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.  
 

Codification of Canon Law

Against the Drawing up of a Single Code for the Eastern and Western Churches

A letter addressed to His Holiness Pope Paul VI by His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos IV on November 22, 1963.

Most Holy Father:

Replying to the invitation that Your Holiness extended to us, in the course of the audience of November 11, 1963, to inform him of everything that could facilitate drawing closer to our Orthodox brethren, I, in the name of all the conciliar Fathers of our Melkite Greek patriarchate, would like to explain the following to Your Holiness:

We have learned incidentally that a campaign is presently being conducted for the drawing up of single code of canon law, which would be equally binding on the Eastern Churches as on the Latin Church. In this single code it would be considered sufficient to point out, where it was relevant, the particularities of the law that are specific for the Easterners.

We are sure that our position, and that of all ecumenists and of all those who have at heart the harmonious progress of the Christian East along its proper path, coincides with that adopted, after a long examination, by the Roman See itself, namely, the drawing up of a special code of canon law for the Eastern Churches.

The arguments in favor of this position are the following:

1. Canon law is one of the principal and formal expressions of that "diversity in unity" that is a characteristic mark of the Catholic Church. While safeguarding the unity of faith, of the sacramental life, and of the hierarchy, the Catholic Church has always proclaimed its desire to protect entirely not only the diversity of the liturgical rites of the Christian East but also the diversity of its discipline. Well, making a single Code of law for the Eastern Churches and for the Western Church necessarily ends in the following results:

a) Either the Latin discipline will be almost entirely imposed on Easterners, which in actual fact means the pure and simple latinization of the East, against which Easterners, as well as the Holy See, have struggled for a long time;

b) Or the Latin discipline will be so prevalent in this single code that one will not be able to see in it, in any manner, the expression of the specific discipline of the East; for, in every place that the two disciplines are different, it can be foreseen that the Latin discipline will not be made to yield to the Eastern discipline, but vice versa. This will be a new—and most serious —manifestation of the latinization of the East, concerning which all those who know and love the East complain.

2. In the ecumenical dialogue, it will be truly catastrophic to show to our Orthodox brethren that the discipline which awaits them, in the unity with the Roman Church, is not theirs, but that of the Latin Church. The unification of the two codes is contrary to the ecumenical orientation of Vatican II and destroys the whole schema "On Ecumenism."

3. The Holy See has made a considerable effort since 1929 to attempt to give the Eastern Churches a code of law that would be as consistent as possible with their own discipline. Cardinal Massimi, who, with Cardinal Coussa, has labored the hardest in this work, said to our late predecessor, Patriarch Cyril IX, "I wish that when the Orthodox shall see our Eastern code, they will be able to say, ‘That is truly the discipline of our Fathers!'" It is necessary to acknowledge that, in spite of the definite good will and the immense labor that has been performed, the result has not always conformed to the expectations of the Easterners and has been accused of hybridism and latinization. This criticism will be based on much stronger grounds if a single code, with a Latin emphasis, is imposed on the Easterners.

4. Too many elements distinguish the Eastern law from the Latin one to make it possible to unite them in a single code, without sacrificing one or the other, and the law that will be sacrificed will certainly be the Eastern law. Let one think of the frequent differences in terminology, as also the institutions that pertain exclusively to the East, like those of the patriarchate, synods, rite, episcopal elections, etc. Let one think of the institutions that do not exist at all in the authentic Eastern law, like those of canons, benefices, censures latae sententiae, etc. Thus, while in Latin law one single canon suffices to regulate the patriarchal institution considered simply as an honor, in the Eastern law more than 200 canons are required to define the patriarchal institution. In contrast, in the authentic Eastern law, the treatment of "on sins and their satisfaction" can be covered in four pages. Thus, how is it possible to draw up a single code where there are such different elements?

5. Those who ask for a single code for the Eastern and the Latin Churches appear to us to be either latinizers, who wish to absorb the East, not in Catholicism but in Latinism, or Easterners with latinized mentalities, who do not realize how much harm their deviation from the authentic Eastern discipline does to the cause of growing closer to our Orthodox brethren.

For all these reasons, may Your Holiness permit us:

a.) to remain steadfast to the very wise position adopted by the Holy See, in ordering the drawing up of a special code for the Eastern Churches;

b.) to desire ardently that this special code for the Eastern Churches be reviewed to make it even more consistent with the authentic Eastern discipline;

c.) that this code be written according to authentically Eastern criteria, by competent jurists chosen among non-latinized Easterners, Latins friendly to the East, and ecumenists;

d.) that this question be not treated in the hall of the council, since many Fathers of the council are not aware of the gravity of the problem.

  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 Patriarchs in the Church

The ranking of the patriarchs at the Council had been discussed at length at the Melkite Synod of August, 1959: In the light of the rank presently given to the Eastern patriarchs, was it fitting for Patriarch Maximos to take part personally in the Council at the risk of scandalizing the Orthodox? On the one hand, the patriarch understood how imperative his personal presence was. On the other hand, he realized how much the relegation of the patriarchs to a rank after all the cardinals of the Roman Church must have shocked the Orthodox East at the very moment when the papacy was planning a vast effort of rapprochement with it. It was a painful dilemma. Before making any decision the patriarch attempted a personal approach to John XXIII, whom he knew to be open to these questions. The letter is dated October 8, 1959.

Most Holy Father:

The announcement of the approaching council has filled the entire Christian world with joy. The bishops of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the superiors general of our religious orders, and we ourselves, desirous of making our modest contributions to the success of the Council, after careful study by our Synod, have with solicitude proposed to the ante-preparatory pontifical commission the wishes, recommendations, and suggestions that it asked of us in the name of Your Holiness. It is a pleasure for us to remain entirely at your service with respect to any additional studies or information you might judge suitable to ask of us, especially on matters in which we believe that we can be most useful, namely, everything that concerns rapprochement with our separated brethren of the East.

The holding of this council is such an important event in the life of the Church that all our bishops and superiors general will make a point of attending this one personally and participating in a holy and active way in its labors. The ends for which such a council is convoked are always of the greatest importance for the faith, ethics, discipline, and life of the Church. In particular, the council that Your Holiness is planning to convoke is all the more important in our eyes inasmuch as through Your Holiness' declarations, as well as through the efforts made to resume contacts with the separated confessions, we have the firm hope that the means of facilitating the reunion of divided Christendom will be treated cordially there.

Now, this goal is precisely one of the reasons for the existence of our Eastern Catholic Church. We represent in Catholicism the hope and already the seed of a corporate reunion of the Christian East with the Holy See of Rome, maintaining all due respect for everything that constitutes the riches of the East's specific spiritual patrimony. Likewise, in spite of our advanced age we cherish the hope of being able to participate in person in the labors of this council, in which the Christian world hopes to find a truly open door leading to the Christian unity for which it so deeply yearns.

However, there is a preliminary difficulty to a personal and fruitful participation on our part in the labors of the Council. We owe it to ourselves to set it forth to Your Holiness with simplicity and trust. It concerns the rank of patriarchs in the Catholic hierarchy in general, and consequently the rank that they must hold in these very solemn sessions of Christianity which the ecumenical councils constitute. This question was given prolonged consideration by the bishops and superiors general of our Church gathered in their annual Synod held under our presidency at Ain Traz (Lebanon) during the last two weeks of August, 1959. They asked themselves the following question: In a council in which the Roman Church wishes to deal especially with the means of rapprochement with the separated East, how can one explain the presence of the patriarch and the bishops of an Eastern Catholic Church that is suffering because it is browbeaten and scoffed at with reference to its rights, which are the most obvious, the most palpable rights of the Eastern Church? Does not the presence of this patriarch, belittled and reduced to an inferior rank, constitute in these instances an inconsistency both on the part of the pope who invites and on the part of the patriarch who accepts his invitation? The considerations that I shall have honor of submitting to Your Holiness's benevolence are echoes of the deliberations of the Fathers of our above-mentioned Synod concerning this question.

According to the Motu Proprio "Cleri Sanctitati" of your predecessor of blessed memory, the late Pope Pius XII, promulgated on June 2, 1957, the patriarch is relegated to a rank after the cardinals (Canon 185, par. 1, no. 21), indeed after the representatives of the Holy See: nuncios, internuncios, and apostolic delegates, even if they are simple priests (Canon 215, par. 3, complemented by an authentic interpretation of August 25, 1958, which, far from changing the mind-set of the canon, essentially affirms it more definitively).

Most Holy Father, is it conceivable that at a council where they formerly traditionally occupied the first rank after the pope, the patriarchs of the East appear at the 150th rank after all the cardinals, all the nuncios, internuncios, and apostolic delegates, even those who are simple priests?[1]

The very statement of this historical "enormous mistake" suffices, we are sure, for Your Holiness to order immediately a total review of this question and restore the patriarchs of the East to the rank that has always been given to them by ecclesiastical tradition, the decisions of the ecumenical councils, and the so-often-repeated declarations of the supreme pontiffs, and to do this not in order to satisfy a petty vanity, but out of respect for authentic ecclesial values and in the interest of Christian unity for which the ecumenical council is proposing above all to prepare the way.

In fact, ecclesiastical tradition since the first centuries has been unanimous in determining the rank of the sees in the universal Church according to the following order: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Ecclesiastical tradition is equally unanimous in recognizing that the incumbents of these five patriarchal sees precede, according to the rank of their respective sees, all other ecclesiastical dignitaries. In conformity, therefore, to this ancient and unanimous tradition, the supreme pontiff of Rome is followed immediately, in the Church's hierarchy, by the incumbents of the four other apostolic patriarchal sees. The cardinals are auxiliaries of the pope, first of all as the Bishop of Rome, then successively as Metropolitan of the Roman Province, as Patriarch of the West, and finally as the ecumenical pastor. Their dignity is a participation in the first see, of which they are auxiliaries, but this dignity cannot logically exceed that of the other sees, by infringing upon their traditional and legitimate rights. Just as an aide or a patriarchal vicar—that is to say, a prelate whose dignity is a participation in the dignity of the patriarchal see—cannot precede the suffragan bishop of the patriarch, so too the pope's aides cannot, under the pretext that their dignity is a participation in that of the pope, precede the patriarchs. As for the representatives of the Holy See as such, unless they are legates a latere, they cannot precede the bishops, much less the patriarchs. That is the simple and sound norm of authentic apostolic Tradition. All the councils that have had to deal with this question have been unanimous in recognizing the hierarchic order as set forth above. As for the precedent set by Vatican Council I, where patriarchs were seated after cardinals, we should now take time to examine it for the following reasons:

1) This derogation, the first in history, was the result of a regrettable anti-Eastern mentality that then dominated certain groups of the Roman Curia, a mentality that was understandable at a time when the West did not know the Eastern Church the way it does in our day, and when Eastern Catholics themselves did not know one another and—as a result of persecutions and other vicissitudes—had a certain inferiority complex vis-a-vis Europe, which was then at the height of its colonial vigor. But Your Holiness surely would not approve of such a mentality.

2) The apostolic letter "Multiplices inter" of November 11, 1869, which Pope Pius IX promulgated, "de ordine sedendi et non inferendo alicui praeiudicio" (concerning the order of seating and not introducing any precedent), made the decision about infractions against the order of precedence to the effect that no prejudice can result from it and no new right can be acquired by it (Cf. E. Ceconi, Storia del Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano, Vol. I. P.424).

3) In any case, our Patriarch Gregory II, who was present at the aforesaid council, formulated, before he signed its acts, the limitations he could set in order to safeguard the rights recognized by the Council of Florence, including, of course, the order of precedence of the patriarchs.

Finally, all the supreme pontiffs without exception have declared on many occasions that the return of the Eastern Churches to Catholic unity was being accomplished with total respect for all their rights, traditions, privileges, and rites. How can we reconcile these explicit and solemn promises with an approach that reduces Eastern patriarchs to the rank of simple bishops within the framework of the centralized system that has come to prevail in the West since the Middle Ages?

It is not out of a desire for vainglory that on this specific point we now claim respect for ecclesiastical tradition, for the decisions of the ecumenical councils, and for the promises of the supreme pontiffs. Of this Your Holiness can be sure. In this matter, as in all others that we discuss with the Holy See of Rome, our humble person counts for nothing. Besides, we are on the threshold of eternity, and, at our age and after long years of Apostleship and struggles for the Church, self-love seems a very paltry thing to us. If all precedence is renounced in the Church, we shall be the first to accept the lowest place. However, since the importance of Churches is signified by their rank and since rank is only a symbol of greater service and the expression of the homage rendered to the Apostles, we owe it to our mission in the Church and to the memory of the holy Apostles to defend as much as is in our power the rank that rightfully belongs to our patriarchs.

We simply add that it is useless for the Catholic Church to seek paths leading to reunion with our separated brothers if the patriarchs of the East do not obtain the rank that is due them within the universal hierarchy. Our Orthodox brothers want to see, on the basis of our example, what place the Roman Church would give their patriarchs in the event of union, what respect it holds for ecclesiastical tradition and for the decisions of the ecumenical councils, and how well it honors its own promises.

This question of the rank of the Eastern patriarchs in the Catholic hierarchy has been the subject, in part, of a long synodal letter, sent by special messenger, that we had the honor of addressing to His Holiness Pope Pius XII on February 10, 1958. May Your Holiness deign to refer to it.

Since we know with certainty Your Holiness' greatness of heart, as well as your experience in the East and your sense of justice, we have no doubt that the questions we have allowed ourselves to raise in this letter will receive your careful attention and a just and worthy solution. Otherwise, God forbid, our personal participation in the council would tend to be an insult to the Christian East and would contribute on the contrary to widening the gulf that divides Christians.

Confident that Your Holiness will receive our proposition benevolently and will deign to give it the only just solution that it deserves, we humbly bow to kiss your august hands and to implore your apostolic benediction...

On January 17, 1962, having at last decided to take part personally in the labors of the Central Commission, Patriarch Maximos reminded Archbishop Pericle Felici of his earlier comments and expressly claimed all the rights and privileges of the patriarchs of the East: for the greatest good of the Church, the patriarch agreed to be seated at the inferior rank assigned to him, but retained the rights of the patriarchal institution as such. It was a historical declaration that the patriarch asked to be inserted in the official acts of the council:

On October 8, 1959, I had the honor of asking His Holiness, in the name of all the Fathers of the Synod of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, to be so good as to settle, even before the holding of the council, the question of the rank of Eastern patriarchs in relation to the Catholic hierarchy as a whole.

On September 22, 1961, Reg. 14, No. 404, I took the liberty of writing to Your Excellency about this same subject.

As Your Excellency and all the Fathers of the Council can easily realize, this question of the rank of the Eastern patriarchs, as it has been established by the ecumenical councils, and recognized by the supreme pontiffs up until the union of Florence, is in no sense a personal question of vanity or of human prestige. If it depended only on our humble person, nobody would snatch the lowest place from us.

However, in this council above all, where, through the express wish of the supreme pontiff, concern for the union of Churches holds a place of choice, it is harmful to the best interests of union and of Catholicism to humiliate in our person the Eastern Church which we unworthily represent. Orthodoxy is listening intently. If the Eastern patriarchs who, according to the decisions of the ecumenical councils, occupy the first places after the Roman pontiff, are relegated to places after all the cardinals and even theoretically after all the representatives of the Holy See, even if the latter are simple priests, how can the Orthodox East believe that the popes, in inviting it to unity, wish to respect it and are determined, while they await the hour of union, to maintain its place of honor within the bosom of the Catholic hierarchy? Indeed, on the basis of the way we are treated today, Orthodoxy draws conclusions as to the way it will be treated if some day union is achieved.

Because of my burning concern to spare the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy a scandal that is all the more serious in that it is occurring in these general sessions of Christendom that this council represents, my conscience would have made it a duty for me to be seen as little as possible.

Yet, in order to clearly demonstrate that my defense of the legitimate rank of the Eastern patriarchs is not, in my eyes, a personal matter; in order to give a new proof of my desire to cooperate to the extreme limit possible with my brothers in the episcopate in the preparation of appropriate reforms of the existing discipline, especially on points relating to the reaching out in fellowship of the Western Church to the Christian East; and in the hope that the Central Commission, and later on the Council itself, will approve the plan presented by the commission of the Eastern Churches for once again recognizing the rank of Eastern patriarchs in the Church immediately after the Roman pontiff:

I thought it my duty to participate in the sessions of the Central Commission, expressly retaining all the rights and privileges of the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches, as previously decided by the ecumenical councils, as recognized by the Roman pontiffs, and as confirmed by time-honored usage, in the face of the diminution's to which they have been subjected in recent years by a frame of mind with little concern for Christian unity.

I would be grateful to you, Your Excellency, if you would be so kind as to submit to our holy and beloved Father the pope the contents of this letter, which I beg you to consider as an official declaration of principle that to my mind is of greatest importance...

On the eve of the opening of the Council, the patriarch was requested by the Holy Synod of August 1962 to attempt a final effort to persuade the general secretariat of the council. He wrote to Archbishop Felici on September 20, 1962:

The Fathers of the annual Synod of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, held at our residence at Ain Traz from August 27 to August 31 last, have requested that I make a last effort through your good offices to reach our Holy Father the pope, as well as the presidential commission of the council, so that the Eastern patriarchs be given the rank assigned to them by the canons of the first ecumenical councils, namely, the first rank immediately after the supreme pontiff.

The decisions of the ecumenical councils on this matter were respected at the sessions of the Council of Florence in 1439, where, by order of Pope Eugene IV, the Patriarch of Constantinople Joseph II held the first rank after the pope and preceded the cardinals. The union between the Greeks and the Latins was proclaimed in Florence only on the basis of respect for all the rights and privileges of the patriarchs of the East. Now, among these rights and privileges of the patriarchs of the East, the first to consider is the privileged rank these patriarchs hold in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Since that time, these decisions of the ecumenical councils have never been expressly revoked. However, as was the case during the First Vatican Council, today the Eastern patriarchs again face a fait accompli on the part of those in charge of protocol who invariably grant precedence to cardinals over patriarchs.

In order to demonstrate the cogency of our claims, we thought we should make an objective study of the entire question in a memorandum on "The rank of the Eastern patriarchs in the Catholic Church," which we consider it our duty to transmit to Your Excellency within a few days.[2]

The question is serious and can constitute an almost insurmountable obstacle for the future of the union of the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church.

Our humble person plays no part at all in this matter of Church discipline. If it depended only on ourselves, no one would snatch the lowest place from us. However, we owe it to the Church to reclaim the observance of the decisions of the ecumenical councils and Tradition, respect for the conditions of union set in Florence, and fidelity to the solemn promises made so many times by the popes to our predecessors.

Above all, we owe it to Christ to avert everything that could constitute an obstacle to the reunion of the Churches. We are more convinced than ever that Orthodoxy cannot envision a rapprochement with the Roman Church if its leaders, the patriarchs of the apostolic sees, to whom the ecumenical councils gave precedence, immediately after the supreme pontiff, over the entire hierarchy, find that they have been relegated to the hundredth rank.

Because of these considerations which affect the supreme good of the Church, we would have wished not to appear at the approaching council, in order to prevent the depreciating, in our person, of the honor due to the patriarchal sees of the East.

But in order to prove that this is not a personal matter of conceit or vainglory on our part; in order to enter into the views of our Holy Father the pope, who has opened the way to a better understanding with respect to the Christian East and given proof of profound benevolence; in order that through our presence the voice of the East may be heard; and to collaborate with our brothers in the episcopate for the progress of the pastoral work in the Church, we have decided to take part personally in the sessions of this Council, in spite of our advanced age and the state of our health, but explicitly declaring that our presence must not prejudice in any way the respect of rank due to our see and reserving in the most explicit way the rights and privileges of the Eastern Church, as the ecumenical councils and Tradition have defined them and as the popes have promised many times to have them respected.

I beg Your Excellency to be so good as to submit the present letters to our Holy Father the pope with the homage of my deepest respect as well as to the presidential commission of the council.

I likewise beg Your Excellency to consider this letter an official declaration that is an integral part of the acts of the council.

Now that I have thus unburdened my conscience before Christ, before the Church, before my community, and before my Orthodox brethren, there remains only for me to pray the Father of Lights to deign to inspire those in whose hands rests the responsibility for souls to take the measures that He deems appropriate.

In unshakable faith that Christ will sustain His Church and that the best solutions will always ultimately triumph for the greatest good of souls, I beg Your Excellency to accept...

Archbishop P. Felici, in a letter dated October 4, 1962, acknowledged receipt of the patriarch's letter and of the memorandum that accompanied it. He added that the question would be submitted to the Holy Father.

To its 1963 "Remarks on the schemas of the Council," the Holy Synod added the following memorandum.

On the Rank of the Eastern Patriarchs in the Catholic Church

Part One – The Authentic Tradition of the Church

1. The Decisions of the Ecumenical Councils

The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon held in 451 approved what had been a gradual development whose principal stages were marked by Canons 6 and 7 of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 and Canons 2 and 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381. In its Canon 28 the Council of Chalcedon first of all confirmed the privileged rank granted to the Bishop of Constantinople by Canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381, placing him immediately after the Bishop of Rome and before the Bishop of Alexandria. Then the same canon established the ranks of the five great patriarchal sees of Christianity as follows: Rome (without prejudice to its universal primacy), Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. This canon, which ratified a new ecclesiastical organization in the East (the patriarchal organization) and a new order of precedence in the Church, was at first contested. Yet, notwithstanding the initial opposition of Rome, the new organization remained in force. Emperor Justinian confirmed this "patriarchal pentarchy." (Novella 126, De sanctissimis et Deo amabilibus episcopis, Cap. II: Novella 131, De ecclesiasticis titulis.) Pope Adrian II (867-872) finally recognized it indirectly by approving Canon 21 of the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 869-870. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 officially recognized it and again approved the ranks of precedence among the five patriarchates of the Christian world, as it had been fixed by Canon 28 of Chalcedon. It is true that at that time the patriarchal sees of the East were occupied by Latin incumbents by reason of the Frankish conquests of the Crusades: Jerusalem since 1099, Antioch since 1100, Constantinople since 1205, and Alexandria since 1209. But the rites of the incumbents mattered little, and it is certain that for the Catholic Church the decisions of the ecumenical councils still remain valid today. According to these decisions, the five highest places in Christianity are reserved, without prejudice to the primacy of Rome, in descending sequence, to the incumbents of the Sees of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. These decisions of the ecumenical councils have never been abrogated either by the popes or by any other subsequent council. Thus, if we wished to hold to the decisions, still in force, of the ecumenical councils, the first places, after that of the supreme pontiff, at the sessions of the forthcoming Second Vatican Council should belong by right to the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

2. The Rise of the Cardinalate

However, in the meantime a new institution was being born in the Church of Rome: the "College of Cardinals." In the beginning this college included only the principal pastors of the city of Rome, who formed a sort of diocesan council around their bishop, such as there were in other Western dioceses, especially in Paris. Then little by little this college came to embrace also the principal deacons of the city and even the suburban bishops, thus forming a sort of council for the entire Roman province. In this capacity it replaced with increasing frequency the ancient Roman "synods" which the popes had been using to administer not only the affairs of their Roman province but also those of their Papal State, of all Italy, of the West, and even of the entire Church. There were also some laymen among them. The importance of the College of Cardinals has not ceased to grow at the expense of the hierarchy of the bishops, the successors of the Apostles. This importance was manifested especially in 1059, when Pope Nicholas II reserved to the cardinals the exclusive right to elect the pope.

This decisive development in the importance of cardinals occurred, we might point out, when the East and the West were already separated. It was a phenomenon intrinsic to the Western Church. In the West, cardinals, even those who were laymen, assumed priority over priests and even over the bishops, who are divinely instituted, something that is absolutely unthinkable in the East. Until the twelfth century history indicates no marked opposition to this prodigious ascent of the cardinals, who ultimately were given precedence over the entire hierarchy of the Western Church.

3. The Cardinals and the Latin Patriarchs

The cardinals faced an initial opposition by the Latin patriarchs, who, beginning in 1099, occupied the patriarchal sees of the East. The problem then arose: which of the cardinals or Latin patriarchs should have precedence?

Until 1439 a compromise solution seems to have prevailed. The Latin patriarchs were seated among the cardinal-bishops, and, as a rule, immediately after the first cardinal-bishop and before the other cardinals. This is recorded in the "Liber caeremoniarum pontificalium" compiled in 1488 by Agostino Patrizi, Bishop of Pienza in Tuscany, and published for the first time in Venice in 1516 by Cristoforo Marcello, the archbishop-elect of Corfu. Thus, speaking of the "Ordo Sedendi in Cappella Papae" (Lib.III, Sectio II, Cap. I, fol. 195 verso), Patrizi says: "Indeed the four principal patriarchs, namely those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, were accustomed to sit among the cardinal bishops, as we said above concerning kings, and consequently to wear a cope, and they had train-bearers, like the cardinals."

And the author adds, speaking of the period after 1439: "However, in our days and in the days of Eugene IV, neither do they sit among the cardinals, nor do they have train-bearers."

Actually, we know that at the sessions of the Council of Ferrara in 1438, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem was seated after the first cardinal-bishop and before all the other cardinals.

