How cool is this?
Students and faculty at the University of Notre Dame who go to the university’s chapel on Sundays may be hearing something different from the usual Mass opening of “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
“Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever,” Father Khaled Anatolios recently chanted, as he made the sign of the cross with the book of the Gospels lifted high above the altar.
He faced the altar, away from the congregation, and there were icons on either side. Those in the congregation sang “amen” in response.
The first Byzantine liturgy on Notre Dame’s campus had begun, and once a month, at least in the beginning, those who are from Eastern Christian traditions and those who are just curious will have a chance to participate.
Father Anatolios is a newly ordained priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, one of twenty-two Eastern churches in communion with Rome. When his bishop knew that he was going to be moving to South Bend, Indiana, to teach theology, he asked if there could be “a Byzantine Catholic presence on the campus of the most prominent Catholic university in America,” Father Anatolios told the Notre Dame Observer.
It’s not that the Byzantine liturgy is unknown on college campuses. There are Orthodox campus ministies, and there’s a Byzantine Catholic Mission at Penn State, with a liturgy offered every Sunday. And near the campus of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, there is a Ukrainian shrine, with divine liturgy offered on Sundays. But Notre Dame seems to be the first Catholic university in the United States where an Eastern liturgy will be celebrated on campus on a regular basis.
Read more and watch a video of a Melkite liturgy here.
Regarding the liturgy, The Notre Dame Observer notes:
“The Byzantine Catholic churches … follow the Byzantine Rite that originated in Constantinople and reunited with Rome and reestablished communion with Rome,” Anatolios said, “It’s easy to break communion, but its very hard to reestablish it once its broken. The Eastern Catholic churches came about because there was the recognition that there really aren’t serious doctrinal differences that should divide us.”
Anatolios said some differences between the Byzantine and Roman rites include differently worded prayers, a greater emphasis on icons, singing and bodily movement, and perhaps most surprising to those raised in the Roman Rite, married priests such as Anatolios himself. Because of the ritual similarities between the Byzantine Rite churches and the Orthodox churches, many feel the Eastern Catholic Churches can serve as a connection between Rome and other parts of the Christian world.
Anatolios said he grew up in Egypt and has connections with various members of the Coptic and Orthodox Christian communities.
About the Melkites, from CNEWA:
Based in the war-weary Syrian capital of Damascus, the worldwide Melkite Greek Catholic Church is led by the vigorous Patriarch Gregory III and a synod of bishops not fearful of tackling challenging issues. “Christianity survived in the Middle East because of the married priests,” said one, Archbishop George Bakhouny of Akka in Israel. The Eastern tradition, he said, is “to choose someone who has his own work in the particular village, a good man, a faithful man, a Christian man. He will study a little bit, some theology and philosophy, and he will be ordained.” It doesn’t matter, he continued, if it is impractical to send a married man to the seminary for six years.
“We don’t want all of them to be doctors or theologians,” he said, but witnesses. Priests don’t all have to be well-spoken orators; they could even be fishermen.
I had the privilege of attending two Melkite liturgies when I was in Jordan last April: the Easter Vigil and a wedding. The liturgies were haunting, lively and deeply moving. I had a chance to chat with the celebrant of the Vigil, the Rev. Habil Naddad, a lovely man and a passionate evangelist. You can read more about that encounter and the liturgy here.
Photos: Deacon Greg Kandra