Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How Near Are Orthodox and Catholic Churches?

The short answer is, Very near. Below are two things:

1) an interview about Pope Benedict's "Gesture of Love" for the Orthodox churches on the Feast of St. Andrew. It reads clearly. Read it to discover that mutual communion has existed since 1439!

2) visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul for yourself at

The above _u r l_ is fascinating. It takes some patience, but it doesn't take too long to learn navigating the _hot spots_. Then it becomes an adventure. It requires Quicktime, which is availabe at the site--its link is beneath the screen.


Benedict XVI's "Gesture of Love"
Interview With Professor of Ecumenical Theology

ROME, NOV. 28, 2006 ( The exchange of visits between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is a "gesture of love," says Father Giovanni Cereti.

Father Cereti said this in an interview with ZENIT on the importance of Benedict XVI's four-day apostolic trip to Turkey, which begins today and will include a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Father Cereti is a Catholic theologian and lecturer of ecumenical theology at Venice's Institute of Ecumenical Studies, at Rome's Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum and the Mater Ecclesiae Higher Institute of Religious Studies, connected to the Pontifical Angelicum University in Rome.

Q: Every year, on Nov. 30, feast of St. Andrew, a Vatican delegation visits the ecumenical patriarchate, and the patriarchate sends a delegation to Rome for the feast of St. Peter on June 29. When did these visits begin and what importance should we attribute to the fact that it is the Pope himself who is carrying out this gesture on this occasion?

Father Cereti: In relations between Christians the exchange of visits between Churches goes back to apostolic times and has great symbolic and spiritual meaning as a gesture of fraternal love and communion.

The Church of Christ is a communion, and fraternal relations between Christians and churches are an essential expression of this communion, which already unites us to God in virtue of the common faith and one baptism.

After a long period during which, due to external difficulties, these visits could not be undertaken, the Second Vatican Council established a new starting point and the exchange of visits between local churches of the West and the East has become very frequent.

Among all these visits, most significant in fact are those carried out between the two most important sees of Christianity, at the initiative of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I.

They have become habitual on the occasion of important feasts of patron saints of the Church of Rome and of Constantinople, and in some cases it was not just official delegations but visits carried out by their highest representatives. Let's remember that Paul VI visited the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1967, and Pope John Paul II did so in 1979.

On this occasion, Benedict XVI's visit to the patriarch of Constantinople for the feast of St. Andrew is a sign of gratitude for the visit made by Patriarch Bartholomew I to the Bishop of Rome on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 2005.

Q: Is there a common model of unity in the Church recognized by Orthodox and Catholics or is it still to be identified?

Father Cereti: An ecclesiological model already exists, and it also goes back to the Church of apostolic times.

It is the model of "koinonia": The Church of Christ is a "koinonia," a communion, and it lives this communion in the dimensions just mentioned: in the common faith, based on the one revelation; on the one sacred Scripture, and expressed in the symbols of faith of the early Church; in sacramental life, and in particular in baptism, door of entry to ecclesial communion, and in the Eucharist, supreme visible sign of ecclesial communion.

And, finally, the life of charity of the whole Christian people, life of charity that is exercised in multiple ways and which is realized under the guidance of the ordained ministry, and in particular of the episcopate, which, in fact, has the task of being at the service of ecclesial communion.

On this model of communion, Catholics and Orthodox today are in agreement. Such a communion is expressed in the synodal character, or in episcopal collegiality, but at all levels of this synodal character there is a "protos," a first, a president or moderator of the synod or of the council.

Also at the level of the universal Church, a ministry must exist which is called to preside in charity over the communion of the universal Church.

Catholics believe that this task is entrusted to the Bishop of Rome, but the Orthodox also acknowledge that the day that communion between East and West is reestablished, the Bishop of Rome would again take up the place that is recognized for him according to the tradition of the ancient Church between bishops and patriarchs.

Q: Was the schism of 1054 in response to problems of doctrine and faith, or rather to political-cultural problems and to the fact that the mentality of Easterners and Westerners was quite different?

Father Cereti: The separation between East and West is the result of an evolution in the separation of the two parts of Europe, East and West, which took place in the course of many centuries and which led to the growth of two very different cultures, which expressed themselves in different languages, Greek and Latin, and which forged mentalities that were clearly different.

Already in the first millennium there was incomprehension and periods of interruption of the communion between Rome and the East.