However, under Pope Eugene IV, and more precisely in 1439, a change occurred in the order of precedence which placed the Latin patriarchs after the cardinals. A conflict arose that year between John Kemp, Archbishop of York, who had been created a cardinal by Pope Eugene IV in 1439, and Henry Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, who refused to cede the first place to him (this was an ancient quarrel over precedence between the two great archepiscopal sees of England). Pope Eugene IV intervened to definitively approve the precedence of the cardinals over every other hierarch in the Latin Church, be he archbishop or even patriarch. In his letter "Non mediocri," written in Florence and dated as of the eighth year of his pontificate (March 4, 1439 March 4, 1440), the pope traced the origin of the cardinalate to Saint Peter himself, attributed some of the Cardinals' privileges to the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, which he dated as "about the year 330," declared that the cardinals constituted "part of his body," referred to the donation of Constantine, whose authenticity he, like all his contemporaries, naturally admitted, and referred as well to the honorific privileges with which this emperor was said to have endowed the cardinals, and concluded that it was a common canonical and traditional doctrine that the cardinals were superior to the (Latin) patriarchs.

As matter of fact, after this letter of Pope Eugene IV, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, who, as we have seen, was seated at the sessions of Ferrara after the first cardinal-bishop and before all the other cardinals, gave precedence from then on to the cardinals, and we see him at the last session of the Council of Florence, on July 6, 1439, sign the Bull of Union "Laetentur coeli" after the eight cardinals present.

So we see that in the discipline of the Latin Church, it is since 1439 that the cardinals, continuing their ascent, have taken precedence over the Latin patriarchs.

4. The Cardinals and Patriarchs at the Council of Florence

This applied only to the relations between the Latin cardinals and the Latin patriarchs. But when it came to the respective rank of the cardinals and the Eastern patriarchs, precedence was always granted before, during, and immediately after the Council of Florence to the Eastern patriarchs over the cardinals, and not only with the knowledge of the pope but at his express command. Our proofs naturally come from the history of the Council of Florence, because before that council, cardinals and Eastern patriarchs had never met and consequently the problems could not have arisen.

On January 8, 1438, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Joseph II, having arrived in Venice, received the homage in that city of a deputation composed of bishops and notables sent from Ferrara by Pope Eugene IV and led by Cardinal Nicola Albergati (also called Cardinal of Santa Croce), who had been named president of the council by the pope. On March 9, 1438, Patriarch Joseph II arrived in Ferrara. By order of the pope, the two youngest cardinal-deacons, Prospero Colonna and Domenico Capranica, went to welcome him.

On April 8 the first session of the council in which the Greeks participated was held in Ferrara. The Latins were to the right of the altar and the Greeks to the left. This was an ingenious compromise, for the left side of the altar, where the icon of Our Lord and the throne of the hierarch are located, was considered to be the first place by the Greeks, whereas the right side of the altar was considered by the Latins to be the first place. Thus the Patriarch of Constantinople faced the first cardinal-bishop.

When the council was transferred to Florence, the patriarch entered that city on January 23, 1439, with one cardinal on his right and another on his left (the same ones who had welcomed him in Ferrara).

So there can be no doubt that Pope Eugene IV considered the Patriarch of Constantinople to be superior in rank to his cardinals.

This view must have been shared by his immediate successors. Indeed, after the failure of the Council of Florence we see two cardinals raised to the patriarchal See of Constantinople: Bessarion, former Metropolitan of Nicea, and Isidore, former Metropolitan of Kiev. Both had been made cardinals by Pope Eugene IV on December 18, 1439. Now, Isidore of Kiev was promoted by Pope Pius II in 1458 to the patriarchal See of Constantinople, and when he died on April 27, 1463, Cardinal Bessarion was chosen to succeed him, and he remained the incumbent of the patriarchal See of Constantinople until his own death on November 14, 1472.

So here are two cardinals raised to the patriarchal dignity: a sign that the supreme pontiff of that time considered the patriarchal dignity in the East as being superior to the dignity of the cardinalate.

5. The Cardinals and the Eastern Patriarchs in Modern Time

What happened after that? From the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 18th century there was in the Byzantine East no patriarchal succession officially united with Rome.

This long absence of Eastern Byzantine patriarchs in the Catholic hierarchy sufficed to make the contrary point of view prevail among the canonists. The Latin West withdrew within itself. Its Latin institutions seemed to it the only valid ones in the entire Catholic Church. Inasmuch as in the West, since the time of Eugene IV, cardinals have held precedence even over the Latin patriarchs, it was thought that they must precede all patriarchs, even the patriarchs of the East.

This is a false analogy, because the Latin patriarchs are simply ordinary archbishops endowed with the purely honorific title of patriarch, whereas the Eastern patriarchs are true heads of particular Churches with a hierarchy of bishops under their jurisdiction, by the same right as the Bishop of Rome is the patriarch of the West.

On the other hand, however, there were not at that time any Eastern Byzantine patriarchs to defend their rights, and on the other hand the Romanists were not displeased to see the Eastern patriarchs identified with the honorific Latin patriarchs. Finally, the cardinals were continuing their unobstructed ascent in the hierarchy and assuming ever greater importance in the general administration of the Church, whereas the importance of the Eastern patriarchs, on the level of influence, wealth, and membership was continually decreasing.

That is why at the First Vatican Council the Roman Curia does not seem to have distinguished between the Eastern and the Latin patriarchs. They were all considered inferior to the cardinals. It was even thought that the patriarchs of the East were being honored by being likened to the Latin patriarchs, because by virtue of the discriminatory theory of "precedence of the Latin rite" that was in favor in Rome during the 18th century the Latin patriarchs were supposed to take precedence over the Eastern patriarchs. However, Pope Pius IX intervened and declared that in the Catholic Church all rites were equal.

Thus, during the 19th century as well as at the beginning of this century, everybody, or almost everybody, was henceforth convinced that cardinals are the highest dignitaries in the Catholic Church after the Roman pontiff and must take precedence over patriarchs, whether they be from the East or from the West. Only the Melkite patriarchs have continued to claim for their patriarchal sees the rank that was assigned to them by the ecumenical councils, explicitly recognized by the popes up to the 15th century, and since then never explicitly revoked.

Part Two – Reasons for Respecting This Authentic Tradition in the Church

There is no doubt whatever that the primitive and authentic tradition of the Church places in the first ranks of the Catholic hierarchy after the supreme pontiff not the cardinals but the incumbents of the patriarchal sees of the East.

Must this tradition be respected? We believe that the answer should be an unhesitating "yes," for the many reasons given below:

1. The reason of ecclesial tradition itself

In the first place, the Catholic Church owes it to itself to respect the decisions of the ecumenical councils, even in the matter of discipline. If, in the course of time a modification appears to be necessary, it is fitting to have it adopted by another ecumenical council or to have the authority of the supreme pontiff intervene in an explicit way to revoke it. Now, in the case of this serious question of the rank of the Eastern patriarchs, neither the popes nor subsequent ecumenical councils have revoked the decisions made by the first ecumenical councils. After the 15th century, certain Latin canonists have allowed themselves to make erroneous analogical deductions to support the rise of the institution of the cardinalate at the expense of the honor of the apostolic sees of the East.

2. The reason of apostolicity

The patriarchal institution in the East, contrary to what is happening in the West, is not simply an honorific title. It is founded first of all on the apostolicity of the see. When Canon 28 of Chalcedon sought to base on human considerations the first rank that it wished to grant, after Rome, to the See of Constantinople because that city had become the capital city of the Empire, it was Pope Saint Leo who took care to rectify the thinking of the Fathers of the council. He told them: "The structure of human things is not the same as the divine. The apostolic origin of a Church, its foundation by the Apostles, this is what assures it a higher rank in the hierarchy." (Epist CIV, 3 = PL, Vol. LIV. Col.995)

In the Catholic Church the highest honor must be granted to the apostolic foundation. The reason that Rome is the mother of all the Churches is because it was founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul and because it was the definitive see of Peter.

This honor due to the preeminent "apostolic see" that is Rome applies by analogy to the other apostolic sees of Christianity, which are the patriarchates.

We know the famous texts of certain popes which seek to ground the origin of patriarchal dignity as though on some sort of diffuse primacy of Peter, thus making them participate in a certain sense in the supreme solicitude for all the Churches that Peter bequeathed to his successors on the See of Rome: Peter to Jerusalem, Peter to Antioch, Peter to Alexandria (through his disciple Mark), Peter to Rome. Thus Pope Innocent (402-417) writing to the Bishop of Antioch, said: "Wherefore we observe that this has been attributed not so much because of the magnificence of the city as that it is shown to be the leading seat of the leading Apostle." (PL, Vol. XX, col. 548)

Still more clearly, Pope Saint Gregory the Great (580-604) wrote the following in a letter to the Emperor Marcion: "He (the prince of the Apostles) exalted the see in which he deigned to settle and to finish his life on earth (Rome). He adorned the see to which he sent his disciple the evangelist (Alexandria). He confirmed the see in which he sat for seven years before leaving (Antioch). (PL, T. LXXVII, col. 299)

Jerusalem certainly cannot be excluded from the circle of these "Petrine" cities, for it was there that Peter first and so manifestly exercised his primacy.

While Constantinople cannot historically claim to have been founded by Peter or by another Apostle, it has other grounds, as we shall see, for its claim to patriarchal honor.

And so we see from the testimony of the popes themselves that the eminent rank of the patriarchates of the East in the Catholic Church is an honor due to their apostolicity. Cardinals do not occupy apostolic sees, and are not, as cardinals, successors of the Apostles. Now, what more important criterion is there than the apostolicity of a see, in a Church one of whose essential marks is that it is apostolic and at whose head is the "apostolic see"? Must not the apostolicity that made Rome the first see and the head of Christendom logically give the other sees that claim apostolic origin the first ranks after the Roman pontiffs? Is not apostolicity as a criterion of precedence, recognized by the pope and by the ecumenical councils, superior to every other criterion of precedence that could be claimed by the cardinals, some of whom in earlier times were not even priests?

Beyond this, the patriarchal sees, as the popes testify, participate in a certain way in the primacy of Peter. It is Peter who founded them, even if he did not remain in them permanently. From this Petrine origin the patriarchal sees have inherited not only a primacy of honor over all the other sees, but also a certain participation in the universal solicitude for the Churches, bequeathed by Peter in an eminent and absolutely unique right to his successors in the See of Rome.

From this it follows that the first auxiliaries of the pope in the overall administration of the Church are, according to the authentic tradition of the first centuries, not the cardinals but the patriarchs. It was to the patriarchs that the pope first announced his election. The patriarchs, in turn, wrote their letter of communion to him immediately after their election. In moments of danger and during the dogmatic or disciplinary crises that convulsed the Christian world, it was to the patriarchs that the pope turned to devise a plan of action. When they could, the patriarchs maintained a permanent representative at the pope's side, and the pope maintained a legate called an apocrisiary by the side of his patriarch in Constantinople. In their letters to the patriarchs, the popes expressed themselves in very fraternal terms. It was evident that for the popes the Eastern patriarchs, the incumbents of the apostolic sees, were their brothers and their principal collaborators.

This apostolicity is the basis in the Catholic Church for the eminent rank given to the Eastern patriarchs.

3. The reason of gratitude

The Eastern patriarchs, however, have other grounds for occupying the first ranks after the pope. Christianity owes them this honor out of gratitude. Whatever the past and present merits of the cardinals, they are far from equaling those of the patriarchal sees of the East.

It was in Jerusalem that our salvation was accomplished. It was from Jerusalem that the faith spread first "in Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and in the entire world." According to our liturgical books and the constant tradition of the first Fathers of the Church, Jerusalem is the "Mother of all the Churches," for it was the first Church and it was from Jerusalem that all the other Churches were founded throughout the world.

Alexandria made the Christian faith reach out over Egypt, Pentapolis, Libya, Cyrenaica, Nubia, and Ethiopia. It brought monasticism to Europe. For a long time, it was the mouthpiece of Rome in the East.

It was in Antioch that the faithful were first called Christians. Antioch preached the Gospel throughout the then-known portions of Asia. It implanted the Christian faith in the Persian Empire, in India, and even as far as Mongolia and China.

Constantinople converted the Slavic world, which, by itself, once represented one third of Christendom.

Can the Catholic Church forget these first centers of Christianity? Is it not somewhat unfitting to give precedence over them to young Churches in America, Australia, or Africa which have just recently been founded, simply because their incumbents have been made cardinals?

4. The reason of fidelity to the promises given by the popes

In addition, the popes solemnly and repeatedly promised the Eastern patriarchs who reunited with the Holy See of Rome that none of their legitimate rights and privileges would be diminished, that they would find again in the Catholic Church the same rank, rights, and prerogatives which they had enjoyed up to that time.

The promises are so numerous that it is hard to find one pope who did not feel obliged to repeat them, and in ever more solemn terms. In order not to lengthen this memorandum, we shall be content to cite only a few of these declarations, among those that are most significant:

a. At Florence the union was proclaimed only on condition that all the rights and privileges of the Eastern patriarchs be safeguarded: "with all their privileges and rights preserved." This solemn promise, originally made to the four Byzantine patriarchs, was repeated in the Bull of Union with the Armenians. (Cf. texts in J. Gill, The Council of Florence, Cambridge 1959, p.415).

b. After Florence, more than once the Holy See of Rome proposed union to the Eastern patriarchs, always with the same conditions, that is to say "with all their privileges and rights preserved" (Cf. G. Hoffman, Patriarch Kyrillos Lukaris, in Orientalia Christ., XV, 1, Rome 1929, p.53).

c. On the occasion of proceedings for union, the Holy See of Rome solemnly promised the Eastern patriarchs that their dignity would not be diminished in any manner because of their union with Rome, but that on the contrary their rights and privileges would be fully maintained. Thus Pope Clement XI, writing on April 11, 1703, to the Coptic Patriarch John XVI: "By which salutary measure (namely union)... you would again set that distinguished patriarchal see in that place of dignity in which because of its extraordinary prerogatives.. almost all the records of the Catholic faith demonstrate that it was formerly placed." And the pope continues: "When with the help of divine grace you will have fulfilled the laudable plan (of union), most certainly you will be able to convince yourself that We, having retained the practices of this Holy See, which strives not only not to diminish but indeed to protect and enlarge the rights and privileges of the Eastern Churches, will embrace you in the Lord with all the good will and testimonials that are harmonious with your office and dignity, and that nothing will ever be omitted by us that is deemed to be fitting for your future convenience, distinction, and splendor." (Cf. J.P.Trossen, Les relations du Patriarche Copte Jean XVI avec Rome (1676-1718), Luxembourg, 1948, pp. 171-172)

On July 8, 1815, Pius VII wrote to the Coptic Patriarch Peter VII: "We shall take care that the prerogatives and privileges of your see are most diligently restored and protected." (De Martinis, Pars I, Vol. IV, p. 530)

Likewise, in 1824, Pope Leo XII promised the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria that he would preserve all his ancient rights and privileges: "We grant to this Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, and to the one who will hold it, all the honors, privileges, prerogatives, titles, and all power that are based on the sacred canons or usages, which not unreasonable circumstances may support." (Loc. cit., p. 651)

d. Finally, here are more general and still more solemn promises:

Pope Benedict XV, in his famous "Demandatam" of December 24, 1743, wrote: "For the rest, we desire that all rights and privileges and the free exercise of your jurisdiction remain intact for your Brotherhood." (Loc. cit. Vol.III, p. 130)

The great Pope Leo XIII wrote in the motu proprio "Auspicia rerum" of March 19, 1896: "For nobody can deny, inasmuch as it is fitting and wholly in order, that the patriarchal dignity does not lack among Catholics any of those supports and distinctions which it enjoys abundantly among the dissidents." (Acta S. Sedis, T. 28 (1895-1896), p. 586)

More clearly still, in his apostolic letter "Praeclara gratulationis" of June 20, 1894, the same Leo XIII addressed the Eastern Churches in these terms: "Nor is there any reason that you should hesitate in that thereby [because of the union] we or our successors would detract anything from your rights, your patriarchal privileges, or the liturgical usage of any Church." (Ibid., T. 26 (1893-4), p. 709)

It is certainly the heartfelt wish of the Holy See of Rome to honor its solemn promises. The greatest of the rights and privileges that the pope promised the Eastern patriarchs they would maintain is precisely the right to occupy in the Catholic Church the rank that the ecumenical councils and the authentic tradition of the Church assigned to them, namely, the first rank after the Roman pontiff. To relegate these patriarchs to the 100th place cannot constitute the maintenance of their rights and privileges, as solemnly promised by the popes at the time of the union and after the union.

This assumes extraordinary gravity the moment that the Holy See of Rome once again is proposing union to the Orthodox Churches, guaranteeing, on the condition of unity of faith and government, the safeguarding of their own liturgy and discipline. How could the Orthodox Churches not be tempted to mistrust when they see that the guarantees so solemnly given by the pope to the Eastern patriarchs who are in union have not been respected?

5. The reason of the apostolate for union

This consideration brings us to the definitive and conclusive reason why the Catholic Church owes it to itself to respect the rank that the Eastern patriarchs traditionally hold in the hierarchy. This reason is precisely the supreme interest of Christian unity.

Indeed, if the Eastern Catholic patriarchs claim for their apostolic sees the first ranks after the Roman pontiff, it is not out of vanity or out of a desire for vainglory.

Nor is it out of concern for antiquated ideas.

It is solely because the humiliating and in their view unjust position in which they are placed by the Catholic hierarchy constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to rapprochement and then to union with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In Orthodoxy, whatever the real and current importance of the patriarchal sees, the patriarchs continue to represent a summit in the hierarchy. They are the heads of Churches. Even a Patriarch of Moscow bows and kisses the hands of the patriarchs of the ancient apostolic Sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, regardless of the number of their faithful. These patriarchs know and proclaim that they are the highest dignitaries of the Church after the Roman pontiff. How can we speak to them of union if we do not recognize for them today what Pope Eugene IV recognized for their predecessors at the Council of Florence?

If the Orthodox patriarchs are thinking of reuniting some day with the Roman Church, it can only be in order to reoccupy in Catholicism the place that was theirs before the schism. But if they notice that this place is being refused them, and that in the event of reunion they are to be relegated after all the cardinals, or if—worse still—this place is promised to them but afterwards refused, there is little hope that the dialogue that has begun will culminate in union.

For all these reasons, and especially the last-mentioned, it seems to us that the supreme interest of the Church demands that the rank that authentic ecclesial tradition has assigned to the Eastern patriarchs and which the popes have promised be indeed maintained.

Part Three – Response to the Objections

1. It will be objected: This is a question of vanity and of human prestige.

- Not at all. Certainly, questions of precedence are very paltry, especially on the part of the disciples of the One who said: "The first among you must be the servant of all." But the honor given to the hierarchs in the Church is not addressed to their individual persons but to their ministry, to Christ, and to the Apostles whom they represent. In this case, the privileged rank claimed by the Eastern patriarchs is, as we have seen, a recognition of the apostolicity of their sees and a debt of gratitude toward these first centers of the spread of Christianity. Besides, why would the patriarchs who claim their traditional rights be at fault, and not those who contest those rights so as to pass ahead of them? In any case, Patriarch Maximos IV has declared more than once that if it depended only on him, no one would snatch the last place in the Church from him, but that only the supreme interests of the respect for tradition and for Christian unity made him consider it his duty to claim the rank that is due to patriarchal dignity.

2. The following objection will also be made: Today the cardinals are universal auxiliaries of the pope, whereas the sphere of the patriarch's ministry is limited to their flocks.

- Even if the patriarchs were not in any way auxiliaries of the pope, that would not be a reason for depriving them of the rank assigned to them by the ecumenical councils and the authentic tradition of the Church. The councils and the Fathers knew what they were doing.

Besides, we have seen through the testimony of the Roman popes themselves that, in a sound ecclesiology, the patriarchs were to be considered as the foremost auxiliaries of the pope, his innate auxiliaries.

The patriarchs are even more than auxiliaries of the pope; they are his brothers, incumbents like him—naturally without prejudice to his universal primacy—of the great apostolic sees of Christendom.

When addressing the cardinals, the pope says: "my son;" when he addresses the bishops, and especially the patriarchs, he says: "my brother." The cardinals are freely created by the pope, and, as cardinals, are in no sense successors of the Apostles. The patriarchs are elected by the bishops of their Church and are, by the loftiest right, successors of the Apostles.

Compared with the nobility of apostolicity and the importance of the patriarchal ministry which participates secondarily in the universal solicitude of Peter's successor, the claims of the cardinals to precedence cannot be supported unless the patriarchates are in fact treated as simply honorary titles. In that case, it would be understood that the patriarchs would not appear to be more important than the cardinals. But this is a distorted notion of the patriarchates, popularized by a certain self-interested ecclesiology that has no links to the authentic tradition of the Fathers.

3. Yet another objection is that the privileged rank of the patriarchs is a matter of simple ecclesiastical discipline decreed by the ecumenical councils. Now, what an ecumenical council has done can be abrogated by the pope or by another ecumenical council.

R. That is correct. Indeed no one claims that the rank of the patriarchs as established by tradition is immutable or of divine right. However, the fact that this rank can be changed is one thing, and that it should be changed is something else. Now, from what we have seen, no ecumenical council or pope has until now expressly given precedence to the cardinals over the patriarchs of the East. It is as if the matter were settled and not subject to possible contestation. It is our opinion, on the contrary, that so many and so serious decisions of the first ecumenical councils should be discussed at length, and then should be abrogated only if the supreme interest of the Church demands it, and then by an explicit contrary decision emanating from an ecumenical council or from the pope by virtue of his supreme power. It is not fitting that in such a serious matter the Eastern patriarchs should continue to be faced with a fait accompli, as happened at the last Vatican Council, and as we foresee will happen at the forthcoming council.

4. Another objection will be that the privileged rank of the Eastern patriarchs was founded on an actual importance that they no longer have today, whereas the cardinals are constantly gaining greater importance in the Church.

R. It is correct that the patriarchates no longer have in the Church the importance that they once had as true capitals of the Christian world. However, first of all, influence, wealth and numbers are not the only criteria of rank in the Church. Rome may some day be only a little town, or even disappear. It will nonetheless remain the Holy See of Rome and the head of all the Churches. In fact, as of now several dioceses in the world are already more "important" than Rome. Is this a reason to diminish its leadership?

Admittedly Rome holds primacy in the Church by immutable divine right, but this example is cited here only to show that the rank of a see does not necessarily coincide with its real and current importance.

Besides, does anyone believe that the subvicariate dioceses of Rome are so very much more important than the other sees of Christianity that it is necessary to raise their incumbents to the rank of cardinals?

How many dignitaries there are in the Roman Curia who have almost no importance today and who nonetheless continue to receive precedence over bishops of larger and more important dioceses of the Christian world!

If there is any community in the world that respects traditions relating to precedence, it is certainly the Roman community. Why, then, must the Eastern patriarchs be the only ones who can no longer maintain their traditional rank?

Finally, resorting to reductio ad absurdum, if we say that the Eastern patriarchs must give up their traditional rank because their actual importance has declined and that of the cardinals is increasing, we logically have to place them not only after the cardinals but even after all the bishops whose dioceses are more "important" than those of the patriarchs.

If numbers, wealth, and membership were all that counted in the church, the Eastern patriarchates would count for nothing. But in Christ's Church there is room for superior values: apostolicity, tradition, the initial Christian expansion, the proclamation of the Word, Christian unity. According to these values, infinitely more important than the former, the Eastern patriarchs still represent what deserves the greatest respect in Christ's Church after the Roman papacy. These are values that do not pass away, and, thanks to them, the Eastern patriarchs have lost none of their true importance.

5. Finally, the objection is made that when the "true" patriarchs of the East, namely the Orthodox patriarchs, agree to think about union, it will naturally be necessary to recognize the eminent place they occupied before the schism. But the Eastern patriarchs presently in union are new creations of the Holy See, which therefore grants them the rank and powers that it deems appropriate.

- This concept, which denies the Eastern Catholic patriarchs the right to be considered the legitimate successors of their predecessors in their respective sees, is the new weapon that the "latinists" have used against the Catholics of the Eastern rites. Unfortunately for them, this concept, while it can, if necessary, be accepted by the Orthodox separated from Rome, is incomprehensible for Catholics and absolutely contrary to the concept of the supreme pontiffs themselves.

Since we cannot cite the countless pontifical texts supporting our view, we shall be content to reproduce those that concern our own Patriarchate of Antioch, whose incumbent Cyril VI Tanas officially proclaimed union with Rome in 1724. When the papal legate enthroned him on April 25, 1730, he proclaimed him "legitimate Greek Patriarch of Antioch." (Mansi, Vol. 46, col. 189) Pope Benedict XIV, in his allocution in the consistory of February 3, 1744, recognized Cyril VI as the true and only incumbent of the Orthodox See of Antioch, and said of his dissident rival Sylvester that "he invaded the patriarchal see," and declared of the Melkites that in them "the venerable remnants of the Church of Antioch, formerly buried, are brought back to life" (Ibid., col. 340).[3]

In his letter of February 29, 1744, addressed to the same Patriarch Cyril, Benedict XIV expressed himself in this way: "While we consider that illustrious Antiochian Church of the Greeks, for a long time separated from the Roman See by a calamitous schism and ruled by patriarchs infected with that blemish, now it is at last committed to your brotherhood, in the safeguarding of a legitimate pastor." (Ibid. col. 341) And the pope continued, rejoicing that it was henceforth possible once again to introduce the name of the Patriarch of Antioch into the diptychs of the Roman Church.

From all of this, it is clear that, for the popes, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate is the legitimate continuation of the successors to the See of Antioch. Therefore the same rights and privileges are due to its patriarchs as to his ancient predecessors.

Other objections can be found. It will be easy to answer them as well. The heart of the problem comes down to this: should the Catholic Church of our time purely and simply ratify the special development of the Latin West from which the cardinalate sprang, or should it harmonize in its heart the more recent institutions of the West with the more ancient institutions of the East? In other words, is Catholicism a broadened and conquering Latinism, or is it a divine, supra-regional, supra-national institution in which the traditions of the East and those of the West have equal inherent rights?

