(July 31st)

Edited By Bp. Joseph (ACA&A)

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born at Loyola in the mountains of northern Spain in 1491. A member of the minor nobility, Ignatius spent his youth and early adulthood as a courtier and soldier. He occasionally vowed to dedicate himself more fully to God, but never quite followed through. It was only after he read the lives of the saints while convalescing from a leg wound incurred during a battle that he finally began his spiritual pilgrimage with real intent at the age of 30.

Soon after this, St. Ignatius began to experience ecstatic visions, but within a year suffered a period of intense spiritual dryness (what St. John of the Cross termed the “dark night of the soul”), which nearly drove him to despair. He persevered, however, and out of this was born Spiritual Exercises, one the most important spiritual works of all time. Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of the Faith – the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, Ad majorem Dei gloriam – “for the greater glory of God.”

As the Reformation set the world on fire and religious schisms became an ever-present reality, many Roman Catholic thinkers and mystics began the painful process of examining the faults within the Roman Church that caused such a dramatic break with the established modes of history and ravaged the culture of Christendom.

As the Council of Trent labored on over many years, what was immediately apparent that the moral corruption of the Church was largely to blame for the social unrest, and this realization prompted a move to purify the Church and make the training of priests much less of a laze faire process, and a strict, if not puritanical, ascetical discipline. This was not the “Counter-Reformation”, but the “Catholic Reformation” in which many elements of the superstitious Christianity of the uneducated masses began to be challenged with the light of Aristotelian “Non-Contradiction” through the popularization of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

In the midst of this great religious conflict in France during the early 1500’s, Ignatius of Layola and Francis Xavier began to internalize these lessons, and attempted to counter Protestant heresies at the same time through new methods of teaching and discipleship. They established a loose confraternity, and then, based upon the papal dispensation that they received, started a full-scale Counter Reformation operation, which was meant to bolster the flagging powers of the Pope through scholarship and politically strategic involvement. The Pope approved this new order in 1540, and the Jesuits immediately set about their grand vision of global missionary work.

The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits as they would come to be called, were a unique socio-political organization of highly elite and disciplined intellectual churchmen who would be the Counter-Reformation Pretorian Guard of the papal claims. It became clear that the Roman Catholic had halved its number of faithful, and so, to increase its chances of survival and influence, it would have to look outside of Europe to establish a New Christendom. While always remaining faithful Roman Catholic, and coming into great conflict with Anglicans through a contradiction of spiritual visions, St. Ignatius endeavored to reform Catholicism from within, and led one of the greatest missionary movements in history, converting many non-Western lands to Christianity..

Collect:

O God, who for the greater glory of thy Name, didst endue thy Church militant with an increase of strength through the life and labours of blessed Ignatius: grant us, by his example, so to wage our earthly warfare, that we may be found worthy of a heavenly crown; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Today we make “King Alfred’s Cakes”, commemorating the defeat of the Danes in 878AD and the founding of the Abbey of Altheney, dedicated to Our Blessed Savior, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Egelwine.

These cakes recall when King Alfred was on the run and took refuge with peasants, eating the same oat bread as his yeomen and servants. When it was his turn to watch the cakes, he burnt them, and was scolded by an anonymous peasant woman. Sparing the woman because of her ignorance of his kingship, he went on to win the war, and the people celebrated his victory with these cakes ever after!

We celebrate the English patrimony today and our long history of Christian Faith, which has transformed the culture of a little, insignificant island into a witness to the greatness of the Holy Trinity and the beauty of shared life through the Holy Sacraments!

