Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Forgotten Church

The title is harsh, yes, and the spur may be merely reactionary, and I do not really think anyone will read this (nor do I think anyone will read most if any of my posts), yet it is an attempt at least, and it may possibly reach someone.

The Eastern Church exists.

This is the first point to know.  I've written about it before, many times, and it may be too much of a pet case of mine, but I think it is something important: Latin is not the Church's only language.  The Pope is the head of the Church, but not all of those he serves have Latin as their original liturgical language.  Not all Catholics follow the Code of Canon Law, and that is perfectly allowed by the Church.  Not all Catholics have to go to Mass on Sunday.  Not all Catholics pray the rosary to honor Our Lady.  There are some who have Greek or Arabic or Aramaic or Syriac or Slavonic as their liturgical language: there are some who follow the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches: there are some who go to the Divine Liturgy or Qurbana or even Vespers for their Sunday obligation: there are some who pray the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos.  There are some who have icons instead of statues, who fast forty days before the Nativity of Our Lord, who would be utterly lost in a Low Mass for its lack of chant.  There are Eastern Christians, there are Eastern Catholics, there is an Eastern Church.  They are not second-rate Catholics, they should not suffer in dhimmitude.  They are heirs to the apostolic faith, defenders of it against heretics throughout the ages.  They are true Catholics, and yet few seem to know they exist.  I have had many people be confused when I mention that I am planning to become an Eastern Catholic: they think I am rejecting the Pope.  I most certainly am not, and there are many, many others as well.  There are the Orthodox Churches, of course, yet sometimes Catholics barely know they exist either.  We know all about the countless Protestant denominations, we know how to lead a Passover seder, we know the tenets of Islam, we are even up to date on the teachings of Scientology, yet we do not know our brothers and sisters of the same apostolic faith.  This should not be so.

The Eastern Church exists, and the West should be blind no longer.  Not only does it alienate countless faithful Catholics and Christians, not only does it deny the possibility of being enriched by so many ancient Christian traditions, but there is a current, pressing reason for this need for knowledge.

The Eastern Church is dying.

I do not mean that they are dying spiritually, that they are losing the faith: I mean that they are shedding their blood for the crime of being Christian.  Chaldean Catholics have being destroyed in Iraq; Syrian Catholics, Melkites, and Armenian Catholics are being starved and slaughtered in Syria.  This is not to forgot all of their Orthodox counterparts as well!  Search the Internet, and it will tell you what no one will say: the Eastern Church is dying, the Eastern Church is being massacred, and the West keeps silent.  The forgotten ones are the first ones dead, for no one comes to the aid of one he does not remember.  We must open our eyes, open our ears, open our hearts, open our arms, open our souls to these brothers and sisters in the faith.  The forgotten Church is the dying Church.  I do not know how to make others know, how to possibly make leaders take action: all I can do is attempt to inspire prayer, for prayer can work wonders.

Their churches are being destroyed.

They are being killed.

They need our prayers.

Politically, I do not know how to help.  Christians are dying from civil wars, from uprisings of certain groups of Muslims, and, from what I know, most of the West is doing nothing.  Politically, I do not know enough of the details, and I do not know how to help.

The one thing that I know can help is prayer.

We must prayer for the forgotten Church, the dying Church, especially the Church in Syria.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether in full communion or not, are being massacred for the faith.  The Church continues to be clothed in the purple and fine linen of the martyrs to this day.  We must remember them, and we must prayer for them, and we must pray for those who persecute them.

Some have told me, when I mention events such as the killings in Syria, that I need to read more happy news.  But if no one knows of the news that is real and that is painful, how can these events be stopped?  How can we pray for what we are ignorant of?  The truth is, there is evil in the world, there is evil committed, and there is injustice done.  The true response is not to deny it, but to remember the power of Christ, to be full of true Christian hope, knowing that, though the world hates us, He has overcome the world, remembering that, no matter how much evil is in this world, there will come a new heavens and a new earth where every tear will be wiped away.  We must pray for Christ's Kingdom to be made more present on earth, but we must remember that Christ never told us the world would be perfect before His Second Coming.  There will be pain and evil in the world, and accepting that does not mean despair: it is a step to accepting the true hope of Christ, not a false, saccharine optimism.

The Eastern Church is the forgotten Church, and it is the dying Church.  Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ dying all over the world, but especially in Syria and the East. 

St. Ignatius of Antioch, the Protomartyr of Syria, pray for us and for all persecuted Christians!

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