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.  
May 152011
 

Mariam Baouardy

Blessed Mary of Christ Crucified

"I thirst, I thirst for Jesus alone! Happy the souls who suffer in secret, known to God alone!

How I love a soul suffering with patience, hidden with God alone!

Once you have given God something, you must never take it back."

"The Little Arab" by Doris C. Neger

Reprinted from Sophia, Volume 31, Number 1, Jan. - Feb. 2001

Who was she? And what is her relevance to all of us in the year 2001? Here is a synopsis of her short life here on earth.

Mariam Baouardy was a child of Galilee, Palestine. Her family originated in Damascus, Syria. They were Christians of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Rite, descendants of the Archeparchy of Antioch, the place where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. The Baouardy lived in the hill country of upper Galilee. Her father, Giries (George) Baouardy, came from Horfesch, Palestine; her mother, Mariam Shahine, came from Tarshiha, Palestine. Both villages were populated by Druse, Sunni Muslims, and Christians' Arabs. They were folk of very modest means. Mariam bore her husband 12 sons; none survived their infancy to the great sorrow of their parents.

Mariam, devoted to the Virgin Mary, prayed for a daughter. She prevailed upon her husband to travel to Bethlehem and there to beseech the Mother of God for a girl-child. They did so. At the Grotto of the Nativity of Jesus they poured out their request in prayer. They then returned to Galilee and their home in Ibillin. On January 5, 1846, the eve of the Epiphany, an infant daughter was born. Ten days later in the local Melkite Church she received Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. She was named after the Virgin and called, Mariam.

Two years later a baby boy was born. He was named Boulos (Paul). The tiny family had a short time together. Both mother and father died within a few days of each other. Giries' last words, while looking at a picture of Saint Joseph were: "Great Saint, here is my child. The Blessed Virgin Mary is her mother. Please look after her, be her father." A maternal aunt from Tarshiha took tiny Paul into her home; Mariam was adopted by a paternal uncle in Ibillin.

Ibillin has scenery of incomparable beauty. From the rocky peak which dominates the village, the whole of upper Galilee is viewed. The small Galilean, Mariam, would recall these sights with great nostalgia throughout her short life. To the north, the lofty mountain chain, the frontier of Lebanon could be seen. On the northeast was mighty Jebel Shaykh, the Sheikh of the Mountains as the Arabs call it, snow-capped yearlong. In the east waves of hills slope down gently downward to Lake Galilee, also named Tiberias; on the south the opulent Plain of Esdralon stretches outward till meeting Mount Carmel. Northwest beyond the sand dunes sparkles the blue Mediterranean.

Mariam dwelled in the comfortable home of her uncle receiving all proper care and attention. One incident from the time of her childhood revealed significant insight into her forming character. It clearly indicated the direction of her life to come. It took place in her uncle's orchard amidst the apricot, peach and pecan trees. She kept a small cage filled with small birds, a gift given to her. One day she desired to give them a bath. Her child-like well-intentioned efforts caused their death from drowning. Their death broke her small heart. Grief-stricken she began to bury them when deep inside she heard a clear voice, "This is how everything passes. If you will give me your heart, I shall always remain with you."

When Mariam was eight years old her uncle left Palestine with the entire family and settled in Alexandria, Egypt. She was not to see her beloved Ibillin till shortly before her death in 1878.

According to oriental custom, Mariam, then age 13, was promised in marriage. The wedding was arranged without the bride-to-be's consultation or consent. This was a common custom among Middle Eastern Christians as well as Muslims. Mariam's reaction was one of shock and deep sadness. The night before the wedding ceremony was sleepless. She was not prepared at all for the life of a married woman. She prayed earnestly that night for guidance and solace. In her heart's depths she again heard a familiar voice, "Everything passes! If you wish to give me your heart, I will remain with you." Mariam knew it was her master's voice, the one, the only spouse she would have - Jesus. The remainder of the night was spent in deep prayer before the icon of the Virgin Mother of Jesus; she then heard the words, "Mariam, I am with you; follow the inspiration I shall give you. I will help you.

Her adoptive uncle reacted with wild rage when he saw that Mariam would not marry, but would remain a virgin. He tried outburst of rage, screams, hits and slaps. Nothing would change her determination. He then resorted to treating her as a hired domestic, giving her the most difficult kitchen tasks and subjecting her to a position lower than his hired help.

Mariam sank into a deep sense of desolation and desperation. She turned to her younger brother, Boulos. She wrote a letter to her brother inviting him to come and see her in Alexandria. In her isolation from her uncle's family she turned to a Muslim domestic to have him deliver her letter to Nazareth. The young man encouraged Mariam to reveal her personal troubles. He became outraged at her uncle's treatment of her and played upon the mind and feelings of the young girl. He introduced conversion to Islam as a remedy to Mariam's problems. His words and actions focused young Mariam directly upon her Christianity. Her realization of the young man's true intentions stiffened her will. She denied his advances and loudly proclaimed her faith in the Church of Jesus. "Muslim, no, never! I am a daughter of the Catholic Apostolic Church, and I hope by the grace of God to persevere until death in my religion, which is the only true one.

Her so-called protector, furious at being rejected by this little Christian became violent. Eyes flashing with hatred he lost control and kicked her to the floor. He then drew his sword and slashed her throat. Thinking her dead he dumped her bloody body in a nearby dark alley. It was 8 September 1858. What followed was a strange and beautifully moving story, told years later by Mariam to her Mistress of Novices at Marseilles, France. "A nun dressed in blue picked me up and stitched my throat wound. This happened in a grotto somewhere. I found myself in heaven with the Blessed Virgin, the angels and the saints. They treated me with great, kindness. In their company were my parents. I saw the brilliant throne of the Most Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ in His humanity. There was no sun, no lamp, but everything was bright with light. Someone spoke to me. They said that I was a virgin, but that my book was not finished. When my wound was healed I had to leave the grotto and the Lady took me to the Church of St. Catherine served by the Franciscan Friars. I went to confess. When I left, the Lady in Blue had disappeared." Years later when in ecstasy, on September 8, 1874, the feast of our Lady's nativity, Sr. Mary said, "On this same day in 1858, I was with my Mother (Mary) and I consecrated my life to her. Someone had cut my throat and the next day Mother Mary took care of me."

Mariam never saw her uncle again. She supported herself by working as a domestic. An Arab Christian family, the Najjar, hired her to work for them. After two years she was directed by her confessor to the Sisters of St. Joseph. With several postulants from Lebanon and Palestine, she stayed with the Sisters. Soon her health declined and mystical phenomena began. It was disturbing to the congregation. They became upset over her supernatural actions and aura and would not permit her to enter the novitiate. Her Mistress of Novices, Mother Veronica, took her to the Carmelite convent of Pau where both gained admission. Mariam entered Carmel at age 21 as a lay sister. After two months she entered the cloister to begin her novitiate. She took the name of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified.

Little Mariam Baouardy, now known as Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, was professed on 21 November 1871 as a Carmelite Religious. Prior to that action she was subjected to severe supernatural adversities. One of the most terrible was diabolic possession for a period of 40 days. She persevered in her simple child-like faith in God the Son and His Holy Mother Mary. Her rewards were those reserved for the most privileged of humans. She was fixed with the stigmata of her crucified Savior, experienced levitations, transverberations of the heart, knowledge of hearts, prophecies, possession by the Good Angel, and facial radiance. Again and again she would say, "Everything passes here on earth. What are we? Nothing but dust, nothingness, and God is so great, so beautiful, so lovable and He is not loved."

Sister Mariam of Jesus Crucified had an intense devotion to the Holy Spirit, Possessor of the Truth without error or division. Through the Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Sayour, she sent a message to Pope Pius IX that the Church, even in seminaries, is neglecting true devotion to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Her prayer to that great Unknown was: "Holy Spirit, inspire me. Love of God consume me. Along the true road, lead me. Mary, my good mother, look down upon me. With Jesus, bless me. From all evil, all illusion, all danger, preserve me." This simple prayer has gone around the world.

Sister Mariam was instrumental in the founding of a missionary Carmel in Mangalore, India, in 1871, and in Bethlehem of Palestine. Also she was the inspiration for the establishment of the Congregation of the Betharram Priests of the Sacred Heart.

On 5 January 1878, Sister Mariam entered her 33rd year of life. One day in August she fell while working in the convent injuring herself severely. Gangrene set in quickly and spread the infection to her respiratory tract. She never recovered from this trauma. On 26 August 1878, she suffered a life-threatening suffocation attack. She died soon after murmuring, "My Jesus, mercy." It was ten minutes past five in the morning.

Her tomb is engraved with this inscription:

"Here in the peace of the Lord reposes Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, professed religious of the white veil. A soul of singular graces, she was conspicuous for her humility, her obedience and her charity. Jesus, the sole love of her heart called her to Himself in the 33rd year of her age and the 12th year of her religious life at Bethlehem, 26 August 1878."

She is still known today as "Al Qiddisa" (The holy one) in Ibillin, Palestine. On 13 November 1983, Pope John Paul II beatified her in solemn ceremony at Vatican City. She is scheduled for formal canonization this year placing her among the Saints in formal proclamation.

The "Little Arab", a living lesson of the virtues of humility and the love of God, His son Jesus and His Mother Mary, is a special inspiration to those who pursue the Truth as present in the Holy Spirit of God . . . And she was one of us, a Melkite Catholic and a Carmelite.

PS. In his preface Reverend Amedee Brunot, SCJ, the author of the book "Mariam The Little Arab" writes: how can we fail to see that this child of Galilee and of the Eastern Church has a special message for those of her face and her rite? Accordingly how could anyone have ever maintained that the sap of sanctity no longer flows in the veins of the Churches of the East, that this land of anchorites and cenobites, of lauras and monasteries no longer produces flowers and fruits of grace? The Lebanese Charbel Makhlouf and the Galilean Mariam Baouardy are the indisputable answer to these pessimistic judgments. The divine power has always been pleased in these biblical lands to effect at times national resurrections, at other times individual prodigies; once more it is assuring to these peoples a subject of noble pride and a motive of hope.

What is more astonishing than the trajectory of a saint? What a greater message of hope could there be today in the troubled Near East than to tell the Palestinians: here is a young girl of your race, your language and of one of your most honored rites?"

(Doris C. Neger, OCDS, writes from Mineola, NY)
  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 Mystery of the Church

The Unilateral Aspect of Roman Ecclesiology

On December 5, 1962, in the course of the 34th General Session, the patriarch charged that the first schema "On the Church" was unilateral in presenting the truth. He showed, for example, how much harm the exclusive and excessive affirmation of the Roman primacy does to the Church. Such a primacy does not fit into the general framework of the hierarchy, which is essentially a ministry of love.

To discuss a draft of a text, in order to supply amendments, or even to demand its complete recasting, should not be considered as an act of hostility, and even less a deviation from sound doctrine. It is rather a proof of the interest which one brings to that text and the importance that one attaches to it.

This schema "De Ecclesia" is the doctrinal centerpiece, by far the most important document of the entire Council. In fact, our task is to complete the teaching of the First Vatican Council relative to the whole of the Church, and more particularly, concerning the episcopate, so that the primacy and the infallibility of the Roman pontiff may be apparent in the general framework of the hierarchical ministry and of the infallibility of the universal Church.

In that perspective, may I be permitted to note what, in the first chapter, does not appear to me to correspond to sound ecumenical theology.

In a general manner, I would say that this chapter does not contain errors, but it does not tell the whole truth. It is incomplete, and, being incomplete, it falsifies the perspective of the very truths that it sets forth.

Here are some examples:

1) The comparison of the Church with "an army set in battle array" (confertum agmen) is not a very happy one. This "triumphalism," as has been already stressed in this venerable assembly, has no foundation in the Gospel. It risks falsifying the conception of the Church which—as Body of Christ, who suffered and rose from the dead—is called to consummate with its Leader, in faith and suffering, the redemption of mankind, and with it the entire creation.

2) Number 5 sees the foundation of the diversity of the members of the Body of Christ only in the command of some and the submission of others. That is partially true, but it is not the whole truth. In fact, between the ecclesiastics and the laity there are many other relations than those of chiefs and subjects. This purely juridical character of the Church falsifies the true idea of the Church of Christ . Through the insistence that one places on it and the exclusiveness which surrounds it, it becomes a concept that is foreign to the thinking of Christ. Here is a typical instance of stifling legalism: since, according to the authors of the schema, jurisdiction is the basis for all powers in the Church, and as titular bishops do not, of the very nature, have jurisdiction, the schema does not even mention them in its chapter on the episcopacy, as if titular bishops, who are indeed successors of the Apostles and members of the episcopal body, did not exist. We find here oversights or very significant reticence.

3) However, the unilateral and consequently incomplete aspect of our schema appears above all when it speaks of the primacy of Peter and his successors. Beyond the unhealthy insistence on recalling this truth, as if all Christianity were contained in this dogma, the text isolates the Roman pontiff from the rest of the hierarchy, as if in the Church there were only the pope, to represent Christ, and the flock subject to him. That is also a false conception and a false presentation of the Church of Christ . Once again what is said positively here is true, but it is equally not the whole truth, for our Lord established the Apostles and their successors to be shepherds of the Church also, in union with Peter and under his leadership, and He likewise built the Church on the Apostles and the prophets. Saint Paul clearly teaches us, saying, "You have been built on the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets, and the cornerstone is Christ" (Ephesians 2:19-20). And St. John says in the Apocalypse, "He showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God... The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb" (Revelation 21:10,14).

I do not wish to push my deductions any further. I have simply wished to give examples of this unilateral character, I would say this partiality, with which a certain school deals with theological problems, going so far as to disfigure them, indeed to accuse ecumenism of wishing to weaken the truth and to seek compromises in the faith. Nobody wishes such compromises, neither the Catholic ecumenists nor our Orthodox or Protestant brethren. What we ask, and what they ask, is that the whole truth be spoken, and not a part of the truth, and that it be spoken accurately.

Venerable Fathers, the primacy of Peter and his successors is truly comprehensible only in the perspective of the ministry of the hierarchy. The primacy is not an human "imperium" or a likeness to the rule of the Caesars, but a ministry, a pastorate of love given by the Lord to the Church, His spouse, in order to unify and guide the efforts of all His Apostles and their successors. It was not in vain that Christ, before entrusting this ministry to Peter, asked him three times, "Peter, do you love me... Feed my lambs, tend my sheep." It is not in stressing the human aspects of this ministry, which are contingent and variable, that one exalts the papacy. It is not by flattering or self-interested exaggerations that one raises its prestige. Christ has tied jurisdiction to love, and confided it to Peter, a man like all human beings, and a repentant sinner.

Venerable Fathers, we confess that we were truly shocked when we read in books made available to everyone statements like the following,

"The pope is God on earth... Jesus has placed the pope above the prophets... above the forerunner..., above the angels..., Jesus has set the pope at the same level as God" (St. John Bosco, Meditazioni, Vol. I, Ed. 2a, pp. 89-90).

The papacy has no need of such intemperate language which turns into impiety, and which misleads consciences and scandalizes even the souls of non-Christians. The papacy is great enough and lofty enough in itself to captivate our minds and subjugate our hearts. It is a charism that Christ, the divine Spouse of the Church, has granted to the Church, for the benefit not only of the Church itself but also of all humanity. The duty of us all, especially of those of us who are pastors of souls, is to help the Church in carrying out its salvific mission to the world, by loving it, devoting ourselves to it, by striving with our humble means to purify it from profane dross, so that we may present it to the world in the beauty in which it was divinely constituted. The primacy of the bishop of this Church of Rome is a primacy of ministry, of universal mission, which is the first among all the others only because, according to the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, "it presides in charity," for God is Love.

The Absence of Eastern Theology

The next day, December 6, 1962, during the 35th General Session, Archbishop George Hakim of St. John of Acre and of all Galilee, repeated the charge against this schema that he had already made against the dogmatic schemas in general: Eastern theology did not recognize itself in them.