King Alfred the Great
King Alfred being Scolded for Burning the Cakes Before Battle
King Alfred Cakes, Made with Oats and Apples
The Site of the Former Abbey of Our Savior at Altheney, Destroyed in the Reformation in 1535, Now Marked with a Memorial Since 1801

By Bp. Joseph (ACA&A)

May 29th marks the 567th anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople and the death of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, in 1453AD; and it also marks the 360th anniversary of the Restoration of the Monarchy in England after the execution of St. Charles I, through 19 years of Puritan tyranny during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, and restoration of Charles II to the throne on today’s date, in 1660AD. 207 years stood between the two events. One was an apocalypse, the other was a rebirth after a horrible tribulation. In both situations, crazed iconoclasts attacked the edifice of Apostolic Christianity, martyred noble kings in an effort to erase the godly mandate that these nations had received to protect, propagate and disseminate the wholistic Christian culture of the Conciliar Faith, and in both situations these heretics forced upon the people something perverse, fearful, angry and spiritually dark in the name of “God.” The Greeks suffered for over 400 years “in Egyptian captivity,” and the English only 19. The English were able to restore their empire and their church, while the Rus took the Byzantine mandate and established the “Third Rome.” While there can be no comparison to the depths of the Greek suffering, it is profound that this date, May 29th, ties together such an important lesson for all Christians to learn.

Byzantium in all of its glory…

By Bp. Joseph (ACA&A)

St. Vincent of Lerins from Uncut Mountain Supply

Always, Everywhere and By All –

Today we celebrate the memory of St. Vincent of Lerins, monastic and scholar, from the Roman colony of Belgia, now in modern day France. He died in the year of the Council of Chalcedon, 451AD, having written apologies against Arianism, Appolonarianism, Nestorianism and the emergence of Monophysitism. He was known for his theological contributions in the new field of canonical interpretation in doctrinal matters, and tried to balance the legalistic mentality of the Roman Church with the philosophical approach of the Greek and Syriac speaking Churches.

The “Vincentian Canon” is a famous quote from St. Vincent of Lerins work, thought to have been written against the extremes and ahistorical positions of Augustinianism, called the “Commonitoria” (A Memorandum). This work was written just three years after the Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council. The core of St. Vincent’s doctrinal understanding can be summed up in the phrase: “semper, ubique, et ab omnibus” (Always, Everywhere and by All), insisting that all doctrine must reflect what has been universally received, and not the personal interpretations, local variations or the regional differences that arise within the process of conversion to the Gospel and life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This canonical rule of thumb is easily understood as the “Principle of Synodality” seen in the Conciliar Mind of the Church, expressed through the Ecumenical Councils, and ratified by universal reception and affirmation of doctrine in all Local, Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

St. Vincent’s witness is a badly needed within contemporary Anglicanism, as it plunges into whole-sale abandonment of tradition, innovation of doctrine and outright heresy, and forgets the Apostolic Deposit in favor of fashionable philosophies and secular interpretations. The only way that we may save English-speaking Churches in the Anglican Patrimony is by rediscovering and applying St. Vincent’s Canon to our doctrinal and liturgical understanding, and submitting to the Orthodoxy of Doctrine and Catholicity of Order that is reflected in St. Vincent’s approach.

May Christ hear St. Vincent’s prayers for us in the Anglosphere before His Throne!

REMAINS OF ENGLAND’S EARLIEST SAINT DISCOVERED

Scientific Study of the Hidden Crypt of St. Eanswythe

CHRISTIAN TODAY
March 7, 2020

Experts have confirmed that human remains kept in a church in Kent are those of England’s oldest saint, St. Eanswythe.


Local archaeological and history experts, working in partnership with researchers from Queen’s University, Belfast, said the bones at St. Mary & St. Eanswythe Church are almost certainly those of the saint.

Uncovered Relics of the Young St. Eanswythe

Eanswythe was an Anglo-Saxon and member of the Kentish royal family, being the granddaughter of Ethelbert, the first English king to convert to Christianity following the arrival of Augustine.

She is the patron saint of Folkestone and is believed to have founded one of the earliest monastic communities in England in AD 660 , situated on the Bayle – the town’s historic centre.

Researchers believe she was in her late teens or early 20s when she died, although at present the cause of her death is still unknown.

The remains were hidden in the north wall of the Church of St. Mary & St. Eanswythe, sparing them the destruction of the Reformation, and were rediscovered in 1885.

The identification of the remains as St. Eanswythe are based on a tooth and bone sample that produced calibrated age ranges “that are in good agreement”, said Stephen Hoper, of Queens University’s Radiocarbon Dating Facility.

