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No.23, 1st June 2011

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Christ-Centered Ethics
And the Celebration of the Divine Liturgy




Paulachan Kochappilly




1. The Challenge for Christian Ethics

In a changed and changing world the faithful find themselves at a crossroads. They are perplexed with the flood of information.  The media with its business interests keeps on feeding fleeting news and views continuously, one item after another.  There is no space and time to pause a while for proper discernment and decision-making; everything is being dictated from the outside and not decided from within. With the masterful tactics of the business media Christians are also led to believe more in the market economy, than in Christ. As a consequence, believers become bankrupt; they lose sight of the faith vision and truth that liberates and grants them a sense of purpose in life.

Today, Christian moral thinkers from all over the world recognize the challenge, although they articulate it differently.  H. T. Engelhardt Jr. traces the contemporary challenge of ethics in its “growing difficulty in establishing a canonical hierarchy or rational account of values.”[1] In his assessment of morality, J. B. Chethimattam points out, “Having lost the stomach for transcendental thinking modern man is trying to build a system from below like the Sophists of Plato’s times, taking man as the measure of all things.  As a result morality has lost its binding character.”[2]  J. Verstraten identifies the challenge for ethics as a “relativistic and emotivistic society,” where every value receives the same value.[3]  Also A. Scola attributes the present problem “to the relativism and to the separation between private and public spheres (double morality).”[4] For S. Averincev, the challenge springs from the fact that “we have a Christianity without a ‘Christian world’, a faith without safeguarding external affairs.”[5] According to B. Petrà, “our time has neither the desire for nor the fear of transcendence.”[6] The observation of V. Guroian deserves special attention.  He writes, “I would argue that one of the reasons Christian moral arguments seem so ungrounded these days is that they have become utterly dislocated and dissociated from Christian worship and liturgy.  Christians are losing the eschatological experience of the church as the inbreaking of God’s kingdom into the world, and so of course this experience is having an increasingly diminished effect on their conduct.”[7]

Articulating the challenge positively and from the perspective of the faith in Christ, H. U. von Balthasar underscores that “Christian ethics must be modeled on Jesus Christ since, as the Son of the Father, he carried out the entire will of God (i.e., every «ought») in the world.  He did this «for us», so that from him, the fulfilled concrete norm of all ethical actions, we might receive the freedom to fulfill God’s will and to live according to our nature as free children of the Father.”[8]  John Paul II, in his most recent encyclical Fides et Ratio earmarks the present philosophical and ethical challenge: “A philosophy in which there shines even a glimmer of the truth of Christ, the one definitive answer to humanity’s  problems,  will provide a potent underpinning for the true and planetary ethics which the world now needs.”[9]

It is clear that something has gone wrong somewhere in the perception and the presentation of Christian ethics. However, the major challenge that Christian ethics faces is none other than that which derives from its fundamental task, namely, to support (dharma) and lead (nīti) the faithful in the present with a hope and purpose in life.  The basic business of ethics is to hold all the members of society together and lead them to the fulfillment proper to each and all as enshrined in the ethos of the community.[10] When this idea is translated into the context of the Christian community, it means that Christian ethics is to hold the faithful together and lead them to their cosmic and eschatological goal simultaneously. Thus, the challenge before Christian ethics consists in presenting the faith as the regulative and normative principle of Christian life. In other words, the task of moral theology is in representing the Christian ethos as holding Christians together and leading them to the realization of their true identity in the contemporary world that God in His Son through the Holy Spirit has redeemed.  To put it briefly, the present challenge for Christian moral theology is to return and recapture the centrality of our faith, that is, Christ Himself.

What holds the faithful together is, undoubtedly, the mystery of Christ. It is the same mystery of Christ that leads Christians with a hope and purpose in life. Jesus Christ, therefore, is at the centre of Christian life.  Furthermore, when Christ occupies the centre stage in the life of the believers, then a meaning and hope is present in their life. As a consequence, there is someone to whom the faithful can look forward to and cling on to. Besides, Christ is present to the scene, as someone who attracts and directs the life of the community with a sense of meaning. It is the mystery of Christ, therefore, which can give a binding force in the thought-word-action of people. As Christ and his teachings reign supreme in the assembly of the faithful, so the assembly gains a wider horizon: an experience of the values of the kingdom of God; a sense of transcendence; an orientation in life; a certain hierarchy of values; the meaning and purpose of life.  It is here that one comes to a closer and clearer relief of the dynamism of faith in life. There is no wonder that faith sustains and supports life, for the faith embodies a vision of and for life.  It should have been a surprise, if things would have been to the contrary, for there is an immediate intimate interdependence between life and faith.[11]  In this sense, faith is that flow of divine energy or blow of holy breath, which supplies and sustains an invigorated and enlightened life. Consequently, when the flow stops or the blow ceases, life comes to a halt - a sort of death in the absence of faith. With such a deprivation of or alienation from the flow of divine life, there is neither scope nor hope for human beings, for the vision and orientation disappears from the arena of life.  As a result, the dimensions of mystery and transcendence get lost.  Hence ensues a limited perception.  And I am compelled to think that penetrating and permeating faith in Christ is at the heart of Christian ethics for our times.  Thus, the disappearance of the link between faith and life reveals the challenge before moral theologians.[12]  The challenge before them, therefore, is to re-introduce the centrality of Christ and His teaching to the life of Christians and enable them to live a life in Christ,[13] according to the mind of Christ. Against this background, one can very well appreciate the clarion call of Vatican Council II to renew moral theology “by livelier contact with the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation”[14] as the only remedy for setting things back on track and to keep going.

The above mentioned challenge before moral theologians paves a background for conducting a brief survey of the contributions of moral theologians directed to a Christ-centered morality.

2 Christian Ethics as Christ-Centered

It is the Christocentricity of the faithful that gives a distinct character to the Christian community, and consequently, to the specificity of Christian ethics.[15] Therefore, this section attempts to capture the Christ-centered character of Christian ethics under two moments: 1) filial relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit and 2) the path to the life in Christ.

2.1 Filial Relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit

Holy Baptism is the “basis of the whole of Christian life” and the foundation for the filial relationship of the faithful with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, for Christians are “reborn as daughters and sons of God” through Baptism.[16]  If Baptism is the basis of the Christian life, it is also the foundation and root of the whole of Christian ethics. It is the new existence of the faithful that is in Christ, which constitutes the kernel of the Christian ethos.  It is this new existence in Christ, the ethos of Christ, that supports and guides Christians in their life towards final fulfilment, the full flowering of the image of God and the likeness of Christ. 

Keeping a close track of the teaching of the Magisterium, R. Tremblay illustrates a solid foundation for a Christ-centered morality.[17] As the first section of part III of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) begins with a discussion on human dignity, so also Tremblay’s point of departure is the recognition of the dignity of Christians,[18] which is defined as their union with Christ at the level of being.[19] The moral action of such a human being flows from the depths of one’s being that is rooted in the profoundness of the divinity.  This involves an essential conformity of one’s thoughts, words and actions to the mind of Christ Jesus.[20] The Christian is identified with Christ in a profundity that surpasses all paradigms. Hence the human person receives her or his dignity from Christ Himself, for it is from Him that one draws origin and one’s restoration after the fall.  And it is from Christ one receives the proper identity of the divine image, which is re-established in its original beauty and ennobled by grace.  

Moreover, Christ reveals what human beings are and the nature of their exalted vocation: “Christ, . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation.  It is in Christ, “the image of the invisible God,” that man has been created “in the image and likeness” of the Creator.  It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God.”[21]  Consequently, one who believes in Christ becomes a daughter or son of God in Jesus Christ. 

Such an ontological filial relationship with God in Christ transforms and enables the believers to follow the example of Christ, which, in turn, empowers them in acting rightly and doing good.  Besides, the faithful have new life in the Holy Spirit.  All these contribute to attain holiness through charity. Thus, the morality that is rooted in Christ is not static, but dynamic, for such a moral life blossoms into eternal life in the glory of heaven.[22]  In this respect, St. Paul captures the dignity and the dynamics of the Christian life marvellously: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:14.17).  This Spirit of God gives Christians the free and undeserved help to respond to their call “to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and eternal life.”[23]  The response that Christians give involves a spiritual and moral progress ever more in intimate union with Christ. It is, therefore, natural and evident that Christians respond to the call for sanctification or deification that God is offering in His Son through the Spirit. 

Furthermore, the spiritual and moral growth that Christians achieve through their filial relationship with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit is not an external addition to Christian existence, but it is proper to the organic growth of a Christian.  Tremblay explains it in this manner: “To act from one’s part is not seen as a new contribution to being, but as a reality that manifests or explains the profoundness and the possibilities.”[24]  In addition, Tremblay opines: “the design to build a morality in Christ does not deprive the human being of that which properly pertains to it.”  This is precisely because “The divinum neither destroys nor annihilates the humanum; it assumes.  The divinum helps, illumines and heals the humanum.”[25]

Further, the encyclical Vertitatis Splendor (VS) highlights the dynamism of Christian morality as Christ-centered. According to the encyclical, “Following Christ is thus the essential and primordial foundation of Christian morality.”[26]  In the same paragraph John Paul II outlines what it means to follow Christ: “More radically, it involves holding fast to the very person of Jesus, partaking of his life and his destiny, sharing in his free and loving obedience to the will of the Father.”[27] The following of Jesus requires an imitation of the Lord along the path of love: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). The following of Christ “touches man at the very depths of his being.”[28] It is a question of being conformed to Christ, who became a servant out of love for God and for the world. It is a matter of doing what He did and said: “Do this in remembrance of me”(1 Cor 11:24). The encyclical puts it succinctly: “Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (cf. Phil 2, 5-8).”[29] Following, in this context, proposes a becoming; to become what one intends to follow, gradually but steadily.  Any following presupposes a certain seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting and touching.  Regular experience of the reality enables the beholder to conform oneself to the reality that is being beheld.  Faith takes its root through seeing and hearing; it is a blessed vision through which one becomes holy and whole. It is through faith-vision that one gains the original and true vision of oneself in relationship with others and the Other. Seeing Christ, the faithful see who they are, as in a mirror.  Morally speaking, the seeing of Christ enables the faithful to live their life in a way worthy of their sublime vocation as daughters and sons in the Son.[30]  Following Christ, thus, means having been conformed to “the mind of Christ,” to become Christ-like in the world.  

Christians have no moral choice, but to act like Christ. Since the faithful are conformed to Christ, through the sacraments and the contemplation of the mystery of Christ, moral action corresponds to their being in Christ, to their beings as sons and daughters in the Son, as the children of God the Father.  The encyclical VS speaks clearly on the “configuration” and the “assimilation” of the faithful into Christ through the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, respectively.  John Paul II reiterates the understanding of the Church concerning the conforming phenomenon of the faithful to Christ: “By the work of the Spirit, Baptism radically configures the faithful to Christ in the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection … Sharing in the Eucharist ... is the culmination of our assimilation to Christ.”[31]

Christian morality, therefore, presupposes a configuration to and an assimilation of Christ. A pertinent question that arises at this juncture is, whether such a configuration of believers in Christ curtails their human freedom? If not, how?  The answer is, ‘No’. Because the fact that the believer being conformed to the image of God in the likeness of Christ “poses no threat to man’s genuine freedom; on the contrary, the acceptance of God’s plan is the only way to affirm that freedom.”[32] Having assumed human nature, Jesus Christ illumines it marvellously and definitively.[33] That is to say, to comprehend the truth of human nature, one has to turn to Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life.  Since there is the fullness of truth in Christ, one has to turn to Christ to understand human nature as well. In this connection, R. Tremblay explicates: “Jesus appears as the Foundation, intended as the matrix, the mould, the form or measure of man, the point of absolute reference and his incontrovertible identity.  It is because, as the Son or the Word of God, he makes man.  Being man par excellence, he speaks to man through that which he is in his essential components and that as a consequence of which what one should and should not do for ever and, above all, to love God and his neighbors.”[34] 

The understanding of Christ and Christian morality reveals sufficiently how the following of Christ or becoming Christ-like is not a hindrance to human freedom, but rather that it is a help in realizing human dignity and meaning in life.  Primarily, human beings become truly human as and when they are configured to and assimilated into Christ, for it is in Christ Jesus that humans recover and restore their original and divine image and human dignity.  Secondly, Christ opens up the possibility for the exercise of human freedom in view of happiness and eternal life, though it is through the path of the cross and renunciation (John 12:24-25).  Thirdly, when Christians opt for God in Christ through the Spirit, then they are choosing the supreme truth, goodness and beauty (satyam, śivam, sundaram). For it is in the option for God, who is the supreme truth, goodness and beauty and the ultimate end, that humans use their freedom wisely and properly.

Consequently, the morality of acts is defined by the relationship of man’s freedom with the authentic good. Again, this means that the Christian life is good to the extent that it conforms to Christ and walks before Him, the true good. On the morality of the act, the encyclical observes: “Acting is morally good when the choices of freedom are in conformity with man’s true good and thus express the voluntary ordering of the person towards his ultimate end: God himself, the supreme good in whom man finds his full and perfect happiness.”[35] It is a clear witness to the fact that the more  Christians are conformed to the mind of Christ, the better their morality is; the greater happiness they merit. Then, the thoughts, words and acts of Christians will correspond to the mind of Christ. There, Christians become Christ-like; they re-establish their filial relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit; thus, they regain and radiate the image and likeness of God through their life. It is through such a close following of Christ and conforming to the mind of Christ that Christians will show forth the splendor of the truth, which is Jesus Christ Himself. [36] 

The faithful recover their filial relationship with God the Father in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and, therefore, the filial relationship of the faithful is trinitarian and communitarian.   The recovery of filial relationship involves, on the part of Christians, a continous reflection and radiation of the love of God the Father manifested in the truth of the Son for the world, which is continued through the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is through the immeasurable love characterized by service in the pattern of the Servant[37] that Christians will bear testimony to the filial bond that they have with God. It is through His loving compassionate service that Jesus made His union with and love for the Father known to the world. This is the way that daughters and sons in the Son, the children of God, have to tread tirelessly amidst numerous trials and temptations.  As a matter of fact, it is expected from the children of God to take up their cross and walk hopefully as the Son of God in order to reconcile the world with God.  In this manner, Christians will remain faithful to their filial relationship or communion with God in the Son through the Holy Spirit and the mission of the Son will be carried out on earth until the end of ages.  At this point, obviously, the vision of Christians will be none other than that of the Son.  So also the mission of Christ becomes theirs.  Needless to say, the thoughts, words and actions of Christians flow out of this deep and personal communion with the triune God, the articulation of which is found in and through the Son. Christian morality, therefore, is a commitment that springs from their communion with God and is directed to a greater and deeper union.