We have all come to this Council, sustained by the hope that great things would be accomplished in us and by us, in spite of our weakness and our small numbers. This hope certainly comes to us from our beloved Pope John XXIII—for whom we wish a prompt and complete recovery—who in his call "Ad Petri Cathedram," in his convocation of the Council, and above all in the opening address to the Council traced a very specific line of conduct.

The pope has certainly opened a new course of action, which corresponds to the aspirations of the world, which, St. Paul tells us, is suffering the pains of childbirth, this world that expects the Church to be its universal mother, "everyone's Church, and especially the Church of the poor," as the Holy Father said on September 11, and as His Eminence Cardinal Lercaro has reminded us in deeply stirring terms.

It is certain that the real results of this council will only be felt in ten or fifteen years. What will the world, what will the Church be like then? Whether we like it or not, a council held during the latter part of the twentieth century must be the council of the twenty-first century, at a time when humanity will have doubled, reaching six billions, at a time when hunger will also have doubled. Where will the evangelization of the world be then?

That is why we would prefer to find in the schema on the Church not the texts of our classic manuals of yesteryear, no matter how exact they may be, but rather what the world of tomorrow expects from us. We would ask that the language be that of our century, that Vatican II do for the episcopate what Vatican I did for the papacy, that, in brief, the language be that of John XXIII, that of the Gospel. It would be so comforting to speak of the Church as "Mater Amabilis," of papal primacy and episcopal power as service, as the reply to the Lord's loving question, "Peter, do you love me more than these?" Such language would be understood by all Christians, and even by non-Christians.

Now here is my comment from the Eastern point of view, and we are grateful to His Eminence Cardinal Frings for having suggested it with his characteristic firm clarity and with unequaled force. Like the schema "De Fontibus," "De Ecclesia" does not take Eastern thought into account. It is conceived solely in juridical categories, and the Mystical Body itself is reduced to visible realities alone.

Here is a simple corroborative detail: in the approximately three-hundred notes and references of this schema, which cover nearly half of the pages, only five references mention the Greek Fathers. Is not the Catholic Church interested in enriching itself with this thought, which is part of its patrimony, so as to be truly Catholic, and thus more open to ecumenical dialogue? Now, what are we declaring here? The realism of Greek theology is being atrophied by the legalism of the schema. Here are two examples:

1) First, the Church, according to the Eastern Fathers, is the continued mysterion of Christ. This mystical reality, into which one enters by an "initiation," and which is nourished by the liturgical mysteries, assumes its consistency and its authenticity in a visible society, with its powers and its magisterium. This essential visibility, however, does not encompass the mysterious substance of the ecclesial Body. Never have Chrysostom, Basil, the two Gregories, in their catechesis, or John of Damascus ― whose feast we have just celebrated and who is the author of the first theological summa, which could be advantageously consulted ― never, I say, did these Fathers reduce St. Paul's doctrine of the Mystical Body to a system in which authority on one side, and obedience on the other, would suffice to define the attitude of the faithful. Thus it is with pained surprise that we read the chapter on evangelization, which is presented only as an indisputable right, and not first of all as the proclaiming of the Good News to men of good will, as the identification of Christ with the poor, according to Jesus' own words, "I was hungry and you gave me to eat."

2) The Episcopate: According to the perfect logic of this ecclesial mystery, bishops are not defined first by their jurisdictional authority, but by the mystery itself, of which they are, by their consecration as successors of the Apostles, the architects and the strategists, to use the words of the Greek hymn of the third century.

Thus the episcopal body proceeds from Christ, and jurisdiction simply localizes, in accordance with the pontifical power, a function which in itself and collectively concerns the entire ecclesial Body.

This collective responsibility is extraordinarily exercised in the Council, but it is the normal duty of every bishop, in as much as he is, beyond his own diocese, in solidarity with the entire work of salvation that Christ has confided to the apostolic college with Peter at its head.

It is a serious matter to diminish this truth. We affirm it with the vigor of the Eastern theology, which has always expressed this truth in its doctrine and in its synodal institutions. The church is a community rooted in mystery, and it thus transcends the juridical system.

In the texts of John XXIII we would find these ideas; why not in the schema?

I suggest that this schema, like that of "De Fontibus," be sent back to a commission including experts on Eastern theology and most fortunately they are numerous among our Latin brothers themselves from whom we Easterners have acquired love and respect for our Tradition and our Fathers.

Finally, may I be permitted to say, to calm one or another Father here present, that if we appeal to the Eastern Fathers, it is not through provincial fanaticism, but rather in order to return to the apostolic wellsprings.

There is no need to say that these very sources confirm us in our fidelity to Peter and his successor, to whom we vow an obedience, of which we have the occasion, in various countries where Eastern Catholics are an infinitesimal minority, to give at times proofs with our very blood. It is with love and joy that we do this, especially those of us who live near the beautiful Lake of Galilee , where these words of our Lord still resound, "Feed my lambs, tend my sheep."

The Church and the Churches

On the same day, December 6, 1962, Metropolitan Athanasius Toutounji of Aleppo intervened in the council to make three suggestions:

1) that there be better clarification of the concept of Church and of Churches;

2) that the Roman Church should not be identified with the Mystical Body of Christ;

3) that the ecclesial character of Orthodoxy should not be called into question.

Since the intervention could not be read aloud, for lack of time, it was transmitted in writing to the secretariat of the Council.

May I be permitted to express before the holy Council three desires relating to the nature of the Church:

1) The first is that the concept of the Church and of the Churches be more clearly stated. We all know that the Church of Christ is one. It is even one of the truths of the Profession of Faith, concerning which there is unanimous accord among all Christians. And yet St. Paul himself talks sometimes about the Church, sometimes about the Churches. These expressions are found in the writings of the Fathers of the Church and in our liturgy, in which we pray every day "for the well-being of the holy Churches of God and the union of all." The sovereign pontiffs themselves call the Roman Church "Mother of all the Churches." Thus it seems to me that we must believe that this concept of the Church and of the Churches represents an enrichment of the ecclesiological doctrine that must not be lost.

If I may be permitted to express my opinion on this subject, I would say that this double use of the word indicates a twofold reality. The first is that the Church is an organic body, and not an aggregation of cells directly connected with the head. Just as in every organic body there are members, constituted diversely and functioning diversely, likewise in the one and catholic Church there are Churches which are so many members.

The second reality is that in each of the Churches the complete notion of the universal Church is found, and that in the universal Church are found the features of each of the particular Churches. In this twofold sense, the Fathers of the Church, and the Apostles before them, have given the name of Church, in the particular sense of the term, to each diocese. This is all the more true for a group of dioceses united around an archbishop or a patriarch. It is in this sense that it is very proper to speak of the Western Church, the Maronite Church, the Syrian Church, etc.

2) My second desire is that the Roman Church not be identified with the Mystical Body of Christ. As His Eminence, Cardinal Lienart has already emphasized, the Roman Church certainly is not to be identified with the Church suffering or the Church triumphant in heaven. Now, the Church militant on this earth is not the whole Church. It is above all with reference to the Church in heaven that the Church in general is to be defined. I would add that, even for this short life, the Roman Church should not be identified with the Body of Christ. One can, in fact, belong more or less intimately to the Body of Christ. If certain Christians are at odds with the Roman Catholic Church, they must not on that account be excluded from belonging to Christ.

3) Finally, I ardently implore the Fathers of the Council not to support excessively the views of a certain theological school, too imbued with legalism, and to safeguard the ecclesial character of our Orthodox brethren. These brethren do not constitute the one and only true Church of God , but they are nonetheless a Church. They possess the word of God, the sacraments, a hierarchy, and all the elements that are required for a church, in the sense that we understand it. The sovereign pontiffs have on several occasions not hesitated to recognize in them this ecclesial character. They are a Church separated from us, but they are a Church.

I humbly submit these three suggestions to your venerable assembly. They are of some importance, it seems to me, for a deeper conception of the Church and to pave the way for a union of all Christians.

The Call to Holiness in the Church

In this intervention, which was simply delivered to the secretariat of the Council, Archbishop Joseph Tawil, Patriarchal Vicar at Damascus, asked for a deepening of the call to holiness according to Holy Scripture, then stressed some aspects of holiness as Eastern theology conceives it.

It can be said of the chapter "On the vocation to holiness in the Church," that it contains many good elements, but that it lacks other essential elements. One of these good elements, and not the least, concerns Holy Scripture. It is true that a few biblical citations illustrate the assertions of this chapter, but that is not enough. We would have desired to see Holy Scripture animate the very inspiration of the subject, not only through some texts that are cited, but, more profoundly, through the idea of the divine Counsel which has been revealed to us in the Sacred Books. But this inspiration is missing. This flaw seems to be the result of a twofold cause:

1. First, to the method of developing the schema. If I am not mistaken, the absence of expert exegetes is clearly apparent in it. Why is biblical theology reduced to silence in the theological commission, to the point that such a deficiency can be seen in the wording of this schema? In contrast, the Sovereign Pontiff Paul VI expressly declared to the observers here present the necessity of biblical theology in the exposition of the mystery of the Church.

2. Then, the defect touches the very thinking of the schema, which depends almost entirely on a certain recent Latin tradition, going back only four centuries, and which, as a result, simply ignores the Eastern tradition of the Church, and which ignores even more the ancient Latin tradition. In those times the Fathers were closer to the living wellspring of the biblical tradition, and that is why they must once again become our teachers. This is very serious, as much for the "sensus fidei" of the universal Church as for ecumenism.

That is why, in the spirit of our Fathers, I propose these four observations:

1) The vocation to holiness is intrinsic to the mystery of the People of God. The People of God exists because it forms the object of the pre-existing love of God. God is Love, and through love He calls all mankind to share in His life, "in many and various ways, formerly by the prophets...in these last days by the Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2). The People of God is essentially called by the Word of God. This calling, in the course of the history of the people of God, has been revealed thus:

- The People of God is holy because, from Abraham to the present, it has been called by the Word of God and justified by faith in Him.

- It is holy because, having been saved by the blood of the Paschal Lamb, it has been freely purchased by "Yahweh the Savior," that is to say "Jesus" in the paschal mystery.

- It is holy because it receives the perfect law from the new Moses, that is to say the Holy Spirit, who writes in our hearts the law of Love.

- It is holy because the promise of Love ("I shall be your God, and you shall be my people") is consummated in a new and eternal covenant.

- It is holy because it is chosen and sent forth as a royal priesthood, as the authentic Eastern tradition constantly affirms.

- It is holy because it is continually being purified and judged in exile and does not yet arrive at the holy land except through the promise of the Holy Spirit.

- It is holy because, thanks to the ceaseless divine solicitude, it is snatched away from its sins and transferred to the true freedom of love through the about-face that consists in penance.

- It is holy because its success is not of this world, but is granted by God alone in poverty; it is a people of the poor.

- It is holy because it is eschatological, anticipating here below the eternal life which is communion (koinonia) with the Father through the Son in the Spirit.

- It is holy, finally, because its vocation is cosmic: this royal priesthood is destined to sanctify and liberate every creature.

2) That is why the Holy Fathers have described the mystery of the Church in the image of the life of the Most Holy Trinity in the communion of love. The Christian vocation is completely contained in these words: "in" the image of God-Love, since the mystery of the unity of the people of God depends essentially on the bond of love.

a. It is useful to recall here that the hierarchy and all the other ministries in the Church have meaning only in view of fostering love. Consequently, the title of paragraph 34, p. 21, line 35, cannot be "Under the authority of the Church," as if the Church were identified with the hierarchy. The hierarchy is not the whole Church.

b. This chapter could also speak at greater length about the newness of the Christian life as a participation in the life of the Most Holy Trinity, in whose name we have been baptized. It is through the Spirit, in fact, that we have already been made heirs of the promises referred to in my first observation.

3) Concerning deification: This expression "deification" was always very dear to the tradition of the Fathers, because it is an excellent explanation of the movement of the divine Counsel in which we live by the Holy Spirit. If this traditional doctrine of deification were explained more clearly, we could more easily avoid the sentimental tone of our preaching, and the faithful would have a deeper understanding of the unity and the simplicity of the "spiritual" life which is "life in the Spirit." The Spirit, in fact, is the true gift of the promises by which "we become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). But, since we are still awaiting a new heaven and a new earth, the "spiritual" life of the People of God is paschal, in a new exodus, in which "Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed" (1 Corinthians 5:7), "so that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings" (Philippians 3:10). 4) In this chapter, the word "Christians" is rightfully used in place of the word "laity." The word "laity" certainly refers to the "people of God" (laos tou Theou) and consequently includes both those who are ministers and non-ministers. However, under the influence of clericalism, the sense has been confined to those who are not ministers in the Church. And yet where holiness is concerned, we are all Christians, each one being called to the holiness corresponding to his or her particular charism. In conclusion, I propose:

1) that the preamble explain more fully and in greater depth the nature of the vocation to holiness according to the treasure of biblical theology;

2) that the mystery of the Church, here and elsewhere, be presented more as communion in love, in the image of the mystery of the most blessed Trinity;

3) that everything that refers to holiness in the Church be drawn from the traditional doctrine of deification, and that it be said explicitly that "spiritual" life is life "in the Holy Spirit";

4) that the terminology referring to the members of the Church be inspired more by the same terms in the Holy Scripture, as for example: faithful, Christians, brothers, saints, community of brothers.

Archimandrite Athanasius Hage, Superior General of the Chouerite Basilians, discussed the same subject in an intervention sent in writing to the secretariat of the Council. {Ed's. note: In fact, Father Hage's opinion is contrary to the main current of Eastern spirituality which recognizes only one form of holiness in the Church: the life in Christ. Monastics and laity may live it to different degrees of intensity, but it the same life in Christ.) Chapter IV, "On the Vocation to Holiness in the Church," offers us a doctrine founded on Scripture and Tradition, and contains some constructive elements concerning the universal calling to sanctity in general, as well as to the state of perfection in particular. It is necessary to note this beautiful dynamic development in the pursuit and acquisition of holiness by clergymen dedicated to the pastoral ministry, as well as by lay persons successfully carrying out temporal responsibilities and apostolic works, and by those who, whether living in the states of perfection or in the world, observe the evangelical counsels, so that all may collaborate in the extension of the kingdom of God. Life in the states of perfection is here very well presented under its ecclesial aspect, that is to say, as an institution whose members are dedicated to the service of the Church, either in the contemplative life or in the active life. This does away with the conception that some may have of the religious life as being individualistic and self-centered, as if religious were concerned only with their personal perfection and their own salvation. Finally, a large and distinctive place is reserved for the states of perfection in the dogmatic schema "On the Church." May the authors of the schema receive our gratitude! Nevertheless, this rich Chapter IV can be and should be amended and improved in certain respects. In fact, it is highly inappropriate, either for the religious life or for the laity, to speak of only one form of holiness in the Church that everyone must attain, and to refer to the evangelical counsels in the world and in the states of perfection in the same breath, as well as to speak of clergy, laity, and religious under the same aspect, without speaking clearly and firmly of the fundamental distinction that exists between the life of the laity and the religious life, between the holiness of lay persons and the holiness of the state of perfection, and above all without mentioning the superiority of celibate life over the conjugal life. That is why this twofold distinction must absolutely be made, and that for diverse reasons:

1. The Theological Reason
On the one hand, the distinction between the category of the laity and the category or the order of consecrated virgins is based on a constant tradition: the Fathers always and carefully distinguish three orders in the Church, that is, the hierarchical order, the order of virgins and those who live in continence, and the order of lay persons. This tradition has its origin in the words both of Christ and of the Apostles who set up the counsel of virginity, as opposed to the matrimonial life, as absolutely better (cf. Matthew 19:11 and 1 Corinthians. 7:7: "I wish that all were as I myself am; but each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind, one of another").
As for obedience and poverty, if in the Scriptures we have only a general call to cultivate the spirit of poverty and obedience, the Fathers, however, have recognized in this invitation and in the example of Christ and of the Apostles, as in the life of the first Christian community, a way of life appropriate to a special category of Christians.
On the other hand, the holiness of lay persons differs very much from the holiness of the life of religious: there is no question that, as the schema affirms, there is only one holiness in the Church, namely love; but this holiness can have specifically diverse degrees. In fact, holiness is attained in the use of earthly goods and the conjugal life according to the evangelical commandments, while in the states of perfection, sanctity is obtained, in contrast, by the renunciation of earthly goods themselves and conjugal life, by following the evangelical counsels.
2. The Psychological Reason
If this twofold distinction between lay persons and the souls consecrated to God is passed over in silence, a certain ambiguity can arise about it in the minds of the laity. Then the religious life will appear to them, not as a degree of holiness absolutely superior to conjugal life, but as something that is purely institutional and juridical in the Church. The laity, as a result, will not see sufficient reason for embracing this life.
On the other hand, if in the schema "On the Church" the religious life is clearly distinguished and emphasized, and if its superiority is praised, how great will be the life of thousands of religious spread out over the world in the service of the Church, and how great the encouragement given to them so that they may exercise more and more their apostolic zeal.
3. The Ecumenical Reason
Our Orthodox brethren consider the life of the monks as quite an eminent state in the Church, and the monks as forming an order distinct from that of the laity. Likewise, our separated Western brethren fully recognize the importance of the monastic life and are beginning to practice it well. To encourage the dialogue of union, it is very useful to reserve a place of honor in the Church for the states of perfection.
4. The Charismatic and Pastoral Reason
Religious life in the Church is a most eminent charism and constitutes an extraordinary witness of the spirit of abnegation in a world imbued with materialism and hedonism. That absolutely distinguishes the religious life and its holiness from the life of lay persons and their holiness...

