"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Monday 13 December 2010


The long term effect of the conversion of Constantine and the "Peace of the Church" was to divide Christendom into three blocks, according to the relationship of each with the Byzantine Empire.

Firstly, there were the "Orthodox" who lived in territories at peace with the Byzantine Empire or, after its fall, hoped that the Russian Tsar would replace the emperor as his natural successor.   This block lived in the most stable environment where Christianity had the upper hand.   They could continue to rely on the emperor to unify the Church within his domain and had little temptation to find an alternative.  For them, the emperor (or Tsar) served as the centre of administrative unity.   At certain times they showed a respect toward and acceptance of the Roman see as successor of St Peter, especially when emperors adopted heresies or  when they needed western intervention; but, in general, the pope lived too far away to be constantly in their thoughts, and the emperor was very much nearer.   Because they had no need to change, they suffered the illusion that they alone remained faithful to the Gospel and all churches were to be judged according to their distance or nearness to Orthodoxy.

From very early on in the West, the Byzantine Empire was too weak to fulfil even the basic functions of government.   It could neither keep order nor defend the West against its enemies, let alone guarentee the unity of either church or state.   The saga of King Arthur and the Round Table has its origins in the retreat of the Empire and the defence of the Romanized Celts against the barbarian hoards from Germany.   Historical accident left Gregory the Great as the only person capable of organizing the people of a large part of Italy in such a way that they could live in relative peace and be protected from the invaders.   The representative of the Byzantine Emperor could do nothing except look pretty.  In contrast to the Byzantine empire, it became the function of the Church to impose order; and it was Rome that made sure that the ecclesiatical and civil orders did not disintegrate.  Because the Empire did not function, the Catholic Church of the West had to find a means to unify the Church within its own constitution; and the Bishop of Rome, accepted by all as successor of St Peter, was the obvious candidate.   It must be emphasized that this was a question of survival in the west.  The fact that, where Roman unity became the norm, there was a flourishing of new religious communities and many saints, and that where it was resisted it was normally for the very worst of reasons, led Rome to believe that, wherever the centralizing power of Rome was resisted, even in the Byzantine Empire, it was for the same corrupt reasons, by bishops who were in the pockets of the civil authority, were doing very nicely and were resisting the rigours of the Gospel.   Rome, like the Orthodox East, interpreted the differences from its own limited experience and perspective.  Add to the problem this Frankish Empire that resented its Eastern counterpart and wanted to use any method to discredit it, and the way was open to schism.

The third block could be called the "Semitic" block.   Its liturgical language was neither Greek nor Latin, but a semitic language.   It retained a far stronger Judeao-Christian influence than in the other two blocks (worshipping with head covered, for instance.   Again, the division was along political lines and can be divided between the Assyrian  Church of the East that lived outside the Byzantine Empire and hence did not attend the historic ecumenical councils, and the Coptic Church with Ethiopia and the Syrian Orthodox Church that lived within the Empire but wanted to be free from its yoke.    The Assyrian Church, the Syrian Orthodox and the Catholic Maronites had Aramaic, the language of Christ, as their liturgical language - indeed they spoke a more current version of the language in their everyday life and were Syrians by race, while the Copts and Ethiopians celebrated the liturgy in Ge'ez, another Semitic language. It is out of that aprt of the Church that had a strong semitic influence that monasticism sprang.  In Syrian Christianity, there was the strange phenomenon of the "Sons and Daughter of the Covenant" who only baptized celebates and who shared a strictly communal life; and it was from the Church of Alexandria that was a centre of Jewish spiritual and intellectual life even before Christianity arrived, that the first monks went into the desert.   The words "Abbot", "Aba", "Abuna" come neither from Egyptian, Greek or Latin, but from Aramaic.

