Our Belonging to the Eastern Churches in Europe, Rusti Krstur

Our ChapelOur Chapel

In April this year, several of our communities belonging to the Eastern Churches in Europe met together in Rusti Krstur in Serbia to support each other and to deepen their belonging in their particular Rite.

The sisters came from Kostotmoty in Poland, Giannitsa in Greece, Ruski Krstur and Belgrade in Serbia and Aljmas in Croatia.

Here are a few thoughts we want to share with you:

Little sister Mariam Nour from the Oriental Church in Syria had written:

« The love of Little sister Magdeleine for the Eastern Churches grew, especially when she discovered all the wealth of their heritage and traditions and their suffering, finding themselves ignored and often misunderstood within the Universal Church ».

Her text on « Deep Rootedness and Renewal» speaks strongly to us, challenges us and helps us to look for the similarities and slight differences proper to our Churches and the place of our Communities.

Our chapel in BelgradeOur chapel in Belgrade

Recently, in a modern Catholic Dictionary, I found an article which provides clear insights about the Eastern Catholic Churches:

«The Catholic Church today is composed of twenty-two Churches who have an autonomous government while being united to the Holy Father with whom they are in full communion. It is a sign of the universality of the Church. Twenty-one Churches have specific rites, of five Eastern traditions. And only one is of Latin Rite, the Roman Church ».

Our communities of Eastern Rite in Europe follow the Byzantine tradition of Constantinople and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostome. Our ecclesial communities are very small in relation to the Orthodox Churches in both Greece and Serbia.

Father Mihajlo, the pastor of Ruski Krstur, shared with us how the Catholic Eastern Churches can be a "place of unity". It is the desire for UNITY which urged those Churches to seek full communion with the Bishop of Rome. Many martyrs and much suffering witness to this. Today, however the search for unity follows another path.

« Jesus prayed that all may be one, it was his last testament before his death. Christ gave all to build that unity. The Eucharist was given for that purpose. Unity between us is still more meaningful than the Eucharist itself. Jesus gave His body so we might be one. A Church that does not desire unity is not a Church. »

Here is what a Serbian Orthodox priest said to us several years ago:

« You, Eastern Catholics, you have reached the goal. Now, it is up to us, Orthodox, to choose the same journey, even if through different paths. » A stunning statement!

At the beginning of the Liturgy, the deacon says to the Bishop or the Patriarch: «It is the time to serve God ». Father Vladimir, an Orthodox Liturgist of Belgrade had explained to us once that the accurate translation is: « This is the time when God acts ». It is up to us to leave to God the space where He can act in us, between us, in the Church, in the world.

Here are a few more important points from our sharings:

- Each one felt the beauty and richness of the Liturgy, even though none of us were born into the Eastern Rites. We had all made a great effort to learn the liturgy and also how to adapt the prayer of the Office, written for monks and in an ancient language.

- We liked very much how the little sisters of Poland had composed a beautiful, prayerful office, faithful to the Rite, and with a note of simplicity.

- We expressed the unity between the way we relate and the gestures of veneration of the icons. The same loving tenderness is expressed towards both friends and towards the holy images.

- There is a bond between the Church and the house: we take home the sprig of basil or of wheat blessed at Church and we place it in front of the icons venerated at home. We also take the blessed bread to those who were unable to come to Church.

- The liturgical feasts are celebrated at length beginning with the vigil and then prolonged for several days.

-All this richness fashions us and as Little sister Christine Louise, our elder, present in Ruski Krstur for 35 years shared with us:

« I was touched by a unified life, a deep faith, a strength, especially in the rural world. I felt at home in the Church. »
I would like to come back to those words of Little sister MariamNour:

 «... the oriental tradition speaks of 'interior monasticism', (interior nesk) which includes all Christians. This expression can be linked to the notion of poustinia, found in the Russian tradition, with its inner dimension of desert, solitude, silence, prayer, fast, renunciation... a step in faith which marks the life and practice of the people to the point of fashioning its soul and defining its profound identity thus determining the vocation of the Christian Orient and its specific contribution to the whole Church. »

Here are the words of Father Vladimir about the "desert today in our cities", how he sees the meaning of "poustinia" today:

«This world in which we live is truly the NEW DESERT because of the fact that we are not able to follow the changes of the season, to be in nature, to touch it...We live in a strange, cold world that is imposed on us. And we are invited to transfigure this world through the Spirit of God.

With age, I am more aware of the fragility of everything around me, but also of the possibility that everything could be at the same time strong, solid and high if the grace of the Spirit penetrates it and transforms it. This is true for people, institutions, plans, works, events, relationships... everything. It awakens something in me, or to be more precise, I rediscover my love for silent prayer and solitude. The symbol of this return within oneself is the 'inner cell'. »