20 June 2010

Our Lady of Sheshan, China

Our Lady of China (Simplified Chinese: 中华圣母, Traditional Chinese: 中華聖母, pinyin: Zhōnghuá Shèngmǔ) is the name given to an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Donglu, China, first appearing in 1900.

An officially-sanctioned image of Our Lady of China was blessed, granted and promulgated by Pope Pius XI in 1928, in response to the requests made by the 1924 Shanghai Synod of Bishops in China, the first national conference of bishops in the country. Following the event, Archbishop Celso Costantini(剛恆毅), Apostolic Delegate in China, along with all the bishops of China, declared the Chinese people dedicated to Our Lady of China, using the official image. In 1941, Pope Pius XII designated the feast day as an official feast of the Catholic liturgical calendar. In 1973, following the Second Vatican Council, the Chinese Bishops conference, upon approval from the Holy See, placed the feast day on the vigil (day preceding) of Mothers Day (the second Sunday of May). Christian devotion to Our Lady of China has been popular in Donglu.

Several churches, chapels, and pastoral centers around the world, predominantly those focused on ministry to Chinese-speaking Catholics, have adopted the name, including a mission in Washington, DC. There is a mosaic of Our Lady of China in the National Shrine of the United States in Washington, DC, established and dedicated in 2002 under the Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield. There has been some controversy because the image used in the Chapel is not the officially approved image of Our Lady of China, but instead uses the image of Our Lady of China and Baby Jesus painted by John Lu Hung Nien. The late Cardinal Thomas Tien Keng-Hsin, the first Chinese Cardinal, used this image for the prayer card for the persecuted in China, which was widely promoted in the U.S.A. and Canada. Critics have accused John Lu Hung Nien's image of the Virgin Mary, of resembling the Buddhist bodhisattva Guan Yin.

The Our Lady of Sheshan is another, similar apparition which has attained like acclamation and fame among Chinese Christians.

Now in the Philippines, in the Chapel of Our Lady of China now in Binondo Church in the district of Binondo, Manila near in Manila Chinatown with the other devolties from the local Filipinos and the Chinese Filipinos to praying to the church of Our Lady of China here in the Philippines.

The She Shan Basilica (officially: Basilica of Our Lady of SheShan, simplified Chinese: 佘山进教之佑圣母大殿; pinyin: Shéshān jìnjiào zhī yòu shèngmǔ dàdiàn) is a Catholic church in Shanghai, China. The name comes from its location on the western peak of She Shan Hill, located in Songjiang District, to the west of Shanghai's metropolitan area and was at one time the destination of pilgrims from across Asia.

The official name of the church is the Church of the Holy Mother in China. The first church on She Shan hill was built in 1863. During the Taiping Rebellion, Jesuit missionaries bought a plot of land on the southern slopes of the hill. A derelict Buddhist monastery had stood on the site. The remaining buildings were demolished, and a small building was constructed as living quarters for missionaries, and a small chapel. At the peak of the hill (where the Maitreya hall had stood), a small pavilion was built in which was placed a statue of the Madonna.

In June 1870, unrest in Tianjin led to the burning of churches there. The Shanghai Jesuits prayed at the statue of the Madonna and pledged to build a church to her honour in return for her protection. Subsequently, construction of the church began. Wood was shipped in from Shanghai, and stone bought from Fujian. All material had to be ported to the peak by hand. The church was completed two years later. This first church was in the form of a cross, and incorporated features of both Chinese and Western architectural features. A veranda was placed outside the door, with ten columns. Eight stone lions were placed before the church. In 1894, several ancillary buildings were added. These included a chapel half-way down the hill, a shrine to the Sacred Heart, the Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph. Fourteen Stations of the Cross were constructed along the path to the church.

In 1925, the existing church was found to be inadequate, and it lagged far behind other churches in Shanghai in terms of size and ornamentation. The church was demolished and rebuilt. Because the Portuguese priest and architect (叶肇昌) was very stringent about the quality of construction, the whole project took ten years to finish, and the church was completed in 1935.
In 1942, Pope Pius XII ordained the She Shan Cathedral a minor Basilica. In 1946, the Holy See crowned the statue of Our Lady of Zose (Zose being the Shanghainese pronunciation of She Shan) at the apex of the tower.

After the Communist takeover in 1949, She Shan Cathedral was heavily damaged during the Cultural Revolution. The stained glass windows of the church, carvings along the Via Dolorosa, the statue atop the bell tower, and various other works of iconography were destroyed.

In 1874, Pope Pius IX declared that pilgrims who went to She Shan in May (traditionally a Marian month) would receive a Plenary Indulgence. As a result, pilgrims from all over China began to congregate at She Shan in May, a practice that continues to this day.

Every May, the church becomes the destination for pilgrims who travel far and wide to make their annual pilgrimage at She Shan, praying the Way of the Cross, the Rosary and attending Mass at this holy site. Traditionally, many of the Catholics in the area were fishermen, who would make the pilgrimage by boat. This tradition continues among local Catholics, with the result that the creeks around She Shan are often crowded with boats in May.

Currently, She Shan is the only active pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics in China.

After the Cultural Revolution ended, the damage was gradually repaired. The statue was initially replaced with a simple iron cross, and a replacement statue was installed in 2000.

On May 24, 2008 Pope Benedict XVI announced that he had composed a special prayer for Our Lady of Sheshan.

The thirst for God in China is immense and the population is now nauseated by materialism. Mutual love can give birth to abundant fruit for mission.

14 June 2010

The Canon of Scripture

The word "canon" is derived from the Greek noun κανών "kanon" meaning "reed" or "cane," or also "rule" or "measure," which itself is derived from the Hebrew word קנה "kaneh" and is often used as a standard of measurement. Thus, a canonical text is a single authoritative edition for a given work. The establishing of a canonical text may involve an editorial selection from biblical manuscript traditions with varying interdependence. Early manuscript versions of the Hebrew Bible are represented in different languages such as the Greek Septuagint, the Aramaic Targums and Syriac Peshitta.

Though the Early Church used the Old Testament according to the canon of the Septuagint (LXX), the apostles did not otherwise leave a defined set of new scriptures; instead the New Testament developed over time.

The writings attributed to the apostles circulated amongst the earliest Christian communities. The Pauline epistles were circulating in collected forms by the end of the first century AD. Justin Martyr, in the early second century, mentions the "memoirs of the apostles," which Christians called "gospels" and which were regarded as on par with the Old Testament.

The first major figure to codify the Biblical canon was Origen of Alexandria. He was a scholar well educated in the realm of both theology and pagan philosophy. Origen decided to make his canon include all of the books in the current Catholic canon except for four books: James, 2nd Peter, and 2nd and 3rd epistles of John. He also included the Shepherd of Hermas which was later rejected. The religious scholar Bruce Metzger described Origen's efforts, saying “The process of canonization represented by Origen proceeded by way of selection, moving from many candidates for inclusion to fewer.” This was the first major attempt at the compilation of certain books and letters as authoritative and inspired teaching for the Catholic Church at the time.

Needless to say there are various theologians of the 2nd and 3rd centuries that wrote a great deal of works and used the letters of the apostles as foundation and justification for their own personal beliefs. However, there was still the problem of the Roman Empire, and while the persecutions of the Roman Empire were many and extreme, the persecution still occurred and possibly interfered with the initial canonization of the New Testament. This period in church history writings is known as the "Edificatory Period" and was followed by the "Apologetic" "Polemical" and "Scientific" Periods. Some of the Christian writers of this edificatory Period are: Irenaus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Justin Martyr, Clement of Rome. This stagnation of official writings lead to a sudden explosion of discussions after Constantine I legalized Christianity in the early 4th century.

A four gospel canon (the Tetramorph) was asserted by Irenaeus, c. 160. By the early 200's, Origen of Alexandria may have been using the same 27 books found in modern New Testament editions, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, and Revelation (Antilegomena). Likewise by 200 the Muratorian fragment shows that there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar to what is now the New Testament, which included four gospels and argued against objections to them. Thus, while there was a good measure of debate in the Early Church over the New Testament canon, the major writings were accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the third century.

In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books as what would become the New Testament canon, and he used the phrase "being canonized" (kanonizomena) in regards to them. Athanasius also included the Book of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah in his Bible. He also eliminated the book of Esther from his Bible.

The African Synod of Hippo, in 393, approved the New Testament, as it stands today, together with the Septuagint books, a decision that was repeated by Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. These councils were under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed. Pope Damasus I's Council of Rome in 382, if the Decretum Gelasianum is correctly associated with it, issued a biblical canon identical to that mentioned above, or if not the list is at least a sixth century compilation. Likewise, Damasus' commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible, c. 383, was instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West. In 405, Pope Innocent I sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse. When these bishops and councils spoke on the matter, however, they were not defining something new, but instead "were ratifying what had already become the mind of the Church." Thus, from the fourth century, there existed unanimity in the West concerning the New Testament canon (as it is today), and by the fifth century the East, with a few exceptions, had come to accept the Book of Revelation and thus had come into harmony on the matter of the canon.

Martin Luther made an attempt to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon (echoing the consensus of several Catholics, labeled Christian Humanists — such as Cardinal Ximenez, Cardinal Cajetan, and Erasmus — and partially because they were perceived to go against certain newly invented Protestant doctrines such as sola scriptura and sola fide), but this was not generally accepted among his followers. However, these books are ordered last in the German-language Luther Bible to this day.

Nonetheless, full dogmatic articulations of the canons were not made until the Council of Trent of 1546 for Roman Catholicism, the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 for the Church of England, the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 for British Calvinism, and the Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 for the Greek Orthodox.

07 June 2010

Sin, Salvation, Incarnation, Eschatology

At some point in the beginnings of human existence man was faced with a choice, to learn the difference between good and evil through observation or through participation. The biblical story of Adam and Eve represents this choice by mankind to participate in evil. This event is commonly referred to as “the fall of man” and it represents a fundamental change in human nature. Original Sin is this adoption of evil into human nature.  As a result of this sin, mankind was doomed to be separated from God. This was mankind’s ultimate dilemma. The solution to this problem was for God to effect another change in human nature.

Christ Jesus was both God and Man absolutely. He was born, lived, died, and rose again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through God’s participation in humanity, human nature is changed thus saving us from the fate of hell. The effective change included all those who had died from the beginning of time – saving everyone including Adam and Eve. This process, is what is meant by “Salvation”. The ultimate goal is theosis – an even closer union with God and closer likeness to God than existed in the Garden of Eden.

When a person dies the soul is temporarily separated from the body. Though it may linger for a short period on Earth, it is ultimately escorted either to paradise (Abraham's bosom) or the darkness of Hades, following the Temporary Judgment. The soul’s experience of either of these states is only a “foretaste”—being experienced only by the soul—until the Final Judgment, when the soul and body will be reunited. The state of the soul in Hades can be affected by the love and prayers of the righteous up until the Last Judgment. For this reason the Church offers a special prayer for the dead on the third day, ninth day, fortieth day, and the one-year anniversary after the death of an Orthodox Christian. There are also several days throughout the year that are set aside for general commemoration of the departed, sometimes including nonbelievers. These days usually fall on a Saturday, since it was on a Saturday that Christ lay in the Tomb.

While the text of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) is a part of Scripture, it is also regarded to be a mystery. Speculation on the contents of Revelation are minimal and it is never read as part of the regular order of services. Those theologians who have delved into its pages tend to be amillennialist in their eschatology, believing that the "thousand years" spoken of in biblical prophecy refers to the present time: from the Crucifixion of Christ until the Second Coming. Whilst it is not usually taught in church it is often used as a reminder of God’s promise to those who love Him, and of the benefits of avoiding sinful passions. Iconographic depictions of the Final Judgment are often portrayed on the back (western) wall of the church building to remind the departing faithful to be vigilant in their struggle against sin. Likewise it is often painted on the walls of the Trapeza (refectory) in a monastery where monks may be inspired to sobriety and detachment from worldly things while they eat.

After the Final Judgment:

  • All souls will be reunited with their resurrected bodies
  • All souls will fully experience their spiritual state
  • Having been perfected, the human race will forever progress towards a deeper and fuller love of God, which equates with eternal happiness
  • Hell, though often described in metaphor as punishment inflicted by God, is in reality the soul's rejection of God's infinite love which is offered freely and abundantly to everyone.

06 June 2010

Liturgical Vestment Colors of the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox clergy wear two kinds of robes, non-liturgical and liturgical. The non-liturgical robes are the ordinary daily clothing of the clergy, worn underneath ‘liturgical robes’. Liturgical robes, or ‘vestments’, are worn during church services.

The non-liturgical robes are called cassocks (Greek rason, Slavonic podriasnik) and outer cassocks (Greek exo-rason, Slavonic riassa). Cassocks are floor-length garments that have long sleeves fitted like shirtsleeves. Outer cassocks are also floor-length garments, but they’re more loosely fitting, with very large sleeves.

