Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
April 13, 2008
East is east and West is west. . .
If we are paying close attention to the Liturgical Calendar we will see that next week is marked as the celebration of Palm Sunday according to the Julian Calendar. How can this happen you wonder? The simple response is that the Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar so they are preparing to enter into Holy Week. They will celebrate Easter on April 27th, five full weeks after the Latin church.
The questions that arise for many people are the following: Who belongs to the East
ern Orthodox churches and are they or are they not Catholic? If they are Catholic, why do they celebrate on their own time and not with the rest of us?
The first question is more straight forward. The countries that are on the eastern borders of Europe such as Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, as well as the Serbs, Croats and other small groups all belong to the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church. The second question is much more complex. The differences between the Eastern and Western church are multiple. The dates of Easter are only the tip of the iceberg.
The Eastern Orthodox and Latin Churches grew up side by side since Apostolic times. Both Peter and Paul traveled throughout these countries and spent much time preaching and teaching the truths taught to them by Jesus, the Christ. One Church was not converted or brought into the flock by the other. From the beginning they shared the same languages and familiarized themselves with each other’s customs. The church was one in all ways in the Roman Empire.
As time passed, the Roman Empire crumbled and war and politics began to divide the two areas. The Barbarian Invasions were highly instrumental in driving a wedge that would become wide and deep between the two. To add to this confusion, the cultural practices became more and more distinct. Soon the East and West found if difficult to understand each other’s language. Latin was no longer understood in the East. As a consequence, the theology of both sides diverged. While the West saw the pope as the primary head of the church, the east saw him as one among equals. The differences of opinion were many including the stresses made in liturgy. Finally the Great Schism of 1054 broke the two areas apart and thus they remain.
Can we learn from this historical process? Can we identify with this “war” between siblings, chrisened by the same Apostles and all believing the same truths of Jesus the Christ? How easy it is to walk away from people who have been our friends, or even, our brothers and sisters? How easily we fall victim to an estrangement that does not and should not exist between people who profess to believe in the same loving God? Our world has become very complex and there are many factors that can interfer with our healthy relations with one another? The question is: Is it worth it?
Easter reminds us of Christ’s message of New Life. He came to give us peace, love and reconciliation. If the East and West cannot practice these lessons, perhaps we could try to do so on an individual level and perhaps some day, the twain shall meet again
Lorette P. Nault