the ministry of the Church requires it. The mystery of the redemption, perpetuated in the priesthood, is not subject by obligation to any accidental form. In case of need, it is not the priesthood that must be sacrificed to celibacy, but celibacy to the priesthood.

3. This distinction between the priestly vocation and the monastic or religious vocation was from the earliest centuries of Christianity subjected to the influences of an idealistic rigorism. At the First Council of Nicea in ad 325 we see certain Fathers seeking to impose perfect continence on the married clergy. According to Socrates (Hist. Eccl., Book I, Chapter 2, P. G. Vol. 67, Col. 103), Saint Paphnutius, Bishop of upper Thebaid, a confessor of the faith and a miracle worker, universally renowned for his chastity and his austerities, defended with much common sense and with a realistic spirit the traditional discipline of the married priesthood. And, the historian tells, all the Fathers of the Council were won over to his view. Since then, the Church of the East has remained faithful to this tradition that favors celibacy of priests but does not impose it. The Western Church has followed a different tradition which gradually brought it to impose, definitively and universally, ecclesiastical celibacy at the First Lateran Council of ad 1123. This is a tradition that, after all, was established at a more recent date.

4. Be this as it may, it is certain that the Eastern tradition maintains and favors more numerous priestly vocations, which the Church needs so much, especially today. In fact, the lack of priests, felt in our modern times in an agonizing way especially in certain countries, cannot be resolved by palliatives that are not sufficiently effective even if excellent, such as the lending of priests by the more favored dioceses, because the urgent needs are disproportionate to the help offered. The Church is in danger of being submerged by this rising human tide, and the danger is growing with each passing day. In this state of urgency, the Christian East counsels that more should not be imposed on priests than Christ himself has imposed.

5. In addition, there are many individuals who experience an immense desire to serve the Church and souls, but who are incapable of maintaining perfect chastity. This is particularly true in certain areas where physical and moral isolation constitutes a serious danger for an average celibate priest.

6. Finally, I shall add that there is no need to fear that the freedom provided by Eastern discipline to choose between celibacy and marriage may gradually cause ecclesiastical celibacy to disappear. There are now and there always will be in the Church many souls called in a special way, to whom flesh and blood are foreign, and who, while they are free to marry, will remain virgins in order to give themselves more totally to God. We have proofs of this in the Eastern Churches, whether Catholic or Orthodox, in which the two categories of priests have rubbed elbows for centuries, each developing fully according to his state and in his own special perfection. With this freedom of choice and of consecration, we have on the contrary fewer downfalls to deplore and more virtues to admire.

Another very serious consideration is this: In our capacity as heads of Churches we cannot fail to consider with anxiety that Christianity is declining in terms of the conversion of the world to Christ, and that this is due to the dearth of priests. The growth of Christianity in the world, through births and conversions, is far from corresponding to the staggering increase in world population. Consequently, Christianity is in a continuous relative decline, and this relative and continuous decline is accelerating each year at a more rapid rate, something that gives us much cause for thought.

Venerable Fathers, that is the tradition of the East on the married priesthood. This is certainly a very delicate subject. And yet it seems to me it must not always remain a subject that is taboo, absolutely closed.

While justifying the Eastern tradition, I cannot but admire the lofty morality of the parallel tradition of the West. But perhaps the time has come when, through the will of the Church, and wherever it may chose, the Eastern tradition might be useful to the universal Church.

I conclude: granted that our thinking is not yet sufficiently mature for definitive decisions, we propose the creation of a post-conciliar commission for the study of this serious problem that concerns in the highest degree the very life of the Church. We believe that a pure and simple return to the ancient and authentic tradition of the Church would be welcomed both by informed lay Christians and by the clergy open to the realities of life. This will bring peace of soul and freedom of conscience.

II. Letter to the Pope (Rome. October 13 1965)

To His Holiness, Pope Paul VI

Vatican City

Most Holy Father:

In conformity with the desire of Your Holiness, I hasten to transmit to You, through the intermediary of the council of the presidency, the text of the intervention that I had the intention of delivering before the council on "Priesthood, Marriage, and Celibacy in the Eastern Church."

My sole intention was to set forth and explain the Eastern practice of the married clergy. Actually, the text of the schema that is proposed to us disposes in three lines of this venerable institution which goes back to the Apostles, as if it were a practice that is just barely tolerated. It seems to me that on this point the text of the schema must be significantly amended. If it is not, it would be an insult to the married clergy of the entire Eastern Church, both Catholic and Orthodox.

As for the Latin clergy, all that I take the liberty of submitting to Your Holiness is that you set up a special commission to study this problem and face it squarely. Most Holy Father, this problem exists and is becoming more difficult from one day to the next. It demands a solution. It serves no purpose to hide it from ourselves or to make it a taboo subject. Your Holiness knows very well that truths that are silenced become envenomed.

I fully agree that a public debate in the council chamber would have produced more scandal than concrete results, especially when the press and passions are involved. Yet I am absolutely convinced that in spite of the applause that welcomed the directives on this subject, the problem troubles the conscience of more than one bishop. We are constantly receiving confidences from priests who are indeed known for their piety and their zeal, begging us to raise our voice, to break the silence. Alarming statistics are offered. Too many candidates for the priesthood are turned away because of the increasing difficulties of celibacy. Others are pushed into the celibacy of the priesthood and accepted thoughtlessly. A host of married men could serve the Church in the priesthood.

