Homily of the Ecumenical Patriarch before Benedict

During the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St. Andrew the Ecumenical Patriarch gave a homily that got my attention. Remember how important the Divine Liturgy is for the identity of the Orthodox.

Frankly, I think liturgy is a serious issue for ecumenical dialogue with the East. Think about this. They look at the stupid things the Latins have done and are doing to the sacred liturgy, about how those desiring traditional liturgy from lay people to priests, are marginalized and berated. They see the leaders of a group of "traditionalists" are ecommunicated. And they are going to get closer to Rome? Would they hope that their traditions would be respected were they to give greater submission to the authority of Peter which the Pope of Rome exercises?

Here is the text of the Patriarch’s homily (my emphasis and comments).

With the grace of God, Your Holiness, we have been blessed to enter the joy of the Kingdom, to "see the true light and receive the heavenly Spirit." Every celebration of the Divine Liturgy is a powerful and inspiring con-celebration of heaven and of history. [BOOM. This concise phrase also expresses what the Latin Church thinks. This is an encounter with the transcendent. An encounter which transforms the human experience.] Every Divine Liturgy is both an anamnesis of the past and an anticipation of the Kingdom. [Holy Mass makes the historical event present in a sacramental way, which is no less "real" than the reality we sense and touch, etc.] We are convinced that during this Divine Liturgy, we have once again been transferred spiritually in three directions: toward the kingdom of heaven where the angels celebrate; toward the celebration of the liturgy through the centuries; and toward the heavenly kingdom to come. [Perfect. Beautifully put.]

This overwhelming continuity with heaven as well as with history means that the Orthodox [And Latin!] liturgy is the mystical experience and profound conviction that "Christ was, is, and ever shall be in our midst!" For in Christ, there is a deep connection between past, present, and future. In this way, the liturgy is more than merely the recollection of Christ’s words and acts. It is the realization of the very presence of Christ Himself, who has promised to be wherever two or three are gathered in His name.

At the same time, we recognize that the rule of prayer is the rule of faith (lex orandi lex credendi), [When I heard this phrase, in Latin, from the lips of the Ecumenical Patriarch I almost did a spit-take on my monitor! In my opinion, the Patriarch is letting us know one of their serious points of concern about their Western brothers. What are we doing with our liturgy? If you Latins are celebrating your Mass in the way we see you celebrating, what on earth do you believe? Do you believe what we believe?] that the doctrines of the Person of Christ and of the Holy Trinity have left an indelible mark on the liturgy, which comprises one of the undefined doctrines, "revealed to us in mystery," of which St. Basil the Great so eloquently spoke. This is why, in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer. Therefore, we kneel in humility [This is amazingly ironic. The Orthodox don’t kneel as much as Latins do, in one sense, as when we enter our churches. No… wait… in a lot of places you never see Latins kneel at all anymore, do you? Especially during Mass?] and repentance before the living God and our Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious Name we bear and yet at the same time whose seamless garment we have divided. We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity. And we pray that the day may come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness.

And yet, Your Holiness and beloved brother in Christ, this con-celebration of heaven and earth, of history and time, brings us closer to each other today through the blessing of the presence, together with all the saints, of the predecessors of our Modesty, namely St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. [Good reminder.] We are honored to venerate the relics of these two spiritual giants after the solemn restoration of their sacred relics in this holy church two years ago when they were graciously returned to us by the venerable Pope John Paul II. Just as, at that time, during our Thronal Feast, we welcomed and placed their saintly relics on the Patriarchal Throne, chanting "Behold your throne!", so today we gather in their living presence and eternal memory as we celebrate the Liturgy named in honor of St. John Chrysostom.

