Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Theotokos and the Unity of East and West

I am always struck by how much Mary is invoked in the Eastern Byzantine liturgy (which is such a contrast to the Roman liturgy, which rarely makes explicit reference to Mary). Even though they do not have the tradition of the Rosary, the presence of Mary in their prayer traditions is so pervasive that she surely gives them great blessings and ardently desires all to be in full communion with the Successor of St. Peter.

Listen to how the all the elements of the Western "Hail Mary" are contained in a beautiful way in the prayers for the Feast of the Dormition:

"Hail, O Woman full of grace, the Lord is with you, the Lord who, because of you, bestows great mercy upon the world" (from Vespers). "Blessed are you among women and blessed is your womb that contained Christ, in whose hands you committed your soul. O pure Virgin, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls!" (at the Apostichon).

How can Mary not want them to have the fullness of unity with us?

So why hasn't it happened? We must not be praying hard enough! We are not loving, learning, or sacrificing enough of ourselves. They need to see the face of love, the face of Christ, in the faces of those who adhere to the Catholic Church. The Orthodox peoples of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and in a special way those mysterious people beloved of God--the Russians--need Peter in order not to lose what they have, and in order to give to the whole world the riches of their faith!


Anonymous said...

"How can Mary not want them to have the fullness of unity with us?" -- We Orthodox Catholic's ask the same question of you. Why can the Western Catholic's not reconcile with the other 4 Patriarchal Churches? Why has she left so many of the traditions of her fathers? It seems a bit presumptious to say "They need to see the face of love, the face of Christ, in the faces of those who adhere to the Catholic Church." Perhaps we see the face of Christ first in our Orthodox Catholic brothers and sisters who adhere to the truth of Orthodoxy. The problem is that needing "Peter" is, in a way, like wanting a father who abondoned his wife and children to return home, only he doesn't want to return to being the person he was when the family was united, he has changed and not always in good ways. Not to mention that there is a bastard child of Protestantism that has come out of the seperation. The people in Europe for who's conversion you pray are also praying for yours that you will return to the flock of right worship in Orthodoxy. Asking "How can Mary not want them to have the fullness of unity with us?" would be like one spouse trying to talk to another after a seperation saying "I'm awsome, I'm wonderful, look at me, why wouldn't you still want to be with me?" Hmmmmm, let me think. The truth is that there are issues to be resolved on both sides but the approach should be that of a married couple reconciling after an argument, the are both wrong and they are both right, the point is that they need to talk. However, given the great changes that the Western Catholic church has made since 1054 it is more difficult. Like the spouse who left picking up bad habits before his return, and then trying to re-unite with his spouse again and wondering why she won't accept him as he is. You have to walk a mile in another man's shoes and sit on his porch before you can understand his view. The Western Catholics have Eastern Rite churches and the Orthodox Catholics have Western Rite churches truely a sign that both crave unity and both perceive themselves as actively seeking it. The true question is when the parents get back together, how do you keep the children from fighting? I pray that the Western Catholic church will have more men like Popes John Paul II (of blessed memory) and Benedict, men who are active seeking reconciliation.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps like Peter and Paul we are not YET supposed to be together, maybe Christ's Church is growing better as it is on two fronts and in HIS time we will be united. You say "We must not be praying hard enough!" as if your prayers will some how persuade God to do something he otherwise would not have done or done at this time. Prayer is not magic. How many years did the Jews pray for a Messiah? The truth is that he wasn't coming until "the fulness of time" right? So were their prayers wasted? No. Was Jesus somehow considering coming sooner just because there was an increase in prayer activity or more smoke rising from the temple? Probably not. Like the suffering Job, God permits things to happen that we do not understand, he doesn't will them, he permits them. For example the millions of people suffering in the world or the aborted children, those who are raped and abused daily. It is not for us to know the time, all we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us. Like Mother Theresa (of blessed memory) who never sought to convert a single soul by claiming the truth of Catholicism, she only sought to serve Jesus in each of them. The Orthodox Church as well has it's share of servants of Christ, truly God dwells in them as well. There are many who come to Orthodoxy every year, to the sacraments, to the Church, people who wouldn't have considered Western Catholicism or were not exposed to it. Why does the Theotokos appear to Westerners at grottos and give them springs of holy water and to Easterners through Icons exuding miraculous healing Myrrh? A good mother knows each of her children personally and knows what they need. All flowers require different amounts of water and light, some grow better in a soil with a different pH, maybe like in Russia vs. Spain. Why is God letting the Orthodox Church grow so tremendously in Russia? Is it because the Theotokos thinks you are not praying hard enough and if you were it would be the Roman Catholic Church Triumphant in Moscow instead. I doubt it strongly. More likely it is because it is His Church as well, the same reason he let the Missions in California grow so well. I think that a great saint of unity in the Orthodox Church is St. John of San Francisco, essentially St. John of St. Francis. Both the Churches settled the west coast the Orthodox through Alaska the Roman Catholics through Mexico. Both split the load of spreading the gospels, both reap the harvest. God has found a way to bring them into his pasture. One day the fence will come down, everyone will have their favorite part of the pasture sure but it will be the same field. Perhaps it will be like Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus, one day when we are walking together and talking He will come into our midst and enlighten us as to how He brought about the unity.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Through the prayers of the Holy Theotokos save us . . . (from ourselves)

Veni sancti spiritus, veni per Marium.