Celibacy will always remain the ideal of an elite that God chooses for Himself, and it will never die out. But celibacy should not therefore be imposed as an indispensable condition for the priesthood. Considering that secular priests are not forced to assume monk-like poverty, which is easier to practice, why impose on them celibacy, which certainly requires a very special vocation, and very special aptitudes?

The Catholic West does not yet seem disposed to make such a radical change in discipline, but one will go slowly with all the necessary prudence, after the experience of the married deacons authorized by the Council.

All that I ask of Your Holiness, in order to obey a serious imperative of my conscience, is that the door not be systematically and irreversibly closed.

With this trust, I humbly kiss Your hands, imploring Your paternal and apostolic blessing.

Fair Remuneration for Priests

During the discussion of the schema "On the ministry and life of priests," Kyr Philip Nabaa, Metropolitan of Beirut, made the following intervention:

The equitable remuneration of priests, dealt with in No. 16 of the schema, is a very serious and very urgent question. It must hold the attention of the Second Vatican Council and find a sure and comforting answer for priests who are poor and discouraged and disappointed in their ministry. There are many such priests, and they are to be found in all dioceses and in all countries. A few of them even live in a state of material poverty that places them below the poor laborers of society. Given such great poverty, the poor priest has no access to any social life, and he is unable to provide any charity to the poor.

A solution based on social equity and justice is immediately in order. Priests responsible for souls and those who no longer have this responsibility expect this from our council. Aspirants to the priesthood also expect it, for they would not want to be priests with means of livelihood that are so precarious, ineffective, and discouraging. In order to help find the desired solution and to show our feelings of justice and gratitude for the priests who are our beloved associates and collaborators in the service of the people of God, may I be permitted to make the following comments:

1. It is certain—and the schema makes it very clear—that priests who serve the Church are deserving of a fair remuneration. Indeed, Christ has said: "The laborer deserves his wages" (Luke 10:7). And St. Paul added: The Lord has so ordained. "The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14).

2. But how much will this fair remuneration be, and who is to pay it? These are the two points that the council must establish, at least in a general way. In order to help it to do this, we must first of all affirm that fair remuneration must never allow priests or bishops or any other minister of the Church to give up the evangelical poverty, in which they must live, in order to conform more closely to Christ and to be more ready to serve Him, for Christ became poor for our sakes, even though He was rich: "Although He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9). The remuneration of priests must not, therefore, become a means of getting rich, even less of living like prosperous capitalists, but a means of living in a dignified way and of working effectively.

That is why the schema requires only what is necessary for an honorable standard of living. It declares that the bishops of a diocese or of a region must establish norms that assure priests who serve or who have served the people of God a remuneration that provides them with a suitable livelihood and also enough to share a little with the poor.

The amount necessary for the suitable subsistence of a priest on a monthly or yearly basis is difficult to determine exactly. And yet we can say in general that a priest needs what a man of the middle class needs to live suitably. It is up to the bishop of the place to specify the required sum, the method of collecting and distributing it, taking into account all the appropriate circumstances.

This sum must be basic and equal for all priests. Social inequality, which is often very great, among priests who are members of the same family, is a scandal. It must be stopped. Equity, the dignity of priests, and the welfare of souls require it imperatively.

3. Who is to pay the fair remuneration of priests? The schema does not state it explicitly. And yet it is obvious that it must be paid by the people of God, that is to say, the faithful who are served by the priests, or better by the parishes and dioceses where they provide their services and their lives. For while the bishop has the obligation to determine the fair level of payment due to priests, it is up to the faithful, all the faithful of all the parishes and all the dioceses, to pay these suitable salaries of their priests and of other sacred ministers.

In this council we must lay great stress on this obligation of the faithful to support their priests and their churches. The reason that many of our churches are poor and deserted is that the faithful are not fulfilling their duties of piety and charity. And the reason many of our priests in the country or in small parishes live in great poverty and insecurity is that the faithful do not fulfill their duties in justice toward them, but depend on the bishop to do so.

An explanation is in order here, to reassure our priests and enlighten our faithful. We shall never allow our priests to live in penury while we live in opulence. On the contrary, we shall always share our life and our substance with them, striving to assure them a fair and dignified livelihood. And if God wills that we serve Him in great poverty, our hearts will remain joyful, as we repeat with Saint Paul: if we have something to eat and if we have clothes to wear, that suffices.

As for our faithful, we must enlighten them. The obligation to assure their priests a fair livelihood devolves on them in the first place, and not on the bishop. Indeed, the priests are not the servants of the bishop in the Church, or his paid employees, engaged in an enterprise that belongs to him, but are collaborators in the same priesthood and the same ministry. They are also shepherds together with him of the same flock, the people of God, which, for its part, must provide for all an honorable and dignified life. They are the ones who are served first, and not the bishop.

In conclusion, I therefore propose two additions to No. 16 of the schema (No. 18 in the final text):

a. We must explicitly affirm that the obligation to assure an honorable livelihood to the priests and the sacred ministers devolves first of all on the faithful.

b. The just remuneration of priests must be equal, or nearly so, to the amount required for the ordinary life of a man of the middle class in their respective regions.

Metropolitan Nabaa likewise presented the following proposition for a common discipline to regulate the honorable sustenance of the clergy.

I. In order to provide greater equity in the distribution of the ecclesiastical resources, and in order to help and encourage priestly vocations, a general fund for priests should be set up in each diocese or ecclesiastical province. This general fund must support all priests who devote themselves to pastoral work and assure them at least the minimum income for their upkeep, since those who serve the altar have the right to live by the altar in like manner and in dignity. In any case, no one should live in indigence.

II. The general fund for priests must come from:

1. all the revenues of the churches;

2. all the honoraria or gifts received by the priests;

3. all the gifts of the faithful offered for the upkeep of the priests.

III. The salaries of the priestly ministry must be diocesan rather than parochial, so that all priests may be equally remunerated. Thus a pension fund should be instituted, to which all priests will have access after a certain number of years of age or service.

IV. The amount of the pension to be provided a priest for his honorable support must be determined by the bishop, or by the episcopal conference, for the entire diocese, or by the entire ecclesiastical province, according to the needs of time and place.

V. Priests who have provided for the spiritual needs of the faithful but who are no longer able to provide these services because of age or infirmity must be assured a fair and sufficient pension for their honorable sustenance until they die.

VI. Each diocese or ecclesiastical province should have a priests' residence for elderly priests and for the care of those who are invalids or in poor health.

VII. All priests are required to pay a premium to an insurance company providing for illness or disability. This insurance will not only benefit them but will also benefit all their brother priests in the diocese who are poor, sick, disabled, or elderly.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 

The Church in the Modern World

For a New Presentation of Morals

An intervention of the Patriarch on October 27, 1964.

The Church, whose role in the world is to lead all peoples to Christ, must at the very first be interested in the vital problems of its children, its witnesses in the world, to instruct them in the full knowledge of Christ. And if it wishes to engage in dialogue with the modern world through its faithful, they must be formed and treated according the fundamental principle of conduct enunciated by Christ: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15). If the Church also wishes to contribute to the construction of the heavenly city in a manner fit for propagating the faith, it must necessarily form its faithful according to Christ's law, which is a law of grace and of love, so that all arrive at a profound responsibility in the liberty of the children of God.

This education to maturity and responsibility is also a need of the times in which we live. These times are no longer those of the Middle Ages. The age of infancy has been passed. Today the world asks, with tenacity and force, for the recognition of human dignity in all its fullness, social equality of all classes. This world enjoys an intense intellectual culture; it witnesses scientific discoveries that yesterday were inconceivable; it is in love with freedom, and has—at least among its elites—awareness of its responsibilities. Well! We can no longer impose laws on this world, without demonstrating to it their positive significance and wisdom. Doe not this state of mind of today's society call out for a revision of the presentation of the teaching of morality? In fact, this teaching, especially since the sixteenth century, has been adapted too much to the legalism and the immaturity of a closed and absolutist society. Present teaching is marked too much by the legalism of a former era and completely impregnated with the Roman law.

Now, our Christian morality must have a Christocentric character with an expression of love and of freedom. It must bring forth in everyone a sense of personal and communitarian responsibility. Consequently, a profound revision of many of our disciplines—changing also their nature—is obligatory. It goes without saying that this is not a matter of immutable dogmas, which, however, need to be explained well. This revision is necessary for the sake of the sanctification of our people by the encouragement, the respect, and the purification of this desire for a responsibility that is deeper and more courageous. Many things of the good old times, accepted by our simple and pious ancestors, are no longer accepted today. We need only to cite, for example, the presentation in our catechisms of the commandments of the Church. According to our catechisms, to miss Sunday Mass without good cause, or to eat meat on Friday, constitutes a mortal sin, deserving eternal damnation as a consequence. Is this reasonable? How many Catholics believe this? The Church is a mother; would a stepmother impose such an obligation, under the penalty of eternal damnation? And isn't the person, with a right conscience and a sincere mind, who does not believe, correct in taking pity on us? We could also say many things concerning the sacrament of penance. Revision is indispensable. There can be no doubt about that. Besides, the commandments should be the way to blessedness rather than to condemnation, "Keep the commandments and you will live," says the Book of Proverbs (7:2). Would it mot be more evangelical, more efficacious, and even more practical to present the commandments not as orders under the pain of sin, but as counsels that attract, like a light that produces love? A mother wins over her children, not by blows of a rod, but by the warmth of her love. In addition, twentieth-century man is rebellious against any and all coercion. As for ourselves, how much has our conduct in regard to our children undergone change? Why would it be otherwise for the Church in regard to the faithful?

The legalistic spirit obstructs the energy of priests and faithful, who should be courageously employed for the salvation of the world and for the building of a better earthly city that is freer and more brotherly. Moreover, isn't this spirit of a wide opening that of our Lord, according to whom "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath"? Isn't it that of Saint Paul , who freed the Gentiles? Isn't it also that of the Fathers of the Church? And if many of us Eastern Catholics are not unharmed by this excessively legalistic spirit that we point out, it is a result of the influence of the books on canon law and morals that we studied in our youth.

The Church, in revising its position in regard to its positive laws, is not submitting to a bending of Catholic doctrine on behalf of modern and capricious ideas, but adapting its Christian pedagogy to the needs of the present epoch. Didn't Pope John XXIII, of blessed memory, talk of adapting the Church to the needs of the social and religious life of our times, and didn't he state before his death, "We have not yet discovered the requirements of charity"?

This presentation of morals should be not at the level of man bent back on himself, but that of plainspoken man, responsible artisan of the universe. Today's world awaits this presentation by the Church.

Having said this, we propose the creation of a fairly large commission of informed theologians to study, in the light of the Gospel and of the Tradition of the Fathers, in openness of heart and sincerity of faith, the teaching of morals in general and of the commandments of the Church in particular, to put them in tune with our real life of the present time, so that the Church may no longer be accused, as it often is, of being a suppressor, but that it may rather be a beacon of truth and of light to enlighten everyone coming into this world.


The Profound Causes of Atheism

An intervention of the patriarch on September 27, 1965.

The schema on "The Church in the Modern World" is fundamentally good, both in the intention that instigated it and in the spirit that animates it.

Numerous voices in the council have asked for a text that is properly centered on Christ and displays a spirit of love to the world. That is essential, and in that the present schema has given them satisfaction, in our opinion. It seems to us, nevertheless, that this spirit is somewhat lacking on two points: on the subject of atheism and on the subject of war.

Today I shall speak only on the first point.

Number 19 on atheism is, in our opinion, too negative. It decries Marxism without naming it, but clearly enough and in a rather summary fashion. It condemns, it goes without saying, that atheistic doctrine, those who defend it, and the civil authorities that support it. But it is clear that one does not save humanity from atheism by condemning Marxism.

To save humanity from atheism, it is also necessary—and this is the new and constructive element—to denounce the causes that instigate atheism, by proposing above all a dynamic theology and a vigorous social morality, demonstrating Christ as the source of workers' efforts towards their true liberation.

This number could be advantageously replaced by the passage, so strong and so positive, of our dear and venerated Pope Paul VI in his encyclical "Ecclesiam Suam":

"We see atheists also moved sometimes by good sentiments, disgusted with mediocrity and with the selfishness of so many contemporary social groups, and borrowing from our Gospel forms and language of solidarity and of human compassion. Will we not some day be capable of leading these expressions of moral values back to their true sources, which are Christian?"

And Paul VI in "Pacem in Terris" returns to the words of John XXIII, saying: "The doctrines of these atheistic movements, once they have been worked out and defined, remain always the same, but the movements themselves cannot avoid evolving and undergoing even profound changes. We should not lose hope of seeing them one day opening another dialogue with the Church, one that is positive and different from the present dialogue, which is necessarily limited to deploring and complaining.

These texts of Paul VI and John XXIII seem to us to be preferable to the present text of the schema, which is "limited to deploring and complaining."

We all know from experience that many of those who call themselves atheists are not really opposed to the Church. There are among them those who are very close. In reality, as Paul VI says, they seek a truer presentation of God, a religion harmonizing with the historical evolution of humanity, and above all a Church supporting not only the poor but also the effort for solidarity with the poor. They are often scandalized by a mediocre and self-centered Christianity, entangled with money and false riches, defending, even with arms, not its faith, which can never be defended by force, but its interests and its short-term security.

Certain persons have claimed that the schema denounces the sins of the world. But here is the great, the enormous sin of the world, which Jesus denounced ceaselessly in his Gospel, namely selfishness and the exploitation of man by man.

Certain persons would wish that this text speak to a greater extent of the necessity of carrying one's cross, of enduring one's lot with resignation. But, who do in fact carry the cross more than the laboring and miserable masses who try to emerge from their misery by work, solidarity, indeed even by socialism?

It is only regrettable that they do so in atheistic systems. But, isn't it the selfishness of certain Christians that has provoked and still provokes, to a large extent, the atheism of the masses?

Jesus puts us on guard against scandalizing the little ones, that is to say the humble ones: "Woe to the man through whom scandal comes!" Jesus said that at the conclusion of the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus. Many of these atheists are simply like Lazarus, scandalized by the rich who call themselves Christians.

Let us then have the courage to "lead back" to their true sources, which are Christian, these moral values of solidarity, fraternity, and social unity. Let us show that true socialism is Christianity integrally lived in the just sharing of goods and the fundamental equality of all. These modern forms of the economy and sociology need, not condemnation, but the leaven of the Gospel to extricate themselves from atheism and to fashion themselves in a harmonious manner. Instead of condemning them ceaselessly, let us restore them to their true meaning, which is Christian. Above all, let us apply ourselves to the Gospel of sharing and of fraternity, and help others to do so. If we had lived it, if we had preached it fully, the world would have been spared atheistic Communism.

Thus, rather than a commonplace condemnation, which is already well known, let us send to the working world a much larger number of priests and laity, ready to share the life of labor and the social endeavors of men of our times, making themselves all things for all people, to reveal to them this God whom they reject, but whom they seek gropingly, drawn by Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter, Savior of the world and "Lover of Mankind."

The Servant Church

An intervention by Archbishop Elias Zoghby, Patriarchal Vicar in Egypt and in the Sudan , on October 27, 1964.

