Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Melkite Greek Church in the Life of the Catholic Church

This entry should be understood as a further reflection on the article The Rite Not to be Roman, cited earlier. I wrote it as a summary piece for a recent bulletin for my community. If you haven't yet read The Rite Not to be Roman, may this interest you to do so. Olsen goes into more detail and, as I've said, is worth the read!

The place of the Greek Catholic (or Byzantine) Churches in the life of the Catholic Church is often misunderstood. In fact, to the West the Church is erroneously called the “Roman Catholic Church”. Yet official Church documents, such as papal decrees and writings of the Ecumenical Councils, reveal that the Christian Faith subsists in the Catholic Church. The addition of the term “Roman” evolved partly as an insult by early Protestants (particularly Anglicans who attempted to see themselves as an alternative ‘branch’ of the One True Church) in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Catholic Church itself is actually a family of Churches whose unity is founded in the saving Gospel proclaimed by Jesus Christ and signified by visible unity and communion with the Holy Apostolic See of Peter in Rome. It was to St Peter alone that our Lord first granted the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and only later extended this authority to the other Apostles. It was to Peter alone that the triple charge to “Feed my sheep” was given by the Risen Lord. In fact, St Peter was not only the fist Pope of Rome, he was also the first Patriarch of Antioch.

The primacy of Peter does not detract from the independent, dynamic witness to the Gospel that is the possession of those ‘other’ Churches in communion with Rome. Our Catholic Faith does not enslave us to follow practices that, while valid, wholesome and cherished by the Church of Rome, are not part of our own Christian heritage. From time immemorial Popes and Patriarchs have repeatedly affirmed the value and equality of Eastern Catholic Liturgy, Sacraments, Holy Orders, practices and devotions. Indeed, Pope Leo XIII was adamant that attempts by some Roman Church Bishops to impose Latin practices on Eastern Christians were abominations that had no place in the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council, and subsequently the Great Pope John Paul the Second of Blessed Memory, clarified that it is not the “Byzantine Rite” but the “Byzantine Churches” which form integral parts of the Catholic Church, which includes the Holy Church of Rome. We are one Church yet also several particular Churches united in Faith, Hope and Love, with a common Tradition and multiple heritages, each unique and equally valid.

Thus it is that western Christians who attend Melkite Catholic Liturgies find the experience at once familiar, and yet exotic and mystical. While Roman worship tends toward a noble simplicity, Byzantine worship exalts the mystery and majesty of God’s salvation in the sacrifice and triumph of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For us, the focus of direct adoration of God (the highest duty of man or woman in responding to God’s generous Love) finds its fullest expression in the Sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy. We come together to praise, worship and share the Unity of the Faith in the Mystery of the Word and the Altar. In the Divine Liturgy we step outside of human time and space to enter the eternity of Heaven and, surrounded by the Angels and Saints, stand before the awesome Judgment Seat of Christ tremble to step forward and partake of His precious Body and Blood, uniting ourselves to His Divine Life, even as he condescended to share in our own.

The life of the Greek Catholic Community of Faith is also not restricted by archaic false piety that seeks to needlessly separate and distinguish ourselves from what is universal and salutary in the life of the larger Church. We joyously celebrate all that we have in common with all Catholic Christians throughout history, fearlessly maintaining our living connection to our own past while boldly accepting the challenges of the Twenty-First Century. It this very vibrancy that impels us to a deeper appreciation of the Faith and our unique contribution to the holy task of reuniting our separated Eastern brethren to full Communion with ourselves and with Rome.

And so the Greek Catholic Churches gladly accept our mission to witness to the Unity of the Faith, to proclaim our orthodoxy in the fullness of the Christian Faith as equal members of the Catholic Church, and to do our part to spread the Gospel, proclaim the Day of Salvation and pray for the reconciliation of all men to God our Loving Father. We welcome all who come in peace to love and serve the Lord!

I will possibly add several reflections in the near future on the unique role of the Eastern Churches and the middle-path we tread both refusing to allow ourselves to be "romanized" and avoiding a dift into anti-Roman difference for the sake of being different. As a former member of one of the Separated Brethren Churches I have strong opinions on that danger.

(And because I still enjoy pointing out that the importance of our Melkite Patriarch was clearly manifest in the role he played in the funeral rites of our dearly departed Pope John Paul the Great, I attach here a list of the Patriarchs of Antioch.)

