Thursday, March 31, 2011

"We want our church to be alive"

Newly elected and enthroned Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) gave his first press-conference to Ukrainian journalists in Kyiv before his trip to Holy See and audience of Pope Benedict XVI.
He answers the questions "What awaits us, where are we going, where are we headed?" concerning the topics of unity of the Ukrainian Churches, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church strategy, the issue of patriarchal status for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, relations with the Orthodox world, Catholic education, and missions in eastern Ukraine.

Theological Thursdays brings you homilies, lectures, interviews, and biographies on diverse topics including history, theology, spirituality, and philosophy as they pertain to the Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches. 

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ukraine: A Forgotten Generation

Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Pope, made the below video to discuss the plight of Ukrainian children following the fall of Communism. It specifically addresses how the Communist Persecution affected the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church's ability to provide social and educational care to the poor.

Wednesday's Wages are a series of posts which highlight past and present struggles faced by Eastern and Oriental Catholics including the topics of bioethics and persecution. Do you know of a homily, lecture, interview or biography which you think should be featured here? Leave a comment to let me know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adoration of the Holy Cross

The Byzantine Churches celebrate the mid-point to Golgotha today with the Feast of the Adoration of the Holy Cross. Here's a glimpse into the Melkite celebration. Click the link to read the bishop's entire homily.

"God's Love Sign"
Homily for the Sunday of the Holy Cross
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
What meaning can the cross have in our daily lives? The first meaning is God’s forgiveness. When we are burdened and cast down by an overwhelming sense of guilt, feeling that we can never be forgiven, that we can never again look God or men in the face, the Cross brings us the great plus of God’s forgiveness. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34), that was the most precious prayer ever addressed to God by a man in favor of his murderers; and it was Jesus’ prayer on the Cross.

Saintly Sundays highlight saints, feasts, and liturgical seasons in the Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chaldean Memorial of the Faithful Deceased

Subdeacon Anthony gave me permission to post the full content of his below post, which he wrote for his church's newsletter. Please visit his blog and thank him!

The Memorial of the Faithful Deceased
By aboriente
O Christ King, give rest to your servants’ spirits in peace among all your saints, where suffering does not reign, nor grief or distress, but the promised eternal life. – Mawtwa
On Friday, March 4th, the last Friday of the Season of the Epiphany, St. Mary’s parish celebrated the Memorial of the Faithful Deceased.  This commemoration is the Chaldean equivalent to that of All Soul’s in the Roman liturgical calendar, or the Saturday of the Dead in the Byzantine liturgical calendars.  In these Eastern rites, the date is the eight Sunday before Easter, and two before Lent, but on that day, the members of those churches traditionally began to abstain from meat.  But in our Chaldean (Church of the East) practice, this date marks the last Friday before entry into Lent itself.
This day is a day that our people recognize by tradition.  The names of dead friends and relatives are presented to the priest and are then read aloud during the service.  This is due to the apostolic {and Old Testament} belief that prayers for the dead avail them.  In his Mystagogical Orations, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a doctor of the Catholic Church whose writings are greatly appreciated by our rite, talks of petitions “[on behalf also of all] who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.”
Apologists will readily recognize that quote as one used to defend the doctrine of Purgatory, which explains theologically what the Church has practiced and believed from Her beginning.  We pray that they may be forgiven their sins, and that their oblation may be accepted with that of the saints.  We pray that at the resurrection they will be able to stand before Him and sing His glory with the hosts above.
The timing of this feast, at the gates of the onset of Lent, is not an accident.  We remember, in the season of Epiphany, that Christ revealed to us Truth, the Trinity, and hence enlightened our minds that we may be saved from the darkness of ignorance.   As we get ready to enter into contest with Evil with the ascetic labor, we remember those who have finished their struggles and race in this life.  We pray to Christ that when He reveals Himself again in glory, in His mercy He will forgive them.
Let us enter into Lent hopeful, remembering also of the communion of saints, knowing that we pray for those who have gone on before us, just as they will pray for us before the throne of the Compassionate One, our Lord and King, our God.  Let us now labor, awaiting His second dawning.
From the silence his day dawns, and his saints are all awake, and all those who labored, wearied and prepared are lighting their lamps.
 – Morning Hymn of Mar Ephrem 
Social Saturdays bring you homilies, lectures, interviews, and biographies related to funerals, memorials, and prayers for the dead. Do you have a prayer request you'd like to add? Please put it in the comment box any time this week so we can pray with you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

History of Voluntary or Mandatory Clerical Celibacy

Below is a very small excerpt from a work by A. G. Bell III which covers the author's well-cited research on the history of celibacy and marriage among clergy in the Catholic Church. The link has the full article.