History of the “Church of the East”, also know as
“Nestorian Church”
“Persian Church”,
“East Syrian Church”,
“Chaldean Syrian Church” in India only,
 “Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East”,
 “Assyrian Church of the East”

 The Assyrian Church of the East was established in Edessa in the first century of the Christian era. It is from Edessa that the message of the Gospels spread. Edessa was a small kingdom, a buffer state between Roman and Parthean Empires. Mar Mary was sent to Persia by his fellow workers in Edessa. In the second century this church began to be organized. The church in Edessa had four Gospels in Aramaic. The teaching was spread to the Persian Empire. In the third century, the church in the Persian Empire had to take refugees from the Roman Empire where Christians were not welcomed. Streams of refugees turned toward Persia to escape persecution in the Eastern Roman Empire. A great multitude of Christians in all Roman provinces were put off by various punishments, torture professed to renounce Christianity.

From about 280 A.D. Mar Papa organized this church, thus Metropolitan seat of Seleucia became the headquarters. Now the city is in ruins, known as SalmanPark, 30 miles from Baghdad.

Mar Aprim the Assyrian, the representative of the Church in the first ecumenical council at Nicea in 325A.D., played a great role in the literary and religious life of all Christians until today. That is the reason he is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church which declared Saint Aprim as the doctor of the Universal Church

In the fifth century, the Nestorian controversy concerning the unity of the divine and human nature in Christ had far reaching consequences. At this time, the Church of the East was not involved in this controversy. It was a theological dispute within the Roman Empire.

John Nestorius was not an Assyrian nor did he know Syriac language. He was a native of Antioch and Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431 A.D. His rival Cyril was Patriarch of Alexandria. Therefore, the members of the Church say that they do not have anything to do with the Nestorian controversy. It was several years later and even after the death of Nestorius in 451 A.D. that the Christians of the Persian Empire heard about the controversy. They decreed that the stand taken by Nestorius was in agreement with the view always maintained by the Church of the East.

As a result of the persecution of the followers of Nestorius, many Christians had to flee from the now Christian Roman Empire and found refuge among the followers of this Church.

The headquarters of the Church, Selucia-Ctesphon, was at a strategic place on both banks of the River Tigris, the center of travel between Europe and Asia. By the middle of the sixth century, the Church had spread into Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Ceylon, China, and Mongolia.

Professor P.Y. Saeki stated that the leaven of Nestorianism has penetrated the whole of Chinese literature. This church had great missionaries. They expanded rapidly. Asia was widely covered by the missionaries. They had no fund to support their mission stations financially; there were no mission boards to direct their activities like Western missionaries of those days who followed the colonial Empires. It is time to hear from our long-forgotten past the thrilling story of our missionary enterprise during the early centuries of the Christian era. These Christians did not have great material means nor were they able to engage in planning great missionary strategies, computerized and perfected in world conferences, to win the world in our time. Yet they carried the torch of the Gospel all across the vast Asian continent, at the cost of great personal suffering and often martyrdom, for untold numbers of laymen and clergy alike were led by the Holy Spirit to push the frontiers of the Kingdom of God far and wide.

Wherever they went, it was to preach, to teach and cure. At the end of the eleventh century, this church was the single largest Christian denomination at that time. John Stewart writes:

Whole peoples with their rulers had become Christians and it seems certain that there were few places in the whole Asia that were not reached at some time or other as the outcome of the marvelous activity of that wonderful church which extended from China to Jerusalem and Cyprus, and in the eleventh century is said to have outnumbered the Greek and Roman churches combined

From the Pacific Ocean in the East to the Mediterranean in the West; from the Black Sea and Siberia to the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, Assyrian missions were working. Asia Minor, Cyprus, Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, India, China, Japan, Mongolia, Manchuria, and Turkistan—all hand missions where the gospel was taught by zealous workers of the Assyrian Church of the East.

The Assyrian Church missionaries included bishops, priests, monks, deacons. It is said about these men—the messengers of the King of kings—that they were as gently as lambs and unassuming, but courageous and fearless with the hearts of lions. They sacrificed life and health in the unknown land and did their work among the heathen with faith and trust in God.

They went out from Mesopotamia, the birthplace of Abraham, the father of all the believers.

The missionaries traveled on foot; they had sandals on their feet, and a staff in their hands, and carried a basket on their backs, and in the basket were the Holy Writ and the Cross.

They took the road over deep rivers and high mountains, thousands of miles. On their way they met many heathen nations and preached to them gospel of Christ. The heathen who worshipped idols were told about the Savior, who would take their sins upon himself and save them. They sowed the good seed in the field, worked zealously and won many souls among the heathen nations.

The work of the mission became a blessing to the nations, and the missionaries influenced greatly those among whom they worked; they brought many from sin and idol worship to God; they went to the palaces of the kings and to the cottages of the poor. Kings and princes heard the words about the love of Christ, and they believed; the subjects followed their princes, and with their own hands they destroyed the temples of their idols; those that they heretofore had worshipped and hoped to get help and comfort from. Great gifts were given to the missionaries, but they distributed everything given them in the best way to serve the spreading of the words of Christ, and many souls were won.

Around the fourteenth century, this missionary enterprise started to decline. There was persecution, deception, extermination by Mongols. The remnant which escaped the persecution of Tamerlane finally found refuge in the mountains of Kurdistan. The split caused by Sulaqa who took refuge with the Roman Catholic Church, persecuted by the Kurds and Turks, and during the First World War further weakened this church.


At the turn of the century, and during the outbreak of the world war, Assyrians entered an era of new hostilities. Villages were burned, churches plundered. Hundreds of precious old Christological books, looted, and destroyed with few reaching the worlds famous museums.

The act of heroism that these few fierce fighters the Assyrian mountaineers exhibited is seldom seen in history, fighting their way through savages and fanatics. The shocking horror stories of mass murders are still remembered by every Assyrian family.

The impact of twentieth century fell heavy upon these Christians, depriving them from their ancestral land and leaving them now scattered more than ever before. Wherever they went they clustered to each other, and found communities still adhering to their old faith, in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Russia, U.S.A., Canada and Australia.

This general decadence of the Church made her forget its past missionary heritage. The decline of the monastic movement also contributed to the total annihilation of the missionary movement in this “most missionary church the world has ever seen,” the church that almost converted Mongols to Christianity. Still signs to hope are becoming visible recently among the young men who feel in their blood the call for work. The church continues to have a new expansion with goals to teach Assyrian rising generations the messianic teaching on the customs and traditions of our forefathers and to keep alive Aramaic (Syriac) a language which our Lord Jesus Christ offered his first sacrifice of Eucharist.

It is certain that these people comprise the world’s most ancient churches and maintained many of their old traditions. They remained isolated throughout the centuries thus preserving the once famous Aramaic language, and lived as if in Biblical times in their picturesque villages, they worship very much the same way as was done two thousand years ago. The ceremonies in churches and monasteries are exceedingly impressive.

The Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in Aramaic original the language of Palestine at the time of our Lord Jesus Christ and that Aramaic Bible “Peshitta” is the text of the church of the East which has come from Biblical times without any change or revision. We hope that the imperishable memory of the innumerable company of martyrs of the Church of the East who lived and died in the light of eternity will provide an incentive to all churches toady and to the members of this ancient church, the heirs of this great tradition


The Theology of the Church of the East is strictly based on the Bible and has remained unchanged throughout the centuries of the messianic faith. Christ said, “Examine the scriptures; in them you trust that you have eternal life; it is they that testify concerning me.” (St. John 5:39).

Doctrinally, it is Apostolic and Catholic and holds firmly to the Apostolic Succession. Its priesthood is based upon the petrine promise. “To thee I will give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Its completion and perfection in the commission given by our Lord to His Apostles; “He breathed upon them and said, receive ye the Holy Spirit, if you forgive a man his sins they shall be forgiven and if you hold a man his sins they shall be held.” Its attribute is therefore intermediary between God and man without authority to forgive and hold sins.

Upon this foundation the Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East has based its nine orders of the church, as it received them from the hands of the Holy Apostolic (St. Thomas); Mar Addai (St. Thaddeus); Mar Bar-Tulmai (St. Bartholomew) and Mar Man of the seventy.

It holds that, without the Apostolic Succession, there are no sacraments of the church and without the sacraments there is no church, and therefore, no operation of the Holy Spirit. To quote Chapter 8, Verses 14-17 of the Acts of the Apostles: “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the Samaritan people had accepted the word of God, they sent to them Simon, Peter and John. Who, when they went down, prayed over them that only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”

The Church of the East faithful to the command of our Lord, and the teaching and practice of the early church, has maintained this Apostolic Succession throughout the trials and tribulations of its nearly twenty centuries-long history.