Mary and the Church

The preparatory doctrinal commission had begun by preparing an independent schema entitled: "On the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Men." On June 5, 1962, the patriarch wrote to praise two intentions expressed in the text, namely: no new title for the Virgin, no new Marian dogma. But already he had been struck by the absence in the text of patristic citations, above all Eastern ones, in a domain which the Eastern Fathers have explored superabundantly. Only popes are cited.

1) We agree entirely with the care demonstrated by the theological commission in not granting to the holy Mother of God any new titles that have not been accepted by the Tradition of the Church.

2) We equally agree with the care to avoid defining new Marian dogmas, in spite of the pressure, as blind as it is well intentioned, of certain groups of devotees of the Virgin. In this matter, as in so many others, we must never lose sight of our separated brethren, above all those of the East, and avoid that which, in our efforts to honor the Virgin, deepens the chasm that separates us from them. The Virgin surely is not pleased by a homage that unnecessarily contributes to the widening of the divisions among her children.

3) We would point out, with respect to the drafting of the notes, that one should not be content with citing popes, especially in a matter on which the Fathers of the Church have spoken so much and so well. We must avoid giving the impression that in the eyes of the theologians of the council only popes form the magisterium of the Church. With a unionist goal, it would even be good to cite in particular the Fathers of the Eastern Church.

It will have been noticed that during the passionate debates that characterized the Council's discussion of this schema "On the Virgin Mary," Patriarch Maximos and the Melkite Greek Fathers refused to intervene. They were astonished to their very depths at the importance that was attached to recognizing or refusing this new title "Mother of the Church" to the Theotokos. Accustomed to the poetic language of their liturgy, in which the Virgin is saluted with a thousand titles, they had no trouble in accepting this new title, if it is interpreted in a large, liturgical, and poetic sense, or in refusing it, if it is interpreted in a sense that is too realistic and too literal.

Nevertheless, Patriarch Maximos, urged to speak, began to prepare the intervention that we publish below. Finally, he decided not to deliver it. This was in the 1963 session.

Before entering into a study of this schema "Concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary," it is proper to ask ourselves this question: Is it necessary that this Second Vatican Council, already swamped with questions, devote a special dogmatic constitution to the most holy Mother of God?

For my part, I do not think so. Certainly that is not because the subject is not important in itself or that the Mother of God does not deserve a special constitution, but because the insertion of a question in the agenda of the council depends not on the importance of the subject but rather on its necessity or practical usefulness. Now, what is the necessity or practical usefulness of doing this? On the one hand, this constitution does not teach anything new either to the Catholics or to the Orthodox, and, on the other hand, it appears ill-conceived as a means of presenting the Catholic doctrine to our brethren of the Reformed Churches.

That is why I propose either to pass over this constitution in silence or to be content with a single, adequate paragraph inserted in the schema on the Church, to show the relationship of Mary with the Church, since, as it has been said, the Church seems to be the central theme of this council.

However, even if it is abridged, this text must be done over, in my opinion, in a different spirit and according to other methods. It should be less scholastic and more pastoral. It must emphasize the devotion to the holy Virgin and the need to develop it and purify it of affectations and exaggerations. In fact, this devotion must be the path which leads to our Lord, our only Master, showing that the Virgin is a channel that must never be transformed into a wellspring. Thus, in our Byzantine iconography, the Virgin is always represented with her Son, and never alone; for simply as a creature she is nothing, but with her Son she is everything.

Moreover, we need a text with higher inspiration, one that is more ecumenical and less "pontifical." Let me explain: the method, the terminology, everything in this schema has the savor of Latin scholasticism. There is nearly nothing of liturgy, spirituality, and the Eastern Fathers. It is always from only one viewpoint, as if that one viewpoint represented the whole Church. And, what is still more serious, it is that the authors of the schema seem to know no other source of Revelation than the pontifical encyclicals. Besides, they say so ingenuously. In fact, they declare in "Praenotandum III" that, in the light of the controversies of the theologians on the origin, the authority, and the interpretation of the sources of Christian Tradition, they have preferred to have recourse to the authority of the "Magisterium of the Church," and by the "Magisterium of the Church" they naturally mean the teaching of Roman pontiffs only. We must recognize that this is a bit simplistic. Thus, while there are one hundred twenty-three citations of popes, there are only two of St. John of Damascus and one of St. Germanus of Constantinople . And we know the riches of the Eastern Church, especially concerning the Virgin. Have not all the feasts of the Mother of God come to the Latin Church from the East?

Thus, I deem that for the dignity of the council, of which the sovereign pontiff is at once the head and a member, we must at all costs do away with the notes that accompany this schema. We must indeed remember that the purpose of the council is not to summarize the pontifical teachings, and that it is customary, in order to remain faithful to the tradition of these councils, to cite before all else the Holy Scripture and the holy Fathers of the entire Church.

At the beginning of this intervention we have suggested either passing over this constitution in silence or being content with a simple paragraph on the Virgin Mary because the need for it is not obvious. We have also done so with the aim of expediting the work of the Council, for, the way things are going, the conciliar work could last indefinitely: moderation is the daughter of prudence. The council has begun; we should be able to finish.

  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 Episcopate and the Roman Curia

This memorandum was presented at the February 1962 meeting of the Central Commission. In an analysis of the schema "On the Relations between the Bishops and the Congregations of the Roman Curia," the patriarch established the theological foundations of decentralization.

This schema could be entitled "On Decentralization in the Church." It states the desire to recognize broader powers for the bishops and at the same time limit the competences, which we believe are too broad, of the dicasteries (offices, congregations, tribunals, etc.) of the Roman Curia.

I. The least felicitous part of this schema, it seems to us, is its preamble. Certain doctrines are insinuated in it that seem to us to be at the very least debatable.

1. Thus, after affirming in the first paragraph that the episcopate stems immediately from Christ, the preamble continues: "Jurisdictio particularis, quam singuli Episcopi vi officio pastoralis in suas dioeceses exercent, a Romano Pontifice, tanquam ex causa proxima, est derivanda" (The particular jurisdiction which the individual bishops, by the power of their pastoral office, exercise in their dioceses, must be derived from the Roman pontiff, as if from the immediate cause).

First of all, this theory, which makes the Roman pontiff the immediate source of the pastoral power in their dioceses, is in no sense a dogma. It is not even a necessary consequence of a dogma, since the Roman primacy does not necessarily determine that the pope be the source of all episcopal power in a specific diocese. Inasmuch as the bishops are by divine right the successors of the Apostles, they receive their power over a specific diocese through the authority that presided over their election or nomination.

In the West, for many centuries but not always, no bishop has been nominated except through the definitive intervention of the Roman pontiff. Thus the proponents of the theory that prevails in the preamble have been able to find a certain basis in this fortuitous canonical custom. In the East, however, it is unanimously agreed that the bishops were neither named nor confirmed by the popes. This was recognized not only by Eastern Christians but also by the popes themselves, who, in classical Christian antiquity before the great separations, never asserted that the designation of the bishops or their investiture depended solely on them, either explicitly or implicitly. What, then, is the basis for the theory which the preamble sets forth?

It is true that this theory is currently called a "common doctrine." We would prefer to call it a "current theory." However, in our opinion, not only is this theory not defined, but it is very debatable, to say the least. It is therefore not appropriate to insinuate it as a doctrine peaceably accepted by everyone, because it is heavy with consequences for a dialogue between the East and the West. We see it as one of the ever-growing number of theories popularized by certain modern theologians and canonists in order to exalt papal power at all costs, to the detriment of the power of the bishops. Besides, the preamble finds no document to support this theory other than a reference to the canonists Wernz-Vidal. We believe that this is not sufficient and that nothing in the authentic tradition of the Fathers could be found to support such an extreme theory. It is better, therefore, to remain in the traditional line of the dogma defined by the First Vatican Council: the Roman pontiff has a direct power over each of the pastors and the faithful. But it does not logically follow from this that he is the ultimate and exclusive source of all power in the Church.

2. Furthermore, the preamble states that the Roman pontiff, by reason of his right of primacy "jurisdictionem episcopalem plus minusve amplificare vel restringere potest" (He is able to widen or restrict the episcopal power to a greater or lesser degree). Asserted in this way without any nuances, this proposition is not correct. It is true that in view of the common good, the synods, the patriarchs, and the popes can, up to a certain point, limit the exercise of the power of the bishops in order to better coordinate their pastoral activity. It is also true that the pope can reserve for himself as many "major causes" as the common good of the Church demands. But it is false to insinuate, as the preamble does, that the limits of episcopal power depend unconditionally on the will of the pope who can widen them or restrict them arbitrarily. This would make the bishops simply legal representatives of the pope, having no attributes except those that the pope cares to give them. Such insinuations are very serious.

3. Then, the preamble gives the reasons why the popes have reserved for themselves certain "major causes." We must say that the extensive extension of these "major causes" has been the principal reason for the excessive Roman centralization about which the Catholic world is now complaining almost unanimously. Before a "major cause" can be reserved to the pope, there must be assurance that this reservation is demanded by the higher good of the Holy Church, and not by the human desire to "centralize." All power has a natural tendency to monopolize as many prerogatives as possible at the expense of the powers of others. The trend toward centralization that for certain fortuitous historical reasons has dominated the Roman organizations for centuries must now give way to a trend toward decentralization, for the greatest good of the Catholic Church and of the Roman organizations themselves.

4. Finally, the preamble, in response to the almost unanimous hopes of prelates and Catholic universities, proposes that broader faculties be granted to the bishops. On this subject we take the liberty to point out that the power of the bishops must not be conceived as the aggregate of the faculties that are granted to them by the pope. A bishop in his diocese should have all the powers necessary for his apostolic ministry, certain cases being reserved to the synods, to his patriarch or metropolitan, or to the pope. It is not a question of giving the bishops powers they would not already have; it is a question rather of enumerating the cases that are believed to be reserved to supra-episcopal authority for the common good.

Therefore, instead of drawing up a list of faculties, whether quinquennial or other, there is need to pinpoint more precisely a list of reservations that are truly "major causes," while limiting them considerably. It is not a question of giving more to the bishops; the need is to take less away from them. This change in perspective is of the greatest importance.

II. Turning now to the details of the measures taken to decentralize the Church, we make the following comments:

1. The schema proposes that certain more important "faculties" be reserved to the nuncios and apostolic delegates. It seems to us that this is not expedient, for it would contribute still more to having these representatives of the Holy See considered as super-bishops. Now this falsifies the true notion of the episcopacy. Either the "faculty" in question can be left to the bishop, or else, if it is a very serious matter involving the general good of the Church, the bishop must have recourse to the supreme authority. But the representatives of the Holy See must not be made into viceroys of sorts, commanding "prefects" (bishops) guided from afar by central organizations. This does not seem to us to be the authentic concept of the Church.

2. Once again we propose the elimination of the "secrecy of the Holy Office" which might open the way to abuses, just as we also propose the reform of the Holy Office itself, which must be reorganized in such a way as to avoid the numerous complaints that are justifiably being leveled against it from all sides, even if one does not always dare to say so because of the climate of fear that the Holy Office has created in the Church.

3. Among the proposed reforms should be added the internationalization of the Roman Curia. At least seventy-five percent of the central government of the Church and the external representation of the Holy See is in fact reserved today to Italians who are tempted to consider the Holy See a little like a family patrimony, a source of advantage and an opportunity for a career. An internationalization of the curia would broaden the horizons of the central government, permit a wider choice of personnel, lead to a salutary renewal in ideas, and make the Church appear as truly and effectively catholic. There is still too much nationalist chauvinism in the Roman Curia. We hold no brief against the Italians, whose beautiful human qualities on the contrary we esteem, but we must affirm that they are not the whole Catholic Church and therefore must not have a monopoly on it. These are things that everyone thinks deep in their hearts and about which there is talk in small committees, but concerning which unfortunately few of the ecclesiastical leaders dare express their opinions openly, in order to avoid the annoyances and trouble that it might cause them. As for us, we owe it to our conscience, to God, and to the Church to be very frank on this point as well as on all others, even at the risk of displeasing persons who are most dear to us.

The comments that we have just made on this schema are of a very serious nature. If certain theologians insist on applying to the papacy ideas that do not adequately conform to dogma, and if there is a militant effort to have them accepted, we run the great risk of seeing this council fail lamentably from the point of view of Christian unity. Far more, we would have definitively created an insurmountable obstacle to union between the Eastern Church and the Western Church. This is enough to make every soul that loves our Lord and who wishes to accomplish his divine desire for unity tremble with fear.

For a "Synod of Bishops" around the Pope

This is one of the most important interventions of Patriarch Maximos IV. It took place on November 6, 1963, at the end of the sixty-first General Congregation. Received with applause, it was to encounter strong opposition in certain quarters. We know that ultimately the pope constituted around himself a "Synod of Bishops," an eloquent sign of episcopal collegiality in the central administration of the Church.

Chapter I of this schema on "The Bishops and the Government of the Dioceses" envisions, around the supreme pontiff and to help him in his primatial ministry with respect to the universal Church, only the congregations, the tribunals, and the offices which in their totality form what has come to be called the "Roman Curia." In No. 5, it is true, our text proposes a small and timid reform, envisioning the possibility of inviting bishops from the entire world to take part in the dicasteries of the Roman Curia in the role of members or counselors.

It seems to me that this way of limiting to the Roman Curia the collaboration of the Catholic episcopate in the central government of the Church corresponds neither to the real needs of the Church of our time nor to the collegial responsibility of the episcopate with respect to the Church.

Likewise, may I be allowed to propose a new solution, which appears to me to meet more fully the needs of our time and to agree with sound theological principles: Peter with the Apostles, that is the pope with the episcopal body.

The pope is the Bishop of Rome, the Primate of Italy, and the Patriarch of the West. Yet these roles are secondary although real—by comparison with his universal primacy. Such being the case, it follows that when the pope governs the universal Church, he associates to himself, to share his responsibility, the college of bishops which succeeds the college of the Apostles, and not the priests, deacons, and other clerics of the Diocese of Rome.

