Tuesday, November 30, 2010

East Meets West - The Feast of St. Andrew - Updated

Happy feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, the brother of St. Peter.  Eric Sammons has a nice post on the symbolism of the eastern and western Church as represented by St. Andrew and St. Peter.  In it he reports on a statement coming out of Moscow that a meeting between the Holy Father and Patriarch Hilarion of Moscow seems to be moving closer.  What a day for rejoicing that will be!  The separation of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church is a tragic consequence of what seem to be both willful and unintentional misunderstandings over the centuries.

                                                   Tomb of St. John Chrysostom

During my trip to Rome, signs of the unity of the early Church abounded.   St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Nazianzen are entombed in St. Peter's. [see update below for clarification on this]  St. Josaphat, who was martyred in 1623 for his advocacy of union between the Catholic and the Orthodox rests beneath the altar of St. Basil.  These early saints and martyrs point back to a time when the east and the west were one.  [ Update:  I've since learned that the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Nazianzen were returned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2004 by Pope John Paul II.  The remains were originally taken from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and remained in Rome for the subsequent 800 years.  According to the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, November 30th is now observed as the feast of the Translation of the Relics as well as the feast of St. Andrew the first apostle.  I'm not sure whether or not any relics of these great saints remain in the tombs in St. Peter's.]

We were in Rome on November 15th, the feast of St. Josaphat.  There was a beautiful liturgy taking place at the altar above his remains, with row upon row of Eastern rite clergy in attendance.  Shawn Tribe at the New Liturgical Movement reports that there were over 30 concelebrants and that the chanting was performed by the members of the Pontifical Russian College or "Russicum."  I can tell you that it was very moving to see these very young priests all joined together around the altar chanting the divine liturgy.

                                         Divine liturgy at altar of St. Josaphat, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

 After the liturgy, the seminarians and priests stood at the foot of the main altar, before the tomb of St. Peter, and chanted the Credo.  Very moving, indeed.

Today, on the feast of St. Andrew, may we rejoice in the news that a meeting between the Holy Father and the Moscow Patriarch seems to be becoming more of a reality.  And may our ecumenical outreach bear the fruit of a true union between east and west.

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