Illuminating Eastern Catholicism

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Last January the Congregation for the Eastern Churches issued guidelines for liturgical renewal in the Eastern Catholic churches. Excerpts from the “Instruction” follow.

In the Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, John Paul II…underscores that “liturgical prayer in the East shows a great aptitude for involving the human person in his or her totality.…

“In the sacred act, even [the physical] is summoned to praise; and beauty, which in the East is one of the best loved names expressing the divine harmony and the model of humanity transfigured, appears everywhere: in the shape of the church, in the sounds, in the colors, in the lights, in the scents. The lengthy duration of the celebrations, the repeated invocations, everything expresses gradual identification with the mystery celebrated with one’s whole person. Thus the prayer of the church already becomes participation in the heavenly liturgy, an anticipation of the final beatitude.”

This confirms…the conciliar [Vatican II] decree on ecumenism: “Everyone should realize that it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve and foster the rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern churches in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition, and to bring about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians.”

Purposes of the Instruction. The intent of the Instruction, presented to the Eastern churches that are in full communion with the Apostolic See, is to help them fully realize their own identity…. [and] poses the following objectives:

• to lead to a more profound understanding of the…richness of the authentic Eastern traditions, which are to he scrupulously maintained and communicated to all;

• to arrange the liturgical norms valid for all the Catholic Eastern churches in an organic summary and to introduce recovery, where necessary, of the Eastern liturgical authenticity, according to the tradition that each Eastern Church has inherited from the Apostles through the Fathers;

• to exhort a permanent liturgical formation to be organized on a solid basis, for both the clergy – beginning with seminarians and formation institutes – and the people of God through…catechesis;

• to list the principles in common for the elaboration of liturgical directories for the individual churches sui iuris [those churches having full legal rights]….

Responsibles for implementation. [In conformity with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, published in 1990, it is left to the superior authorities of the 21 Eastern Catholic churches to implement the liturgical norms of the instruction in a manner they deem appropriate. After the superior authorities have acted], “the eparchial bishop, as the moderator, promoter and guardian of the entire liturgical life of the eparchy,” [will see to the faithful observance of the liturgical law.]

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Tags: Ecumenism Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches