The Church first called Christian: The Melkite Church of Antioch


Reeves, Elizabeth Ann. (2006). The Church first called Christian: The Melkite Church of Antioch [Thesis].
AuthorsReeves, Elizabeth Ann
Qualification nameMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)

The Catholic Church is made up of many church communities of different rites, with the main classifications being the Roman rites and the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church. With the influx of migrants especially since the Second World War there has been growth in Australia, in the number of Catholics belonging to the many Eastern rites including Byzantine Catholics, Coptic Catholics and Chaldean Catholics. The Second Vatican Council documents encouraged members of the Catholic Church of the Latin traditions to know and understand the rich traditions of the Easterners so that the full manifestation of the catholicity of the Church and full knowledge of its divinely revealed heritage are preserved. One can ask how familiar are Catholics of the Roman rites with the beliefs, practices, liturgy, devotions and historical development of the other rites in the Catholic Church? The aim of this thesis is to give understanding about the Melkite Catholic Church in Australia. It takes the reader on a journey from Antioch in Syria to Australia in the third millennium, showing that the Melkites trace their roots to Antioch where believers were first called Christians. This thesis elaborates on who the Melkites are by firstly looking at the origins of this church community and thereby establishing the authenticity of this church community since it was established by the apostles and their co-workers, with the apostles being empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The thesis enumerates the key aspects of the early church at Antioch including theology, liturgy and the structure of the church, with these findings being foundational for the Melkite Church in Australia today. The thesis describes worship in the Melkite Church with emphasis on the development of this worship especially for the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and the Eucharist.;It explains important ritual, symbols, architecture and artwork and concluded that these express the key beliefs of this church community. The fundamental dogmas in the Melkite Church are the teachings on the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation. The thesis elaborates on these dogmas explaining how they were important in the early church at Antioch and how understanding of them was developed by important theologians revered in the Melkite Church, in previous eras and today. The Christian faith is a living faith. In writing this thesis the importance of Tradition for God's revelation to His holy people is emphasised. In its study of the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and the Eucharist, the thesis was able to show that the celebration of these sacraments was linked to the early church at Antioch. It especially looked at what was happening at the time of St John Chrysostom at Constantinople. This time frame saw the beginning of the development of the Byzantine Rite. There is elaboration on the link between the Byzantine rite (the rite of the Melkites today) and the Antiochene liturgy. As well the thesis expounded on the understanding of the three fold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon at Antioch and the importance of the ordained ministry today. It concluded that the four sacraments discussed above were foundational in the early church and are essential in worship in the Melkite Church today. The thesis explained important details about the sacraments of Marriage, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick. It especially explained the development of the Sacrament of Penance. The thesis acknowledges the validity of all rites in the Catholic Church and concluded that encouragement must be given for the preservation of the various rites in the Church. This is important for the Eastern Church communities as they contain a rich heritage, which is an integral part of the Church of Christ.;An important conclusion was that the development of the church at Antioch must be understood in the light of Tradition the living and lived faith, which passes on all that the church believes and celebrates in its worship of the Holy Trinity. The Melkite Church of Antioch was first called Christian.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Theology
Final version
Publication dates14 Dec 2006
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