“The results would indicate that there is a high probability of a mid-seventh century date for the death of this individual,” he said.

The discovery makes St. Eanswythe the only verified member of the Kentish royal dynasty and the first of the British Royal Saints.

St. Eanswythe

Dr Andrew Richardson, of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, said it was a “stunning” discovery “of national importance.”

“It now looks highly probable that we have the only surviving remains of a member of the Kentish royal house, and of one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon saints,” he said.

St. Mary and St. Eanswythe Church, Kent, England
Mar Iskhaq Khnanishu IX and Monk Younan (1886)

By Bp. Joseph (ACA&A/MDEA)

When the Anglican Mission to the Church of the East was first undertaken by Fr. J.F. Coakley in 1887 and chronicled in his “Documents Relating to the History of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Mission to the Assyrian Christians”, the Monk Younan, who was resident in the Patriarchal household, was the last monk in the Church of the East Tradition. 

“Fr. Coakley was an unusual combination of New Testament scholar and mission historian; the language of Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, provides the link between the two. Formerly of Lancaster University, England, he became the senior lecturer in Near Eastern languages at Harvard. He produced the first study of this Anglo-Catholic, non-proselytizing mission, which worked for educational and theological renewal in the ancient Eastern Church effectively from 1880 to 1915 (eventually closing down in 1938). He was remarkable for his archival detective work, scholarly precision, and appreciative tone.” (From the library summary of the book, circa 1940) 

The Monk Younan left a favorable impression on the venerable Anglican scholar, and he was immortalized as a living encyclopedia of the East Syriac Tradition, known for his childlikeness and sweetness of character. Coakley attributes many patient explanations of services and liturgies to this humble soul. Many of the early translations of East Syriac liturgy, and most of the early doctrinal expositions that we have in English, were a product of Monk Younan’s fruitful dialogue with the Anglican Mission.

This picture was taken in 1886 at Mar Shallita Church, the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Assyrian Church of the East in the village of Qudchanis, Hakkâri, and Mar Iskhaq Khnanishu IX is pictured. Mar Iskhaq Khnanishu IX was consecrated as Metropolitan in 1884 and served until his death in 1918 during the Assyrian Genocide.  

While the Assyrian Patriarch and his Metropolitan left a larger-than-life imprint on Assyrian history, this is the only known picture of the simple monk Younan of the Mar Shimun family. He was the last monk in a long, unbroken lineage of Eastern Syriac Monasticism, stemming from the tradition of wandering Mesopotamian holy men who were renowned for their prayer and evangelization of remote villages and distant lands at the end of the 2nd century. Even though monasticism died out amongst the Assyrians as an order for almost a hundred years, under intense persecution of multiple genocides that threatened to completely eradicate the Church of the East in Turkey, Iraq and Iran, the tradition of celibacy and vegetarianism was still practiced in the homes of the hereditary bishops. Now, the full tradition has been revived amongst the Assyrians in California and Arizona, resulting in the establishment of two monastic houses that promise to return the unique ascetical practices of Syriac Christianity to its previous glory within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. 

May the Lord Jesus Christ hear the prayers of all His saints and martyrs, and especially, of Monk Younan, before His Throne!

By H.H. Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII
Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East (1920 – 1975)

The history of the Church of the East, which over many centuries comprised the major portion of Christianity, remained until recently almost unknown to the West, except for occasional accounts, such as that of Marco Polo, who traversed Asia in search of adventure and wealth. This was primarily due to the complete isolation which existed between the two branches of Christianity, Eastern and Western, both of which originated in the same source, namely, the Aramaic, a language of the Semitic group.

The Ancient Palace of Selucia-Ctesiphon on the Banks of the Tigris River

Inevitable historic and geographical reasons were partly to blame for this isolation. But the most in important factor in the total ignorance of Western Christianity as to the history and accomplishments of this Church of Asia, was the cruel and selfish policy adopted toward it by the Roman-Byzantine emperors and their successors, whose imperialist religion the Church of the East refused to follow, and who therefore branded it with the misnomer “Nestorian.‘’ This, together with the eclipse prevailing over Europe during the Dark and Middle Ages, completed the picture of separation.