Its theology is Apostolic and Catholic, and has remained unchanged throughout its history. Its doctrine of the Holy Trinity is in conformity with that of the Council of Nicea, at which it was represented.

As regards the mystery of the dispensation of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, it professes Him in two natures; namely, divine and human in two Qnume; namely, hypostasis, or underlying substances, in one person of the Son of God. One will, one authority. These two natures are united eternally and inseparably. It rejects the term “theotokos” or “Mother of God” used for the Blessed Virgin. It holds that the term has no Scriptural authority, is liable to misunderstanding, and therefore can lead to error. It maintains that while the One Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church is the guardian of the Faith, and has full authority granted it by its Lord and Master through the power of the Holy Spirit, to preach the gospel to all mankind and to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures to the faithful; yet has no right to teach any doctrine that has no Scriptural authority.

In words of St. Paul the Apostle, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be ‘khrim’ (anathema).”

The theology of the Church of the East has been stated briefly and clearly in the following hymn of praise, written by Mar-Babai the great, a noted theologian of the Church, and which is:

 “One is Christ, the Son of God,

Worshipped by all in two natures;

In His Godhead begotten of the Father,

Without beginning, before all time;

In his Humanity born of Mary

In the fullness of time, in a body united

Neither His Godhead, is of the nature of the Mother,

Nor His Humanity of the nature of the Father;

The natures are preserved in their Qnumas

In one person of one Sonship.

And as the Godhead is three substances in one nature,

Likewise the Sonship of the Son is in two natures, one person.

So the Holy Church has taught.”

 The Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, however, to this day is commonly known to our Western Christian Brethren as the “Nestorian” Church. This misnomer has led them generally to think that this Church has established by Saint Nestorius, and that it received its teaching from his followers. The so-called Nestorian doctrine has been erroneously or deliberately interpreted by its opponents to mean the belief of two persons in Christ. These allegations, of course, have their origin in the Council of Ephesus. This issue, however, has since been much clarified by various Protestant and also some Roman Catholic scholars.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says: “So far as Nestorius himself is concerned, however, it is certain that he never formulated such doctrine, nor does any recorded utterance of his, however casual, come so near the heresy called by his name.

As to the Assyrian Church of the East, however, because they would not change their true faith, but kept it as they received it from the Apostles, they were unjustly styled “Nestorians,” since Nestorius was not their Patriarch, neither did they understand his language; but when they heard that he taught the doctrine of the two Natures and two Qnume, one will, one Son of God, one Christ, and that he confessed the orthodox faith, they bore witness to him, because they themselves held the same faith. Nestorius, then, followed them, and not they him, and that more especially in the matter of the appellation “Mother of Christ.” Therefore when called upon to excommunicate him, they refused, maintaining that their excommunication of Nestorius would be equivalent to their excommunication of the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Apostles, from which they received what they professed, and for which we are censured together with Nestorius.

