It’s About Power (or its Illusion)

This post is about the illusion of power, or actual power, exhibited by the world in contrast to God’s Love or the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.   The worldly kingdom perpetually tries to present itself as a replacement of reality, which is of course God. One of the ways our current age does this is through vaccines. Without refuting  some role of vaccines in medicine, we can show that this industry is disfigured, for the sake of that illusion of power.

It’s as if we are under a curse with COVID. More with the world’s reaction to it rather than the virus itself.  A world gone mad. The disease has no where near the morbidity that warrants the responses. It is as if the response has become a symbol, a religion.  Without recognizing God more deeply, the world is entering into a war of responses to the virus, so that the winner will be the “best” responder, instead of addressing the fraud itself. This urgency towards stupidity has been witnessed in our recent times with 9/11. The world went into a mode of responses rather than address the fraud itself. These responses became permanent. More on the war of responses later.

A large red flag has been available for us to see that this was coming. By this we mean a distorted and abusive emphasis on vaccines. This red flag is the widespread vaccination of newborns for Hepatitis B, a disease predominantly of prostitutes and IV drug abusers. This has been going on for decades now.  Every physician learns in medical school that newborns have effectively no ability to illicit an immune response, including to a vaccine, having only the undeveloped tools to do so later in life.  Otherwise mother and baby would be at war with each other. This article summarizes this:  Two immune systems, one body.  Incredulously, after a detailed presentation of the science, the article spends a few sentences at the end still recommending the vaccine, and using allegory rather than any science. We know that the baby can’t handle the vaccine in any constructive way, but they still should get it. What’s another baby cry? This happens in fact before the mother can even hold the baby.

This is about power. The state simply wants their mark on every new human being surviving the abortion industry.  It’s the state’s “baptism”. How can this be anything else? If not that, then at the very least it is the effect of a payment scheme of some kind, like we have had the flu shot for years now. I don’t even blame the health care workers. There is large void in our soul, made vacant by lack of any piety or appreciation of the Divine. So that after a science is established, a thin veneer of logic crosses the line into a tyranny and people swarm to it, thinking that they will become safe. Medicine by mob rule.

Another huge red flag has been the gross denial of prior art regarding the virus and the proposed vaccines. Large volumes of studies on treatments, nutritional aids, and cautions on the start of the vaccinations were systematically ignored. Pubmed is an online searchable database for the medical community and even cursory searches show thorough research. Here are two examples: 1, 2. Even if these other studies prove to be wrong, ignoring them from the start is not how real scientists and doctors function. Combine this with the fact that coronaviruses have been tweaked and patented in the last few years,  you will know who you are dealing with.  This is an attempt at embedding a modern technological scrutiny on a mild co-factor in the causes of death that has been in existence for thousands of years.

God’s mercy is always available for the living.  We all need to forgive ourselves for this.  But even in a world where human pride prevents us from admitting a fraud we have bought into, history will move on.  In the scenario where we never admit the fraud, the best responder will still win.  That responder will be the one who also moves on, even with a placebo vaccine of normal saline.

 

The Kingship of Christ (and about that Consecration of Russia)

This post is not about whether the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart has been sufficiently done as instructed by the Virgin Mother of God in the early 20th Century. I believe the declarations and suggestions of the Latin Church leadership that it has. I could be wrong. I would think that there would be nothing wrong with a repeated or more formalized consecration now. Maybe to be more sure? It can’t hurt.

Instead this post is about a more encompassing historical perspective for the consecration, its meaning for the reign of Christ the King and with perhaps an unexpected conclusion. Asking for the reader’s patience through what could be perceived as a disjointed and even superficial discourse, we will suggest at the end that a solution of our times may be a practical agreed upon footnote from the Council of Nicaea, in the 4th Century.

Certainly we know that the evils of communism began with and were spread by the Soviet Union. Our Lady of Fatima spoke of this danger for the whole world. However there is a meaning that has its roots in ancient times and echoes throughout history. It has all to do with the tug of war between secular man’s power, represented by an expanding government, even to take captive the soul, and God’s Kingdom of Love.