The problem of the rank of the Eastern patriarchs in the Catholic Church is not a question of vainglorious precedence. It postulates a return to more apostolic and hence more authentic ecclesiological concepts.

We know the outcome of all these discussions. By order of Pope Paul VI, the patriarchs, including the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, were placed beginning on Monday, October 14, 1963, on a platform set apart, to the right, facing the cardinals, as had been the case in Florence. History will some day relate the exhausting labors of Patriarch Maximos, with the help of his episcopate, to have this change accepted. On October 15, 1963, the patriarch wrote to Pope Paul VI to thank him for it.

For an Amelioration of the Conciliar Schema

The Eastern Commission had submitted to the session of January 1962 of the Central Commission the draft of a schema "On the Eastern Patriarchs." Since the patriarch did not expect to take part personally in that session, he sent from Damascus on December 21, 1961, a few notes intended to improve the contents of the draft:

This schema is of the greatest importance for the future of the union of Churches. The rights claimed in it for the Eastern Catholic patriarchs refer not to their humble persons but to their mission. Depending on the way that the Catholic Church treats these Eastern Catholic patriarchs, Orthodoxy will reach conclusions as to how its patriarchs will be treated in the Catholic Church the day that union can be achieved.

On this matter, here are a few criticisms to be made to the preamble, as well as to the expository portion of the document:

1. The preamble, intended in principle to introduce and justify the rights recognized for the patriarchs in the following section, seems rather to aim at minimizing these rights, as if it were feared that they might be an infringement on those of the supreme pontiff. Not only do the rights of the patriarchs not encroach upon those of the supreme pontiff, they confirm them. "My honor is in the honor of my brothers" are the words of Pope St. Leo. In addition, the wording of this preamble seems to need reworking.

a. "Episcopi quoque, Apostolorum successores, ex divino iure, mediante tamen Romano Pontifice, plena pollent potestate ... (Also the bishops, successors of the Apostles by divine right, although with the mediation of the Roman pontiff, are endowed with full power...).

This intervention or "mediation" by the Roman pontiff in the transmission of the divine right to the bishops seems to us contrary to the tradition of the Church. I fear lest it invite confusion and lest certain individuals might wish to give it a meaning that it does not have, for example, the meaning that all power in the Church emanates directly and exclusively from the Roman pontiff.

b. "Si autem.. prae oculis iura habeantur, quae saeculorum decursu tacite vel expresse a suprema auctoritate concessa sunt ..." (If, however,...those rights should be held up to view which in the course of the centuries have been tacitly or expressly conceded by the supreme authority...)

This phrase also invites ambiguity. The patriarchal institution has not always and exclusively depended on a tacit or explicit concession by the supreme pontiff. It was also created by the ecumenical councils, as No. II of the proposed schema acknowledges: "quippe qui amplissima potestate, a Romano Pontifice vel a Concilio Oecumenico data seu agnita..." (who indeed [have] the fullest power, given or acknowledged by the Roman pontiff or by an ecumenical council...) Now, an ecumenical council, even though it requires the confirmation of the pope, is not one and the same authority with him. The expression "supreme authority" designates in canon law the Roman pontiff as well as the ecumenical council. It would be wise to avoid ambiguity by clarifying the thought.

c. The same ambiguity occurs a little farther on where the patriarch is said to have a supra-episcopal power "ex participatione pontificiae potestatis" (by participation in the pontifical power). In one sense, it is true to say that the patriarchs, as heads of particular churches, participate in some manner in the universal solicitude of the Roman pontiff. But does this also mean that all supra-episcopal power, whether metropolitan, primatial, or patriarchal, is necessarily an emanation or a delegation of the supreme power of the supreme pontiff?

The author of the preamble seems to wish to glide toward a theory that is not in any way defined—and which it is not advisable to define or even to encourage defining today. According to this theory, all power in the Church would be a delegation or an emanation of the power of the supreme pontiff.

2. The expository portion of the document seems to me to be well drafted, and I approve it except for the following points:

a. It is abnormal and prejudicial to the work of Christian unity that the patriarchal sees of the East be occupied by Latins, even those that are simply honorary. Thus Article IX proposes that the titular Latin patriarchates be eliminated, but it illogically makes an exception for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose continuance it recommends. We would say that on the contrary it is the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem that must above all be eliminated.

This patriarchate of Jerusalem, founded by the Crusaders in 1099 in accordance with the mentality of that time, disappeared after their domination ended in 1273. It was not restored as a residential see until 1847 by Pope Pius IX. Since then and contrary to the explicit and repeatedly expressed will of the supreme pontiffs, this patriarchate has made every effort to latinize Eastern Christians, whether Orthodox or Catholic. This has constituted a painful denial of the pope's declarations promising the Eastern Christians who returned to unity that they would not have to become latinized. Our own patriarchate has explained at length its point of view on this question in a brochure entitled: Catholicisme ou Latinisme? A propos du Patriarcat latin de Jerusalem (Harissa, Lebanon, 1961) [Catholicism or Latinism? Concerning the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem]. We ask that it be referred to for fuller information on this subject.

b. Given the mission of each Eastern Catholic Church, it appears difficult to reduce the patriarchal sees within the same territory to only one, just as it is difficult and harmful to limit the rites to one. The fact that there may be two or three Catholic incumbents occupying the same patriarchal see is a historical reality that cannot easily be avoided at this time. It is better to accept it as it is, to organize it, and to try to make the best of it, considering it as a division of labor rather than as a dispersion of energies. The disadvantages of this situation can be diminished if there is a sincere collaboration among patriarchs. This depends on the persons involved rather than on the institution itself. In any case, this phenomenon exists especially in the See of Antioch. On the other hand, in Jerusalem, where there had always been a single Catholic patriarch, the Holy See doubled the hierarchy by restoring the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem. So we see this division of authority is not always the fault of the Eastern Churches. I therefore completely reject this article X as premature, unrealizable and harmful.

c. Article XI cannot be accepted, and it is not in the best interests of the Catholic Church that it be accepted. If it is clearly understood what a patriarch is in the Eastern Catholic Church, it cannot be wished or allowed that he become a cardinal, even if this is merely an honorary title. It is not necessary to make the patriarchal institution an appendage in order to honor it. It is a sufficient dignity in itself in the Catholic Church. It must retain this dignity the way that it has been defined over the centuries.

d. In itself, Article XII is contrary to ecclesial tradition, namely, that the patriarchs of the East not participate in the election of the Roman pontiff. However, since this tradition has been changed in the direction of greater centralization, to the point that the Roman pontiff now intervenes in the confirmation of the patriarchs, and even very often in their election or nomination, another innovation can be accepted, namely, that the Eastern patriarchs participate in the election of the Roman pontiff. On the other hand, if, as Article XIII provides, the Eastern patriarchs are considered to be superior in rank to the cardinals, it is normal that they should also be the first to participate in the election of the Common Father of the Church. In this sense, I approve Article XII.

e. Article XIII proposes three drafts relating to the precedence of the patriarchs. Only the first draft, which maintains for the patriarchs the first rank in the Church after the pope, seems to us to conform to the decisions of the ecumenical councils and, of course, to the best interests of union. I reject the other two drafts, and I would like to see a decision made in this direction at the very opening of the Council, so that the presence of the Eastern Catholic patriarchs may not turn out to be disadvantageous to the work of union in this council, which is intended to be a prelude to union.

The Patriarchate and the Cardinalate; Latin Patriarchs of the East

At the last minute the patriarch decided, for serious reasons, that he must take part personally in the Central Commission's meeting of January 1962. When invited to speak on the theme of patriarchs, he set aside his written text and developed two important aspects of the problem: The patriarchate and the cardinalate, then the Latin patriarchs of the East. His talk was given on January 18, 1962.

I The Patriarchate and the Cardinalate

The patriarchate and the cardinalate are two institutions of different orders. A patriarch is the head of a particular Church, and generally the incumbent of an apostolic see. According to the decisions of the ecumenical councils, the Bishop of Rome, in addition to his universal primacy in the Church, is also considered to be the Patriarch of the West, the first of the five classical patriarchs of ancient times. After the pope, considered as Patriarch of the West, next in order of priority come the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Later on, other so-called minor patriarchates were constituted in the East, and purely honorary patriarchs were constituted in the West.

As for the cardinals, they were originally the immediate auxiliaries of the pope in his office as Bishop of Rome (the cardinal-priests and the cardinal-deacons), or in his office as Metropolitan of the Roman Province and as patriarch of the West (the suburban cardinal-bishops).

When the East and the West were still united, no one could have imagined that these immediate auxiliaries of the Roman pontiff could eclipse the incumbents of the other patriarchal sees of the East.

Then, little by little, cardinals increased in rank in the hierarchy, until even the primates of the Western Church were relegated to the background. But this rise of the cardinalate occurred at the moment when the West and the East were divided.

When partial reunions were achieved between the Roman Church and the majority of the Eastern Churches, the question arose as to the relations of priority between the Catholic patriarchs of the East and the cardinals who had meanwhile been promoted to the pinnacle of the hierarchy of the West.

A twofold question arises here: first, which of the patriarchs or cardinals are to have priority in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church; second, whether it is fitting that the Eastern patriarchs be named cardinals through the free choice of the supreme pontiff.

As to the first question, namely the order of precedence between the patriarchs of the East and the cardinals, the Commission of the Eastern Churches answered by voting by a majority in favor of the honorific priority of the Eastern patriarchs. I ask the venerable members of this commission to ratify in this manner this schema that has been presented to us. It is not a question of personal pride or human prestige. If it were simply a matter of our humble person, we would on the contrary see to it that no one would snatch the lowest place in the Church from us. But Orthodoxy is listening intently. The Holy Father wishes to prepare in this council the paths toward Christian unity. If the Orthodox patriarchs of the East should desire union today we should be able to show them that the Catholic Church continues to reserve for them the place that is rightly theirs through the decision of the ecumenical councils and through the explicit promises of the popes. Besides, it is not normal that the cardinals, who are the auxiliaries and sons of the pope, should proceed ahead of the patriarchs, who are his brothers in the apostolic sees.

As to the second question, namely, whether it is fitting that the patriarchs of the East become cardinals, I believe, contrary to Article XI of the schema proposed to us, that we must answer in the negative. In fact, if we really understand what a patriarch is in the Catholic Church, we must not, in my humble opinion, either wish or permit that he be made a cardinal. One must not wish it, since by the very fact that he is a patriarch he possesses an eminent rank in the Catholic Church, as we have said earlier. Nor must we permit it, for it is unthinkable that a patriarch should become a deacon, a priest, or even a suffragan bishop of the Roman Church. Even if these titles are purely honorary and do not correspond with reality, it remains abnormal that a patriarch, the head of a Church, should become a member of the clergy of another Church.

However, there is nothing to prevent a priest or a simple bishop of the Eastern Church from becoming a cardinal, as did Bessarion and Isidore of Kiev.

There is a trend in the Catholic Church today which tends to reaffirm the institution of the patriarchate. Now, the best way to do this is still to respect the meaning of the patriarchate in the East, to safeguard its authentic place, and to recognize its legitimate rights.

In achieving this, we should not consider the number of faithful subject to each of the patriarchal sees or the influence of their respective Churches. The criteria of numbers and influence are neither the only nor the most important ones in the Catholic Church. If they were, then the Archbishop of New York, or Paris, or Malines (in Belgium) would precede all the suburban bishops who govern much less important dioceses.

In reality, we know that the Christian Church owes a debt of gratitude to these great Eastern sees that spread the Gospel to Asia, Africa, and even to Europe, and we owe a debt of respect toward the sees founded by the Apostles. That is the origin of the rights and privileges of the great patriarchs of the East.

II The Latin Patriarchates of Eastern Sees

Today in the Latin Church of the West there is a double series of patriarchs: the Latin patriarchs of Western sees, such as Venice, Lisbon, and Goa, and the Latin patriarchs of Eastern sees, such as Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

Concerning the Latin patriarchs of the Western sees (Venice, Lisbon, Goa), I have nothing to say.

As for the Latin patriarchs who occupy the Eastern sees, I must distinguish between the sees that are purely titular, such as Constantinople and Antioch, and the see of Jerusalem, which was once again made a residential see in 1847.

In itself, it is abnormal and prejudicial to the work for the union of the Churches for the Eastern patriarchal sees to be held by Latin titulars. In fact, these Latin patriarchates were created at the time of the Crusades on behalf of the political-religious domination of the Franks in the East. In particular, the survival of a Latin patriarchate in Constantinople is felt very painfully by our Orthodox brethren who cannot forget the excesses of the Fourth Crusade. Besides, the Holy See of Rome seems to wish to prepare for the pure and simple elimination of these titles, since it has been leaving these sees without titulars for some years now. I therefore believe that the elimination of these honorary Latin patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch does not present any great difficulty.

On the contrary, the schema that is presented to us seeks to make an exception, in Part 2 of Article IX, for the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, so that in this very Eastern see a Latin incumbent is maintained, who is not merely honorary but residential, as he is today.

At this point, I earnestly beg the venerable members of this Commission not to consider what I have to say as a personal matter. I have here beside me His Beatitude Archbishop Gori, the worthy and greatly-revered incumbent of this Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose post I would ask to be cancelled, naturally in the manner and at the moment that the Holy See of Rome deems advisable. His Beatitude Archbishop Gori, the incumbent of the see, is our colleague and our friend. What will be said of the see does not in any way concern his dear person, whom we love and respect because of his dignity and his remarkable qualities. Nor does it concern our own poor person, who already has one foot in the grave. What is at stake here is a lofty question of principle that affects to the highest degree the existence of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

I deem before God, therefore, that it is illogical and harmful to the best interests of the Catholic Church and to the progress of union to make an exception in favor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This Latin patriarchate of the most venerable see, that of Jerusalem, must be abolished. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem must be Catholic, but not Latin. It must remain an Eastern see.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was created by the Crusaders in 1099, on behalf of Frankish domination in Palestine. It was attuned to the mentality of that period, according to which a Latin hierarchy was needed to correspond with Latin domination. In fact, when the Latin-Frankish domination ceased in 1273, with the fall of St. Jean d'Acre into the hands of Muslims, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem ceased to exist. It became a purely honorary title until 1847, the date on which Pope Pius IX, for political-religious reasons that it would take too long to explain here, deemed it good to restore it as a residential see.

Since then, and contrary to the express will of the supreme pontiffs, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has latinized Eastern Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic, instead of letting them remain in their Eastern rite.

The presence of this Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem cannot please the Eastern Christians, since it reminds them of Frankish domination and the exile of their own patriarchs. Whatever one makes of it, it is still a foreign patriarchate. In our own time, we Catholics must not be the last ones to open our eyes. What is happening at the present time in the Afro-Asiatic countries is such that we can understand that it is good for the Catholic Church to be represented everywhere not only by a local hierarchy but also by a local rite, especially if this rite is of the greatest antiquity and answers to the spirit and needs of the people for whom it was created. Today all the peoples of the world are gaining their independence. Must the Church be the last, for human reasons, to share this history lesson?

Finally, the latinization of the East, undertaken by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, constitutes a painful repudiation of the explicit declarations of the popes, who promised the Eastern Christians who return to unity that they will not be latinized.

If the Eastern Christians can be Catholic without being Latin Catholics, I ask: why, then, maintain in the East, in the middle of the twentieth century and in a Muslim land, a Western patriarchate that can survive only by latinizing at the expense of the Eastern Church?

For all these reasons, I owe it to my conscience and to my fidelity to Christ to ask for one of two things: either that this Latin patriarchate not be an exception to the general plan that is proposed to us to eliminate all the Latin patriarchs of the East, or that this question not be dealt with by the council but be left to the judgement of the Holy Father, who, through the grace given him, will see what appropriate steps should be taken according to the variable needs of the times. In the last analysis, this is a purely administrative matter that ecumenical councils are not in the habit of handling.

Besides, what I ask for is the elimination of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem as a patriarchate, and not the elimination of the Latin rite or the Latin community in the Holy Land. The East offers hospitality to everybody. Far more, I hope that the Latin presence in the Holy Land may be more vital and stronger still, without the necessity of clothing the person who governs this Latin community in the Holy Land with the patriarchal dignity. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem is an Eastern patriarchate, and I believe that it must remain Eastern.

Final Declarations on the Patriarchate

In the end, the Eastern commission decided not to present a distinct schema "On the Eastern Patriarchs." The subject was to be treated in a few paragraphs within the schema "On the Eastern Catholic Churches." Patriarch Maximos IV, in his intervention at the Council on October 15, 1964, expressed his views on the matter:

In its disciplinary proposals the present schema "On the Eastern Churches" constitutes, generally speaking, a certain progress, for which we wish to congratulate the Eastern Commission that prepared it.

Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about what in the schema stems from a more doctrinal or more ecumenical vision of the problems.

Thus, for example, the preamble praises the Catholic Church for always having had the highest esteem for the institutions of Eastern Christianity. In doing so, it sets up the Catholic Church, which extends this praise, as opposite to or as distinct from the Eastern Churches which are the objects of this praise. This leads to the belief either that the Catholic Church is identical with the Latin Church, which is not correct, or else that the Eastern Churches are not in essence in the Catholic Church, which is equally incorrect.

And yet of all the chapters in the present schema the weakest is without doubt the one devoted to patriarchs (Nos. 7-11). This chapter, as it has been presented to us, is inadmissible. It defies history and in no sense prepares for the future.

In dealing with the most venerable institution of the hierarchy after the Roman primacy, the schema has succeeded only in giving definitions that are academic and also incomplete, while expressing platonic hopes, most often repeating recent canonical texts, as if Vatican II had not been called to take a few steps forward but had to be content with the imposed status quo.

Four important comments need to be made:

1. It is false to present the patriarchate as an institution just for the East. It is a universal institution of the Catholic Church that is proud to have at its head the veritable successor of Peter in the Roman See. The foremost patriarch of the Catholic Church is the Bishop of Rome, as the ecumenical councils have declared so many times, as it appears in the official titles of the pope in the "Annuario Pontifico," as is confirmed by the very name of this "patriarchal" basilica of Saint Peter where we are assembled. We are also reminded by the name of the residence of the Bishop of Rome, the Lateran Palace, perpetuated in archives and in stone: "Patriarchium." As successor of Peter in his universal primacy over the whole Church and as Bishop of Rome, the pope is also Patriarch of the West. Patristic tradition and the ecumenical councils have always considered him to be such, without ever believing that this could be detrimental to his primacy. Why would the pope, who does not feel diminished by reason of the fact that he is the Bishop of Rome and as such the equal of the bishops, feel diminished by reason of the fact that he is also patriarch of the West, and on that level the colleague of the Eastern patriarchs? Today we have gone too far in forgetting the concept of the "Patriarchate of the West" and replaced it by the institution of a few honorary titles. This last-named institution must disappear in order to make way for the true concept of the patriarchate, a concept that is absolutely necessary for a serene dialogue with Orthodoxy. Why deny these facts, as if that could wipe them out of history?

2. The patriarchate is not an anonymous institution. The councils that the schema cites have recognized this dignity as applying to certain designated sees that they cited by name, for specific reasons peculiar to those sees. Now, these sees should be cited once again, even if the list needs to be complemented by the names of other patriarchal sees that have been created more recently. It is not permissible to speak of the Eastern patriarchs without citing even once, for example, the Holy See of Rome or the Ecumenical See of Constantinople, whose incumbent represents, above and beyond any consideration of numbers or temporal influence, the leading dignitary of the Orthodox Church, recognized and honored as such by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. As far as the drafters of the schema are concerned, it would seem that the historic encounter between His Holiness Pope Paul VI and His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras I means nothing at all.

3. If we wish to be faithful to history, which is as it were the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church, we must not forget that the incumbents of the patriarchal sees were intimately linked to the universal solicitude for the whole Church entrusted to Peter and his successors. The popes and the Eastern patriarchs were, during the period of union, the peaks of the universal episcopate. Almost as soon as he was elected, the Bishop of Rome would send his profession of faith to the four Eastern patriarchs. And the latter, as soon as they were enthroned, did the same exclusively among themselves and with the Bishop of Rome. And so a patriarchal college was constituted in the Church, or as we would say today, a "summit" of universal solicitude, through which, while safeguarding the inalienable and personal rights of the successor of Peter, was brought about the visible collegial communion of all the episcopate. Their exchange of "irenical" letters (the name in use in Orthodoxy) would be proof enough of this, without mentioning the exchange of the pallium, sent by the patriarchs to the pope as well as by the pope to the patriarchs, and the commemoration by each of the patriarchs of the Bishop of Rome and of the other patriarchs.

It is certainly up to the supreme authority in the Church to renew or rejuvenate these forms of ancient ecclesial communion. But the principle on which they were founded must not be passed over in silence if we wish to offer our Orthodox brothers a rough draft of the charter of union.

4. Finally, the patriarchate is not merely an honorary dignity. Its dignity can only be the external expression of its actual importance. Besides, we must not heap honors and precedence on the Eastern patriarchs, only to treat them afterwards as subordinates whose authority is limited in its smallest details by infinite obligatory recourse, both in advance and afterwards, to the offices of the Roman Curia. While leaving untouched the prerogatives of the successor of Peter, each patriarch, with his Holy Synod, must under ordinary conditions be the ultimate recourse for all the business of his patriarchate. It is this internal canonical autonomy that saved the Eastern Christian Churches from all sorts of vicissitudes over the course of history. It could be an interesting formula to envision for other ecclesial groups that find themselves in exceptional situations. It could also serve as the basis for union between the Catholic Church and other Churches, in the West as well as in the East.

Venerable Fathers, when we speak of the East, we must not think only of those who humbly represent it today within the bosom of Roman Catholicism. We must reserve a place for those who are absent. We must not have a closed circuit of Catholicism in a dynamic and conquering Latinity on the one hand and a rather weak and absorbed fragment of the East on the other. We must leave the circuit open. Let us make Catholicism faithful to its solemn affirmations, to its definition of "catholic" in the sense of universal. Let us make it great, not for our humble persons and communities in blessed communion with Rome, but so that our original Churches can recognize themselves in it when it has been enlarged, in fact as well as legally, through the accomplishment of love, to universal dimensions.

Patriarch -Cardinal

What Patriarch Maximos dreaded—being made a Cardinal—was to happen to him. It was the greatest trial of his life. Taken by surprise by events, the butt of misunderstanding, the patriarch gave the ultimate proof of his faith: he placed his trust in the pope. Summing up and repeating in part the different declarations through which he sought to legitimize his attitude, the patriarch on March 14, 1965, in the Cathedral of Beirut, gave an important discourse "on his acceptance and of the dignity of the cardinalate." The discourse represented the ultimate evolution of his thinking. We are publishing an extensive part of it:

Most beloved sons:

You have chosen, in the person of your revered Pastor, our brother Archbishop Philip Nabaa, to invite us to celebrate before you a solemn Liturgy on the occasion of our return from Rome where the supreme pontiff His Holiness Paul VI has just given the Eastern Church a greater global radiance by conferring the cardinalate on some of its patriarchs, with full respect for the dignity of the Eastern Church, its particular mission, and its ancient traditions.

We for our part would like to profit from this happy occasion to explain to you, with the clarity and frankness that is our custom, this question whose true nature has escaped certain persons, for it is not without difficulties, given the historical, canonical, and theological implications which have given rise to differing interpretations.

Yes, for valid reasons, we have now accepted the dignity of the cardinalate, just as for valid reasons we had in the past excused ourselves from receiving it. In acting in this way we have not deviated from the course which, with God's grace, we have always tried to follow.

Here are a few clarifications:

I. The reasons that formerly motivated the refusal can be summed up in a few words: patriarchal dignity in the East, especially the dignity of the apostolic sees, constitutes a peak above which there is only the papal primacy which extends to the entire Church, both East and West. As for the dignity of the cardinalate, from its origins it has been an institution of the particular Church of Rome. Organized during the Middle Ages, it evolved over the centuries, but it never ceased being a Western dignity whose incumbents were considered as counselors or auxiliaries of the pope in the central administration. We likewise know that according to the decisions of the ecumenical councils, in particular the first seven, equally recognized by the East and the West, there are five apostolic patriarchates in the universal Church: Rome, which holds primacy in the entire Church, a primacy that the Eastern Church recognizes as much as Western Church, even though they do not agree as to the extent or scope of this primacy, then Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and finally Jerusalem.

Therefore, since the patriarchal institution constitutes a peak in the East, surpassed only by the papacy, and since on the other hand the cardinalate is, in the patriarchate of the West, an accessory dignity and of more recent institution, it is not normal for the dignity of the cardinalate to be conferred as an indication of promotion to someone who already possesses through the patriarchate the highest dignity. For a patriarch, the very fact of receiving this dignity as a promotion constitutes an incompatibility with the discipline of the Eastern Church.

That is the truth that, for years and even before the present the Second Vatican Council, we have worked and continue to work to propagate, in order to make it known to the Christian West where the idea of the patriarchate has almost vanished. In fact, the only existing patriarchate in the West is the patriarchate of Rome. Now, this Roman patriarchate has somehow been merged with the papacy. It has become so completely identified with it that its distinctive signs are no longer discernible, and it has become, so to speak, simply a title. Moreover, for many, if not the majority, that pointing out that the pope is also the Patriarch of the West arouses astonishment, if it is not considered an offense against the Holy See of Rome and a diminution of its rank. But is it possible to open a dialogue with a view to union with our Orthodox brothers if the authentic rights of the patriarchates recognized by the ecumenical councils are not restored to them? Now, these authentic rights require that the patriarchal sees succeed one another in rank without intermediaries, according to the established order of precedence: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

For these many reasons, we have maintained that the cardinalate, as it has existed in the Latin Church, was not appropriate for an Eastern patriarch.

