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Flowing From the Altar – Lecture 1

Chaldean National and Ecclesial Identity

St. Peter Diocesan Theology Course 2013:
The Chaldean Renaissance: Flowing from the Altar

Week 1: Wednesday, November 6, 2013; 7-9 PM

Chaldean National and Ecclesial Identity

By Bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo

I – Who are the Contemporary Chaldeans?
Contemporary Chaldeans are: a) the descendants and main remnant of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia: the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and most of all the Chaldeans. b) Their language is the Chaldean, i.e. the vernacular, Aramaic of Mesopotamia, being in continuous use for the past 3000 years until the present time. c) They are the heirs of successive Mesopotamian civilizations, particularly of its spiritual heritage, as represented by the Patriarch Abraham of Ur of the Chaldeans, and as frequently referred to in the Holy Scriptures both the Old and the New Testament, as embodied as well, in regard to Christian heritage, in the Chaldean Catholic Church of the East.

The authenticity of the Chaldean nomenclature and its substance are based on the following historic facts:

a) The Aramaic linguistic form, used commonly by the Chaldeans up to date, and only by them, was until modern times a spoken but unrecorded dialect, i.e. a grammatical vernacular taught solely by parents to children. While the ancient Assyrian language is the Akkadian dialect of the Nineveh region, which ceased to exist, the Chaldean, ancient and recent, is not the Akkadian of Babylon that disappeared, but the Aramaic vernacular of Mesopotamia which constitutes the cultural continuity and the vital core of national identity up to our day.

b) The Chaldean Empire is the last and most glorious indigenous state that ruled over all Mesopotamia (612 BC to 538 BC), before it fell under the successive invading foreign powers. With that 74-year rule, Nineveh gradually became deserted ruins and Assyria became a region within the Chaldean Empire. This historic and documentable fact means for the following history that Assyria, with its great heritage, was absorbed by the succeeding Chaldean nationality and culture.

c) The City of Babylon, famous capital of the Chaldeans, was the historic core and international center of Mesopotamia through the millennia, where after the Chaldean rule, Qurish the Persian reigned, where Alexander the Great died, in whose vicinity the Parthians had their imperial court, etc., ending with Baghdad as the splendid capital of the Abbasids, and continuing to be the central city of Twin-River-Land for many centuries until modern-day Iraq. Even the ecclesiastic center of the Church of the East settled on the Patriarchal title of Babylon.

d) Commonly and Constantly through the centuries, before Christianity and after, the Chaldean name has been the ethnic and cultural expression used by historians to indicate national identity of indigenous Mesopotamians; thus did the liturgical Hudhra, the Greek writers, the Arab hagiographers, the European travelers, and the Christian hierarchy of the Church of the East in all of its branches, including the last Patriarch Shimun XXIII of Qochanis, as shown by his inherited patriarchal seal.

II – What is the Chaldean particularity among the nations?

The comprehensive history of humanity might be traced back hundreds of millennia and to different regions of the earth. Nevertheless, the philosophical and theological birth and early formation of that history is traced to Mesopotamia proper, the cradle of civilization. As narrated in the Book of Genesis, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, in the archaeological records of the cities of Ur, Uruk, and Babel, located in middle and south Mesopotamia, the foundation of human civilization was pioneered remarkably in that region, including the description of a primordial paradise, the audacious attempt to reach heaven by the Tower of Babylon, the awareness of evil in human life, the yearning for immortality, the formation of moral conscience, and the belief in one God, creator of the universe and master of history, as reported in the call of Abraham to become the vehicle for universal divine favor and salvation.

This entire endeavor has been accomplished by the dwellers of South Mesopotamia, whose legacy was inherited by the Chaldeans, who themselves dwelt and ruled the same land. Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham, is the fulfilling core of that Providence or Plan of God for redemption. Contemporary Chaldeans must be aware of their permanent connection to that divine call and its actual implications. Obviously, any noble prince, shying away from the obligations of his status, will end up losing it. Contemporary Chaldeans are able, if sensitized, to recognize the divine call addressed to their forefathers, and therefore to their nation, then claim it, accept it, and be enriched by it, making it a blessing for many.

III – What is the goal of the Chaldeans and how to reach it?

1) The goal of the Chaldeans is to survive and thrive while preserving their identity and growing in it civilly, culturally and spiritually:

a) Civilly, by claiming and pursuing the recognition of their national rights in their homeland, lraq, and everywhere in the world, in order to grow in it.

b) Culturally, by promoting their Chaldean language and art, adapting them to modern times, using them as the international communication medium and joint among all Chaldean communities.

c) Spiritually, by accepting the divine call to minister a pivotal role in the history of divine salvation as entrusted to Abraham, their national hero and vocational symbol. Thus, to claim the perennial Scriptural and Apostolic heritage of the Church of the East, make it a powerful legacy, and share it with many thirsty souls.

2) How do we Reach that Goal in Today’s Situation?

By enacting a process of Chaldean Renaissance, through a fresh response to the historic divine call; Let us build anew Babylon (Bab’el):

1) By relying basically on their inner conviction, free and noble Chaldeans, wherever they are in the world, do and shall reclaim their Chaldean national identity with all of its civil rights and duties. This reclaim is the Chaldeans’ historic right and native prerogative.

2) By nourishing awareness of the Chaldean cultural and spiritual components of identity, particularly of the call to respond to the divine plan of salvation, revealed and made known in the Holy Scriptures, following the example of Patriarch Abraham.

3) By appreciating our Mesopotamian Chaldean language in both of its forms the Classic and the Vernacular –which is neither Syrian nor Syriac– liberating its grammar and pronunciation from foreign distorting applications, then teaching and adopting them for all sectors of life.

4) By establishing free media to proclaim genuine Chaldean identity and culture.