9 July 2012
Parishioners gather outside the Immaculate Conception Church in Smakieh, Jordan.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
Back in December, Msgr. John Kozar made his first pastoral visit to the Holy Land as CNEWA’s president. While visiting with people and church leaders who are a part of the CNEWA family, he also gained a deeper understanding of the traditions and cultures that permeate this community of Christians. One stop included the village of Smakieh in Jordan, where he took part in an ordination:
A couple of impressive sights from the ceremony: Being welcomed outside the church as we arrived with the archbishop by all the men removing the agal, or cord, from their kaffiyeh, a traditional head covering. It was a sign of deepest respect given to us. The men were robust in their handshakes and in their welcoming.
After the ceremony, after all the elders and people of the parish had personally greeted the new deacon and given him a kiss on each cheek, a group of younger parishioners hoisted the deacon on their shoulders and began dancing to the beat of their chanting which created a most festive mood.
The village of Smakieh is entirely Christian, which is rare in this Muslim kingdom. There are only two families of Bedouin living in the village, the Latin Hijazine family and the Melkite Akasheh family. Between these two families they have offered 14 priests in service to the church. Added to this are the number of Catholic and Orthodox priests that have come from neighboring Bedouin towns, such as Raba and Ader, who basically supplied much of the entire presbyterate for Jordan and Israel and Palestine. God is good all the time and all the time God is good.
If you haven’t done so already, check out Msgr. Kozar’s blog series from his Holy Land visit,“Journey to the Holy Land.”
6 July 2012
Tags: Middle East Jordan Cultural Identity Bedouin
Artist Andrei Arapov chose folklore and imperial authority as themes for this lacquered box.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Some of the most striking works of art aren’t found hanging on a wall, but on the lid of a box — like the image above, from a story by Sean Sprague on the remarkable works being restored in one Russian village:
For centuries icon painting in Palekh was passed down by apprenticeship from father to son. In the 19th century the state supported Palekh artists, whose importance the monarchy recognized in reaffirming Russia’s spiritual and artistic symbols, and as a bastion against encroaching Western influences.
In 1814 there were said to be about 600 artists in Palekh, the same number as today. Icon ateliers dotted the village, with the most famous belonging to Nikita Safonov, who along with his son Mikhail undertook commissions across Russia. The reputation of Palekh grew so that by the end of the 19th century Palekh masters had established studios in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Nizny-Novgorod and Perm.
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, however, interrupted the tradition, with the Bolsheviks banning icon painting in their attempt to rid Russia of its religious heritage.
Palekh adjusted to the times. Rather than becoming unemployed, its artists switched to other forms of expression. They began decorating porcelain, glass, eggs and wooden toys with nonreligious themes.
The painting of black-lacquered boxes made from papier-mâché was the most successful alternative. Local artist Ivan Golikov is credited with introducing Palekh to the boxes, whose origins lay in the Far East, but which had gained popularity in the village of Fedoskino, near Moscow.
Read more about New Reality, Same Artistry in the March-April 2004 issue of ONE.
5 July 2012
Tags: Russia Village life Art Frescoes
Young Ukrainians travel on foot and on horseback for a pilgrimage from Lviv to Univ.
(photo: Petro Didula)
Last year, writer Mariya Tytarenko looked at how a new generation of priests is helping rejuvenate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — and in the process, they are also helping to make pilgrimage scenes like the one above more common:
Subdeacon Ostapyuk and Father Prokopets celebrate liturgies for the children and staff in chapels in or near the orphanage schools. If there is no chapel in the vicinity, they improvise. In the summer, they often celebrate the liturgy outdoors. In addition, they explain the meaning of the liturgy to the youngsters as well as teach them lessons from the Bible and about Christian values.
Each summer, the men also help run the Druzhba Camp for orphaned children and youth, some of whom have disabilities, in the village of Svirzh, 39 miles southeast of Lviv. For the rest of the day, they and a group of volunteers oversee a daily agenda of outdoor activities, crafts and games.
