Have a Great Lent!
Saturday, March 11, 2017
This is a great video on Theologizing as an Eastern Catholic after Orientalium Ecclesiarum! Check it out!
Have a Great Lent!
Have a Great Lent!
Posted by Robert Horwath, MA at 11:54 AM
Slava Isusu Christu!
I recently got into an argument with a Latin priest over the intersection of Byzantine Catholicism with Eastern Orthodoxy and I almost felt like Father Alexis Toth vs. Archbishop Ireland (1). Suffice it to say, I really felt the priest needed courses in ecumenism and on the Eastern Churches because his formation was clearly pre-Conciliar--meaning he viewed the Eastern Catholic Churches as just Catholic Churches no different from the Latin Church except for a few cultural and liturgical rarities and our purpose is to convert the Eastern Orthodox.
My argument was that Byzantine Catholics are Eastern Orthodox and that at the time of the Unias they did not surrender their Eastern Orthodox identity, faith, or praxis. His was that I was wrong and I should realize that Byzantine Catholics are not Eastern Orthodox--that somehow they surrendered that when they came into communion with Rome. However, Rome has called us repeatedly in church documents to return to our authentic identity and praxis, through Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Orientale Lumen, the Eastern Code of Canon Law, and where does our identity originate....in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Patriarchate of Rome is not our Mother Church as Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholics but rather it is the Patriarchate of Constantinople and to it we should look for guidance and help restoring our Orthodox identity and authentic traditions in dialogue until ecclesiastical unity is achieved.
As a Byzantine Catholic convert, I discovered that as Byzantine Catholics we are not monolithic when it comes to ecclesial identity and that while I believe we are Eastern Orthodox in communion with the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, others on the far end of the spectrum believe we are nothing more than Roman Catholics with an archaic and strange Rite originating in Constantinople who have our own bishops and are to accept all the doctrinal developments in the Latin Church which differ from the Eastern Orthodox Churches on pain of sin.
It is unfortunate that historically Latin developments in theology and praxis have been imposed on the faithful of the Byzantine Catholic Church and the other Eastern Catholic Churches--and as any ecclesial minority we have compromised our Orthodox identity to the point that often we seem no different then Latins in teaching or praxis (2). Latinization, the taking on of Roman Rite customs, praxis, church architecture and forms, ecclesial identity, devotions, spirituality, forms of religious life, hybridization of Eastern Catholic traditions with that of the Latin Rite--has occurred since the Unias and now after the Second Vatican Council, like a huge knot, must be undone and it is our responsibility as Byzantine Catholics to actively seek not only the restoration of our authentic Eastern Orthodox Way of Life but also to suppress Latinization, Protestantization, and secularization of our holy and life-giving traditions.
After arguing with the Latin priest, I have to tell you I was perturbed to say the least and although I did not have the problems Father Alexis Toth had when he was a Greek Rite priest: it is clear that education of Latin faithful and clergy is essential today as there is the potential for the same ignorance experienced by Father Alexis when he visited Archbishop Ireland--of the superiority of the Latin Rite and its customs, traditions, mentality, rites, ceremonies, spiritualities, religious life, celibate priesthood, etc., over our authentic Eastern Orthodox Way--a Way we did NOT surrender to be relegated to an inferior Catholic class subordinate to the Latins. (3).
We are in communion with the Latins and the bishop of Rome out of a future hope of the full unity of the Church but not in order to become the Eastern Orthodox proselytizing wing of the Latin Church--We are true Churches, fully Orthodox and fully Catholic, seeking the unity of all Churches--a bridge to a future reality of union--a union prayed for by Christ (John 17:21). We may not be accepted as Eastern Orthodox by some Orthodox or by Catholics but through effective dialogue and ecumenism bridges will be built and fortified--the way toward Christian unity will be secured!
Pope Francis is leading the way!
Have a blessed Holy and Great Lent!