II. As for the reasons that now justify the acceptance of this dignity, they may be summed up in the following considerations:

1. The role of the cardinalate, under the impetus of His Holiness Pope Paul VI, is manifestly evolving. It is being transformed from being a local and Western institution into a worldwide and catholic institution embracing both the East and the West. Today the cardinalate has in fact become a senate of the entire Catholic Church.

In order to emphasize this transformation and avoid any confusion, we have chosen not to use the expression "Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church," but to say simply "Cardinal of the Holy Church." In this way everybody will understand that in accepting the cardinalate we did not join the Western Church, but that we have remained Eastern, faithful to the East. Thus the evolution of the very notion of the cardinalate entails an evolution in our attitude toward it. 2. In addition, the valid motives that militated against the acceptance of the dignity of the cardinalate by an Eastern patriarch have disappeared, or almost so. There remains only a trace of them that will progressively disappear, we hope, thanks to the understanding shown by His Holiness Pope Paul VI with respect to existing realities, and thanks also to his heart's openness to the dimensions of the world.

Here, then, are the principal changes that have in fact already occurred and whose absence has until now prevented the patriarchs of the East from accepting the dignity of the cardinalate:

a. According to Latin usage, every cardinal received a titular church in Rome, which he was supposed to administer as a bishop, priest, or deacon. In this way the cardinals became, even though in appearance only, bishops, priests, or deacons of the particular Church of Rome and became, so to speak, a part of its local clergy. Obviously, this was not applicable to the situation of an Eastern authority, especially if it is patriarchal. Now, according to the new dispensation, the Eastern patriarchs receive no Roman titles but enter the sacred college in the title of their own patriarchal sees.

b. A second modification in the discipline in effect until now affects the rank of the Eastern patriarchs in relation to the cardinals. We know that the ancient ecumenical councils decided that the Eastern patriarchs occupied the first rank after the patriarch of Rome. But during the centuries of separation the Christian West experienced a disciplinary evolution that was independent of the East. As a result, it came to consider the cardinalate as the highest dignity in the Church after the papacy. It thus gave the cardinals, even those who were laymen, deacons, or simple priests, precedence over all the bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs. On the basis of this unilateral evolution, the canon law for the East promulgated in 1957 relegated Eastern patriarchs to the last rank after cardinals, and indeed after every representative of the pope, even simple priests. Such an error cannot be accepted by Eastern tradition.

Today, the Holy Father intends to recognize in practice the prerogatives of the Eastern patriarchs. At the second session of the council he transferred their places, having them face the cardinals. Today, he introduces them, at least a few of them, into his supreme council, by recognizing their right of precedence not only over all the Catholic bishops and archbishops of the entire world, numbering over 2,000, but also over the cardinals as well, except for those whom His Holiness considers as forming a single person with him, namely the six cardinals who are placed at the head of the so-called suburban dioceses, and who are immediately subject to the Roman metropolitan. Even this exception is subject to change, and it is possibly a first step toward recognizing the rights of precedence and the other historical prerogatives of the Eastern patriarchs, not because of their entrance into the college of cardinals, but simply by reason of the fact that they are patriarchs.

c. The third modification of the discipline in effect until now is that in accepting the dignity of the cardinalate we do not cease to consider the patriarchal dignity as a peak in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, after the papal dignity. As for the cardinalate, we consider it an additional responsibility given to us for the good of the universal Church. That is why we do not see the cardinalate as a promotion in the strict sense of the word. We were and we remain above all the patriarch of our patriarchal sees. To this primary and fundamental dignity we shall add the title of cardinal, indicating an additional and independent responsibility that we assume in the council of His Holiness the Pope and in the Roman dicasteries (congregations, tribunals, offices, etc.) for the good of the whole church. That is the reason we have changed nothing of our attire, of our general comportment, of our daily routine, or of our traditional titles. His Holiness the Pope himself, when he graciously spoke to us, continued to address us as Beatitude and Patriarch. We are preserving this title as a precious patrimony of the Church. In our turn, we shall ask that we continue to be called: "His Beatitude the Patriarch." That is what we were, that is what we shall remain.

d. A fourth change has affected the investiture ceremony of the cardinals. This ceremony included gestures, symbols, and words incompatible with the patriarchal dignity. Inherited from the Middle Ages when the papacy experienced its temporal apogee, it was inspired by the customs of feudalism. The pope transformed this rather secular ceremony and replaced it with the most sublime of the liturgical rites, namely a Eucharistic concelebration, in which he joined with us in consecrating and receiving the Body of Christ. To this rite he has added the fraternal embrace, the symbol of our greater collaboration with His Holiness in carrying, as His Holiness says, the weight of the keys of the Kingdom that have been entrusted to him for the government of the Church. By this gesture the pope soared like an eagle from earth to heaven. Who would have predicted a few years ago that such a transformation would come about in so short a time?

All these things and other less important ones have produced a change in the cardinalate which we cannot fail to take into consideration as if it had never occurred. It is one thing to hold fast to principles, and it is quite another to apply them according to the variable circumstances and events that arise. Levelheadedness is the principal quality of good judgement.

These bold modifications that are indispensable for dialogue with Orthodoxy, for the sake of restoring the necessary equilibrium of the Church, have been realized today in great part, sooner than expected, bringing divergent points of view closer together and saving the time and efforts of those participating in the dialogue.

3. If we add to all that has been said the reiterated wish of our Holy Father the Pope to see us closer to him in the central administration—for the general good of the Church, with the aim of making it reach out more to the world in order to give this world back to Christ—we would have thought that we were failing in our duty if we had not responded to this paternal appeal coming from the pope's apostolic heart. If, in accordance with our axiom, we wish to remain faithful to the East and to Orthodoxy, should we be less faithful to the Catholic Church?

Another consideration is added to this, namely: in questions in which opinion is divided and in which theoretical discussion is still possible, it is permissible for each one to express his point of view on the serious measures that the highest authority intends to take. But once this duty of forewarning is accomplished, there is nothing more pleasing to God and more useful to men than conforming to the wishes of superiors. If, indeed, the Catholic Church can take glory in anything, it is certainly in its spirit of order and discipline which has enabled it to experience an unparalleled spiritual development in the world.

It is also a principle followed from the earliest days by the Eastern and Western Churches that in controversial questions the view of the Bishop of Rome must prevail, for the common tradition recognizes in him the function of arbiter, moderator, director, and chief pastor in the universal Church of God.

Two motives have inspired us, in agreement with our Holy Synod, to assume the attitude that we have followed and which, in our view, must be followed. These are on the one hand our personal conviction, following the changes made in the institution of the cardinalate, and on the other hand the reiterated wish of our Holy Father the Pope, for whom we nurture in the depths of our heart the greatest respect, veneration, and love. For God has chosen him to lead the Church according to the legitimate requirements of our times, after his predecessor of holy memory had opened its bronze portals to the world.

Perhaps God also willed this new situation for the Eastern patriarchs so as to permit them to make their voices heard more forcefully by the Latin world in which their faithful are already scattered to the four corners of the world.

Here we call to mind another consideration which has determining weight in the decision of our brothers the bishops. History and experience are the best teachers. At the synod that we held during the summer of 1962 to study the conditions for our participation in Vatican II, which was soon to open, an extremist opinion was expressed and discussed which advised us to boycott the council and not participate in it as a form of protest, until the Holy See of Rome granted us our rightful demands. But the Holy Synod decided that we had to be content to formulate the necessary reservations and then take part in the council. If the extremist position had then prevailed and we had abstained from being present at the council, we would not have accomplished the great good that God, through no merit on our part, has worked through us. Today, likewise, we are convinced that our positive attitude toward the cardinalate—although this institution, in its relations with the patriarchate has not attained its fullest development—is preferable to the attitude of negative intransigence which, had we adopted it, would perhaps have inspired in certain groups an ephemeral reaction of admiration and praise, but which would surely have prevented any efficacious contribution on our part within the council, not only for the good of our particular Church but also for the good of the ecumenical movement itself.

We also think that it would be underestimating the great personages of Orthodoxy—as has been reported to us from one of them—to suppose that they are incapable of understanding that the cardinalate, like every other ecclesiastical institution, is susceptible to evolution and has in fact evolved.

My very dear sons, we have wished to give you these brief clarifications so that you might know the real truth, just as it is, and so that you might appreciate the efforts of your spiritual leaders who are working not for their own personal interests but for the interests of the universal Church and yours as well. We have also done this so that you might know the efforts being made by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, who, in his work of understanding and openness to the Eastern Churches, must also take into account the mentality of hundreds of millions of our Western Catholic brothers and the ancient traditions in effect in the Roman Curia, and all of this so as to bring hearts closer together in view of the union of the holy Churches of God, efforts that history will record with his name in letters of gold.

As for us, we shall actively and humbly pursue our apostolic ministry for the remainder of the days that will be given to us to live on this earth, so as always to do the will of Christ, to whom we have consecrated our life and all that we are. To Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever.



[1] Actually, at the first session of the Council the representatives of the Roman See did not obtain any precedence, but occupied their rightful places as bishops, which is altogether normal.

[2] A few copies of this memorandum were sent to Archbishop Felici in a letter dated September 27, 1962, No. 1435/14.

[3] Here the patriarch unwittingly subscribes to the rhetoric of uniatism from which both the Roman Church (in the Balamand Statement) and the Melkite Church (in the bishop's 1995 Profession of Faith) subsequently distanced themselves.

  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 Constitution of the Church

Episcopal Collegiality and Papal Primacy

The problem of the episcopate was of deep concern to the Melkite Greek Catholic hierarchy. As early as their arrival in Rome for the first session of the council, the patriarch and his prelates signed, on October, 1962, the following "proposition" tending to give to the schema "On Bishops" priority over all the others in the discussion.

The undersigned, Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and the Bishops of his Patriarchate, Fathers of the Second Vatican Council:

Inasmuch as the First Vatican Council, after having defined the primacy and the infallibility of the Roman pontiff, was interrupted without being able to study the origin and the powers of the bishops, who, by divine right, succeed the Apostles; and inasmuch as the determination of the origin and of the powers of bishops is of the greatest importance for clarifying the other questions which are proposed for conciliar debate, such as ecumenism, decentralization, pastoral activity, missions, and the apostolate of the laity; we do propose that priority be given to the study of the schema "On Bishops."

Episcopal Collegiality

An overall study of this question had been prepared by Patriarch Maximos in May, 1962, some months before the holding of the first session of the council. It was to inspire all his conciliar interventions. We publish it in full.

Theologians sometimes wonder if the government of the Church, as it has been willed by its divine Founder, is monarchial, oligarchic, or democratic. In reality, this problem has been poorly stated, for the Church, as a divine and human society of a type that is completely unique, escapes all the classifications of human constitutions. The Church is in a sense monarchial, through its one head, who is Christ, and through the leader of its human pastors, who is the Bishop of Rome. It is in a sense oligarchic, if one considers the small number of those who exercise power in it. It is also in a sense democratic, through the royal priesthood of its faithful and the apostolic mission entrusted to all its members. But, strictly speaking, it is none of the above in particular, and all the above at the same time.

Christ wished a minimum of external constitution, around which the Church has developed its organization according to forms that are very variable, according to persons, times, and places. This diversity, because of its contingent nature, can still evolve indefinitely, except for the untouchable constitutional core willed by its divine Founder. So it is that the Christian East has in general adopted forms of organization that are more democratic and more decentralized, while the West has set forth gradually on the road toward forms that rather recall absolute monarchy and nearly total centralization of all powers of jurisdiction in the hands of the Bishop of Rome alone.

Importance of the Problem

All these forms of organization are legitimate, on the condition, however, that they respect the divine constitution of the Church. For example, to push democratic and decentralizing forms to the extreme could end in the denial of all central power and to the establishment of absolutely autonomous particular Churches, to the detriment of the unity desired by Christ. On the other hand, to push the monarchial and centralizing element to its extreme limits ends fatally in transforming the Church into a society that is purely human and external, submissive to a single head, whose other subordinate leaders receive their powers and their mandate by way of a permanent or occasional delegation. It is precisely this trend in the Catholic Church toward autocratic forms of government centered around individuals that the Council must, it seems to us, rectify.

This rectification is necessary if we desire that our Catholic East, with its particular forms of organization and of internal government, should not be in Catholicism as a strange body, a poorly tolerated exception, a paternalistic concession, although its organization and its ecclesiological concepts are perfectly apostolic.

This rectification is also necessary if we wish to continue the dialogue with Orthodoxy and Protestantism. In particular, Orthodoxy refuses to see in the excessive enhancement of the Roman primacy a normal evolution of the primitive core laid down by the Lord in the divine constitution of the Church, and accuses the papacy of engrossing power for reasons of ambition or human self-interest.

Finally, this rectification is necessary if we wish to remain faithful to the thought of Christ and the tradition of the Apostles and of the Fathers of the Church. The apostolate, and in particular the missionary apostolate, presupposes a collective responsibility of the whole episcopate in the preaching of the Word. Bishops are not governors of provinces, charged with executing the directives of a central authority that is solely responsible for the definitions of the ecclesiastical magisterium, of the liturgical worship, and of the power of jurisdiction. Bishops are successors of the Apostles, or, more precisely, the episcopal college is the successor of the apostolic college. Power in the Church belongs fundamentally to the college of the Apostles and their successors under the direction of the leader of the Apostles, Peter, and his successors, the bishops of Rome. Bishops, after all, are not responsible for their dioceses alone, and their power is not limited to their dioceses; in union with their head, the Bishop of Rome, and under his direction, they have the collective responsibility for the whole Church, and they exercise with him, in some manner, a collective power over the universal Church. This is what we mean when speaking of episcopal collegiality. This is a rich idea, as ancient as the Gospel, but very much blurred in the concepts and the practices of these recent centuries, and one that on the occasion of the Council should be restored to the light.

In Scripture

The collegiality of the Church is an idea as old as the Gospel. The apostolic college, in fact, is designated in the Gospels by the most concrete expression "the Twelve." The Twelve constitute the foundation of the New Israel, of which they are at the same time the Fathers and the Judges (Matthew. 29:27). This is what the number twelve symbolizes. With the defection of Judas, it appeared indispensable to find a replacement for him, so that the college would remain complete. The Twelve are forever the foundations of the Church. In the Apocalypse (21:14) Saint John says, "The wall of the city [the heavenly Jerusalem] had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb." Thus the Church rests on the foundations of the twelve Apostles and their successors, a collegial government.

The Twelve are not, however, an occasional and inorganic group. They form a college, having a president: "Peter and those who were with him," the Evangelists say (Mark 1:36, Luke 9:32, 8:45).

Peter certainly appears in the life of the primitive Church as the one who has primary responsibility, but always as head of the apostolic college, which shares with him his responsibilities. When Philip evangelized Samaria, "the Apostles...sent Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:5, 14-16). Did not Jesus send the Twelve on mission, two by two (Mark 6:7)?

Everywhere we see the Apostles exercising their mission collegially. The Acts say that Paul, converted to the Christian faith, "attempted to join the Apostles... Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles... So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord" (Acts 9:26-29). He writes, "After three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Cephas" (Gal. 1:18). "Finally, after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me... I laid before them [that is to say the apostolic college] the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately among those who were of repute, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain... And James and Cephas and John, who were pillars, gave me the right hand of fellowship" (Gal. 2:1-9).

Everywhere the evangelization appears to be collective. Although the mission among the Jews was more especially the role of Peter, and that of the Gentiles the role of Paul, we nevertheless know that Paul always spoke first to the Jews before going to the Gentiles (Acts 16:13; 17:1,10; 18:4; 19:8-10; 28:17), and that Peter equally evangelized the Gentiles (Acts 10 and 11). Peter came to Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas were evangelizing (Galatians 2:11), and finally Peter and Paul both evangelized at Rome, a Church founded by Paul as much as by Peter. The memory of Paul is, in liturgical worship, inseparably tied to that of Peter, and Byzantine icons represent both of them supporting the Church of Christ.

The Apostles' helpers also evangelized collegially, without being tied definitively to one territory. When, after the deaths of the Apostles, they succeeded them, they kept the consciousness of collegiality in evangelization and remained itinerants, not permanently attached to one or another Church. How far we are from a Saint Peter exercising control and authority over the whole Church by himself alone!

In the Tradition of the Fathers

Later, when the successors of the Apostles settled down in one Church, they nevertheless continued to be aware that their care went beyond that Church and extended in a certain manner to all the Churches. St. Clement of Rome was concerned with the Church of Corinth. It could be said that he did it as successor of Peter. But Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Churches of Asia to strengthen them in the unity of faith around their respective bishops. Polycarp of Smyrna wrote to the Church of the Philippians in Macedonia. Dionysius of Corinth, said Eusebius, "not content to exercise a zeal in God over those who were subject to his authority, extended it further and freely to other countries;" he wrote letters to the Lacedemonians, the Athenians, the Nicomedians, the Cretans, the Churches of Amastris, of Pontus, and of Gnossus (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., IV, 23, 1-8).

If we limit ourselves to the modern theories of the pope as the sole responsible person in the Church, all these Fathers, who are the foundations of the Christian tradition, should be considered intruders.

St. Cyprian of Carthage gives us the reason for the behavior of these Fathers when he says: "There is, in fact, among the bishops only one Church, only one soul, only one heart... There is, through the institution of Christ, one and only one Church, spread out over the whole world, one and only one episcopacy represented by a multiplicity of bishops united among themselves... The Church forms a single whole, whose bond is the union of bishops" (Epistle 66, 8,3). For, he adds, "the episcopacy is one and indivisible episcopal dignity is one and every bishop possesses jointly and severally a portion of it without any division of the whole" (De Unitate, V). Can anything be clearer and more explicit?

Finally, episcopal collegiality manifests itself through the meetings of the bishops in synods, either regional or ecumenical, to compare local traditions and to make decisions having obligatory force for the whole region or the whole Church. If each bishop had authority only over his diocese, the synods would not have been able to decide in common for a whole region or for the whole Church. If they do so, it is because they are expressing and putting into action the collegiality of the episcopal body.

In brief, when we listen to the Fathers, it is evident that the Church of Rome, and its bishop, are situated within the union of the Churches and of the apostolic collegiality of their bishops, according to the expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who calls the Church of Rome "president in love" (Epistle to the Romans, Par. 1). Such is the underlying sense of its primacy and of its privileges, which are manifested above all in the cases where the faith is in peril, according to the words of Jesus to Peter: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:32).

Theological Deductions

From this brief survey of the contributions of Holy Scripture and of the teachings of the Fathers of the first centuries, one can legitimately deduce the dimensions of episcopal collegiality:

1) In the first place, it is clearly apparent that the theology of collegiality is linked with the theology of ministry and of the service of the word. If the hierarchy in the Church is conceived solely in the sense of a power, in place of being thought of and expressed in the sense of a service, episcopal collegiality becomes impossible, for in the face of a universal and direct power—if such is the way that the Roman primacy is understood—all other power can only be delegated and particular. It is quite the opposite if the primacy is considered as a ministerial charism at the service of the Church, which is granted to the one who likes to call himself "servant of the servants of God."

Ministry in the Church is a power, but a power to serve. The human notion of jurisdiction, applied indiscriminately to the hierarchs of the Church, has falsified the nature of the apostolic ministry. It is well known that in the East not only is the term "jurisdiction" unknown, but also that the institutions of the Church escape the legalism that characterizes the mentality and the institutions of the Western Church.

2) In the second place, this apostolic ministry, which constitutes the totality of ecclesiastical power, is not entrusted solely and individually to Peter, with the responsibility of distributing it by delegating it to the other Apostles. Nor is it entrusted to the Apostles individually. It is given to the Twelve, that is to say, to the apostolic college as such, taken collectively, collegially, with solidarity, having Peter as the head.

3) In the third place, the charism of primacy conferred upon Peter has meaning only when it is considered in its total context, as being the power to lead the apostolic college. It is not a personal power independent of any reference to the Twelve, to whom collectively has been granted all power in the Church. Neither chronologically nor as an idea does the primacy of Peter come before the ministry of the Twelve. Even while possessing this primacy of leadership, Peter remains one of the Twelve, an Apostle like them, sharing the power which was given to them jointly and severally, not only as a member of the college, but also as president and chief of the college, an eminent member who sees to it that the Twelve are an organic college, and not an aggregation of independent individuals. Likewise, after as well as before the granting of primacy to Peter, the other Apostles did not cease to be the brothers and the companions of Peter in the apostolate. The primacy of Peter does not take away from the Apostles any of the powers which were given to them by Christ, but sustains, coordinates, and guides them. Without Peter the power of the Apostles would degenerate into confusion, and without the Apostles, Peter's power would degenerate into absolutism. These two powers complement each other, and are mutually indispensable.

4) In the fourth place, the Bishop of Rome, successor of Peter, has no more power than Peter, and the episcopal college has no less power than the apostolic college. The exercise of the power of each bishop in particular may vary and has in fact varied. Yet the totality of the powers of the episcopal body must not yield anything to the whole of the apostolic powers. If the episcopal college should encroach upon the powers of the Bishop of Rome, or if the Bishop of Rome should encroach upon the powers of the episcopal college, there is in both cases, violation of the Lord's will, and therefore danger of controversies and even of schisms in the Church.

5) The government of the Church thus does not rest on one man alone, but on a college of men, the bishops, who must work together and in union with their chief, the Bishop of Rome. The Bishop of Rome operates as the center of unity of the body, from which he receives at all times suggestions, advice, reminders, which may go so far, as in the case of Paul with Peter at Antioch, and so many Fathers of the Church with the popes of Rome, as respectful but vigorous objections. "When Cephas came to Antioch," says Paul, "I opposed him to his face, for he was clearly wrong" (Galatians 2:11). Without doubt the pope reserves for himself the right to judge as a last resort, discerning what in the wishes of his brothers comes or does not come from the Holy Spirit. It is his responsibility to affix his definitive seal on what has been decided by the unanimity, at least moral, among his brothers of the episcopal college.

6) The successors of the Apostles have long since ceased to be itinerant and are generally given charge of a specific diocese that they must administer and where they are expected to reside. But this direct and immediate responsibility of the bishop over his diocese does not dispense him from continuing to assume a more general responsibility over the Church as a whole. Now, this more general responsibility of each bishop with respect to the universal Church is manifested first of all in the ecumenical councils where the episcopal college, having the pope as its head, exercises in the Church a sovereign power of judgment and of government. This responsibility is also exercised in synods, conferences, and other episcopal meetings, in which each one of the attending bishops participates in the pastorate of a whole region, without having the decisions of the synods necessarily submitted, of divine right, to the approbation of the Bishop of Rome.

Finally, this responsibility is exercised each day in the suggestions, the adaptations, the observations, that bishops make to each other, and also make, with all due respect, to their hierarchical superiors: archbishops, metropolitans, patriarchs, and pope. It is exercised through the participation of the entire Church in the Roman central administration, which must also be representative of collegiality. It is exercised through concern for the preaching of the word throughout the world: a care which does not weigh solely on the shoulders of the Bishop of Rome, but which is a burden on the consciences of all bishops. It is exercised, finally, through the constant preoccupation which each bishop should have for the good of the universal Church, according to the words of Saint Paul, who said, "There is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I am not aflame with indignation?" (2 Corinthians 11:28-29)

In the last analysis, that is what episcopal collegiality is: the taking charge, by all bishops jointly, in communion with their head, the Pope of Rome, of the interests of the Kingdom of God that is the Church. Such is the Church willed by Christ.

The Pope and the Origin of the Bishops' Powers

The preparatory Theological Commission of the Council had prepared a schema "On Residential Bishops." This schema proposed a theory, that the patriarch deemed "inadmissible," of the "pope, ultimate and only source of all power in the Church." The patriarch refuted this theory in a long memorandum that he addressed to the Central Commission, in its meeting of May, 1962.

This Chapter IV of the Constitution "On the Church" is, by all means, the most serious and burdensome in consequences among all the schemas that have been presented until now for the examination of the Central Commission.

Not only is this chapter dogmatic in nature, but it advances a theory that, unless there is a mistake, we consider as to be a truly new dogma: the dogma of the Roman pontiff as the ultimate source of all power in the Church.

In its exposition of the divine constitution of the Church, the First Vatican Council emphasized only the constitution and functioning of its visible head, who is the Roman pontiff. Almost unanimously the bishops of the Catholic world have wished that the Second Vatican Council would present a less unilateral vision of things, by stressing this time the constitution and divine origin of the power of the bishops, the successors of the Apostles. The schema which should have been presented to us was intended to satisfy this legitimate desire. Now, the one that has been presented to us emphasizes even more the powers of the Roman pontiff, and does not supply anything very notable in the determination of those of the bishops.

In the light of the gravity of the question, we reserve for ourselves the presentation to the Central Commission of a more detailed study on this point. In the meantime, we take the liberty of making the following comments. If we are mistaken, we declare that we are submitting in advance and without reservation to the infallible magisterium of the Church and of the Roman pontiff. If, on the contrary, it is the theological commission that wishes to introduce surreptitiously a new dogma, we ask it either to withdraw its schema or to present it openly as the introduction of a new dogma, a corollary of the dogma of Roman primacy, and to ask the Fathers of the Council explicitly to discuss it and define it. But it is not permissible to present as doctrine tacitly accepted by all something that is, in reality, only a simple opinion at best. Having said this, we here briefly present our comments:

1. Holy Scripture affirms a power of primacy, on the part of Peter, over the rest of the Apostles and over the whole Church. But Scripture does not affirm in any way that no bishop can be constituted in the Church except through the intervention, "direct or indirect," of Peter and his successors, the bishops of Rome. We even explicitly see the other Apostles constituting bishops without referring in any way to Peter. The same is true of their disciples, such as Titus or Timothy. If it is necessary to understand the text as applying to bishops in the strict sense, doesn't the Scripture say that it is the Holy Spirit who instituted the bishops to rule the Church (cf. Acts 20:28)? It is difficult, without doing violence to the text, to find in the Scripture a basis which permits affirming that no bishop obtains jurisdiction over his Church except through the "direct or indirect" intervention of the Bishop of Rome, successor of Peter.

