Ephemera II

Within the dominant Latin Rite of the Catholic Church are two venerable devotions which typically occur back-to-back at the opening of each month: The First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the First Saturday devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today, very few Catholics outside of traditionalist circles honor either devotion, likely out of apathy, ignorance, or a quiet belief that such practices are not only “old hat,” but “superstitious.” With the exception of a handful of Eastern Catholics who imported these devotions, most Eastern Christians stick to the formal liturgical cycle to express their piety. This can be seen, for instance, during the Great Blessing of Water at Theophany or at the memorial services for the dead conducted throughout Great Lent. While various local churches maintain some unique “old world” devotions here and there, for the most part the Eastern tradition is bereft of practices where individuals are asked to perform certain acts on certain days in order to attain a particular divine reward. That’s not necessarily a good thing nor a bad thing, mind you. And maybe the absence of such devotional practices among the East would be less noteworthy if—in the geographic West—Eastern Christians had the ecclesiastical infrastructure to be, on average, more than what Fr. Alexander Schmemann called “Sunday churches.” Of course, just because the Latins are better at keeping their doors open during the week doesn’t mean many of the faithful pass through them.

I have not yet finished Bishop Marcarie Dragoi’s fascinating monograph, Orthodox and Greek Catholics in Transylvania (1867-1916): Convergences and Divergences (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press 2015), but I can already tell that it will soon be part of my ever-morphing list of “Recommended Reading” for those interested about both Eastern Christianity generally and Greek Catholicism specifically. The experience of the Romanian Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches during this period parallels in some ways the experience of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Galicia after the 18th Century, particularly with respect to ecclesiastical involvement in education, culture, nation-building, and civic institutions. What is striking, however, is how much more fraternal the ties were between Orthodox and Greek Catholics in Transylvania than what was exhibited in Galicia. This is no doubt due in large part to the political machinations of the Russian Empire at this time and its reliance on the Orthodox Church as a vehicle for cultural and political dominance in Ukraine. While Orthodox/Greek Catholic relations in Transylvania were not always perfectly harmonious, they do provide a good example of how these two confessions ought to behave toward one another moving forward, not just in Romania, but across the globe.

Some changes are coming to the Divine Liturgy as it is served in Greek Orthodox parishes in the United States, though they’re nothing to get too worked up about. The strangest (in my estimation) directive concerns the absolute prohibition on translating Κύριε Ελέησον (Kyrie Eleison), Θεοτόκος (Theotokos), and Λόγος (Logos) into English. Why? No ecclesiastical authority ever declared that those words couldn’t be rendered into Church Slavonic way back in the day. So it goes. Maybe there is an argument to be made that the English language is so intrinsically corrupt that it is incapable of capturing the proper meaning of these words with such gross substitutes as “Lord have mercy,” “Mother/Bearer of God,” and “Word.” Still, let these new directives be a lesson to those Orthodox who still cling to the myth that not a jot nor tittle of the Divine Liturgy has ever passed since the text came off the pen of Ss. John Chrysostom or Basil the Great 1,600 years ago.

Much to my chagrin, I discovered recently that the website Catholics 4 Trump (C4T) is not a gag. Established by a traditionalist Catholic who contributes regularly for The Remnant newspaper, C4T is “dedicated to exposing the lies that the left and establishment Republicans have spread about Trump to further their own self-interest that have turned many pro-life and conservative Catholics away from voting for him.” Fine. However, let me be clear that this conservative Catholic (and by “conservative” I mean “integralist”) has been persuaded to not vote for Trump by nothing more and nothing less than the Catholic Church’s social magisterium. Fear concerning the potential fallout of a Clinton presidency is no excuse for crying after a faux “strong man” to save us.

6 comments

  1. Λογος is the only word that is difficult to translate; Θεοτοκος literally translates to “God-birthgiver”, and not “Mother of God” (Μητερ του Θεου) or “God-bearer” (Θεοφορος), which other titles would also translate literally into English. Λογος is tricky because it does so much work, and we have separate words, in English, for each of its functions — words that are not etymologically related, and so none of them refers to, or hints at, the other meanings. Κυριε ελεησον also literally translates.

    Bizarre directive. Why should anyone obey a bad order? In the Latin Catholic tradition, at least as regards civil law, it is very clear: if an order is irrational, it cannot be just. This goes back at least to Justinian, but almost surely earlier — I believe there is Constantinian legislation in the _Digest_ that spells this out, and wouldn’t be surprised if a line could be traced from Greek roots to this Roman legislation. This bit of ecclesiastical legislation is also irrational, and cannot be just.

  2. I am sure you are correct regarding many of us Latins thinking devotions like the First –days as superstitious or irrelevant but the blame I think needs to go to clerics organizing weekday Mass schedules. Your average weekday Mass is scheduled around 9 or 930am, so unless you are 5, at home caring for children, or 65 you cannot go.

    Parishes may have Confession on a first Friday, or maybe a second Mass (noon or perhaps 530pm) but that is still very difficult for the working/with children families. My own rural parish cluster (3 communities 1 priest) does have added Adoration and Benediction but it is still impossible for the majority. (I am also willing to concede that this may be a chicken-egg dilemma–perhaps in the past only the elderly came to daily Mass so the time was changed to be more accommodating to them).

    I am very fortunate that once renovations are complete in the local Ukr-Gr Catholic Basilian monastery they will likely resume 7am Liturgy everyday

      1. Hmm, I guess I don’t know what other cities offer, though Chicago had a lot of options when I lived there. Even if you were devoted exclusively to the TLM, there were three parishes offering daily Mass in the mornings with two — St. John Cantius and the Shrine of Christ the King — offering at least one extra evening TLM during the week. As for the Novus Ordo, all I recall is that St. Peter’s in the Loop offered something like eight Masses a day, spread throughout the day, which were always well-attended typically.

    1. All very true. In my experience traditional Catholic parishes tend to offer special Masses on those days to accommodate the faithful, which is helpful.

      As for Mass times generally, while I wouldn’t darken the doorways of most parishes in my diocese, there does seem to be a decent spread here. For instance, you can find several parishes offering Mass before 8am; a few around the noontime hour; and then at least one or two in the evenings every day. However, aside from the SSPX chapel near here, I don’t know any that go out of their way to make sure Mass is offered in the evenings for First Friday or in the mornings for First Saturday.

Comments are closed.