The particular court of Rome, which belongs specifically to the Diocese of Rome, must not take the place of the college of the Apostles living in their successors the bishops. It is therefore the duty of this holy council to use the means necessary to bring to light this truth beclouded by an age-old practice wrapped in ever-deepening shadows, to the point where many, even among us, have come to think of the situation as being normal, even though it is something else. With the present court of the pope it is difficult for those who are outside the Catholic Church and for some who are in it to see the ecumenical stance of the Church, and they see instead the particularism of a particular Church to which men, time, and favorable circumstances have given a considerable human and temporal increment of grandeur, power, and wealth. The very fact of assigning the cardinals to particular churches in Rome clearly shows that the cardinals belong to the particular Church of Rome, and not to the universal Church of Christ.

It goes without saying that all the bishops of the world cannot be constantly assembled in council. This concrete responsibility of helping the pope in the general government of the Church must devolve upon a small group of bishops representing their colleagues. This is the group that could form the true holy college of the universal Church. It would consist of the principal bishops of the Church. These would be first of all the residential and apostolic patriarchs, as recognized by the ecumenical councils of the first centuries; then the cardinal-archbishops as a prerogative of their cathedral and not of a Roman parish; and finally there would be bishops chosen in the episcopal conferences of every country. The last suggestion should be studied in order to be made perfectly clear. This universal holy college could be convoked by the pope at certain fixed times and when the need is felt to debate the general concerns of the Church.

Yet, of course, that is not enough. There would be a need to have constantly in Rome what the Eastern Church calls the "synodos endimousa," that is to say, a few members of this apostolic and universal holy college succeeding one another so as to be at the side of the pope, their leader, who always has the last word by primatial right. That is where the supreme council of the Church, the "suprema," would be, the executive and decisive supreme council of the universal church. All the Roman bureaus must be submissive to it. This suprema will have its special rules concerning its constitution. It will make Christ shine out over the entire world, especially the pagan world. Since it will not be closed in on itself, it will not even think of wishing to monopolize everything, regulate everything, dominate everything in a uniform and sometimes petty way. It will understand that the problem of peoples must be settled by themselves or with them but never without them.

To sum up, we say that the Holy Father cannot, any more than anyone else in the world, whoever he or she may be, govern with his confidants an institution as large as the universal Church in which the best interests of Christianity in the whole world are at stake. And all this is in conformity with the Gospel, for while the Church has been entrusted in a special way to Peter and to his successors, it has also been entrusted to the Apostles and their successors. And if this government is entrusted to nonconstitutional persons, such as confidants and the local clergy, the general good would not be served and real disasters could ensue. History gives us examples of this.

In our time, these truths of a theological, constitutional, and practical order take on an aspect of urgency and gravity.

In the lands of the Mediterranean civilization of the ancient Roman Empire of the East and the West, or in lands that have sprung up from it, things might work out for an indeterminate time if we are content to grant great powers to the episcopal conferences, which, after all, are a modern form of the historical patriarchates. However, in the countries with great agglomerations of peoples like China and India, lands of great and ancient civilizations that have nothing in common with Mediterranean civilization, something more is needed and it must be found with the help of Christianity itself. The same can be said of the African Churches, which are so rich in their dynamism.

This will involve a great and fundamental effort so that these Churches may feel at home with respect to their language, mentality, ways, and customs. They must feel that Christianity is not foreign to them, that it can become the soul of their soul. These peoples should also enjoy a greater internal autonomy than that of the Mediterranean lands, while preserving the necessary link at the highest level with the See of Peter. Only what is essential to the constitution of the Church should be imposed on them, as was decided by the first council at Jerusalem in the early days with respect to the Gentiles. After so much very meritorious work, dedication, expense, and sacrifice, can we say that Christianity has won the hearts of these lands? However, this must be achieved.

Is up to the new holy college to elucidate these great problems and to give them the solution they require, with the help of prayer, study, time, and the necessary prudence. The members of the holy college, coming from all parts of the world and thus having an ecumenical mentality, will be in a position to bring this work to a successful conclusion and to endow the Church with an organization capable of leading all peoples to Catholic unity.

Seeing that the Holy Spirit, through the intermediary of Pope John XXIII of holy memory, inspired the holding of this council to bring about openness and dialogue on the part of the Church with the entire world, and seeing that after his death, the Holy Spirit inspired the choice of our Holy Father Paul VI to continue and organize this divine work, it is because He is still in His Church to guide and vivify it. "Send forth your Spirit and He will renew the face of the earth."

Episcopal Conferences

First of all, here is a memorandum presented by Patriarch Maximos at the meeting of February 1962 of the Central Commission. It is dated February 9, 1962. It comments on the draft of a schema "On the Meetings or Conferences of Bishops."

I approve the schema as a whole. The idea of encouraging episcopal conferences on the national level coincides with one of the concerns of the Eastern Catholic Churches: the restoration in Catholicism of the idea and the exercise of episcopal collegiality. The Church is not made up of individuals directly linked to the head, or even of bishops directly and exclusively subject to the pope. The Church is an organic body, constituted not of individual cells and of a head, but of organs, diversely constituted, diversely grouped, and with diverse functions. The bishops are not responsible only for their respective dioceses. Collegially they are also responsible for the Church of their country and for the universal Church.

However, I feel that I must make the following observations on the text of the schema that is presented to us:

1. In the East, episcopal conferences or synods must be viewed overall on a twofold level: first, synods of one specific Church or rite, then synods of the entire Catholic episcopate independently of rites. The former, namely the synods, generally extend beyond the borders of one nation. The latter can usefully be confined to a specific nation. It would be good likewise to look forward to inter-ritual patriarchal synods for the East.

2. The decisions of these episcopal conferences, it is said, have no juridical value. Actually, I don't see why these conferences that assemble the entire episcopate of a country would not be able to make decisions that are binding, as long as they are not contrary to the common law of the Church. When these conferences are held annually or frequently, synods or plenary councils will be rather rare. Why then, not grant these conferences the juridical strength that the decisions of the plenary councils have, especially since constitutionally there is no difference between the episcopal conferences and the plenary councils?

3. It is said that if in these episcopal conferences a question requires a juridical solution there must be recourse to the Holy See and they must abide by its decision. It seems to me that the plenary assembly of the bishops of a whole nation unquestionably possesses a legislative power. It would be desirable to recognize that the synods of bishops, even in the Latin Church, possess a genuine power in the Church, without requiring that their decisions have binding power only through recourse to the Holy See. What one bishop can do in his diocese where he possesses legislative power, as is recognized by No. 4 of this paragraph, all bishops of a country can do collegially for all their dioceses. Papal confirmation has been necessary only according to recent ecclesiastical law. In the past, even in the West, provincial or regional synods were held and made decisions having the power of law for the province or region, without anyone believing it necessary to have a confirmation by the Roman pontiff. It would wise to step back a bit and recognize in the bishops, whether individually or collegially, the powers that the authentic tradition of the Church admits that they have. This contributes to the decentralization that is necessary in the Church.

4. The schema envisions episcopal conferences only at the national level. Today international conferences are increasing in number. Why would the Catholic Church be the last to profit from the benefits of these international gatherings? Episcopal congresses or conferences on the regional or continental level would be useful.

On the same subject of the episcopal conferences, here is the text of the intervention at the Council on November 15, 1963, by Archishop Elias Zoghby, Patriarchal Vicar for Egypt and the Sudan

I sum up my intervention on the subject of the episcopal conferences in the four following considerations, some of which have ecumenical importance.

1. The Roman Church was involved with the Orthodox East through ten centuries of union, during which it not only recognized its collegial and synodal system, but even lived this system, in common with the traditional or apostolic Churches of the East.

Indeed, apart from the great ecumenical councils that assembled the episcopates of the East and the West, the Roman Church exchanged with the traditional or apostolic Churches of the East synodal letters that dealt with problems concerning both the local Churches and the universal Church.

In our own era, when the Catholic Church is striving to become more accessible to communion with the Orthodox East and is preparing for ecumenical dialogue, the Second Vatican Council cannot propose to the Churches of the East any ecclesiastical system other than the synodal system, i.e., the system of active and effective episcopal conferences. To speak of purely consultative conferences is to condemn all dialogue to failure beforehand.

2. The synods or episcopal conferences in the Eastern Catholic Churches have been stripped of all real power to the advantage of the Roman dicasteries, and especially of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church. In order to realize this, it is sufficient to consult the new code of Eastern canon law. This congregation actually assumes the role of a pseudo-patriarchate.

It is true that the six patriarchs have been named adjunct members of the Congregation for the Eastern Church, which already has some thirty members, all of them cardinals. This solution is neither efficacious, nor honorable, nor ecumenical.

To make the patriarchs, who are the presidents de iure of their own synods, inferior members, numerically in the minority, in a congregation responsible for the affairs of their own patriarchates is in fact to condemn the synodal system.

In the place of this congregation there should be an organization whose members would be delegates of the episcopal synods or conferences of the Churches of the Eastern rite.

3. The bishops are the pastors and have primary responsibility for Catholic action and for the entire lay apostolate. Now, this apostolate is no longer circumscribed within the limits of specific parishes or dioceses. It is organized on a national or worldwide scale. Only the collective power of the episcopate will enable it to exercise its pastoral function at the level of the national or universal organizations of the lay apostolate which the bishops must control and direct.

4. In this hall the specter of danger of nationalism has been raised in opposition to collegiality and to episcopal conferences with jurisdiction.

Now, we live in an era when nationalism, as long as it is not exclusive and dedicated to centralization, no longer constitutes an obstacle to the general welfare, but is rather a principle of enrichment for the whole of human society.

Indeed, while young nations are rising and attaining liberty, we see international organizations arise with greater prestige than ever, in which all peoples participate on an equal basis.

Can churchmen be less generous and less open-minded than statesmen?

Episcopal "Faculties" or Pontifical "Reservations"?

The patriarch discussed this question in a memorandum presented at the meeting of the Central Commission in May, 1962.

In my opinion, there should be no question in the Catholic Church of "faculties conceded to the bishops," permanently or for a specific time, since the bishop has in his own Church by divine right all the powers necessary to rule his flock, without any limitation. However, when there is a higher interest, certain powers are reserved to the metropolitan, to the patriarch, to the synod, or to the Roman pontiff. We should speak of "reservations" rather than "faculties." In other words, we must not draw up a list of "faculties" but a list of "reservations." Moreover, these reservations must be limited to serious cases in which the general interest of the Church requires that the bishop not use his rightful power. But to reserve to the Holy See the blessing of stations of the cross or permission for those in cloisters to leave their enclosure to go to the dentist, and then to cede the "faculty" for this to the ordinaries is a manifest abuse. If the bishop cannot by his own right bless stations of the cross, what else can he do? We have started from the false principle that the Holy See has all the powers and that it alone has them; it then cedes their use, sometimes and as it chooses, to the bishops, as a favor. This concept, never formally stated but applied in practice, is inadmissible.

We even suggest that the future Eastern canon law, even if it is worked out in Rome in the interest of greater uniformity, be promulgated not by the Holy See but by the highest authority of each Eastern Church. The consequence of its promulgation by the Holy See is that every dispensation, even the most minimal, is reserved to the Holy See. If this canon law is promulgated by the highest local authority, there will be no need to have recourse to the Holy See for dispensations in very trivial matters. Only certain serious cases of general interest will be reserved to the Holy See.

Dividing Dioceses

A memorandum presented by Patriarch Maximos at the session of the Preparatory Commission in February, 1962. It deals with the problem of "personal dioceses" for Eastern emigrants.

In general I approve this schema "de Episcopis et dioecesium regimine" (on bishops and the administration of dioceses) presented by the commission. I take the liberty, however, of making the following comments:

1. Article I sets out to define what a diocese is. Very felicitously, it stresses that the diocese is a Church in the particular sense of the word, entrusted to a bishop, who is a successor of the Apostles, to govern it, and it adds: "sub Romani Pontificis auctoritate" (under the authority of the Roman pontiff). We think that this definition should be amplified by saying: "sub Romani Pontificis auctoritate aliorumque qui, iure ecclesiastico, potestate supra-episcopali gaudent" (under the authority of the Roman pontiff or of others who by ecclesiastical right, enjoy supra-episcopal power), such as patriarchs, archbishops, metropolitans, etc. In fact, it is not correct to present the pope as being the only one to have supra-episcopal power in the Church. Other hierarchs likewise enjoy this power, but only by ecclesiastical right.

2. Paragraph 6 recommends that an episcopal commission in each nation have the responsibility of proposing to the Holy See the fixing of boundaries of dioceses. We know that changes in the boundaries of dioceses are not reserved directly to the Holy See in Eastern law. It is therefore also necessary to amend the text of the schema as follows: "Sanctae Sedi vel aliae auctoritati competenti ad normam iuris proponat" (Let it propose it to the Holy See or to another competent authority according to the precepts of the law.)

3. The same comment applies to Paragraph 8, which deals with the union of two dioceses that are "equal in importance." Inasmuch as this matter is not directly reserved to the Holy See in Eastern law, the text of the schema must be amended as follows: "nisi Sedes Apostolica vel alia competens auctoritas ad normam iuris aliter decreverit" (unless the Apostolic See or another competent authority according to the precepts of the law should decree otherwise).

4. Article 12 envisions the creation in each country of a commission of bishops with the responsibility of proposing to the Holy See all the necessary mutations in the boundaries of the dioceses, allowing the rights of the Eastern Church to remain unchanged. We think that even for the Latin Church the formation of such a commission is inopportune. We propose that this work be the responsibility of the national episcopal conference itself. It is useless to create new organizations.

5. Paragraph 13 envisions the possibility of creating personal dioceses for the faithful of a different rite. Yet the terms that it uses appear to us inadequate because they are either too weak or too elastic: "erigi poterunt" (they could be erected). This paragraph must be harmonized with an article already presented by the Commission of the Eastern Churches in which it is said that whenever the number of the faithful of another rite is sufficient and the welfare of souls requires it, the maintenance and development of the Eastern rites must be provided for by the creation of personal dioceses.

The Latin Church has divided up the entire world in such a way that there is not a single parcel of land that is not subject to a Latin jurisdiction. Even in places where there is only one Eastern Catholic jurisdiction, a Latin jurisdiction has been created for the benefit of the Latins, thus doubling the local Catholic hierarchy. By contrast, even for tens of thousands of Eastern Catholics, the Latin hierarchy of certain countries still refuses to allow a personal diocese of the Eastern rite to be created by the Holy See, under the pretext that it wishes to remain alone and free in its movements on its own territory. The modern history of the Eastern Catholic Churches also offers many examples of such discriminatory measures that unjustly affect Eastern Catholics, especially in India and in America.

We think that the Council, by using more categorical terms, must request the creation of these personal dioceses of the Eastern rite whenever the number of the faithful permits it and the welfare of souls requires it, so that the long-standing opposition of certain territorial bishops may at last be seen by them to be prejudicial to the good of the Church. In the countries of emigration our Orthodox brethren have their own hierarchy, organize themselves, and develop. We, on the contrary, because we are Catholic, see ourselves deprived of a hierarchy, which not only places us in a state of inferiority by comparison with the Orthodox, but also prevents us from assuring the spiritual service of our faithful and the effective oversight of our priests. This results in a veritable confusion in our parishes of the diaspora, and as a consequence the loss of our children in many localities.

Internationalization of the Roman Curia

In its "Comments on the schemas of the Council" (1963), the Holy Synod proposed the practical means of internationalizing the Roman Curia. The comment is made on the subject of a paragraph of the schema "On the Bishops and the Government of Dioceses."

