Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Can we hope for Christian unity between Catholics and Orthodox?

The Catholic Church in fact started its heavy involvement in the ecumenical movement since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) known as Vatican II. In early 1963, Paul VI embraced the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras, in his historical visit to the Holy Land. In 1965, closing Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, simultaneously with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and his Synod, removed the anathemas between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Constantinople. In 1973, Paul VI received, in Rome, Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria where they signed a dogmatic declaration agreeing on the issue of the humanity and divinity of Christ being perfect and united in his person. John Paul II followed his immediate predecessors' policy of opening to the Orthodox Churches. He visited Dimitrius I in Constantinople in 1979 and more visits ensued between Rome and Constantinople. In 2000, in his pligrimage to the Middle East, he visited Shenouda III and proposed more efforts to remove the only hard problem remaining, the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. He also met with Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Patriarchs in Syria. Meanwhile a theological dialogue was already under way with both Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches (who in 1989 reached a theological agreement on all doctrines). John Paul II desired strongly the achievement of Christian unity asnd reunion with the Eastern Orthodox by the third millenium for which he worked tirelessly. He coined the phrase that the Church must breath with both her lungs. Since Benedict XVI has been elected to the Holy See of Rome, much ecumenical efforts have been directed to move towards the East. In Benedict, we find the same movement, if not more. His recent writings indicate a desire to "reform" the reform of Vatican II in the liturgy. Benedict XVI is adamant, so it seems, that the priest in the Mass should face the altar not the people. He further wants to have the altar built towards the East from which our Sun of Righteousness, Christ, came. The theological dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox theologians this year seems also to have resulted at a preliminary recommendation to recognize the primacy of the Pope of Rome. I think we can, and should, hope for Christian unity between Catholics and Orthodox Churches.This is the prayer which Christ himself uttered to his Father (John 17). Let us make it our prayer too!

God's Plan for Marriage in the Redemption in Christ

Sin and Redemption:In chapter 3 of Genesis, sin enters the picture and seriously affects the relationships between man and woman (3:16), between them and nature (3:17-19), and between them and God (3:23). All the evil things that are present in the male-female relationship are presented as the result of sin: polygamy, use of the other as an object rather than as a person, lust without love, violence and sadism, domination and subservience. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked”(3:7). They saw now sin and in another sense they lost sight of the divine in each other! It was now fallen man and fallen woman..Though Christ has now redeemed the world, we must share in this redemption (Col 1:24). We are now struggling to regain the creation. In relation to marriage, this struggle to regain the original plan of creation was the radical call that Christ made: ”Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female..”(Matthew 19:4). The idea of redemption is prepared for in the Old Testament by God’s love for the people of the covenant. To express that love, the prophets turned frequently to the image of marriage (Cf. Hosea, Jeremiah 2:1-4:4, Ezekiel 16 and 23, Isaiah 54:1-10, Song of Songs, Tobit..). Hosea waits patiently for his unfaithful wife Gomer to return symbolically manifesting God's patience for his people to return to Him from their unfaithfulness in their following the pagan gods. In this process, marriage was in its turn illuminated by the covenant. The Song of Songs is full of poetic expressions of the lover towards the beloved, again a symbol for God's love and commitment to His people. Marriage became a mirror in which something of God’s love was seen as reflected. If husband and wife loved each other as God loved, then they would indeed be returning to the creation. In John 13:34 Jesus says “I give you a new commandment: love one another...”. At first sight there is nothing new (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18). The newness of the commandment is in the words immediately following “just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.” No one ever loved as Jesus loved, for he still loved his disciples and enemies when rejected and abandoned on the cross. Thus it is an enormous thing when husbands are told to love their wives “as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her” (Eph 5:25). To reflect on the profound love of God, let us "go in the deep." We may speak symbolically of God as a family. The essence of the Trinity is that the Persons are united in love yet distinct: three in one. Husband and wife are also united yet distinct..Like God they too give life (co-creators). With their child, the fruit of their love, they become three in one. To the creation idea of finding God in the other, Christian revelation adds the idea of finding the creative innermost life of God in their family. A family is a fuller image of God than an individual. A Sacrament of Church: The Christian marriage is a sacrament, both a covenant between the couple, and a covenant between them and God. In it, God offers the promise of divine grace to sustain their union and renew the creation. In the sacrament of marriage, Jesus blesses, and is a witness of, the marriage covenant that creates the family. The New Testament begins with the birth of Jesus in a human family. After spending most of his life with that family, Jesus began his public ministry at the invitation of his mother with a miracle at Cana in which he abundantly blessed the ordinary joys of a wedding by turning water into wine (John 2). Not only did he start his public ministry by blessing the wedding, He also ended his public ministry by returning to his concern for family “Woman this is your son..”(John 19:26) After this he knew everything was completed (John 19:28). Jesus came on earth to change human society in all places and times. To accomplish this, he knew the place to start and end was the family. Marriage is the only sacrament in which the persons involved are themselves the “matter” of the sacrament. The matter of sacrament is the material substance used in celebrating the sacrament - it always points to the spiritual reality present and is said to be a visible sign of invisible grace (e.g. water in baptism physically cleans and purifies just as baptism does it spiritually. In the same way, oil physically strengthens and heals just as chrismation/confirmation does this spiritually.) While the sacrament is received at one moment at the wedding, the grace of the sacrament continues to be administered and received throughout the couple’s lives. Grace is God at work within us. In marriage the couple are meant to mediate this grace to each other. Because the couple are still fallen humanity, this mediation of grace is essential. Their marriage is filled with the difficulties of ordinary humanity struggling to regain the creation. There is thus a constant need to experience conversion of heart. Because of their limitations and sinfulness, their married love involves that death to self that makes it truly Christian. The forgiveness received from the other is an experience of Christ’s forgiveness and grace mediated through the other. Since the "one flesh" union of man and wife foreshadowed Christ and the Church right from "the beginning," Pope John Paul II speaks of marriage as the primordial sacrament: "All the sacraments of the new covenant find in a certain sense their prototype in marriage.” This is why Baptism is a "nuptial bath" and why the Eucharist is "the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride." When we receive the body of Christ into our own, in a mysterious way, like a bride, we conceive new life in us — life in the Holy Spirit. It is this same Holy Spirit that forms the bond that unites spouses in the sacrament of marriage. Three Qualities of marriage:a) One man and one woman (monogamous): Love and commitment cannot be divided between several spouses. Once you are in true love, it is a total and unique giving of oneself. b) For their entire lives: love and commitment (indissoluble); A couple who live together without marriage may feel fully committed to each other. They may be convinced that their union is more authentic precisely because there are no legal and social bonds constraining them. However, without marriage they are falling short of total commitment, and they are lacking that confidence and courage to be committed for life. To love another totally, but only for a time, is a contradiction in terms. At the wedding, each of the partners consents fully to take the other as his own. And that is the beginning of the life-long covenant of marriage. c) To beget new life (procreative): Just as God’s love was fruitful in the creation of humankind, so this deepest human union of man and woman is meant to be fruitful. With God, they co-create another image of God with the same presence of the infinite. It is at the moment of the birth of their first child that a couple are usually most aware of the presence of the infinite. There is a sense of wonder as they hold their first baby in their arms. It is a permanent reality of their marriage and can give them a sense of reverence for each other and for their children. * The above text contains excerpts from "Marriage, Divorce & Nullity" by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, published by Dave Communications, copyright (c) 1984 and "A Basic Theology of Marriage.", (c) 1984 by Christopher West - see his website:

God's Plan for Marriage in Creation

God’s act of creation is an act of love, and every act of love is a call for a return of love. Love is therefore the fundamental vocation of man. We want to return God’s love and be fully united but we cannot ever be totally content until we reach God. So in Genesis God says “It is not good that man should be alone. “I will make him a helpmate” (2:18). A helpmate or a helper in English may seem of some lower order but the Hebrew translating word ezer is used frequently for God as our mighty helper and so certainly implies nothing inferior or secondary. “So from the soil God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them. The man gave names to all cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts.” (2:19-20) For the Hebrews, to give something a name meant two things - that they had power over the thing to be named and that they understood its nature fully. These two conditions are fulfilled with man’s relation to animals. However since “no helpmate suitable for man was found for him” God made man fall into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs and built it into a woman (2:21-22) The idea of a rib may refer to a Sumerian word ti which means life. The idea is that it is life of man that becomes the woman. On seeing her, Adam exclaims “This at last is bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh. This is to be called woman, for this was taken from man”(2:23). The Hebrew word for man used here is ish and for woman is ishsha. These are not two different words, but the same word with masculine and feminine endings. It means that the man cannot name the woman but only call her by his name! He cannot name her firstly because he has no power over her as he has over animals, and secondly his knowledge cannot penetrate to her being, for the spirit of life that came from God is within her and he can never fully penetrate this. She is his equal and he finds fulfillment in her. It is not the total satisfaction and fulfillment that man can find only in God, whose name the Hebrew was not even to say out loud, but it is a satisfaction that takes away much of the loneliness and restlessness he felt before. Because she has the same divine spirit of life, he can find something of the divine in her and she in him. True love between them is an intuitive glimpse of the divine in each other. This is presented in Genesis as the first and most fulfilling human relationship. ”This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body”(2:24). Other relationships, even with parents, are put in second place so that this one may be complete. Man and woman meet as two human beings (both spirit and flesh). Their sexuality is part of their being and their ability to relate. ”Now both of them were naked..but they felt no shame in front of each other”(2:25). Humans are created in the image and likeness of God (1:26) which is not physical. It expresses a deep reality that we alone have received the divine spirit and long for the infinite. For most human beings, it is in relationships with others that they find their deepest satisfaction. Marriage offers to two persons the opportunity to know and love each other at a depth that nothing else on earth can quite offer. Because God is within the other, marriage may be called a voyage of discovery of the infinite. The word “enthusiasm” comes from two Greek words en (within) and theo (God) and so means the “god-within” When a person is really enthusiastic, it seems as though there is a God-within inspiring that person. The married couple can face each other with the enthusiasm of love as they embark on the discovery of God within each other. God however respects our individuality and does not take over our whole personalities in such a way that it does not matter who one marries because one would not be loving that person in himself/herself but only God-within. There is only one God, but God has many images. It is the incarnate reality of a particular image of God with whom a person falls in love. Men and women strive for the infinite but they belong to this earth so it is a genuine human love they feel for a fellow human being. It is simultaneously human and divine love they seek in each other.. This total love for one another makes a person vulnerable, open to hurt by the other. Thus every act of infidelity is an injury to the other, who is building his or her whole life on trusting another and on finding both human and divine love in that other. Promiscuity is the failure to find real satisfaction in anything beyond what can be seen and touched. It is a failure to find God within others. The giving of one’s body to another is always something of a lie, unless it is part of the total giving and commitment of all of oneself forever. Pre-marital sex and adultery (seeking sexual gratification of a married person outside marriage) are wrong because, in varying degrees, they contain this lie. Adultery also hurts the spouse whose spouse is involved in the sexual act and promotes a masked polygamy. * The above text contains excerpts from "Marriage, Divorce & Nullity" by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, published by Dave Communications, copyright (c) 1984:

Marriage in the Melkite Catholic Church

Background Marriage is a one of the sacraments of the Church in which a man and woman are united by the Holy Trinity. Their conjugal union is blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ through the Church. God's grace is imparted to them to live together in His love, mutually fulfilling and perfecting each other. The ceremony of the sacrament of marriage (or mystery of marriage as is called in Eastern Church theology) is full of symbolism. The Fathers of the Church, especially St. Epiphanius (+403), St. Augustine (+430), and St. Cyril of Alexandria (+444), are unanimous in teaching that Jesus Christ sanctified and elevated Christian marriage to the dignity of mystery (sacrament) by His presence at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, where He also performed His first miracle. This is the reason why the Gospel of St. John, describing the miracle at the wedding in Cana, is read at the marriage ceremony. (Jn 2:1-11) The Church Fathers, from early times, insisted that Christian marriage be celebrated in the church, being solemnized with the religious rites. Already St. Ignatius of Antioch (+110) ordained: "It is proper for those who marry to be united with the consent of the bishop (presbyter), so that the marriage may be according to the Lord and not according to lust." (cf. his Epistle to Polycarp, 5) And St. John Chryostom: "Do you want Christ to come and sanctify your marriage? Then invite the priest. Through His servant, Christ will come and sanctify your marriage, just as He did it at Cana." (cf. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. XLI, col. 210) Over the centuries, the ritual of marriage was subject to various changes and additions. It received its present form only in the middle of the seventeenth century, when two originally separated rites, that of Betrothal and of Crowning, were combined into one Ritual of Marriage (cf. P. Mohyla, Trebnyk/Ritual/, Kiev 1646). It was Metropolitan Peter Mohyla of Kiev who finally inserted the Ring Ceremony into the Marriage Ritual in his ritual book, called Trebnyk, printed in 1646. The wedding rings symbolize the pledge of fidelity between the spouses. Since Christian marriage is indissoluble and its validity depends on the free consent of spouses, Metropolitan Mohyla also inserted an explicit and public exchange of the marital vows before the crowning ceremony. While exchanging their vows, the spouses join their right hands and place them on the Gospel Book, and the celebrating priest covers their hands with the epitrachellion. The ceremony of joining the hands is very old and is already mentioned by St. Gregory Nazianzus (+389). It symbolizes the presense of Christ who, through his servant-priest, confirms the marital union, saying: "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Mt 19:6) The exchange of vows is followed by a moving ceremony of crowning, mentioned already by St. John Chrysostom (+407), by which the marriage becomes officially recognized by the Church. The crowning of spouses was adapted from the Old Testament (Is. 61:10). It symbolizes the "glory and honor" of Christian marriage, since it was instituted by God and elevated by Christ to the dignity of the holy mystery (sacrament.) The crowns should remind the spouses that in their marital union they must assist and help each other to attain "unfading crown of glory" in heaven (1 Pet. 5:4), as suggested by the concluding prayer, recited by the celebrant: "O God, our God, ... accept their crowns into your kingdom, keeping them pure, blameless and above all reproach." Symbols used in wedding ceremony The rings The ring is circle-shaped, i.e. has no ending point indicating that marriage is binding forever. The rings are blessed by the priest who takes them in his hand and, making the sign of the cross over the heads of bride and groom, says: "The servant of God betrothed to the maid of God ... in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The couple then exchange the rings, taking the bride's ring and placing it on the groom's finger and vice-versa. The rings, of course, are the symbol of betrothal and their exchange signifies that in married life the weaknesses of the one partner will be compensated for by the strength of the other, the imperfections of one by the perfections of the other. By themselves, the newly-betrothed are incomplete: together they are made perfect. Thus the exchange of rings gives expression to the fact that the spouses in marriage will constantly be complementing each other. Each will be enriched by the union. The candlesThe bride and groom are handed candles which they hold throughout the service. The candles are like the lamps of the five wise maidens of the Bible, who because they had enough oil in them, were able to receive the Bridegroom, Christ, when He came in the darkness of the night. The candles symbolize the spiritual willingness of the couple to receive Christ, Who will bless them through this Mystery. The joining of the right handsThe right hand of the bride and groom are joined when the priest reads the prayer that beseeches God to "join these thy servants, unite them in one mind and one flesh." The hands are kept joined throughout the service to symbolize the "oneness" of the couple. The crowningThe service of the Crowning, which follows, is the climax of the Wedding service. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns them during the Mystery. The groom and the bride are crowned as the king and queen of their own little kingdom, the home - domestic church, which they will rule with fear of God, wisdom, justice and integrity. When the crowning takes place the priest, taking the crowns and holding them above the couple, says:"The servants of God, (names), are crowned in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The crowns used in the wedding service refer to the crowns of martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self-sacrifice on both sides. The common cupThe service of crowning is followed by the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. The Gospel reading describes the marriage at Cana of Galilee which was attended and blessed by our Lord and Saviour Christ, and for which He reserved His first miracle. There He converted the water into better wine and give of it to the newlyweds, in remembrance of this blessing, wine is given the couple. This is the "common cup" of better life denoting the mutual sharing of joy and sorrow, the token of a life of harmony. The drinking of wine from the common cup serves to impress upon the couple that from that moment on they will share everything in life, joys as well as sorrows, and that they are to "bear one another's burdens." Their joys will be doubled and their sorrows halved because they will be shared. The walkThe priest then leads the bride and groom in a circle around the table on which are placed the Gospel and the Cross, the one containing the Word of God, the other being the symbol of our redemption by our Saviour Jesus Christ. The husband and wife are taking their first steps as a married couple, and the Church, in the person of the priest, leads them in the way they must walk. The way is symbolized by the circle at the center of which are the Gospel and the Cross of our Lord. This expresses the fact that the way of Christian living is a perfect orbit around the center of life, who is Jesus Christ our Lord. During this walk around the table a hymn its sung to the Holy Martyrs reminding the newly married couple of the sacrificial love they are to have for each other in marriage - a love that seeks not its own but is willing to sacrifice its all for the one loved. The blessingThe couple return to their places and the priest, blessing the groom, says, "Be thou magnified, O bridegroom, as Abraham, and blessed as Isaac, and increased as Jacob, walking in peace and working in righteousness the commandments of God." And blessing the bride he says, "And thou, O bride, be thou magnified as Sarah, and glad as Rebecca, and do thou increase like unto Rachael, rejoicing in thine own husband, fulfilling the conditions of the law; for so it is well pleasing unto God." Compiled from:

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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