30 January 2011

S Gregory Palamas

A kind friend has sent me a Kalendar published by one of the Melkite eparchies in North America. It is good to be reminded how similar the instincts of East and West are when it comes to liturgical observances; the West has Vigils and Octaves and the East has Preparations and days stretching out after a festival until they are concluded by a "Leave-taking". The East is happy to crowd several observances on to one day, just as the West has its 'commemorations'. Oops: I should have said that the West used to do all this, because two generations now have had to live with the Carthaginian General's vandalistic abolition of nearly all Vigils, Octaves and Commemorations.

This Melkite Calendar gives one particularly intriguing example of different observances crowded together on one day. In Orthodox Christianity, as my readers will be aware, the Second Sunday in Lent is the Sunday of the great fourteenth century Hesychast Doctor and mystical theologian, S Gregory Palamas ... the last but certainly not the least of the Greek Fathers. Sadly, nit-picking Westerners used to accuse him of heresy because of some of the terminology he used in his exposition of the wonderful mystery of our Deification in Christ. So, after the 1720s, when the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Successor of S Peter, renewed the fulness of his communion with that other Successor of S Peter a bit further West, it was deemed prudent to remove S Gregory from the Melkite Calendar. To fill the vacuum thus created, in 1843 the Patriarch Maximos III Mazloom made that Sunday the Commemoration of the Holy Relics.

In my 2011 Melkite Calendar, I see that S Gregory has returned to the Second Sunday in Lent. Splendid! Since the Patriarch of Antioch is - surely - the second most senior hierarch (after the Pope) of the Catholic world in communion with Rome, this is a tremendously authoritative affirmation, by the magisterium of the Catholic Church, of the sanctity and doctrinal soundness of S Gregory Palamas (and, by the way, in this calendar S Gregory also recovers his festival on November 16). Not that the Holy Relics have done runner. They share this same Sunday with S Gregory: a happy detail because Mazloom was one of the greatest Melkite Patriarchs, who secured the formal status of the Melkites as a Nation within the Ottoman Empire.

But I can't find within this Melkite Calendar poor old S Mark of Ephesus ... on whose festival a very dear friend of mine was chrismated into Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, I regard the reinstatement of S Gregory Palamas, who lived, taught, and was canonised outside formal canonical unity with the Apostolic See of Rome, as a good omen for the beatification, for the Ordinariate, of our Anglican Catholic beati.

14 comments:

Conchúr said...

However the question is which Patriarch of Antioch is the second most senior hierarch to the Pope of Rome? Personally my sympathies lie with the Syriac Catholic claim, which would trump all others, Catholic and Orthodox.

Pete said...

Any ideas for the Ordinariate saints? One springs to mind on this his day of martyrdom

Conchúr said...

"One springs to mind on this his day of martyrdom"

Without either being flippant or disrespectful (though in actuality probably both), the Dies Irae will come before that ever happens.

William Tighe said...

My understanding is that the Syriac line, both Catholic and anti-Chalcedonian, stems from the numerous consecrations performed in the 550s by Jacob Baradeus, and that the "Orthodox/Melkite line(s)" is (are) the most historical one. There was a break in that Orthodox line during the Persian occupation in the 610s, and it was in that period that the Maronite line of patriarchs was begun in the Lebanon by some refugees from Antioch. Upon the return of Antioch to Roman control in the late 620s the imperial authorities chose a new patriarch, ignoring both the anti-Chalcedonian one and the "Maronite" one.

In Alexandria, the case was different, as there the "Orthodox line" was begun as a kind of "Chalcedonian Constantinopolitan consulate" in the very last years of Justinian's principate.

The young fogey said...

I think the Melkites, always the most Orthodox/least latinised of the large Greek Catholic churches, put St Gregory Palamas back in their calendar in the 1970s. An example of latinisation (his removal) and recovery.

My understanding is because Orthodox have never tried to define as doctrine a condemnation of postschism RC defined doctrines, Rome gives born Orthodox the benefit of the doubt, which opens up Greek Catholic veneration of them.