The Request for an Earthly King

A beginning point is when the ancient Israelites complained to God for a worldly kingdom. The passages speak for themselves:

1 Samuel 8: 7 And the Lord told him [Samuel]: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king. …9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”…11 He [Samuel] said, “…17 … and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

The Kingdom of Heaven Established

Christ the King Icon Maaloula Syria
Christ the King Icon Maaloula Syria

Now fast forward to after the Resurrection of Christ, the Acts of the Apostles and the early centuries that followed. Christianity was rapidly expanding east and west. A peculiar event however recorded in the Acts of the Apostles gives one pause:

Acts 16: 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

St. Paul
St. Paul

With repeated emphasis and with outward geographical meaning [look up the locations of those regions], God directly intervenes in shifting the emphasis of the evangelization from east to west, directing Paul’s zeal. Although ultimately a mystery, a logical reason for this is the destined location for Primacy of Peter in Rome, the capital of the Roman empire. Also, within the organizational backdrop of the Roman Empire, a council can convene to create statements of doctrinal orthodoxy for the whole of Christendom, for all the churches in the orbit of the empire. Here we see the benevolence of God who does not put His Kingdom at odds with government. Rather He proposes a marriage with government through conversion of the hearts of peoples who understand His Kingship present among them.

The First Ecumenical Council

Council of Nicaea
Council of Nicaea

The first such ecumenical council occurred in Nicaea in AD 325. The primary focus of this council was the defense against Arianism, which denied the full Divinity and full humanity of Christ. God’s Kingship has been established and in harmony with cultures, nationhood, and sovereignty. This dual nature of Christ, is also directly stated with the title of Mother of God, since God, taking the nature of man, must have a mother. In fact this title would have to be defended a few years later at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD).

The Parable of the Weeds

Our next point has to do with workers of deception that latch on the blessings that God gives man in constructing a just civilization, trying to replace it with a purely worldly governance that dominates rather than frees. Everyone benefits from the presence of Christianity, but there are those, among whom are Christians, who with time forget the grace of God. And there are those outside Christianity that build empires on the backs of the workers of God’s Kingdom. The betrayal of the doctrine of the dual nature of Christ defined at the Council of Nicaea has been presented here in a prior post. Although our Lord may have been referring to a different specific point in time, His parable of the weeds, reminds one of this kind of betrayal:

Matthew 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Readers can familiarize themselves with history between the time of the First Ecumenical Council with Emperor Constantine, who was at the Council, and the rise and fall of his nephew Emperor Julian the Apostate. Julian represented the return to paganism for the empire as the Arian heresy spread and became the dominant theology amongst the bishops. From the fall of Julian, the fragmentation of the empire began, bloated from corruption, top heavy, heterodox, and mired by foreign entanglements. The fall of the empire is a type of a “time of harvest” from Jesus’ parable. The building of a worldly government always entails moral decay on a personal level, breakdown of families, loss of sovereignty, and foreign wars. This should remind us of our present time.

The Mother of All Heresies and the Mother of All Councils

Pantocrator Icon
Pantocrator Icon

In denying the Divinity and humanity of Jesus, Arianism opens up the historical figure of Jesus to all sorts of interpretations, such as that of Islam who describes Him as only a human prophet. Heterodox (errant) teachings also explode. This is touched on in our prior post. One can think of the First Council then as where Christ’s Kingship was defined for all of history just as the heresy that it countered was one from which all errors emanated. Future councils can then be thought of addressing corollaries of orthodoxy just as the heresies they fought are variants  of Arianism. This is the implicit or stated position of the present day Orthodox Churches not in communion with the Roman Church, who were, nonetheless present at the Council of Nicaea via Apostolic succession. These were the eastern Churches in the orbit of the empire at that time. The future councils that followed then were increasingly concerning the Roman Church, eventually to counter the more specific and western cultural errors of the second millennium, such as those from which emerged with protestantism, moral relativism, modernism, and the like. For the smaller and more regional Orthodox Churches, these councils seem unimportant. The Latin Church, or See of Peter, headed by the Pope, is in this interpretation the spearhead of Christianity. Where the devil concentrates his attacks in history. Without this perspective, we find ourselves arguing over the differences in tiles like of the Immaculate Conception and the title All-Pure which pervades the eastern liturgy.