The schema proposes that certain members of the episcopate, designated by the episcopal conferences of each country, be named members or consultors of the Roman congregations. This, it is hoped, will accomplish the internationalization of the Roman Curia, which is so strongly desired. We believe that this measure is not sufficient. To accomplish this internationalization we think that the following measures must be taken:

1. Have the courage to face reality clearly: the Catholic Church, in its central administration, is not very universal, not very international. More than ninety percent of the representative staff of the Holy See consists of Italians: at the Roman Curia the percentage must not be much lower. The same holds true of the Roman universities as a whole. How can we prevent anyone from thinking that the administration of the Catholic Church is de facto monopolized by the Italian nation, which, for that matter, is extremely venerable and obliging? A thousand reasons will be given to justify this state of things. Yet, are these authentic reasons, valid before God, or self-interested pretexts? If the Council does not remedy this situation, the reforms it plans to accomplish in the Church will not be complete. Whether we like it or not, we are faced with an abnormal situation, which can perhaps be explained by the historical evolution of pontifical power, but which is no longer justifiable.

2. In order that the bishops of the entire world be appointed members of the Roman congregations, current canon law, according to which only cardinals can be members of a Roman Congregation, must be changed. Even recently, His Holiness Pope John XXIII, favorably accepting a suggestion that we had made to him, wished to introduce the Eastern patriarchs into the "plenary" assemblies of the Eastern congregation. It seems that in order not to contravene canon law it was considered adequate to give the patriarchs the title of ''adjunct-members'': a useless insult to the patriarchs whom the Holy Father intended to honor.

3. The practice of the Roman congregations, which holds that the members be neither convoked nor regularly consulted, must also be changed. If, in fact, one of them is temporarily in Rome, and if by chance a "plenary" is held during that time, he is permitted to attend. But no file is sent to him ahead of time to study. In reality, to be a member of a Roman congregation, for those members who live outside Rome, is a purely honorary title. As a matter of fact, this has been the case for the Eastern patriarchs who have been appointed "adjunct-members" of the Eastern Congregation. L'Osservatore Romano and other newspapers have outdone themselves in pointing out this gesture of "special benevolence" by the Holy See for the Eastern patriarchs. In fact, since they were named, the patriarchs have never been convoked; they have never received a file to study; they have never been asked for their opinion. That is how the most generous reforming intentions are neutralized by the routine of administration.

4. In actual fact, the most important questions must be reserved for the deliberations of all the members and not be settled by the Cardinal Prefect or the Secretary, with at most one or two officials of his department.

Naturally, the text of the schema is not opposed to these reforms, but it does not require them. It is content to make theoretical assertions, but it would be good for it to go into a few details on this point.

One would also like to see provision made for a sort of supreme council around the pope, composed of the Eastern patriarchs (as incumbents of the great apostolic sees of Christendom), the cardinals, and even the primates (under whatever title they are called) of all the Churches (for example, the presidents of the national episcopal conferences).

Reform of the Holy Office

The Holy Synod, in its "Comments on the Schemas of the Council" (1963) asked for the reform of the Roman Curia in general and of the Holy Office in particular.

In our opinion, the Council owes it to itself to provide the fundamental principles of a reform of the Roman Curia. The faithful will be shocked to see the Council begin the reform of dioceses, of parishes, of religious institutions, of associations of the faithful, etc., and not touch on the reform of the organizations of the Roman administration. More than one will think that this indicates the premeditated intention to avoid all reform of the curia, whereas this reform, according to the universal view of popes, bishops, and the faithful is necessary for the good of the Church.

The reform of all dicasteries of the Roman Curia requires detailed studies which are more within the province of the post-Conciliar commission. The council should merely order the reform and indicate its broad outlines.

Reform is especially necessary in what concerns the "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office." With respect to this congregation there is something like a conspiracy of silence: a respectful silence perhaps, but above all a silence of fear. We think that on the contrary, through love of the Church and of the Holy See, the Fathers of the Council should speak out, always respectfully but frankly and courageously, for God will hold them accountable for having seen the evil, of complaining about it in secret, and not denouncing it. We shall simply say what we think. But others than ourselves have certainly much more to say.

Every physical or moral body owes it to itself to possess a structure capable of defending itself against ailments. Likewise, the Catholic Church must have within its bosom an effective structure to defend the faith and sound morals. The necessity of a congregation "De Fide et Moribus" is therefore not called into question. Yet between such an organization and a "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office" with its current form and procedures, there is a difference, and what a difference!

Thus a reform of the Holy Office is indispensable. Here are the reforms that, in our opinion, are the most urgent ones:

1. First of all, the spirit that dominates at the Holy Office must be changed. This spirit does not seem to us to be the spirit of Christ and of His holy Gospel. From its origins, the Holy Office has inherited an absolutism of thought and procedures that was inherent in the customs of the time, but that our contemporaries, with good right, can no longer tolerate. The spirit of Christ is a spirit of non-violence, of charity with respect to those who sin or who involuntarily go astray, a spirit of humble search for the truth, of graciousness, service, openness, forgiveness, etc. The members of the Holy Office can be, and we believe are in fact holy persons who individually possess all these qualities. However, as a body, they do not act according to the spirit of Christ. As a result, they give the faithful and others a false idea of Christianity. The Christian virtues must be practiced, not only individually but also collectively, in a body.

2. In particular, what shocks our contemporaries is this self-assurance that the Holy Office displays in every domain, dogmatic as well as moral, political, artistic, etc., so that in its view everything is clear, evident, and certain. The Holy Office acts as if it were endowed with infallibility.

3. It is also necessary that the Holy Office no longer remain above the Law. Its public legislation must be widely known. In legislating on procedure, the Code begins by excepting the Holy Office (can. 1555, #1), which would have its own particular norms, which would remain secret. The procedure of the Holy Office must cease to give the impression of being left to the arbitrariness of the members of this congregation.

4. The Holy Office must also have a clearly-defined jurisdiction. Under the pretext of safeguarding faith and morals, it must not take care of everything. In fact, the entire discipline and the entire administration, and in the last analysis everything in the Church stems in a certain respect from faith. The Holy Office has been seen to meddle in the liturgy, the apostolate, politics, art, nominations, everything, under cover of faith and morals, for example, when it sought to prohibit priests of the Byzantine rite from using the vernacular language in the liturgy or to forbid an Eastern bishop from exercising the apostolate with regard to certain non-Christians of his diocese in order to reserve it for Latin authority of the same diocese.

5. Likewise, it must never happen that a sentence handed down in the first instance by the Holy Office be final. When the Holy Office pronounces on appeal, it is normal that its sentence be final, but when it pronounces in the first instance, an appeal must be assured.

6. Moreover, no sentence of the Holy Office must be handed down without the interested party's having knowledge of the grievances imputed to him and very ample means available to him for defending himself.

7. The system of "secret accusation," tolerated if not encouraged by the Holy Office, must be eliminated. The accusers must be severely punished. Except in very rare and very serious cases, such accusing, even when it is not false, harms the Church by creating an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, and terror.

8. No member of the laity, and especially no ecclesiastic, must be judged and condemned by the Holy Office except after his hierarchic leader has been heard. That is ordinary common sense.

9. The Holy Office must no longer condemn ex informata conscientia, by arrogating omnipotent and absolute power over consciences. Justice, and even simple decency, condemns such a method.

10. We must put an end to this terror of the "Secretum Sancti Officii" (under the secrecy of the Holy Office), which forbids speaking under pain of very serious censures or which imposes commands that are sometimes repugnant to the conscience. Such for example would be the case when the Holy Office directs a bishop "sub secreto Sancti Officii" to take a stern measure against a priest while making the priest believe that this measure comes from his bishop and not from the Holy Office. Such procedures are repugnant to the natural conscience and create mistrust in the Church. It is even immoral.

In a word, the Holy Office can no longer live in the Middle Ages. The Inquisition of Torquemada is over. The Holy Office, which inherited its spirit, must also come to an end in its present form and with the procedures that it still uses, in order to give way to a normal Congregation "De Fide et Moribus" (On Faith and Morals).

We for our part acknowledge that throughout our life we have never heard anything but complaints, and often very bitter ones, concerning the Holy Office. Yet very few are those who dare to raise their voices. We have done so, and we shall do it again, because we deem that our patriarchal and episcopal duty demands that we speak out openly but also with respect for the venerable members of this congregation.

Ecclesiastical Censures and the Holy Office

A memorandum presented by Patriarch Maximos at the May 1962 meeting of the Central Commission concerning two schemas on ecclesiastical penalties that will not be retained in the future.

I completely approve of this schema which has introduced into the penal administration of the Church some indispensable guarantees of justice. It was a point of weakness in the procedures of the Church to commit the accused to the prudent judgement of the ordinary. Certainly, the ordinaries must have our trust, but trust must also be inspired in the accused, and he should not be given reason to believe that the Church refuses him the guarantees of defense and equity that all the tribunals of the free world today now provide. On this point the Church law was still manifesting the customs of the Middle Ages.

And yet the tribunal that, in the Church, is most seriously accused of not observing these formal guarantees of justice will still escape, according to the schema, this absolutely indispensable reform. I speak of the Holy Office, which Canon Law still dispenses from these rules of common procedure.

We do not doubt the virtue and good intentions of the members of the Holy Office, but that is not the question. What is at stake is whether the Church will continue to tolerate in the mid-20th century that the Holy Office will continue to proceed like the Holy Inquisition of the Middle Ages, for example by condemning someone ex informata conscientia, without having heard him, without giving him the opportunity to defend himself, and by reserving for itself the rights to inflict penalties not provided by law and to follow an unknown procedure. Such ways of acting degrade the Church in the eyes of unbelievers, and of believers as well. They embitter Catholics. They give the Holy Office an exaggerated power in the Church, to the point of sometimes allowing it to neutralize the wishes of the supreme pontiff. They humiliate the Catholic hierarchy. They surround this organization, which should be only a simple dicastery of the Roman Curia like the others, with a reputation for shadowy terror, something that is most contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. The Holy Office must defend faith and morals, but by evangelical means, not by the means, mitigated it is true, of the Holy Inquisition of the Middle Ages, and, in any case, with the formal and external guarantees of justice that all tribunals of the free world approve.

For all these reasons, we ask that the Holy Office be obliged to observe the common procedures of the Church and not constitute an exceptional tribunal either as to jurisdiction, procedure, or penalties. For the honor of the Church, a radical reform is absolutely indispensable.

I approve all the simplifications in the penal law accomplished by this schema. I would even wish for greater simplification. Ecclesiastical penalties are most often vestiges of a past medieval society. It is enough to have ten or so censures or penalties for really serious cases, intended to avoid scandal and to put an end to contumacy.

The censure foreseen for No. 16 (censure latae sententiae reserved for the Holy See against clerics or religious who become guilty of moral offenses with minors under the age of 16) should not be introduced, in our opinion. First of all, the statement of such an offense in conciliar acts does not befit the honor of the Church and the dignity of the clergy. Besides, there is no need to inflict a censure on this sin. Inasmuch as it is concerned with clerics or religious, the evil of the sin, in itself, should suffice to deter them from such a shameful offense. Finally, and above all, it is not fitting that the censure be reserved for the Holy See. This would be interpreted as an indirect means used by the Holy See to dominate consciences. It suffices that confessors warn their penitents of their serious duty, under certain circumstances, to denounce their accomplice to the ordinary who will take the appropriate measures, since he knows the circumstances of place and persons. Generally speaking, the custom of informing, even if anonymous, must not be introduced into the Church. In fact, if informing to the Holy See is anonymous, it has little usefulness; if it reveals the name of the guilty party it transforms the Holy See into a bureau of police investigation, which is odious.

Restoring the Free Election of Bishops in the Eastern Church

This is a post-conciliar memorandum written by the patriarch in Damascus on April 9, 1965. In its "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches," the Council had decided to restore to the patriarchs together with their synods the right to freely elect, without need of pontifical confirmation, the bishops of their rite within the limits of the patriarchal territory. However, when, after the Council, it was necessary to exercise this right, difficulties arose. This memorandum had to be written in order to defend the decision of the Council.

1. Nothing in Holy Scripture or in the Tradition of the Fathers reserves to the Roman pontiff the election or confirmation of bishops in the entire world.

In the East, after the variety of customs in the first three centuries, the designation of bishops was always carried out by way of an election in a provincial synod, presided over by the metropolitan, by the patriarchal synod, presided over by patriarch, or by any other synod possessing internal canonical autocephaly.

This in no way denies the right of the supreme pontiff to intervene by directly naming a bishop. However, this intervention is only sporadic, motivated by extraordinary urgent circumstances or by the supreme interest of the universal Church. Apart from these cases, the supreme pontiff respects the normal functioning of the institutions of the East that reserve to the holy synod the free election of bishops.

Once the Eastern bishops have been elected in a synod, they do not need, according to authentic Eastern law, to be confirmed by the supreme pontiff.

Never during the thousand years that the union of the East and the West endured did the Bishop of Rome intervene to confirm the election of an Eastern bishop.

Even in the West, it was only very recently that the nomination or confirmation of bishops was reserved to the Roman pontiffs. This is an evident proof that there is question here of a reservation of a purely disciplinary nature, not demanded by Catholic dogma. Now, in a purely disciplinary matter, not only is evolution accepted, but also divergence between the East and the West must be accepted. On this question of the designation of bishops, the East does not impose its discipline on the West. Conversely, neither must the West impose its discipline on the East.

2. Unfortunately, it has happened that when segments of the Eastern Churches united with Rome during the last few centuries, the West did impose its own discipline on them in this matter. Whether due to ignorance of the institutions of the East or to an erroneous conviction that this was a point of doctrine, the fact is that little by little the various Eastern Catholic Churches have been compelled in this matter of the designation of bishops to follow measures that have been progressively restrictive of their internal canonical autonomy, even when the right to freely elect their bishops was not completely taken from them and reserved entirely to the Roman pontiff.

The Eastern Catholic Churches allowed this to be done to them. It did not even occur to them that they could do anything else, since their hierarchs were for the most part imbued with the theories of the Counter-Reformation, according to which all power in the Church issues from the pope and no bishop can be received into the college of the successors of the Apostles unless he is directly named or at least confirmed by the pope.

In this general atmosphere of submissiveness amid the forgetfulness of the authentic discipline of the East, which is more ancient on this point than the discipline of the West, the Melkite Church and the Maronite Church refused to allow themselves to be latinized. The Melkite Synod, presided over by the patriarch, has always proceeded freely in the election of bishops without being held to any previous authorization or confirmation by the Holy See of Rome. Out of deference to the supreme pontiff, the patriarch simply transmitted to Rome, purely by way of information, the name of the elected bishop. Thus Rome knew that there was a new bishop in the Melkite Church and could deal with him. It was in no sense a request for confirmation, but simply the transmission of information. The name of the bishop was not cited by the pope in consistory, and he received no bull of nomination or confirmation.

It was only under Benedict XV that the Eastern Congregation took the initiative on its own to publish in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, when learning of a new bishop elected among the Melkites or the Maronites, that the Holy Father "ratam habuit" this election. This does not mean that he "ratified" it, but that he simply "recognized it as valid." On the other hand, with respect to the other communities subject to a latinizing discipline that demanded the confirmation of the pope (the Armenians, the Copts, the Syrians, and the Chaldeans), the Acta said that the pope "electionem confirmavit" (confirmed the election). (Cf. on this question A. Coussa, "Epitome praeelectionum de jure ecclesiastico orientali," Vol. I, Rome, 1948, No. 296, pp. 297-8.) As for the communities that had no patriarch, such as the Ukrainians, the Ruthenians, the Romanians, the Malabarese, etc., Rome named the bishops directly.

3. This last vestige of internal canonical autonomy, this last trace of authentic Eastern discipline miraculously preserved by the Melkite Church and the Maronite Church, was destroyed by Pope Pius XII.