Read more about young Ukrainian men Answering the Call to the priesthood in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
3 July 2012
Tags: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Pilgrimage/pilgrims Eastern Europe Seminarians
Following the footsteps of St. Thomas, Indian pilgrims climb Mount Malayattur. Visitors of all faiths believe the trip can cure them of physical and mental disease. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Today marks the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle in the Latin Church (Eastern churches celebrate his feast day on 6 October). In Kerala, St. Thomas has had a major influence, and is known to have brought Christianity to the region:
“This main port opened to the seas well before the time of Christ, from 300 B.C. onward,” says Father Davis Chenginiyadan, executive director of the Kodungallur Research Academy for Mar Thoma Heritage.
The priest stands at the site of the ancient city of Muziris, located on a jetty at the mouth of the Periyar River, about 20 miles north of Cochin. This was once the main crossroads of India’s global spice trade and the landing spot of St. Thomas the Apostle, who brought Christianity to the region in the year 52.
To learn more about St. Thomas’s influence, take a look at Msgr. John Kozar’s blog series from his pastoral visit to India earlier this year, “In the Footsteps of St. Thomas.”
2 July 2012
Tags: India Kerala Thomas Christians Saints
Sister Lisi leads evening prayer in the chapel of Grace Home, with 2-year-old Chakara.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
Two years ago, we visited Grace Home in Kerala, where the Nirmala Dasi Sisters care for children with H.I.V./AIDS:
With the school-age children gone, a quiet falls upon the grounds of Grace Home — that is until a 2-year-old boy noisily pushes his pintsize tricycle across the facility’s marble floor. The tricycle plays an electronic version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Energetic and healthy — in fact, rather pudgy — the boy first came to Grace Home in 2009 covered in scabies and looking lean, says Sister Lisi, who calls him simply Chakara, or “sweetie” in the local Malayalam language.
“He would cry all day and all night,” she says. “Maybe he was thinking about his mother — she lost her mind and lived with Chakara in the Kuttippuram Railway Station, taking him here and there. Or maybe he feared he was going to be given away.
“He’s in good condition right now,” boasts Sister Lisi, adding that Chakara’s CD4 count is high, at more than 800. “He doesn’t need ARTs.”
Chakara’s attachment to Sister Lisi is unmistakable. He clutches her habit at the knees. She picks him up and puts him back down. He pushes the tricycle around some more and then into her feet. Sister Lisi ignores him. Chakara gets fussy and she picks him up again.
“At his age, he needs a mother’s concern and love,” says Sister Lisi. “I feel like I’ve been appointed his mother. Now he’s getting so much love. I don’t know how much love I have to give, but whatever I have I give.”
Read more about a home Full of Grace in the November 2010 issue of ONE.
29 June 2012
Tags: India Children Sisters HIV/AIDS
Parishioners pray during the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During Msgr. John Kozar’s first pastoral visit to the Ethiopia in April, he witnessed just how faithful the Ethiopian Catholic community is, despite being small in number:
My first exposure to the rich Ge’ez Rite would come at an early morning Divine Liturgy the following morning at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The bishop and most of the eparchy’s priests concelebrated the ancient liturgy. I was taken aback by the beauty of the liturgy, the amazing intricacy of the chanting, not just of the bishop and the priests, but all the many faithful who had assembled as well. The cathedral had a large of number of people for this ordinary weekday eucharistic liturgy, celebrated at 6:20 a.m. All of the faithful are farmers and some regularly walk great distances to attend.
Another impressive aspect of the cathedral is the outstanding paintings that adorn most of the walls. These are works of art in progress, as the bishop has commissioned an 80-year-old Orthodox priest-iconographer to paint the cathedral murals. After four years of labor, I would say this venerable priest is about 80 percent finished. He lives with the bishop and two other Catholic priests assigned there, together sharing their lives, meals and prayers. I had the honor to meet this outstanding artist and thanked him for his great gift.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s first blog post in his series from Ethiopia, A Warm Welcome.
28 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church Church
In this photo taken in 1992, a young man attends Divine Liturgy at a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow. (photo: Richard Lord)
In the November 1993 issue of the magazine, Michael J.L. La Civita, CNEWA’s Vice President for Communications, wrote about his first experience visiting Moscow and his impressions about a city confronting its troubled past and discovering its future:
As my departure for Moscow approached, I thought my visit would answer some questions and confirm a few opinions. I was certain I would have much to write about Moscow, and Russia by extension. I thought wrongly. Instead I am baffled by a city and a nation confused about its past, present and future.