The date 1054 is a symbolic date and the mutual excommunication that took place then must be erased from the memory of the Churches as such and has been requested in the 1965 Joint Declaration of Rome and Constantinople.

Unfortunately, the 1054 separation grew deeper in the following centuries, in part because of the Crusades, especially the fourth Crusade of 1204, creating a profound groove between the two Churches. The communication difficulties of past centuries contributed to making mutual prejudices more rigid and at the same time the lack of knowledge of the other side made for a lack of love for the other.

Nevertheless, the separation has never been total; the two Churches have continued to recognize one another as such and in 1439 in Florence mutual communion was re-established in a council that was not understood by the populations and for that reason was not accepted by the Christian people.

Today we could simply reestablish communion with the reception -- even if tardy -- of the decisions of Florence.

In any case, the doctrinal reasons did not justify the separation: Adduced for centuries was the doctrinal motive of the addition of the "filioque" clause in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed on the part of the Western Church, but the Catholic Church has solemnly declared today, for example in "Dominus Iesus," that she professes the same faith of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol in its original form, without the "filioque" clause, which remains as a liturgical addition of the Latin Church and which, however, was never recognized by the Greek-Catholic Churches.

The real great difficulty is the recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. However, this difficulty does not affect that much the principle of the Petrine ministry, but rather the way in which the exercise of this ministry takes place. On this issue it is not impossible to find agreement, as Pope John Paul II wrote in the encyclical "Ut Unum Sint."

Q: It is known that the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches continues to advance. Personally, do you expect an important gesture shortly?

Father Cereti: Personally, every day I expect a nice surprise and it is not to be excluded that it might occur on this visit of Benedict XVI to the Patriarchate of Constantinople: A joint declaration is expected on Nov. 30 that might point to a significant progress.

The Holy Spirit is changing Christians' hearts, who increasingly recognize themselves as brothers and sisters in the one faith in Christ beyond all divisions and who do not tolerate this condition of separation in a Europe and a world that are unifying and in which we must address together the challenges of the future, above all of dialogue with the other great religious traditions of humanity.

The Lord Jesus is calling us to full communion with himself and among ourselves and, only united will we be able to give witness to the world of the credibility of the Christian faith and of the reality of the love of God who has filled out hearts with his love, through the Holy Spirit which he has given to us (Romans 5:5).


Photo by RK Catch

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuesday word

34th Tuesday B(28 Nov 2006) Rv 14. 14-19; Ps 96; Lk 21. 5-11 [read them all here]
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Present Before Future

Those of us who were able to attend Mass yesterday recall we heard the four verses about the woman putting into the temple treasury two small coins. Jesus didn’t miss her action, com-menting that she offered her whole livelihood.

Immediately after her offering follows today’s gospel. It suggests that Jesus may have been the only one to observe her because the awesome costly stones and votive offerings distracted visitors to the temple, including some of the disciples present with Jesus. Here is a lesson on how to live each day as Christians.

Our King Jesus will come one day to judge the earth as we echoed together in during the responsorial psalm. Of course, as Jesus said, “no one know the day or the hour,” but few people have taken Jesus at his word. If we take Jesus at his word, as I believe we are wise to do, Jesus suggests we focus more on the present.

The saying, Today is the only day I have, helps us appreciate focusing on the present. That saying is also in tune with how Christians best live their lives. The deepest hopes of people do not correlate with calendars; they correlate with God’s intentions and God’s desires for creation. Calendars are our inventions and helpful tools; calendars are not God’s intentions and desires for creation.

To keep before us God’s intentions and God’s desires helps us focus on how to live best our lives now as Jesus’ friends and disciples. To offer our lives does not necessarily mean giving ’til it hurts. The woman gave her two coins freely. To offer our lives means to live in ways that will make us worthy to be a fruitful harvest whenever Jesus’ harvest-day may be.

Photo by Clive Power

Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday word

Photo by PinkMoose

34th Monday B(27 Nov 2006) Rv 14. 1-3, 4b-5; Ps 24; Lk 21. 1-4 [see them here]
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Lamb and Mary, Jesus and Us

Do Mary, the little-lamb owner, and Jesus, the Lamb, have anything in common? Before you decide, the image of Lamb for Jesus is rooted in the paschal lamb of Israel. Jesus is our passover. In addition the Book of Revelation portrays Jesus as the Lamb in 10 different places. Lamb for Jesus is an image that is not at all fanciful because it is rooted in the experience of faith, the experience of real men and women, who are why we are here.