(1). Life of St. Alexis Toth, retrieved from http://orthodoxct.org/files/Misc%20Documents/LIFE-OF-ST-Alexis-Toth.pdf
(2). Spencer, Robert. We are Non-Roman Catholics, retrieved from http://www.crisismagazine.com/2011/we-are-non-roman-catholics
(3). 33 Articles Concerning Union With the Roman Church, retrieved from http://jbburnett.com/resources/union-of-brest.html
Posted by Robert Horwath, MA at 11:33 AM
Friday, March 10, 2017
But often, as I have experienced, the heart of the convert may never be satisfied even when they enter the ancient Church--a heart which constantly seeks for truth and is never satiated. I recall after entering the Church feeling the old desire for more truth and wanted to go deeper into the Christian East and find the strictest praxis. What happened to me was that I soon began to find those raised in the Faith to be spiritually lazy or that they did not value the Faith as I did--in other words, I soon found the same dissatisfaction I experienced as an former Anglican creeping into my experience as a Byzantine Catholic. This dissatisfaction lead my intellect to start pursuing the writings and teachings of traditionalist Catholic and Orthodox writers--which also experienced a deep dissatisfaction with the current condition of the Church. This fed into my pattern of seeking problems with the Church in an obsessive manner and validated my pride and natural disposition toward focusing on the negative.
This chronic negativity started to destroy my soul as I was constantly listening to and reading the writings of those who either were heading outside of the Church or had already left believing they had preserved the Church within themselves while the institutional Church had lost or was losing the Faith. This dangerous affliction, chronic negativity induced by a schismatic mentality, which I enabled,crept into my spiritual life and I soon ceased praying, repenting of sins, frequent attendance at Divine Services or doing works of spiritual and corporeal mercy. I became obsessed with the commenting on blogs, watching traditionalist videos, listening to traditionalist priests criticize the Church and even at one point eventually left the institutional Church to become an online schismatic Sedevacantist--those schismatics who assert the Popes after Pius XII are Anti-Popes and the Church in communion with them is not the Catholic Church. Becoming an online or virtual traditional "Catholic" Sedevacantist left me with no Sacraments and no local pastoral help, since I was told the local Catholic Church was without valid Sacraments or the True Faith and that I must stay at home and pray by myself and go on the Sede sites to receive the Catholic Faith. Eventually, what happened to me was I became an angry hollow soul due to the lack of sacramental confession and reception of the Eucharist--always fighting the constant daily war against Francis and the "modernists." I had become a wretched person: always judging others while feeling the judgement of God on my soul for my hypocrisy.
My soul had become dead and empty while I had believed that within myself and the little Sedevacantist fellowship I had found online that we were the True Church and were preserving it for future generations. It was the most challenging process to come back into the Church after being brainwashed into believing the canonical or institutional Church had become a sect without Grace or valid priests and indeed the Church of Anti-Christ or the Anti-Pope. Coming back into the Church was not easy and even to this day I will visit some of the old blogs to see them in the same affliction I was in--of an almost constant despair over the Church, unceasing gossip, anger, and pain.
What brought me out of this darkness? When I finally hit bottom and accused myself of hypocrisy and sin praying before the Icon of Our Lady, I recalled the day of my Baptism and Chrismation in the Byzantine Catholic Church. I remembered the joy of that day and how I not only felt like I had come home but also that through the Divine Eucharist I experienced wholeness and peace. I recognized, through the help of Mary, that I had lost the joy of coming into the Church and let the old patterns of seeking and dissatisfaction resurface from when I was an Anglican--when through coming into the Church I had received the fullness of the Faith. A fullness I had not found outside of the Church. Recapturing this joy and memory of becoming Byzantine Catholic saved me from being lost--for which I am thankful to the Lord each day. I had to realize that I needed to focus on my sins and not the failings of the institutional Church. I needed to overcome the passions and be healed through relying on Our Lord in the Mystery of Repentance and the Divine Eucharist.