In a land where great numbers of saints once walked on pilgrimage, where writers and philosophers discussed how to improve the peasants’ lot, where revolutionaries gathered to plan an earthly paradise, the victims of corruption, greed and fear now wander. Poverty, political instability and moral and spiritual apathy have generated a loss of self-knowledge. “Holy Russia has lost her soul,” lament her cultural, religious and social leaders.
References to the Russian “soul” abound in this nation’s history, literature and religious philosophy. Today, after more than 70 years of communism, the now-proverbial search for the Russian soul is nothing else than the search for what is authentically Russian.
For more, read This Year, Moscow.
27 June 2012
Tags: Russia Communism/Communist
A child undergoes physical therapy sessions at Pokrov’s day care center, which treats children with special needs. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the January 2007 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague reported on the efforts of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to restore its public presence following the fall of Bulgaria’s communist government:
Over the past 12 years, the Pokrov Foundation has launched an assortment of programs — philanthropic, educational and promotional — that have done much to help restore the role of the Orthodox Church in Bulgarian life. Many are run out of Mr. Sinov’s spiritual home since his baptism, the Church of the Pokrov, located on a quiet street hidden by Sofia’s Hotel Rodina.
In the church’s basement, the foundation operates a parish center that caters to about 4,000 people each year. Here, food, clothes, counseling, financial support and social space are offered to the needy. If the foundation lacks the resources to help someone, then it refers him or her to another nongovernmental organization that can.
“We are open daily, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.,“said Maria Spasova, the parish center director. “Ours is the first parish center in the country, and the idea has spread to about 10 other parishes already.”
For more, read Under Mary’s Mantle.
26 June 2012
Tags: Children Orthodox Church Bulgarian Orthodox Church Bulgaria
Israeli-Arab fourth-grade students pray in Aramaic during language class at Jish Elementary School in Jish, Israel, 20 June. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hil)
As reported by the Catholic News Service, a mostly Maronite Catholic community in Jish, Israel, is making an effort to revive the Aramaic language — the language spoken by Jesus. This revival has begun with language classes at the village’s elementary school:
Some 110 students are now studying the language at the elementary school as a result of years of effort by village resident Shadi Khalloul, 37, chairman of the Aramaic Christian nongovernmental organization in Israel.
“This is our Maronite Aramaic heritage,” he said on a recent visit to the school. “We are hoping to revive (Aramaic) as a spoken language. Hopefully the pupils will use it among themselves to communicate with each other. It is our forefather’s language. It is the language of Jesus, we should not forget that, especially the Aramaic Galilee dialect.”
Spoken Aramaic, the root language of all Semitic languages, is still preserved in parts of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon — and even by elderly Jews originating from a region of Kurdistan — but the spoken language has been virtually lost in Galilee, where about 10,000 Maronite Catholics use it solely for prayer. During their daily interactions, they speak Arabic.
For more, read Maronites in Israel Learn Aramaic.
25 June 2012
Tags: Children Israel Education Maronite Catholic Aramaic
A Syro-Malabar Catholic woman of the Wayanad district in Kerala shades herself from the sun. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Over the years we have published many stories in the magazine about the influence of St. Thomas on the Christian community in southern India. The saint who famously doubted the resurrection has inspired countless believers in that corner of CNEWA’s world. In the March 2010 issue of the magazine, journalist Sean Sprague captured how the influence of the saint still resonates with the Christians of the region:
“St. Thomas definitely landed on this very spot,” says Philomena Pappachan, caretaker of a chapel that marks where the doubting apostle arrived in southern India in the year A.D. 52. Located a few feet from the cemented banks of the Periyar River, the chapel is dwarfed by a grove of palm trees and a 30-foot cutout of the saint, who is depicted with a staff and an open book on which “my Lord and my God” is printed in English.
No archaeological evidence exists to substantiate or refute her claim. Yet for nearly two millennia, countless numbers of Christians and Hindus have believed “the holy man” journeyed through Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and finally India, where Thomas died a martyr’s death in the year 72.
For more, read In the Footsteps of St. Thomas. For more of Sprague’s accompanying photos, check out the image gallery, “St. Thomas’s Influence.”