Of course, lamb was one of Jesus’ own images for us. We are the lamb Jesus constantly seeks, finds and places on his shoulders with tender joy and love. Our Lamb is also our Shepherd.

Many people think of the Book of Revelation as only concerned with future events. The Book of Revelation is more concerned with announcing in images piled on images--visual, auditory, numbers and feelings which always escape human words--images communicating that God is in control of history. God controls history even contrary to appearances and human reckoning.

That means that the Book of Revelation is concerned about the present, not according to time or calendars, but according to the vocation of God’s people.

Is it becoming clearer that Mary, the little-lamb owner, and Jesus, the Lamb, might have something in common? Remember the rhyme?

“Mary had a little lamb, ... its fleece was white as snow.
“And everywhere that Mary went, ...the lamb was sure to go.”

The final verses of our selection from Revelation begin: [those ransomed by the Lamb...are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. The end of rhyme calls to us, too. The rhyme ends, you recall, with the teacher speaking to the schoolchildren,

"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"..." the eager children cry. ...
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know," the teacher did reply.”

Jesus, our Lamb, is different.

Even when we do not love our passover Lamb, Jesus, Jesus never ceases to love us. That is not in common with Mary, the little-lamb owner, or indeed any of us. That uniqueness of Jesus, our Lamb, is cause for our tender joy and love in each present moment.

[The history of the 1830 rhyme by Sarah Hale, has intersected with Thomas Edison, Paul McCartney, Blues singers and even the Smashing Pumpkins. Curious? Click here.]

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sunday word

Christ the King (26 November 2006) Dn 7. 13-14; Ps 93; Rv 1. 5-8; Jn 18. 33b-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Truth is Love in Action

We close the liturgical year today by remembering our beloved dead and in doing so “we rededicate ourselves to live our baptismal promises and to gain someday the rewards of eternal life.”/1/ The reason our beloved dead live on and abide with us in a different manner is because of God’s own beloved child, Messiah Jesus. I think that ancient eucharistic description of Messiah Jesus as God’s beloved child helps the Schroeder, Small and Tomolo families appreciate baptizing their children on this feast; and it helps us all appreciate Jesus, our King, and God's action in Christ.

One facet of divine action found throughout scripture may be one we humans, who live comfortable lives, find difficult to accept personally. That action is this: the Holy One turns everything upside down and invites us to surrender ourselves to divine, provident love. In the world of the first Christian generations that was not so difficult to accept because Christians longed for relief, for salvation from being crushed at the bottom of the social world.

An amazing thing about the relationship with the risen Lord is that people who were on top chose to place themselves with him even though that meant losing their status as respected citizens and losing their wealth--and some, even their lives. This they did because they experienced what the Book of Revelation proclaimed, Jesus Christ...loves us. So the reason why our beloved dead abide with us in a different way is because of God’s beloved child, Jesus Christ...who loves us and who has freed us from our sins by his blood.

If you hear only one thing today, please hear this: The First Person of the Trinity did not force the Second Person to suffer and to die. Jesus chose to give his life for our sake. This is not impossible to appreciate: parents die for their children; some spouses die for each other, as do dear friends. On Thanksgiving in New Orleans, neighbors risked dying by running into a burning home to pull out others. No one died, but the risk was real as was the choice of those neighbors to give their lives.

These deeds--those of Jesus and those of others and the readiness of people to die for others--are truth in action. Truth in action, namely the revealing, redeeming action of the Trinity on behalf of each human, is what Jesus defined as royal in his conversation with Pilate.

Pilate thought of a worldly king, as many do today. Jesus corrected the trumped up charge of King by the Jewish leaders: he was no false messiah who threatened the religious professionals of the day. Plus, Jesus was clear that his kingship was not political, of this world, Fourth Gospel language for human society organized on its own unbelieving terms. Messiah Jesus’ kingship, he told Pilate and us, testif[ied] to the truth of divine, redeeming love. That’s the action to which Jesus surrendered his human life.

On returning from visiting sites in Turkey and Greece, places of the world Sts. Paul and John invited to surrender to the truth of Messiah Jesus, our risen Lord and King, I assure you with renewed confidence that Jesus’ truth is much larger than scientific truth and courtroom truth, though opposed to neither. Our royal, messianic, resurrection truth is about surrendering self to another.

