Posted By: RichC Byzantine, or Eastern? - 04/24/02 07:40 PM
A week or so ago, I was helping a friend formulate some thoughts for discussion at a "mini-sobor" that was held in Philadelphia for the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese there. We got to talking about identity, Rite, Church, etc. and how we both felt that Ukrainian Catholics have isolated themselves from the majority of their fellow Eastern Catholics in the US & Canada (who are Byzantines of one type or another) by identifying themselves -- when they don't just say they're Ukrainian -- as "Eastern Catholics" or "Eastern Rite".

It occurs to me, from reading various publications of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in North America, that they don't seem to think of themselves as "Byzantine Catholics" whatever that might mean. Even the few Ukrainian Catholic mission parishes in the USA seem to prefer to say they are "St. xxx Eastern Catholic Church" even though we might be justified in assuming that they are Maronite or Armenian until we actually visit the church in question.

I seem to have noticed that professors of the Sheptytsky Institute have quite consistently spoken of our liturgical tradition as Byzantine, as in the study of "Byzantine Liturgy", but when they speak of our theology, spirituality, and our church tradition in general, they refer to it as "Eastern" and never as "Byzantine." It's always "the Eastern Tradition" and "Eastern Theology" and the "Eastern Church." They also don't use the term "Byzantine Catholics", rather, Greco-Catholics.

Can we say that there is anything particularly Byzantine about our shared Tradition, beyond the liturgy itself?

Is there a particular Byzantine spirituality? Or is there just an "Eastern" spirituality? Or perhaps it's even more particular and we can say our spirituality is Ukrainian, or Melkite as no doubt there is enough particularity in each.

Is there a particular Byzantine theology? (The existence of Meyendorff's book by that title would seem to imply that there is.) Or is there just an "Eastern" theology? I am quite sure there is no such thing as a Ukrainian theology, but reading some materials put out by Ukrainian churches I think that many Ukrainian Christians do believe that such a thing exists.

I don't mean to pick on the Ukrainians by any means, I'd just like to be able to decide if they are correct about their terminology and the assumptions behind it.
Posted By: Orthodox Catholic Re: Byzantine, or Eastern? - 04/24/02 08:09 PM
Dear RichC,

Yes, "Eastern" theology, as Mor Ephrem will be only TOO HAPPY to point out smile , is a generic term that includes everyone in the East, including the Oriental Orthodox et al.

We have come to understand it as synonymous with "Byzantine" and that was O.K. before Mor Ephrem joined the Forum smile .

But I wanted to comment on the use of "Ukrainian" when defining a Church or theological tradition.

"Byzantine" can mean more than simply the Byzantine heritage of Eastern Christianity. In the context in which the Ruthenian Churches and others use it, it really means "Hey, we don't wanna be ethnic any more, got it guys?"

And yet, the Eastern Church experience is precisely different from others in that the Eastern Churches have become totally "inculturated" in the respective cultures and nations in which they preach Christ and live the life in Christ over the centuries.

I can understand why the Sheptytsky Institute would like to separate "Ukrainian" from "Eastern" and "Byzantium."

But I don't agree and, if anything, that is in and of itself a tendency toward a Western Latin form of thinking or else to a desire to want to be more "legit" by presenting oneself as being more "mainstream." Again, that is wrong from a sociological perspective and an Eastern Christian one.

"Ukrainian" when used in the religious context means two things at one and the same time, as it always has.

It refers to Byzantine Christianity as inculturated in Kyivan-Rus' Ukraine so much so that the historic culture and its consequent development in Ukraine has given shape and character to the original Byzantine spirituality received from Constantinople.

This has given birth to the "Kyivan Church" with its own history, theology and particular "take" on the Byzantine perspective, which is different from that of the Greeks or Russians or others who participate in that same original perspective.

The "Ukrainian Church" is the Kyivan Church only because of the subsequent cultural-national development of the country and people in which the Kyivan Church was and is imbedded.

The other side of the coin is the Ukrainian ethnic component which is virtually impossible to separate from Kyivan Christianity today.

And there are many different varieties of Ukrainian cultural identity around, in my doctoral dissertation, I identified 18 for starters.

Some are more influenced by the European nationalist movements, others by other social and political factors.

There is even a "mental identification" with Ukrainian culture that exists among people who have Ukrainian ancestors - or else think they do or want to have them.

There are parishes,the majority, who have a strong Ukrainian cutlural identification in the nationalist sense, with a strong tie to language, cultural and, this is significant, the idea that one has to have biological ties to the Ukrainian community in order to be a member of the Ukrainian Church.

But Russian scholars in their treatment of the Kyivan Church leave no doubt as to the cultural identity of "Kyivan Christianity." And they have always been fair and objective about that, to be sure, for it cannot be otherwise.

In addition, the Kyivan Church Rite, the influence of the Baroque whether or not one wishes to admit it, and its closeness to the agricultural perspective of the Ukrainian people, the influence of the various political struggles over the ages that resulted, for example, in the Kyivan Baroque of the Kozaks etc. There are many others such as the many theological contributions of the Kyivan Mohyla Academy that are uniquely Kyivan and Ukrainian, - all this shows that the Kyivan Church has its own spirituality, identity and history, that are all intertwined with the history and culture of Ukraine and its people.

The Sheptytsky Institute, and others like it, should be in the forefront of promoting Kyivan Christianity as a unique contribution to Orthodox and Eastern Catholic theological perspectives. I know the Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary of St Andrew does an excellent job in this department and students go there for courses even if they have no plans to pursue a career in the Church.

It is not popular to be "ethnic" in North America. But "ethnic" really means that one is somehow ostracized from the mainstream.

That doesn't mean that we need to discard our labels, only redefine what they mean.

For example, "Byzantine" really doesn't mean anything as a Church label within Orthodoxy. It sounds rather funny to the Orthodox.

And "Byzantine" as such doesn't exist today, only in its Greek, Russian and other variants.

If we don't bring our Kyivan-Ukrainian or other contributions to the international forum of Byzantine theology et al., we bring nothing.

And we owe it to the Fathers, Metropolitans, Hierarchs, Ascetics and Missionaries of the Kyivan Church to know the patrimony that they developed and handed down to us, so we may let Kyiv be again, what it once was, a true Light of the East.

Posted By: Fr. Deacon Lance Re: Byzantine, or Eastern? - 04/24/02 10:45 PM
I always thought it misleading and incorrect for any Church to refer to itself as "the Eastern Church" as if there is only one, rather than as "an Eastern Church" of which there are several. One of the things that drives me absolutley nuts over at the EWTN forums is the constant use of the nonsense term "the Eastern Rite." As in: "the Eastern Rite has married priests." And this by a few of their so called experts. I don't think I need to go into the many reasons or levels on which this terminology is wrong.

The term "Eastern" is itself vague except to distinguish the Eastern Churches from the Latin Church or signify those things which all Eastern Churches have in common, which there are a few.

On the otherhand, Byzantine signifies all those things which Churches descended from the Constantinopolitan tradition share in common whether Catholic or Orthodox regardless of ethnicity. So it is a useful and appropriate term.

I also think it is kind of unfair for the Ruthenian Catholic Church in the US to monopolize the term Byzantine, yet it is what we are now known as commonly in the US. Officially, the Vatican still calls us the Ruthenian Catholic Church. Maybe we should go back to Ruthenian (Greek) Catholic?

In Christ,
Posted By: Mor Ephrem Re: Byzantine, or Eastern? - 04/25/02 12:47 AM
Originally posted by Lance:
One of the things that drives me absolutley nuts over at the EWTN forums is the constant use of the nonsense term "the Eastern Rite." As in: "the Eastern Rite has married priests." And this by a few of their so called experts. I don't think I need to go into the many reasons or levels on which this terminology is wrong.

With all due respect, I think there is a reason for this. When Latins refer to "the Eastern Rite", they usually are thinking about the Byzantine tradition. Most, I fear, when talking "Eastern Rite", don't immediately think "Coptic Catholic".

And I can understand why Latins would think along these lines. It's easy to see the Byzantines as the "big Eastern fish" in America...Catholics of the Byzantine tradition outnumber the others, have for the most part hierarchies in this country, and these things and others make you visible.

But, while I admit there are exceptions to the rule, it is often a cause of frustration to me that, even among Christians of the Byzantine tradition, Catholic and Orthodox, there are to be found many who believe themselves to be the be all and end all of Eastern Christianity. Perhaps it is because historically we've been numbered (wrongly, in my opinion) among the Nestorians and Monophysites. Or perhaps it is another case of genuine invincible ignorance. Perhaps there's another reason it happens. I don't know. But it does happen, and it should stop.

For example, on the CINEast list, issues generally are those of interest to Byzantine Christians and generally other Eastern Christians get ignored. I'm pleased to note that recently, this seems to have changed, but for a long time, it hasn't been that way, as far as I've seen. Even here sometimes, where I've been made to feel welcome and have learned so much and where all Eastern traditions have been respected and discussed one way or another, it frustrates me that the "Byzantine = The East" mentality still surfaces from time to time. Those times that I speak up about it, my friends here are very courteous in accepting the correction, and I'm glad that I belong to such a place as this. Nevertheless, it seems somewhat widespread, and too widespread to be acceptable.

We in the East -- all of us, Catholic and Orthodox -- are from pretty much the same block and neighbourhood. Let's act like it. Let's try and get away from the "Byzantine = The East" mentality, and let's realise that we have much more in common than that which separates us. Let's learn of each other, from each other, with each other. Let's be friends. Heck, let's be family. Together, let us, as family, proclaim Christ to the world.

::sigh:: OK, I'm stepping off my soapbox now... cool
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