2. As for Tradition, one finds, it is true, certain texts in favor of that opinion, especially in the writings of Popes of Rome, like Saint Leo. But we cannot say that this is the teaching of the majority of the Fathers. On the contrary, there are numerous ancient and impartial texts which affirm the opposite. There are Fathers of the Church who are even opposed to this trend of exaggeration of the papal power. We can even say that the majority of the Fathers, above all in the East, are of a contrary opinion. While conceding a power of primacy of the Roman pontiff, they do not agree that he is the source of all power of jurisdiction in the Church, to such a point that no bishop can be appointed except by him.

Thus Tradition is not on the whole favorable to the extremist opinion which this schema demonstrates. May I be permitted here to make a remark which holds true for many other excessive tendencies in modern theology: the West does not produce untrue texts, but it produces only texts that please it, and passes over in silence, consciously or unconsciously, the texts that do not agree with its theories, even if they are more numerous. An objective study of Tradition must take into account all the currents of thought and all the texts. In the face of a few texts favorable to "the Roman pontiff, sole and ultimate source of all power," there are many other texts which ignore this theory or affirm the contrary. Where then is the true Tradition to be found?

3. In this matter, the practice of the Church remains the best criterion. Indeed, even in the West, bishops were not always appointed and invested directly or indirectly by the Roman pontiffs. As for the East, during the first nine centuries of the Church, when the East and the West were usually united, the popes have certainly claimed the right to intervene, especially when serious danger threatened the Church, to name or occasionally depose a bishop. But the East has never surmised that only the popes of Rome could, directly or indirectly, name the bishops.

When Pope Nicholas I chided Patriarch Photius for having been elected without the intervention of Rome, Photius could answer that it had never been the custom of the Church. Now, Pope Nicholas seems to have based his claim, in good faith, above all on the False Decretals that had just been circulated in the West. We don't wish to say that the extremist position of the schema is based on the False Decretals. We only wish to affirm that for centuries the Church did not claim that the appointment of bishops or their "mandate" in their respective dioceses was the exclusive province of the Roman pontiff. In our Melkite Church, until some twelve years ago, the bishops were chosen in a synod, and we sought no confirmation for them from the Roman pontiff. It was Pope Pius XII who demanded for the first time that no bishop of our Church henceforth be proclaimed without papal confirmation. Pope Pius XII was no doubt applying the opinion which the schema of the theological commission is now appropriating.

4. The supporters of this extremist opinion, aware that Tradition is not on their side, have recourse to an expedient and believe that they have solved everything by inserting this clause: "directly or indirectly." Thus, if history proves that out of one hundred thousand episcopal elections in the East, from the time of the Apostles until the middle of the twentieth century, the popes have intervened in only a hundred cases, certain theologians will nonetheless say that it is through the authority of the pope that these appointments were made, their view being that this authority was exercised "indirectly" either by synods, or patriarchs, or in some other way...

Actually, the popes themselves did not think along those lines, any more than they thought of granting Eastern priests the power to confirm. Such deductions do not result from the facts, but bend the facts to preconceived theories. With this method it can also be claimed that ordinary priests obtain their canonical mission from the pope, but indirectly, through the intermediary of their bishops. Following this train of thought, we can ask ourselves what, in the Church, does not issue from the pope! The very excesses of these deductions show that the method is scientifically condemnable and that the deductions are unjustified.

5. The supporters of the opinion that we are opposing have recourse to another deduction. They claim that their opinion is a logical conclusion of the dogma of Roman primacy. Therefore, they say, according to the definition of Vatican Council I, the pope possesses an ordinary, episcopal, and immediate power over the pastors and the faithful, and the bishops obtain their power over their respective dioceses only through the pope's mandate. To this we reply: the definition of Vatican Council I does not in any way include a statement that the pope is the ultimate and sole source of all power in the Church. Someone can have authority over another without being the source of all authority for this other person. The two things are distinct. To pass from one to the other is to surreptitiously desire the Church to accept a new dogma that Vatican Council I in no way defined, even though it could have done so.

6. Be this as it may, the new dogma that is being proposed to us accentuates even more the differences between the Eastern Church and the Western Church. While our Orthodox brethren still recognize in the pope a certain power of primacy, their entire ecclesial tradition forbids them from acknowledging in him the ultimate and sole source of all power in the Church. Their entire legitimate ecclesial tradition forbids them from reserving to the pope the nomination or confirmation of all the bishops in the Church. The Second Vatican Council, which the pope desired to prepare the paths for union, would result on the contrary in hardening the positions of the Catholic Church and creating a new dogma that the Orthodox Church cannot accept. With such a theory, the Catholic Church must decide to interrupt all dialogue with Orthodoxy, and it will not be the fault of Orthodoxy, which, on this point, wishes to remain faithful to Tradition.

7. Finally, we can ask ourselves why the theological commission and, with it, certain theologians, persist in wishing to make the council pronounce excessive principles in praise of the papacy. There are certainly certain groups in the Catholic Church today who wish to see in Catholicism only its head: the pope. From exaggeration to exaggeration, they finally lead the Church towards a certain "papolatry," which does not appear to be a chimerical danger. They have made of the pope, not the father, the humble and devoted shepherd, the big brother concerned about the honor and the apostolate of his brothers, but an ecclesiastical replica of the Roman Caesar. An old subconscious imperialism consumes them, and they seem to wish to find in the papacy a compensatory solution for their dreams of universal domination. Now, that attitude has no place in Christ's Church, where authority is a service, and the greatest among us must be the servant of all. Certainly, the popes realize this evangelical ideal magnificently in their private lives. Yet we wish, for the greater good of the Church, that the flattering or self-interested theologians may be kept away from their entourage. This can only enhance the greatness of the papacy and increase esteem for it.

8. In the light of the preceding considerations, we propose the amending of certain passages of the schema in question:

a. A note that seems harmless proposes theories of the greatest gravity. It even stirs up the question of whether the bishops receive their power immediately from God or from the pope. How can anyone say such a thing? If the bishops receive their power immediately from the pope, then they are delegates of the pope. The note claims that it wishes to exclude this theory, but it affirms it nonetheless by insinuation. Now it is this method of tendentious insinuations that places the doctrines of the Church in danger. This entire text should be eliminated.

b. The schema affirms that the bishops receive their mandate "a regimine Ecclesiae, et quidem ab ipso successore Petri... a quo ergo in officium assumuntur, et etiam deponi, transferri, restitui possunt" ("from the government of the Church, and indeed from the very successor of Peter... by whom therefore they are received into their office, and by whom they can also be deposed, transferred, and reinstated"). The text says rightly, "by the government of the Church." But why does it identify the "government of the Church" with "the successor of Peter"? Apart from Peter and his successors, is there nothingness in the Church, and is the "government of the Church" reduced solely to the government of Peter and his successors?

Peter is at the head of the Church, but he is not the whole Church. There is no body without a head, but neither is there a head without a body. This theoretical and practical identification of the pope with the Church and of the Church with the pope is one of the exaggerations that have done most harm to the Church. In order to honor the pope there is no need to see him as being the whole Church and to reduce the Church to him.

c. The text affirms that the pope possesses such power in the Church "ut ipse actualem eorum [episcoporum] iurisdictionem ordinariam ampliare vel restringere possit, etiam subditorum exemptione" ("so that he can increase or restrict their [the bishops'] ordinary jurisdiction, even by exempting those subject to them"). This needs to be toned down. The pope's power is not arbitrary. It is restricted by the divine constitution of the Church that intends that the bishops should not be proxies of the pope, but his brothers and the successors of the Apostles. The pope cannot arbitrarily do whatever he wishes with the Church and in the Church; he must always respect the plan of its Divine Founder. The Church is a monarchy, tempered by an oligarchy, and even by a certain democracy. It is not a dictatorship.

d. After reducing almost to nothing the original and legitimate rights of the bishops, the text continues: "Absit tamen ut per hoc iura episcoporum minuantur" ("The rights of the bishops must not be diminished by this"). That is almost ironical. By these exaggerations the rights of the bishops are most certainly diminished. More than one Catholic bishop has thought in his innermost heart that he was practically reduced to the role of a "prefect" executing the orders of the Roman bureaucracy.

e. Speaking of the unity of the Catholic Church, the text affirms: "cuius centrum et fundamentum et principium unitatis est successor Petri" ("whose center and foundation and principle of unity is the successor of Peter"). What is left to Christ in this concept of ecclesial unity? What needs to be said is that the center and foundation of the unity of the Church is Christ and subordinately and vicarially the bishops, and at their head the Bishop of Rome. In the concept of the Church, it is hardly forgivable to forget the bishops. But it is absolutely unforgivable to forget Christ. The exaggerations of certain theologians have made the pope not the representative of Christ, but his substitute, his successor. And that is very serious.

f. Speaking of the collegiality of the episcopal body—a very rich idea that is still unexplored—the schema conceives it in a rather diminished and simplistic way. It says, "Episcopi, quamvis singillatim sumpti vel etiam quam plurimi congregati potestatem in universam vel in aliam ac sibi commissam Ecclesiam non habent, nisi ex collatione Romani Pontificis..." ("The bishops, whether taken individually or even when many are gathered together, do not have power over the universal Church or over another Church assigned to them, except as it is conferred by the Roman pontiff"). In the minds of the authors of this schema, the bishops, as a body, have no power of their own of universal solicitude. If they do in fact exercise such power, in councils or otherwise, it is solely by virtue of a delegation of power coming from the Bishop of Rome. Is that the genuine Catholic tradition? Does not this tradition affirm that the bishops in some sense share with their head, the Bishop of Rome, the care of the entire Church? Does it not affirm that they possess, with him and under his authority, a certain power over the whole Church, for example in ecumenical councils? It is true that, under present law, an ecumenical council can be held only under the authority and with the approbation of the Bishop of Rome. Yet that does not mean that all the authority that the bishops exercise in such a council comes to them from the Bishop of Rome. Again, these are very harmful exaggerations.

g. The schema concludes: "Nemo episcoporum ad hoc Corpus pertinere potest, nisi directe vel indirecte a successore Petri, Capite Corporis, in Collegium assumptus sit" ("No bishop can belong to this Body, unless he has been directly or indirectly incorporated into the College by the successor of Peter, the Head of the Body"). It is correct to say that no bishop belongs to the Catholic episcopal college unless he is united with and subject to the head of this college, who is the Bishop of Rome. However, to say that no bishop belongs to this college unless he has been chosen by the Bishop of Rome is something else. It is a theory that must be proved, and that we for our part believe is devoid of any foundation in the sources of our faith.

Conclusion: The schema that is presented to us is clearly tendentious. In addition to the exaggerations in form that we have pointed out, it proposes a theory of the constitution of the Church that is not at all certain. We, for our part, believe that it is erroneous. This schema must be restudied by theologians who are more objective and who have been more soundly nurtured in the Patristic tradition. It is our opinion that this schema, as it is now presented, cannot be proposed to the council.

The Divine Constitution of the Church

The Holy Synod, in its "Comments on the schemas of the Council (1963)" made a detailed critique of the first part of the schema "On the Church." It touched on many varied points, but the central theme remained "the Divine Constitution of the Church," or the relations between the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, on the one hand, and on the other, Peter and his successors. Although it sometimes touched on details of wording, this synodal document deserves to be cited in its principal passages.

1) Peter/rock and Apostles/pillars: The simile of the "pillars" applied to the Apostles originates in the New Testament quite as much as the simile of the "rock" applied to Peter. Better still, we propose to replace "founded on Peter the rock and upon the Apostles" with another scriptural formula such as "established on the foundation of the Apostles (and prophets)."

Indeed the draft awkwardly anticipates the following paragraph which deals with the primacy. The present draft is less felicitous than the text from Vatican I which is cited here. That council distinguished three periods in the divine plan: the first period, Christ wishes to found a Church as a temple of eternal duration; the second period, to lead and rule this Church, He gives it as shepherds the twelve Apostles who are perpetuated in the bishops, their successors; the third period "so that the episcopate may be one, he set Peter above the other Apostles." The present schema, by speaking too soon about the primacy of Peter, symbolized by the rock, reverses the perspective.

2) Apostolicity: "Apostolicus primatus" does not adequately designate the primacy of St. Peter. Actually, there are other Apostles besides Peter. It is also a current habit in the West to use "Apostolica Sedes" to designate only the Roman See of Peter. Indeed, in the West, there is no other "apostolic see" than that of Rome founded by Peter. But we must react against this procedure, for not only are there other Apostles besides Peter, but there are also other "apostolic sees" besides the See of Rome. This statement is important in order to make oneself understood by the East, which is so deeply attached to the apostolicity of its patriarchal sees. We know that Orthodox Christians protest against the monopolizing of the epithet "apostolic" by the Roman See in expressions like "apostolic see" or "apostolic blessing," etc.

3) Vicar of Christ: Following Saint Bernard especially, Western piety has liked to give the Roman pontiff the title of "Vicar of Christ." However, even in the West, at least until the eleventh century, the Pope of Rome tended to be called the "Vicar of Peter," and not the "Vicar of Christ." This latter title came into general use only with St. Bernard, without being exclusively reserved to the Roman pontiff, since Western tradition continued here and there to call all bishops indistinguishably vicars of Christ.

The Roman pontiff is naturally the vicar of Christ in a more eminent, but not exclusive, way. The exclusive application of this title to the Bishop of Rome is unknown in Eastern patristic tradition. Moreover, this title leads to lack of restraint, and we know how lack of restraint in this domain, in unwary, flattering, or self-interested minds, is dangerous for the Church. It has led some to blasphemy in the strict sense of the word, when they wanted to make a pope a God: "The pope is God on earth..., Jesus has placed the pope above the prophets..., above the precursor..., above the angels...Jesus has placed the pope on the same level as God..."

For the same reason, we believe that the expression "head of the Church" (especially in Latin: "caput Ecclesiae") must be explained in an ecumenical context. For it is not the pope who is head of the Church in the strict sense, but Christ alone, whom no one succeeds in this capacity. The pope succeeds Peter, but he does not succeed Christ. We should explain it rather in the sense that the pope is the "visible head of the Church" or "the head of the visible Church."

4) Foundation of the Church: The Church was certainly built on Peter, but also on the other Apostles, as many texts of the New Testament prove. It is by combining all these texts that it is appropriate to speak of the foundation of the Church. Orthodox Christians reproach Catholic theologians not for citing false texts, but for not citing all the texts.

The text of the schema would give us to understand that the Church, as such, is founded on Peter alone. On the contrary, the faithful are built on the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets, etc. This seems to be an attempt to avoid the difficulty of the texts of Saint Paul (Ephesians 2:20) and of Revelation (21:14), applying them only to the faithful. Actually, these texts of Matthew, the Letter to the Ephesians, and Revelation complement one another. The Church and the faithful that constitute it are founded on Peter and the Apostles. That is the reason for the proposed addition.

5) The canonical mission of priests. The canonical mission of priests does not come "from the Roman pontiff or from their bishop," but only from their bishop. This does not mean that the Roman pontiff has no power over priests. But it is one thing to have universal power over all the faithful or clerics of the Church and quite another to be the sole source of all power in the Church. Specifically, the bishops do not need any delegation of power to give a canonical mission to one of their priests for the purpose of governing a portion of their flock. In territories directly subject to the Bishop of Rome, as such, priests naturally receive their mission from him.

6) The Latin Church and the universal Church. When the Catholics of the West speak of the Church or of the general discipline of the Church, they are limiting their vision to the Latin Church, as if the Eastern Church and Eastern discipline were exceptions to the rule. On the contrary, they should remember that the Latin Church is one Church within the Catholic Church, just like the lowliest of the Eastern Churches, and that Latin law is a particular law of the Latin Church. "Ecclesia universa" does not signify "Ecclesia Latina," and "jus commune" does not signify "jus latinum." Since in fact the Catholic Church has unfortunately been reduced for centuries to the West, or almost so, the West has acquired the habit of considering its Latin Church as synonymous with the universal Catholic Church. This is a point of view that must be corrected today, not only in terminology but also in the entire conduct of the Church.

7) Head and body of the episcopal college. Instead of saying that the episcopal college has authority (we are speaking here of universal authority) only when united with the Roman pontiff, we prefer to say that the episcopal college, of which the Pope of Rome is a part as its president, constitutes a college only if it is united with the Roman pontiff, who is its president. It is a difference in perspective, but an important one. There is a tendency in the West to place the pope not only at the head of the episcopal college, which is very true, but also outside the episcopal college, which is false. Likewise, there is a tendency to think of the pope as being outside the council, the latter studying, discussing and proposing, whereas the pope confirms and sanctions. More than one proof could be given to demonstrate the existence of this mentality, which does not seem to us to be correct.

8) Nature of the Roman Primacy: The schema begins by affirming that the Roman pontiff has by himself alone full and universal power over the whole Church. We should like to specify that this universal power of the pope is given to him only inasmuch as he is the head of the whole hierarchy and for the purpose of fulfilling his primatial ministry. Indeed, it is important to show that this universal power of the pope is the consequence of a ministry as head of the Church, and that it is not a privilege without foundation or public usefulness.

In the second place, we should like to specify that this universal power of the pope is essentially a pastoral and personal power. It is pastoral in this sense that it is not a prerogative that allows him simply to command for the pleasure of commanding, or in order to dominate the rest of the Church. Power in the Church is a diakonia, a ministry, a pastorate. That is why the East does not like the term "jurisdiction," so dear to the canonists of the West, because it senses a concept of power that is entirely human, composed of superiority and domination over others. Moreover, this universal power of the pope is strictly personal. The pope can certainly be assisted by all sorts of collaborators, but no one shares his primacy in the Church with him. This statement has countless practical consequences. In today's Catholicism all who, whether near or far, are in the service of the pontifical administration claim a primacy over the other bishops of the world, and even over the incumbents of the other apostolic sees of Christendom. It is fitting to specify very clearly that the pope's primacy and infallibility are strictly personal.

To designate the universal authority of the episcopal college, united, of course, with its head, the Roman pontiff, the schema uses a tortuous circumlocution, as if to drown this idea. It says that the episcopal college "indivisum subjectum plenae et supremae potestatis in universam Ecclesiam creditur" ("is understood to be the undivided subject of full and supreme power over the universal Church"). Why this "is understood," and why this "subject of the power"? This might be interpreted strictly as delegated subject of the power, according to the doctrine dear to certain canonists who claim that no power exists in the Church unless it comes from the pope. The truth is that the apostolic college really has universal power over the Church, and this power comes to it directly from Christ. It is an innate, original, divine, ordinary, and inalienable power.

9) What episcopal collegiality includes: Speaking of the collegial power of the bishops, that is to say, of their power as members of the episcopal college, the schema reduces it to an ordinary universal solicitude very useful to the Church. That is too little. It is true that the collegial power of each bishop over the Church as a whole is not the same as his direct power over his diocese, but it is not an ordinary solicitude for the general good of the Church. In fact, the responsibilities that the schema attributes in the following lines to the episcopal college exceed mere solicitude and constitute a real power.

10) Collegiality and Mission: The work of evangelizing the world is not, in itself, one of the exclusive provinces of the Bishop of Rome. Rather it is a mission given by Christ to all the Apostles, and after them to all the bishops of the Church. Indeed, ecclesiastical history shows us that many other bishops of Christendom have concerned themselves with evangelizing the world by sending out missionaries and by supporting them, even founding new missionary Churches and organizing the hierarchy in mission lands. Yet today, in fact, in order to avoid useless dispersion of energies and to better organize the work of evangelization, the central authority over the missions has been reserved to the pope.

11) What is the source of the bishops' canonical mission? A certain school of canonists in the West holds, as we have said, that no bishop receives his mission over his diocese except through the direct or indirect intervention of the pope. This opinion had found a place in the old schema. The new schema has corrected this absolutely unacceptable assertion. Nothing in Scripture or Tradition, in fact, proves that the canonical mission of the bishops over their respective dioceses comes to them exclusively from the successor of Peter. The canonists in question have simply transplanted on the universal level of the whole Church and on the level of doctrine what was a contingent fact in the patriarchate of the West. In the West, for quite a while, the canonical mission, and even the appointment of the bishops, has in fact been reserved to the Roman pontiff. But it was not always so in the Church from its origins and in every place.

In the face of this consideration, which we have energetically stressed in the Central Commission, the new schema has toned down its assertions and recognized that the canonical mission could be given in virtue of laws or legitimate customs not revoked by the supreme authority (which is not only that of the pope, let us recall in passing, but also that of ecumenical councils). This canonical mission can also be given directly by the Roman pontiff, either as Patriarch of the West or as the successor of Peter. But it is not by the same right that the pope names the bishops of the West and can be called, in certain cases, to name the bishops of the East. In the former case, he acts as Patriarch of the West, whether or not he is helped by his synod (specifically the Consistorial Congregation or the Congregation of the Faith). In the latter case, he acts as head of the Church when the good of the universal Church exceptionally demands his direct intervention over and above the institutions peculiar to the East.

In the second place, it is certain that the pope can depose a bishop for very serious reasons. But the wording of the schema risks being misinterpreted, as if no bishop could have a mission in his own diocese unless he were positively accepted by the pope. Such a claim, based on the False Decretals, was, as we know, the origin of the conflict between Pope Nicholas I and Patriarch Photius. In consequence, the text of Canon 392, #2, of the Motu Proprio Cleri Sanctitati must be amended.

12) The foundation of papal infallibility: The pope is infallible only because he is the head of the apostolic college and the spokesman of the infallibility of this college and of the whole Church. When thus clarified, infallibility becomes comprehensible. It is no longer an honorary privilege. The pope does not proclaim infallible dogmas without reason, without foundation, without reference to Scripture, to Tradition, and to the Church, needlessly, just to show that he is pope. Infallibility is a charism granted to him for the general welfare and stemming from his ministry. These clarifications are absolutely essential and indispensable for anyone who wants to work for the union of the Churches, for they have not been sufficiently taken into account until now.

The text of the schema literally reproduces the definition of infallibility given by Vatican I. But this definition has in fact given rise to misinterpretations and regrettable exaggerations. It is therefore fitting that Vatican II should clarify this notion and make it more easily understandable. Thus the "ex sese" (by himself) is clarified by saying: "ex officio suo" (by his office); the "non ex consensu Ecclesiae" (not by the consensus of the Church) is clarified by saying: "non ex delegatione, nec ex canonica, etsi implicita, confirmatione" (not by delegation, nor by canonical collegial confirmation, even if it is implicit).

In the second place, it is true that the definitions of the pope are irreformable and without appeal, but we think that a clarification should be added, namely, that the definitions of the pope cannot contradict the faith of the Church and of the episcopal college.

These clarifications are generally accepted today. It is appropriate to insert them, so that Vatican II may bring new light to this doctrine of papal infallibility.

13) The ordinary magisterium of the Church: By definition this ordinary magisterium is not infallible. However, it deserves respect. The text of the schema even demands respect for the will and for the intellect, sincere adherence to it, etc. But in this case, what is it that actually distinguishes this non-infallible (that is to say, fallible) magisterium from the infallible magisterium? It seems to us that the paragraph must nonetheless make it clear that this ordinary teaching of the popes is subject to error. Actually, more than once popes who did not intend to define a truth of faith have taught things which after careful examination have been seen to be erroneous. What has happened in the past can happen again in the future. It is wise not to expand the field of papal infallibility indefinitely and with specious reasons. The respect due the teaching of the highest authority is one thing, and the infallibility of this teaching is something else. Too rigid censure risks not only halting scientific and theological progress but also transforming a fallible formula into an infallible formula, by artificially creating a false unanimity in the Church.

14) Primacy and sovereignty: We prefer not to introduce into the Church the notion of sovereignty used in international secular law. If the pope's power were a sovereign power in the secular sense, it would logically follow that all the other powers in the Church are delegated powers. Now, as we have seen, that is not the case. The pope's power is traditionally described in the Church by the word "primacy." It is best to hold to it and avoid terms borrowed from secular law. Nor must we forget that the pope is not the only sovereign power in the Church. The same sovereign and universal power belongs to the ecumenical council, that is to say, to the episcopal college with the pope as its head. Besides, even the Latin Code of Canon Law includes in the expression "De suprema potestate in Ecclesia" (On the supreme power in the Church) both the pope and the ecumenical council.

15) The pope, guardian of episcopal collegiality: The episcopate, which succeeds the apostolic college, is not first of all the sum of the dioceses, each forming a relatively closed entity around its bishop. On the contrary, it is first of all the apostolic college, having a common responsibility for the whole human race to be incorporated into Christ.

This responsibility is not one of domination, but strictly of service. Obviously, in order to express this responsibility it is necessary to make use of the concept of authority. However, the most felicitous expression for this authority is not in terms that overemphasize jurisdiction. That is why, it seems to us, that in place of juridical expressions such as "by divine right," "by ecclesiastical right," it would often be preferable to use terms like "evangelical reality," "apostolic reality," and "directed in the Holy Spirit."

It is in order to better serve the flock that it is divided into groupings, whether "patriarchal," "metropolitan," or "diocesan," without detriment to the primary responsibilities retained by each and all of the bishops with respect to the Church as a whole.