The Holy See
back up

His Holiness John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, give thanks to God who has prompted them to this new brotherly meeting.
Both of them consider this meeting as a basic step on the way towards the full communion to be restored between their Churches. They can indeed, from now on, proclaim together before the world their common faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.
As heirs and guardians of the faith received from the Apostles as formulated by our common Fathers in the Nicene Creed, we confess one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten of the Father from all eternity who, in the fullness of time, came down from heaven and became man for our salvation. The Word of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity, became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit in assuming from the holy Virgin Mary a body animated by a rational soul, with which he was indissolubly united from the moment of his conception.
Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity, consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with us in all things but sin. His divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. In him has been preserved the difference of the natures of divinity and humanity, with all their properties, faculties and operations. But far from constituting "one and another", the divinity and humanity are united in the person of the same and unique Son of God and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of a single adoration.
Christ therefore is not an " ordinary man" whom God adopted in order to reside in him and inspire him, as in the righteous ones and the prophets. But the same God the Word, begotten of his Father before all worlds without beginning according to his divinity, was born of a mother without a father in the last times according to his humanity. The humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself. That is the reason why the Assyrian Church of the East is praying the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour". In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of God" and also as "the Mother of Christ". We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety.
This is the unique faith that we profess in the mystery of Christ. The controversies of the past led to anathemas, bearing on persons and on formulas. The Lord's Spirit permits us to understand better today that the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings.
Whatever our Christological divergences have been, we experience ourselves united today in the confession of the same faith in the Son of God who became man so that we might become children of God by his grace. We wish from now on to witness together to this faith in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, proclaiming it in appropriate ways to our contemporaries, so that the world may believe in the Gospel of salvation.
The mystery of the Incarnation which we profess in common is not an abstract and isolated truth. It refers to the Son of God sent to save us. The economy of salvation, which has its origin in the mystery of communion of the Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit —, is brought to its fulfilment through the sharing in this communion, by grace, within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which is the People of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Spirit.
Believers become members of this Body through the sacrament of Baptism, through which, by water and the working of the Holy Spirit, they are born again as new creatures. They are confirmed by the seal of the Holy Spirit who bestows the sacrament of Anointing. Their communion with God and among themselves is brought to full realization by the celebration of the unique offering of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. This communion is restored for the sinful members of the Church when they are reconciled with God and with one another through the sacrament of Forgiveness. The sacrament of Ordination to the ministerial priesthood in the apostolic succession assures the authenticity of the faith, the sacraments and the communion in each local Church.
Living by this faith and these sacraments, it follows as a consequence that the particular Catholic churches and the particular Assyrian churches can recognize each other as sister Churches. To be full and entire, communion presupposes the unanimity concerning the content of the faith, the sacraments and the constitution of the Church. Since this unanimity for which we aim has not yet been attained, we cannot unfortunately celebrate together the Eucharist which is the sign of the ecclesial communion already fully restored.
Nevertheless, the deep spiritual communion in the faith and the mutual trust already existing between our Churches, entitle us from now on to consider witnessing together to the Gospel message and cooperating in particular pastoral situations, including especially the areas of catechesis and the formation of future priests.
In thanking God for having made us rediscover what already unites us in the faith and the sacraments, we pledge ourselves to do everything possible to dispel the obstacles of the past which still prevent the attainment of full communion between our Churches, so that we can better respond to the Lord's call for the unity of his own, a unity which has of course to be expressed visibly. To overcome these obstacles, we now establish a Mixed Committee for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
Given at Saint Peter's, on 11 November 1994
This declaration came after the first Gulf War which began a process that would radically change the situation of Christians in the region.   Not only were they in the line of fire, but they began to be attacked by Moslem fanatics, as were the Chaldean Catholics who belong to the same rite but are in communion with the Holy See, Syrian Orthodox and Syrian Catholics.   Many emigrated and are still doing so, and others are trying to stay.  The Christians in that area are now being persecuted, but the West does not hear their cries, just as they didn't listen to the cries for help of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw during World War II: it interferes with their strategy.   The Assyrians and the Chaldeans (Catholics) were forced into each others arms, and Catholic Chaldeans went to Mass in Assyrian churches and vice versa.  The two churches agreed to coordinate their efforts and to work together.  De facto communion took place, with the lay people leading the way.   In fact, the laity do not really take the schism between the various churches too seriously and never have.  Near our monastery there is a home for abandoned boys, children of the street, that is Catholic.  The man in charge is Syrian, Syrian Orthodox in fact; but he is a practising Catholic in Peru.   When he goes back to Syria or when there is some get-together in Lima, he attends the Syrian Orthodox Mass without any sense of interruption.   "We attend and go to communion in one another's churches in Syria; so it appeared normal for me to attend a Catholic parish in Lima," he said.

The Assyrian Church never was part of the Byzantine Empire; so their vestments are usually rather western in style.  Like all the Syrian rites, the priest wears a cope rather than a chasuble, but it tends to look like a Latin vestment rather than a Byzantine one.   This is in contrast to the Syrian Orthodox who used to be reluctant members of the Empire and hence are more obviously Byzantine in style.   However, as in all Eastern Christianity, the word "altar" means the whole sanctuary, while what we call "the altar", they call "the throne" (the mercy seat in the Jerusalem temple where God was present, sitting among his people).   Another thing the Assyrians have in common with other churches of the Syrian tradition is that, instead of the Byzantine iconstasis, there is a curtain; but I don't know how it is used.  If anyone can tell me, I would be grateful.