Thus our worship coincides with the same joyous worship in heaven and throughout history. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom himself affirms: "Those in heaven and those on earth form a single festival, a shared thanksgiving, one choir" (PG 56.97). Heaven and earth offer one prayer, one feast, one doxology. The Divine Liturgy is at once the heavenly kingdom and our home, "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21.1), the ground and center where all things find their true meaning. The Liturgy teaches us to broaden our horizon and vision, to speak the language of love and communion, but also to learn that we must be with one another in spite of our differences and even divisions. In its spacious embrace, it includes the whole world, the communion of saints, and all of God’s creation. The entire universe becomes "a cosmic liturgy", to recall the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor. This kind of Liturgy can never grow old or outdated. [Again, I ask, what must they think about what we are doing in our churches? what we are doing to those who want the traditional forms?]

The only appropriate response to this showering of divine benefits and compassionate mercy is gratitude (eucharistia). Indeed, thanksgiving and glory are the only fitting response of human beings to their Creator. For to Him belong all glory, honor, and worship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Truly, particular and wholehearted gratitude fills our hearts toward the loving God, for today, on the festive commemoration of the Apostle founder and protector of this Church, the Divine Liturgy is attended by His Holiness our brother and bishop of the elder Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, together with his honorable entourage. Once again, we gratefully greet this presence as a blessing from God, as an expression of brotherly love and honor toward our Church, and as evidence of our common desire to continue – in a spirit of love and faithfulness to the Gospel Truth and the common tradition of our Fathers – the unwavering journey toward the restoration of full communion among our Churches, which constitutes His divine will and command. May it be so.

This gorgeous homily gives us serious food for thought. You would have to be pretty darn hard of heart not to rethink any cold resistance you might have to anyone who have entirely legitimate aspirations for traditional expressions of the Church’s ongoing grateful worship of Almighty God.

Also, apply what the Patriarch said about your parish and your manner of participation. 

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23 Responses to Homily of the Ecumenical Patriarch before Benedict

  1. Dan Hunter says:

    The Patriarch is entirely correct.Maybe our Holy Father will get the message and repromulgate the Tridentine mass in all dioceses of the world.Ordering all bishops to mandate at least one mass every day of the year in all parishes
    In Hoc Signo.

  2. Argent says:

    Maybe they understand that we are going through our own period of Iconoclasm.

  3. Paul Haley says:

    Maybe that’s why thy call themselves “orthodox” and why we have much to be ashamed of in the changes ordered since Vatican II. Have we lost a sense of the sacred? I don’t think any fair-minded person would answer that question in the negative. Let’s hope our holy father mandates a return to the sacred by elevating the Traditional Mass to its rightful place of prominence. But with every passing day, it seems, the prospects become less clear.

  4. Wow, the beauty of Eastern liturgies really makes me hunger for a return of our own heritage. The look on the pope’s MC is interesting. Seems like he might be having an epiphany moment. Your second paragraph hits the nail on the head, Father. From a liturgical point of vie, the patriarch had to point to the liturgical chaos we are going through and say, “you want us to come into union with THAT?!”

    I would hope that this visit would spark a true and honest re-evaluation of the liturgical situation in our Latin Rite. I think the key is honesty in whether Vatican II was really implemented.

  5. Al says:

    Dan –
    I’m not certain this is what you’re suggesting but: some of us don’t want a universal return to the Latin Tridentine mass & this was not the will of the fathers of the Second Vatican Council either. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to keep the Novus Ordo as it stands either. What I – and many others – would like to see is the Roman liturgy reformed in accordance with the authentic directives of Vatican II & made available in worthy vernacular forms (although I think more Latin would be desirable to better express the Roman character of the rite).

  6. Dennis says:

    A glance at the Divine Liturgy sure brings home the mess we are
    in. I don’t see how the Norvus Ordo could be reformed; the poor
    thing is on its last legs. We need a return to strong Liturgy
    and thats the Tridentine.

  7. dcs says:

    some of us don’t want a universal return to the Latin Tridentine mass

    Maybe you could petition the Holy Father for an Indult. ;-)

  8. Dan Hunter says:

    Al,what I was suggesting was in complete accord with V2.
    It never abrogated the Tridentine rite in fact it encouraged this mass to keep up its salvific efforts,in encoraging right worship,latin and Gregorian chant.
    What I was Suggesting was having a tridentine mass to match every Novus Ordo mass.
    Soon the faithful will realize the richness of the classical rite,and the flatness of the New Order,whereupon the Novus Ordo will fade away
    In Hoc Signo

  9. Ave Maria! says:

    I think the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, well realizes the state of the liturgy and what 40 years of experimentation has done to the faith of the Catholic world. But 40 years of decimationinh cannot be undone in a moment; it will take time.

