For our first blog series, our topic will be the Domestic Church. As Christians, our religious lives don’t exist merely in the confines of the particular church building where we attend services, but extend to our homes and our families. Before we can fully explore the relationship between home and community, church building and Church of believers, we must know what an Eastern Church is.
Inside the Domestic Church Part 1: What Is an Eastern Church?
In its origins, Christianity is an Eastern religion, arising out of what is today referred to as the Middle East. Even the languages which were used by the Church are originally Eastern, including Greek and the Semitic family of languages. The Apostles and the Early Church Fathers lived and worshiped in cities like Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Edessa, and other places familiar to us from the New Testament: Damascus, Ephesus, Smyrna, Corinth, etc. The liturgy (the manner in which the Church worships) of both Eastern Christians and Western Christians finds its origin in these early Eastern communities; even monasticism finds its origin in the Christian East.
While Christianity found different methods of expression in the countries to which it spread, these early communities endured through the centuries, and now even in “Western” countries there are people who preserve the ancient ways of those communities. As such, we are called “Eastern” Christians, despite our geographical location.
Because the traditions of the Melkite Church are representative of Greek Byzantine culture, we are called Greek Catholics or Byzantine Catholics, after the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium (or Constantinople). We were also nicknamed “Melkite” because we followed the faith of the Byzantine Emperor, or melek, at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.
How does this tradition affect our daily lives? In our homes and our parishes, our shared practices can help foster a sense of community, all too forgotten in 21st century living. Our liturgical traditions as well as the cultural ones, passed down from generation to generation, rebuild a sense of interconnectedness often missing in lives spent in online interactions, compartmentalized work environments, and individual-centric culture. We recognize that around the world, millions of Christians are worshiping in a manner identical to our own parish life, but also too that they share with us food, music, family traditions, and all manner of interactions repeated throughout the globe. We are truly a part of a family, and membership in that family begins in our own homes and extends to all areas of our life.