I would like to make five observations on Chapter II, which lacks warmth and love:

1. Chapter II of this schema begins by presenting the Church's mission of service: it is, in fact, at the service of mankind to assure their salvation and to convey to them the evangelical message. I suggest that this second chapter begin by presenting the Church's mission of love. It is more touching and truer. In fact, Christ began his ministry with works of mercy, healing the sick, consoling the afflicted, and distributing bread to the hungry. He began by relieving the corporal miseries that presented some resemblance to death and led to death, announcing by this victory His victory over the death of sin and over the death of the body. Christ accordingly opened His ministry with works of mercy and thus prepared the crowds to accept His message of salvation. The Church was instituted to continue Jesus Christ's mission of love. I propose that that be mentioned at the beginning of Chapter II of this schema.

2. In presenting the Church in this fashion, let us remind the world right at the start that the Church, like a mother, has been solicitous, following Christ's example, for the temporal and material well-being of mankind, not to lead them cunningly to the faith, but because it loves them and wishes to comfort them. Therefore, before saying that the Church has for its mission assuring the eternal salvation of mankind, let us present it to the world as being demonstrated as the author of so many works of mercy spread out through the world: hospitals, asylums, schools, etc., which relieve so many miseries and do so much good. This is most efficacious for opening the hearts of men to what is good. How many religious men and women have, through their apostolate of charity, opened to God minds that the apostolate of the word has never been able to open.

3. In doing this, let us use a language that is less didactic, less solemn, more spontaneous: the language of the Mother-Church that presents itself to its children and to those who are called to become its children. Let us address ourselves to the heart as much as to the mind.

4. In Chapter II, paragraph 2, after having spoken of the mission of the Apostles and their successors, let us insist more on our authority of service, for the world accuses us of wishing rather to exercise an authority of domination. Let us say clearly that we are men, chosen among men, with our limitations and our weaknesses. Salvation is not an ecclesiastical undertaking that we impose on the world, nor is paradise a feudal estate that belongs to us and for which we want to conquer mankind. We ourselves must struggle to achieve our salvation. This schema must call to mind that we do not seek to impose our domination on the world, nor to offer our salvation to mankind, but rather to set forth humbly the salvation that comes from Christ and the means that He himself has placed at our disposal.

5. Our testimony can reach the modern world only if it is carried out in simplicity and poverty, and in a direct contact with the poor. The world, believing or unbelieving, today gathers together around the poor and the undernourished. It is there above all that we must be present. It is necessary that this presence of the Church among the poor be asserted in Chapter II of the schema and in the concrete life of the men of the Church.

Let us then be present among the poor, frequently visiting the houses of charity in our dioceses. But let us also arrange our episcopal residence so that it may, if possible, shelter a work of charity and appear to be truly the house of the poor. It is urgent to achieve in some manner the presence of the Church among the poor, if we wish it to be present in the modern world.

And since the world no longer recognizes any authority other than that of service, let us avoid the titles and the insignia that too frequently call to mind the honors and the spirit of domination. Let us also spare the pope, the first vicar of Jesus crucified, the pain of hearing us style him as "gloriously reigning." The popes call themselves the servants of servants and seek to be such in fact. When one says "Holy Father," is there a need to add anything?

To conclude, to speak only of the deceased, let us remember that the one whom the world calls "Good Pope John" demonstrated by his simplicity, his humility, and above all by his love, the presence of the Church in the world. He laid out the dominant path of this schema, when he said these memorable words: "I have loved all men whom I have encountered in my life."


The Church of the Poor

An intervention of Archbishop Elias Zoghby, Patriarchal Vicar of Egypt and the Sudan , on October 21, 1964.

If this council is a blessing for the Church and for the world, it is also a blessing for us bishops. It brings us back to the pure spirit of the Gospel and to the methods of the apostolate of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Certain conciliar Fathers have insisted on the obligation of the bishops to be poor. Others have insisted on his duty to advance the works that look after the poor. Permit me to add that that the Church must also love the company of the poor, and appear to the world as surrounded with the poor. Why? I shall not limit myself to the example of Our Lord, who preferred the company of the poor, nor to the spiritual advantages that a bishop can draw from fellowship with the poor. I would rather insist on the fact that the company of the poor is today for the apostle, the bishop, the priest, or the layperson, the best means of bringing his witness to the world.

In fact, the Christian and non-Christian world is on the way to mobilize all its energies to come to the help of the poor class, whose number and misery cause a scandal. Men of good will, baptized and not baptized, have set a rendezvous in the places where misery abounds. They have adopted service to the poor as a new form of religious practice, the only one for many of them. The only man of the Church whom they approach and who interests them is the one they see involved in this apostolate and who can help them in it, becoming an intermediary between them and the poor. Well, nobody is better suited to be this intermediary than the man of the Church.

The time has passed in which the Christian world saw in the bishop the "prince" of the Church who in order to preserve his prestige, had to remain distant and withdrawn in what was called the "episcopal palace." A bishop should renounce his isolation and his comfort, to be present where modern men have established the place of their meeting. Presiding in charity, the bishop should act, not only in the manner of an able administrator of the works of charity, but in the manner of Jesus Christ, who, in multiplying the bread, distributed the loaves with his own hands: "He gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the people." It is there, in the distribution of bread, that the pastor will encounter both the poor who need to be served and the others who desire to serve.