St Pius X realised the self-latinised Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church would be useless persuading Russians to go under Rome - around the 1890s a few Russian intelligentsia such as Soloviev and one of the Tolstoy family read their way to Rome - so his order for the new Russian Greek Catholic Church was nec plus, nec minus, nec aliter to what the Russian Orthodox Church does. (Be just like the Russian Orthodox.) The experiment failed - most Russians didn't switch and, early on, the Russian Revolution killed it in Russia - but what's left of the Russian Catholic Church still follows this with varying faithfulness. (Today it's mostly a few non-Russians outside of Russia who love everything Russian Orthodox but don't want to break with Rome.) The churches in San Francisco and El Segundo (Los Angeles) follow the Orthodox Church in America's (the Russian Orthodox Church's main American representative) calendar including the saints exactly.

I have a big Russian Catholic Molitvoslov printed in Rome in 1950 that follows this principle including giving postschism born Orthodox saints the benefit of the doubt. They're in the calendar.

That said... I mentioned the self-latinised Ukrainian Catholics (actually they, in the form of WWII refugees, introduced me to the Byzantine Rite 25 years ago). Most Greek Catholics don't identify with the Orthodox at all and wouldn't be interested in venerating those saints even if they were on the calendar. The Ukrainian and Ruthenian calendars' saints mostly stop around the year 1000 with the exceptions of anti-Orthodox St Josaphat and a few Western additions like St Francis and the Little Flower. (Ukrainian Catholic identity: a few Russianisms such as the Cyrillic alphabet, icons, onion domes and married priests to show they're not Polish but lots of Polishisms/latinisations to show they're not Russian either.)

I don't think King Charles I would get the same benefit of the doubt for public veneration in Catholic churches. Privately you may venerate anyone.

Animadversor said...

As I recall, before the dis-union, when there were but three patriarchates, the order of precedence was Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. When New Rome was elevated to a patriarchate, it took its place just after Old Rome; and when Jerusalem was granted patriarchal status, it was assigned last place. Does anyone know any different?

William Tighe said...

"Animadversor" is correct -- Rome, of course, accepted Canon 28 of Chalcedon only in 1215, at Lateran IV.

Julio said...

I think the most senior hierarch after the Pope is the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria. If I remember correctly, it was the predecessor of the current patriarch who led the eastern prayers during the funeral mass of Pope John Paul II because he is the most senior among the eastern hierarchs. Since Alexandria precedes Antioch, the Copt would precede the Melkite.

Figulus said...

I agree with Julio. My recollection is that Alexandria outranks Antioch. My recollection is based on a certain Alexandrian bishop's letter to Rome stating his opinion that an unorthodox patriarch of Alexandria should be excommunicated. He said that while he had the authority to do it himself, he first wanted to consult with Rome so that his action would not be without effect, i.e., that Rome would not overrule it.

Conchúr said...

Alexandria does indeed outrank Antioch. I'm not sure how that slipped my mind in my first post.

mar said...

I think that Patriarch Stephanos II Ghattas led the Eastern funeral service for John Paul II by virtue of his ordination seniority. His age and frailty was clearly manifest back then, and so he only incensed the coffin. Then Patriarch Gregorios of the Melkites took over and beautifully chanted the prayers in Arabic.

Although pentarchal and ordination seniority could have conflated in his person.

Figulus said...

One might puzzle why Alexandria would be counted as a Petrine see, when St Peter never went there, and why whatever St Mark's qualifications as a legate, it might outrank Antioch, which was blessed with St Peter's very chair. Rivington discusses this at some length, and presents a convincing argument. Before Peter went to Antioch, he was in Jerusalem, and after the fall of Jerusalem, the Jewish church there, like the Jewish ethnarch, moved (via Pella,perhaps?) to Alexandria.

Julio said...

@ Mar- It might be that Patriarch Stephan was more senior in ordination to Patriarch Gregorios but ordination dates I think do not matter much in the Eastern sense especially when ecclesial rankings are indicated. Stephan was Patriarch of Alexandria and Alexandria precedes Antioch. Even the Oriental Code of Canon Law declares that.

Carlos said...

The Coptic patriarch would and should outrank the Melkite, however, the melkites were given the jurisdiction of Jerusalem and Alexandria as well under their single patriarchate. I think this was the case there were Byzantine patriarchs in those regions after the chalcedonian schism and the Melkites fit the bill to be the representative of those patriarchates. Kind of weird...