Our model is Messiah Jesus, who surrendered his life for all others, which is why our beloved dead abide with us in a different way and why we look forward to joining them and, more than, that look forward to living tomorrow as Christian children, women and men.

Each day this coming week in your 10 minutes, which you set aside to feel Messiah Jesus loving you, praise and thank Jesus for the many ways and the many people through whom Jesus loves you at each moment. Speak to him about his choice to surrender himself to you. As you converse with Christ our King, allow yourself to be moved by so free and marvelous a choice, a gift, a promise to you. Savor what arises in you in your conversation with Messiah Jesus; notice how it shapes a response in you and speak it to Jesus. Close your awareness prayer by asking for the grace to imitate Jesus’ selflessness. Resolve to surrender yourself to that grace and look forward to how you can live the truth of the redeeming action of the Trinity on behalf of another person you will encounter after your royal, priestly prayer. That is Jesus’ royal truth in action.

/1/ Liturgical Notes, Gesu Parish, November 2006--the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Monday, November 06, 2006

For Nearly All of November

On Sunday, 05 November, I will travel to Michigan. Monday I will devote to seeing my family and, I hope, attending to no last minute things before Tuesday.

That day I join a group of people who are making a tour to Turkey and Greece in the footsteps of St. Paul. I was asked to be the chaplain for the group.

I have some scripture passages yet to select so that one of our number can read it when we arrive at any site remembering St. Paul and the early Christian communities. I also have some words and phrases to select: I will offer one to the group as we begin each day.

All this, of course, means something for To Find Fruit. Namely, this will be the post which will greet visitors until my return on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Please remember us to God and in your hearts. I will invite the group to remember all who visit this blog and its sister blog.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday word

31st Sunday of Year(5 Nov 2006) Dt 6. 2-6; Ps 18; Hb 7. 23-28; Mk 12. 28b-34
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Most Worthy Worship

What are the convictions in today’s gospel selection? First, God is one. The one God is the God of Israel and our God, to whom both Israel and we belong. Second, oneness requires our total response of love, with all your heart, which Deuteronomy enjoined and Jesus echoed. Third, oneness of God, of Israel, of us--the new Israel, the church--and another oneness, singleness of heart, include love of all others (the neighbor in scripture’s lingo) and the rest of God’s creation.

Not only are those the convictions revealed by scripture. Jesus, the revelation of our triune God in flesh and blood, identified himself with this command of our God.

Mark’s first hearers would have heard Jesus’ perfect loyalty to God and Israel. It would have brought Jesus and the scribes closer than ever in his mounting debate with them near the close of his ministry. Indeed the scribe who questioned Jesus made that clear for he answered Jesus, “Well said, Teacher...You are right in saying that the Lord is One and no other...And to love the Lord with all your heart... understanding...strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is the most worthy worship.

That does not devalue the worship we do here. It is different to gather and worship our God around the tables of God’s word and God’s son. Even here we worship one way our one God in two different styles, to paraphrase St. Augustine, namely word and eucharist. Both “are so closely connected with each other that they form one single act of worshp.”/1/

Yet our worship here is not our only worship. In fact, our worship here commissions us to leave here in order to worship in deed and truth. We hear our commission variously: Go in the peace of Christ! Go, to love and serve the Lord! Go in faith, hope and love. Each one sends each member of the assembly “to do good works, praising and blessing [our] God./2/

But clarity about convictions does not erase our need to make decisions as we live our lives as Christians day to day. These decisions include: who is one’s neighbor? what is our understanding of love? how do I maintain the link between our God, our neighbors as well as the non-human aspects of our God’s creation? and, do I have a deepening felt knowledge that what I do between masses is truly worship, one which is better than any of our devotions?

The church’s liturgy--the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours--and all our devotions serve to make us more eloquent, faithful and active friends and disciples of Jesus, our high priest who lives forever to make intercession for us to God. This is our messiah Jesus’ unending, priestly action. To approach our God is simultaneously an act of faith and an act of service. Remember what Jesus echoed: to ‘love the Lord with all your heart... understanding... strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is the most worthy worship.

In your daily praying this week set aside 10 minutes to move closer to loving our one God with one heart; to our God who always moves closer to us out of love for us. As you consider the gifts our God lavishes on you each day to walk more closely with Jesus, ask Jesus to help you be more loving of our God, our neighbors and all created things in which our God acts for us. Converse with Jesus in your own words: offer our High Priest whatever causes you to resist his invitation to share his faithful, loving concern for others. Ask Jesus: to help you love with greater singleness of heart. Notice how Jesus responds to your brief praying and resolve to act on it in one concrete way that day.