The Ancient Pagoda of the Church of the East in Shanxi, China, near Xi’An

It is only during the last century or so, especially in this generation through the writings of various Protestant missionaries, travellers and secular historians, that the West has finally become aware of the existence of the Church of Asia. Arnold J. Toynbee, in his outstanding work, “The History of Civilization,” has shed further light on the amazing achievements of the Church of the East, not only because of its missionary enterprise and great contributions in the scientific field, but especially as the bearer of the torch of the Syriac civilization, and champion against the Hellenistic onslaught. That torch, which the oppressed and persecuted Church of the East was unable to bear any longer, with the rise of Mohammed was taken over by Islam and carried on to a victorious end with the final expulsion of Hellenistic influence from the Middle East. Thus, in this special field, where the Church of the East had failed, because of its lack of political support, Islam had succeeded. Nevertheless, it is one of the mysteries of the Divine Providence that the descendants of the heathen Assyrians, from whom the Greeks Largely borrowed their civilization and culture, would now as Christians stand in the gap against Hellenistic cultural encroachment.

The Traditional Interior of an Assyrian Church

Starting Point

The beginning of the Church of the East is coincident with the earthly ministry of our Lord. King Abgar, sovereign of the little state of Oshroene, with its capital known as Orhai or Edessa, in the northwest of Mesopotamia, believed in Christ and His mission. The Assyrian people, therefore, speaking the Aramaic language (the language spoken by Jesus and His apostles, and in which the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament were written), can rightly claim the honour of being immediately next to the small band of Galileans as followers of our Lord, in their conversion to the “Haymanutha Mshikhayta,” the faith of the Anointed One.

This common bond, and the exchange of ideas, traditions and customs between the ancient Assyrians and the Hebrews, enabled the Assyrians to accept and appreciate the Christian Faith in a manner that was not possible by non-Aramaic speaking peoples. Because of this, the unequalled zeal and missionary expansion this Church of Asia, which to this day has preserved in its purity the Apostolic Faith and traditions of the early Church, can be readily under stood.

An Assyrian Priest Giving a Blessing at the Holy Eucharist (Raza Qadisha)

The Church of the East, as this branch of Aramaic speaking Christianity came to be known, was officially founded by the Apostles, Mar Patros (St. Peter), Mar Toma (St. Thomas), Mar Addai (St. Thaddeus) and Mar Mari of the seventy disciples. St. Thaddeus was sent by St. Thomas to the City of Edessa immediately after the resurrection, thereby fulfilling the promise made to King Abgar by our Lord himself.

The City of Arbil (Erbella) in Assyria also shares the glory with Edessa as the starting point of Eastern Christianity. Among its early Patriarchs, three of them were related to Mart Maryam (The Lady Mary) the Holy Virgin, and Mar Yosip (St. Joseph), her righteous spouse. It was the Church within the Persian Empire and therefore remained unaffected by the many theological disputes, schisms and heresies that in later centuries arose within the imperial Christianity of the Roman Empire, and which, for the most part, were dictated by personal ambitions and animosities among the various prelates and unceasing struggle for power between the Latin and Greek Churches.

A Traditional Indian Church of the East Altar

However, the endless persecutions this ancient Church suffered, first from the heathens, and later under various Islamic rulers, reduced it greatly in numbers and finally scattered its children into many lands. It must, however, be said in fairness to both the Persians and Islamic rule that at various periods the Church enjoyed a great measure of tolerance, both under the rule of the Sapors and Arab Khalifs; perhaps more so than any of those other religions could have enjoyed in a reversed role under the Byzantine Emperors or the Western Christian rule of the Middle Ages. The following charter, given to the Church of the East in Arabia by Mohammed himself, is an example of the fact. The heads of the Christians of Najran, in Arabia, led by their ruler, Saeed, along with their Bishop, Eshoyab (“Given by Jesus”), paid an official visit to Mohammed (whom they refer to as “the prophet of Tayaye, a leading Arab tribe) and on the occasion Mohammed gave the Church in Arabia the following charter of Protection:

“He commanded the Tayaye (Arab) that they must protect the Mshikhaye (Christians) from all harm, and must not oblige them to go out with them to fight, nor must they try to change their customs and their laws. He moreover, exhorted his followers to help the Christians repair their churches whenever such a need may arise; and if any of his followers has a Christian wife, he should not oblige her to leave her faith and that he should not prevent her from fasting and prayer and all other obligations of her faith, these and many other similar rules or protection…” Assemani Z. 13.05 XCIV

Similar charters of protection were given from time to time by the Khalifs to the Church of the East.

The persecutions which did occur were in fact for the most part caused by the political ambitions of Constantine and his successors, and the later by the various Crusaders, who in the name of the Cross of Christ, carved out their ambitious territorial expansions and plundered the Middle East. At the same time a covetous eye was constantly directed at the great Christian Church of the East, and no means was spared by these Roman Emperors and their successors to agitate the heathen and the Islamic rulers against its followers.

Bishops of the Church of the East

The Faith of the Church

The purity of the Apostolic Faith of this most ancient Church can be seen throughout the prayers and praises of its worship, which express the theological point of view of the Church. Little is known of the fact that all the fathers of the Latin Church of the first and second centuries, such as Tatian Yostino (Justin Martyr), Organon (Origen). Melito, lrenaeus, and others who followed St. Paul the apostle to Rome, were all Assyrians or Syrians, Aramaic speaking people, missionaries of the Catholic Church of the East.

The Faith of the Church of the East in relation to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is that of the Council of Nicea, at which it was represented. As regards the Christological doctrine, it holds firmly to the teachings of the Bible. It professes in Christ, two natures and two Qnumai, namely, human and divine ( “Qnumai” is an Aramaic word which is very difficult to define in other languages. The nearest equivalent is the English “substance”), and one person. It believes firmly in the Godhead and the humanity of Christ. The Church of the East repudiates the non-­scriptural title “Mother of God,” given to the Virgin Mary, in that the term “God” implies God the Spirit, and spirit cannot be subject to birth or suffering. It calls the Virgin Mary “Mother of Jesus,’’ ‘’Mother of Christ,” ‘’Mother of our Lord.’’ “Mother of our Redeemer;’’ namely, mother of His humanity, but not of His Godhead. In the words of Mar Babai the Great, in the Tishbukhta ‘’Brikh Khannana,‘’ “In His Godhead, begotten of the Father without beginning before all time; In His manhood born of Mary, in the fullness of time, in a united body and person.”

It holds strictly to the teaching of the Bible, and will recognize no doctrine that is contrary to these Scriptures. In the words of St. Paul: ‘’But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be “Khrim” (Anathema).”

A Modern Assyrian Church Interior

Looking to the Future

Individual Assyrians started coming to the United States of America some time during the middle of the Eighteenth century, but it was only after the First World War that they began coming in as immigrants. The tragedies and untold sufferings that forced them out of their homes of origin in the Middle East, in Kurdistan and Iran, have already passed into history, and is therefore neither necessary or appropriate to deal with these events and the causes lying behind them here.

Today, many thousand Assyrians live as happy and contented citizens of the United States of America. A considerable number of these Assyrians on their arrival in this country identified themselves with their respective co-­religionists, and they are already on the way to being absorbed into these larger bodies. These Assyrians were the fruits of missions, which, during the past four centuries, proselytized in India and the Middle East. The Roman Catholic, the Russian Orthodox and the Presbyterians were the most prominent of these missions, the latter two working chiefly among the Assyrians of Iran.

