February 17, 2008

The Second Sunday of Lent: “Don’t tell anyone about it until after Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday."

“One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” Yes. However, within the Catholic Church— in union with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome— we have Latin Catholics, Melkite Catholics, Byzantine Catholics, Maronite Catholics, Malabar Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, Ruthenian Catholics, and many other kinds.

In the United States, the majority of Catholics are “Latin Catholics”— though “Roman Catholic” is the more usual, but imprecise term. “Roman Catholic” is imprecise, because Melkite Catholics, Byzantine Catholics, etc., are all “Roman” since they are in union with the Bishop of Rome. “Latin Catholic” precisely refers to those Catholics whose official Eucharistic Liturgy is in Latin, even if they celebrate it in translations, such as English or Spanish in the United States, for example.

What about Maronite Catholics, etc.—in what languages do they celebrate? Maronites, for example, whose liturgical homeland is Lebanon, have their official Eucharistic Liturgy in Arabic, though they may celebrate it in local translations. Furthermore, the Maronites, Melkites, Byzantines, etc., celebrate the Eucharistic Liturgy in a ceremonial form that developed in the Greek language in the city of Byzantium, while Latins celebrate it in a ceremonial form that developed in the Latin and Greek languages in the city of Rome.

Perhaps some of you wonder why I said the Latin liturgy developed in Latin AND GREEK. Evidence? “Kyrie, eleison.... Christe, eleison.... Kyrie, eleison....” Latin spelling for Greek words! (Lord, have mercy.... Christ, have mercy....) Also, the extremely ancient chants for the Adoration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday in the Latin Liturgy still include Greek acclamations: “Hagios o Theos.... Hagios Ischyros.... Hagios Athanatos.” (Holy God.... Holy Mighty One.... Holy Immortal One....) When Christianity was planting roots in Rome, it was a bilingual city, speaking both Latin and Greek. The majority of Christians would have been Greek-speakers, and that is why the Lettter of St. Paul to the Romans is in Greek.

So what does all this have to do with the Second Sunday of Lent?

We Latin Catholics use a three-year cycle of readings on Sundays. We are presently in the first year, “Year A.” Until the liturgical changes effected after Vatican Council II, the Latin Catholic Church had only a one-year cycle of Sunday readings, and it corresponded to what we now know as “Year A.” The reading selections in Year A were made before the A.D. 1000 in many cases, if not most.

The Second Sunday of Lent is precisely forty days before Good Friday. The Gospel for this day in Year A presents the Transfiguration of the Lord. The same span of forty days between the Lord’s Transfiguration and the Lord’s Cross is celebrated twice in the Latin Catholic liturgical year: once in Lent (Second Sunday to Good Friday), and once in Ordinary Time when we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6 and the Feast of the Cross on September 14.

Some say this forty-day span may be a remembrance that Christ’s Transfiguration actually took place forty days before his Crucifixion.

The liturgies of the Catholic (Latin, Melkite, Byzantine, Maronite, Ruthenian, etc.) and the Orthodox Churches all celebrate the two events forty days apart on August 6 and September 14.

Even if the two events did not historically happen forty days apart, they are absolutely linked to each other. In Luke’s Gospel, Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration speak to Jesus of his “exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus tells his apostles not to tell anyone of his Transfiguration until after his Death and Resurrection.

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7 Comments:

Blogger A Simple Sinner said...

Melkites and Ruthenians ARE Byzantine Catholics.... Just a small point but that is like saying "we have Latin Catholics, Roman Catholics, Western Catholics..."

Although the Ruthenian Catholics have pretty much appropriated "BCC" Byzantine Catholic Church as their own. The Ukrainians, Romainians and Melkites tend to use "Greek Catholic" more.

But I did like your post!

"Are you interested in reading one of my blogposts that is about the Churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome?"

This Greek Catholic says "YES!"

3:51 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Is there one Byzantine patriarch who heads both the Melkites and the Ruthenians, or do they have separate patriarchs?

I understand Byzantine to mean more the usage of the Byzantine form of the Liturgy.

Fill me in on the finer points.

1:10 PM  
Blogger A Simple Sinner said...

The Melkites are the only particular Catholic Church in the Byzantine tradition that has a patriarch. The Ukrainians call their Abp a patriarch, Rome has never really cottoned to that... The issue never seems to be argued though.

The Ruthenians exist soley in the US. As a result of the loss of Eastern Europe to the Soviets, we were sort of "orphaned" from the eparchies in Ukraine, Slovakia and Hungary. Our Archbiship is ++BASIL of Pittsburgh, he has no boss but Rome. The Melkite patriarchate assists Russian Catholic communities, but is not in charge of them and does not oversee any other Greek Catholics besides the Melkites...

1:32 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

The Melkite archimandrite Charles Aboody (ethnically Syrian) after retirement lived for a few years in the neighborhood of my monastery, and concelebrated in our daily Mass. He has moved back to Virginia where his relatives are. I recall that he had been the head of the Melkite seminary somewhere back in the Eastern U.S. He was also, I seem to recall, a seminary teacher/formator for the Fr. McCarthy (married Melkite priest) whose daughter's healing was the miracle that qualified Blessed Edith Stein for beatification. Fr. McCarthy's daughter as a toddler had overdosed on Tylenol, thus practically destroying her liver to the degree that only a transplant would have saved her. Fr. McCarthy and those who knew stormed heaven through the intercession of Edith Stein. The girl's liver was found suddenly and inexplicably restored.

1:43 PM  
Blogger A Simple Sinner said...

Yes, Father Charles has something like 10 or 11 children as I recall. They were at the canonization.

The Melkites no longer have their own seminary, sadly. But their relationship to the Greek Orthodox seems fairly good, so their men go to Holy Cross GOA Seminary these days.

The Ukrainians have their own digs in Stanford, PA. The Ruthenians are in Pittsburgh... the small Romanian diocese has sent men to different places...

The Melkites are good people... but I prefer the Ruthenian music.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Archimandrite Aboody once brought a small Melkite choir down to my monastery from Los Angeles to sing for Liturgy he celebrated in our abbey church. The melodies were distinctively "arabian."

1:17 PM  
Blogger A Simple Sinner said...

Oh no two ways about it... even in English you can hear the Arabic of it. Makes you feel like you have been transported East. I used to pray with the Melkites in college - their Church was a few blocks away... My Ruthenian parish was several miles and I did not have a car.

It didn't take much getting used to, the prayers and translations were essentially the same. Just needed to get used to the different style of tones. Easy enough after a few sundays.

3:23 PM  

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