Under his orders, the Sacred Eastern Congregation, by a letter of December 15, 1951 (No. 389-51), addressed to all the heads of the Eastern Churches, made obligatory the part of the proposed codification of Eastern law which concerns the elections of bishops. This new discipline went into effect immediately, but it was to remain secret by the order of the pope. It was to be made public by the publication of the Motu Proprio "Cleri sanctitati" of June 2, 1957. We have energetically protested against these measures, but in vain.

The most serious aspect of this new discipline is the obligation, henceforth unlimited and extended to all the Eastern Churches, including the Melkite Church and the Maronite Church, to receive from the Holy See either the confirmation of bishops elected or else the prior approbation of lists of those under consideration for elevation to the episcopacy, to be renewed every six months. In each alternative, there is the same obvious and serious infraction of authentic Eastern discipline.

More serious still is the principle adopted for legitimizing this restriction of the freedom of election of bishops. According to the letter of the Sacred Eastern Congregation mentioned above, it is "the intention to provide that these promotions to the episcopal dignity more perfectly reflect the fundamental principles of doctrine..."

This allusion in turn reflects not Catholic doctrine but a certain theory, very much honored in certain quarters, notably the Roman, according to which Catholic dogma requires that no bishop be designated except by the pope, directly or indirectly. This is the theory that inspired the first draft of the schema "De Ecclesia," still completely imbued with the above-mentioned theory. This draft said in substance that no bishop is received into the apostolic college except through the direct or indirect intervention of the pope. The Melkite representative and also the late Cardinal Acacius Coussa demonstrated to the Central Commission, where this first draft was submitted for discussion, how lacking this theory was in scriptural, patristic, and historical foundation. It projected on the universal Church what was simply a fortuitous disciplinary and rather recent custom of the Western patriarchate alone, while elevating it to the level of a theological doctrine.

In the face of these criticisms and others that came later, this theory was abandoned, and a new draft was adopted by the Theological Commission that respects the truth of revelation and of history.

This new draft, with slight modifications, found a place in the dogmatic constitution "On the Church," approved by the Council on November 21, 1964, which says the following in the last paragraph of No. 24:

"The canonical mission of bishops can come about:

-by legitimate customs which have not been revoked by the supreme and universal authority of the Church,

-or by laws made or recognized by the same authority,

-or directly through the successor of Peter himself. If the latter refuses or denies apostolic communion, a bishop cannot assume office."

Of the three possibilities envisioned by this text, the third is the one that suits the Latin Church, in which the pope directly names all bishops; the second has been applied to those Eastern Catholic Churches upon which a so-called "Eastern" legislation has been imposed in this matter, which is really only a stage of latinization. Only first possibility constitutes the true and authentic law of the East, in which bishops are elected by the Holy Synod, by virtue of legitimate customs and of a conciliar law that should not be revoked.

4. In other words, the transitory law that is the latinizing legislation of the motu proprio "Cleri Sanctitati" must be replaced by an authentically Eastern law. On this point, as on so many others, the authentic Eastern law must be restored.

a. This is absolutely necessary if we wish to enter into discussions with Orthodoxy with a view to union. Orthodoxy will never accept union if it knows that its bishops will be nominated or confirmed by Rome, as are the Latin bishops.

b. The Latin Church must not absorb the Eastern Churches. We must be Catholic, but not necessarily Latin. In everything that does not concern dogma and the necessary communion with the successor of Peter, it is necessary to recognize the broadest disciplinary autonomy of the Eastern Churches.

c. One must have confidence in the synods of bishops. The candidate whom they will elect is better known and judged by a group of 15 or 20 bishops assembled in synod than by a "minutante" or by another functionary of the Roman Curia, who necessarily judges on the basis of reports that are not always truthful. In our own time especially, the episcopate is demonstrating great maturity of judgment, and we believe that no pernicious influence could make it deviate from its course.

d. It is necessary to avoid the shame of having to receive approbation of lists of those qualified to become bishops and of having the approbation renewed every six months. Likewise, it is necessary to avoid the shame of electing a bishop in synod, and then waiting at least one month until Rome has studied his file, as if the judgment of the bishops assembled in synod had no value compared with the judgment of a "minutante" of the Roman court. Meanwhile the Catholic episcopate is the laughing-stock of Orthodox Christians.

e. The council, aware of these difficulties, has made serious decisions that radically remedy the situation and must now be put into practice.

Referring to the Eastern patriarchs, the Council in its "Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches" sets forth in No. 9 three governing principles that absolutely require a radical recasting of the "latinizing" legislation in force until now.

The first principle: "This sacred Synod, therefore, decrees that their rights and privileges should be re-established in accord with the ancient traditions of each Church and the decrees of the ecumenical Synods."

Now, it is evident, absolutely evident, that the free election of bishops is one of the moat authentic and most serious prerogatives of the Eastern patriarchs with their synods, according to the ancient traditions of the Eastern Churches and the decisions of the ecumenical councils.

The second principle specifies how we are to understand this restoration and what are these rights and privileges to be restored. It says: "The rights and privileges in question are those which flourished when the East and West were in union, though they should be somewhat adapted to modern conditions."

Therefore this restoration must be accomplished not according to a hybrid and latinizing law conceived by the Roman Curia, but according to the authentic Eastern law as it was applied during the thousand years of union between the East and the West. Now, during the time of union, never, absolutely never, would it have come to anyone's mind that the bishops of the East must be elected or confirmed by Rome. Those who think otherwise are ignorant of the elements of history. It is all the more true in that even until the twentieth century, and more precisely until the end of 1951, no Melkite bishop ever needed confirmation by Rome.

It is true that this authentic Eastern law can and sometimes must be "somewhat adapted to modern conditions." But these modern conditions in no way require, quite to the contrary, that the Eastern bishops be confirmed by Rome.

The third principle removes all doubt about this matter, since it considers our case in particular. It says: "The patriarchs with their synods constitute the superior authority for all affairs of the patriarchate, including the right to establish new eparchies and to nominate bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."

According to this conciliar text, the patriarchs with their synods are normally the superior authority for all the business of their patriarchates, including the right to name the bishops of their rite within the patriarchal territory. This could not be stated more clearly. The pope can certainly intervene whenever he so wishes, but if he does not intervene for reasons of exceptional gravity in which the general welfare of the Church is at stake, the nomination of bishops, as well as all the other business of the patriarchate, is under the jurisdiction of the patriarch with his synod.

5. The three principles naturally call for a complete recasting of the current Eastern codification in the direction of greater internal canonical autonomy, but this work will no doubt require several years.

Meanwhile, one must conclude that through these principles the Council virtually abrogates the directly contrary restrictive provisions of the motu proprio "Cleri sanctitati," in particular Canons 253 and 254, that require the confirmation the confirmation by Rome of elected candidates or the prior approbation of lists of those being considered as potential bishops.

6. Practical conclusion

In order to avoid any doubt as to interpretation, and while awaiting the recasting of Eastern canon law, we humbly suggest that the Holy Father, as an application of the decrees of the council, abrogate or suspend the effect of the two above-cited canons by declaring that the Eastern patriarchs with their synods can freely proceed to the election the consecration and the installation of the bishops of their rites within the limits of the patriarchal territory.

This point, which is of very great importance, is, as it were, the touchstone which will indicate the sincere determination of the central administration to apply the reforming decisions of the Council in accordance with the spirit of the Council.

Indeed, the decisions of the Second Vatican Council approved and promulgated by Pope Paul VI must not remain dead letters, in the state of futile solemn declarations but never applied, as happened with all those that were proclaimed by Leo XIII and a few other popes but never put into force by their central administration. For the honor of the Roman Church, these decisions of the Second Vatican Council must be put into practice.

The Oriental Congregation had expressed interest in gathering the opinions of the Eastern patriarchs on the practical way of applying Article 9 of the conciliar "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches." Patriarch Maximos again assembled his Synod in Beirut on January 11, 1966. The Synod proposed to Rome a procedure which would allow the Holy See of Rome to intervene on occasion if the good of the Church required it, and allow the Eastern Churches to exercise their prerogative of free election.

The patriarch, as of January 18, 1966, transmitted to His Eminence Gustave Cardinal Testa, Pro-Prefect of the Oriental Congregation, the deliberations of the Holy Synod.

Your Eminence:

Following up on my letter of November 27th last, relating to the practical procedure proposed by Your Eminence for applying Article 9 of the Conciliar Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, I hasten to inform Your Eminence that I convoked the Synod of our Bishops on Tuesday, the eleventh of this month, in Beirut. Seventeen bishops were able to attend; five excused themselves from coming for reasons of health or work...

The Fathers asked me to transmit their response to you in writing the following text:

1. The Synod, by law as well as in conscience, must hold to Article 9 of the Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, restoring to the said Churches their full freedom in episcopal elections that they enjoyed previously. That is why the Synod does not wish to give an opinion in what concerns the procedure of the elections that could be interpreted as if we were renouncing a right that the council has recognized that we have.

2. Inasmuch as the patriarch is obliged by reason of his function to consult before proposing the candidacy of anyone for episcopal election, it is natural that he consult the Holy See of Rome, on condition, however, that this consultation not be considered as a renunciation of our rights or as the recognition of a new right of others.

3. The procedure of consultation indicated below must be considered not as an obligatory juridical norm to be inserted in the Codex, but as a practical measure of the pastoral order.

Here, then, is the practical procedure of consultation before the election:

a. The patriarch writes to the Holy See of Rome to present to it at the opportune time a list of names of priests who seem to him deserving of being candidates in future episcopal elections.

b. This presentation of names does not have as its purpose to obtain approval or confirmation of future candidates. However, its purpose is to provide information that enables the Roman pontiff to intervene in each election if he judges it appropriate, as the Second Vatican Council says (Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, 9).

c. The list presented by the patriarch can be increased by new names, or reduced, according to the circumstances of times and persons and the needs of the Church.

d. The names on this list that have been formally vetoed by the Holy See of Rome will be the objects of explanation or definitively excluded. The other names can be presented to the electoral Synod, as candidates for episcopal election.

As soon as they are elected, they can, without other prior notice, be proclaimed bishops.

e. However, out of deference to the Holy See of Rome, the first notification shall be made to the pope through the intermediary of his representative in the locality.

In transmitting this response of the Holy Synod, I am certain that Your Eminence will understand the underlying reasons why our Church wishes to retain the freedom of elections restored by the Council, and at the same time benefit from the authoritative opinions of the Holy See of Rome. I believe that the proposed procedure allows Rome to exercise its right and allows our Church to exercise its prerogatives...

Meanwhile, the patriarch learned that the post-conciliar Central Commission, as of January 31, 1966, had given Article 9 of the conciliar "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches" an interpretation contrary to the text and spirit of the decree. The patriarch convoked his Synod once again, at Ain-Traz on April 25 and 29, 1966. On April 30 he wrote an urgent letter to the Holy Father, begging him to please defer the publication of this interpretation. The Holy Father in fact suspended the effect of this interpretation. In a second letter dated May 11, 1966, the patriarch transmitted to the Holy Father the reasons why he, together with his Synod, believed that the interpretation of the post-conciliar commission was inadmissible. He accompanied his letter with an explanatory memorandum; the full text follows:

Memorandum on the Interpretation of No. 9, sentence 4, of the Conciliar Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches I The Context

The fourth sentence of No. 9 of the conciliar "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches" states the following:

"The patriarchs with their synods constitute the superior authority for all affairs of the patriarchate, including the right to establish new eparchies and to nominate bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."

In order to understand this text it is advisable first of all to place it in its context. Several interventions of the conciliar Fathers stressed that in the current discipline of the Catholic Church the authentic rights of the Eastern patriarchs were greatly reduced. This appeared to be an obstacle to ecumenical dialogue with Orthodoxy, in which the patriarchal dignity is held in high esteem. That is why the Eastern Commission submitted to the Council, which approved them, a series of measures intended to restore the dignity and the powers of the Eastern patriarchs.

After explicitly affirming in the first sentence of this No. 9 that "the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches are to be accorded exceptional respect," the second sentence goes further and says: "This sacred Synod, therefore, decrees that their rights and privileges should be re-established in accord with the ancient traditions of each Church and the decrees of the ecumenical Synods." Thus, the Council presumes that at the present time, according to the discipline in force (in particular, the discipline of the motu proprio "Cleri sanctitati"), the patriarchs are deprived of at least certain of their rights and privileges and the Council decides that they must be given back to them. Therefore, if the pre-conciliar law of the motu proprio is maintained as such, the Council, which decided to restore the rights and privileges of the Eastern patriarchs, is not being obeyed.

In order to make for still greater clarity, the third sentence indicates in what direction this restoration must be made. The Council says: "The rights and privileges in question are those which flourished when the East and West were in union, though they should be somewhat adapted to modern conditions." The Council therefore commands that the inspiration for the restoration of the rights and privileges of the patriarchs be drawn not from the recent law of the motu proprio of Pius XII, or even from the recent synods of the communities united with Rome, which have often introduced a very shocking hybrid law, but from the classical and authentic Eastern law such as it was practiced during the millennium of union between the East and the West. It is the Council's thought, therefore, that we must pass over a certain recent period of legislation and return to the ancient law. It is not in accordance with the thinking of the Council to refer constantly to the motu proprio of Pius XII and cling to it as to an immutable law. The interpretation of the conciliar texts on this matter need not culminate in the confirmation of pre-conciliar legislation. If that were to happen, the Council would have accomplished nothing. There was no need to assemble a Council in order to confirm, purely and simply, the status quo ante.

To conclude, the Council approved, in the fourth sentence, an important application of the principles of restoration that it had just set forth. The fourth sentence is intended to return to the patriarchs with their synods a certain internal canonical autonomy insofar as it is reconcilable with the recognition of the dogma of Roman supremacy. We must not allow ourselves to be impressed by the expression of opinion that has indeed been used at the Council by eminent orators, such as Cardinal Francis Koenig himself. There is no question of autonomy in the sense of independence vis-a-vis Rome or of autocephaly such as the Orthodox understand it. It is a question of recognizing the right of the Eastern Churches to govern themselves internally, with full recognition of the prerogatives of Roman primacy, without being obliged to have recourse, constantly and often for administrative details, to previous authorizations and to subsequent confirmations by the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as is the practice today, according to the current law in which the patriarch cannot even give a celebret to a priest who is going to America for two or three months without obtaining an authorization from Rome, etc.

The Council has sought to react against this state of affairs and to liberate the patriarchs from these administrative servitudes by recognizing their right, as in former days of union, to govern their patriarchates as leaders of particular Churches, conscious of their duties and responsible for their apostolic mission, not as executive agents of the Sacred Eastern Congregation. This does not mean that Roman primacy and the exercise of that primacy are denied. However, from the fact that the pope can intervene in all ecclesiastical matters, even the smallest, it does not follow that he must intervene in all matters and that no measure can be taken without his consent or his confirmation.

The East was closely united with Rome before the great rupture of the eleventh century and fully recognized Roman primacy. However, it governed itself freely, while the pope retained the right to intervene when he deemed it advisable for the good of the Church; and in fact he did intervene, more or less frequently, according to the gravity of the cases.

It is this perfectly Catholic state of affairs, during the millennium of union between the East and the West, that the Council intends to give as the model for the future codification of the Eastern Canon Law when it pronounces the following principle contained in the fourth sentence of No. 9: "The patriarchs with their synods constitute the superior authority for all affairs of the patriarchate, including the right to establish new eparchies and to nominate bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."

Before passing to the commentary on this text, it is perhaps appropriate to recall that this text is henceforth a conciliar text. Whether it please certain persons or not, whether it has been presented by the Melkites or by others, whether it has been bitterly debated at the Eastern Commission or not, it belongs from now on to the incontestable heritage of the universal Church. Those who were formerly opposed to it at the preparatory stage should not be authorized today to raise doubts about it or to cleverly empty it of its efficacy by the devious means of all sorts of interpretations that do not respect its original meaning.