  10. Hmmm…think it is becoming more and more clear where the real Holy Spirit wants the liturgy to go.. hopefully B16 will take away from the trip the pressing need of the Latin Mass and the return to it..

  11. Augustine says:

    “we kneel in humility [This is amazingly ironic. The Orthodox don’t kneel as much as Latins do, in one sense, as when we enter our churches. No… wait… in a lot of places you never see Latins kneel at all anymore, do you? Especially during Mass?]”

    I thought the Orthodox and Byzantines (at least most of them) don’t kneel at all during the liturgy, though they make profound prostrations.

  12. Proklos says:

    I fear that the tone of the Pope’s visit was set at the outset when he visited the secularist shrine of Ataturk and his call for religious liberty. These two things together suggest that he means also the “liberty” also to be an atheist. For an atheist Ataturk certainly was and at his tomb there is a sign asking that no prayers be said just to prove the point. When Zialhaqq the late president of Pakistan visited Ataturk’s tomb, he beforehand requested that an exception be made in his case, since he was a Muslim for whom it is customary to pray for the dead. That of course, was like a slap in the face of the Turkish authorities. Its not for nothing that the Pope called for entrance of Turkey into the European community, that same body which refused to acknowledge the Christian heritage of Europe in its constitution.

    Once when I was in Istanbul, a trader in the bazaar asked me why do Americans mistreat Muslims. I said that they do not treat Muslims any worse than they are treated in Turkey. He stared in disbelief. Then I pointed to a Muslim woman dressed all in black like a traditionalist Catholic nun and asked: “How do you feel when you see women dressed like that.” He said, Oh! Those people I just wish they would go away.” I said, “But you wouldn’t harm her.” He replied, “No way!” I said, “That’s just how Americans feel.” Any way you dress it secularist modernism is the same turkey.

  13. Tim Hallett says:

    Later, Batholemew was treated to the liturgical equivalent of a PB&J sandwich with Benedict Presiding; Cranmer table, cheesy vestements, a visual argumetn for why the east should NEVER reunify with Rome. One liturgy can defeat 1000 comissions.

  14. RBrown says:

    I fear that the tone of the Pope’s visit was set at the outset when he visited the secularist shrine of Ataturk and his call for religious liberty. These two things together suggest that he means also the “liberty” also to be an atheist. For an atheist Ataturk certainly was and at his tomb there is a sign asking that no prayers be said just to prove the point. When Zialhaqq the late president of Pakistan visited Ataturk’s tomb, he beforehand requested that an exception be made in his case, since he was a Muslim for whom it is customary to pray for the dead. That of course, was like a slap in the face of the Turkish authorities. Its not for nothing that the Pope called for entrance of Turkey into the European community, that same body which refused to acknowledge the Christian heritage of Europe in its constitution.

    To me the best argument against Turkey being in the Euro Union is that most of Turkey is in Asia.


    Once when I was in Istanbul, a trader in the bazaar asked me why do Americans mistreat Muslims. I said that they do not treat Muslims any worse than they are treated in Turkey. He stared in disbelief. Then I pointed to a Muslim woman dressed all in black like a traditionalist Catholic nun and asked: “How do you feel when you see women dressed like that.” He said, Oh! Those people I just wish they would go away.” I said, “But you wouldn’t harm her.” He replied, “No way!” I said, “That’s just how Americans feel.” Any way you dress it secularist modernism is the same turkey.

    You always hear those things abroad–the US is the ogre. Aussie friends once pointed out to me the poor treatment of the Indians in America. I noted that in the US any Indian can attend Haskell university for almost nothing. About $50 a semester covers everything–room, board, books, tuition. I then asked him whether Australia had a similar program for the Aboorigines, and he said no.