There was a liturgical and theological obstacle to this growing unity, one of immense importance, not only within this context, but for our understanding of the Mass in any context.  The Assyrians have several eucharistic prayers or "anaphoras"; but their main one is called "The Anaphora of the holy apostles Addai and Mari".   The problem is that there are no words of institution, no "This is my body....this is the chalice of my blood".   In ordinary Catholic parlance, there are no "words of consecration"!!   The Cardinal Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church consulted Rome about the problem.   Is the Assyrian Church Mass valid that his faithful are attending if it lacks the "words of consecration.   Before we continue, here is the Anaphora of SS Addain and Mari.   Where it says that the words of institution are inserted "here", we must remember that the Assyrians normally leave it out.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with us all, now, etc.
He signs the sacraments,
People: Amen.
Priest: Lift up your minds:
People: They are towards Thee, O God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, O glorious King.
Priest: The oblation is offered to God, the Lord of all.
People: It is meet and right.
Deacon: Peace be with you.
The Priest puts on the incense, and says this prayer:O Lord, Lord, grant me an open countenance before Thee, that with the confidence which is from Thee we may fulfil this awful and divine sacrifice with consciences free from all iniquity and bitterness. Sow in us, O Lord, affection, peace, and concord towards each other, and toward every one.
And standing, he says quietly:Worthy of glory from every mouth, and of thanksgiving from all tongues, and of adoration and exaltation from all creatures, is the adorable and glorious name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who created the world through His grace, and its inhabitants through His clemency, who saved men through His mercy, and showed great favour towards mortals. Thy majesty, O Lord, thousands of thousands of heavenly spirits, and ten thousand myriads of holy angels, hosts of spirits, ministers of fire and spirit, bless and adore; with the holy cherubim and the spiritual seraphim they sanctify and celebrate Thy name, crying and praising, without ceasing crying unto each other.
 People: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty; full are the heavens and the earth of His glory.
The Priest quietly: Holy, holy, holy art Thou, O Lord God Almighty; the heavens and the earth are full of His glory and the nature of His essence, as they are glorious with the honour of His splendour; as it is written, The heaven and the earth are full of me, saith the mighty Lord.
Holy art Thou, O God our Father, truly the only one, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Holy art Thou, Eternal Son, through whom all things were made. Holy art Thou, Holy, Eternal Spirit, through whom all things are sanctified.
Woe to me, woe to me, who have been astonied, because I am a man of polluted lips, and dwell among a people of polluted lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the mighty Lord. How terrible today is this place! For this is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven; because Thou hast been seen eye to eye, O Lord.
Now, I pray, may Thy grace be with us, O Lord; purge away our impurities, and sanctify our lips; unite the voices of our insignificance with the sanctification of seraphim and archangels. Glory be to Thy tender mercies, because Thou hast associated the earthly with the heavenly.
The Priest says quietly, in a bowing posture: And with those heavenly powers we give Thee thanks, even we, Thine insignificant, pitiless, and feeble servants; because Thou hast granted unto us Thy great grace which cannot be repaid. For indeed Thou didst take upon Thee our human nature, that Thou mightest bestow life on us through Thy divinity; Thou didst exalt our low condition; Thou didst raise our ruined state; Thou didst rouse up our mortality; Thou didst wash away our sins; Thou didst blot out the guilt of our sins; Thou didst enlighten our intelligence, and Thou didst condemn our enemy, O Lord our God; and Thou didst cause the insignificance of our pithless nature to triumph.
Here follow the words of institution, after which: Through the tender mercies of Thy grace poured out, O clement One, pardon our offences and sins; blot out my offences in the judgment. And on account of all Thy aids and Thy favours to us, we shall ascribe unto Thee praise, honour, thanksgiving, and adoration, now, always, and for ever and ever.
The Priest signs the sacraments.
People: Amen.
Deacon: In your minds, pray for peace with us.
The Priest says this prayer bowing, and in a low voice: O Lord God Almighty, accept this oblation for the whole Holy Catholic Church, and for all the pious and righteous fathers who have been pleasing to Thee, and for all the prophets and apostles, and for all the martyrs and confessors, and for all that mourn, that are in straits, and are sick, and for all that are under difficulties and trials, and for all the weak and the oppressed, and for all the dead that have gone from amongst us; then for all that ask a prayer from our weakness, and for me, a degraded and feeble sinner. O Lord our God, according to Thy mercies and the multitude of Thy favours, look upon Thy people, and on me, a feeble man, not according to my sins and my follies, but that they may become worthy of the forgiveness of their sins through this holy body, which they receive with faith, through the grace of Thy mercy for ever and ever. Amen.
The Priest says this prayer quietly: Do Thou, O Lord, through Thy many and ineffable mercies, make the memorial good and acceptable with that of all the pious and righteous fathers who have been pleading before Thee in the commemoration of the body and blood of Thy Christ, which we offer to Thee upon Thy pure and holy altar, as Thou hast taught us; and grant unto us Thy rest all the days of this life.

The Great Oblation
O Lord our God, bestow on us Thy rest and peace all the days of this life, that all the inhabitants of the earth may know Thee, that Thou art the only true God the Father, and Thou didst send our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son and Thy beloved; and He Himself our Lord and God came and taught us all purity and holiness. Make remembrance of prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, bishops, doctors, priests, deacons, and all the sons of the Holy Catholic Church who have been signed with the sign of life, of holy baptism. We also, O Lord:
We, Thy degraded, weak, and feeble servants who are congregated in Thy name, and now stand before Thee, and have received with joy the form which is from Thee, praising, glorifying, and exalting, commemorate and celebrate this great, awful, holy, and divine mystery of the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And may Thy Holy Spirit come, O Lord, and rest upon this oblation of Thy servants which they offer, and bless and sanctify it; and may it be unto us, O Lord, for the propitiation of our offences and the forgiveness of our sins, and for a grand hope of resurrection from the dead, and for a new life in the kingdom of the heavens, with all who have been pleasing before Him. And on account of the whole of Thy wonderful dispensation towards us, we shall render thanks unto Thee, and glorify Thee without ceasing in Thy Church, redeemed by the precious blood of Thy Christ, with open mouths and joyful countenances:
Canon: Ascribing praise, honour, thanksgiving, and adoration to Thy holy, loving, and life-giving name, now, always, and for ever.
The Priest signs the mysteries with the crossPeople: Amen.
   Of course,it is in Aramaic

Watch live streaming video from Assyrian at livestream.com

The Chaldean Patriarch consulted the Vatican about the problem; and, in its turn, the Vatican consulted a number of theologians who are also liturgists. Their reply was unanimous: many of the earliest anaphoras were without the words of institutiton; that the original idea was that the whole prayer was consecratory and not just a few words within it;hence, that the words of institution consecrate in the Latin Rite does not mean that  the same is true in other rites; that the Roman Church has always recognized the validity of the sacraments in the Assyrian  Church; and that the Anaphora of SS Addai and Mari was composed around the year 200AD and is thus probably the oldest anaphora in use at the present time.   On the basis of these findings, the Vatican published the following document.   Its conclusions are important and highly authoritative: it was signed by the Cardinals in charge of various Vatican departments, including Cardinal Ratzinger, and was initialled by Pope John Paul II.   Here it is:




It is not necessary to give a commentary on the whole document.  The key text that certainly needs a commentary is this one:
Secondly, the Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession. The Assyrian Church of the East has also preserved full Eucharistic faith in the presence of our Lord under the species of bread and wine and in the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. In the Assyrian Church of the East, though not in full communion with the Catholic Church, are thus to be found "true sacraments, and above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist" (U.R., n. 15). Secondly, the Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession. The Assyrian Church of the East has also preserved full Eucharistic faith in the presence of our Lord under the species of bread and wine and in the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. In the Assyrian Church of the East, though not in full communion with the Catholic Church, are thus to be found "true sacraments, and above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist" (U.R., n. 15)
"The Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession."    It does not accept the councils of Ephesus or Chalcedon, even though the joint Christological Declaration says that there is no difference in our belief in the Incarnation, in spite of the historical controversies.   Whether the fundamental agreement always existed and the Assyrians and the Catholic Church simply misunderstood each other, as some claim, or whether the action of the Holy Spirit invoked in the Liturgy gradually cleansed the Assyrian Church of heresy, I simply do not know enough to hazard an opinion.   What I do know is that we are in agreement now.   Nevertheless, there remains the question, How can a Church which does not accept those two councils be called "a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession".   Also, how can a Church be true when it is separated from the Holy See and rejects its authority?   If communion with Rome and accepting the teaching of general councils are not part of the essence of what makes up a "true Particular Church", what is essential?

In Pope Benedict's words, the Eucharist is the constitution of the Church.   It is exactly the same Eucharist throughout time since the Apostles first celebrated until now, and well into the future, and in every place.. Every Eucharist is the act of the whole Church and not just of the group that is celebrating and unites them to Christians everywhere by organic ties so that it is possible to say that the body of Christ is everywhere and from the times of the apostles to the end of time; and it can be said, equally truly, that the body of Christ exists in each local eucharistic assembly.   Where the Mass is, there is Christ; and where Christ is, there is the fullness of Catholicism: he is its fulness.

The Holy Spirit, invoked at the epiclesis, is sent by the Father at the prayer of his Son, to turn the bread and wine into yhe body and blood of Christ; and the same Spirit makes us capable of receiving Christ and leading us to all truth.   The Holy Spirit is always with the Church; and hence there is no particular time when the Spirit is more with the Church than other times, since the time of the apostles.  This truth is contained and expressed in the liturgy which springs out of the apostilic preaching and understanding of the faith and which bears the marks of the history of Catholic understanding down the ages from the time of the Apostles until now.  In each and all generations, it is the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church.   From early times, the liturgy has taken different forms according to the history of the churches that celebrate it; but each form has a continous history from apostolic times, and all celebrate the same Mystery of Christ.   A Catholic understanding of a liturgical tradition must, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, be reached by the "hermeneutic of continuity".

To understand this, we can make a comparison between the ecumenical task with the Assyrians and the Anglicans.   The Assyrian Church has kept its liturgical tradition intact, in spite of the schism; and its liturgy has always been recognised as a Catholic liturgy of orthodox faith.   The Christological Declaration was made because we recognise that their faith is in accordance with their liturgy and with Catholic understanding.   They are still separated; so there is a contradiction between the organic unity they achieve with the Catholic Church by celebrating the Eucharist, and the lack of organic ties with the Catholic Church in their ecclesial life.  Who is to be blamed for that is a totally different question and probably has more than one answer.   However, their gradual re-integration into the mainstream is the way forward, while keeping their liturgical life intact.   In contrast, the Anglican Church abolished the Roman Rite to which they belonged and wrote a liturgy that expressed their own insights into the nature of Christian life, following their own way.  By so doing they unchurched themselves.    The ecumenical task here is to re-integrate them into the Roman Rite from which they were untimely ripped, but in such a way that the life of grace which the Spirit has given them in their separation should also be integrated.   This is what is happening with the Ordiariates.

The Catholic Church considers all the Churhes, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and others as true particular Churches, built on Orthodox faith and apostolic succession.   Hence each and all are identical with Catholic Churches at the altar, each celebration including all the others, each finding in the eucharistic Christ and in their liturgical celebration the fullness of Catholicism; but they are unable by schism from fully participating in the organic unity they celebrate in the Liturgy.   This has nothing to do with who is to blame.   The truth is that only the universal Primacy of Rome enables us to act worldwide as a single unit.

1 comment:

John Wilson said...

Hey i think my last post didn't go through so i'm trying again:

Hey, my name is John. I read a lot of blogs on religion and prayer and I've i feel like I've ended up here once before. I'd love to hear your thoughts about this prayer exchange website PrayerMarket.com I thought it was an interesting idea and would be curious to hear what you (or other christians) think about it

I'll check back here in the next day or two, thanks & God bless
John W.

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