As explained in an earlier blog post, all rites in the Catholic Church are fully united. We share the same beliefs and the same sacraments. We are all united under the Holy Father. The main difference in the rites lies in liturgical tradition. The liturgical seasons, prayers, and other traditions developed differently in the various Christian communities begun by the apostles. The differences between the rites’ liturgical traditions often reflect something about the spiritual experience of the apostle or saint that began the rite, or the experience and roots of the early community itself. The Latin rite, for example, places greater liturgical focus on the cross, repentance and conversion, especially through the epistles of St. Paul. This is not surprising, considering that the Latin rite was begun in Rome by Sts. Peter and Paul, both of whom had intense experiences of repentance and conversion. Several of the Eastern rites were started by St. John. These seasons, as well as the liturgy of the Word in these rites have a stronger emphasis on love and charity, consistent with St. John’s own experience of the Lord as the Beloved Disciple.
One of the characteristics of the Chaldean Catholic rite here in Iraq, which traces its heritage to the Apostle Thomas, is the preservation of tradition and the connection with the past. We often speak of continuity of the faith now and the beginnings of Christianity. The Chaldean liturgy has preserved traditions that date back even to pre-Christian times. Baoutha, a three day fast ending today is an example. It continues the practice of the fast first held in Nineveh (located in modern day Iraq) at the bidding of the prophet Jonah. After the time of Jonah, people of faith in Nineveh began fasting for three days each year, around the same time, to remember the message of Jonah, the need to repent and beg the Lord’s forgiveness. The Chaldean Christians furthered this tradition throughout the centuries, naming it the feast of Baoutha (Pleading), and placing it three weeks before the beginning of another season fasting and penitence observed by all Catholic rites, as well as many other Christian denominations: Lent. Let us all unite ourselves with our Chaldean brothers and sisters during their days of prayer and fasting, and learn from their appreciation of tradition and heritage.