That being so, permit me to suggest modestly what follows:

As we are sometimes obliged to participate in official receptions, to sit at the tables of the rich, and to meet the important persons of this world, we should be, as much as possible, present among the poor and those who suffer, mingling with those in our orphanages, in our asylums, and in the hospitals. Why should we not visit more frequently the houses of charity, sharing the bread with the poor and living a few hours of their lives? By doing so, we shall often draw men to us, we shall be able to converse with them and lead them to the light of the Gospel. This witness will sometimes have more effect than our pastoral letters and the most sparkling acts of our ministry.

Why should we not share our episcopal residences with a work of charity or a small group of the unfortunate ones, even if only symbolically, thus transforming the home of the bishop into a house of charity, where one will recognize the presence of Christ and of His vicars? Did not Pope St. Gregory the Great have a dozen of the poor at his table each day? Are there not already among the bishops those who share their table with these chosen ones of Jesus Christ and live their life?

It is common in the East to see the bishopric or the patriarchate, where the clergy dwell, become the home of a community of the faithful, always opening the doors to the Christian people. It is there that charitable works originate and are organized with the cooperation of the faithful, and it is from there that they distribute their benefits over the whole region. It is there, in the residence of the pastor, that these charitable works have their secretariat, it is there that they hold their meetings and receive the poor at all hours. The bishop or priest who thus opens his house and his heart to all truly appears as being the father of the poor

I know that time may be lacking for many of us, but I believe that all our activities put together cannot have the effectiveness of this living testimony. Let us entrust to our co-workers, priests, deacons, and laypersons, the care of filling in our stead certain of our obligations, but when it is a matter of service to the poor, let us not renounce the honor that comes to us from being in the first row.

In a rather legalistic system, it is enough for the bishop to be a good administrator in order to be a good bishop. In a pastoral system, that is not enough. Never has "good administrator" been synonymous with "good pastor."

As the modern world does not recognize more than one single authority, that of service, let us avoid the expressions "prince of the Church" and "episcopal palace," which bring to mind honors and domination. Let us cease to style the foremost vicar of Jesus crucified as "gloriously reigning". The popes call themselves the servants of the servants of God, and today behave as such. When one has said "Holy Father," is there need to add anything else? I conclude, venerable Fathers! I have said that this council is a blessing for us bishops. It is also a gift of God to the world. Everything demonstrates to us that divine providence has positively wished it and has entrusted it to us. Have we the right to wish absolutely to finish our business at any price? Certainly, the progress that has been realized until now is admirable, but the world moves very quickly, and it becomes hard to please, and fortunately we all are hard to please. Nearly all our schemas need amendments. Neither the religious, nor the priests, nor the missionaries, nor the Eastern Churches, nor the laity, nor the world are yet satisfied with the schemas that concern them. Now, if all find that the schemas are backward in our time, how will they be considered in twenty years, and how will our council be judged?

Let us not object that our dioceses are waiting for us. Do we believe that our priests feel very much deprived because we are far away? Do you believe that something has changed in the life of our faithful because we are not near them?

Do our faithful see us that often when we are at home? For my part, I believe that we have never been as present to our priests, to our faithful, and to the world as at this time of the council, where at Rome we work more efficaciously than ever for our priests, our faithful, and for the world.


The Church and Human Rights

An intervention by Archbishop George Hakim of Saint John of Acre and of All- Galilee , on November 10, 1964.

Since our message to the world, the message with which we inaugurated the work of this council, the world has not ceased to wait for the conciliar response of the Church to the grave problems whose profusion and severity overwhelm it. Woe to the Church and to the world if this expectation and this hope should be disappointed!

The schema that is presented to us, and which is of a pastoral urgency of the highest level, while containing many excellent things, does not seem to us to respond to this expectation.

Far from being the charter of a council of modern times, the schema appears to us to be hesitant, paternally full of exhortations, when we would have wished to find in it clear and frank assertions, which would be the directing principles for the future of the relations of Christians with the present world. We would desire a conciliar assertion, according to the model of the first councils, which would settle the following points mentioned in paragraphs 23 to 25:

1. Of the meaning of human labor in the divine plan:

- By their labor, men perfect creation and man himself.

- In Jesus Christ, labor is dignified and finds its place in the spiritual life and in the Redemption.

- Men have a primordial right to make, through their work, their lives and those of their families consistent with their true dignity as men and as sons of God.

- The worker is infinitely superior to all money.

- It is intrinsically wrong to control work in such fashion that men are by their work, or the conditions of this work, led to be less than men.

- The pay of workers should correspond to personal and social justice, and be in harmony with the superiority of the worker over money, in harmony with the diverse parts of product of the work, and in harmony with modern progress.

2. Of the meaning of ownership and of money:

- Ownership of the goods of production should not in any fashion contribute to the domination of men, but, on the contrary, should help everyone's progress.

- This ownership is not an untouchable axiom and an absolute to which the social doctrine would be tied, but a way destined to bring about the common object of the goods.

- The Church is not tied to any economic, social, or political system. It encourages the collaboration of all men to promote the common good.

3. Of materialism and atheism:

- Materialism and atheism are theoretical and practical at the same time.

- Under these two forms, materialism and atheism are condemned, for, in many ways, they arouse the spirit of domination, luxury, and hedonism, and because their principles are spreading more and more in regions that are called Christian.

- But the various regimes called socialist, spread out in several regions, are not condemned with Marxist atheism without differentiation.

4. Of equality among men:

- All discrimination based on race, religion, or social condition is condemned, both in laws and in customs.