A Timeline Overview of a Slow Schism and Isolation Starting after the Council of Nicaea

Russian Mary Icon
Russian Mary Icon

Most scholars put the final break between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches at the formal schism of 1054. Until that time, theological and political differences between Eastern and Western Christianity slowly accrued for centuries. Details of these differences include issues of the procession of the Holy Spirit, using leavened or unleavened bread in the liturgy, the role of other patriarchies. But these are better presented by scholars. Rather, we would like to point out a perspective by stepping back for an overview of this history, from the directing of the Apostle Paul’s zeal westward leading to the Council of Nicaea and to the present time. At Nicaea Christendom is defined for the faithful and for all time to follow. What follows is a slow isolation of the Apostolic Churches, Orthodox and Roman Catholic, while keeping the Sacraments available for those who chose to be faithful to them. At the latter part of the timeline, in the 9th Century, the Byzantine monks Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius translated the Gospel to the Slavonic language setting up the Christianization of the Slavs, including Russia, in the 10th Century. Suddenly, a very large chunk of the East became Christian, reaching the Pacific Ocean, and curiously just before the schism was formalized.

Our Lady of Kazan
Our Lady of Kazan

Becoming the last major Apostolic Church before the formal schism and one that did not exist in the orbit of the Roman Empire before its breakup, can we see perhaps why it was in Russia that the evils of communism began as a major political movement in the 20th Century? The western (Roman Catholic) church in the millennium after the schism and leading up to Communism, defended western attacks on the physical Kingship of Christ such as protestantism, moral relativism, modernism, secularism, etc. Being the Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom, the Latin Church was still able to effect vast eastern evangelizations in her fight against these errors and her internal corruptions. The evangelizations of Saint Francis Xavier comes to mind.

But if we are to take the warning of our Lady of Fatima seriously, the widest threat from a secular world government came from the country wherein is the last Apostolic Church before the schism, the Soviet Union. A Church that was not in the orbit of Christendom at the time of Council of Nicaea. We can see now more meaning behind the consecration of Russia.

Interestingly, the formation of the College of Cardinals, the body used to elect the Pope, was approximately coincident with the final Schism and isolation of the Churches, certainly by 1099.

There is much meaning to learn from timelines.

The Isolation of the Churches May Have Run its Course and a Footnote from the Council of Nicaea

SS Peter & Paul
SS Peter & Paul

Combining this timeline overview and the times we live in, particularly the compromise of the See of Rome with secular and shallow world government movements suggests that the isolation of the Apostolic Churches may have run its course. God exists independent of time however and promises that no trouble can befall His faithful without a way out, a grace for all trouble and temptation we undergo.

1 Corinthians 10:13…fidelis autem Deus qui non patietur vos temptari super id quod potestis sed faciet cum temptatione etiam proventum ut possitis sustinere.

Pentecost icon
Pentecost icon

Christ promises that He will return, not during trouble, but AFTER the Gospel is preached to all the earth (Matthew 14:14)[1]. So all available graces have to used first. All graces come from Christ’s supreme act of salvation on the cross and these graces became available for all time at Pentecost. The Council of Nicaea defined the true natures of Christ and addressed other matters as the empire’s first ecumenical council after Pentecost. It is the ecumenical council most proximal to Pentecost and is the last such council before the subsequent slow fractioning and isolation of Apostolic Churches.

So was there a grace defined at the Council of Nicaea as contingency for what was to follow? We point out an agreement somewhat obscure and certainly dwarfed by the definition of Christ’s dual nature:

Canon 6

Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop.