In all of this, and up to this point, the pope is the equal of all the other bishops. However, he emerges into a second reality, precisely to second this one episcopate in its mission. For this episcopate needs to preserve its unity. The pope is the recognized responsible conservator of this collective unity. This unity cannot be reduced to himself alone or to some charism that he may possess. On the contrary, he must adapt to "catholicity" in order to serve it with his variety of dynamism, knowing that he is as such not personally coextensive with the Church and that the Church is not coextensive with him... for this would again reduce the Church to the pope, to "Romanism," to his person... in fact, as a result of history so far, making it coextensive with Latinism.

Just as the bishops have powers over the flock in order to serve the Church—powers imbued with humility—so too the pope, in order to serve the episcopate in its mission, has powers imbued with humility and specified by the finality of his function, which does not create the episcopate but is the servant of the episcopate of which he remains a member. His brother bishops, in the situations in which life has placed them, have the same authority as he in the immediate portion of their current responsibilities: diocese, primacy, patriarchate.

Five Declarations of Principle

On October 7, 1963, during the 42nd General Congregation, the patriarch set forth in five principles the essentials of the remarks made by his Synod on the Divine Constitution of the Church. His intervention caused a shock. At the preceding General Congregation the patriarch was also supposed to speak. But the senior cardinal of the Council of the Presidency, troubled by protests made by certain partisans of Latin against the patriarch's use of French, had asked that the patriarch's talks be at least followed by a Latin translation. The rumor spread in Rome and was printed in the newspapers that the patriarch had been forbidden to speak in French. The patriarch stood fast and continued to speak in French. His Bishop-Counselor read the translation of his discourse in Latin.

The First Vatican Council defined the dogma of the primacy of the Roman pontiff. This definition gave rise here and there to abusive interpretations that disfigured it, making the primacy, which is a charism granted by Christ to his Church, an obstacle to Christian unity. Now, we are convinced that the obstacle to union is not the doctrine of the primacy itself, clearly inscribed in Holy Scripture and in the Tradition of the Church. Rather, the obstacle lies in its excessive interpretations and, even more, in its concrete exercise, in which, to authentically divine elements and legitimate ecclesial evolution, there have been added, more or less consciously, regrettable borrowings from modalities in the exercise of a purely human authority.

The Second Vatican Council, according to His Holiness Paul VI's beautiful words in his opening locution to the second period of the Council, proposes to prepare the paths of union. That is why, it seems to us, the Council must not be content to repeat on this point the words of Vatican Council I, which have already been stated, but must seek to clarify and complement them, in the light of the divine institution and the indefeasible rights of the episcopate.

In this sense the new wording of the schema "De Ecclesia" shows notable progress with respect to both the former wording and also the routine formulas of the theological manuals.

The fact remains, however, that from the ecumenical viewpoint several texts should still be improved so as to bring out more clearly the principles that assure the evenhanded exercise of Roman primacy willed by the divine Founder of the Church.

Leaving details of lesser importance to the written notes that we have already transmitted to the secretariat, it seems to us that the text of the schema of the council should emphasize the following principles:

1) It must be clear to all of us that the only ruler of the Church, the only head of the Body of Christ that is the Church, is our Lord Jesus Christ, and He alone. The Roman pontiff is the head of the episcopal college, just as Peter was the head of the apostolic college. The successor has no more power than the one whom he succeeds. That is why it is not fitting to say of the Roman pontiff, by the same right and without distinction, as we say of Christ, that he is the head of the Church: "caput Ecclesiae."

2) We agree completely with the explanation given by several venerable Fathers with respect to the foundation of the Church, constituted not only by Peter but by all the other Apostles, as is proven by several texts of the New Testament. This does not in any way contradict the primacy of Peter and of his successors, but rather sheds a new light on it. Peter is one of the Apostles, and at the same time the head of the apostolic college. Likewise, the Roman pontiff is a member of the episcopal college and at the same time the head of this college. The head commands the body, but it is not outside the body.

3) It must be clear that the power of the Roman pontiff over the entire Church does not destroy the power of the whole of the episcopal college over the whole of the Church—a college which always includes the pope as its primate—nor is it a substitute for the power of each bishop over his diocese. Every canonical mission, within the limits of a diocese, stems from the bishop of the diocese, and from him alone.

Moreover, it would seriously harm the doctrine of the Roman primacy and jeopardize every possibility of dialogue with the Orthodox Church if this primacy were presented in such a manner as to make the very existence of the Eastern Church inexplicable. Indeed, the latter owes its sacramental, liturgical, theological, and disciplinary life to a living apostolic Tradition in which an intervention by the Roman See appears only rarely.

4) It must be stressed that the universal power of the Roman pontiff, total as it is, and remaining within its own mandate, is given to him essentially inasmuch as he is the head of the entire hierarchy and precisely for the purpose of fulfilling this primatial service. Saint Matthew's "You are Peter" (16:18) must not be separated from Saint Luke's "Strengthen your brothers" (22:32). Moreover, this power is of its nature pastoral and strictly personal. It is of its nature pastoral in the sense that it is not a prerogative directed toward commanding for the sake of commanding. It is a ministry, a service, a diakonia, a pastorate, as His Holiness Pope Paul VI has clearly emphasized. This power is of its nature personal and cannot, inasmuch as it remains so, be delegated in any way.

5) Finally, it must be clear that neither the naming of the bishops nor their canonical mission is reserved, by divine right, to the Roman pontiff alone. What has been a contingent circumstance of the Christian West must not be transferred to the universal level of the entire Church and to the level of doctrine.

When the primacy of the Roman pontiff is thus free from exaggeration of doctrine and of exercise, it not only ceases to be the principal stumbling block for the union of Christians, but it becomes the principal dynamism that requires and maintains this union. It is absolutely indispensable as the bond of unity for the Church. Christians can never thank the Lord Jesus enough for this ministry that He has established in his Church.

What Eastern Theology Says

On October 16, 1983, Archbishop Elias Zoghby, the Patriarchal Vicar in Egypt and the Sudan, in an important intervention, called attention to the viewpoint of Eastern theology on the exercise of the Roman primacy and its relations with the episcopacy.

I am surprised that this question has not been asked before now: why, after a quite brief schema "De Ecclesia," another special schema has been proposed, devoted to the "Eastern Catholic Churches," as if these latter formed a kind of appendage to the universal Church. I am not criticizing. I am simply noting a fact, which, indeed, has been quite eloquently illustrated: the fact that the Eastern bishops present at this assembly comprise only 5% of the conciliar Fathers, and that, in turn, they represent only 5% of the Christians of the East.

The general schema "De Ecclesia" would be more useful to everyone if it applied equally to the traditions of both Churches, Eastern and Western, whose ecclesiologies are complementary. In fact, the patrimony of the Eastern Church is very rich and even constitutes the largest part of the patrimony of the entire Church. These two parts of the Church, the East and the West, lived in comparative peace during the first thousand years, each with its own constitution, its own discipline, its own theology, its own customs, languages, character, and spirituality. The state of separation is abnormal in the Church. It would be good to provide a paragraph on the particular Churches, the Latin as well as the Eastern.

For example, with respect to the primacy of the Roman pontiff, the Eastern Churches have never denied its existence, or that it was the principle of Catholicity. Yet in fact, after so many centuries of separation, this doctrine has evolved so unilaterally that it is very difficult for our Orthodox brothers to recognize it today. Formerly the Roman Church rarely exercised its primacy over the Eastern Churches as a whole and over those which, from time immemorial, as major, apostolic, patriarchal Churches, exercised a primacy over the neighboring Churches, and which, even today, are the foundation of the ecclesial structure. This last consideration is of the greatest importance and it is indispensable to any dialogue with the Eastern Churches separated from us.

In its modern form, insinuated into our schema, the doctrine of primacy, which we find too prevalent in several paragraphs, is proposed in an unduly unilateral manner, becoming almost unacceptable to the Orthodox. In fact, it offers a theological aspect elaborated by the West alone, without the concurrence of Eastern tradition.

Eastern tradition, joined to Western tradition, would have prevented the doctrine of primacy from taking on such unacceptable proportions vis-a-vis the episcopate. This must be affirmed especially today with the development of ecumenism, at a time when the efforts of Catholics for unity are being taken seriously into consideration by everyone.

Three remarks will illustrate my affirmations:

1) Every time that the schema deals with the authority of the bishops, it is said to be subordinated to the authority of the Roman pontiff. The excessive repetition of this affirmation finally becomes tiresome and leads to the belief that the authority of the Roman pontiff is simply a limitation of the power of the bishops.

Now, the primacy of Peter in his successors is an invaluable gift to the Church, and it must not be reduced to a yoke imposed by force. The authority of the Roman pontiff was not given in order to restrict the authority of the bishops, but to defend and support it, just as in a family the authority of the father strengthens and sustains the authority of the mother, but does not diminish it in any way, even though it extends to the mother and to the children.

We must be content to affirm once and for all the dependence of the episcopal body with respect to the pope, without repeating this affirmation indefinitely. On this point, let us follow Peter's own warning: "Be sober and watchful." Otherwise, why not, with equal logic, refer each time to Christ as the Supreme Shepherd, from whom both the Roman pontiff and the other bishops draw all their power and their very priesthood?

Moreover, the authors of the schema, somehow obsessed with the primacy, seem to have neglected an essential point, namely, the doctrine of Christ the Priest and the doctrine of the sacraments instituted by Him, especially the Eucharist, which is the bond of unity within each Church and in the universal Church.

2) We speak frequently of the exercise of the episcopal and collegial power, but dependent upon the Roman pontiff. Is there not another truth to be affirmed and emphasized even more in the schema so as to attain balance, namely, that the authority of the Roman pontiff is not absolute, isolated, independent of the existence of the college of bishops? The authority of the Roman pontiff, like that of Peter, can be understood and explained only in relation to the college over which he presides and which truly and efficaciously assumes, under his primacy, responsibility for the entire Church. Not only does this mutual interdependence between the head of the college and the college itself conform to reality, but it appears necessary for any dialogue with Orthodox Christians.

3) May I be permitted to draw attention to Paragraph 16, page 27, line 4, in which "the Successor of Peter, the Roman pontiff" is set in opposition to the bishops, the "successors of the Apostles." The Roman pontiff, the successor of Peter, is also a successor of the Apostles, inasmuch as he is a bishop, just as the other bishops, successors of the Apostles, are in a certain sense also successors of Peter, inasmuch as Peter is an Apostle. I therefore propose the following amendment: "The Roman pontiff, successor of Peter, as head, and the other bishops, successors of the Apostles." This tendency, already pointed out several times at the council, of separating the Roman pontiff from the college of bishops, is more detrimental than helpful. When we do this, we somehow allow the greatest gift, the greatest grace, in the Roman pontiff to be downplayed, namely the grace of the episcopacy. Indeed the greatest grace that Peter received from Christ was being chosen as an Apostle and as a member of the apostolic college, in which the charge to "strengthen the others" is not something special super-added to his eminent apostolic vocation in the strict sense.

That is why the successor of Peter who is the Roman pontiff is first of all a bishop. This grace of the episcopacy remains for him, even after his election to the supreme pontificate, the most important grace of his whole life. The Roman pontiff does not cease being a member of the apostolic college by reason of the fact that he has the responsibility of strengthening his brothers. He does not become a universal bishop in the sense that he would take the place of the others, as the German bishops clearly declared to Bismarck in 1875, in a letter that Pius IX solemnly approved and that would deserve being mentioned in our schema.

According to tradition, the pope is not elected directly by the conclave to the Roman Pontificate, but to the See of Rome, which was once Peter's. Having been elected to the See of Peter, by that very fact he succeeds Peter in his primacy. That is why the electors of the Roman pontiff, regardless of the nation to which they belong, are titulars of the churches of the city of Rome or of the suburban sees. We are very grateful to our Pope Paul VI, who, after the example of his predecessor of holy memory, John XXIII, solemnly declared at the beginning of this session that the See of Rome was indeed his own. He declared: "The college of cardinals has chosen to elect me to the episcopal See of Rome and consequently to the supreme pontificate of the universal Church." In former times this truth had been rather nebulous in the minds of the faithful.

Finally, before concluding, with regard to episcopal collegiality, on which the Fathers have expatiated at length here, I am surprised that so many of you still hesitate, even though it is evident from the life of the Church in the first centuries that collegiality was operative then and that it continues to be in force today in the Eastern Churches. In the patriarchal system, the synod holds a very important place. No important decision is taken without the synod or apart from the synod. The metropolitans, then the patriarchs, conscious of their obligation to safeguard unity among the Churches, were accustomed to exchange synodal letters among themselves, in order to arrive together at common solutions. In doing this, they were convinced that they were continuing the apostolic tradition.

Primacy and Infallibility: Final Synodal Remarks

The schema "On the Church" was profoundly revised. The Melkite Greek Synod, assembled in the summer of 1964, made its final remarks on the new text. A step forward had been made, but, the synod pointed out, there still remained much to do to coincide with the Eastern and primitive tradition of the Church. We reproduce a few remarks.

The present schema on the constitution of the Church is, on the whole, a good work. This is true even with respect to the chapters or paragraphs dealing with the hierarchy of the Church, in particular the college of bishops and their head, the pope... Catholics will accept with serenity and trust everything that is said there...

However, as we see it, from an ecumenical viewpoint with reference to Orthodoxy, all that is said concerning the hierarchy, in particular with regard to papal primacy and infallibility, will give a negative impression. In fact, it might seem to insist more on the pope, his primacy, his supreme jurisdiction, his infallibility "ex sese" especially, than on "episcopal collegiality" itself, and indeed when it is treated ex professo.

We think that, if these texts-written in a context that is admirable but composed in a very Latin style—are adopted by the Council just as they are, there is danger that we would have to say "adieu" to any dogmatically effective conversation with the Orthodox: Vatican II would thus replicate Vatican I as an obstacle.

We have said: "Catholics will accept with serenity and trust" what is said in the chapters or paragraphs dealing with the hierarchical aspect of the Church. In fact, they know through living experience, and they will know even better from all that is said in the schema about "collegiality" and the "communion" aspect of the Church that the papacy is not a dictatorship either with respect to matters of government or those of faith. This is where we should make use of everything that determines and in fact limits all jurisdiction, even that of the pope: natural law, Christian law, the finality of the office, the concomitant co-responsibility of the episcopate in relation to the pope, while maintaining all due respect for his primacy, etc.

Yet, because of the formulas used, the Orthodox world will inevitably see the opposite: that is to say, a dictatorship pure and simple... no matter how charitably the popes in general intended these formulas.

There is therefore need of another formulation of the immutable dogma of the primacy and infallibility of the successor of Peter, and this formulation must also conform to Eastern patristic tradition. But this council is, in fact, in spite of all its sincere good will, physically and psychologically a Latin council for all intents and purposes. It will be difficult for it to imagine such a tearing apart of strictly Western formulas to achieve a synthesis with an Eastern formulation. We must, however, note:

1. that this principle of different formulations of the same dogma is not only obvious but also affirmed by popes John XXIII and Paul VI.

2. that there have been precedents. We shall mention only one:

The Council of Justinian, the Second Council of Constantinople (the Fifth Ecumenical Council), gives such a different formulation of the dogma of Chalcedon (two natures), while being dogmatically identical with it, that Pope Virgilius agreed, then refused, then agreed again (under duress, but agreed nonetheless) to sign it. But others refused: e.g., northern Italy, which was in schism against Rome for 150 years, Latin Africa, which excommunicated the pope, and Ireland, which was content to make remonstrances. The West no longer identified itself with the formulations of this council.

Why, then, would a new Eastern formulation of the dogma of primacy-infallibility be impossible, even if it should surprise some Western theologians?... The overriding duty of encouraging the unity of the Church must, on the contrary, impel us to want an Eastern formulation of this dogma... This is something that can usually be done only during and after one or more Catholic-Orthodox encounters, such as Rhodes proposes.

May we suggest:

1. either affirm Vatican I soberly, and add to it, omitting certain attenuations, the notable votes of October 30;

2. or simply let all this ride until the Roman-Orthodox theological meeting requested by Rhodes, which will more easily find formulas acceptable to both parties.

Meanwhile, we are content to make a few remarks on specific points:

1) The Church of Christ, constituted in this world as a society, is said to "subsist in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops who are in communion with him, even though there exist outside its structures many elements of sanctification and truth, which, being the very gifts of the Church of Christ, impel toward catholic unity."

To say that Christ's Church on earth is identified purely and simply with the Roman Catholic Church is to affirm indirectly that the other Christian groups, whatever they may be, are not part of Christ's Church, are not Churches, and that the Roman Catholic Church is the whole Church of Christ.

The new text of the schema, in spite of some improvements in details, has not succeeded in avoiding this wholly external concept of the Church, a very humiliating concept for the other Christian Churches which are truly Churches.

To say that these Christian groups preserve only "elements of sanctification and truth" does not suffice to characterize them as Churches. Islam and Judaism also possess "elements of sanctification and truth." Now, there is an essential difference between Islam and Judaism on the one hand and the non-Catholic Christian Churches on the other, and especially the Orthodox Churches. These Churches, in a certain measure, in spite of their dogmatic or disciplinary divergences with the Catholic Church, constitute the Church of Christ. In other terms, as soon as we admit that the non-Catholic Churches are nevertheless Churches, we can no longer say that the Roman Church is the whole Church, but only that, in our opinion, within it the notion of Church, as Christ has willed it, is more faithfully realized.

We leave to the specialists of the theological commission and of the secretariat for the union of Christians the task of finding the precise formula that expresses, with reference to the one and only Church of Christ, the real relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the other Christian Churches which, at some moment of history for one reason or another, broke off communion with it. In this connection, we call to mind the words of Pope Pius XI: "The fragments of an auriferous rock are also auriferous." Without falling into a fragmentary conception of the Church, we can envisage, better than the text of the schema does, the relationship between the Roman Church and the non-Roman Churches.

Moreover, between "in eius communione" and "gubernata" we would insert a word or two like "de jure" or "de jure divino" (by divine right), because either in the past or at the present time some episcopal Churches—not governed by the pope—form part of the Church in an exceptional manner and do not merely possess "more or less numerous elements given to the Church."

We are thinking, for example, of the following:

a. The Schism of Antioch: Can anyone say that Saints Mellitus, Flavian, and John Chrysostom were "outside the Church," and that those who supported them, Basil, Gregory, etc. were schismatics? Can anyone say that John Chrysostom, who was outside the Church throughout his life in Antioch, "returned to the Church" when he became Bishop of Constantinople?

b. The "Great Western Schism" in which considerable portions of Latin Christianity were ruled by one or even two anti-popes, were all those persons in actual fact outside the Church? No one in the West thinks so.

c. We are thinking especially of the Orthodox Churches to which the Roman primatial institution by divine right was not clearly transmitted by the Fathers, and for whom the subsequent Roman definitions (notably, Vatican I) arrived after long separations "during which responsibilities were shared," as is now admitted, and under concrete conditions making the acceptance of the definition of Vatican I morally, strictly, invincibly inadmissible.

Therefore, the words that we propose—"by divine right" maintain the right and do not falsify the fact: the Church is the papal Church and it is incontestably the only one. However, in exceptional cases some Churches, not ruled in fact by the pope, are part of this Church, which is necessarily papal, by right.

Do catechumens belong to the Church more than do non-Catholic baptized Christians?

If an insertion of the type indicated is accepted in the spirit manifested by what is said in this note, it will greatly alleviate the painful impression of the Orthodox with respect to the texts dealing with papal primacy and infallibility in the same schema "De Ecclesia."

2) Number 15 should be done over, it seems to us, in a more ecumenical spirit. It seeks to clarify the relations between "the Church" and non-Catholic Christians. The title itself, "Links between the Church and non-Catholic Christians," presupposes that these non-Catholic Christians not only are not the Church, but they are not even part of the Church, since the Church has only some links with them. It is true that the text lists all these links, and they are numerous. But all this is external. There should be a vision of the Church in which non-Catholics would be seen from within, as members of one and the same Church which is in fact "disunited."

The way to achieve this would consist in seeing things from a historical point of view. Christ founded one and only one Church, which includes all those who, believing in him, are baptized in his name. Within the bosom of this Church, which remains always the same and always one, currents of division are always active, as so many currents of sin. Conflicts arise, some of which are quickly calmed; others, on the contrary, have ended up in the founding of true communities claiming autonomy. In these conflicts, responsibilities are shared. We consider those faithful fortunate to whom grace has been given to maintain their adherence to the integral teaching of Christ and of his Church, manifested by submission to their legitimate pastors in communion with the successors of Peter.

Those who, through no fault of their own, are more or less far from sound doctrine or from the necessary communion with their legitimate pastors, and who have constituted themselves into autonomous groups, have nonetheless not broken the unity of Christ's Church, which cannot, through anyone's fault, cease being one, holy, catholic and apostolic. There are schisms in the Church, but the Church remains one. The relations between the Church and these brethren separated from us are not, as No. 15 would indicate, the relations of a human society with deserters who nevertheless maintain a few links with the motherland. They are the relations of a mother with children in trouble, or, better, with brothers who have quarreled among themselves.

We Catholics firmly believe that we have remained faithful to the total thought of Christ and to the constitution that he has given to his Church. But our non-Catholic brethren, although they are separated from us by some articles of faith, or at odds with us for different reasons, in which we often bear some blame, nonetheless belong to the Church of Christ. And their relations with Christ's Church cannot be those of strangers who have "something in common" with us.

3) The expression "under one pastor," if it refers to the pope, is excessive. There are other pastors. There is "collegiality." The "One Pastor," purely and simply, is Christ.

4) The text seeks to reaffirm the declarations of Vatican I concerning the primacy and infallibility of Peter and his successors before going on to study the episcopate. But let us first of all say that in a chapter devoted to "The Hierarchical Constitution of the Church," we must not begin by speaking of the Roman prerogatives. Logically and chronologically, this must come at the end of the treatment. First of all there are the faithful, then the priests and bishops, and finally the "First Pastor" who is the link among the members of the hierarchy and who assures unity. Peter is perpetuated in his successors.

In the second place, the text should be written in such a way as to show how Vatican II, in dealing with the remainder of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, complements, clarifies, and gives equilibrium to the definitions of Vatican I on the prerogatives of the Roman primacy. Vatican II should not simply "go one step further" (in eodem incepto pergens). It should adapt, clarify the first step taken by Vatican I with respect to what could have seemed to be too unilateral, too rigid in its declarations. We must not be afraid to say so. More than one ecumenical council in the past has thus thrown a clearer light on the definitions that preceded it. We need only think of the role of Chalcedon with respect to Ephesus, and of the "Council of the Three Chapters" in relation to Chalcedon. Let us add a few words about terminology:

a. "Apostolic Primacy," at least to Eastern ears, is not the correct term to designate the "primacy of St. Peter." In fact, "apostolic," strictly speaking, is not an epithet reserved to matters relating to St. Peter. There were other Apostles like him. Likewise, "apostolic see" in universal ecumenical language must not be exclusively reserved for the Roman See, any more than the "apostolic benediction" is the exclusive privilege of the bishops of Rome.

b. Once again we ask the Fathers of the Council to use terms that Eastern tradition approves when speaking of the pope so as to facilitate dialogue with our Orthodox brethren. This is not the case, for example, with the expression "Vicar of Christ," even though Vatican I did use it. It is totally unknown in the Eastern tradition, where all the bishops are vicars of Christ. Moreover, the schema "De Ecclesia," No. 27, p.71, line 3, calls all the bishops "vicars and delegates of Christ." Within the Western tradition this designation came very late, in any case after the rupture between the East and the West. The popes are "successors of Peter," and that suffices as a basis for all their prerogatives. Christ continues to live in His Church: no one is his successor, as if he had disappeared and could no longer act effectively.

c. We wish to assert the same thing about the other expression by which the pope is designated: "visible head of the Church." The Church has only one head: Christ. All others who are called "head" are only his humble ministers and the servants of the Church. The annexation of the epithet "visible" does not solve this difficulty. The pope does not rank above Peter. Peter is an Apostle, leader of the apostolic college. Like Peter, the pope is a bishop, the head of the episcopal college. These titles suffice as a basis for all his prerogatives without any need to resort to metaphorical titles which are true only if they are accompanied by detailed explanations, and which in fact have resulted in unseemly exaggerations.

d. Saint Peter is called "the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of faith and communion." This is excessive. Strictly speaking, these words apply only to Christ. Peter and his successors are the sign of unity of faith and communion.

5) After weighing the meaning of the different formulas used in Scripture referring to Christ, Peter, and the Apostles, on whom the edifice of the Church rests, the text of the schema seems to have felt the need to make a distinction between the Apostles, on whom the Church is "founded" (condidit), Peter, on whom the Church is built (aedificavit), and Christ, who is the keystone (angulari lapide) of the whole structure. Actually, these are only metaphors, from which we draw the following conclusion, namely that the Church is founded on Christ, the Apostles, and Peter, but with different titles that the only texts cited do not sufficiently distinguish. There is no doubt that the Apostles are the foundations of the Church and that Peter plays an eminent role in this in relation to his brothers. There is no need to push the deductions any further. 6) "Nonnisi in communione cum collegii capite et membris exerceri possunt." ("They cannot exercise this power except in communion with the head and members of the college.") This affirmation needs to be modified. If a local Church can exercise its power only when united to the head and members of the universal Church, must the union be conscious for this exercise to be efficacious and legitimate? In case of "schism," is the power suspended? To speak of an "implied delegation" in such a case would be a juridical fiction. What became of the power of the Church during the great Western Schism? What is the present power of the non-Catholic Churches? This is certainly a notion that needs to be clarified.