Meeting of Bishops and Clergy of the Assyrian Church in Kerala, India

The Church of the East on the other hand had no counter part in this country. Assyrians therefore, who were its members, had to depend completely upon such means as they themselves could provide, in order to maintain their Church in a country, and amid circumstances, totally alien to them. The insufficient number of priests and deacons available maintained the services of the Church of the East to the best of their ability. Services were conducted in private homes, basements, or churches hired for special occasions. In some instances the Protestant Episcopal Church occasionally allowed them the use of its edifices, a gracious act which has been much appreciated. The situation in the United States was rendered more difficult because the Mother Church in the Middle East had been uprooted from its centuries old home and made destitute as a result of World War I, so that it was not possible to meet even the meagre needs of this new struggling branch of the Holy Church.

Except for a short visit of one of the Bishops of the Church, and a second by the Metropolitan of India, who was delegated by the Patriarch to visit the Church of the East in the United States, the Church existed without any episcopal supervision, and the seriousness of this fact, for a Church whose foundation is based upon Apostolic succession and close episcopal supervision, cannot be overestimated.

The Exterior of an Assyrian Church in Irbil, Iraq

This was the situation on the Patriarch’s arrival in this country in the year 1940. Since then, several priests and deacons have been ordained, new churches built, properties purchased for the use of the various parishes, and a competent administration established. Within the last few years a totally non-Assyrian, English speaking parish has been founded in Seattle, Washington, the first such in the history of the Church of the East. Even more recently a small number of these new members of the Church have founded a monastic order, and are in the process of establishing a monastery for the Church of the East in this country.

The Official Flag of the Church of the East, showing the Episcopal Crosier, the Petrine Keys, the Cross, the “Tetragrammaton,” the Bible, the Two Rivers of Mesopotamia and the Assyrian Highlands

By Bp. Joseph

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In the far eastern church of Persia and India, the Assyrian Church of the East, which developed from Jewish Christianity in Edessa and Nisibis, formed the Patriarchate of Babylon and created a different understanding of Eucharistic theology than that which was developed in the West. In the East, the iconic and mysteriological function of covenantal “anamnesis”, baptismal and eucharistic life that was lived within the community of faith, was understood as something that did not require Aristotelian philosophy of nature and accidents.  

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“Lofty, in truth, and exalted is this mystery that the priest performs in the midst of the sanctuary mystically. Mystically the Church depicts the glorious Mysteries; and as by an image she shews to all men those things that have come to pass. Those things which came to pass is the death of the Son she commemorates by the Mysteries; His resurrection also from the dead she reveals before all. A mystery mystically shews that which has come to pass and that which is to come about: but the Church shews mystically in her Mysteries only that which has come to pass.” – Mar Narsai the Great, (d. 502) Homily XVII, An Exposition on the Mysteries (Quoted within “Mysteries of the Kingdom”, Mar Awa Royel, p. 290)

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The Syriac understanding of “Raza”, which is what the Church of the East calls the Sacraments, is not the same thing as “Mysterion” in Greek. The Greek has very clear, subtle definitions. The Syriac was intentionally unclear. It obscures, rather than makes subtly and philosophical explicit. This is also shown in the multiple veils used in the sacraments. The gifts are veiled. Incense is used as a veil, or a covering, as it was in the Old Testament. The “Holy of Holies” is veiled for sacramental action, and the whole interaction with the sacramental aspect of the church is “otherized” – It is set outside of comprehension and made apart to represent a God who cannot be comprehended or defined. It is very much in line with the ancient Hebrew way of interacting with the sacred. But, this culture is hard to communicate, because it is a lived experience, emotionally comprehended, so the Church of the East ends up using negatory language to counterpoint Roman theological language.

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Such a theology is both interesting and relevant to discussions today, as traditional philosophical language has begun to fall apart under Postmodern deconstruction, and insists on a marriage of Roman Cataphatic theology and Orthodox Apophatic Theology, united in the Gospel Narrative itself. The language used by the Fathers often employs analogies. These analogies harden over time and people take them literally, rather than remembering their analogous function. Different communities use different analogies in their different languages, and theology develops divergently across time and space. This process challenges our understanding of a universal, unchanging truth, and leads to great debates and divisions between various local, catholic churches. These debates are difficult to reconcile, and must be counteracted by an active process of discerning and returning to the original paradigms of Revealed Truth, learning from their history of use and change, and re-appropriating these ancient ideas into new contexts, always careful to be faithful to their historical development in the Church and not adding our own interpretive gloss. Such a theology becomes a rich tapestry of historic, patristic consensus, rather than a battlefield of unresolved conflicts.

