Byzantine Catholicism


There was a brief moment in the twelfth century when Manuel I Komnenos considered attempting to undo the Great Schism in grand style by persuading the pope (endlessly troubled by the German emperors) to reverse the translatio imperii and crown the soverign of Constantinople as Holy Roman Emperor. Surely, it was provident and fitting that the first Christian Emperor should have vacated the Eternal City to make way for the Supreme Pontiff. “For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgement if it has not been good” as Boniface VIII would say. Looked at this way the Second Rome is no insult to the Elder and the Greater but a fitting seat for the first of all laymen. Perhaps the providential role marked out for Russia at Fatima indicates that the Almighty favours such a reversal of the revolution of 800 (perhaps especially since the Kings of France failed to comply with His earlier requests). As Soliviev famously cried out to Leo XIII:

Oh deathless spirit of the blessed Apostle, invisible minister of the Lord in the government of His visible Church, thou knowest that she has need of an earthly body for her manifestation. Twice already thou hast embodied her in human society: in the Greco-Roman world, and again in the Romano-German world; thou hast made both the empire of Constantine and the Empire of Charlemagne to serve her. After these two provisional incarnations she awaits her third and last incarnation. A whole world full of energies and of yearnings but with no clear consciousness of its destiny knocks at the door of universal history. What is your word ye peoples of the world? […] Your word, O peoples of the world, is free and universal Theocracy, the true solidarity of all nations and classes, the application of Christianity to public life, the Christianising of politics; freedom for all the oppressed, protection for all the weak; social justice and good Christian peace. Open to them therefore, thou key-bearer of Christ, and may the gate of history be for them and for the whole world the gate of the Kingdom of God!

Doubtless the virtual identification of the Church with the Roman Patriarchate in the High Middle Ages was an essential precondition for the ambition and the glory of that greatest of all eras but it was also a stain upon that glory to whose eradication many of the highest deeds of the heroic age were directed. If she does ever rise again Christendom will be breathing with both lungs.

Breathe in here…

Drink deep here…

Period appropriate crusading musical accompaniment…

Triumph_orthodoxy

“For those who reject the grace of redemption preached by the Gospel as the only means of our justification before God, Anathema!”

The joint statement of the Pope and the ‘Patriarch’ of Moscow contains the following paragraph:

It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

This is the ultimate insult to the Eastern Churches and the ultimate illustration of precisely the phenomenon it purports to reject. The authentic Easter Churches, the bishops of the non-Roman rites in communion with the Holy See, are casually insulted and referred to as ‘ecclesial communities’ by the Patriarch of Rome for the sake of a superficial public relations opportunity with a schismatic. Presumably this is how the dissident Byzantines could expect to be treated also if they ever did come back into union with Rome?

This Sunday, in the old rite, part of our Lord’s discourse about the end times will be read or chanted. The first three gospels each tell us that after He had prophesied the destruction of the temple, His disciples came to Him to ask when all would be fulfilled. St Matthew and St Luke simply tell us that “the disciples” asked the questions; St Mark specifies that four disciples asked, namely Peter, James, John – and Andrew. This evangelist was recording the preaching of Peter in Rome, and doubtless St Peter had mentioned the names, so as not to lose the opportunity to honour his own brother, who had first brought him to Christ.

We are familiar with the idea that the first three of these disciples formed an inner ring within the twelve. They were chosen to be there when Jairus’s daughter was raised from the dead, at the Transfiguration and at the Agony. But this is the only occasion when St Andrew is joined to their company: to hear first of the fall of the temple, of the end of the rites of the Old Covenant and of the slaughter of the ancient people of God; and then of that which these things foreshadowed, the great persecution of the Church, the coming of the lawless one, the consummation of all things and the return of Christ in glory. Why was the apostle Andrew chosen to hear these things directly from the mouth of Christ?

Perhaps in part because he is the “first-called”, Πρωτόκλητος, and so had been following the Lord longer than anyone (along with the disciple who was with him when he was called); it was fitting therefore that he should hear of the rewards for those who persevere to the end. Perhaps also because he would become the patron saint of that nation which, more than any other, seems bound up with the Church’s fortunes as she makes her way toward those last days: Russia.

It is now almost a hundred years since Lenin entered holy Russia in his sealed train and since the Queen of Heaven told the three children that that nation would first spread its errors throughout the world and then be made the chosen instrument for their correction. And they have been spread, perhaps beyond the hopes of hell itself. But just as Christ’s words do not pass away, so nor do hers, through whom the Word was made flesh. St Andrew’s nation will be consecrated to her and become a fountain of grace for the last days, perhaps for resistance in that final persecution, or perhaps only when antichrist shall have been overthrown, and the Church enjoys, if this be the plan of heaven, a time of flourishing before the second coming, foreshadowed by the forty days her Spouse once spent on earth between Resurrection and Ascension.

It is not without reason that his feast everywhere is celebrated on the cusp of Advent, on the vigil of December’s kalends. As St John the Baptist from his place on earth prepared all men for the first coming of the Lord, so St Andrew from his place in heaven prepares all men for the second. Nor is his name devoid of mystery, for it means manliness, or courage. When those days come, upon whomsoever they may come, such as have not been known since the foundation of the world, we shall have need of Andrew then.

It’s a day late for the feast, but perhaps some of our small yet select readership might be interested in this poem to St Athanasius that I recently came acros. Despite the archaizing style, it seems from the content to be reasonably contemporary.

‘At Alexandria, the birthday of St Athanasius, bishop of that city, most celebrated for sanctity and learning. Amost all the world had formed a conspiracy to persecute him’ (from the Roman Martyrology for 2nd May)

Athanasius! Thou art living at this hour

Though night has seized and manned each highest tower

Where sons of light in opium’s pleasant power

Lie sleeping still, or ‘wake but speechless cower;

As once across the Alexandrine main

Thou gazed’st and saw’st the world dissolve again

In weakness, whom the true Son’s blessed pain

Had scarce delivered from the unclean reign.

   For Him thou wander’dst then in every land.

   The Gallic snows thou felt’st upon thy face

   And lay’st concealed amid the pious sand

   While Caesar’s thundering armies sought thy trace.

   Five times a beggar, six times thou held’st the throne.

   Father, but once, restore us to our own.

“The splendour of your presence was like a lightning flash to Hades, and it was completely dazzled by your descent; for it could not bear the brightness of day” (Jerusalem matins).

Next Page »