The same is true, on pages 63 and 64, with respect to Orthodox synods. Thus the local Church has an innate vitality... to be determined and defined.

7) "Nisi simul cum Pontifice Romano"; "et numquam sine hoc capite"; "quae quidem potestas independenter a Romano Pontifice exerceri neguit." ("Except together with the Roman pontiff; and never without that head; which power cannot indeed be exercised independently of the Roman pontiff").

Certain schemas of Vatican II, notably its masterpiece "De Ecclesia in Mundo Huius Temporis" (On the Church in the World of Our Time) are concretely pastoral in tone, style, and temper; we cannot affirm the same—in spite of some efforts in that direction—about what is said concerning papal authority in "De Ecclesia." And this is a great shame. More than that: it is extremely serious from the viewpoint of Catholic-Orthodox ecumenism. Here we fall back into abstraction, acrimony... Now, there is a way of saying things differently...

Indeed, can we act as though we were forgetting what theology, history, and experience teach? They tell us:

a. That the pope remains a mortal, responsible man, with all the consequences of that basic situation. Notably, the fact that a mortal man does not and cannot have really absolute power.

b. That the pope can resign, whereas no one resigns from his baptism, or from his priesthood, or from his episcopacy. The pope, therefore, is not a "sacramentalized" personage . . . and even less is he "transfigured," "superior to the prophets."... And yet he has a function—the highest of episcopal functions but a function extrinsic to his personality in its limited substance, just like anyone else's.

c. They also say that a pope—because he is mortal and a sinner like every other man—can find himself in a definitive physical and moral incapability of exercising his function. Who is to determine this if not the college of bishops "without its head." And that is why, instead of saying: "numquam sine suo capite" (never without its head), we would prefer: "et non sine suo capite" (and not without its head). The word "non" defines the rule, but leaves room for the inevitable exception. "Inevitable" because it has not been avoided: consider the Council of Constance.

The episcopate therefore has a permanent, fundamental right and obligation with respect to the exercise of the papal function. And it is here—without scanning the whole course of history—that Saint Paul's resistance to Saint Peter at Antioch assumes its constitutional value in the matter of collegiality, and even of the personal responsibility of each bishop.

d. In addition, traditional theology declares that a pope can become a heretic. Here again, who will pass judgement if not the college of bishops, with the rights and obligations that this responsibility—latent as it may be—necessarily gives it on a permanent basis?

e. Finally, this same traditional theology (cf. Suarez and Wernz, who echoed so many doctors before them) declares that a pope can become schismatic. In other words, he can exercise such abuse of power, as Suarez indicates, giving one or two possible cases, that he, the pope, through his own fault, jeopardizes the unity of the Church to such a degree that he can be considered as having resigned. Here again, who will pass judgement?

It is therefore evident that, supreme as the papal function is dogmatically and juridically (infallibility-primacy), as indeed it is in its order, it is nonetheless not what it would be if there were no episcopal collegiality by divine right succeeding apostolic collegiality, of which and for which Peter was constituted "primate." The apostolic college is primatized in Peter, and not imperialized.

"Strengthen your brothers" means: strengthen them in a faith that is already theirs and not a faith that descends from the pope toward them, toward the Church which would not already possess this faith! This is a faith that the Church possesses in a habitual state, whereas the infallible papal or conciliar confirmation is accidental, called for by specific circumstances. "Strengthen your brothers" means: confirm them in their activities that depend on him only for his "confirmation" or "nonconfirmation" and not for their free inception and development.

Their "activities" are not all limited to strictly diocesan jurisdiction. They can envisage vaster, even universal actions. They can pursue this goal without being acts of local jurisdiction in the strict sense. The achievement of the "Fathers," of the "Church of the Fathers," is there for us to see: their great activity of direction, movement, and thought in the entire Church. In particular, this is the monumental achievement of the so-called "Eastern" Church. What does it owe historically to the Holy See in its activities, apart from an essentially dogmatic collective collaboration between East and West, in the ecumenical councils or around them, "primatized" as this collaboration may have been?

Let us add—and ecumenically this is of capital importance that this dogmatic and jurisdictional papal authority, sovereign as it may be on its own level and in its own order, is of its very nature fraternal and not paternal in relation to the bishops: "strengthen your brothers." The pope remains one of the bishops, regardless of the fact that he is truly their primate.

And this is where we must hope for a profound transformation of the papal ceremonial relating to the bishops. As it now appears, it comes not from Peter but from Constantine. It comes from the emperor of Constantinople, with everything that the feudalism of the Western Middle Ages has added. This is difficult to tolerate, and it will be tolerated less and less, because it is neither evangelical... nor constitutional.

This renewed evangelical spirit should also inspire—as a consequence—the transformation of the ceremonial of bishops.

Humility, poverty, brotherhood must pass from words to action... A rigid hierarchism (in the imperial style) kills them..., causes flights toward old sects..., creates new sects..., in which unbelief grows, and especially the newly created unbelief of Marxism.

8) Why is there hesitation to say "college of bishops"? The term "order of bishops" has been chosen in preference. In itself, we see no problem in this. But one line further, we read: "college of Apostles," and it is affirmed that the "order" of bishops has succeeded the "college" of Apostles. We must be logical. If the Apostles constituted a "college," the bishops who succeed them also constitute a "college."

9) The power to convoke an ecumenical council is reserved at the present time to the Roman pontiff, but it has not always been so in history. Nor does it follow, according to history, that the confirmation of the first seven ecumenical councils was reserved exclusively to the pope of Rome.

10) The relations of the bishops within the college. This is the most delicate of all the paragraphs of this schema, and at the same time one in which we sense the least fidelity to the notable vote of October 30, 1963. There are so many objections that one can make about it that, practically speaking, the entire paragraph needs to be rewritten.

a. The pope is said to be "the principle and visible foundation" of unity in the universal Church, just as the bishops are each "the principle and the center of unity" in their respective Churches. This is excessive. The foundation of unity is adherence to Christ, baptism which incorporates us into him. The pope is, more precisely, the link and the sign of unity, and the same holds true for each bishop in his diocese.

b. The distinction between the bishops taken individually (qua singuli) and the bishops "as members of the episcopal college and lawful successors of the Apostles" does not seem to be correct. The bishops are always successors of the Apostles, and exercise, even individually, their share of authority over the universal Church.

c. Certain lines are a pure and simple negation of the notable vote of October 30, 1963. First, when referring to the pope, the words "power" and even "jurisdiction" are used. When referring to the episcopal college, the word "solicitude" is considered adequate, even though the bishops are "bound" to have this "solicitude"... This is a far cry from the "supreme power" of the episcopal college, as it was voted on October 30, 1963. And then it is said that this "solicitude" which is required of the bishops is not an "exercise of jurisdiction," whereas for the pope the "supreme power" is a "jurisdiction." What is the origin of this distinction, unknown in the Gospel and in patristic tradition?

d. The text indicates wherein this universal "solicitude" of the episcopal college consists: promoting unity of faith and discipline, inspiring love for the Mystical Body of Christ, and especially for his suffering members, working for the propagation of the faith, and, above all, the text says, taking good care of one's own diocese... In other words, the bishops are told: "Take care of your own affairs. You have no power over the universal Church, but it is incumbent upon you to perform a few duties of moral solicitude for this Church." With this text, we can no longer see what happened to the vote of October 30. It has been cleverly emptied of its meaning. It would be better to say that during this famous session of October 30, 1963, the Council purely and simply went astray... as has been said over and over by several Fathers, who ultimately succeeded in imposing their viewpoint on the theological commission.

e. The work of preaching the Gospel to the unbelieving world is said to have been entrusted "in a special manner" to the successor of Peter. On what biblical text does this assertion rest? This great work has been entrusted to the entire apostolic college. Naturally, this will be done in conformity with the pope's directives, but it cannot be said that this task has been entrusted to him either exclusively or personally. Review the history of Christian expansion over the world.

f. With respect to the very beautiful text (which was added) on the patriarchates, there are two desiderata: Instead of "divine Providence," which is more specifically deistic than Christian, we would put something like "A Christo Jesu 'pastore et episcopo' permanenti Ecclesiae suae factum est per Spiritum Sanctum eius ut..." (It was done by Christ Jesus, the enduring ‘pastor and bishop' of His Church, through the Holy Spirit, that...).

Why, since we are dealing with patriarchates, should we avoid the name, when the "coetus episcopales" (episcopal conferences) are named? We would, therefore, put in something like: "Quaedam inter has Ecclesias, veluti matrices fidei alias peperunt Ecclesias guasi filias, quarum celebriores Romana — aliunde ‘primatialis' —Constantinopolitana, Alexandrina, Antiochena, et Hierosolymitana, patriarchales dicuntur" (Among these Churches, certain ones, like mothers of the faith, have brought forth other Churches, like daughters. Among them the more illustrious ones, those of Rome — otherwise primatial — Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, are called patriarchal).

11) The text reads: "If the pope refuses his communion, the bishops cannot occupy their posts." The sentence needs to be toned down to admit episcopacy and episcopal powers outside the Catholic Church among bishops who are not in communion with the Roman See.

12) After "Roman pontiff" add "and other bishops." It does not suffice to be in communion with the pope; it is also necessary to be in communion with the other bishops.

13) On the subject of pontifical infallibility it seems to us that the few explanations given do not sufficiently balance, by shedding new light on them, the definitions of Vatican I. This is how, in our view, the doctrine could be presented under a general title: "Infallibility of the Church, of the Episcopate, and of the pope":

Even though the Church is structured, it is nonetheless a "whole." More precisely, it is first of all a "whole" for which a structure, which is internal, is prescribed.

Thus, it is the whole Church that is infallible, both pastors and faithful. It is indeed in its entirety the "Body of Christ," who is the Word, the thought of the Father, and it is quickened by the Spirit of Truth. The faith of the Church—the faith of the total Church—is necessarily infallible.

However, the authorized formulation of this faith is the responsibility of the pastors, the bishops. It belongs to their collegial function to declare the faith with definitive authority. But it is the faith of the Church that they proclaim, and not their own exclusive faith, separated from the clerics and the faithful who are the Church together with them. This collegial declaration of the episcopate has value "of itself" and not by a subsequent canonically colored approbation of the priests, clerics, and the faithful. A useless approbation: all of them are ontologically one with their pastors within the Body of Christ. And these latter proclaim the faith of the baptized pleroma, giving it an appropriate formulation. It goes without saying that the episcopal body must, for the validity of its dogmatic decision, have spoken with true, primatially "recapitulated" collegiality and not under outside pressure, as was the case, for example, during the Arian crisis.

And yet the apostolic college has a "primate," Peter, who continues to live in his successor. He too, if he speaks under the requisite conditions of manifest information, freedom, and presidency, in his capacity as primate of the apostolic episcopate, and, committing his full authority to it, formulates an indisputable affirmation "ex sese." Just as the college of bishops did not need the canonical consent of the clerics and faithful to formulate their real faith in all clarity, drawing them out of the labyrinth of actual or possible controversies, neither does the pope need the canonical consent of the bishops and the faithful to be infallible. He is united as one with them. He proclaims—in the exercise of his office—their faith and his own. His formulation cannot contradict what the Church—the bishops and the faithful—has believed and believes as a whole, even if only very implicitly until then. If there is an apparent opposition, a more thorough study will show either that there has not been a dogmatic definition (Liberius, Honorius, Boniface VIII), or that the truth thus defined—while remaining true needs to be complemented.

What is the difference then between an infallible papal formulation and an infallible conciliar formulation? The difference is that of a solo without any false note—the voice of itself being more or less beautiful—and a chorale without any dissonance, and yet more or less powerful. Other soloists, succeeding the present one in his function, other choirs will be able to take up the same themes and reveal still greater artistry, richness, and truth. And that is how the councils and the popes irrevocable as their definitions may be—complement one another. The new definitions do not change the old ones, but rather shed a light on them that can be very new. This has been seen in the past—in Christology, for example—and it can very well be seen in the future.

The fact remains that the bishops are the successors of the Apostles and possess in common, collegially—of necessity under a president—the duty of preserving and proclaiming the faith. Consequently, deep-seated customs emanating from the structure of the Church, which has not become "imperialized" but rather "primatized," and likewise rational thinking, the spirit of the Gospel, and even plain common sense, as well as the most elementary prudence demand that papal definitions not be proclaimed without the knowledge and concurrence of those in charge of pastoral teaching, in other words, the episcopate. Far more, definitions should not be declared without preparing the faithful through some preliminary inquiry or dialogue with them.

Because of all these things, the ideal, normal definition remains the conciliar definition: "Strengthen your brothers." This has been proven true in the life of the Church, in the Church's history. The rare papal definitions have all been preceded by an ecumenical episcopal consultation or by a previous majority approbation of the truth to be defined, even if not always of its advisability. It remains the right of the historians and pastors—and indeed of the theologians—to pass judgment on the advisability of papal—or even conciliar definitions.

The definition of papal infallibility by Vatican I confirms what has just been said. In this definition, the infallibility of the Church is declared to be the "principal analogue" to which the infallibility of the pope is referred.

  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.  
 
Passage to Heaven: An Appreciation of the Divine Liturgy excerpted from Eyes of the Gospel by Archbishop Joseph M. Raya

Foreword

The Epistle to the Hebrews presents an expansive vista depicting the history of our salvation: the manifestations of God to the Old Testament prophets, the incarnation of Christ and His all-sufficient self-offering. It concludes this anamnesis of God's faithful love to us with the following injunction:

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another ..." (Hebrews 10:25)

Our response to God's fidelity, then, is to be faithful to Him by being steadfast in our belief and to be faithful to one another by supporting each another in the Christian life. And this faithfulness to God and to one another is described as centered in the regular "meeting together" or synaxis of the Christian community: what we call the Divine Liturgy.

In looking for a way to express our call to be faithful to God and one another through the Divine Liturgy, we turned to one of our hierarchs, Archbishop Joseph Raya, who through his translations of the liturgical texts has placed his stamp on so many Byzantine churches in the English-speaking world. In The Eyes of the Gospel, published almost twenty years ago, Archbishop Joseph had woven a number of reflections on various of the prayers and movements of the Divine Liturgy. Archbishop Joseph has graciously allowed us to rearrange and reproduce his meditations in a new format. We trust that, in breaking the bread of his thought, as we do the Eucharistic bread, we have not rent it asunder.

To highlight the connection of the Church's Liturgy with models of Biblical prayer, we have interspersed within this book a number of Scriptural texts to which the Liturgy refers or which it echoes. To emphasize the continuity of our Liturgy today with that of the Eastern Churches over the centuries, we have also included passages from some historic commentaries on or references to the Liturgy, for our celebration each Sunday resonates with the worship of thousands of years.

We hope that this work will serve more than one purpose: first of all it can provide those of us who regularly attend the Liturgy with a new appreciation of the mystery we celebrate. But if we are truly committed to be faithful to one another, this reflection can also be a means of encouraging one another: an avenue for us to lead others to participate in the Liturgy themselves.

This monograph was originally published in connection with the 1991 convention of the Melkite Greek Catholic Diocese of Newton.

Introduction

Justin, one of the first apologists of the Christian faith, himself born shortly after the Apostles, gives an account of his faith and of the practice of the Christians of his time. He describes in detail the celebration of the Eucharist as it was conducted, and claims that these details are what the Lord Himself ordered His disciples to follow.

The account of the Liturgy described by Justin witnesses to the details of the Sacred Supper of the Lord and harmonizes with the details of the Breaking of the Bread by the Apostles. It is this same Liturgy of the first Christians that Clement of Rome describes and which the Church kept faithfully and transmitted in all its integrity. It is from this Liturgy that the Byzantine Liturgy derives and has its origin.

The ancients called this gathering of the faithful synaxis, a convention: a community that looks to eternity. Worshipping together in community, the faithful experience more readily both their unity in Christ and the power of the Spirit. They learn how to open and abandon themselves to the revelation of God, to experience Him, and thus be able to witness to their religious experience.

All the celebrations of the mysteries of heaven take on a special quality of joy and beauty in which one longs to participate. No one is merely a spectator or a pupil: every one is engaged in an action. Everyone is in readiness, calling on and waiting for the coming of tile Lord, who is coming, yet always present. They gather to receive the saving power of God and to rejoice in His goodness and glory

In these public functions there is constant motion and personal participation. Every act, gesture and movement of the body has its meaning. People sway with their bodies, move their hands, raise and lower their eyes, bow their heads. Their voices rise and fall in heartfelt supplication. Every person performing a bodily gesture in the celebration points to a spiritual reality and acclaims it.

People in prayer see the saints around them, wrapped in their icons with a mantle of eternity; candles flickering in a thousand hues of light; incense whirling in a warm atmosphere; music swelling from every corner of the assembled congregation; vestments of multicolors and designs which sway and shine. The deacons move around between the people and the celebrant. In the middle of the sanctuary stands the Bishop, image of Christ, presiding over the celebration.

The priests do not stay at the altar. They and their retinue of assistants come out of the sanctuary and walk in the midst of the congregation: first, perhaps, to incense, then to carry the Gospel book, finally to transfer the oblations or to receive them in a solemn procession, where angels mingle with us to carry the King of all and welcome His coming among them. They go around the church to sprinkle the people with perfume, to shower the congregation now with flowers, now with a smile, and yet another time with encouragement and a blessing.

It is not possible to understand Eastern Christianity by only reading or talking about it. It is necessary to experience its life, its actuality, by being present at its celebrations. The organic and completely self-evident center of Eastern Christianity is in its celebrations. "Come and see!"

The Holy Place

"I shall enter into Your dwelling place;
before Your holy temple I shall bow in fear of You."
(Psalm 5:7)

The sanctuary and the altar have been, throughout the spiritual development of the Church, gradually hidden and separated not by an ecclesiastical, bureaucratic mandate but by the Christian sense of the sacred, by a real sense of the awesomeness of the mystery of God. St. John Chrysostom and all the Fathers constantly call the altar the "terrifying table", and the mystery of the altar "terrifying mysteries," "the terrifying sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ to which we have to approach with fear and trembling." This is sacred terror and not fear of the unknown. It is a mystic trembling in the presence of heaven: "Take off your shoes," said God, "for the place where you stand is holy" (cf Exodus 3:5).

The more secularized we become, the more our vision of the sacred and the holy becomes blurry, and even blinded. The closing of doors and curtains is not setting apart the clergy as if in a special class, shutting off the People of God from participation. It is rather a forceful revelation that there is a mystery, and that we cannot see or experience this mystery by physical contact. No human eyes or physical sight can penetrate or comprehend it. Only love and the surge of the soul on the wings of faith can meet the Lord and God of all.

'The sticharion of the priest is fashioned after the robe of Aaron, the one going all the way down to his feet (Exodus 28:33).

'Moreover it has the appearance of fire, according to the Prophet who says: 'He makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flames of fire '" (Psalm 103:4; Hebrews 1:7), St. Germanos of Constantinople, Historia Ecclesiastica, 14 (C. 725 AD)

The Preparation of the Gifts

In the ancient Church only the baptized, the initiated and those instructed in the faith were allowed to bring their offerings to the altar. Bread and wine symbolize and represent those who are united to Christ and made one with Him in baptism. As the many grains of wheat and the many grapes have to be crushed to become a new form of life-giving element which is bread and wine, so also the baptized are grafted onto Christ and voluntarily surrendered and given to Him to be one with Him. With Christ who is our Bread we become new life, life divine.

From the material offerings of bread and wine of the faithful, the deacons and, later in history, the priests selected what was necessary for the sacrifice and used the rest for their subsistence or the subsistence of the poor. The simple ceremony of offering, receiving, selecting and distributing the bread and wine, which is the human part of the covenant, was made at a special place called prothesis or proskomedia (table of oblation). This ceremony became more elaborate later and developed into a short story and a condensed drama of the whole eucharistic sacrifice.

Among all the loaves offered there is one called prosphora, representing Christ and stamped with a seal bearing His name: "Jesus Christ the Victor," IC XC NIKA. When this seal is cut it is called "the Lamb", the Lamb of God who represents here all humanity.

The priest lifts up the prosphora and signs it three times with the lance that pierced the side of the Lord on Calvary. He cuts the seal marked with Christ's name, saying: "As a sheep He was led to the slaughter. And as a spotless lamb before the shearers, He did not open his mouth. In His lowliness His judgement was taken away. And who shall describe His generation?"

The priest, thrusting the lance into the right side of the bread, lifts out the lamb, saying: "For His life was taken away from the earth." He turns it face down and pierces it on the side stamped "Jesus," saying: "One of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance."

Wine is then poured into the chalice with some drops of water. The memory of Calvary becomes alive again, and the priest declares, "...and at once there came forth blood and water and he who saw it bore witness, and his witness is true."

Another special piece is cut "in honor and memory of our most highly blessed and glorious Lady the Mother of God" and is placed at the right of the Lamb, for indeed, "at Your right stood the queen in an embroidered mantle of gold." Angels, prophets and saints, people living and people dead are also represented and arranged in rows around the Lamb on His throne.

The priest puts a star on the oblation and declares that a "Star came and stood where the Child was." He declares the faith of the assembly in the Incarnation of the Son of God and in His appearance in human flesh. Here is Bethlehem!

Even the covering of the oblation becomes an occasion for the glorification of God and for our identification with Him: "The Lord is king, He has clothed Himself with splendor; the Lord has put on might and has girded Himself! Your glory, O Christ, has covered the heavens, and the earth is full of Your praise."

"We offer You incense, Christ our God, for an odor of spiritual fragrance: receive if on Your altar in heaven, and send down on us in return the grace of Your all-holy Spirit. " (Service of the Prothesis)

Through this ceremony we see the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God on the altar of heaven reproduced in the here and now. It is already a vision, a Theophany of God. The physical elements of bread and wine are filled with the Invisible. Our faith, love and prayer meet the Lord, who is present and ready for His mission of salvation by which He seals His covenant with God and with His people:

"That our God who loves mankind, having received them on His holy altar in heaven as a fragrance, may send down upon us in return His divine grace and the Holy Spirit as His gift..." (Divine Liturgy).

The "Sacrifice" is already present. We already call the elements of the Divine Liturgy of Christ "sacrifice of Christ," "our sacrifice," "sacrifice of the people." Christ was alone in His suffering and offering on the cross. Now the people of God are present on Calvary and they have the occasion to ratify and accept the sacrifice as their own. The point is that we become co-offerers with Christ by our obedient self-giving; we offer to God the totality of our lives, of ourselves, and of the world in which we live. The sacrifice of Christ has been offered and accepted. Now we make it our own and we call it a "sacrifice of praise," because in it we recognize already the goodness and generosity of God.

The Enarxis or Rite of Assembly

"Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit "

Every prayer, as every act of the Christian, is ordained ultimately, not only to his own fulfillment in the "vision of God" in heaven, but also to the transformation and consummation of all things in Christ. In Christ all that is, is full of possibilities for beauty, truth, community and justice. And the Christian is vowed to draw out all these possibilities into the realities of this world. All of reality invites him to respond to goodness with goodness of his own. The swayings and sounds and whispers of nature and of man are a continual prayer that brings God to man. The Christian hears within his soul these cries and sighs and longing, and he brings them in an upward movement of praise and glory to God.

This vision of the praying Christian is most explicitly clarified in the Litany of Peace, which opens all Byzantine public prayers and some Western liturgies also. In this litany the Christian gathers within himself the public servants: authorities both religious and civil; cities, country places and all those who live in them, the travelers by sea, land and air; the sick and those who suffer and those forgotten brothers who are in prisons. The Christian lives deeply in touch with all the troubles of the world and feels the pain of human life intensely. He brings all the earth and whatever it contains to God for His mercy, and dedicates himself for its healing and welfare.

When Christ ascended the cross, He succeeded in spreading over the whole world more of Himself, more of love and salvation than there will ever be of death, hatred, self-centeredness and sin. The mercy of God is the life-giving perpetuation of the divine energy of the Redeemer's love, an outpouring of love and goodness that sanctifies and divinizes. The mercy of God is not a condescension, a paternalism on the part of God, a "crumb that falls form the Master's table." The mercy of God is God Himself in His transforming presence. It is He, the Bread broken for all, generously given and completely surrendered. The cry of "Lord, have mercy," therefore, invokes the divine presence on the whole of creation, upon mankind and matter, upon the whole world thought of as gathered in the one embrace of Christ.

Many are the needs. Many, therefore, are the cries for mercy. The rhythm of the intentions and the repetition of the "Lord, have mercy" is the manifestation of the all-embracing concern of Christ and of the Christian's heart. It teaches the individual and the community their true relation with the world and with all mankind as it makes them go beyond themselves to embrace the whole world, all mankind and every circumstance, and carry them in their prayer and in their daily life.

This litany of intentions is the vibrant acclamation of the Christian that everything and everyone belongs to God's kingdom, where saint and sinner, believer and unbeliever are at home, and where all share in the peace of God. It proclaims the universality of the embrace of Christ which the Christian makes his own. The praying Christian realizes here that he is the brother of all and responsible for all. This is the kingdom of God!

"The antiphons of the Liturgy are the prophets' predictions which foretold the coming of the Son of God... that is, they reveal His incarnation which we proclaim again, having embraced knowledge of it through those who have become servants, eyewitnesses and attendants of the Word." St. Germanos of Constantinople, Historia Ecclesiastica, 23 (c 725 AD)

In the antiphons Christians witness to the goodness of the Lord and shout their own hopes and joys at the sight of Christ's action of salvation. Historically speaking, the antiphons were popular demonstrations and processions through the streets and winding roads of a given locality, from church to church, leading to the main Church where the celebration had to take place. These processions were meant to gather on their way the "good and the sinners, inviting every one, believer and unbeliever, to the wedding-feast of the King" (Matt 22:8).

