Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 14th July - 3pm Great Vespers, 4pm Divine Liturgy for Sunday

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.

To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Church of the East, Christoph Baumer

The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity, Christoph Baumer (I B Tauris - Palgrave Macmillan, pp 328, £25)

Three scholars well-known in Eastern Church circles recommend this large and beautifully illustrated coffee table book on the Church of the East, sometimes called Assyrian or Nestorian. The first is the Syriac scholar in Oxford University Dr. Sebastian Brock who writes:
Christoph Baumer's fine book should take its place at once as much the best available general history of the Church of the East, from its beginning to the present day. It is especially strong on the expansion of the Church in Central and East Asia, making excellent use of recent finds. Throughout it is splendidly illustrated by photographs, many of which were taken during the author`s own extensive travels.
The second scholar is Dr. J.F.Coakley, who wrote the study of the relationship between the Church of the East and the Church of England, and is Senior Lecturer in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University:

Christoph Baumer's book ranges wide, intellectually and geographically. Even readers who know the Church of the East by its missionary reputation will be surprised to discover some of the places its has been – the scattered but very fascinating evidence from Central Asia and China is impressively presented – and to consider how its theology evolved in dialogue with other currents of thought.

The third scholar is a member of the Committee of the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association - Dr. Erica Hunter, Affiliated Lecturer in Aramaic and Syriac, in the University of Cambridge and Teaching Fellow in Eastern Christianity at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University:

This well-researched and well-written book does much to make accessible the precious and ancient history of the Assyrians. Particularly laudable is the attention that the author has paid to the Church`s internationalism, and to dioceses that spanned – for almost a millennium- a multitude of ethnic and linguistic groups, from Baghdad to China. The “Church of the East” makes fascinating and enthralling reading, not only for students of religion but also for the interested general reader.

The Church of the East was the first Christian body to enter Tibet. In a letter written in 795/798 to his good friend Sergius of Elam, Patriarch Timothy referred not only to Silk Road and today is located in the Chinese province of Gansu. In the religious cave complex of Dunhuang, which belonged to the Tibetan Empire from 781/787 to 848, European explorers found in cave 17, which had been sealed since 1036, tens of thousands of manuscripts. Although the vast majority were Buddhist, there were also Nestorian documents, among them eight fragments written in Chinese and three in Tibetan. During the Mongol period the metropolitan see of Tibet was assimilated into that of Tangut, whose centre was in what today is Ningxia. Three fragments of Nestorian writings, two in Syriac and one in Turkish, were also discovered in the city of Kara Khoto on the northern border of Tangut. Another fascinating Nestorian witness is found in Tanktse, in eastern Ladakh, which belonged to the Tibetan Empire from circa 644 to 842, and then to western Tibetan principalities. Three large and eight smaller Maltese crosses, as well as a bird – perhaps a dove - and inscriptions in Tokharin, Sogdian, Chinese, Arabic and Tibetan are carved into a massive free-standing rock and a couple of smaller rocks.

The astonishing expansion of the Church of the East was unique; at one period it outnumbered the members of the Roman Church, but with the coming of the Mongols and then of the Turks caused its demise until, when it was re-discovered by Anglicans in the 19th century, it had been reduced to an almost Stone Age existence in the Hakkiari Mountains of what is now Northern Iraq and Eastern Anatolia.

The book covers something of the West Syrian Churches and their daughter Churches in India, where the notorious Council of Diamper and the Portugese Inquisition served to hopelessly Latinize them under the Portugese Catholics, a problem that is not, in India and the Diaspora, altogether resolved to this day.

John Salter

Mar Thomas Giwargis, Metropolitan of the Ancient Church of the East, celebrates a wedding in northern Iraq
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