While this Canon has been debated over the centuries, it should be clear that it includes the appointment of bishops by each Apostolic jurisdiction (how these patriarchies are defined I would leave for those more qualified than me). That the granularity of the Church is preserved by the patriarchies appointing their own bishops is made explicit by the last sentence. It also states that the patriarchy’s authority is the same as that for the Bishop of Rome. By using here the term Bishop of Rome, the Canon is not stating that the Patriarchies have independence from the See of Peter as the Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom. That is a different jurisdiction, instituted by Christ Himself, and not by the Council.

Peter with the Keys
Peter with the Keys

Recall that it is Christ that appoints the Apostles, not the Apostle Peter. It is Christ who admonishes the seven bishops in Asia Minor. The Vicar of Christ can admonish an eastern bishop but he does not appoint him. A bishop appointed by Rome is no guarantee of orthodoxy, as is so clearly evident in our time. Rome cannot even guarantee her own orthodoxy especially with the present College of Cardinals, let alone the orthodoxy of an eastern bishop. Is the neglect of this canon a source of pride for both sides that amplifies schisms and breeds heresies and their innumerable flavors.  Providence has defined this canon at the same time when Christ’s Nature was defined for all times to follow. Could the canon be a faint reminder of Christ’s advice in the parable of the weeds, a remedy for the ubiquity of evil? Preserve the granularity for the final harvest?

One Heart

St. Cyprian Icon in Maad Lebanon
St. Cyprian Icon in Maad Lebanon

“There is, in fact, among the bishops only one Church, only one soul, only one heart… There is, through the institution of Christ, one and only one Church, spread out over the whole world, one and only one episcopacy represented by a multiplicity of bishops united among themselves… The Church forms a single whole, whose bond is the union of bishops” (St. Cyprian of Carthage, 3rd Century).

Icon at the Home of St. Alphonsus Liguori
Icon at the Home of St. Alphonsus Liguori

This heart is the Immaculate Heart or heart of the Theotokos, present at Pentecost.

St. Joan of Arch with visions
St. Joan of Arch with visions

There is a quote from the story of Saint Joan of Arch who’s martyrdom had everything to with the loss of her county’s sovereignty, a corrupt bishop, AND THE DENIAL OF ACCESS TO THE SACRAMENTS .  “Act. And God will act.” So was Russia sufficiently consecrated to the Immaculate heart by the various Popes in the 20th Century? Maybe. Is a return to the norm of Canon 6 from the Council of Nicaea needed? With the present state of affairs, it sure can’t hurt. After all, all sides signed it.

Mother of Perpetual Help, Pray for Us
Mother of Perpetual Help, Pray for Us

 

 

 

[1] This is why I believe that we are not at the time of Christ’s second coming. But this is just my opinion.

 

Calendar file for Byzantine feasts available for download.

 

The entire iCalendar(.ics) calendar file used on this website for the Byzantine Liturgical year is available below for download. This is an exportable calendar file that can be read by most calendar software and includes thousands of entries including Byzantine prayers and quotes by saints of the Byzantine rite.

eastfeasts.ics2

Taxes and the Incarnation of God

There is a peculiar nest for religion in the west that will hopefully not develop with the emergence of the east. This is the concept that religion must be somehow financially sequestered from the people in order to function, a protected shelter by government mandate.   In the United States, despite having no mention in it’s founding documents, this takes the form of tax shelter, where the religious institution is exempt from taxes, and the people pay less taxes when they donate to their institution.

There are a number of ways one can make the counter-argument to such a scheme. There is the alarming variety of tax shelters, ranging from those that redefine science and nature, those that use the status to accumulate wealth in stealth, the endless fantasy religions, the corruption of the apostolic churches even to the point of the endorsement of breaking laws, the politicization of doctrine, and many others. How else can the apostolic churches become havens for homosexuals who rarely work and get retirements benefits. Welcome to the land of government-protected cults.