Chronological List of The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchs

St. Peter the Apostle (c.45-c.53); Euodios (c.53-c.68); St. Ignatius I (c.68-100); Eros I (100-c.127); Cornelius (c.127-c.151); Eros II (c.151-c.169); Theophilos (c.169-182); Maximinos I (182-191); Serapion (191-211); Ascelpiades 211-220); Philetos (220-231); Zebinnus Ozniophios (231-237); St. Babylas (237-253); Fabios (253-256); Demetrianos (256-262); Amphilokhos (262-267); Paul of Samosata (267-270); Domnus I (270-273); Timaeos (273-277); Cyril (277-299); Tyrannos (299-308); Vitalius I (308-314); St. Philogonos (314-324); Paulinos of Tyre (324-325); St. Eustathius (325-332); Eulalios (332); Euphronios (333-334); Philaclus (334-341); Stephen I (341-345); Leontius (345-350); Eudoxius (350-354, 354-357); St. Meletius (354); Annias or Ammianus (357-360); Euzoius (360-370); Dorotheus (370-371); Paulinus (371-376); Vitalius II (376-384); St. Flavian I (384-404); Porphyrius (404-408); Alexander I (408-418); Theodotus (418-428); John I (427-443); Domnus II (443-450); Maximus II (450-459) — The episcopacy of Antioch was raised to a Patriarchate by the Council of Chalcedon in 451— Basil (459-459)-- Acacius (459-461); Martyrius (461-465); Peter the Fuller (465-466, 474-475); Julian (466-474); John II (475-490); Stephen II (490-493); Stephen III (493-495); Callandion (495); John Codonatus (495-497); Palladius (495-505); Flavian II (505-513); Severus (513-518); Paul II (518-521); Euphrasius (521-526); St. Ephraim (526-546); Domnus III (546-561); Anastasius the Sinaite (561-571, 594-599); Gregory (571-594); St. Anastasius II (599-610); Gregory II (610-620); Anastasius III (620-628); Macedonius (628-640); George I (640-656); Macarius (656-681); Theophanes (681-687); Sebastian (687-690); George II (690-695); Alexander II (695-702); vacancy 702-742 ; Stephen IV (742-748); Theophylact (748-767); Theodore I (767-797); John IV (797-810); Job I (810-826); Nicholas (826-834); Simeon (834-840); Elias (840-852); Theodosius I (852-860); Nicholas II (860-879); Michael (879-890); Zacharias (890-902); George III (902-917); Job II (917-939); Eustratius (939-960); Christopher (960-966); Theodorus II (966-977); Agapius (977-995); John IV (995-1000); Nicholas III (1000-1003); Elias II (1003-1010); George Lascaris (1010-1015); Macarius the Virtuous (1015-1023); Eleutherius (1023-1028); Peter III (1028-1051); John VI, also known as Dionysus (1051-1062); Aemilian (1062-1075); Theodosius II (1075-1084); Nicephorus (1084-1090); John VII the Oxite (1090-1155); John IX (1155-1159); Euthymius (1159-1164); Macarius II (1164-1166); Athanasius I (1166-1180); Theodosius III (1180-1182); Elias III (1182-1184); Christopher II (1184-1185); Theodore IV (Balsamon) (1185-1199); Joachim (1199-1219); Dorotheus (1219-1245); Simeon II (1245-1268); Euthymius II (1268-1269); Theodosius IV (1269-1276); Theodosius V (1276-1285); Arsenius (1285-1293); Dionysius (1293-1308); Mark (1308-1342); Ignatius II (1342-1386) — With Ignatius, the Patriachate transferred to Damascus — Pachomius (1386-1393); Nilus (1393-1401); Michael III (1401-1410); Pachomius II (1410-1411); Joachim II (1411-1426); Mark III (1426-1436); Dorotheus II (1436-1454); Michael IV (1454-1476); Mark IV (1476); Joachim III (1476-1483); Gregory III (1483-1497); Dorotheus III (1497-1523); Michael V (1523-1541); Dorotheus IV (1541-1543); Joachim IV (Ibn Juma) (1543-1576); Michael VI (Sabbagh) (1577-1581); Joachim V (1581-1592); Joachim VI (1593-1604); Dorotheus V (1604-1611); Athanasius III (Dabbas) (1611-1619); Ignatius III (Attiyah) (1619-1631); Euthymius III (1635-1636); Euthymius IV (1636-1648); Michael III (Zaim) (1648-1672); Neophytos (1674-1684); Athanasius IV (Dabbas) (1686-1694); Cyril III (Zaim) (1694-1720); Athanasius IV (Dabbas) (1720-1724); Cyril VI Tanas (1724-1760); Maxim II Hakim (1760-1761); Theodosius V Dahan (1761-1788); Athanasius IV Jawhar (1765-1794); Cyril VII Siaj (1794-1796); Agapius II Matar (1796-1812); Ignatius IV Sarruf (1812); Athanasius V Matar (1813-1814); Macarius IV Tawil (1814-1815); Ignatius V Qattan (1816-1833); Maxim III Mazlum (1833-1855); Clement Bahouth (1856-1864); Gregory II Youssef-Sayur (1864-1897); Peter IV Jaraijiry (1898-1902); Cyril VIII Geha (1902-1916); vacant (1916-1919); Demetrius I Qadi (1919-1925); Cyril IX Moghabghab (1925-1947); Maxim IV Cardinal Sa├»gh (1947-1967); Maxim V Hakim (1967-2000); Gregory III Laham (2000-Present)

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