Ordination of Married Man in the Eastern Church
In the previous year, 1971, the Holy Synod of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church at its annual meeting in Ain-Traz, Lebanon, attempted to clarify the relationship between the priesthood and celibacy and marriage. The Synod stated in point 9 of its “Official Teaching”: “As regards the question concerning the connection between celibacy and the priesthood, the experience of our Church confirms, as we have already stated, that there is no intrinsic connection between celibacy and the priesthood; the two are distinct charisms. Celibacy, together with the priesthood, is a special way of bearing witness in the Church.” The Synod took great pains in its “Official Teaching” to show the advantages of both married and celibate priests and the need for both in today's Melkite Church.
In Europe today, the Greek Catholic Church in Slovakia has been ordaining married men to the priesthood as has been its custom since its origins. This discipline was never voided, even though there was at times a strong tendency to latinization in that region when some Latin hierarchs or strongly latinized Byzantines wanted to impose celibacy in the Greek Catholic Church. 
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on the territory of Ukraine ordains to the priesthood candidates who are married, and has never stopped, even during the underground period from 1946 to 1989.  There had been an attempt to change the traditional discipline for a short period after World War I in Galicia (Western Ukraine). The three bishops there-Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky of Lviv, Bishop Josaphat Kotsylovski of Peremyshl and Bishop Gregory Khomyshyn of Stanislaviv-decided to admit to seminaries only candidates who were willing to accept ordination as celibates. However, due to a shortage of suitable candidates, Metropolitan Andrew soon reversed his decision and began to accept candidates who would marry before ordination. The eparchies of Peremyshl and Stanislaviv also could not attract a sufficient number of celibate seminarians. Later, Metropolitan Andrew's successor, Metropolitan Joseph Slipy preferred ordaining celibate candidates. Towards the end of World War II some of the older, married Galician priests fled with their families from the Communists and went to Western Europe and eventually to North America. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Social Saturdays (3/12/11)

It's Saturday! That means we're chatting with the living and praying for the dead.
Prayer Requests:
  • For the souls of the reposed, especially for Metropolitan Nicholas and for D. 
  • For those suffering because of the recent earthquake and tsunami and their aftereffects, particularly those missing or hurt and their families.
  • For A, that he be restored to peace and health.
  • For Eden and Selah as they face surgery tomorrow.
  • For C, that all making decisions on his behalf bring glory to God.
  • For Christians in Ethiopia, Europe, Egypt, Somalia, China, the Middle East, and around the world who are persecuted for their faith. 
Continuing Prayer Requests:
  • For the souls of the reposed, especially Kaye, Tim L., Mother Nadia Baranik, Fr. Constantine Brown, Elaine Dorko, Helen Boytim, and George Michael Ritchey. 
  • For an abused woman and mother, A, who is in desperate straits and in need of many prayers, especially this Tuesday
  • For Kat's family, including their current and future children, that they be restored to health and guided in discernment and finances in their next adoption. (Kat has other prayer requests at the link.) 
  • For Francisco and his mother who are surrounded by violence that the Lord protect them and give them hope and peace as well as guide them to jobs that allow them to provide for their needs and glorify Him. 
  • For all of our clergy, religious, and monastics that they be directed in strength, courage, patience, and fortitude to radically live God's will for their lives. 
  • For mothers, that they not abort their offspring; for infants in danger of being put to death in the womb; for a change of heart of providers of abortions and of their collaborators; for human victims of stem cell research, genetic manipulation, cloning, and euthanasia; and for all entrusted with the government of peoples, that they may promote the "Culture of Life" so as to put an end to the "culture of death." 
  • For Your Word From The Wise and all who are connected to it, that it may bring glory to God. 
  • For the intentions of those who are praying. 
Do you have a prayer request you'd like to add? Please put it in the comment box any time this week so we can pray with you.

What's going on at Your Word From The Wise?
  • I followed up on the interviews that are out. 
  • I sent out an interview request.
  • I coordinated and conducted a new interview. It will hopefully be posted soon!
  • I added the Link Within widget to the blog which automatically pulls 5 related posts and places links to them at the bottom of every post. It says the recommendations it makes will get better with time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

St. Ephrem's Hymn on Fasting

Picture by John Sheppard and courtesy of
Over four hundred hymns composed by Ephrem still exist. Granted that some have been lost, Ephrem's productivity is not in doubt. The church historian Sozomen credits Ephrem with having written over three million lines. Ephrem combines in his writing a threefold heritage: he draws on the models and methods of early Rabbinic Judaism, he engages skillfully with Greek science and philosophy, and he delights in the Mesopotamian/Persian tradition of mystery symbolism.

The most important of his works are his lyric, teaching hymns (madrāšê). These hymns are full of rich, poetic imagery drawn from biblical sources, folk tradition, and other religions and philosophies. The madrāšê are written in stanzas of syllabic verse, and employ over fifty different metrical schemes. Each madrāšâ had its qālâ, a traditional tune identified by its opening line. All of these qālê are now lost. It seems that Bardaisan and Mani composed madrāšê, and Ephrem felt that the medium was a suitable tool to use against their claims. The madrāšê are gathered into various hymn cycles. Each group has a title — Carmina Nisibena, On Faith, On Paradise ... Against Heresies — but some of these titles do not do justice to the entirety of the collection (for instance, only the first half of the Carmina Nisibena is about Nisibis). Each madrāšâ usually had a refrain (‘ûnîṯâ), which was repeated after each stanza. Later writers have suggested that the madrāšê were sung by all women choirs with an accompanying lyre.

Particularly influential were his Hymns Against Heresies. Ephrem used these to warn his flock of the heresies which threatened to divide the early church. He lamented that the faithful were "tossed to and fro and carried around with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness and deceitful wiles." He devised hymns laden with doctrinal details to inoculate right-thinking Christians against heresies such as docetism. The Hymns Against Heresies employ colourful metaphors to describe the Incarnation of Christ as a fully human and divine. Ephrem asserts that Christ's unity of humanity and divinity represents peace, perfection and salvation; in contrast, docetism and other heresies sought to divide or reduce Christ's nature, and in doing so would rend and devalue Christ's followers with their false teachings.

Ephrem also wrote verse homilies (mêmrê). These sermons in poetry are far fewer in number than the madrāšê. The mêmrê are written in a heptosyllabic couplets (pairs of lines of seven syllables each).

The third category of Ephrem's writings is his prose work. He wrote biblical commentaries on the Diatessaron (the single gospel harmony of the early Syriac church), on Genesis and Exodus, and on the Acts of the Apostles and Pauline Epistles. He also wrote refutations against Bardaisan, Mani, Marcion and others.

Ephrem wrote exclusively in the Syriac language, but translations of his writings exist in Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek and other languages. Some of his works are only extant in translation (particularly in Armenian). Syriac churches still use many of Ephrem's hymns as part of the annual cycle of worship. However, most of these liturgical hymns are edited and conflated versions of the originals.

The most complete, critical text of authentic Ephrem was compiled between 1955 and 1979 by Dom Edmund Beck OSB as part of the Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium.

Source: Wikipedia's article on Ephrem the Syrian/Writings

1.1 Christ Adam and the Fast
The is the fast of the First Born, the first of his victories.
Let us rejoice in his coming; for in fasting he has overcome.
Though he could have overcome by any means,
He revealed for us the strength hidden in fasting, Overcomer of All.
For by means of it a man can overcome that one who with fruit overcame Adam;
He became greedy and gobbled it. Blessed is the First-Born who encompassed
Our weakness with the wall of his great fasting.

Blessed is the King who adorned the Holy Church with Fasting, Prayer and Vigil.

1.2 The Fast Purifies the Eye of the Soul to See God
This is the fast which exalts; which appeared from the First Born
So as to extol the younger ones. There is occasion for delight for the discerning ones in fasting;
When one sees how much he has grown. Fasting secretly purifies the soul
So it can gaze on God and grow by the vision of Him.
For the weight that is from the earth, bends it back to the earth.
Blessed is he who gave us fasts,
The sheer wings by which we fly to him.

Fasting is bright and beautiful for any who bright enough
To gaze on God. The Turbid One, stirred up by anything
Cannot fix the eye on that Clear One. He who possesses a clear eye
He can gaze upon him; as much as it is given to him to gaze.
Instead of the clarifying wine, let us clarify our thought
So that we will be able to see the Clear One
Who overcame the Evil Oneby means of fasting, that Disturber of All.

1.4 The Fast and the Temptation of the Lord
This is the fast through which greed escapes
The peoples at the top of the mountain ; clothed in fasting he overcame the Greedy One.
Who had clothed himself with the food of Adam's house.
The Lord of Victories gave us his weapon, he ascended on high to be an observer.
Who would not run to the weapon by which God overcame
It is a shameful thing, my brothers, to be bested by the weapon
Which overcomes and causes to overcome all creation.

1.5 The Fast Lets One See the Invisible Enemy
Because the enemy is not visible, let us purge our thinking so that he sees that we see him.
He is able to steal some of those whom he sees
That they have not noticed him.
When a soul undertakes a fast,
The the fast bears it and gives it back to its counterpart.
Amid the volleys of sharpened arrows, hiddren from view, the hidden eye
Is polished to see from whence they come.

1.6 The True Fast and the Scriptures
This is the instructive fast, it teaches the athlete the ways of the contest.
Draw near to it, study, learn to struggle shrewdly.
Behold he instructed us to fast with our mouths and hearts,
Let us not fast from bread and think thoughts
In which the hidden poison of death is hidden.
Let us confess on the fast day the First Born
Who gave us the word of life to meditate on.