The above understanding of Christian morality, according to which it is rooted and founded on the filial relationship of the faithful with God the Father in Christ through the Holy Spirit, takes the discussion to the following questions: How is one being introduced into such a filial realization? What is that which sustains the faithful in such a filial relationship continuously? Therefore, the following section is an attempt to explore the ways and means of Christian morality that initiate the faithful into and aliment them with a filial relationship.

2.2. The Path to Life in Christ

The filial relationship of Christians with God is rooted in and fashioned after the Son, Jesus Christ.  It is rooted in the Son, for, according to Christian revelation, “all things were made through him, and without him was not made anything that was made”(John 1:3). St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians paints a splendid picture of the foundation and destination of everything in Christ. “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth …all things were created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”(Colossians 1:15-16). The apostle in his letter to the Ephesians glorifies the God and Father of Lord Jesus for having chosen the Christians in Christ “before the foundation of the world”(Ephesians 1:4) and for having made known “the mystery of his will”, “his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and on earth”(Ephesians 1:4). Furthermore, in his letter to the Romans, St. Paul encapsulates the will of God, which is nothing but «to be conformed to the image of his Son» (Romans 8:29).  These scriptural texts present the Son as the primordial and eschatological type of every human being.  It is in the Son that the faithful see the image of God, «full of grace and truth» (John 1:14).  The faithful share the divine life in Christ, in whom Christians rediscover the hidden image of God and by virtue of whom they become in the likeness of God, the heirs of the kingdom of God, the children of God the Father.

In his article on “Moral Theology in the Orthodox Tradition,” B. Petrà presents  tersely the meaning of the moral life of Christians from the perspective of the Orthodox tradition. “The moral life of the Christian is considered essentially as «life in Christ», namely a life which originates, grows and fulfills itself in the christification of man; it follows that Christian ethics is a branch of knowledge whose proper object is «life in Christ».”[38] To live a life in Christ is the vocation of human beings, for they are created in order to be in Christ.  The true existence and original identity of humans have been distorted on account of sin. But in Christ the true existence of humans is restored. This new mode of human existence «in Christ», the ethos of Christians, is accessible in the Church. The moral life of Christians depends, therefore, on the fact that they “actualize in time the ethos or the mode of existence of Christ himself.”[39]  The ground and goal of the Christian life is a question of building up “the bios in the Logos, that is living according to Christ.”[40]

It is in the Church that the faithful rediscover the image of God and strive to restore the likeness of God, with which He has created and destined human beings in Christ. Jesus Christ, the sacrament of the Father, through His Spirit in the Church channels the gifts of divine rebirth to all who seek it and assists them to grow to the fullness and holiness of the Father. Precisely, it is through the sacraments of the Church that the believer has ordinary access to the divine daughtership or sonship of God.  In the spirit of the risen Lord, the Church being the sacrament of Christ administers the gifts of divine regeneration and filial relationship to the faithful through her sacraments. In fact, the life that the Church gives, in Christ through the Spirit, is nothing but the life of Christ itself. As far as the believer is concerned, the life of Christ is the same as the life in Christ, it is a participation in this life «by faith in the Son of God». Borrowing the words of St. Paul, believers experience and from the bottom of their heart exclaim, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me”(Galatians 2:20).

Obviously, the believer participates in the new life in Christ through faith and one’s effective integration through baptism. Christian faith which finds its birth through baptism involves a death and a concomitant life: “I died…so that I might live” (Galatians 2:19).  Similarly, in reference to the sacrament of baptism, the testimony of St. Paul communicates the nature of the Paschal Mystery of Christ and the mystery of Christian life, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).  Elsewhere St. Paul writes emphatically about the dynamism of the new life in Christ: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”(Romans 6:11). Thus, the dynamism of faith in human life becomes obvious, it gives birth to a new life and a new depth for living it.

In the new birth of the believer through faith, the convergence and cooperation of faith and ethics come to light.  That is the Christian ethos, the core of which lies in the participation and reflection of the ethos of the Son of God, in whom believers find the truth of their being in view of their origin and destination.  It is the Christian ethos that supports the believers in their new life in Christ and leads them to act like Christ in their concrete circumstances. In the ordinary way of functioning, it is through the sacrament of Baptism in the Church that the believers participate in the new life in Christ. Being the sacrament of Christ, the Church is the depository of the life and law of Christ. Obviously, it is the life and law of Christ that aids and leads the faithful in their transformation into Christ, the true image of the human and the divine. 

Faith in Christ is so efficacious that those who believe in Him become like Him: more and more united with God and related with all.  And whoever believes in the Lord becomes one in Him; a healthy and happy union and communion among the faithful on account of Jesus Christ, the head of the Mystical Body.  As the body is the symbol of life, so also is the Mystical Body the symbol and source of Christ’s life.  Those who are part of the Mystical Body, necessarily and joyfully, follow the law that governs the Body so as to sustain and progress in the life of Christ.  Such a life, following the footsteps of Christ, in union with God and in communion with fellow beings naturally and gradually gives shape to a style of life in a particular space and time; and it continues to grow forward and upward. As a matter of fact, the sum total of the style of Christian living, a being marked with the seal of Christ and regenerated in Him, is the essence of the Christian ethos. 

Undoubtedly, such an ethos will gradually and completely govern the vision-reflection-action of the faithful in their daily living.  Hence the Christian ethos determines Christian ethics. Since the Christian ethos is fundamentally Christ centered and oriented, Christian ethics has no choice but to assist the faithful and orient them towards God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. In this sense, the role of Christian ethics is to continue the mission of Christ on earth – to be fully alive as a child of God witnessing to the love of the Father.

This does not mean that the Christian ethos is a closed one.  On the contrary, the Christian ethos is an ethos of a living and open community, always in relationship with others in society.  Since the mandate for evangelization is part and parcel of Christian faith, the Christian ethos finds diverse expressions depending on the culture and time of the people where it is being proclaimed and lived.  The mystery of the Incarnation substantiates the all-embracing nature of the Christian ethos. It is not in isolation from the world that salvation is visualized, instead it is in and through an organic integration into and with everything and everyone.  Moreover, according to the Christian ethos, everything in the world is ordained «in Him through Him and for Him» (Colossians 1:16-17).  Besides, Christ fills everything with «the fullness of Him» in the entire universe and He is «the head of all things» (see Ephesians 1:23).  Therefore, for believers there is no escape from the world, but involvement and commitment for the world are required of them.  Thus, the universal outlook of the Christian ethos enables the faithful, simultaneously, to anchor their life in Christ and work for the world.

For initiation into and exercise of the Christian ethos, the mystical Body of Christ is essential, for without a body one cannot come in contact with something tangible and experiential. As human memories are stored in human body, so also the mystical Body embodies the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation. It is through the celebration of the sacraments in the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, that the people are initiated into and transformed in Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents the configuration of the faithful into Christ: “Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ.”[41] 

The new life that the sacrament of Baptism bestows is “birth into the new life in Christ.”[42]  Whereas the sacrament of Confirmation “gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ.”[43]  And the sacrament of the Eucharist is “the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being.”[44]  By the celebration of the Eucharist “we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.”[45]  Therefore, the celebration of the Eucharist is “the source and summit of Christian life,”[46] “the sum and summary of our faith”[47] and “the heart and the summit of the Church’s life.”[48]  In short, through the liturgical celebrations of the sacraments of initiation in the Church, the members are born into a new life in Christ and they advance in the likeness of Christ.  These liturgical celebrations promote the faithful to be more and more part of the mystical Body of Christ and empower them to think and act according to «the mind of Christ» (Philippians 2:5).

The above discussion leads us to this conclusion: as the members are inserted into the mystical Body of Christ, so also they are conformed to the mind of Christ. That means that there is no division between body and mind; they go hand in hand. As the body, so is the mind. As the mind, so is the action, carried out by the body. Here there is no separation or confusion between body and mind. As one thinks, so one becomes. But thinking precedes perception or sensation. As far as sensation is concerned, the body is the primary and ordinary channel. This holds true for faith formation too. As a result, the thought of Christ or the mind of Christ is accessible and perceptible, but only through the Body of Christ, that is, the Church. “It is in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfils his vocation. From the Church he receives the Word of God containing the teachings of the «the law of Christ.»  From the Church he receives the grace of the sacraments that sustains him on the «way.»”[49]

This is to say that the Body is important to imbibe the attitude of Christ. The more a believer becomes one with the Body, the better one becomes assimilated to the mind of Christ. The greater assimilation to the mind of Christ, the deeper one grows in the life and likeness of Christ.  The more one is Christ-like, the finer the integration and liberation one possesses.  This is true in both cases: in the case of the Church as the Body of Christ and in the case of an individual believer as a member of the Body of Christ.  An opportunity for such a becoming is marvellously present in the celebration of the Eucharist.  For, on the one hand, whenever the community celebrates the Eucharistic Liturgy, it becomes more and more integrated into and united with the Body of Christ, and on the other hand, the community assimilates the eucharistic mind of Christ spontaneously in order to witness the love of the Father in the world.  The testimony of St. Irenaeus is illustrative of the fact: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.”[50]

The celebration of the liturgy not only integrates the faithful into the Body of Christ, but also transforms their thoughts and actions, corresponding to the content of the celebration. In this sense, the worship of the Christian community portrays a horizon for moral discernment and decision-making.  Besides, the celebration of the liturgy constitutes an attitude concomitant to the mind of Christ among the celebrants.  This is made possible, because every liturgical celebration, especially the celebration of the Eucharist, takes for granted “the authentic involvement and participation of the man of today in the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation.”[51]  Through the celebration of the liturgy, the faithful come in contact with the risen Lord in His Body. Such an experience leaves indelible memories in the participants, which, in turn, motivate the faithful to act accordingly.

In this manner the celebration of the liturgy prepares the celebrants to live according to the content and spirit of the worship. Invariably “in the liturgy of the Church, God the Father is blessed and adored as the source of all the blessings of creation and salvation with which he has blessed us in his Son, in order to gives us the Spirit of filial adoption.”[52]  So the fundamental attitude of the liturgy is gratitude or thankfulness. As a matter of fact, every moment and movement of the faithful will be governed and guided by the basic attitude of gratitude, the attitude of eucharistia. Being filled with such an attitude, the faithful are equipped with a sense of the contemplation of the blessings of creation and appropriate action in and for the world. Having celebrated the memorial of the Lord, the community imbibes the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, whereby the faithful find significance of service, sacrifice and death in everyday life in order to inherit eternal life. 

Hence, the liturgical celebration proposes and prepares the assembly with the body and mind of Christ, so that it can accomplish its work in the similitude of Christ. This is how the liturgical celebrations assist the faithful in responding to the call of being the image and the likeness of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. At this stage of existence, the ethos of the faithful finds its spontaneous expression; the ethics of the faithful becomes truly Christian; and a disciple of Christ will be recognized by her or his thoughts-words-deeds. Writing about the importance of the liturgy concerning ethos with ethics and the process of personal transformation of the faithful in Christ, B. Petrà observes: “Again more essential is the significance of liturgy at the level of ethos, since through the liturgy the divine ethos becomes human and that of the human becomes divine and all that takes place in an objective sense, since the glorious and divinized humanity of Christ is communicated to the man and man is transformed in Christ.”[53]

Along the same line and a step further, it is appropriate to say that the moral life “is spiritual worship.”[54]  It is an application of the absorbed attitude of the Eucharistic sacrifice in the real context of life. What the faithful celebrated in the Mystery of the Eucharist with regard to the mystery of Christ, they are now translating into their ordinary daily life charged with the life of Christ. This idea is beautifully reproduced in VS giving detail to the moral dimension of a Christian in relationship with the celebration of the Mystery of the Eucharist. “His moral life has the value of «spiritual worship» (Romans 12: 1; cf. Philippians 3: 3), flowing from and nourished by that inexhaustible source of holiness and glorification of God which is found in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist: by sharing in the sacrifice of the Cross, the Christian partakes of Christ’s self-giving love and is equipped and committed to live this same charity in all his thoughts and deeds.  In the moral life the Christian’s royal service is also made evident and effective: with the help of grace, the more one obeys the new law of the Holy Spirit, the more one grows in the freedom to which he or she is called by the service of truth, charity and justice.”[55] The Catechism of the Catholic Church captures the movement picturesquely: “We «present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,» within the Body of Christ that we form and in communion with the offering of his Eucharist.”[56] 

Further, the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the advantage of the liturgy in enlightening and nourishing Christian activity: “In the liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments, prayer and teaching are conjoined with the grace of Christ to enlighten and nourish Christian activity.  As does the whole of the Christian life, the moral life finds its source and summit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.”[57]  One thing that stands out in this description is its emphasis on the dynamism of the liturgical celebration in moulding the mind of the faithful to that of Christ, which in the course of time enlightens and nourishes Christian living.  The Magisterium reiterates: “Christian activity finds its nourishment in the liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments.”[58] As far as Christian life and morals are concerned, they are “united with the liturgy and nourished by it.”[59]  For those who believe in Him and live according to the Gospel, life will be a life «in Christ» who enlightens and enables the believers to evaluate the divine human realities according to the Spirit of God.[60] 

The celebration of the liturgy accomplishes both ends: it imparts the life of Christ to the celebrants and transforms their attitude to the mind of Christ in order to be Christ-like. But, this life which is liturgically received, has to take flesh in humans and shape their attitudes and actions in order that they might to share with others.  John Paul II, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, bears testimony to the truth of the transformation through the liturgy.  “Sharing in the Eucharist, the sacrament of the New Covenant (cf. 1 Corinthians 11: 23-29), is the culmination of our assimilation to Christ, the source of «eternal life» (cf. John 6: 51-58).[61] Referring to the command of Jesus in 1Corinthians 11, 26, the Pope underscores the importance of a continued liturgical celebration in concrete life.  According to him, Jesus “commands us to commemorate in liturgy and life.”[62] Though the liturgical celebration in the house of the Father is concluded, the celebration of the liturgy continues through life in the cosmos, the temple of the Lord. In the above articulation of the Pontiff, the interrelationship between the liturgy and life acquires clarity and gravity.  R. Tremblay attests prominence to the faith and the work of the Spirit in the transformation of the believer in Christ: “Through faith and the work of the Spirit, the believer is «conformed», «assimilated», «configured» to his Lord, «inserted in Christ», «member of his Body that is the Church (cf. 1 Corinthians 12, 13. 27).”[63]

