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Both Lungs

By Brent Kostyniuk


A farewell

Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was once quoted as saying, “Grief is the price you pay for loving.” While the sentiment is not original, it is, nevertheless, true. Thus, it is with mixed emotions this final Both Lungs for Prairie Messenger is being written. Sadness at the loss of a truly wonderful institution and joy to have been a part of it.

This column came into existence at the encouragement of Metropolitan Lawrence Hucaluk, OSBM, of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Winnipeg, who, like so many others, saw the need to share Eastern spirituality and theology with those whose faith stems from western traditions. Ukrainian Catholics, not well-versed in their own faith, might also find enlightenment.

Encouragement is one thing, inspiration is another; not only inspiration, but focus. That focus came from the words of Saint John Paul II who said the church must learn to breathe through both lungs, East and West. Hence “Both Lungs.”

While breathing through both lungs comes naturally to most of us, it is a much different matter for the church. The vast majority of the 1.2 billion Catholics belong to the Latin, or Roman, church. The remaining 16 million Catholics (1.5 per cent) belong to one of 23 Eastern Catholic churches. They practice the traditions that follow one of five Eastern rites — Alexandrian, Armenian, Byzantine, Antiochian and Chaldean — named for the ancient centres of Christianity where they originated.

John Paul II felt so strongly about the church’s need to breathe through both lungs that on May 2, 1995, he promulgated the apostolic letter Orientale Lumen — The Light of the East.

“The light of the East has illumined the universal church, from the moment when ‘a rising sun’ appeared above us (Luke 1:78): Jesus Christ, our Lord whom all Christians invoke as the Redeemer of man and the hope of the world.” John Paul was also well aware of his own connection with the East. “A pope, son of a Slav people, is particularly moved by the call of those peoples to whom the two saintly brothers Cyril and Methodius went. They were a glorious example of apostles of unity who were able to proclaim Christ in their search for communion between East and West amid the difficulties which sometimes set the two worlds against one another.”

Moreover, John Paul said it was essential for Latin Catholics to appreciate and draw from the East. “Our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters are very conscious of being the living bearers of this tradition, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. The members of the Catholic Church of the Latin tradition must also be fully acquainted with this treasure and thus feel, with the pope, a passionate longing that the full manifestation of the church’s catholicity be restored to the church and to the world, expressed not by a single tradition, and still less by one community in opposition to the other; and that we too may all be granted a full taste of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal church which is preserved and grows in the life of the churches of the East as in those of the West.”

While 16 million Eastern Catholics are in communion with Rome, a far greater number are members of a variety of Orthodox Churches. Like the faithful of numerous western churches, they are sign there is still division with Christianity. However, as Orthodox theologian Bishop Kallistos Ware points out, there is cause for hope. “There are of course doctrinal and canonical issues which need to be clarified between Orthodoxy and Rome . . . yet, when full allowance has been made for all this, it remains true that there is a vast area of common ground that the two sides share. We both believe in God as Trinity, in Jesus Christ as God incarnate; we both accept the eucharist as the true Body and Blood of the Saviour; we have a common devotion to the Mother of God and the saints, and we both pray for the faithful departed.”

During the divine liturgy a blessing is given to “ . . . all you Christians of the true faith.” Breathing through both lungs is about appreciating all our faith has given us. It is about walking together, hand in hand, realizing we have much to offer each other. The East retains Tradition and spirituality preciously preserved through the ages. It offers all a chance to breathe through Both Lungs.

Kostyniuk, who lives in Edmonton, has a bachelor of theology from Newman and is a freelance writer. He and his wife Bev have been married for 39 years and have eight grandchildren. Brent's columns can be found at: