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.”
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.”
J. Verstraten identifies the challenge for ethics as a “relativistic and
emotivistic society,” where every value receives the same value.
Also A. Scola attributes the present problem “to the relativism and to the
separation between private and public spheres (double morality).”
For S. Averincev, the challenge springs from the fact that “we have a
Christianity without a ‘Christian world’, a faith without safeguarding external
According to B. Petrà, “our time has neither the desire for nor the fear of
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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”
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
which is defined as their union with Christ at the level of being.
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.
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.”
Consequently, one who believes in Christ becomes a daughter or son of God in
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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).”
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.
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.”
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.”
Having assumed human nature, Jesus Christ illumines it marvellously and
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.”
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
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.
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
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».”
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
The new life that the
sacrament of Baptism bestows is “birth into the new life in Christ.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Therefore, the celebration of the Eucharist is “the source and summit of
“the sum and summary of our faith”
and “the heart and the summit of the Church’s life.”
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.»”
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.”
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
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.”
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
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
Along the same line and a step
further, it is appropriate to say that the moral life “is spiritual worship.”
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.”
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
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.”
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.”
As far as Christian life and morals are concerned, they are “united with the
liturgy and nourished by it.”
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.
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).
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.”
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).”
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.”
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
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.
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.”
According to the author, “the liturgy, in other words, contains in itself
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.
The Missal that will be consulted for this study, for practical reasons, is:
The Syro-Malabar Qurbana. The Order of Raza.
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
of the Eucharistic celebration according to the Syro-Malabar Rite run as
C. In accord with
the command of the Lord
Bequeathed on the feast of
In His holy Name, let us
And offer this sacrifice in
a real concord.
R. Come, in Him let
us be truly reconciled
Thus prepare a new and
As a gesture of our love for our
Make this Offering before Him in
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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 lifeto
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.”
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”
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”
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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.
H. T. Engelhardt Jr., Bioethics and Secular Humanism: The Search for a
Common Morality, London: SCM Press, 1991, 101.
J. B. Chethimattam, “Christian Moral Theology,” Jeevadhara 19 (1989),
J. Verstraten, “An Ethical Agenda for Europe,” Ethical Perspective 1
A. Scola, “Gesù Cristo, fonte di vita cristiana,” Studia Moralia 36
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.
B. Petrà, “Le sfide del teologo moralista,” Studia Moralia 33 (1995),
V. Guroian, Ethics after Christendom, Toward an Ecclesial Christian
Ethic, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994, 33.
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.
John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, §104.
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
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.
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.
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.
Vatican II, Optatam Totius, §16.
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.
See Catechism of the Catholic Church §1213.
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
Catechism of the Catholic Church §1691.
R. Tremblay, Cristo e la morale, 15.
Catechism of the Catholic Church §1694; Cristo e la morale,
Catechism of the Catholic Church §1701.
Catechism of the Catholic Church §1709, 1715; R. Tremblay, Cristo
e morale, 17.
Catechism of the Catholic Church §1996; Cf. John 1: 12-18; Romans 8:
14-17; 2 Peter 1: 3-4; John 17, 3.
R. Tremblay, Cristo e la morale, 23.
Tremblay, Radicati e fondati nel Figlio. 8-9.
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, §19.
Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, §19.
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 21.
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 21.
See John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 18.
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 21.
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 45.
See John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 53.
R. Tremblay, Cristo e la morale, 49.
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 72.
See John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, § 83.
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.
B. Petrà, “Moral Theology in Orthodox Tradition,” Ephrem’s Theological
Journal 2 (March 1998) 18.
B. Petrà, “Moral Theology in Orthodox Tradition,” 19.
B. Petrà, “Moral Theology in Orthodox Tradition,” 14.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1275.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1277.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1316.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1325.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1326.
Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium § 10.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1327.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1407.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2030.
St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres, 4, 18, 5: PG 7/1, 1028. Cited from
Catechism of the Catholic Church §1327.
V. Pathikulangara, Chaldeo-Indian Liturgy, Kottayam: Oriental
Institute of Religious Studies India, 1992, 13.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1110.
B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” in Liturgia: itinerari
Scienza liturgica e discipline
teologiche in dialogo,
Roma: Edizioni Liturgiche, 1997, 361-362.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2031.
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.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2031.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2031.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2047.
Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2048.
See Catechism of the Catholic Church §2038
John Paul II, Vertitatis Splendor, 21.
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 21.
R. Tremblay, Cristo e la morale, 43.
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.
B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” 363.
B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” 364.
B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” 361-362.
B. Petrà, “Teologia morale e scienza liturgica,” 362.
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
The Syro-Malabar Qurbana. The Order of Raza, Ernakulam: Syro-Malabar
Bishop’s Conference, 1989.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.