Catholic of the Eastern  Rite

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   When your superior invites you to go into mission territory in an Eastern rite community, he’s also asking you to be willing to learn a new language and, above all, a new rite.

    When you arrive in your new community, your brothers tell you that in order to learn the rite and the language in which it is celebrated, it will take you at least two years.

   Finally, once the two years are up, when you have begun to master the language enough to celebrate the « Divine Liturgy » of your Eastern brothers, you realize that to be an Assumptionist of the Eastern rite is not simply a question of rite, but a choice much more profound and engaging.
    To be a Catholic of the Eastern rite means becoming a « Catholic-Orthodox ». At play there is a tension between the terms Catholic and Orthlodox. According to Aristotle’s principle of non-contradiction,« “It is impossible for the same thing to belong and not to belong at the same time to the same thing and in the same respect”» (Aristotle, Metaphysics).
This completely Western logic doesn’t work in the East.
To construct the geometrical figure of a circle, you need a center and a certain number of points that
are equidistant from the center; but if you want to construct an ellipsis, then it is necessary to have two fixed points, known as « foci ».

   The unifocal logic is an exclusive logic ---either one or the other; the bifocal logic is inclusive --- both and.

   The East teaches us to read reality in a symbolic fashion, that is to say, with two centers: God and Man closely united in the same destiny. If you exclude one, at the same time you exclude the other. « Symbolic » comes from συν- βαλλο (bring together).
   Upon the logic we use depends also our way of understanding God as well as reality around us and ourselves.

   This understanding of the East is based on the divine-human reality of Christ, on the deification of Man, on the participation of man in the Trinitarian communion. God and Man are two realties united.
   An example may help in understanding the difference in sensibilities that exists between the two Traditions of the Church.
   For the Western Tradition, the true happiness of Man is, according to St. Thomas Aquinas’ phrase, the ‘visio beatifica’ (the beatific vision of God). Man will find his fullness when he encounters God and will be able to rest his regard in the regard of God. This will be like the encounter of two lovers who can no longer tear their regard from each other.

The Eastern Tradition, as St. Gregory Palamas explained well by mean of the development of the theology of divine energies, places the accent on the communion between God and Man. Man will take part in the divine nature; he will become, in an analogical sense (that is to say, partial), like God.

  The man who enters into contact with God cannot remain as he was before; he is changed by this encounter, transfigured, divinized.
  To be a Catholic of the Eastern rite is a choice that is much more complex than simply learning a rite; it is a much more radical change, because it means accepting to make oneself Orthodox with one’s Orthodox brothers.

    If one does not have the courage to do so, the contribution to the ecumenical dialogue of Uniate communities is reduced to very little. Unity and communion are lived; they make up a part of one’s concrete experience.


 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched

       with our hands concerns the Word of life--for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it.  (1JN 1,1-2)


“Uniatism has certainly been traumatic for the East; it has been a wound in the body of Orthodoxy, similar to the trauma of 1204. Yet it seems that God has used it as a means to bring the West into a living contact with Orthodoxy and to a discovery of its treasures…Uniatism even led to a transfusion of Eastern blood into the Church of the West…The existence of the Uniate churches and the efforts to consolidate and expand them often served as the primary motivation for western theologians to study the Greek Fathers”.
(Olivier Clément, Conversations with Patriarch Bartholomew I, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, p. 182)


It is urgent that we relaunch a serious reflection on the role of Uniate communities within the Eastern Mission and throughout the Congregation.

   It is evident that this role is not always well understood and that it is reduced to a small, particular reality. To the contrary, it would be advisable that the entire Assumption Family be able to carry the concern of Uniatism and not only a restricted number of misunderstood brothers and sisters.
For years, ecumenism has held special honor at the Assumption.

   Nevertheless, not one formator has ever thought of undertaking some steady form of collaboration with his brothers and sisters who are living ecumenism on the ground.

    This important apostolic work is still considered as something intellectual. It must be shouted from the rooftops that ecumenism is a spiritual experience to which one can only give personal witness. In the Eastern Tradition, knowledge is never simply a question lof intellectual work.

   The starting point is the heart enlightened by prayer. Without the enlightenment of the heart, the intellect is blind and words are empty.
The quality of Assumption’s ecumenical involvement may be measured by the attention, the genuine concern, and the interest it shows to the Assumptionist communities of the Eastern rite.

   These communities are a privileged entry point into the world of the Eastern Tradition, a world much loved in word, but one with which it still has difficulty being able to engage so as to experience a truly profound exchange.