It was a shift of focus toward the joy of the Lord that delivered me from the need to dwell on the problems in the Church. I had to surrender the need to try to fix the Church. I had to let go and recognize Christ the invisible Head of the Church will cleanse and reform His Church and that I needed to let Him cleanse me from any desire to worry about it anymore. I had to cast all my cares and anxiety about the Church upon Him for He cares for and sustains me (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22). From this mental disposition, given by the Lord, I am now able to be at peace and to find joy in my Catholic Faith--a Faith which had given me such joy at the time of my conversion and I pray I will always be faithful to until I meet the Lord, in communion with the Church He established.
Posted by Robert Horwath, MA at 1:11 PM
Being a Byzantine Catholic Christian, indeed any Christian of whatever Rite, tradition or Apostolic Church, is not only to be identified with Orthodoxy but also to undergo a process where one is BECOMING Orthodox day to day. Being Orthodox is also not simply upholding the True Religion or Right Belief or preserving Holy Tradition but it is Right Glory: worshiping the All-Holy Trinity aright, through the Divine Liturgy, the Casoslav or Divine Office, prayer in the Domestic Church, the Jesus Prayer, and indeed being a Temple where the Triune God worships continually through a life of holiness and constant prayer (1 Cor 6:19-10). We were not made merely to believe in a set of Orthodox doctrines but to have the very God of Revelation indwell us and transform us into gods by Divine Grace (Rev. 3:20)--deified beings who participate through the Uncreated Divine Energies in the Mystery of the Divine Trinity, One in Essence and Undivided (1).
Becoming Orthodox is also not only the responsibility of Christians, Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, whose tradition comes from the Constantinopolitan Tradition but of all Traditions: Latin, Oriental, Maronite, Anglican Use even those Christians separated from us due to historical realities of which they had no choice such as Anglicans, Old Catholics, Protestants and onward (2). Orthodoxy as process invites all people to move toward its fullness and this fullness is found in the Catholic, Eastern and Latin, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches and by participation other Churches who share many similarities with us on the journey toward Orthodoxy.
God in a Mystery is able to assist those outside of the Church to achieve salvation and deification while the process of becoming Orthodox leads all of us to that fullness of divine Life which the Triune God gives us (3).While those who have the fullness of the Church have a responsibility to instruct the world in Her saving precepts and administer the Mysteries (Mark 16:15), it must be understood that Christianity is more then a teaching-learning experience, or a community of familiarity where worship becomes sterile over time as we lose passion for our Faith, but is a participation in divine energies in which we truly experience what is the Real, the Light of Mount Tabor and the Supernatural Deified Universe, through prayer, and we move toward Divine Union--not an Essential Union with the Trinity but Energetic.
Becoming Orthodox is becoming a god by Grace not a mere external canonical affiliation or church membership--for it is clear that the Lord and the Fathers, who transmit His teaching, instruct us that being members of the Church alone does not save for "small is the gate" and "narrow the road" and "few ever find it" (Matt 7:14). Becoming Orthodox is the "narrow road" which through constant prayer, metanoia, sacrifice, many good works, participation in the Divine Services in the Liturgical Year, the Mysteries, and especially the Jesus Prayer one may become a deified being--the true reason Jesus became Incarnate is to make gods and not merely to wash away sins or appease the Father who was offended by sin. We have such a glorious calling! Today, may we make the choice, seize our inheritance in Christ through Divine Grace, and BECOME ORTHODOX.
+Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner! Amen.!
(1). cf. St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B
(2) cf. Lumen Gentium, Chapter 1, Section 14-16.
(3). cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, Paragraph #3.
Posted by Robert Horwath, MA at 11:32 AM
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Before I came into the Byzantine Catholic Church on September 1998 through the Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and Communion, I had discovered that theological uniformity seemed to have never been practiced in the Catholic Church--although it may have been an ideal or demanded by Church law. Many Latin Catholics demanded, and still do, that to be truly Catholic one has to accept, on pain of sin, the theological developments in the Latin Church (For some traditionalists up to Vatican I and Conciliar Catholics the insights of Vatican II up to the Magisterium of Pope Francis).