Such a conformation, assimilation, configuration, insertion in Christ takes places in and through the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist in the liturgy of the Church. D. E. Saliers testifies to the potentiality of good liturgy in forming and transforming the life of the believers: “Normatively considered, good liturgy is the fundamental imaginal framework of encounter with God in Christ which forms intentions in and through the affections which take God in Christ as their goal and ground.”[64] B. Petrà depicts the role of the liturgy in shaping and transforming the life and attitudes of a Christian objectively. “In fact, the liturgy sacramentally operates the objective transformation of the style of being/action (style of living) of historical man as it objectively generates the life «of» and «in» Christ, nourishes it, forms it, strengthens it, perfects; and on the other hand, the said «objective» transformation is the same because it manifests «objectively».”[65]  According to Petrà the liturgical celebration is a scuola where the celebration prophetically proclaims, illustrates and manifests truths concerning man and God, time and eternity, good and evil, truth and falsity.[66] This underlines the effectiveness of celebration in transmitting values and in transforming the participants.  It is not just an introduction of values that is taking place in a celebration but an insertion into and a realization of the very realities through corporate action which the celebration indicates and endows.  With clarity and brevity, B. Petrà avows: “The source of Christian ethics is the liturgy with its sacred signs.  In that sense the liturgy is necessary for the formation of the virtuous life of the believer: no Christian ethics by this fact can be left aside from the liturgy and the sacraments.”[67]  According to the author, “the liturgy, in other words, contains in itself Christian morality.”[68]

In the light of the above discussion, it is appropriate to survey briefly how the celebration of the Divine Liturgy serves in anchoring the life of the faithful in Christ.  In the survey of the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, special reference will be made to the current text in use in the Syro-Malabar Church of the St. Thomas Christians of India.[69] The Missal that will be consulted for this study, for practical reasons, is: The Syro-Malabar Qurbana. The Order of Raza.[70] 

3. The Celebration of the Qurbana as a Life in Christ and a Christ-like Life

The focus in this section is to outline how the celebration of the Qurbana supports and nourishes the faithful to live their life in Christ.  Along with that attention will be paid to the development of the Christian ethos, which, in turn, determines Christian ethics and behavior.

It is by virtue of the faith in Jesus Christ that the faithful is united and identified.  This becomes obvious when the faithful gather together to celebrate their life in Christ, the members of the Mystical Body together with the Head.  A supreme example of the uniting and distinguishing elements of the Christian community is visible and accessible in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The opening verses[71] of the Eucharistic celebration according to the Syro-Malabar Rite run as follows:

C.            In accord with the command of the Lord

Bequeathed on the feast of the Passover;

In His holy Name, let us gather together

And offer this sacrifice in a real concord.

R.            Come, in Him let us be truly reconciled

Thus prepare a new and acceptable altar;

As a gesture of our love for our Master

Make this Offering before Him in deed. 

These verses clearly and concisely state the ground and goal of the liturgical gathering.  It is the command of Christ, “Do this in my memory,” that brings the members of the community to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.  This is an explicit way of announcing that the believers are gathering in the name of Christ, to do what He has commanded.  Through the above lines the faithful recall and remember the great works that their Lord did for them on the day of the Passover - a fresh recapturing and reliving of the past in the present.  They do not stop there.  Rather, the assembly intends to renew the memory of Christ and offer a sacrifice acceptable to the Lord - an offering characterized by reconciliation and love for God and their fellow beings.  When these verses are sung with a proper disposition, the dynamics of the liturgical celebration is visibly credible.  That is to say, the Christian ethos of love and reconciliation become alive and active enabling the believers to move in that direction of the kingdom of God, which Jesus inaugurated on earth, during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.  In other words, the ethos of the community becomes alive and is transmitted afresh and corporately during the liturgical celebration of the community, which is capable of transforming the celebrants to that which they celebrate. Undoubtedly, what the faithful celebrate is the mystery of their life - their Christian existence - in light of the mystery of Christ against the background of the history of salvation. That is to say, the believers become Christ-like, for it is the mystery of Christ that they see, smell, hear, touch, taste and meditate upon during the Divine Liturgy.

It is wonderful to notice the change in the attitude of the people who gather in the name of Christ and at the command of Christ in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The Christ-like existence of the faithful makes them think of Christ’s mission on earth and helps them to think like Christ and gradually to act like Christ.  An extraordinary view of this change is noticeable in the successive hymn of the Divine Liturgy.  The assembly made up of Christ-like members remember and joyfully repeat the angel’s hymn with a dramatic effect what resounded at the mystery of the Incarnation: “C. Glory to God in the highest. R. Amen” (repeated three times). “C. And on earth, peace and firm hope to men in all times for ever and ever. R. Amen.”[72]  Having gathered together at the command of Christ and having acquired the mind and likeness of Christ, the faithful cannot but wish and work for the glory of God, peace on earth and hope to human beings, the quintessence of the mission of Jesus Christ.  Once again the dynamics of the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in transforming the participants - transforming the faithful to a Christ-like existence - becomes visible and tangible.  It is here that one gets a glimpse of the effectiveness of the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on the one hand, and the Christian identity, on the other.

Viewing the assembly of the Qurbana, it is proper to conclude that the celebrants who come together are those who are already initiated into and strengthened by the life of Christ, through the sacraments of the Church. It is not only that the participants of the celebration are introduced to the life of Christ, but the memory of the Lord is fresh within them.  That is the reason the faithful promptly respond “We do this in accordance with the command of Christ” to the invitation of the Celebrant. “Let us begin this Qurbana in accordance with the command given to you.”[73]  The celebrating community knows for certain that it has come to fulfil the command and accomplish the memorial of the Lord. To the worshipping community, the captivating scene is none other than that of the Last Supper. This is made evident and alive as the assembly sings this introductory and invitational part of the Divine Liturgy. The hymn annapeshatirunalil (on that feast of the pesah [Passover]), that is in current use paints a colorful picture of the past scene in reference to the present memorial celebration. Obviously, it illustrates the background of the celebration, that is, the Passover feast of the Jews during which Jesus celebrated the feast of the new covenant, the anticipation of His sacrifice on the cross. The hymn plainly elucidates the necessary dispositions, like love, reconciliation, communion, that the believers ought to have for the celebration of the Qurbana.  Though the singing of this hymn is a small act of the community, it is a significant act, which re-minds, re-members and re-lives the mystery of Christ in the context of the mystery of Christian existence. It lifts the mind and heart of the participants of the celebration to the sublime creative and redemptive act of the Lord and locates the source of life in the Offering of their life to God.

This becomes all the more evident and effective as the community makes repeated remembrance of the command of Christ at various moments of the Qurbana.[74]  All these commemorations of the command of Christ instil into the faithful an indelible image of Jesus Christ, who is their Master and Savior. The image that the believers receive of Christ is one of His passion, death, burial and resurrection, the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Having contemplated the image of Christ, the assembly, gradually, imbibes the characteristics of Christ, which become necessarily expressed in their life.  That is to say, the kenosis of Jesus leaves an enduring impression on the faithful and, slowly, it becomes a governing value in the life of Christians.[75]

The celebrating community devotes sufficient space to recollect what this kenosis means. Praying the second g’hantha the celebrant recalls: “And with these heavenly hosts, we give you thanks, O Lord, and we bless God the Word, hidden offspring from your bosom, who, being in your likeness and the splendor which is from you and the image of your being, thought this not robbery to be your equal, but emptied himself and took the likeness of a servant and became man perfect with a rational and intelligent and immortal soul and with a mortal human body, and was born of a woman and was under the law that he might redeem those who were under the law, and he left unto us the memorial of our salvation, this mystery which we offer before you.”[76]  As the faithful confess and contemplate the truth of this articulation, they concentrate on the truth of the kenosis in the mystery of the Incarnation; they discover the Christian ethos of compassionate love and selfless service in the washing of the feet and the breaking of the bread for the healing and life of all