The politicization of doctrine may be the most important feature of the current western frameworks. There are many examples of faithful religious who have resisted the temptation, but how can a tax shelter scheme like this not be viewed as a perpetual bribe by government or others to contain the evangelization initiated by Christ? Does the Holy Spirit really need this kind of help? The spoilers of the gospel most certainly do. Is this not a masonic financial system? A sandbox for contradicting beliefs, without any way out.  No need to join a masonic lodge. Religions are all equal, forged in time and history endlessly.  God’s Mercy becomes irrelevant. Political correctness rules indefinitely.  The only winners, are those with the most power and money.  A philosophy or teaching, a guilt or historical division, become convenient means to an end, pulled out like a book from the large library of history.

Would a religion with accumulated wealth in such a legal scheme have the courage to speak up against a bad law or bad policy?  The Church is effectively excluded from contributing to discussions on taxes and even reforms of current financial orders using Christ’s teachings so greatly needed.  Our taxes pay interest on restructured loans. How can the Church be bothered with such a state of affairs while sequestered in their exempt haven?

Emperor Constantine the Great granted freedom of worship to the Roman Empire to end the Christian persecutions. He also gave the Church tax exemption. Without this, would the Arian heresy that followed have become so dominant, protected by financial governmental sequestration?

Would someone or some institution still give money to the Church Jesus Christ founded for political gain or worse if there was no tax deduction? Would you want an OUTSIDER TO SUPPORT YOUR SPOUSE, THE BRIDE OF CHRIST ?

Creating a tax shelter to combat such a system is obviously not going to work.  If this scheme to make religion operate in a tax shelter is fundamentally flawed as proposed, one would think that our Lord has something to say about it. Might He propose a remedy or at least a protection from such an adverse constitution?

He does. He pays it.

Matthew 17, 21 And when they abode together in Galilee, Jesus said to them: The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 22 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again. And they were troubled exceedingly. 23 And when they were come to Capharnaum, they that received the didrachmas, came to Peter and said to him: Doth not your master pay the didrachmas? 24 He said: Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying: What is thy opinion, Simon? The kings of the earth, of whom do they receive tribute or custom? of their own children, or of strangers? 25 And he said: Of strangers. Jesus said to him: Then the children are free.
26 But that we may not scandalize them, go to the sea, and cast in a hook: and that fish which shall first come up, take: and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater: take that, and give it to them for me and thee.

Comment: Notice that this discourse by Matthew (the tax collector) occurs immediately after The Son of Man announces that He will subject Himself to death. While He admits that the case could be made that God’s people should be exempt from the tax, the Head of the Church, the Alpha and Omega of history, King of kings and Conqueror of all evil, nonetheless subjects Himself to it. How else could He take on what we live through?

Matthew 22, 16 And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou dost not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore what dost thou think, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny. 20 And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? 21 They say to him: Caesar’s. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.

A true leader leads by humility, carrying the same cross as those led.  Death and taxes is the contemporary expression of the fate of western man. God Incarnate, the Son of Man, subjected Himself to all things, except sin. Including death. And taxes. But in the west, not so for the Body of Christ in the apostles. Only death here.

The easiest way for the west to allow the apostolic Church to be subjected to the same tax as the citizens may be to institute a universal consumption tax, while eliminating the income tax. The most brilliant theologians of our times can present their counter-argument. But let them exhibit the day in the last 100 years when the apostolic Church shone most brilliantly, and they will still be showing a day when the taxpayer could say “But you are still not one of us.”

“Prince, be advised that we shall obey you in worldly matters and we shall pay taxes to you, but in religious affairs we shall only listen to our pastors.”

Saint John of Damascus, advising the Moslem Caliph.

The Evangelization of Celibacy

We are created in the image of God  with sexual identity. What does this mean? This has infinite meaning in God’s plan for us but for the sake of this discussion let us talk about the meaning of celibacy in the realm of evangelization. So ordered with sexual identity, we are endowed with the ability to procreate through marriage. This is part of the Creative Nature of God manifest in His image, His creatures. It is part of His identifying mark on us. This identity cannot leave us. It is part of us.

