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Flowing From the Altar – Lecture 2

Applying Chaldean Ecclesial Identity Within the Catholic Church Today

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

Week 2 – Wednesday, November 13, 2013; 7-9 PM

Applying Chaldean Ecclesial Identity within the Catholic Church Today

By Bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo

What are the authentic features of the Chaldean Catholic Church, as formally recognized by the most authoritative reference of the Catholic Church, The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches?  Are the Chaldeans recognized as a distinct people, with specific culture and history, with liturgical, theological, spiritual, and disciplinary patrimony? What does the Catholic Church teach us about the importance of cultural and national identity?

There may be, indeed, confusion among our Chaldean people regarding the relevance of nationality and culture. Is it, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, a divisive and harmful thing to understand and appreciate our own nationality and culture? Or, on the contrary, does the Church ask us to be proud of who we are and preserve our heritage, rather than dilute ourselves and our patrimony in other cultures or practices? Here are some helpful canonical guidelines and leads:

Eastern Code of Canon Law, 1990:

Canon 28 –  §2. The rites treated in this code, unless otherwise stated, are those which arise from the Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean and Constantinopolitan traditions.

§1. A rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each Church sui iuris.

Canon 39 – The rites of the Eastern Churches, as the patrimony of the entire Church of Christ, in which there is clearly evident the tradition which has come from the Apostles through the Fathers and which affirm the divineunity in diversity of the Catholic faith, are to be religiously preserved and fostered.

 

What does the Church teach us about keeping our own particular Eastern traditions?

Does the Church want us to take on the practices of the Latin Church, or does she encourage us to resist Latinization and keep our own particular traditions? Does she have no preference whether Chaldeans go to Latin or other Churches, or does she prefer Chaldeans to attend and participate in their own Chaldean Church?

Eastern Code of Canon Law, 1990:

Canon 40 – §1. Hierarchs who preside over Churches sui iurisand all other hierarchs are to see most carefully to the faithful protection and accurate observance of their own rite, and not admit changes in it except by reason of its organic progress, keeping in mind, however, mutual goodwill and the unity of Christians.

§2. Other clerics and members of institutes of consecrated life are bound to observe their own rite faithfully and daily to acquire a greater understanding and a more perfect practice of it.

§3. Other Christian faithful are also to foster an understanding and appreciation of their own rite, and are held to observe it everywhere unless something is excused by the law.

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, 1964:

§ 4. Finally, each and every Catholic, as also the baptized members of any non-Catholic church or community who come to the fullness of Catholic communion, must retain each his own rite wherever he is, and follow it to the best of his ability, without prejudice to the right of appealing to the Apostolic See in special cases affecting persons, communities or districts.

 

What does the Church teach us about imitating the practices of other particular churches?

Are we directed, as Chaldean Catholics, to maintain our originality vis-a-vis other Eastern Rites, such as the Maronite or Syriac, or to borrow from them as though it is better to be similar? Or, on the contrary, does the Church want us to retain and guard our own distinct traditions, as a treasure to be kept for the whole Catholic Church?

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, 1964:

§ 5. All members of the Eastern Churches should be firmly convinced that they can and ought always to preserve their own legitimate liturgical rites and ways of life, and that changes are to be introducedonly to forward their own organic development. They themselves are to carry out all these prescriptions with the greatest fidelity. They are to aim always at a more perfect knowledge and practice of their rites, and if they have fallen away due to circumstances of times or persons, they are to strive to return to their ancestral traditions. (See details in the Holy See’s document Instruction for the Application of the Liturgical Prescriptions in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, 1996).

§ 10. Desiring that these treasures flourish and contribute ever more efficiently to the evangelization of the world, OrientaliumEcclesiarum affirms, as do successive documents, that the members of Eastern Churches have the right and the duty to preserve them, to know them, and to live them. Such affirmation contains a clearcondemnation of any attempt to distance the Eastern faithful from their Churches, whether in an explicit and irreversible manner, with its juridical consequences, inducing them to pass from one Church sui iuristo another, or whether in a less explicit manner, favoring the acquisition of forms of thought, spirituality, and devotions that are not coherent with their own ecclesial heritage, and thus contrary to the indications so often emphasized by Roman Pontiffs and expressed, with particular force, already in the Apostolic Letter OrientaliumDignitas of Leo XIII.

 

Liturgical Renewal 

What does the Church teach us about how to respect and develop our traditions “organically”?

Does authentic renewal mean adding elements from outside our tradition, for example from the Latin tradition? Or does it mean allowing the Chaldean tradition to grow from within, and expand in its own way? Which form of “renewal” is correct in the Chaldean Church: the Latinization that occurred due to a misunderstanding of the Second Vatican Council, or the Reformed Chaldean Mass of 2006?

Eastern Code of Canon Law, 1990:

Canon 40 – §1. Hierarchs who preside over Churches sui iuris and all other hierarchs are to see most carefully to the faithful protection and accurate observance of their own rite, and not admit changes in it except by reason of its organic progress, keeping in mind, however, mutual goodwill and the unity of Christians.

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, 1964:

§ 12. The Council specifies that changes in the rites and disciplines of these Churches are not admitted except by reason of their own organic progress and adds that whenever they have fallen short, due to circumstances of time or persons, they are to strive to return to their ancestral traditions.

What does the Church teach us about the particularities of our Eastern church-buildings?

Is the Sanctuary meant to be open to the public or kept as a holy place? Are the elements of the Bema and Veil to be abandoned as old-fashioned or re-established?

The Holy See’s document Instruction for the Application of the Liturgical Prescriptions in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, 1996:

§ 104. The sanctuary is separated from the nave by a veil, gate or iconostasis, because it is the most sacred place: it contains the altar on which the Divine Liturgy is celebrated and the Oblation is offered. Only those who are entrusted with the sacred ministry can enter the sanctuary to complete the sacred acts…Therefore, it is important that in restoring old churches or constructing new ones, those responsible should attentively study the symbology expressed in them, while taking into account and foreseeing the possibility of re-establishing the usage in conformity to their proper tradition.