- Men who exploit other men, whether it be economically, socially, or politically, are condemned.

5. Of international solidarity and peace:

- All nuclear, bacteriological, or chemical war is condemned, all of which affect mankind without discrimination.

- The hunger of a multitude of mankind cries to the rich peoples, so that through action, through technology, and through fraternal charity without stinginess or avarice, they may aid the less developed peoples.

- All works of social and international peace, founded on justice, liberty, and fraternity, are praised.

- Institutions, whether social or international, in which men work together for true human progress are encouraged.

- Let the faithful be encouraged to have, with prudence and simplicity, an active part in all these institutions.

6. Various points:

- All mankind has the right to associate for the common good.

- Totalitarianism is contrary to the dignity of the human person.

- In the light of the separation between the Church and workers, existing in several nations, and already denounced by Pius XI in his encyclical "Quadrigesimo Anno," let there be encouragement for all attempts, started by the laity or by priests, which lead to the true evangelization of the poor.

Mankind today is awaiting clear and frank words, without ambiguity. I have humbly tried to propose an example along this line, while knowing that it is indeed imperfect. Let the experts work for a better method of expression.

Venerable Fathers, on October 13, 1962, in our message to the world, indicated above, we said: "Having come together from all the nations that are under heaven, we carry in our hearts the corporal and spiritual distresses, the sufferings, the aspirations, the hopes of the people who are entrusted to us. We are very attentive to the vexatious problems that beset them. That is why our solicitude desires to extend first to the humblest, the poorest, the feeblest. Like Christ, we feel ourselves moved with compassion at the sight of crowds that suffer from hunger, misery, and ignorance; and we always remember all those who, not having the desired help, have not yet attained a life worthy of human nature."

For three years we have been in laborious sessions, and what have we proposed? Have we decided on the practical and redeeming examples by which we ourselves would begin the reforms that the modern world expects of us, in our stations, our way of life, our customs, our habits?

In the absence of concrete examples, let us at least give clear and frank responses to the problems of our times.


Condemnation of War

An intervention of the patriarch on November 10, 1964.

A menace of destruction hovers over humanity; it is nuclear armament. And this menace grows from day to day through the increasing number of these infernal devices.

Without entering into physical and scientific considerations, which are beyond us and which cannot be expanded here, we believe that we must raise our voices, for we feel that we are oppressed. From our hearts there springs forth a cry of alarm, a cry of agony, I would even say a cry of despair... And we pray you to do all that is in our power, with whatever effect it may have, to ward off such an evil.

The intervention in favor of peace of two thousand bishops, spread out through the entire world, can be capable of changing the course of history and defending the fate of mankind.

There is talk of a just war. What adequate reason can justify, in sound morality, a destruction which constitutes a true worldwide cataclysm? Can a civilization and peoples be annihilated under the pretext of defending them? And if mankind must disappear in an instant, what is the good of this pastoral on which we have been working so laboriously since the announcement of Vatican II, and for whom is it intended?

Should not the concept of just war in modern times be lived and reconsidered in the light of the present situation? Should not national sovereignty have limits? Should the human community be completely ignored?

Venerable Fathers, all humanity is gasping as it looks to us with haggard eyes, to see what we are going to do. We cannot be silent because of considerations of whatever nature they may be. As faithful guardians of the souls of our peoples, we still have duties in regard to their earthly life. We must speak, speak boldly, speak courageously, like John the Baptist before Herod, like Ambrose before Theodosius, to condemn the use of these infernal devices.

Our Holy Father John XXIII, of blessed memory, has done so in his encyclical "Pacem in Terris." The schema that we are studying "On the Church in the Modern World" also does it in a manner that is clear, but a little platonic. But that is not enough. We must make on behalf of the council a declaration "to the city and to the world" that is clear, frank, and precise.

This radical condemnation on the part of the Church can grow like a snowball, since all truth contains a force of penetration and of expansion in souls. Other authorities, civil or religious, will be able to follow our example. A worldwide swell of opinion could oblige rulers, shut up in their national concepts, to reflect further. Sanctions of various natures could be foreseen. But always we cannot be silent under the peril of disappointing the world, of disappointing what is noblest in ourselves, and of rendering our ministry fruitless among the peoples.

For the love of Christ, Lover of Mankind and King of Peace, we pray and beseech you to make a solemn and energetic condemnation of all nuclear, chemical, and bacteriological warfare. Let this council address a message to the world, according to the example of the one through whom our conciliar labors began. Let this council condemn, in principle, all nuclear warfare in all its forms, and to demand that the billions saved through disarmament be employed for the relief of a poor humanity, of whom two-thirds do not eat enough to relieve their hunger, and who needs everything.

Venerable Fathers, the history of the past two thousand years has not ceased to view the bishop as "the defender of the city." More than ever, the world today needs these disinterested and courageous defenders. Let us not disappoint the world in this regard. The Church is expected to remain always a pillar of strength and of truth.

  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 

Catholic Teaching

The Infallible Magisterium

A statement presented by the patriarch at the June 1962 session of the Central Commission with respect to a draft of a schema "On respect for the magisterium of the Church."