  15. Fr Ray Blake says:

    Western liturgy is something which worries Eastern clergy, especially where it shows a loose attitude towards tradition. I had a conversation with a priest in Athens, three or four years ago, in which he asked, “How could the Orthodox Church be united to the Bishop of Rome who with the stroke of a pen is able to abandon 2000 years liturgical of Tradition?” Giving western liturgy “roots” must be an important priority in the pursuit of unity.

  16. I agree, Tim. One chorus of “The King of Glory Comes and Don’t You Forget It,” and all bets are off. It’s a tragedy–the kind of thing many people could never have imagined happening and why so many people were confused so badly. Everything, everything was thrown in their faces.

  17. Fr Bubba says:

    As is said so often, it’s not the question the Pauline versus the Pian Rite that ultimately concerns the East, it’s a question of piety. As an Eastern Catholic priest, who was once an Orthodox priest, I can find great spiritual grace in the Roman Rite, either form. But I also shudder when I see the attitude, manner and self-serving focus of so many priests who seem to see the Holy Mass as the “Father So-and-so” show. The same can happen in the Byzantine Rite, don’t get me wrong. After once concelebrating with a certain priest, another came to me and commented, “You know there are eight tones in our tradition? Well, Father has invented another, “Me me me me, I I I I, mine mine mine mine.”

    What is needed is the focus on the great Gift and Mercy of a God whose love for us is so great that He comes to us in the flesh and in the breaking of the Bread. When the true focus and intention of the priest is ADORATION in and through the Holy Mass even the ugly US translation of the Pauline Rite becomes an opportunity to truly experience the reality of God’s Love.

  18. Yeah, but Fr Bubba, it’s impossible for proper reverence to appear when the priest is dressed up like a clown and the altar servers are preening their hair and tripping on their little strappy sandals.

    There is *so much missing* from the Pauline mass that must be restored, and so much nonsense now that must be deleted. It will be a century of work to set right what happened in a few evil years of the 20th century.

  19. Pingback: Deacon’s Blog » Homily of the Ecumenical Patriarch concerning the Liturgy

  20. Séamas says:

    So it got your attention, too, eh Fr. Z?

    It seemed to me the Patriarch was giving us Latins (maybe Marini especially) a little lesson in the Liturgy.

  21. Stephen says:

    “This is different from that.” While it is important to note the differences between the Novus Ordo , on the one hand, and the traditional liturgies of east and west on the other, do you also ask, “How did this Novus Ordo come to be?” Not surprisingly, many Orthodox see the NO as just the most recent of several off-the-reservation actions/mentality of the post-schism Papacy. Many see a straight line from the “filioque” to “clown masses”, from Charlemagne to Bugnini. So my question to Roman Catholic liturgical traditionalists is, what if indeed the very reason for the NO is the Papacy as understood from say, Hildebrand onward? (and this is in no way meant to be polemical, only logical, and would be delighted if the hypothesis is proven wrong, so I ask.)

  22. Alex says:

    Modernist worship in the west worries the Constantinoplians. The ROman Rite not as much.

    We have surpassed the 9th century and the 11th century, when they still spat at
    our Roman Rite for using “Jewish unleavened bread”. And thought we had no epiclesis.

    But now the rift is much deeper. The Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great has been
    abandoned in Rome since 1969, and elsewhere too (in the “West”, the Latin Catholic Church).

    The Eastern Rite Catholic Churches are sometimes also modernizing (e.g. the Maronites)

    This cannot please the traditional-minded Greek Orthodox, who would rather throw a priest from the
    Akropolis than allow him to change the words of the consecration, the epiclesis or the Our Father.

    But let’s not make things depend on liturgy alone. The schismatic Orthodox must acknowledge
    Papal Primacy, Papal Infallibility ex cathedra and also the correct understanding of the
    Filioque. I hope they will. A false corporate Reunion will create a false church.

  23. Stephen says:

    What if the demise of the liturgy in the West is a direct result of papay claims? What if the first instance of liturgical abuse was the filioques, and the clown mass but the latest? Why would you wish this on us?
    Stephen