In the conciliar process of the Church, the Church of the East provides a baseline, allowing us to see how the various cultures have developed and defined the understanding of God’s sacraments upon their original cultural and linguistic context. Theology and analogies are important, but they only aid the narrative, not assume it or overwhelm it. Sacraments always serve the Gospel, explicating the Story of Redemption in every context and every age, making present the finished work of Jesus Christ through the operation of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that this is why the study of the Syriac Christian Tradition is so important to Western Christians today, especially those from an Anglican background. We have much to learn from the East, and we must be in continuous process of  reconciling with our brothers and sisters, asking for the Holy Spirit to reveal His Truth, and learning from one another in mutual submission and love. By doing this, we submit to the conciliar mind of the whole Church, both East and West, and bring balance to our cultural biases, which often cloud our understanding of the original context of the Gospel.  

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Bp. Joseph (MDEA)

Western secular education is meant to “uncivilize” us in a way that is both aggressive and also insidiously affective. We understand human psychology and motivations like never before, and this information has been turned around upon us to be used as propaganda and social control – not to make us more cultured, more civil, more able to think and make nuanced decisions, but in order to capitalize upon our basest urges and make us unable to resist the most ridiculous advertisements and social media trends. Our culture and educational systems have been grossly abused to create consuming, selfish automatons, who are broken into the smallest relational units possible by no-fault divorce, porn, gaming and radical feminism. The multigenerational family fell 80-100 years ago, and the nuclear family fell within the last 40. Now the individual is under mental attack from smartphones, fast food, the gig economy, heavy debt, a lack of fulfilling marital and parental relationships and the fear of having children. We have ended up an isolated, depressed, fearful, reactionary, angry mess, and now this confusion and disorientation is being channeled towards politics – Socialism on the Left and radical racist and fascist ideologies on the Right. We have nowhere to go but down, folks, if this uncivil way of life is not radically challenged, and I am not seeing nearly enough of our leadership talking about it! Heaven help us! These are the last thralls of a suicidal, Western un-civilization!

“What is the solution”, you might ask?

My honest opinion: the liturgical, communal, spiritual tradition of the Christian Church…

By Bp. Joseph (MDEA)

Syriac Orthodox are called “Jacobites” because they are the followers of St. Jacob Baradaeus, the “undercover bishop” who went around and ordained over 30,000 clergy and bishops by himself, to preserve the Church in Persian-held lands and resist the Chalcedonian Melkites in Syria, who were trying to Romanize the Syriac Church. Icons often shows St. Jacob and Theodora, Queen to the Emperor Justinian the Great (builder of the Hagia Sophia and canonizer  of the Christian Roman Civil Law, the basis of Common Law), and she was the protection of the Syriac Orthodox in the Byzantine Court. The entire Syriac Orthodox Church derives its Apostolic orders and continued existence to Jacob “Rag-Wearer” Baradaeus, who organized it just in time to resist the aggressive Islamization that occurred throughout Syria and the Persian Empire. The Syriac Hagiographies attribute many miracles to St. Jacob, including the power to go unseen by Byzantine troops and hide in plain sight, slipping away whenever someone chased after him. There were also many healing attributed to his prayers, which helped Christians struggling with their faith to continue to believe, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

If it were not for St. Jacob’s aggressive missionary action, the Church would have died in many places, including the Holy Land and Syria, after the Melkites were pushed out by Islamic forces and many Byzantine bishops fled to live in Constantinople as titular bishops. His system was able to weather the storm by disassociating itself from the Byzantine State.  St. Jacob is a hero and relevant to the modern day because he shows how to start underground churches with diligence and secrecy and demonstrates how to resist the insidiousness of the Antichrist in the Islamic Religion. Both things that we need to learn in the contemporary context shines forth from the life and testament of holy St. Jacob.