No. 6 distinguishes in the Church between the infallible and immutable magisterium of the pope and an ecumenical council and the "non-infallible" magisterium, which requires not only a respectful silence but also an "internal religious compliance," so much so that "when the Roman pontiffs in their actions concerning a matter that had hitherto been controversial, having given their attention to it, lay down a decision, that matter, according to the thinking and wishes of the same pontiffs, can no longer be considered a question for free disputation among the theologians." May we be permitted to make the following remarks on this subject:

1. The "non-infallible" magisterium is, by the very strength of the term and by definition, "fallible," and thus susceptible to error. If it is susceptible to error, like every other human teaching, even the most authoritative, the intervention of the pope cannot give to the doctrine that he proposes either the force of a dogma of faith or such a certitude that it removes every basis for possible discussion. Otherwise this "fallible" or "noninfallible" teaching would be practically equivalent to an "infallible" definition. The schema must explain clearly what the internal and essential difference is between the "infallible" teaching of the Roman pontiffs and their teaching that is theoretically called "fallible" but that still is to be considered as practically infallible, not allowing discussion. We do not wish to deny the assertion of the schema, but we ask that a clarification be presented, for, apparently, such an assertion seems to have no other goal than to extend surreptitiously the scope of pontifical infallibility and to transform into immutable certitudes, and thus practically dogmas, all the teaching of the popes, which, as is well known, includes, especially in recent years, almost all the field of human knowledge.

2. It is necessary to specify whether this exceptional authority of the pontifical teaching also extends, and if so to what extent, to all the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and to the persons who constitute it. Some of our separated brethren complain at times that in the Catholic Church everyone considers himself somewhat infallible.

3. It is also necessary to state precisely that this practical infallibility claimed for the teaching of the popes, even outside every dogmatic definition as such, does not extend to disciplinary measures taken by the Roman Curia, measures susceptible of being based on inexact information or on human motives.

4. While safeguarding the deposit of the faith, it is necessary, it seems to us, to avoid a continuously increasing constriction of the area of truths that are called in our Eastern tradition theologoumena: truths that have not yet been transformed into dogmas and whose reasoned discussion constitutes the proper work of theology. Their denial is not reasonable, but it does not automatically draw the thunderbolt of ecclesiastical censures. In other words, there should be no fear of leaving the widest possible field to the freedom of reasoned theological reflection, but with the way open for intervention if the domain of dogma is in danger. Certain Catholic authorities behave as if, for them, everything must be certain and evident. There is a violent reaction when what to them appears evident is not so in others' eyes. Many troubles in the Church would be avoided if persons knew how to be firm on dogmas and definite truths, while respecting freedom of theological thought for all other matters.


Thomism

A statement presented by the patriarch at the session of the Central Commission in June 1962.

It is our opinion that, in spite of the very high regard that one must have for St. Thomas Aquinas, it is not fitting that this council should declare that his doctrine is purely and simply the very doctrine of the Church or of the council. Therein is the risk that the Angelic Doctor be substituted for all the teaching and the entire Tradition of the Church. From the viewpoint of bringing Christians together, there is more than one disadvantage in the pure and simple adoption of the whole Thomistic system as the Church's own doctrine. Here are a few examples:

1. The Thomistic system, in fact, cannot be called universal in the Church. The East, in particular, possesses another theological system, which must not be cast aside from Catholic thought.

2. Thomistic terminology does not always conform with that in traditional usage in the Eastern Church, especially on the subject of the sacraments.

3. There is an involuntary risk of giving St. Thomas ' doctrine more consideration than the collective thought of the Fathers who constitute the ecclesial Tradition. In addition, the patristic thought of St. Thomas , although commendable for his epoch, is deficient on certain points compared with modern research.

4. St. Thomas is of his epoch and shares a good number of the prejudices of his time in regard to Easterners. He must not be utilized in dialogue with the Orthodox except with discretion.

5. Finally, Scholasticism, which is dependant on St. Thomas , has gradually made certain positions of its master more inflexible, and renders dialogue with the Orthodox still more difficult.

However that may be, Thomism is perhaps the most perfect expression of the theological evolution of the West in the Middle Ages. But Eastern theology does not die easily. It is better to leave the framework of the Church's universal theology open to a number of currents. Thus while recommending St. Thomas for the study of theologians, the council must avoid making it something absolute. Divinity is infinitely rich and varied. Nothing is more impoverishing than to contemplate it from a single viewpoint

Extracts from the "Observations of the Holy Synod on the Schemas of the Council" (1963)

It is impossible to accept in a text emanating from this council, and thus of universal significance both as to time and as to place, a constantly repeated call for the adoption in Catholic teaching of the doctrine, the method, and the principles of St. Thomas . Although dogma, as a revealed given fact, cannot change, its human expression, on the contrary, is subject to variation. It is the fruit of each people's own cultural spirit, a result of its mental inclination, its traditions, and of the circumstances under which its history has unfolded. In right and in fact, a number of currents of theological thought have existed and will exist in the Church, without prejudice to the fundamental unity of dogma. To tie dogma to a human culture necessarily coexistent with the particular civilization of a people, is unlawful and actually impossible, because it is against nature. Besides, that is to impoverish it, reduce it, whereas it is the message of God to men, all men. It is agreed that Thomism, itself an heir of Aristotelian philosophic thought, has contributed much to the Church, and that present day theological expression owes much to it, and it is only just to recognize it; but one cannot impose it, bind it to dogma, above all in a conciliar document.

  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  

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