The word antiphon means a refrain to a reading or to a rhetorical declamation often repeated during the course of a procession. Antiphons are devised to provoke in people enthusiasm, and joy, and to help them see the goodness of God who hears the immense desire of humanity. Humanity sighs and longs for the coming of the Savior, and God bends toward the earth, sending His Son to be incarnate. Salvation is then seen as present and already working among us. These street demonstrations, as they are worked out in the antiphons, end in a peaceful and nerve-relaxing hymn which sings the presence of the Son among men:

Only-begotten Son and Word of God, immortal as You are!
You condescended for our salvation
to take flesh of the holy Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary,
and without undergoing change, You became man.
You were crucified, O Christ God,
and crushed Death by Your death.
You are One of the Holy Trinity,
equal in glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit:
save us.

Once we have seen that the promises of God and the expectations of His people have been fulfilled, we understand that the wedding-feast is open to all and in full progress. An excited air runs through the congregation: the Bridegroom is now coming! We prepare to receive Him.

The ministers form a great procession with lighted candles, covered with a cloud of incense. The bejeweled Holy Gospel book, which is the symbol and sign of Jesus Christ Himself, is carried high on the head of the celebrant or the deacon.

" here the gospeller, as he holds the golden Gospel, passes along; and the surging crowd strives to touch the sacred book with their lips and hands,while moving waves of people break around." (Paul the Silentiary, c. 550 AD)

The whole assembly rises to honor the coming of the Lord, using singing, imagination and all the human emotions. Everyone bows profoundly at the passage of Christ, adoring Him really present in His book of life. By bowing and by many signs of the cross, everyone proclaims his or her readiness to hear his voice and heed the lessons of His love. The Gospel Book is thus brought with solemnity and majesty into the midst of the congregation and finally to the sanctuary.

" the priest, standing in front of the altar, raises the Gospel Book and shows it to the people, thus symbolizing the manifestation of the Lord, when He began to appear to the multitudes. For the Gospel represents Christ in the same way that the books of the Old Testament are called the Prophets ( They have Moses and the Prophets,' Lk 16:29

) " Nicholas Cabasilas, Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 20 (c.1350 AD)

The Service of the Word

After the entrance of the Gospel Book and its enthronement on the altar, the throne of God as it were, the people go on with their merry celebration of the saints or of an event in the life of Christ, remembering again a phase of the deeds and goodness of God. Christians assemble to celebrate the saints also. Heroes and benefactors of humanity, the saints have surrendered themselves to God and to their brothers and sisters. They become pure transparencies for God's action, and thus they are to us extended radiances of the incarnation.

"After He who was foretold had appeared and made Himself manifest, no one could pay attention to the words of the Prophets. Therefore after the showing of the Gospels, the prophetic texts cease and we sing something from the New Testament: we praise the all-holy Theotokos or the other saints, and we glorify Christ Himself for coming to dwell among us." Nicholas Cabasilas, Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 20

Christians are the associates of angels in their service before God. We enter into this association when we proclaim with them the holiness of the divine Trinity. At this point in the Liturgy indeed, at the beginning of every prayer we affirm this association as we chant the Trisagion:

"Holy is God:" the Father, who is origin, source and point of return of all creation;

"Holy the Mighty One:" the Son. He is mighty because He conquered evil and death and wrought salvation and resurrection. "He is mighty, because through Him the Father was revealed to us and the Holy Spirit came to this world" (vespers of Pentecost).

"Holy the Immortal One:" the Holy Spirit, who is life and life-giving, whom nothing no evil, no sin, no amount of gravity of sin can ever kill or wipe out from the soul of the Christian.

"The Fathers originally received from the angels the Holy, holy, holy' and from David the remainder, where he glorified God in Trinity, saying, My soul thirsted for God, the mighty One, the living One' (Ps 41:3), and rightly and most appropriately composed the Trisagion Hymn. As a mark of petition they added again from David the have mercy on us'." St Simeon of Thessalonike, Treatise on Prayer 24 (c. 1425 AD)

The assembly that reads the Word of God is the human race in miniature. In fact, such an assembly represents the whole human race. When it reads the Word of God and recalls His deeds of the past, it proclaims also His present action and care.

"Before the Gospel, the deacon comes with the censer in his hand to fill the church with sweet fragrance for the reception of the Lord, reminding us by this censing of the spiritual cleansing of our souls with which we should attend to the fragrant words of the Gospel." Nikolai Gogol, Meditations on the Divine Liturgy (19th Century)

... it got about that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door, and He was preaching the word to them." (Mark 2:1-2)

The whole life of Christ, all His teaching, even His smallest gestures, are aimed at saving mankind from tyrannies and changing the water of this life into the wine of the feast. The Gospel is like the charter of this freedom and dignity. The words of Christ, taken one by one or collectively are a stirring experience of life, allowing man to go into life and live it fully. Christ's voice reaches an ecstasy beyond and above any voice ever heard on earth. The tone of His voice is a bearer of that sublime message that we are on our way to another, lovelier world, tinted with unimaginable wonders, alive with ultimate music and bursting with radiance and joy. We are going to a "banquet", a "wedding" and a "kingdom". Only those who go beyond appearances, and contact the reality of persons and of things, are allowed into that kingdom. God, man, creation, Christ and His entire life are so many reasons and subjects for wonder and joy that enable us to enter into that kingdom. Each one is a poem and a miracle of beauty that makes us sing in glory, awe and joy. Each celebration designed to make our life a celebration.

The story of the life and deeds of Christ is called Gospel, good news, because it is precisely news of life. The message of the Gospel penetrates to the heart and sweeps away sin and ugliness. It is always new because it is fraught with wonder. We Christians do not read, we proclaim the Gospel. Those who are gifted musicians and singers chant its words, its texts and its message. The Ancients always insisted, with a profound sense of wisdom, on the way the voice should be modulated, the way the words of the Gospel should be pronounced, and how the whole meaning should be brought out. Whether elaborate or simple, the proclamation of the Gospel has this one function: to convey the poetry of the text and the feeling of glory and joy of being in the presence of God.

Easterners call the Gospel the second incarnation. Whereas in the first the Son of God became Son of man, in the second incarnation in the Gospel the Word of God became word of man. He became a Book! For this reason the Gospel is always bound in silver or gold or precious materials. He is always on our altars, as it were God on His throne. The Gospel is carried in procession, borne aloft on our heads, incensed and kissed with reverence and devotion.

Saint John Chrysostom says, "When emperors of this world speak, we all shout with one voice and one heart, Glory to you, lord.' But when the Lord Jesus speaks in His Gospel, our enthusiasm grows stronger and louder and we repeat it twice, Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You!'" Our enthusiasm becomes love and we repeat the cry twice, once before the proclamation of the Gospel and once when the proclamation has ended.

"After the reading of the Gospel, the deacon urges to congregation to prayer. The priest in the sanctuary prays in a low voice that the prayers of the faithful may be acceptable to God.

"And what prayer could be more fitting for all, after the Gospel, than one for those who keep the Gospel, who imitate the goodness and generosity of Christ, the shepherds of the people and those who govern the state. These, if they are faithful to the precepts of the Gospel, as the Apostle says: Achieve after Christ that which is lacking in Christ' (Col 1:24), in governing His flock as He would wish. Such, too, are the founders and heads of religious houses and churches, the teachers of virtue and all those who in any way contribute to the common good of the Church and of religion; they have a place here and are entitled to the prayers of all." Nicholas Cabasilas, Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 23

After the readings have been proclaimed and the special celebration of the day has put the Christian in the realm of God, the official and solemn transfer of the oblations to the altar takes place. A stir of anticipation runs through the whole congregation. Seized by the awareness of what is going to happen, everyone falls into a humble, yet confident, change of heart. Ministers and faithful express sorrow for their sins and the sins of the world:

Again and many times we fall down before You
and pray You in Your goodness and love for mankind to regard our supplications
and cleanse our souls and bodies from all defilement of flesh and spirit,
and grant that we may stand without guilt or condemnation before Your holy altar.
And upon these also who pray with us,
O God, bestow increase of life and faith and spiritual insight.
Give them ever to minister to You in fear and love,
to share without guilt or condemnation in Your holy mysteries
and to be made worthy of Your heavenly kingdom (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

Purification of all sins is effected. The faithful know that they are forgiven and sanctified. Now they can face their Redeemer and God, unite with Him and feel their complete oneness with Him. They realize that they "mystically represent the cherubim," consequently they "put aside all worldly care and sing the thrice holy hymn to the King of the universe who is coming escorted by all the angelic hosts."

Let all mortal flesh be silent; let us stand in fear and trembling,
having no other thought but the thought of the Lord.
For behold, the King of kings and Lord of lords is coming to be sacrificed
and to be given as food to the faithful.
He is escorted by hosts of archangels and by all the principalities and dominions.
He is indeed escorted by the many-eyed cherubim
and by the six-winged seraphim covering their faces, all chanting:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. (Liturgy of St. James)

The sign and seal of the love of God is the love of neighbor. After having obtained forgiveness from God and making our peace with Him, we now ask forgiveness from each other." "Everyone present confesses and proclaims his unity with Christ, the Lover of mankind: "I will love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my fortress, me refuge and my deliverance!"

Because of the love of the Lord who fills us with His peace and joy, we overflow with love. And because we know that Christ has forgiven us, we feel the urgent desire to forgive others and to be at peace with them. Each member of the assembly enthusiastically embraces his neighbor and gives the kiss of Christ, saying: "Christ is in our midst." And the other answers, "He is and always will be."

What a marvelous reality! Christians cannot hide or forget their all-embracing love. The Church, to be the Church of Christ, has to be first the revelation of that divine love which God poured into our hearts. Without this love, nothing is valid in the Church. The kiss of Christ is the dynamic sign wherein Christians express their love for each other before they share the one bread. Christ is our real love and life and our forgiveness. We share Him with others. Breaking the bread of Christ becomes a little vacuous without the breaking open of ourselves. It is Christ who unites us to one another and through one another to God.

"If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23 24)

"The veil, that is the aer, stands for the stone with which Joseph closed the tomb, which the guard of Pilate also sealed.

"He approaches the stone of the tomb, the angel clad in white, raising the veil and indicating by his gesture the third day resurrection " St Germanos of Constantinople, Historia Ecclesiastica 41, 42

Once the brotherly love of forgiving is secure, the whole assembly bursts into singing the glory of the Trinity, by singing the Creed. This was composed in the year 325 at Nicaea on the occasion of that Council. It fixed in human words the content of faith and its proclamation.

In reciting the Creed we plunge into life, the life of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Creator is an artist, a worker, an inventor and maker of things and producer of life. Since God is a worker-artist, all of His creation is good. The Son is a savior and a lover. "For us men and for our salvation" He lived, died, resurrected, ascended and will come back again. The Holy Spirit is life and Giver of life and eternal joy.

Christians who proclaim in the Creed their acceptance of life in God, Father-Son-Holy Spirit, enter into the realm of creation, into the Kingdom of heaven, and become ready to respond to God's excellence and love in the accomplishment of the mysteries soon to become reality on the altar. Within the reality expressed by the Creed, we find ourselves living and moving in an infinite and unmeasured Being who is Father and tenderness, who is Son and Lover, who is Spirit and Life-giver. It is the glory of the Christian to declare that all this was planned and executed by God, not for God's sake, but "for us men and for our salvation." We were redeemed, not because of our success or our mature years, but because of our troubles and perils and God's greater love for us. In this we find rebirth in death, resurrection and life eternal. We are ready to go deeper into the realities of God and become "eucharistic."

"Through Him let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God..." (Hebrews 13:15)

The offerings of bread and wine are now "lifted up" from the earthly place to the divine and holy altar of God in heaven, thereby uniting the two. In this action of lifting up, the whole creation finds its way to God who pours out on it the same love He has for His Son. Salvation is thus made present and real. The Church also becomes real. She is seen to be what she really is, "the Bride of Christ," pure and undefiled.

The anaphora or lifting-up remembers and expresses in its reality a double movement, one of descent and one of ascent. In the first movement, God descends upon man and creation to "lift them up" and make them sharers in His divine life. This movement is called "a mercy of peace". The mercy of God is the gift of God, His self-revelation and self-giving. The second movement is a movement of ascent. Man is taken up to God to offer Him praise and thanks. This movement of ascent is called "sacrifice of praise."

Thanks and praise: this is the answer of man to the gift of God, his awareness and recognition of God's goodness. The tremendous mystery of the power, condescension and infinite love of God in "descending" and "lifting up" is enacted on the altar in these two successive and dynamic movements by which creation and man are deified. This mystery will culminate in the final and decisive union of the Creator with His creature in Holy Communion.

Let us stand well!
Let us stand in awe!
Let us be attentive!

Heaven and earth listen! God is pouring Himself down upon us! We adore in a great hush. We plunge into the abyss of concentration and the rapture of a mystic vision. We shut out all noises. We collect ourselves and all our faculties to breathe praise and adore. The voices are hushed, and chanting ceases. The shortness of answers gives time to listen only. All attention is centered on the marvelous happening.

At this point the amazement of the priest seeks and strains to make others hear what he hears. He hears the remote and strange sound of angels singing: "Holy! Holy! Holy!" He sees the Holy Trinity at work, pouring down on him all the goodness and love that Infinity itself contains. He becomes a whirl of admiration and praise:

It is truly fitting and right and worthy of the immensity of Your holiness that we praise You, sing to You, bless You, adore You, give thanks to You,
glorify You who alone are truly God;...
How could anyone tell Your might and sing the praises You deserve,
or describe all Your marvels in all places and times?
... O Master of all, You are eternal invisible, beyond understanding:
beyond description the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the great God and Savior, the Object of our hope...
[Jesus Christ] is the image of Your goodness, the Seal who bears Your perfect likeness, revealing You, His Father, through Himself He is the living Word,
the true God, the Wisdom, the Life, the Sanctification, the true Light ...
By Him the Holy Spirit was made manifest, the Spirit of truth, the Gift of adoption,
the foretaste of the future inheritance, the First-fruit of eternal good, the life-giving Power, the Fountain of sanctification.
Empowered by Him, every rational and intelligent creature sings eternally to Your glory,
for all are Your servants. It is You the angels archangels, thrones, dominions praise
and glorify ... they cry one to the other with tireless voices and perpetual praise ... (Liturgy of St. Basil)

This "eucharist" or thanksgiving is the expression of life in God and the only true relationship between man and God. It is what really "makes possible" all that will follow.

The breadth of perspective of the true meaning of God's intention and of His relation to creation is present here. The Father planned from all eternity and made this world and man and placed them in space and time. The Son embodied them in His own divine person in the incarnation and saved them by His offering or sacrifice. The Holy Spirit renews this salvation and divinization by His descent at the epiclisis, just as He did by His descent at Pentecost. All these divine historical actions become actual and alive before our very eyes. The world of faith takes shape, and the eternal mystery of God becomes reality in time.

Once again Christians share in the life of angels and declare that we are sharing in their function and playing their role. We recognize that we are not only associates of angels, but much more: we take their place on earth as ministers before the altar:

"We thank You for this liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands,
even though there stand before You
thousands of angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim,
six-winged and many-eyed singing, proclaiming,
shouting the hymn of victory and saying:
Holy! Holy! Holy Lord of hosts!
Heaven and earth are filled with Your glory.
Hosanna in the highest!"

As we surge on the wings of our dignity, we join in the vision of Isaiah to sing the hymn of heaven, "Holy! Holy! Holy!" The world to come is already here present in the "Fullness of Your glory." Christians reach the apex of their glory when they go beyond the horizon of the prophets and visionaries to look at the Trinity and melt into the divine Persons with an ineffable movement of joy. We address ourselves first to the Father:

"Holy are You and all-holy
You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit.
Holy are You and all-holy and magnificent is Your glory!
You so loved Your world as to give it Your Son,
that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. "
(Liturgy of St John Chrysostom)

Then we recall the memory of the Son:

"When He had come and fulfilled all that was appointed Him to do for our sake,
on the night He was delivered up or rather, delivered Himself up for the life of the world
He took bread, and gave it to His holy disciples and apostles and said,
Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you for the remission of sins.'"
With the same simplicity and realism,
He took the cup of wine and said,
"Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood of the new testament,
which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins."

After having heard the voice of the Lord declaring the bread to be His body and the wine to be His blood, the Christian never asks "how." It is simply the body and blood, the real and total Christ, just as when He walked around the lake and as He is now in His resurrection. The Christian has the mystical knowledge and a paradoxical grasp of the inconceivable. In an intuitive, primordial and simple approach, he knows beyond the process of the intellect. The Fathers say that the Christian "hopes for what exists already" and remembers what is to come in the immediate, because he drinks at the Source of the living water.

"Remembering, therefore, this precept of salvation
[ Do this in anamnesis remembrance of me."]
and everything that was done for our sake:
the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day,
the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand [of the Father],
the second and glorious coming again, "

This is the anamnesis, the memorial, which makes present and manifest here and now the divine events of the life of Christ. The Christian remembrance or memorial is not simply a recalling to mind of an event which existed once upon a time. Recalling the mysteries or events of the life of Christ who is risen, alive, always present, always active, makes them present with the same effectiveness and strength as when they were enacted by Christ. The ministers around the altar and the assembly of the baptized are now all wrapped in adoration. The deacon crosses his hands, the right stretching over the left to take up the diskos which lays on the left, the left hand stretching under the right to take up the chalice which is at the right.

He elevates both in gesture towards the east, then towards the west, the north and the south, thus planting Christ in the four corners of the universe, or rather gathering the universe in these four movements to offer it in Christ and with Christ to the Father, as the priest says:

"We offer You Your own from what is Your own,
in all and for the sake of all."

What a simplicity in the grandeur and nobility of this gesture! The whole history of salvation, the whole revelation of God's love, the whole meaning of Christianity is here made manifest. The whole value and the very meaning of life is given to the Father. The Father recognizes the whole creation in His Son and pours upon the whole universe the same love He has for His Son. "In this offering," says Cyril of Jerusalem, "we bring to the presence of God the Father heaven, earth, oceans, sun, moon and the entire creation " and we break out in praise and thanks:

"We praise You,
we bless You,
we give thanks to You, O our God."

Until now we have marveled at the works of God and praised Him for His deeds of salvation. The Father "out of nothing brought us into being, and when we had fallen He raised us up again " (anaphora). The Son declared matter to be His body and blood, and suffered and died and rose to make us one with Him. Now we fall on our knees, begging for the descent of the Holy Spirit: "We ask and pray and entreat: send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered."

It is another awesome and most astounding action of God for us. The Holy Spirit comes to fill us and to fill the oblations of bread and wine with His own eternal being and presence by acting personally and creatively. Bread and wine and the baptized all receive Him and are possessed by Him. The wonderful event of Pentecost is now renewed and is indeed most real! "Our God, who loves mankind, having received these gifts on His holy altar, sends down upon us His divine grace and the Holy Spirit "

Now, anyone partaking of this Bread and Wine will receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit who is "cleansing of the soul, remission of sins." The body and blood of Christ will also confer the "communion," the fellowship of oneness with the Holy Spirit Himself, who becomes also "Fullness of the kingdom of heaven, intimate confidence of the Father," who sees only His Son present and who will not judge juridically or condemn, but save.

The Spirit of God "becomes closer to me than my own breath" (Gregory of Nazianzus) and "more intimate than my own intimacy" (Augustine). By this descent of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, anyone eating the body or drinking the blood of Christ receives the divine uncreated energies in all their majesty and holiness. Sins are forgiven and life is given. The Trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit takes hold of us, divinizing us. Theosis is realized!

Ministers at the altar and all the assembly of worshippers fall down on their faces, saying: "Amen! Amen! Amen!"

"After the spiritual sacrifice, the unbloody worship, has been accomplished in this Victim that is offered in propitiation, we call on God for peace in all the Churches, for tranquility in the world, for the emperors, for the armies and the allies, for the ill and the afflicted. In brief, for all those in need of help, we all pray and offer this sacrifice.

"We then remember all those who have fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs, that through their prayers and intercession God would accept our petitions; then for our fathers who have fallen asleep in holiness, for the bishops, and, in short, for all those who have already fallen asleep. For we are convinced that our prayers, which rise up for them in the presence of the holy and venerable Victim, are most profitable to their souls." St Cyril of Jerusalem, Fifth Mystagogical Catechesis, 23:8,9 (c 375 AD)

"Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!" (Psalm 133:2)

The word "Father" on the lips of those who believe the message of Christ adds power and dignity and heightens their already sublime role in creation. The early Church found the "Our Father" a devastating and frightening prayer. No one can utter such words unless he has overcome all inner unrest, all selfishness and all provincialism. At one point of history, the words of the "Our Father" were not revealed to neophytes until they were ready to be baptized and receive the body and blood of Christ.

We are commanded to say to this Abba, "Thy kingdom come!" which means, "take over, be the only one who inspires, directs and rules my life." We say it with mixed emotions but with daring. "Kingdom of God" means justice, peace and love. It is not simply a question of personal salvation or fulfillment, but the establishment of a new order of things. Those in the kingdom give to whomever asks, treat everyone as real children of God, forgive without question, resist evil.

The kingdom is characterized, therefore, by healing, forgiveness, sharing, reconciliation: all of which are acts a "family" shares and enjoys. God is a Father, Abba. The person who says the "Our Father" comprehends that he or she is united with everyone and that all are equal in the eyes of God, in whom they all find peace and salvation. They all belong to the kingdom: they are brothers and sisters.

Whoever says the "Our Father" must say it aloud, because it is "Our." "Our" is a word of the community. Every member of the community must hear it. We say it also with our arms open to the heavens, the "Shamaim": to "the everywhere." It is in the "everywhere," indeed, that the Abba resides and dwells.

"The priest takes the Bread of Life and, showing it to the people, summons those who are worthy to receive it fittingly: Holy things to the holy!' The faithful are called saints' because of the holy thing of which they partake: because of Him whose body and blood they receive.

"The priest breaks the Holy Bread, saying, Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God: broken and not dismembered, always eaten and never expended, but making holy those who receive it.'"

"Since this warm water is not only water, but shares the nature of fire, it signifies the Holy Spirit, who is sometimes represented by water, and who came down upon the apostles in the form of fire. This point in the Liturgy represents that moment in time, for the Holy Spirit came down after all things pertaining to Christ had been accomplished, In the same way, when the holy offerings have attained their ultimate perfection, this water is added." Nicholas Cabasilas, Commentary on the Liturgy, 36, 37

"Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips, will remove your transgressions and wash away your sins" (Isaiah 6:6-7).

By uniting to our human nature, Christ made our flesh a part of His divine person. When we unite to Him in the Eucharist, His divine energies penetrate to the very essence of our being and transfigure us into the light of the divinity. Theodore of Cyr wrote: "By eating the flesh of the Bridegroom and drinking His blood, we enter into the chamber of the nuptial unity."

In receiving the divine, the Christian becomes a flame of divinity. In accepting the "Gift," he reflects the radiance of divine glory, Here he finds his real self, the dignity and grandeur of His humanity, which is shot through and through with divinity.

"... each one goes up, not to the priest, but to the fiery Seraph, preparing himself with open lips to receive from the holy spoon the fiery coal of the body and blood of the Lord, who will burn away all his sins like thorns." Nikolai Gogol, Meditations on the Divine Liturgy

"We have seen the true Light,
we have received the heavenly Spirit..."

Having become one flesh, one soul and one heart with Christ, the communicant bursts into a hymn of glory and joy, the joy and glory of being and of existing. His feet are, indeed, on the ground, but his chin is uplifted and his head stretches to the highest heaven. All his senses are awake and vibrant to the presence of Christ.

"O You, who graciously give Your flesh to me as food, consuming the unworthy: consume me not, O my Creator, but rather pass through all the parts of my body, into all my joints, my heart, my soul. ... Ever shelter, guard and keep me in Your love. Chasten me, purify me and control all my passions. Adorn me, teach me and enlighten me always. Show me how to be a tabernacle of Your Holy Spirit and in no wise the dwelling place of sin.... "O my Christ and my God, make me, Your child to he a child of light: for You alone are the sanctification and the splendor of my whole being..." (Prayer of Simeon Metaphrastes)

this is life in the Holy Trinity, a perichoreisis, a dance, a playful twirl, an allegro con grazia, which whirls with the elegance of a waltz. Once the Christian has received Christ and realized the real meaning of his life, he is filled with emotion and motion and power. Even when he feels within himself a whole atmosphere of tears, he is underneath it all a smile. He has discovered the rhythm and movement about and within himself. He might be going through uncertainty, but he always emerges in a dazzling march towards the Light who is Christ. In Holy Communion he reaches an enthralling verve and a breathtaking, dramatic climax. These are really the heroic affirmations of the life force, which is in Christ and which from Christ flows into him. The finale for him is always the eyes of the Gospel illumined with all the glory and beauty of God, who is a never-ending feast and a supreme celebration.

"The priest brings out to the people the prosphoras or altar bread from which the portions were cut out and removed, and thus is retained the great and ancient pattern of the Agape or love-feast, which was observed by the Christians of primitive times. Therefore, everyone who receives a prosphora ought to take it as bread from the feast at which Christ, the Creator of the world, has Himself spoken with His people, and one ought to consume it reverently, thinking of oneself as surrounded by all men as one's dearest and most tender brothers.

"And, as was the custom in the early Church, one ought to eat the prosphora before all other foods or take it home to one's family or send it to the sick or the poor or to those who have not been able to attend the Liturgy." Nicolai Gogol, Meditations on the Divine Liturgy

  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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