II. What Does This Text Grant to the Patriarchs with Their Synods?

The council is deciding that "for all the affairs of the patriarchate" without exception "the patriarchs with their synods constitute the superior authority."

The affairs that the patriarchate deals with are many and unlimited: the discipline of the clergy and of the faithful, seminaries, the apostolate, etc. No exception is made.

In all these affairs, the patriarchs, alone or with their respective synods, according to the determinations of positive law, constitute the "superior authority." The term "supreme" is not used, in order to respect the "more superior" or "supreme" authority of the Holy See of Rome. And yet, the Council says that normally all the affairs of the patriarchate are under the authority of the patriarch with his synod. This is the obvious meaning of the Council's statement. In accordance with this principle it will therefore be necessary to review completely current legislation which takes an infinite number of affairs of the patriarchate away from the patriarchs with their synods. The council has chosen to set bounds to these countless limitations on the rights of the patriarchs, in order to restore it to the situation that prevailed "during the time of union."

The council, naturally, could not enter into the details of a reform of legislation. Nevertheless, in order to avoid possible hesitations, it mentions two affairs among the most important ones of the patriarchate, to make it clear that even these two matters are under the jurisdiction of the patriarchs with their synods. It says: "including the right to establish new eparchies and to nominate bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate..." If the council felt the need to mention these two matters, it is because they had in fact during modern times been withdrawn, in certain rites, from the competence of the patriarchs and of their synods. The council commands that they be restored to them.

III. What is the Role of the Roman pontiff?

This role is indicated in the conciliar decree by the final clause "without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases."

In order to fully understand this clause, it is necessary to take note of the following:

1. This clause is general in character. It is found, in this form or in similar form, hundreds of times in the documents of the council. Actually, it would suffice to affirm the prerogatives of the Roman primacy once and for all, without having to repeat this clause each time. It is clearly understood, in fact, that the pope can intervene everywhere, always, in all matters. The reason that a special need has been felt to insert this clause in the section that we are discussing is that the text lays the foundations for a certain internal canonical autonomy for the Eastern Churches. Now, in order that there may be no misinterpretation of the meaning of this internal autonomy and so that it may not be confused with autocephaly as it is practiced in the Orthodox Churches, the authors of the decree have felt the need to add the clause cited above in order to show clearly that the internal autonomy in question presumes respect for the prerogatives of the Roman primacy. Yet this clause, once again, is of a general nature and has no more authority in this paragraph than anywhere else. It simply signifies this: the broad jurisdiction recognized for the patriarchs and their synods to manage their own affairs must remain compatible with the rights of Roman primacy, such as they have been defined by Vatican I and clarified by Vatican II in the light of the powers of the episcopate.

2. Having said this, the conciliar text affirms that the pope has the right to intervene in every case, and that this right is inalienable. The difficulty—if there is a difficulty—would relate to the meaning of the words "jus interveniendi" (right to intervene) and "in singulis casibus" (in individual cases).

a. "In singulis casibus" does not mean "in aliquibus casibus" (in some cases) or "in particularibus casibus" (in particular cases). According to Catholic doctrine, the right of the pope extends to all persons and all cases. If necessary, according to the letter of the law, there is not a single ecclesiastical matter in the world of which it can be said to the pope: "this is not within your competence as pope." According to the letter of the law, the pope can intervene even to name a pastor in a parish, the rector of a church, or a school principal, etc.

"In singulis casibus" includes "in omnibus casibus," but adds a nuance to it. It could be translated "in all cases, these being considered each in particular." The nuance is not to be scorned; it is in each case in particular (it does not say: in certain particular cases) that the pope can intervene. This therefore presumes not a general rule commanding intervention, but a particular determination appropriate for each case in particular, even if, in an extreme hypothesis, this determination were to be repeated for all cases.

b. "The right to intervene" means the power to intervene, if the pope deems it appropriate. The right to intervene does not involve the obligation to intervene, namely, the necessary exercise of this right. The fact that the pope can intervene even in the nomination of pastors of parishes does not signify that he must intervene for each nomination of a pastor and that the ordinary of the place cannot name a pastor without the previous or subsequent intervention of the pope. Likewise, the fact that the pope has the right to intervene in each nomination of a bishop or in the erection of a new diocese does not signify that he must necessarily intervene, and that without his prior or subsequent intervention the patriarch with his synod cannot validly and licitly perform the acts in question.

It should be noted that we do not distinguish here, as certain persons do abusively, between the right and the exercise of the right. If the pope has the right, he can always exercise it. What we affirm is that neither the obligation nor the necessity to intervene logically result from the right to intervene.

It is true that the pope's right to intervene involves a corresponding obligation for the patriarch and the synod. But this is the obligation not to prevent this right from being exercised whenever the pope wishes to do so.

Nothing more can logically be deduced from the conciliar text.

Since the conciliar decree of November 21, 1964, sufficient time has not elapsed to permit discerning from experience whether the clause in question is the object of abuse on the part of the Eastern Churches. If in spite of this the pope wishes to assume the responsibility of imposing on the patriarchs and on their synods a new obligation by restricting the jurisdiction which the council has acknowledged in them, he can according to the letter of the law do so by relying on his supreme power. However, one must not have recourse to a violent interpretation of a text by making the council say what it has not said.

To make our explanation clearer, let us imagine a similar text, for example this one: "Ordinarii locorum suorum cum suis variis Consiliis superiorem constituunt instantiam pro quibusvis negotiis suae dioeceseos, non secluso jure constituendi paroecias novas atque nominandi parochos sui ritus intra fines territorii dioecesani, salvo inalienabili Romani Pontificis jure in singulis casibus interveniendi." (The ordinaries of their locations with their various councils constitute the superior authority for all the affairs of the diocese, including right to establish new parishes and to nominate pastors of their rite within the territorial bounds of the diocese, without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases.)

By virtue of such a canon the pope could certainly, if he so desired, intervene in the establishment of a new parish or the nomination of a pastor, and even, in the last analysis, if the welfare of the Church demanded it (a purely extreme hypothesis) intervene in the establishment of all new parishes and the nomination of all pastors. But does that mean that the ordinary of the place cannot validly and licitly establish new parishes and name pastors without the intervention of the pope?

Let it not be said that the analogy is invalid since the founding of a parish is not the founding of a diocese, and the nomination of a pastor is not the nomination of a bishop. Admittedly, these matters are not of equal importance. But that is not the question. The question is to recognize that, through the conciliar text, the founding of a diocese and the nomination of a bishop have been said to be within the superior authority of the patriarch and of his synod, just as the formation of a parish or the nomination of a pastor is within the jurisdiction of the ordinary of the place with or without his council.

In the light of what precedes, it is possible to pass sounder judgment on the interpretation given by the Central Commission on January 31, 1966: "Utrum per clausulam 'salvo inalienabili Romani Pontificis jure in singulis casibus interveniendi', de qua in No. 9, comm. 4 Decreti ‘Orientalium Ecclesiarum' statuatur, quod spectat ad elegendos episcopos, plena facultas indicandi singulis in casibus, ante electionem, utrum candidatus dignus et idoneus sit?" "Affirmative." (Whether through the clause "without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman pontiff to intervene in individual cases," which appears in No. 9, sentence 4, of the "Decree on Eastern Churches," which pertains to nominating bishops, there is a full faculty for the Roman pontiff of indicating in individual cases, before the election, whether the candidate is worthy and suitable? In the affirmative.)

In our opinion "facultas" (faculty) says no more than "jus" (right). We remain at a standstill. We would even say that this interpretation, rightly understood, actually restricts the power of the pope unduly, for he has not only the "faculty of indicating in individual cases before the election." He can intervene just as much after the election as before the election. The council places no limitation on the pope's power of intervention.

However, the interpretation has not touched the crux of the problem. No one can deny that the pope has the full faculty to intervene either before or after the election.

Yet the question remains whether he must intervene, or at least whether it is necessary that he intervene so that the acts laid down by the patriarch and his synod may be valid and licit. To this question the interpretation of January 31, 1966, gives no answer, at least if it is understood in its obvious sense. The answer is given in the Central Commission's proceedings. In it we read, "All members...have unanimously decided to reply that the Holy Father has the right to intervene. Consequently, the patriarchs must present a request before the election of bishops. More precisely, that the patriarchs present the names of the candidates and wait until the Holy See gives the answer as to their suitability."

This interpretation appears to us to be erroneous on two points:

a. In that it passes from the right to intervene to the obligation to intervene;

b. In that it limits the unconditional right of the pope to intervene in every case to an intervention only prior to the election, as if the pope could not intervene even after the election.

After this statement of a canonical nature, may we be permitted to add a few words on the human and ecclesial level.

The whole history comes down to this: the conciliar text in question won in the Eastern Commission the necessary majority of two-thirds plus one vote. It displeased certain members and consultors of the commission. When afterwards it was almost unanimously approved by the council, it displeased certain groups that see in it a diminution in Roman control over the activities of the patriarchs. The reform of the former legislation on this point displeased them. Since they were unable to block the conciliar text, they are now trying to empty it of its content. With this violent interpretation of the text there is practically a return to the prior situation and we act as if the council had never existed. That is the whole story.

However, this conciliar text is of primordial importance from the pastoral and ecumenical point of view. It marks the beginning of decentralization. It indicates that there is an ever-growing desire to place trust in the patriarchs with their synods. In the ecumenical dialogue, it places before the eyes of Orthodoxy the state of affairs that Catholicism can offer it in the event of union. In the eyes of Catholics themselves it is a test that will show if there is a decision to go forward according to the spirit of the council, or if, by evasions through more or less violent interpretations we wish to nullify the council and come back, whatever the cost, to the prior situation. The problem is more serious than it appears.

On June 22, 1966, the Sacred Eastern Congregation transmitted to the patriarch a new solution adopted by the postconciliar Central Commission to solve the problem arising over the interpretation of Article 9 of the "Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches." This solution, which conformed essentially to the practical procedure proposed by the Melkite Synod of January, 1966, was received by the Synod of August, 1966. Thus, the freedom of episcopal elections and of the erection of new eparchies was confirmed, at the same time that the pastoral utility of a previous and private consultation between the patriarchs and the Holy Father was recognized.



[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.  
May 152011
 
A Practical Guide to Evangelization for Eastern Catholic Parishes

A Practical Guide to Evangelization for Eastern Catholic Parishes

by Anthony T. Dragani, MA, re-edited by Shawn A. Dorisian (reprinted with permission, all rights reserved by the authors)

I would like to start this presentation with a prayer from the Maronite Sedro:

By your wisdom, make us worthy / To be your faithful witnesses in the world And to be renewed in our commitment / To the Christian Life. We Praise you O Christ,Your FatherAnd your living Holy Spirit Now and for ever, Amen.

The Catholic Church teaches that the Word of Christ be brought to all persons in such a way that anyone who hears will want to come to Christ and be baptized (see Romans 10:10-17), that this will and work be known and believed. This is the mission of the Church known as evangelization and it should be the desire of all committed Christians to want to tell of their Savior [1]

This guide labors to present a practical strategy of parish-based evangelization. Many of the concepts utilized have been carefully selected from the writings of Protestant evangelists, who have demonstrated a high aptitude in this field. Other ideas have also been drawn from the writings of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox evangelists. However, I have only included those approaches that are well suited for the typical Eastern Catholic parish. Our parishes have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and these have been taken into consideration when writing this guide.

In the Protestant world, much research has gone into the study of evangelization. Many Protestant scholars have become experts on the subject, and have developed it into a "science" known as church growth. Drawing on insights from sociology, psychology, and other fields of study, church growth experts have developed approaches to evangelization that yield proven results. In a very real sense church growth can be considered a true science "with theories that can be tested and proven."[2]

The strategy presented in this guide is essentially parish-based. For numerous reasons, denomination wide evangelization is not as effective.[3] Ultimately, it is the quality and outreach of the local congregation that will attract new membership. Given this circumstance, what role should a Eparchial office or committee of evangelization play? It should first and foremost serve to assist individual parishes in implementing a plan of evangelization. Likewise, it should only focus its efforts on those parishes that wish to grow. Some parishes unfortunately have no desire to expand their membership. An Eparchial office would be wasting its time trying to help a congregation (and typically pastor) that has no desire for growth. Instead, the Eparchial office should only expend its energy and resources supporting those parishes that request its aid in implementing a strategy for growth.

Before proceeding, a few words of caution are in order. First and foremost, evangelization must be pursued with integrity. In no way can the theology or worship of the parish be diluted in an attempt to increase attendance. As warned by evangelization expert Peter Barna, "any church growth strategy that is geared to increasing the number of people without emphasizing the necessity of commitment to Jesus Christ is working in opposition to scriptural command."[4] In incorporating new members into the Church, it is crucial that the Gospel message is not watered down. Barna warns against following the example of a certain well-known Protestant "cathedral":

A church in Southern California began with less than a dozen people attending the first week's service. You cannot find a seat in the sanctuary today, because more than 10,000 people regularly file into the church every Sunday. But the growth of the church occurred as a consequence of spiritual compromise. People who attend that church see a good show, but they don't hear the gospel the way Jesus proclaimed it. Yes, this church is well marketed, but it is marketed for a different purpose than to serve Jesus Christ.[5]

It is also important to remember that there are no magic formulas for successful evangelization.[6] Ultimately, it is not slick tactics or brilliant strategies that cause a parish to flourish, but the work of the Holy Spirit.[7] Hence, persistent prayer must accompany all efforts.

The Necessity of Evangelization

In recent centuries, Eastern Christianity has been very lax in the field of evangelization. We have rightly focused on serving the needs of our people, but sometimes to the exclusion of spreading the Gospel to those who have not heard it. Historically, this has not always been the case. In the ninth century, SS. Cyril and Methodius conducted a successful mission to the Slavs, under the patronage of St. Photius the Great. And in the nineteenth century the Russian Orthodox mission to Alaska bore great fruit. It is unfortunate that the missionary imperative seems to have fallen on the back burner since then.

The most compelling reason to evangelize is to fulfill Jesus' command:

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."[8]

The tendency of Eastern Christian Churches to minister exclusively to one ethnic group, failing to "make disciples of all nations" directly contradicts the will of Christ. Christ's Church is to be universal, spreading the Gospel to all persons of every racial and ethnic background. In as much as we neglect evangelization, we fail to be Christ's Church.

Archeparch Joseph Tawil, a revered leader of the Melkite Catholic Church, cautioned against an emphasis on ethnicity. Archeparch Tawil envisioned Eastern Catholic Churches open to all Americans, and in turn the World. He eloquently spoke of this in a famous Christmas pastoral letter:

One day all of our ethnic traits – language, folklore, customs – will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we cannot think of our communities as ethnic parishes, primarily for the service of the immigrant or ethnically oriented, unless we wish to assure the death of our community. Our Churches are not only for our own people but are also for any of our fellow Americans who are attracted to our traditions which show forth the beauty of the universal Church and the variety of its riches.[9]

Archeparch Joseph warns of the danger of our Churches vanishing in North America, and in turn the West. Research indicates that this is a very real possibility. The best evidence clearly suggests that parishes that neglect evangelization tend to stagnate or decline in America.[10] Studies show that the typical congregation will lose 6% to 10% of its membership annually.[11] This loss is attributed to parishioners dying, relocating, and dropping out. For a parish to thrive, it must annually replace these lost members – or face eventual extinction.