Then, the assembly professes the purpose of the Incarnation in the second half of the second g’hantha after the Institution Narrative. Thanking the Lord for His wonderful deeds, the celebrant focuses on the aim of the Incarnation as follows: “You have done us great favors which cannot be repaid in that you put on our humanity in order to vivify it by your divinity.”[77] As a consequence, the believers are endowed with the divinity and they have to aspire to it, if not conscious of the reality.  When the divinity takes possession of the faithful, a true transformation of persons is inevitable: they become like Christ and their words and works resemble that of Christ, the true image and likeness of God.  It is a real and integral transformation which is visualized in the celebration of the Qurbana.  The short but significant prayer said before the Communion of the Mysteries clearly illustrates the desire of the believer for a total transformation: “O Christ, hope of all mankind, sanctify our bodies by your sacred Body, and pardon our offences by your precious Blood and purify our conscience with the hyssop of your compassion, Lord of all for ever.”[78]  In this prayer, it is obvious that the Communion of the Mysteries changes the believers thoroughly and offers them with a new mode of existence.[79]  A blessing formula, again before the Communion of the Mysteries, addressed to the people sheds more light on the life that the faithful have in Christ: “May the gift of the grace of the Giver of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, be made perfect in us all through His mercy.”[80] The transformation of the faithful is conspicuous: they not only receive the new life in Christ, but also the life they have in Christ is being perfected through the Holy Mystery.  In addition to this, the Communion of the holy Mystery forgives sins and grants eternal life[81]to the communicant.  In this manner, through the celebration of the Qurbana, the believers grow in the life of Christ and consequently inherit eternal life.

Coming to the structure of the Qurbana, it magnificently presents the Christ-event in a progressive manner. The Qurbana begins with the glad tidings of the Mystery of the Incarnation: “C. Glory to God in the highest. R. Amen. (three times) C. And on earth, peace and firm hope to men in all times for ever and ever. R. Amen.”[82]   As the faithful sing the angels’ hymn, they enter into the creative and redemptive darkness charged with the splendor of the Light, the Son of God that is newly born at Bethlehem. With the hymn, the assembly recalls and relives the birth of the Savior; it marks the daybreak for the people of God. Symbolically the church enters into the heavenly paradise, for the glory of God; the peace on earth and the hope to human beings are loudly and joyfully announced and acclaimed.  Together with the birth of Jesus, the doors of the new paradise are wide open: the access to the glorious, peaceful and hopeful heavenly kingdom is proclaimed.  Singing the angel’s hymn the earthly makes its entrance to the heavenly kingdom, where shalôm, the well-being of every being, reigns supreme. At the birth of the Emmanuel, the world regains harmony; the believers glorify God; peace on earth is proclaimed; the hope of humanity is restored.  Simultaneously, the whole of the history of salvation is indirectly unfolded: the primordial and the eschatological, for the angels’ hymn retrieves the past and projects the future in the present moment of the liturgical celebration.  Thus, the faithful are introduced to the kingdom of God inaugurated in Christ.

The introduction of the faithful to the kingdom of God in Christ is made explicit as the congregation in one voice calls God the Father in the words Jesus taught His disciples.  Without any further introduction or invitation, the community of believers feels free to call God “Our Father”[83] in Christ, for in the Son the faithful become daughters and sons of God. Along with the remembrance of the birth of Christ, through the angels’ hymn, the faithful enter into the Kingdom of God, and with Him and in Him they call God “Our Father.” In this manner, the Introductory Rite of the Qurbana introduces the faithful to the mystery of the birth of the Lord. 

The liturgy of the Word makes present to the faithful the baptism and the preaching of the Lord. The Transfer of Gifts reminds the faithful regarding the passion and death of the Lord, for the prayers loudly and clearly bear testimony to this truth.  For example, the archdeacon pours wine into the chalice and says: “The precious Blood is poured into the chalice of Christ our Lord in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”[84]  And as the archdeacon pours water into the chalice, he recalls: “One of the soldiers came and pierced the side of our Lord with a spear; and immediately there came out blood and water and he who saw it has borne witness, and his witness is true.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”[85] These sayings of the Rite of the Transfer of Gifts lead the faithful to a deeper assimilation of the mystery of the passion and death of Jesus Christ. In the Anaphora, the assembly commemorates the mystery of Christ by way of praising God the Father, thanking the Son and imploring the Holy Spirit.  During these moments of the celebration the members of the mystical Body contemplate in a special way the mystery of Death, Resurrection and Pentecost.  The successive moment of the celebration is the Rite of Reconciliation, during which the faithful get reconciled with God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.  This follows the Rite of Communion, through which the believers come to a union with the risen Body of Christ.  At the Thanksgiving and Concluding Rites, with hearts filled with gratitude the believers reflect upon the eschatological fulfillment in Christ.

From the above description of the structure of the celebration of the Qurbana, it is perceptible that the Divine Liturgy reveals, revives and renews the Christian ethos in the context of a corporate act of the community.  As and when the community celebrates the memorial of the Lord, the Christian vision and values bequeathed by the Lord and housed in the tradition come alive.  As a result the regular celebration of the Divine Liturgy enables the participants of the Qurbana to experience the ethos of Christ and of the community in a context of celebration.  This festive context facilitates the believers to assimilate the basic dispositions and attitudes that constitute the Christian ethos. That is to say, there is a configuration of the faithful to the images, stories abd values of the ethos taking place in and through the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.  It is nothing but a transformation of the believers into the life and likeness of Christ, for the liturgy fundamentally and constantly manifests the image of Christ, from the moment of His birth to the eschatological fulfillment.  The image of Christ, that is being revealed through the celebration, slowly takes possession of the faithful and steadily shapes corresponding thoughts, words and actions in the believers.  The seeing of something/someone regularly with interest and earnestness gradually ends up in a likeness to the thing/person beheld by the beholder.  This principle becomes all the more operative when the seeing, the hearing, the touching, the smelling, and the tasting is done in public and as a body.  The occasions like that of the celebrations of the Divine Liturgy supply such common and corporate action; hHence a greater possibility to be transformed into the likeness of Christ and to radiate the image of God through public worship in the Church.

In addition, the special arrangement of the liturgical seasons in the Church more elaborately reveals the progressive programmatic presentation of the mystery of Christ, otherwise manifested and celebrated concisely in the Divine Liturgy.  The arrangement of the liturgical seasons varies from one tradition to another. Here too reference will be made to the liturgical seasons of the Syro-Malabar Rite.

The liturgical year is divided into nine seasons[86]: the Annunciation; the Epiphany, the Great Fast, the Resurrection, the Apostles, the Summer; the Elias and Cross; the Moses; and the Consecration of the Church.  From the observation of the very order of the division of the year, the organic and progressive vision of the Christian ethos is obvious.  The liturgical year begins with the glad tidings of the salvation, which finds its climax in the Nativity, the birth of Jesus.  Then, the season of Epiphany, the manifestation of the Lord marked with His baptism at Jordan, where the Father reveals the Son to the world and expresses His love for the Son.  The public life of Jesus is commemorated during this season. During the Great Fast the passion, death and burial of the Lord is remembered.  The period of Resurrection contemplates the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord. After the season of Resurrection follows the period of the Apostles, which is marked by the feast of the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and recalls the preaching of the message of the kingdom of God.  As a result of the work of the Spirit and the preaching of the Apostles there is the growth of the Church, which is recollected during the period of the Summer.  The glorification and the veneration of the Cross of Christ is the central theme of the period of the Elias and the Cross. Then the season of Moses, in which the Church prepares herself for the day of judgement. Finally, there is the consecration of the Church by Christ to the Father at the Parousia, which marks the eschatological fulfillment.

