The Chaldean Church comprises of Catholics whose rites and bishops descend from the Church of the East. Christian faith took root in the lands of Syria and Mesopotamia among people who spoke Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. At Pentecost, according to Acts 2:8-11, those present included people from the territories where the Church of the East took root: “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia.” Tradition claims that the Apostle Thomas was among the first to evangelize there. In the epistles, the first letter of Peter refers to a Christian presence in Babylon. In the early fifth century, the church, whose territory fell under the ruling of the Persian (Sasanian) Empire, split from the churches of the Roman Empire. In light of this, the Church of the East developed many of its own theological and liturgical traditions. It spread Christianity as far as India and China.
Successive bishops and their followers from the Church of the East returned into communion with Rome in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, forming the Chaldean Catholic Church. In 1830, Rome established the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, which strengthened and unified the Church. Other bishops and believers from the Church of the East have joined as recently as 2008. The Chaldean Catholic Church continues to emphasize its own customs and liturgies, although these have also been changed and adapted over time and were Arabized in the 20th century. The Church is centered in Iraq, from the northern part of the country to Baghdad. As of 2007, Chaldeans were said to constitute 80% of the Christian population in Iraq. Official counts of Chaldean Catholics fluctuate significantly from year to year, for reasons that cannot be wholly accounted for due to migration. Statics confirm that for the year 2017, the Holy See’s Annuario Pontificio calculated about 240,000 Chaldean Catholics in Iraq; almost 3,400 in Iran; 4,000 in Jordan; 20,000 in Lebanon; 2,000 in Egypt; 10,000 in Syria; 32,000 in Turkey; 250,000 in the United States; 35,000 in Australia; and almost 32000 in Canada, concluding toa total of 628,405.
The Chaldean Catholic Church is a descendant of the Church of the East, an Ancient Church located in Mesopotamia. It traces its roots back to the time of Mar Addai (St. Addai) and Mar Mari (St. Mari), disciples of St. Thomas the Apostle. Currently, four churches claim patrimony from the Church of the East: The Chaldean Catholic Church, The Assyrian Church of the East, The Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, and The Syro-Malabar Church.
The Catholic Church is composed of various rites including both Eastern and Western rites. There are 23 Eastern rites and among these includes the Chaldean Catholic Church. The Eastern rites refer to churches who retain their own identity (traditions, liturgies, spirituality etc), but are in full communion with the Pope of Rome.
The rites of the Chaldean and Assyrian Church of the East are some of the simplest and most ancient Eastern rites. They arose in a Semitic-Jewish environment, away from Greek influence. The prayers, melodies, and symbols used are characterized by hope, sober glory, reverence, and joy.
Liturgical Year of the Chaldean Church
The Mystery of Salvation, accomplished by the Father through Jesus Christ with the work of the Holy Spirit, is wholly and fully re-enacted in every Eucharistic Sacrifice celebrated in the community of the faithful.
The liturgical year as we know it today has originated from Patriarch Isho-Yahb III’s own arrangement of the liturgical year in 587AD. It is crafted in such a way that it begins with the Divine Providence manifested through the advent of our saviour and ends with the crowning of salvation, namely, the perpetual union of the redeemed community (the Church) with its Lord in eternal bliss. Under this background we may analyse briefly the arrangement and spirit of each period
Subara, or the Annunciations
The promise of God made after the sin of Adam starts here and the beginning of salvation is recalled in this period. Subara speaks of two things: the gift of God to Mary by choosing her as the Mother of Jesus Christ and then, in connection with this, in order to refine the image of Adam and Eve and original sin. The four Sundays teach the different stories of the Incarnation, not so that we may be filled with penitential tears, but upmost joy, as God is returning humanity to the original order of holiness. The West focuses more on the corrupted image of Adam, whereas we focus on the joy of Gods redemption over humanity.
Yelda, or Nativity
The season of Yelda varies between 1 – 2 weeks and speaks of the gift from God of Christmas that Jesus is coming to save humanity.
Dinha, or Epiphany
Mostly stressed in this season is the Baptism of Christ, wherein we are revealed the mystery of the Trinity in Christ’s humanity, the manifestation of God in the man Jesus of Nazareth. This feast is the first feast celebrated in the Eastern Church as it marks the first act Jesus took in the commencement of his mission. In the prayer for Epiphany, we say that the Divinity was mixed with the humanity.
During the season of Epiphany, every Friday is dedicated to a specific feast. The first Friday is the Feast of John the Baptist, as he was the first to witness this manifestation. The second Friday is followed by Peter & Paul who stand as the pillars of the Church to whom is confided this Mystery to be manifested to generations. The third Friday involves the Evangelists who record this revealed Mystery for future generations. The fourth Friday “Stephen”, the protomartyr was the first to bear witness to this revelation by the shedding of his blood. The Doctors of the Church taught the people to interpret this revelation authentically. The various Patron Saints of each church are a constant inspiration to live and recognise this Mystery. The Friday ends with the Feast of those who have departed and who faithfully bore witness to this revelation in their daily life to their death. We move on to fasting in Lent with consideration of how we live this Mystery in our life.
This is a mini-penitential season, also known as the Supplication of the Ninevites. During this season we recall the preaching of Jonah to the Ninevites. It was a declaration of fasting by the Patriarch so that the Lord may have mercy on His people. The exact origin of Bautha is unknown but is said to be initiated by either Patriarch Elias or Mar Emneh
Sawma Raba, the Great Lent
The 7 Sundays of Lent revolve around 3 topics: fasting, praying, and almsgiving, with more emphasis on praying and fasting. St. Ephrem highlights a spiritually important point in one of his prayers, “If you fast only from meat or from sin and do not pray, you are changing nothing”. The Lenten seasons is one of conversion to God and an imitation of the 40 days our Lord spent in the desert after his baptism. This season is specifically dedicated our preparation for the Passion and Death of our Lord. During this season it is good to meditate on the sins of our first parents, our own inclination to sin and its consequences, our separation from God, the call to repentance and return, and God’s infinite love and mercy towards us. Death especially is one consequence of sin and is good to meditate on for repentance and reconciliation.
During Holy Week (the final week of Lent) we follow Jesus’ steps as outlined in the Gospels. We begin on Palm Sunday where we focus on the Messianic identity of the Lord as the saviour and king, hence the use of palms.
On Holy Thursday, we follow him through his arrest and the carrying of his cross. On Good Friday, we remember His passion and the agony of our Lord.
On Passion Friday, we are encouraged to set all work aside and spend the whole day in fasting and prayer. We are the only Church that has a reflection on Tatian’s diatessaron because our readings for the liturgy are taken from the diatessaron. The diatessaron was compiled by Tatian, probably written in Aramaic, in an attempt to harmonize the four Gospels into one book. We read this reflection at ramsha, or evening prayer. Ramsha is the most important liturgical celebration on this day.
This is the feast of all feasts and focuses on the resurrection and the effects of the resurrection. Humanity was taken and held ransom by the devil however, Jesus brought and bought humanity back. Jesus paid the ultimate price through the shedding of His blood in order to restore all of humanity. During each Sunday, we focus on Jesus’ mission in strengthening the faith of the apostles as he attempts to stabilise them until they no longer have any doubt.
During this season the prayers of the church (said every Sunday) meditate on the apostles’ duty of fulfilling and continuing the mission of Jesus. They take on the responsibility and are convinced that they must be witnesses to the word of Jesus Christ alone. It became their commitment to spread the Word of God and go around baptising all nations.
The Word of God was spread and sowed amongst the many nations causing many people to repent and follow the apostles to receive the message of Jesus Christ. Summer is the season when the trees and plants flower and produce fruits. It was the mission of those men to clean the world from sin. During the Sundays of this season, wherever there is evil or sin, they go after it to clean and purify it! Why? Because they are waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ. This is a period for preparation for the last judgment. The Transfiguration happens during this period, which is a symbol for what happens to each individual and to all creation by assimilating the salvation accomplished by Christ.
Called Elijah because before Jesus comes, we believe Elijah will come again (Revelation). There is a focus on the end times during this feast. The Feast of Elijah leads into the Feast of the Holy Cross.
During the Feast of the Holy Cross the main focus is on the victory of the cross over the world. It summarizes the entire teachings of Jesus Christ and Christians must be proud of having a cross of Jesus Christ. It is a theological symbol containing the power of the Resurrection of Christ and his eschatological coming. It’s the sign of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:30) and the perfection of the Christian life. It is considered to be the expression of the saving power of Christ’s passion.
There are four weeks in the season of Moses. Before concluding the Liturgical year, we occasionally need to include a couple of Sundays from the season of Moses in order to bring the Old Testament together. Depending on when Easter falls, there may or may not be the season of Moses.
Qudesh Edta, Sanctification of the Church
Jesus is coming with His cross to take all of His faithful with Him to heaven. This speaks of the relationship between Jesus and His Church (the groom and the bride). The ritual of the wedding for us is taken from the 4th Sunday of the Church. On that Sunday, the Church speaks about the relation between Jesus and the Church as a model for the husband and wife