To engage our God that way not only exercises all your heart, understanding and strength; it makes you a more agile and affectionate lover with Jesus of others and all creation. That, after all, is the most worthy worship!

1. Constitution on the Liturgy, #56 of the Second Vatican Council.

2. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Third Typical Edition (the current edition the church follows), #90c.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday word

Bl. Rupert Mayer, S.J. (03 Nov 2006) Phil 1. 1-11; Ps 111; Lk 14. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Silent and Hostile?

Whenever Jesus dined on a Sabbath with a Pharisee, especially a leader of them, trouble boiled. This was the case in the gospel selection we just heard, and in succeeding selections which we’ll hear on the next three weekdays.

I offer you two observations for your own prayer and reflection. I owe my patron the credit because St. Paul, who wrote with such affection to the church at Philippi, opened my heart to deeper affection with Christ and for his gospel.

Jesus demonstrated affection for the man with dropsy, a condition we know as edema. The Greek name describes too much water in one’s system. The swelling effect of that chronic condition Jesus and other’s could see. Before Jesus healed the man, Jesus asked the Pharisee and his guests if it were legal to heal on the Sabbath. Curiously, they remained silent. In legal debate--then as it can be today--silence was a sign of? ...yes, of assent. Of course Jesus knew as we do that his host in no way assented.

But something more curious passed Jesus’ lips. “Who among you, if your child or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately go to the rescue on the sabbath day?” In the legal jargon of Israel, child and ox never appeared. Donkey and ox did, not child and ox. No reason exists to doubt Jesus said child and ox. I suggest that more than humanize the situation, Jesus’ affection for the vulnerable overflowed his heart even to those who rejected him. All the more does Jesus pour out his affection to us who accept him as Lord!

I suggest for your prayer and reflection that you ask the healed man to intercede for you. Even ask the imaginary child to be your intercessor in order that Jesus grace your heart to warm it more and to make it more compassionate toward Christ and to him in all his sisters and brothers you encounter. Ask Jesus to make your affection grow more eloquent and never remain silent.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All Souls

I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (Revelation 14:13)

We pray for our beloved dead. We also pray that they will continue to become our intecessors that our lives may give more eloquent witness to the gospel of our Messiah Jesus.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wednesday word

All Saints(01 Nov 2006) Rv 7. 2-4, 9-14; Ps 24; 1Jn 3. 1-3; Mt 5. 1-12a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Saints Alive

Worship, you'll remember, situates and constitutes what we believe. Today our worship reminds us that the communion of saints lives for us, the pilgrim church: they pray that God “grant us forgiveness” and bless us with love; they are “concerned to help and save us”; their lives reflect God’s glory to us; and their prayers deliver [us] from present evil” and prepare us now for the “joy of God’s kingdom.”/1/

This association with our present and with our future in God, in the hearts of the saints in glory, receives clear expression in the First Letter of John: Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. ...Beloved, we are God’s children now; [and one day]...we shall see him as he is.

Even if we think these as nice words, they are God’s truth and desire for each of us. If we do think them as nice words, the communion of saints prays for us to awaken to our present: we are God’s children now; and to our future: we shall join the saints in glory to see [God] as [God] is. Again, our worship establishes our hope and our belief. At a funeral mass we pray: [In your kingdom] we hope to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord, from who all good things come./2/

Consider three things. Ponder them to make them more obvious and, above all, more real to you. First, our destiny with the saints has already begun. We are God’s children now.

Second, we are now called to live as people of the beatitudes. The beatitudes are not concepts, they are blessings, hard ones though they may be. Blessing is God’s transforming power. The transforming power of God “jeopardizes all of our gestures of equilibrium and our idolatrous images of God [which seek to make God] the great stabilizer of the status quo.”/3/

Finally, to live the beatitudes is to live as sisters and brothers of our Messiah Jesus now, and as the saints, in our process of being born to the life of the kingdom.

Our world awaits us, the new saints, whose hearts are rooted in God’s love and on fire with it at the same time. In communion, we know not how, with the saints in glory, we grow more free the more we call on them to help us live now as they lived as witnesses of God’s transforming power.

1. These four phrases are from the prayers and the blessing from today’s mass.

2. Eucharistic Prayer III.

3. Walter Brueggeman: I recorded the quotation but not the source.