The above account of the liturgical seasons illustrates the way through which the Church treasures and transmits her ethos alive and active. By way of following the different liturgical seasons annually, the mystery of Christ is unveiled to the faithful, of course, in relationship with human history and mystery. Besides the celebration of the mystery of Christ in the Divine Liturgy, the arrangement of the liturgical season offers the faithful an added opportunity to contemplate different phases of the mystery of Christ one after another for a deeper personal assimilation. Thus, while the celebration of the Divine Liturgy helps the faithful to walk before, with, in and for Christ regularly, the arrangement of the liturgical seasons assists the believers to contemplate the mystery of Christ annually and conform themselves to His likeness constantly.

From the above discussion on the liturgical celebration of the Qurbana, it is clear that Christian worship is Christ-centered. The structure of each and every celebration of the Qurbana and the organization of the liturgical seasons marvellously make the mystery of Christ present for a present appreciation and appropriation. As the mystery of Christ is unveiled to the worshipping assembly, so do the believers have a collective and personal encounter with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit.  Such a personal and ecclesial experience of the risen Lord in the Eucharist necessarily forms the frame of thought of the believers correspondingly.  Consequently, these thoughts are supposed to find translation in the daily life of the Christians by way of adequate words and appropriate action.  Since the celebration is pre-eminently centered on the mystery of Christ, the thought that the believers will be equipped with the Eucharist will match with the thought of Christ. If the thought of Christ pervades the mind of the faithful, then, undoubtedly, their words and actions will necessarily be like that of Christ.  Besides, the sacramental regeneration of the faithful to the likeness of God in Christ through the Spirit fundamentally engenders the faithful towards a life in Christ and a Christ-like life. 

Indeed, to-be-in-Christ and to-be-like-Christ is an ongoing and growing task for the faithful.  Though the faithful are reborn to the new life in Christ, this new state of life is to be preserved and perfected through their daily life, through carrying their crosses and walking before the Lord. This is the path to perfection, the way to the holiness of the Father. The celebration of the Eucharist nourishes and supports the believers on the way to the Father in Christ through the Spirit. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the believer makes the forward and upward movement, until humanity is vivified fully by divinity. In this sense the role of Christian ethics is to support and guide the faithful towards the Christ-likeness, the divinization. In fulfilling this task, Christian ethics has to be ever more rooted in the mystery of Christ and in the history of salvation, which the celebration of the Divine Liturgy magnificently manifests and accomplishes.

To conclude, Christian ethics, therefore, indicates and involves a moving and living in Christ and a living like Christ. In and through creation and redemption in Christ every person is filially related to the Father through the Spirit.  Through the celebration of the sacraments of initiation, in a special way through the Eucharist, the Church imparts to the faithful the life of Christ. This life of Christ enables the believers to lead a life in Christ, both in mind and body.  Such a transformation of the faithful in Christ, necessarily, enables them to live like Christ through their daily thought-word-action, giving glory to God, establishing peace on earth and rendering hope to human beings.


[1] H. T. Engelhardt Jr., Bioethics and Secular Humanism: The Search for a Common Morality, London: SCM Press, 1991, 101.

[2] J. B. Chethimattam, “Christian Moral Theology,” Jeevadhara 19 (1989), 320.

[3] J. Verstraten, “An Ethical Agenda for Europe,” Ethical Perspective 1 (1994), 1-12.

[4] A. Scola, “Gesù Cristo, fonte di vita cristiana,” Studia Moralia 36 (1998), 26.

[5] S. Acerincev, “Il futuro del cristianesimo in Europa,” in L’identità culturale dell’Europa, a cura di S. E. Paul Card. Poupard (Casale Monferrato, 1994), 125.

[6] B. Petrà, “Le sfide del teologo moralista,” Studia Moralia 33 (1995), 11.

[7] V. Guroian, Ethics after Christendom, Toward an Ecclesial Christian Ethic, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994, 33.

[8] Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Nine Propositions on Christian Ethics,” in J. Ratzinger, H. Schúrmann & H. U. von Balthasar, Principles of Christian Morality, trans. Graham Harrison, San Francesco: Ignatus Press, 1986, 79. Title of the German original is Prinzipien Christlicher Moral, Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1975.

[9] John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, §104.

[10] The Sanskrit rendering  of ethics is interesting and illuminative.  There are two terms generally employed to mean ethics.  They are dharmashastra and nītiśastra. Dharmaśastra is composed of two words, namely, dharma + śastra. The term Dharma denotes and connotes many things.  Basically the term dharma comes from the root dhr, meaning that which holds together, that which supports.  Śastra means science or logia. Therefore, dharamśastra means the science that holds people together. It is the dharma meaning religion or faith that holds people together. Obviously, it is the faith that holds together or support people in their ultimate realization. about righteousness.  And Nītiśastra is a compound of nīti + śastra.  Nīya-anīya, meaning to lead, is the root of nīti. So the term nītisśastra denotes the science that leads people to their destination through uprightness.

[11] One can better appreciate the relationship between life and faith, if one pay attention to the Sanskrit term for faith.  The Sanskrit word for faith is viśwas, which is a compound of vi + śwas. Vi is an adjectival prefix meaning special, holy, divine, etc.  śwas means breath, life, etc.  So literally viśwasa denotes a special divine breath that sustains and supports life.

[12] D. J. Billy masterfully indicates some of the areas in which spirituality and morality are interrelated. He postulates ten theses to provide a helpful counter discourse in the arena of morality and spirituality.  They address the real challenge in the camp of faith and life. See his article, “The Unfolding of Tradition,” in Spirituality & Morality. Integrating Prayer & Action, eds. Dennis J. Billy and Donna Lynn Orsuto, New York/Mahwah, N. J.: Paulist Press, 1996, 9-31.

[13] It is worth noting that the part III of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is entitled “Life in Christ,” where the discussion on Christian moral life is found.

[14] Vatican II, Optatam Totius, §16.

[15] Bernard Häring emphasized the Christocentric character of Christian ethics in his Law of Christ and reiterated it in Free and Faithful in Christ.  Moral Theology for Priests and Laity. Vol. I . General Moral Theology, Slough: St. Paul Publications, 1978. According to him, “A Christocentric moral theology tries to synthesize theocentrism and Christian anthropocentrism.” Ibidem, 5. On the following page he explains his clear stance on Christian ethics clearly: “Moral theology, as I understand it, is not concerned first with decision-making or with discrete acts.  Its basic task and purpose is to gain right vision, to assess the main perspectives, and to present those truths and values which should bear upon decisions to be made before God.” Ibidem, 6.

[16] See Catechism of the Catholic Church §1213.

[17] The valuable contributions of Réal Tremblay in the direction of the filial relationship of the faithful with God include the following works: L’«Homme» qui divinise pour une interprétation christocentrique de l’existence in Brèches Théologiques 16, Montréal, QC: Éditions Paulines; Paris: Médiaspaul, 1993; Cristo e la morale in alcuni documenti del Magistero (Roma: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1996); Radicati e fondati nel Figlio. Contributi per una morale di tipo filial, Roma: Edizione Dehoniane, 1997; “L’Homme, épiphanie du Fils,” Studia Moralia 36 (1998) 37-66; “Filial Relationship with God,” Theological Digest 45 (1998) 135-139.

[18] Catechism of the Catholic Church §1691.

[19] R. Tremblay, Cristo e la morale, 15.