My perception at the time of conversion was that Eastern Catholics only wanted to be the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and be left alone to practice their ancient rites, ceremonies, splendor, spiritual praxis, and affirm the Orthodox Faith as their spiritual ancestors while accepting the only addition of communion with Rome. I learned later that among many Byzantine Catholics there is a distortion of praxis due to latinization, the gradual taking on by Eastern Catholics historically of Latin theology and praxis, and lack of formation in authentic Orthodox theology, spirituality, asceticism, monasticism, praxis, and identity which leads to some viewing themselves as Roman Catholics with a Byzantine Rite or a different Mass but the same theological development as the Latins, using the same theological language without any interest in recovering their authentic Eastern Orthodox identity--a truly sad reality of many who have become theological hybrids, not really Eastern and not completely Latin. But this reality is a part of the diversity in the Church--a diversity of theology, praxis, and identity which adds to the conversation among Catholics as to what it means to be Catholic. Hybrid Catholics are still Catholics while understanding their faith differently or similarly from other Catholics while holding communion with the Church in tension and fidelity. While they are called to restore their authentic traditions and identity, nevertheless they are Catholics.
In other words, being Catholic is COMPLEX.
When I came into the Church, I learned from my parish priest that as Byzantine Catholics we belong to the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the same Church the Eastern Orthodox belong to--although the extreme among them would say we are merely Latins who have stolen Orthodox rites, ceremonies and customs in order to steal sheep. Our development while being seemingly frozen in time, and not reflecting the progress of the Latin Church in theology-making is still authentic Catholicism, however primitive. We remind the Latin Church what She was before the rise of the Scholastic period, before the Franks dominated the Church and imposed a foreign theology which the Greek Church did not understand or view as Orthodox, and before the rise St. Augustine and his theology--we may be the Primitive Church but we are fully Catholic--we are the Church of the Past, still in the Present.
The myth of theological uniformity is the same myth that was told to school children before the Second Vatican Council that Latin is the universal language of the Church in her government and worship and in it one finds a demonstration of the unity of the Church--when unknown to many Catholics before the Council Eastern Catholics celebrated the Mysteries in the vernacular tongues or in Old Church Slavonic. Theological diversity or diversity in spiritual or ritual praxis is NOT a product of the Second Vatican Council--in fact it has always existed in the Church. What Vatican II brought to the surface was the insights of Eastern Catholics, through the influence of the Melkites as an example, long hidden and raised them to the highest levels to influence the Church in the modern world through the Council as demonstrated in synodality, the bishop or eparch as not being merely the vicar of the Pope, vernacular Liturgy, communion in both kinds, permanent diaconate, active participation, etc.
It is vital to understand why Pope Francis wants diversity of thought and conversation among Catholics--in order for us to not only understand each other's theological development but also that being Catholic is not reduced down to accepting one theological perspective of one ritual Church or within a ritual Church. What is vital to understand Pope Francis, who models dialogue for us, is that we must listen to each other as Catholics. Each Catholic perceives the Church through not only the filter of their ritual Church, Latin, Eastern, or Oriental, but also through the lens of their experience, culture, and unique context--this is why in the modern age Catholics are not monolithic on theological, social, or political issues. Vatican II did not cause diversity of thought: it existed among Eastern and Oriental Catholics before the Council, among what used to be termed Catholic liberals or modernists, and even among Ultramontanists. Today, Catholics along with the diversity of theology and praxis among the 24 sui iuris ritual Churches in Communion with Rome hold to a variety of theological positions, from Latin traditionalists of all stripes to Roman Catholics who hold to the Theology of Liberation or Feminist Theologies or Eastern Catholics who view themselves as Eastern Orthodox in Communion with Rome, but what is vital is not condemnation but listening and love.
Reflecting on now 18 years of being a Byzantine Catholic, I really believe that I have developed into a complex person, theologically and personally, and that I appreciate Pope Francis' notion of conversation and accompaniment--but I realize there was a time when I only wanted my vision of the Church to be valid and that it should be imposed on all Catholics. I came to acknowledge that Catholics of whatever ritual Church or position need to understand that Catholicity is not demonstrated in only their Rite or theological development or in one school of thought in one ritual Church but in the sum total, which is why we need to to establish dialogue and learn without judgment in order to walk with each other, however briefly, in our journey in the life of the Church. The Church has never asked us to leave our brain at the door--in fact She encourages the use of the intellect--so be at peace, you are still a Catholic even if you aren't of one type or kind. I have been allowed to formulate a Catholic identity over time and it has fluctuated as I learned from more Catholics and traditions and I allow others the same space to grow and formulate a Catholic position or idenity.
Once one understands the rich historic and contemporary theological diversity in the Catholic Communion of Churches among the 24 ritual Churches and indeed each Catholic individually: one ritual, theological, or spiritual tradition lacks a certain fullness on its own--that all of them in total have such richness to give us as Catholic Christians and it is from the other ritual Churches and individual Catholics that we have much to learn about ourselves and our Faith, if we are humble enough to listen with openness and love.
Have a holy Lent!
Posted by Robert Horwath, MA at 11:41 AM
Monday, March 6, 2017
I had also lost touch with my Byzantine Catholic roots and got mixed up in the ad intra ecclesial wars among Latin Rite Catholics--a reality which in essence has nothing to do with us, which is why you don't see hordes of Eastern Catholics becoming traditionalists or even Sedevacantists. In my experience as a convert for 18 years, some of our people go over to Orthodoxy or even Sede groups each year but most become inactive or go toward Pentecostalism or Evangelicalism.
By rediscovering my Eastern Christian theology, I was able to understand 'Holy Tradition as the Life of the Holy Spirit in the Church' and not as a mere protection against modernization of rites, ceremonial, doctrine, praxis, ecclesial mentality, or ecclesiology (1), and being Catholic as a Way of Life in the Mystical Body rather then as being a mere canonical member of a perfect visible society, the institutional Church (See Cardinal Avery Dulles' Models of the Church). I had discovered that Holy Tradition is Living and that it must be experienced in Community, a Living Community established by the Lord--a Community of any Catholic ritual Church or even by those separated from us through the sins of of our spiritual ancestors, such as Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox Christians.
Holy Tradition in the Holy Community of the Lord gives His People True Life not the spiritual diseases caused by getting involved in ecclesial wars and endless discord--the spiritual disease of pride I now know was the cause of my doubting the Church and even leaving Her for a time. With the help of the Lord, who is the Vine, I was finally able to experience the reality that traditionalism is dead, hollow, and lifeless while Holy Tradition is Life--a Life I now experience in Communion with the Church united to Francis, Pope of Rome, who presides in charity.
Have a blessed Holy and Great Lent!
(1). Lossky, Vladimir. Tradition and Traditions. See: http://jbburnett.com/resources/lossky/lossky-trad%26trads.pdf
Posted by Robert Horwath, MA at 4:10 PM
Lent often is viewed in legalistic terms with regard to obligations to be followed and fasts to be observed but what I have learned as an Eastern Christian is that following the strict observance of Lent is less important then living a life of compassion and love. All of our acts of asceticism, sacrifices, fasts, attendance at divine services, many prayers in the domestic church...all of it is worthless if we do not love, as Saint Paul has instructed us:
"If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing"(1 Cor 13:1-3 NAB)
It is also vital to know that it is love that assists us to perform the acts required during Lent and by being filled with God's Love in us, which seeks to step out of self-interest, Lenten observance will be life-giving rather then a practice merely rooted in obligation. The Church seeks to form us as disciples of Christ who observe Holy Lent, with all its attending requirements, out of love of the Savior--who by His Death and Resurrection gives us His love to empower us through grace to follow His commandments and those of the Church. If you have trouble with fasting and the saying of many prayers and attending the divine services during Lent don't be hard on yourself, for the Lord is merciful, but through love each year try to incorporate more practices out of a desire to come closer to Him--not out of a desire to observe in a legalistic manner the requirements of Lent but rather in order to be healed by the Lord from the many wounds which exist in the soul.
May the Divine Master grant unto you a blessed Holy and Great Lent!
Posted by Robert Horwath, MA at 2:43 PM