Liturgical Comparison Between the Assyrian and Chaldean Churches of the East

The Year of Mercy lectures resumed on February 9, 2016, after a break for the Christmas holiday. His Excellency Bishop Mar Bawai Soro lectured on the topic of “Comparing the Eucharistic Liturgies of the Assyrian and the Chaldean Churches of the East”.

Assyrian Church

One one hand, in 1928 in Mosul-Iraq, the Assyrian Church published a “Manual for the Priests”, (editor J. Kelaita), which included, among other liturgical texts, rubrics and sources, the oldest version of the main Anaphora of the Mass, which basically the Chaldean and Assyrian Churches have used for centuries, i.e., the Anaphora of the Apostles Addai and Mari.  The Assyrian Church prides herself until today that she has literally followed this ancient Anaphora without introducing to it any changes (or reforms). The unfortunate result of such liturgical principle, nonetheless, renders this precious Anaphora celebrated with an outdated language (Aramaic), which 95% of the adult worshiping faithful do not understand, sparing the rising English-speaking generation, in the West.

Chaldean Church

On the other hand, while the Chaldean Church has basically used the same Anaphora of Addai and Mari, in the past 50 years however, the Chaldean Church has introduced more than one attempt at reforming it. Unfortunately, some of these attempts were done without proper scholarly study or canonical bases that are rooted in the Scriptures and the tradition of the Chaldean Church.  But the most distinct and serious reform was finalized in 2006. His Excellency Bishop Mar Sarhad Jammo was the head of the patriarchal liturgical commission that undertook this reform. There are three canonical requirements to any official reform in the Catholic Church: (i) scholarly research and analysis of every text considered; (ii) sanction of the Chaldean Synod and endorsement of the Chaldean Patriarch of every text proposed by the commission; and finally (iii) approval by the Holy See.  The 2006 liturgical reform fulfilled all three conditions, through years of study and work, presenting to the Chaldean faithful and the rest of the Catholic Church an organic growth of authentic Chaldean liturgical heritage.  For the worshipper, the 2006 Anaphora has become both a great experience of praising, thanking & worshipping God in addition to becoming a great tool of catechesis the faith in the life of the faithful, hence, St. Augustine’s saying “faith seeking understanding”.

Promising Future?

Bishop Bawai expressed his wish to see similar liturgical reform applied in the Assyrian Church of the East so that the Assyrian faithful will receive added benefits they deserve and more graces they need. Given the fact that the Assyrian & Chaldean Churches are two “sister churches”, the bishop affirmed, “After several centuries of ecclesial separation all of us have a moral and theological obligation to strive toward uniting the two branches of the Church of the East”. May this Year of Mercy bring mercy to the hearts of everyone involved on both sides (bishops, priests & faithful) for the glory of Almighty God.