[20] Catechism of the Catholic Church §1694; Cristo e la morale, 15.

[21] Catechism of the Catholic Church §1701.

[22] Catechism of the Catholic Church §1709, 1715; R. Tremblay, Cristo e morale, 17.

[23] Catechism of the Catholic Church §1996; Cf. John 1: 12-18; Romans 8: 14-17; 2 Peter 1: 3-4; John 17, 3.

[24] R. Tremblay, Cristo e la morale, 23.

[25] Tremblay, Radicati e fondati nel Figlio. 8-9.

[26] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, §19.

[27]John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, §19.

[28] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 21.

[29] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 21.

[30] See John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 18.

[31] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 21.

[32] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 45.

[33] See John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 53.

[34] R. Tremblay, Cristo e la morale, 49.

[35] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 72.

[36] See John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 83.

[37] See R. Tremblay, “Quest-ce que la morale chrétienne?  Esssai de définition à la lumière de l’épisode du «lavement des pieds» de Jn 13, 1-20,” in L’«Homme» qui divinise, 179-209. In this article the author analyses the washing of feet by Jesus and brings to light its moral import.

[38] B. Petrà, “Moral Theology in Orthodox Tradition,” Ephrem’s Theological Journal 2 (March 1998) 18.

[39] B. Petrà, “Moral Theology in Orthodox Tradition,” 19.

[40] B. Petrà, “Moral Theology in Orthodox Tradition,” 14.

[41] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1275.

[42] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1277.

[43] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1316.

[44] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1325.

[45] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1326.

[46] Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium § 10.

[47] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1327.

[48] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1407.

[49] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2030.

[50]  St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres, 4, 18, 5: PG 7/1, 1028. Cited from Catechism of the Catholic Church §1327.

[51] V. Pathikulangara, Chaldeo-Indian Liturgy, Kottayam: Oriental Institute of Religious Studies India, 1992, 13.

[52] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1110.

[53] B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” in Liturgia: itinerari di ricerca. Scienza liturgica e discipline teologiche in dialogo, Roma: Edizioni Liturgiche, 1997, 361-362.

[54] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2031.

[55] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, §107; This theme is developed at greater length in the apostolic letter Dies Domini (DD). In connection with the Sunday celebration, the Pontiff comments: “The Eucharist is an event and program of true brotherhood.  From the Sunday Mass there flows a tide of charity destined to spread into the whole life of the faithful, beginning by inspiring the very way in which they live the rest of Sunday.” DD 72;  In the following paragraph, the Pope exhorts: “Lived in this way, not only the Sunday Eucharist but the whole of Sunday becomes a school of charity, justice and peace.” DD 73.

[56] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2031.

[57] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2031.

[58] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2047.

[59] Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2048.

[60] See Catechism of the Catholic Church §2038

[61] John Paul II, Vertitatis Splendor, 21.

[62] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 21.

[63] R. Tremblay, Cristo e la morale, 43.

[64] D. E. Saliers, “Liturgy and Ethics: Some New Beginnings,” in Introduction to Christian Ethics, A Reader, eds. R. P. Hamel and K. R. Himes, New York: Paulist Press, 1989, 180.

[65] B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” 363.

[66] B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” 364.

[67] B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” 361-362.

[68] B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” 362.

[69] The reasons for the selection of the text of the Divine Liturgy are diverse.  First of all, this is the church in which I was born and brought up, and therefore, it sustains me.  Next, the eucharistic prayer used in this liturgy is one of most ancient forms of eucharistic prayer that is extant, namely, that of  Addai and Mari.  Then, while this liturgy preserves the characteristic elements of Jewish liturgy, it is still appealing to the modern mind that seeks to enter into the depths of the mystery and takes time to celebrate.  Further, the cosmic and the eschatological dimensions of this liturgy are compelling.  The picture that it paints of a Christian is every existential.

[70] The Syro-Malabar Qurbana. The Order of Raza, Ernakulam: Syro-Malabar Bishop’s Conference, 1989.

[71] “C. Let us begin this Qurbana in accordance with the command given to you.  R. We do this in accordance with the command of Christ.” The Syro-Malabar Qurbana. The Order of the Raza (=Qurbana), Ernakulam: Syro-Malabar Bishop’s Conference, 1989, 1.  What is cited in the text is a translation of the hymn found and sung during the liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana in the native language, Malayalam, of the Thomas Christians of India.

[72] Qurbana, 1.

[73] Qurbana, 1.

[74] There are many explicit references made to the command of Christ. “May Christ who was sacrificed for our salvation, and who commanded us to celebrate the memory of His passion, death, burial and resurrection accept this sacrifice from our hands, through His grace and mercy,  for ever, Amen” Qurbana, 30;  “By your command, O Lord, Our God, these glorious, holy, life-giving and divine mysteries are set and arranged on the holy altar of Christ, until his glorious second coming from heaven” Qurbana, 30; “he left us the memorial of our salvation, this mystery which we offer before you” Qurbana, 39; “O Lord my God, we make the memorial of the passion of your Son as He taught us” Qurbana, 40; “When you are gathered together in my name, do in remembrance of me this that I have done” Qurbana, 40; “As we have been commanded, O my Lord” Qurbana, 42; “in the commemoration of the Body and Blood of your Christ which we offer you upon the pure and holy altar as you have taught us” Qurbana, 44; “commemorating and celebrating this great awesome, holy, vivifying and divine mystery of the passion, the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” Qurbana, 44.

[75] In this context it is interesting to note another synthesis C. Caffara arrives at.  He indicates the dynamism of the Eucharist in its relationship to the moulding of Christian attitudes and dispositions proper to the celebration and the Christian ethos.  “In and through the celebration of the Eucharist, understood in its totality…, Jesus Christ strips the believer of egoistic self-possession and makes him a participant in his own charity.  As a result of this grace-filled event, the believer no longer belongs to himself, but to the one who died for him, and he receives as a gift the commandment to love as Jesus Christ has loved.” Living in Christ, 20.

[76] Qurbana, 39.

[77] Qurbana, 42.

[78] Qurbana, 54.

[79] A picture of the new mode of existence is splendidly available in one of the Thanksgiving Prayers of the congregation. “Strengthen, O Lord, the hands which have been outstretched to receive the most Holy unto the forgiveness of sins.  Make them worthy to bring forth fruits everyday for your divinity. Make the lips which have praised you within the sanctuary worthy to sing your glory. Let not the ears which have heard the sound of your praises hear the voice of terror.  Let the eyes which have beheld your great mercy also behold the blessed hope which is from you. Dispose the tongues which have cried holy, for the speaking of truth.  Make the feet which have walked in the Churches walk in the region of light.  Renew the bodies which have eaten your living Body unto new life” Qurbana, 58.

[80] Qurbana, 55.

[81] The words of the Celebrant while giving the Communion brings this to light: “The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ be unto the remission of sins and life everlasting.” Qurbana, 56.

[82] Qurbana, 1.

[83] Qurbana, 2.

[84] Qurbana, 23.

[85] Qurbana, 24.  It might be interesting to note that the symbolism of water and wine is supported by its realism.  As the archdeacon pours wine a second time into the chalice, he says: “Wine is mixed with water and water with wine, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

[86] For details consult  Varghese Pathikulangara, “The Liturgical Year of the Syro-Malabar Rite,” Ephemerides Liturgicae 90 (1976) 173-196; James Aerthayil, The Spiritual Heritage of the St. Thomas Christians, Bangalore: Dharamaram Publications, 1982, 174-191.


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