There is a prevalent false assumption in how these lost members are to be replaced. Most Eastern Catholic parishes wrongly assume that the children will take their place. The sad truth is that most of the children raised in our parishes will not be there as adults. In our transient societies, most of these children will either move away or join other Churches. Very often less than 10% of the children found in a parish will remain there in adulthood.[12]

Also, denominational loyalty is not nearly as strong as it was in previous generations.[13] In our consumer-oriented cultures, young people are accustomed to shopping for the institution that best meets their needs. The reality that they were raised in a specific tradition is unlikely to assure that they will not leave for something more appealing. One fact is clear: the parishes that grow and flourish are those that actively evangelize.[14]

In the past decade, Eastern Christianity has demonstrated an unprecedented appeal in the United States. While there are no firm figures, it is probable that as many as ten thousand Evangelical Protestants have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in the past ten years. Father Peter Gillquist, a former Protestant minister whom once led Campus Crusade for Christ, is now director of evangelization for the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. He believes that Orthodoxy's present success is largely due to dispelling the myth that it is an exclusively ethnic Church.[15] Orthodoxy offers magnificent worship, sound theology, and a rich treasury of spirituality. Once North Americans were made aware of its existence, and that they were welcome to join, many jumped at the opportunity.[16] I am firmly convinced that Eastern Catholicism is also capable of attracting an influx of new members, provided that we also unambiguously open our parishes to all.

Phase I: Preparing the Parish

Before beginning evangelization per se, it is crucial to prepare the parish for what is about to occur. Many Eastern Catholic congregations are not familiar with visitors, and often times do not know how to properly welcome perceived "outsiders." Well-intentioned parishioners are often prone to ask visitors such questions as "Are you a Ukrainian, Lebanese, and the like?" or the infamous "What is your last name?" Questions such as these send a strong signal of exclusivity to visitors, who most likely will never return.

What typically needs to occur is a change in a parish's self-perception. Most of our parishioners subconsciously believe their parishes to exist for the preservation of ethnic identity. There is some historical warrant for this belief. In our Old Countries the Church was a crucial means of safeguarding national identity. However, this approach is not tenable in the West. Our young people think of themselves as Americans, Canadians, European or Brazilians for example first and usually have little ethnic consciousness. They are attracted to the Roman Church, which they perceive as being universal. Hence, the hyper-ethnic parish often unwittingly drives out the young people, and excludes potential new members – ensuring its immanent demise.

To be successful, an Eastern parish must become conscious of a greater purpose. The congregation must first come to understand that Christ's Church exists to spread the Good News to all persons. Evangelization is a fundamental aspect of the Church's mission, not an optional activity. This must be clearly communicated to the congregation. Regular homilies are an effective tool in conveying this message.[17] If there is still resistance, it may be necessary to warn of the eventual likelihood of the parish dying through lack of membership.

Most visitors will have their first contact with the parish at Sunday morning Divine Liturgy. It is important that this first impression be a positive one. To ensure that it is, certain practices must be implemented before the visitors arrive. One of the best things that a parish can do in preparation for growth is to assign greeters to the main entrance and exits. Greeters must be carefully selected, and briefly trained to recognize and welcome visitors. The greeter must understand that he or she is there first and foremost to make the newcomer feel welcome and comfortable.[18] Today, many Roman Catholic parishes have greeters, and find them to be a true blessing.

It is especially necessary that the greeters interact with the visitors immediately after worship, as well as before. According to Robert Bast, Minister of Evangelism for the Reformed Church in America, the moments following the end of Sunday worship are among the most important in determining whether or not a visitor will return. Rev. Bast cautions that "this can be the loneliest moment of all, if everyone is greeting friends, while the visitor goes up the aisle in a pocket of isolated silence."[19] Designated greeters with good hospitality skills can prevent such awkwardness from occurring.[20] Experience proves that "when visitors feel that no one cares whether or not they have come, they are not likely to return."[21]

It is also useful to give the visitor something to take home as a reminder of the visit. A simple visitor's packet, distributed by the greeters, can make a powerful impact. It is not necessary to arrange an elaborate selection of information, as it can overwhelm the reader. Rather, a successful visitor's packet need only consist of a manila envelope containing a parish brochure, a brief introduction to Eastern Catholicism, and an invitation to join the parish.

I also highly recommend erecting a literature rack near the church entrance. Both the Maronite and Melkite offices of religious education in the United States offers a wonderful selection of leaflets on their forms of Catholicism at a very reasonable price. A literature rack stocked with such leaflets can sufficiently answer many questions that the visitor may have. Nearby there should also be a guest book, where visitors can leave their names, addresses and e-mails to receive parish mailings.

One of the most effective preparations for evangelization is already in place in many of our parishes: the post-Liturgy coffee hour. Most visitors are looking for a community where they can feel comfortable. The friendliness of a congregation is perhaps the most important factor in attracting a new member.[22] According to Bast, "Coffee/fellowship time after worship is indispensable for the church that intends to attract and keep visitors. It provides an immediate occasion for inviting, and an excellent opportunity for socializing. Without it, visitors are unlikely to remain long enough to meet anyone in the church."[23]

During this phase of preparation, I strongly recommend that the pastor appoint an evangelization task force to implement the strategy. This will usually consist of a group of five to seven people who show genuine interest in the growth of the parish.[24] As many of our pastors are already stressed for time, it is essential for them to delegate responsibility to a task force.[25] If the parish is blessed with a permanent deacon, it would be wise to place him in charge of the effort.

Phase II: Attracting the Visitor

Once the parish has been properly prepared, it is time to begin attracting visitors. Our chief obstacle in this task is overcoming widespread ignorance. Most Americans are oblivious to the existence of Eastern Christianity. The common presupposition is that the Christian world is divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants. An educated few may be aware of Eastern Orthodoxy. Even less are aware of Eastern Catholicism.

Among those who know about Eastern Christianity, it is commonly believed that Eastern Christian parishes are ethnic enclaves. Most Westerners are not aware that they are welcome to attend and join an Eastern parish. Therefore, our task is two-fold. First, we must make others aware of our existence. And second, we must inform them that they are welcome to join our parishes.

With these two objectives in mind, we will now briefly explore some of the best techniques for attracting visitors. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does present what I believe to be the most effective techniques available.

The Church Sign

This is one of the most overlooked tools of evangelization. A visible sign with accurate liturgy times can have significant impact. Bast remarks that "possibly the single most important advertising a church can do is through the sign it has in front of its building."[26] He recommends a readable, simple sign that is perpendicular to the road.[27] Service times are a must, and accuracy is crucial. Very often our parishes neglect posting Liturgy times outside of the building. The assumption is that everyone who needs to know the Liturgy times can just look in the bulletin. This presumption fails to consider the possibility of visitors.

Because of the widespread belief that Eastern parishes are exclusively ethnic, we must take extra measures to let potential visitors know that they are welcome. The sign is an excellent place to do this. A simple phrase such as "Everyone is Welcome" can go a long way in this regard.

The Telephone Directory

Market research indicates that people under the age of forty use the telephone directory extensively. Frequently, families who have recently moved into the area will consult the telephone directory pages to find a church to join.[28] This is a golden opportunity for parish growth that should not be passed up. It is recommended that the parish take as large an advertisement as is affordable. Include in the ad liturgy times, an attractive description of the parish, and a phone number and address. Further, if the directory permits, setup a separate Eastern Catholic subsection, or even better a section that lists the tradition of the Churches like the Byzantine or Syro-Antiochene Catholic Churches. I suggest emphasizing our majestic, mystical worship. Again, a slogan such as "Everyone is Welcome" is essential.

The Mailing/E-Mailing Lists

A mailing/e-mailing list of previous visitors and friends of the parish can be an invaluable resource. Such a list can be cultivated through the guest book mentioned earlier. A well-maintained list can be used to regularly send out notices of upcoming events, as well as invitations to worship with the parish during holidays. Such letters of invitation can bring back someone who otherwise may have forgotten about the parish. With every mailing, I strongly suggest sending an attractive, professionally designed parish brochure.[29] A professional copying establishment can produce such a brochure for a very reasonable price. Be certain to include in it accurate Liturgy times, directions to the parish, and activities such as scripture studies and youth education classes. If you are e-mailing make sure that it is not cluttered with too many graphics.

Information Night

An information night is an opportunity to introduce the church to the local community. Eastern Orthodox missions throughout the West have used such information nights with great success.[30] Frederica Matthews-Green, a famous convert to Orthodoxy from Protestantism, writes of the use of information nights by her growing mission parish:

We hold evenings like this a couple of times a year, and from past experience I know that some of these strangers will be joining us as regulars at Holy Cross. We sing through Vespers… After I describe my conversion to Christ and journey to Orthodoxy, Carl speaks a little more knowledgeably about the Orthodox Church; after all, he has a recent doctorate in Byzantine history… As the meeting breaks up we move to the fellowship room for platters of snacks that include plenty of cold cuts and sausages, since everyone's clearing out refrigerators. The crowd is jovial, and the conversations go on for hours.[31]

A successful information night has several key ingredients. First, it must be well advertised. A noticeable newspaper advertisement is called for, inviting the community to discover the rich spirituality of the Eastern Church. If a guest speaker will be present, his or her name and credentials should also be mentioned. A flyer should also be sent to everyone on the mailing list.

Second, an engaging speaker must deliver the talk. Absolutely nothing is more effective than a convert to Eastern Catholicism telling his or her story. The advertisements are likely to attract spiritual seekers who will readily identify with conversion stories. Such accounts are easy to relate to, and are almost never boring. If the parish does not have any converts, one should be recruited from a neighboring parish for the event. Most converts are full of zeal for their newfound Church, and will gladly share their stories.

Third, contacts must be made. An information night is an excellent opportunity for visitors to meet regular parishioners. Much like a coffee hour, the information night is also a chance to demonstrate the sense of fellowship present in the parish. Also, every visitor should be given a printout inviting him or her to join the parish, with instructions on how to do so. Visitor addresses should also be collected, and added to the mailing list. With a minimal amount of planning, information nights can be as effective for Eastern parishes as they have been for Orthodox missions.

Tithing Community

Many people do not see the connection between effective evangelization, but tithes are the lifeblood of the Church. If we get our parish to become a Tithing Community then we will have the financial resources to grow. Below are a couple of web sites that outline the Catholic Principal of Tithing.

Adopt A Community

There are Eastern Catholics around the world have no organized parishes.To use my own Maronite Church as an example, in Sweden, Ecuador, Ghana and West Africa, England, either have no parishes or do not have the resources to own their own Church (as is the case in England) We can also look at adopting communities in our own homelands.

Let me use Ecuador as an example because it stands out most in my mind.

When I was in Ecuador, I was shocked to see Statues of St. Maron, St.Sharbel, and St. Rafka in the Amazon Jungle side of Ecuador. There are noMaronite Churches there (even though there are thousands, and LebaneseMaronites have served as president of Ecuador), but the Maronites arestruggling to keep their heritage and faith.

A. We can help our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters by sending money down there help build Eastern Catholic Churches.

B. We can send ourselves. How better than to spend a week building a New Home for God? It helps bind a parish as a family, also for our teens, and young adults it will give them a sense of service.

C. Our establish parishes can adopt a priest. The cost of living is very inexpensive in many third world countries, so even a few hundred a month could support one priest.

All of these activities help show an active form of evangelization. Many Protestant Churches are doing this now and we can see how they are growing in leaps and bounds.

Canvass Your Local Parishes Neighborhood

This is one of the easy things that a group can do, especially a youth or young adults group. Leave a small note inviting the neighbors to services. You would be surprised at how many people will usually respond. Also, if you are having a special event after liturgy, such as a Church Carnival, this helps the neighbors feel that "OUR" Church is really every ones Church.

Phase III: Incorporating New Members into the Parish

Once a visitor expresses interest in the parish, it is imperative to provide opportunities for him or her to become incorporated into the life of the community. The key principle is that a visitor will not remain in the parish unless he develops friendships within the church. As evangelization experts testify, "without friendships within the congregation, most new members will not stay."[32] Here we will look at two proven vehicles for developing these friendships.

The Small Group

The number one personal problem in our modern age is loneliness. National surveys conducted in recent years indicate that loneliness is one of the major, fastest growing problems in Western Nations.[33] Although we generally are living in closer proximity to one another, we know each other less and less. Most visitors to parishes are not searching for theological purity, but for friendships.[34] It is the responsibility of Christ's Church to try and meet this need by providing opportunities for Christian friendships to develop. Thom Rainer, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, writes of this crucial necessity:

In the early church, people caring for one another, eating in each other's homes, and giving out of love was the norm. Today city-dwellers do not know even the names of the family living three houses down the street.[35]

Historically, one of the most effective ways to counter loneliness and develop friendships in the parish is through small group studies. These studies usually meet weekly and feature "a combination of Bible study, prayer, and personal sharing."[36] For a Eastern Catholic community, the structure can be tailored to incorporate liturgical prayer and patristics. These small groups are an excellent way to incorporate potential members into the parish. Very often a person becomes heavily involved in a small group long before officially joining the church.[37]

Today, there is a serious spiritual thirst. Many adults are longing for in-depth, substantive spiritual learning.[38] It is impossible to fulfill this need solely through Sunday morning homilies. One of the main reasons that Catholics join evangelical Protestant congregations is to study the scriptures. As well as facilitating friendships, a small group can also serve as a valuable tool for adult religious education. And usually from these small groups, parish leaders will emerge who will take positions of responsibility, easing the burden of the pastor.

The Inquirers Class

One variation on the small group is the inquirers class, a small group study for those interested in joining the Church. Roman Catholic parishes have had tremendous success with this concept, which they refer to as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). As a result of RCIA classes, thousands of converts join the Roman Catholic Church every Easter Vigil. In the RCIA program, each new member is assigned a sponsor who acts as his or her guide in exploring the faith. This program has borne great fruit.

Every parish should offer an annual inquirers class. Even parishes that seem to have little growth should make the class available, demonstrating an expectancy of new members. To quote a recent adage, "if you build it, they will come." Some parishes expect no growth, and believe planning for such a class to be an unnecessary expenditure of time. Bast frowns upon this negative attitude:

It is ideal to plan and announce a year's schedule of new member classes. Unfortunately, many congregations hold new member classes only when enough potential participants can be identified to warrant scheduling. This passive approach is "reactive" rather than "active" and may be characteristic in other areas of church life, which then becomes a "self-fulfilling" prophecy. The result of a planned and publicized schedule is a sense of expectancy… "we are going to receive new members."[39]

A successful inquirers class places no pressure on the prospective members. No commitment is asked for until the end. I propose that the RCIA program developed by the Roman Church could serve as a valuable model in developing an authentically Eastern class. The RCIA process is based on the initiation of Christians conducted by the early Church, and prepares the convert for reception of the Christian Mysteries. It has proven to be one of the brightest spots in the Roman Church today, and could also be a source of growth for the Eastern Catholic Church.

Needed: Parishes with Vision

The plan of evangelization outlined in this guide is by no means the final word on the subject. There are many other approaches that can also bear fruit. However, I believe that I have presented a very practical plan of action that almost any parish can implement.

If we become disciples by the Mysteries of Initiation, and thereby here the Word of the Lord, we may not afford ourselves the luxury of thinking that hearing the Word is enough. By our Chrismation the Holy Spirit sends us out on mission – to share the Good News of Christ with others. [40]

By sharing the Word in a gentle, yet powerful and persuasive way, we follow in the steps of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Forerunner, who were, from the beginning of the Christian adventure, teachers and evangelist. [41]

This guide was not written for my pleasure, or the pleasure of any reader. Rather, it is to be put into practice. It is very easy to bewail the problems in our Church. But it is much harder to take the necessary actions to make a difference. Today, the Eastern Orthodox Church is growing at an astounding rate. The Roman Catholic Church is flourishing, winning thousands of new converts daily in Africa and Asia. And yet there are still millions of people who have not heard the Gospel, right here in North America, and in Europe, Australia, and Central and South America. Will we sit by and quietly watch our Eastern Catholic Churches die? Or will we take the actions necessary to spread the Good News to the unchurched, and in the process usher Eastern Catholicism into a whole new era of growth and prosperity?

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