Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Part 8: Eastern Christianity


37. Eastern Christianity
- The Eastern Catholic Churches must remain true to their traditions, while the Roman Catholic Church must allow eastern traditions to continue to mold and shape the West, with the ultimate goal of corporate unity between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.  

A. Restoration, Adaptation, and Preservation.

a. Retaining and Restoring Traditions. Since the Church “accords to this ecclesiastical and spiritual heritage [of the Eastern Churches] the high regard which is its due and rightful praise” (OE5), it is important that “each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire” (OE2), and “should take steps to return to their ancestral traditions” (OE6) if they have changed “owing to contingencies of times and persons” (OE6). In fact, Eastern Christians have the right and duty to “preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life” which “may not be altered except [through] organic improvement” (OE6), not through “Latinization” (changing Eastern practices to bring them in line with Western practices).

b. Adaptation to Time and Place.  To this end, “each . . . Rite should . . . adapt its way of life to the different needs of time and place” (OE2).

c. Preservation: Knowledge, Appreciation, and Practice of Rite. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of every Eastern Christian to “attain to an ever greater knowledge and a more exact use of [his rite]” (OE6), and is obliged to “retain [that rite] wherever he is, must cherish it and observe it to the best of his ability” (OE4).

B. Role of Eastern Patriarchs.

a. Independence. The Patriarchs have the “right” and “duty” to “rule themselves . . . according [to their] own established disciplines” (OE5). 

b. Hierarchy: First Millennium Model. The Holy See must also ensure the “rights and privileges” of the Patriarchs are “re-established” as it was in the time before the Eastern Schism (OE9) as far as possible.

c. Unity and Cooperation. Hierarchs in the “same territory” should hold “regular meetings” to “promote unity of action and . . . sustain common tasks” for the “good of religion” and the sake “of the clergy” (OE4).

C. Role in the Universal Church. 

a. Value for the Western Church. Since the Eastern Churches contain the “heritage of the universal Church”, all should “know, venerate, and cherish” their “very rich liturgical and spiritual heritage” and “avail themselves of the spiritual riches of the Eastern Fathers”, for only through both traditions is the “fullness of Christian tradition” preserved (UR15).

b. Inter-Ritual Collaboration and Relationship. To ensure collaboration and harmony between rites, both “clerics” and “the laity” should be “instructed in the rites (and rules) and especially in the practical norms that must be applied in interritual questions” (OE4).

D. Role in Ecumenism.

a. Eastern Catholic Churches: Special Role. Since the Eastern Catholic Churches can show the Eastern Orthodox Churches how they can co-exist in the same Church with Western Christianity, without compromising anything in their Tradition, Eastern Catholic Churches “have a special duty of promoting the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians” . . .

b. Ways and Means. . . . not only by “prayer” and “example”, but also by “religious fidelity to the ancient Eastern traditions, by a greater knowledge of each other, by collaboration, and [by] a brotherly regard for objects and feelings” (OE24).

c. Reconciliation through Reverence of Eastern Christianity. For it is only by “knowing, venerating, and cherishing” the “very rich [Eastern] heritage” that “reconciliation” can be brought about (UR15).

E. Relationship and Reconciliation with Eastern Orthodoxy.

a. Mending the Schism. “Due consideration must be given to the special feature of the origin and growth of the Eastern Churches . . . and to the character of the relations which obtained between them and the Roman See before separation” (UR14).
i. Complementary Tradition. Regarding the former, it must be remembered that the faith was “received with differences and form” and “explained variously in differently in different places” (UR14). Thus “various theological expressions [must be] considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting” (UR16), which one can see in a spirit of “charity and mutual understanding” (UR14) which all must seek.
ii. Historical Development. As to the latter, “each followed their separate ways though linked in a brotherly union of faith and sacramental life, the Roman See . . . acting as guide when disagreements arose over matters of faith or discipline” (UR14). The Vatican must thus “re-establish” this historic situation as it was in the time before the Eastern Schism (OE9), granting them the “power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them” (UR16) as is their right.

b. Eastern Awareness and Appreciation among Catholics. Finally, to foster unity, the Church must see to it that all Catholics (as well as the Church as a whole) “know, venerate, and cherish” the “very rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches” (UR15) “from which the Western Church has drawn extensively” (UR14).

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