Obvious in marriage and obviously compromised in sexual activity out of marriage, what then happens to this identity in a celibate person. The identity remains obviously, but does it become dormant? A review of the incessant temptations of the celibate person can easily remind us that it is still present and wanting. The celibate person however gives over his sexuality to God and so consecrated, he/they has the potential to become even more procreative than we can imagine. When a priest , religious, or even nonreligious does this, he or she in fact enacts the dual nature God bestows on us in the sacraments, divine and human, in a procreative capacity.  A faithful priest generates a much larger family than he could ever physically, in his parish or other. Similarly with a consecrated religious female. Or consecrated nonreligious. God’s Nature does not sleep:

Mark 1029 “Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. ”

This is why the Roman Catholic Church has proliferated so much more than the Eastern Rite, the latter not requiring celibacy except for bishops.  A matter of historical record. It is why the Eastern Rite churches are often tempted to nationalistic identities. It is how the Church can stay united across national borders, which are the extended physical families of man. It is a Trinitarian Unity. It is in fact the only “familial” unity that can exist across borders, despite what the proponents of borderless humanity preach.

Note the proliferation of homosexuality “advocates” in the church is a sinister imitation of  this plan that undermines the Church. The devil always presents a fraud. A Roman Catholic priest with “homosexual inclination” has to be celibate as one with heterosexual attraction. But who is sacrificing the more for God? The one who is giving up illicit sexuality or the one who is giving up illicit sexuality or licit sexuality with progeny? In recent times there has been the proposal that the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh (Corinthians 2: 12:7-10) was homosexual inclination. As if heterosexuality is not vulnerable to temptation?

If one wants to insist that homosexuality is an innate and natural state, then one has to seriously consider that it is incompatible with the priesthood. If you are not physically disposed to progeny, then you have no business becoming a father. That is the WHOLE point of God’s plan. To increase His family. At least with a married Orthodox priest with children, you know that he is disposed to fatherhood, albeit potentially distracted from his flock.

In God’s grace the eastern churches, the other lung of the Church, those with married priests, serve as a a reminder for us against globalization that is the fraudulent version of the Universal Church. A reminder of the fractal organization of family, community, and country.

Mary the Victorious

No matter how you view the refugee crisis in Europe, a deliberate Trojan horse set up by financiers, or a sincere Moslem resettlement for a better life, or something in between, there are solutions. For protection or for conversion (or both).

Consider this image

You can read more about it from the scan of the Church of Mary the Victorious in Vienna brochure:

MTV1, MTV2

Have a Blessed Easter!

Lebanon’s “Clash of Civilizations”. A Message for Our Time?

There is a another angle one can view what many are calling the present or pending “clash of civilizations”. One that a faithful Catholic should consider, or any Christian for that matter. Considering the historical record, Lebanon has been there and done that. Pope John Paul II is quoted as saying that Lebanon is “more than a country; it is a message.” But why and how? From antiquity to her civil war in the last part of the 20th Century, Lebanon can resonate in the hearts and minds of present-day Christians facing an uncertain future. To gauge, and even alter our course in history. For in Lebanon, the Holy Spirit of God is at work.

Many in the west have a limited view of this region, associating Lebanon with her drawn out civil war of over 25 years. To orient the reader, Lebanon is located just to the north of Israel, and is situated between the geographic east and west. Lebanon is know in history as the crossroad of civilizations. Lebanon was visited by Jesus Himself , preaching and healing in Sidon and Tyre (Mathew 11, 15). Since the time of the apostles, Lebanon has been predominantly Christian.

 

Some of us may be familiar with a recent Saint in the Catholic Church. St. Charbel Makleuf, of the Maronite rite. The Maronites were founded in the 5th Century by the Syrian monk and hermit St. Maron, a contemporary and correspondent of St John Chrysostom. The Maronites established themselves in the mountains of Northern Lebanon. From here they resisted attempts by the invading Islamic Caliphs to absorb them, eventually earning their tribute. The Maronites fought along with the Crusaders in the 11th through 13 Centuries. In this period the Maronites sought union with the Latin Patriarch in Antioch, but formal union with Rome did not occur until the 16th Century, enabled by Jesuit missionaries. Maronite monasteries and convents were instrumental in preserving Arabic and Syriac manuscripts, even helping to oppose the Turkish empire’s attempt to obliterate the arabic language. The first printing press in the middle east was imported by the Maronites in 1610. Maronite scholars played a leading role in a renaisance of middle east literature, even on Islamic history, in the 19th and 20th century. After the dissolution of the Ottoman empire, the Maronites were the primary force in forging the republic that is now Lebanon.

