Bonded together by Church

A very special bond unites the Malabar rite Church and the Chaldean Church from which it originated. It
was this bond which Anitha wished to explore by going to Iraq for two months.

I wanted to discover the roots of my Malabar rite Church, which lie in the Chaldean rite. And so the Little Sisters of the Iraqi region opened their arms and hearts wide to me for two months. I’d like to share a little of this experience, so precious to me.

I was touched by Virgine-Hanan’s sisterly kindness in offering to travel along with me—a first sample of the welcome of the East!!! In fact, what caught my attention most was this very generous, respectful, and welcoming attitude on the part of the people of the country. “You are welcome,” “Welcome to Iraq,” were words I heard so many times, everywhere I went.

My stay in Ainkawa allowed me to enter slowly into such a different way of life. The first surprise was how easily I could follow the Eucharistic celebrations, since the liturgy is very similar to that of the Malabar rite. Of course, language was a big obstacle for me. But that experience helped me realize that the validity or fruitfulness of liturgical celebrations is not dependent on whether or not I understand everything, or get satisfying feelings.

The Abbot of one monastery, Fr. Saamar, was most generous with me. Despite his busy schedule he offered to spend several hours with me explaining the history and significance of the liturgy of the Chaldean Church. I especially got a lot out of visiting their new chapel, constructed in line with Chaldean spirituality. For the liturgy of the Word the celebrants and the members of the congregation assemble in the center of the church, in a slightly elevated spot over which a cross is hung to symbolize the connection between heaven and earth: human beings and God in communion with each other. The people gather around. After the liturgy of the Word the celebrant goes up three steps to the altar, which symbolizes the Holy of Holies…

I had a chance to spend time with the little sisters of all three of our communities there. They really supported me in pursuing my goal, which made it possible for me to visit several places: Babylon, monasteries from the 3rd and 4th centuries, the first Iraqi church, the tomb of the prophet Nahum…This very ancient church has suffered persecution throughout nearly its entire existence. It’s heartbreaking to see how the Christian community is emigrating today because the people don’t feel safe and don’t see a future that would permit them to remain in their own land…

Visiting the ruins of our fraternity in Mosul and of certain of the city’s neighborhoods remains a vivid memory for me. It gives rise to many questions in my heart…How can human beings reach a point of such destructiveness? Why??? Human lives, and the whole history they signify, seem to have lost all value! How can such respectful people, with such a spirit of welcome and generosity, get to a point where they’re killing each other??? I still find it very difficult to comprehend!!!

I think if Iraq had fewer natural resources, the people would be left more in peace and the country wouldn’t have become a battleground for other countries…

I stayed one month in Baghdad, and I liked that city better than the others because modernization has not completely destroyed all expressions of traditional culture.

Let us continue praying for this country and its people, and for all people who suffer because of conflicts that never seem to want to end… Anitha