Let the scriptures be for us like a mirror, let us see in them our fast
For the Bible descriminates between fasts and prayer.
It chooses one type of fast and rejects another
Some fasters appease God and others anger him.
There is a prayer which is sinful, and another which is the medicine of life
O Lord let us rejoice in our fast
As he rejoiced, my brothers, in his own fast.

1.8 The Fast of Christ
The fast is not defiling for the Holy One, for through it he descended and shone
Another mixing made the fast defiled, though itself is pure.
Examine nature! Are not desirable fruit
Polluted by loathsome fruit?
Our thoughts are repelled by them though they be washed many times.
Blessed is the Pure One who receives those fruits
Which all the penitent having purified them give to him.

1.9 The Effort of the Enemy to Make the Fast of No Use
The Troubler mixes filth with our Clarity,
So as to make the first-fruits of our prayer and fasting hateful.
It is possible by his jealousy, that our gift be rebuked.
Take away your deceits from your fasts, remove mockery from your praise.
May your voices wash your mouths from lies.
Allow us, O First Born in your mercy
To uproot hidden weeds from our thoughts

Do not be hindered O Simple Ones regarding that Deceiver who robs Fasters.
For when he sees someone abstaining from bread,
He is filled with anger. When he sees someone standing to pray
He fills his mind with one distraction after another.
He steals from his heart the prayer of his mouth,
O Lord of ours give us an eye to see,
How he steals the truth in deceit.

Come be gathered, my brothers, on this fast day let us sit and marvel at how evil is the Evil One
When he makes a transaction (gives and takes), he impoverishes us by what is his.
And does he become wealthy through what is ours; the truth that he steals suits him not.
The deceit he gives to us does not avail.
It is similar to the whore his companion, who is neither ours nor his.
Judge O Lord, between us and him,
For it is through you that Solomon judged the unclean women.

1.12 The False Fast of the Jews
Let us seek the trace of truth on the fast day; Let us go forth by it to the place of abodes
For the Blind People run, on a fast day with pride and wandering
Though there is a fast in their mouth, yet an idol is in the heart;
Prayer is on their lips, but divination in their heart
Their stomach is devoid of bread, but full of lies;
Though they wash their hands all day,
Hidden blood still screams against them.

1.13 Ephrem's Lament
Blessed is he who endured and sustained and his head is crowned in exaltation.
With a bold voice, as one who deserves a payment, he demands his wage
He is not like me, who is too weak to fast, too lowly for the vigil
The first to be overcome. My enemy possesses skill
When he overcomes me, he lets me rise that he might again cast me low.
O Sea of mercies give me a handful of mercies

Source: Saint Ephrem's Hymns on Fasting: An Annotated Translation and Concordance by Gary A. Anderson, Sidney Griffith, and Robin Darling Young

Theological Thursdays brings you homilies, lectures, interviews, and biographies on diverse topics including history, theology, spirituality, and philosophy as they pertain to the Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Minnesota Blizzard Makes His Way to Modern Italy

Recalling that it was for only 30 silver shekels that Judas betrayed the Lord 

Romanian Catholic priests who were legitimately married before their valid ordinations may not serve their own faithful in Italy, according to a leaked document from the Italian Catholic Episcopal Conference:
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
Archbishop of Genoa, Italy
and president of the
Italian Episcopal Conference
(The Romanian Catholic Church follows the Byzantine liturgical rite and retains many customs — such as a married priesthood — similar to Eastern Orthodoxy, from which it broke away in 1698 when it entered union with Rome. It is estimated there are more than half a million Romanian Catholics in Italy.) 
The letter from the Bishops’ Conference cited the importance of “protecting ecclesiastical celibacy” and the need to “prevent confusion among the faithful.” At issue is the concept that the free exercise of the right of Eastern Catholic Churches to ordain married priests is limited to their “canonical territory” or traditional homelands. Outside of their traditional territories, this right is seen as subject to regulation by the Pope.  
Click here to see the the full article on the website of St. Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church of Brampton, Ontario, Canada.

Wednesday's Wages are a series of posts which highlight past and present struggles faced by Eastern and Oriental Catholics including the topics of bioethics and persecution. Do you know of a homily, lecture, interview or biography which you think should be featured here? Leave a comment to let me know.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We have a winner!

Your Word From The Wise brought you three opportunities to be entered into a drawing for this beautiful Deisis icon. The entries are in and the winner is... 
Dennis O'Donovan!

Disappointed that you didn't win this time?
Watch this space for another freebie contest which will be coming up soon!
I'll be contacting Dennis today to coordinate shipping. Congratulations!

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