In antiquity, the region that includes present day Lebanon was under the governance of the first Christian Church, the Church of Antioch. Antioch sits just above Lebanon geographically. This Church was founded by Sts. Paul and Barnabas, and their first bishop was none other the the Apostle Peter, before he left to Rome. The Church of Antioch produced St. Ephrem the Syrian (4th Century), Doctor of the Catholic Church, and St. John Chrysostom (5th Century), Father and Doctor of the Catholic Church. Together with the sister Churches of Alexandria in Egypt and Jerusalem, these Byzantine Churches preserved the sacraments for 2000 years. Nearly annihilated by the first Moslem invasion, the Byzantine Church in Lebanon survived subsequent invasions through a spirit of cooperation. Not so during the Crusades, as politics won over theology, and the victors replaced the Byzantine with the Latin, driving out the Byzantine faithful. The Byzantine churches were rebuilt after the Crusades were driven out by the Islamic Mamelukes. In this era and during the subsequent four centuries of Ottoman rule (1516-1920), politics favored the east over the west, and the autonomous Christian Churches were encouraged to ground themselves to Constantinople. Lebanon was different. By the 1700’s, a movement had begun to unite with the Church with Rome, while preserving the eastern liturgy. In John 17:23 Jesus prays: I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. In 1723 the Byzantine Bishop of Sidon requested communion with Rome. The Melkite Greek Catholic Church became official and the Church of Antioch divided. While the remaining Orthodox continued to form three autonomous churches, the Melkite Catholics were unique in being scattered in the regions of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria while under one Patriarch (Antioch). The ensuing Melkite era is known for missionary and educational works through out the middle east, but not without resistance and even persecution, and even from the Orthodox. In Lebanon this was rare; here the seeds were being sown for the republic of the 20th Century.

 

In the 1950’s Lebanon became a shining star in the middle east, with peaceful coexistence between Moslems and Christians. A republic with democratic principles. The emergence of prosperity attracted powerful financial interests however. The culture began lending itself to materialism and unbridled commercialism. The moral culture suffered; a culture of corruption and even secularism incubated. Nationhood and patriotism lost their true meaning. Lebanon’s civil war lasted over 25 years, a war that the majority of the population did not want and that was largely manipulated, on both sides, by outside forces with their own agendas. Eventually this lead to a seduction of both Christian and Muslim sides, leading in events that neither side can look back at without shame. As a result of the civil war, the Christian census nearly halved from 60% to 35% (mostly from exodus). A strong movement promoting unity between Melkites and Orthodox was also halted by Lebanon’s “clash of civilizations”.

This history may so far resonate with readers, that Lebanon is a message for our time. But there is more.

There was a light that emerged from the period of civil war, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Part Four of the Catechism, “Christian Prayer” was written by a Melkite priest living in Lebanon during the civil war. Here is what then Cardinal Ratzinger said about how Fr. Corbon, who lived amidst the terror, was chosen to be associated with the Catechism:

“After having resolved to add a distinct fourth part on prayer to the first three, we looked for a representative of Eastern theology. Since it was not possible to secure a bishop as author, we settled upon Jean Corbon, who wrote the beautiful concluding text on prayer while in beleaguered Beirut, frequently in the midst of dramatic situations, taking shelter in his basement in order to continue working during the bombardments.”