In the Russian tradition, because monastic clergy wear dark colored cassocks (usually black, dark blue, or dark brown) and married clergy wear whatever color cassocks they have (often lighter colors), they’re referred to as black clergy and white clergy. In Russia, before the Revolution of 1917, this color scheme was true of both under and outer cassocks. Also, the color of sleeve lining of the riassa [outer cassock] signified the rank of the priest. In modern Russia, the clergy use dark colors for riassas, using other colors only for under cassocks. They no longer use colored sleeve linings to denote rank. However, since Russian-tradition Churches outside Russia were not affected by the changes in the Soviet Union after 1917, many Russian-tradition clergy outside Russia, especially in America, continue the pre-1917 styles of dress to the present day.

The practice of wearing colored cassocks comes from the times called Turkocracia, the Turkish rule, or ‘Turkish yoke’. Moslem clergy reserved the right to wear white or black thinking to humiliate the Christian clergy by forcing them to wear bright colored clothing. Once the Greek Church was free of Turkish rule, they dropped the practice of wearing colored cassocks. But the Russian clergy had copied the practice of the Greek clergy and it had become part of the Russian style.

By the way, Greek-tradition clergy wear colored under-cassocks in the tropical and equatorial climes. Cream, gray, and tan are popular. Also, blue under-cassocks are not uncommon (no matter what climate zone).

It is proper to wear a belt on the under-cassock. In the Greek tradition, the belt’s no more than a ribbon or cord tied around the waist. But in the Serbian and Romanian Churches, these belts signify the rank of the priest. In the Russian Church, the belt is often quite elaborate. The late Archbishop John (Garklavs) of Chicago seemed to always wear belts embroidered with roses.

Wearing the under- and outer-cassocks is common to bishops, priests, deacons, monks and nuns. Permission to wear a cassock is often given to seminarians, monastic novices, and sub-deacons and readers in parishes.

As for vestments, when the Typikon says anything about them at all, it only specifies ‘light’ or ‘dark’ vestments, so local tradition is the only ‘standard’. In the Orthodox Church, six liturgical colors are used: white, green, purple, red, blue, and gold. Later, black vestments also came into use. In some places, scarlet orange or rust color is used.

You could assign meanings to the different colors: white for the pure light of God’s energy; green, the color of life, for the Holy Spirit and the wood of the cross; purple for the suffering of Christ; deep red for the blood on the Cross, blood of the martyrs; blue for the Mother of God; and gold for the richness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and bright red for the fiery flame of the Spiritual Host. Black is traditionally the color of death and mourning in the West, but in the far East white is the color of death and mourning. In Russia, red is the color of beauty, brightness and joy. None of this is written down in the rules, and different colors obviously have different meanings for different peoples.

It is therefore easier to describe various customs than it is to say what are ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ colors to use. Below, we give the most common uses for colors in the Orthodox Church, especially in the Russian (Moscow) and Carpatho-Russian, Ukrainian, or ‘Little Russian’ tradition.

Here is what the Russian Church’s Nastol’naya Kniga Sviashchenno-sluzhitelia says about colors:

The most important Feasts of the Orthodox Church and the sacred events for which specific colors of vestments have been established, can be united into six basic groups.

  • The group of feasts and days commemorating Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prophets, the Apostles and the Holy Hierarchs. Vestment color: Gold (yellow) of all shades.
  • The group of feasts and days commemorating the Most Holy Mother of God, the Bodiless Powers and Virgins. Vestment color: Light blue and white.
  • The group of feasts and days commemorating the Cross of Our Lord. Vestment color: Purple or dark red.
  • The group of feasts and days commemorating martyrs. Vestment color: Red. [On Great and Holy Thursday, dark red vestments are worn, even though the church is still covered with black and the Holy (Altar) Table is covered with a white cloth.]
  • The group of feasts and days commemorating monastic saints, ascetics and fools for Christ. Vestment color: Green. The Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), Holy Trinity Day (Pentecost) and Holy Spirit Day (Monday after Pentecost) are, as a rule, celebrated in green vestments of all shades.
  • During the Lenten periods, the vestment colors are: Dark blue, purple, dark green, dark red and black. This last color is used essentially for the days of Great Lent. During the first week of that Lent and on the weekdays of the following weeks, the vestment color is black. On Sundays and Feast days of this period, the vestments are of a dark color with gold or colored ornaments. Funerals, as a rule, are done in white vestments.