 

So we can say that in a time of anguish, during a clash of civilizations, a priest of an eastern Catholic rite composed the part on prayer in the Catechism. One of the most inspired texts of our time and a fixture of our faith. According to Reverend Cassian Folsom 0.S.B, a teacher at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Saint Anselmo in Rome, from an original publication in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 1996, Fr. Corbon’s hand also appears in another part of the Cathechism:

“However, the sub-section entitled The Liturgy: Work of the Holy Trinity (CCC 1077-1112) bears the unmistakable mark of Fr. Corbon, and reflects the single most important insight of his book, The Wellspring of Worship, namely, that the liturgy is essentially Trinitarian in nature.”

Here comes another message for us from the clash. Fr. Folsom goes on:

“The action of the Father as the source and goal of the liturgy (CCC 1077-1083) is commonly understood, and the work of the Son in the liturgy (CCC 1084-1090) is even more familiar … The action of the Holy Spirit, however, is more hidden, more mysterious, and for that reason less known, and less frequently the object of theological reflection.

For that reason the section on the work of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy (CCC 1091-1109) is remarkable for bringing to light an aspect of the Church’s pneumatological [of the Holy Spirit] tradition, formerly hidden from a large majority of Catholics. Even from the very practical point of view of length, this section is longer and more fully developed than the sections on the Father and the Son, precisely because this element of the liturgy has been largely overlooked by the Western Church in the past. Here the hand of Fr. Corbon is clearly in evidence.”

 

In Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, Section 6, we read: “Certain features of the spiritual and theological tradition, common to the various Churches of the East mark their sensitivity to the forms taken by the transmission of the Gospel in Western lands. The Second Vatican Council summarized them as follows: “Everyone knows with what love the Eastern Christians celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the Eucharistic mystery, source of the Church’s life and pledge of future glory. In this mystery the faithful, united with their Bishops, have access to God the Father through the Son, the Word made flesh who suffered and was glorified, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And so made ‘sharers of the divine nature’ (2 Pt 1:4) they enter into communion with the most holy Trinity”.

Indeed, as descibed in Fr. Corbon’s book, the liturgical expressions in the eastern churches (and increasingly in the english version of the Latin Rite) emphasize the epilcesis or “calling down” of the Holy Spirit. According to the eastern traditions, the epiclesis is the vehicle of a mighty synergy between God and man. Centered in the liturgy, man then lives out this synergy by consenting to it in prayer.

In these sections of the Catechism, we read:

CCC 1091: The desire and work of the Spirit in the heart of the Church is that we may live from the life of the risen Christ. When the Spirit encounters in us the response of faith which he has aroused in us, he brings about genuine cooperation. Through it, the liturgy becomes the common work of the Holy Spirit and the Church.

Later we read (CCC 1099) that “the Holy Spirit is the Church’s living memory”.

With a possible world war between east and west looming, or a clash of civilizations, western Catholics may want to pause and take a deep breath in considering their role in forming history. Pope John Paul II would often describe the Catholic Church as needing to ‘breath with both lungs’. With this reminder and elaboration on prayer, and this mystical understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, we can become more fruitful for God.

In a recent Zenit article (March 22,2006), Michel Aoun, interim Lebanese leader, talks about the role of apostolic Christianity in the resolution of the clash.

“For us, the expression “Maronite” is no longer the exact term; there is much more talk of “Christians” in general. We regard the rites as secondary traditions, because we are all Christians for Christ,whether Maronite, Greek-Catholic, Melkite, etc.”

He then goes on to say:

“Christians have brought about the unity of Lebanon; they were the only ones who cohabited with the different Muslim groups, when coexistence among the different Muslim groups did not exist.

They have a historic role, which is to live their mission, to be an element of understanding, a federalizing element of the people of Lebanon in its different components. Playing this role, they can, I believe, recover their function in the republic and participate in politics and in the socioeconomic construction of the country.”

Lebanon is presently being taunted again. The threat of a world wide clash is knocking on her doors. Perhaps as a sign of an age to come in the world, Christian religious fervor in Lebanon this time is flourishing, as are monasteries and seminaries. They cannot keep up with the demand from new candidates. A whole generation has been let down by their parent’s culture and are seeking answers in the Truth of the Ages.