In earlier times, there were no black vestments in the Orthodox Church, although the everyday clothing of the clergy, especially the monastics, was black. In ancient times, both in the Greek and in the Russian Churches, the clergy wore, according to the Typikon, "Crimson Vestments": dark (blood) red vestments. In Russia, it was first proposed to the clergy of Saint Petersburg to wear black vestments, if possible, to participate in the Funeral of Emperor Peter II [1821]. From that time on, black vestments became customary for funerals and the weekday services of Great Lent.

White is worn for the feasts and post-feasts of Epiphany, Transfiguration, and Pascha. In antiquity, Christmas and Epiphany were celebrated as one feast, Theophany of the Lord, so, in some places, white is worn on Christmas day, but gold is worn from the second day of Christmas until Epiphany. In Muscovite custom, the Church and the vestments of the priest are changed to white at the prokeimenon of the Holy Saturday Liturgy. And then white is worn until the end of Paschal Matins, and bright red is worn at the Paschal Liturgy and throughout the Paschal season. In some places in Russia, white is worn from Ascension to Pentecost, but in other places, gold is worn for those days. In Carpatho-Russian style, in the Paschal season, white, exclusively, is worn. White, the color of the Resurrection is worn at funerals and memorial services. Also, interestingly, in Russia, at liturgy on Holy Thursday, a white altar cover is used to represent the linen tablecloth of the Last Supper [the priest wears dark red, and the church remains in black until after the liturgy, when the priest’s vestments return to black].

Green is worn for Pentecost and its post-feast, feasts of prophets, and angels. In some places, green is worn for the Elevation of the Cross in September. In Carpatho-Russian practice, green is worn from Pentecost until the Saints Peter and Paul fast. Green is often worn for Palm Sunday.

Gold is worn from Christmas to Epiphany, and in some places, during the Nativity fast. Gold is worn when no other color is specified. In one tradition, gold is worn on all Sundays (except when white is worn), including even the Sundays in all the fasting periods. In Carpatho-Russian style, gold is worn from the eve of Ascension to the eve of Pentecost.

Red, especially dark red or ‘blood red’, is worn for the Saints Peter and Paul fast, the Nativity fast, Elevation of the Cross (Sept 15), and for all feasts of martyrs. Bright red would be worn for Saints Peter and Paul feast, and for the Angels. In Moscow style, on Mount Athos, and at Jerusalem, bright red is worn on Pascha [after Matins] and on the Nativity.

Blue is worn for all feasts of the Virgin, Presentation of the Lord, Annunciation, and sometimes on the fifth Friday of Lent (Akathist). In Carpatho-Russian parishes, blue is worn for the Dormition fast and feast, and then is worn until the Elevation of the Cross, sometimes even until the Nativity fast.

Purple is worn on weekends of Lent (black is worn weekdays). In some places, purple is worn on weekdays of Lent (gold on weekends).

Black is worn for weekdays in Lent, especially the first week of Lent and in Holy Week. In Carpatho-Russian, formerly Uniate parishes, black is worn on all weekdays for funerals and memorial services and liturgies, as is done in the Roman Catholic Church, though this is not universally true any more.

Orange or rust is worn in some places for the Saints Peter and Paul fast, and in other places for Saints Peter and Paul feast through the Transfiguration.

Please note that ‘feast’ refers to the period from the vigil of the feast until it’s apodosis, or ‘putting away,’ usually called the ‘post-feast’. The lengths of these post-feasts vary and are given in the Liturgical Calendar and Rubrics. Generally speaking, there is a post-feast of about a week for each of the twelve major feasts.

As you can see, there is great variety in ways of doing things. In the Western Church, six colors are used: white, red, rose, green, purple and black. Blue and gold are not used. Black is worn on Good Friday, and at requiem masses.

In many parishes the covering on the altar and other tables, other cloths and hangings, the curtain behind the Royal Doors, and even the glass containers for the vigil candles are changed to the liturgical color of the season.

In parishes of the Greek tradition, it is customary for the vigil glasses and curtain behind the Royal Doors to remain red in color at all times. Because of the association of the Gospel story of the curtain in the temple being ‘torn in two’ at the time of the earthquake when our Lord was crucified, and the story of the eggs carried by Pontius Pilate’s wife all turning red (and our use of red eggs at Pascha) the custom is for the curtain behind the Royal Doors to remain red. Remember that this rich deep reddish purple color is also the ancient color of royalty, and for that reason, it is used behind the Royal Doors and as a drapery on the Golgotha and in other places associated with our Lord and His Mother.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...