Lift Up Your Soul into the Highest – Eucharistic Conference in Esztergom

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The meeting was organised as a preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress of Budapest in 2020.

Among the participants of the conference there is His Excellency, Michael August Blume, the apostolic nuncio and His Excellency, Fülöp Kocsis metropolitan-archbishop. The congress was opened by His Eminence, Péter Card. Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary. Below you can find his opening speech:

Your Excellency, Nuncio Blume,

Your Excellency, Archbishop Kocsis,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While preparing for the International Eucharistic Congress of Budapest in 2020 our important task is to reflect - also on a scientific level - on that various and rich reality, what the Eucharist means to us. In Hungarian, already the translation of this ancient Greek term causes difficulties. This is because according to the detailed explanation of the theology it means thanksgiving, a holy remembrance, a feast and a holy presence. But in Hungarian, we call the celebration, the act itself Mass, the taking of the Eucharist we call communion, and the consecrated bread and wine is named as Eucharist. This also shows us how concrete the Hungarian language and thinking is! The term Eucharist, Sacramenta altaris in Latin - yes, in plural - meant the whole holy mass together with the communion already during the North-African Councils in the 4th century. But we also could mention the holy communion, which phrase we use for the taking of the Body and Blood of Christ, even though the word sacrifice originally meant the whole holy act.


It is important that we reflect on this theological richness. And in this the examination of the historical antecedents and the origins are a great help. The course and the importance of the Paschal dinner in the Jewish tradition deserves a special attention, since the New Testament itself names many times the Last Supper as a paschal feast. But the knowledge about the prayers and customs, which are connected to the meals in the Jewish traditions is also important for us, because they seem to be in close correlation with the emergence of the Eucharistic feast celebrated in the communities.

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A special addition to our thinking about the Eucharist are the perceptions, traditions and practices of the Christian communities. The traditions and the theology of the Orthodox Churches shed light on such points of our Eucharistic thinking, which have a smaller emphasis in the Latin theology and practice.

The perception of our Protestant brothers and sisters about the communion is not only important to understand the old polemics, but rather it helps the deepening of today's dialogue. The way, on which dialogue shall proceed is marked by the better understanding of each other's perceptions and the deepening of our love for Christ, and not by forgetting or understating our differences.

I would like to thank to all the magnificent lecturers, who held a speech in this conference: our Jewish brothers, the distinguished representatives of the Orthodox and Protestant Churches and all the Catholic lecturers, who greatly help, so that in two years the International Eucharistic Congress shall be a feast of friendship and love.

With these thoughts I would like to wish success and blessing for this conference!

"How beautiful and magnificent is, when brethren think together" - started chief rabbi Alfréd Schöner. First he talked about the synagogue of Esztergom (today the building houses cultural institutes - ed.), where we still can see the two stone tablets, but the ten words are not on them anymore. They went up to heaven, but also remained in the souls of the people.

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About today's Seder and its liturgical connection, he said that Pesach is one of the three pilgrim-feasts. During it they read the Haggadah, of which the sources are the Tanakh, the Talmud and a RaMBaM, the texts of Maimonides. The Seder - meaning order - is an event outside the synagogue, and it is celebrated in the community or in the family. In the centre of the Seder there stands the commandment of "tell it to your sons", and the central event is telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. On the first day the cantor prays for a plenty of dew, with the Maariv prayer the counting of omer starts, and on the seventh day the Victory Song of Moses is read. During the Seder supper the Pascha breads and vegetables are on the table. The bone refers to the lamb-sacrifice; the egg refers to the festive sacrifice; the bitter root refers to the Temple; the mortar-like food made from the mixture of filed apples and walnuts refers to the slave-work of making adobe; and the salted water refers to the tears of slavery. Along with these there are also four cups of wine on the table. (As a response to a question the chief rabbi stressed the significance of the bread and the wine, which is a connection to the Eucharist.) During the ceremony the child is in the centre, since they have to carry on the tradition. That is why they try to rise and maintain the children's attention during Seder.

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The Haggadah, the only liturgical and prayer book used outside the synagogue - which can be illustrated too - existed in many forms with a variety of contents. Among others, rabbi Alfréd Schöner presented the Sarajevo-Haggadah, created in Barcelona, in the 14th century. This in an illustrated biblical book from the creation up until the death of Moses. The Budapest-Haggadah from the 14th century is also known from the collection of Dávid Kaufmann. The "Bird-Headed" Haggadah was created around 1300. Since depicting humans was forbidden, the human heads were replaced with birds' heads. The first printed Haggadah was made in 1526, in Prague. From the Hungarian Haggadah's the first sentences of the book of Emil Roth from 1942 are: "There is one God, there shall e no idols; one is the man, there shall be no slaves" The so-called OMZSA-Haggadah cross-checks the greatest archaeological discoveries of that time with the Jewish tradition. The Zionist Haggadah, published in 1948 answers the question "What is the difference between this night and the others?" with the response: "Nothing. The dawn is still far away." The Pesach-Haggadah Is a translation from 1999; it was published in 2007, translated by rabbi Róbert Frölich.

"You shall not forget your father's teaching, and the sacred texts, you heard from your mother. With your eyes look into this earthly reality, but lift up your soul into the highest and look for the Almighty" - concluded rabbi Alfred Schöner his lecture.

Rabbi Tamás Verő, the chief rabbi of Buda held his lecture with the title: "Jewish family liturgy outside the Seder - meals, table blessings, prayers." According to the tradition the table blessing were introduced by Abraham. According to the well-known story from the Bible he asked his guests that they give thanks to the eternal God, not him.

In every Jewish household, they follow the traditions differently. The Jews living in this world practice their faith in many different ways. The Ashkenazi or the Sephardi Jews also follow a different tradition. According to the tradition the morning prayer was introduced by Abraham, the twilight prayer by Isaac, and evening prayer by Jacob. The day starts in the evening, so the evening prayer is the first one. To say a public prayer at least ten Jewish men are needed. The backbone of the thanksgiving are the Söma and Amida prayers. Mondays and Thursdays in the morning they also read from the Torah.

The Kaddish is not a grieving prayer, but it is the expression of the unconditional faith. That is why the ten men are important: it symbolizes that the community stands with the individual. According to the Jewish perception the bread is the main course, by taking it the proper prayer shall be said. Before that they wash their hands: three times the right hand, and three times the left hand. After it they say the blessing, and after it not a word is spoken until the next act. It only considers as a main meal, if they eat bread of scone with it. All the prayers start like this: "Blessed are you eternal God, Lord of the world..." In case of fruits borne on a tree or in the field they have to use a different kid of blessing. There are cases where it is not obvious which is the proper blessing, there is also a blessing for those occasions, too. When taking the wine, they say: "Blessed are you, eternal God, lord of the world, who created the fruit of the vine." After the meal they also say a blessing. The post-meal prayer is the birkat hamazon, in which there are four parts. The first mentions life, the second the nurturing ground, the third Jerusalem - including David and Solomon. The fourth part is for saying thanks for God's goodness.

The text of the blessings are different on weekdays and on red-letter days. "All the blessings come from God and by saying all the blessing we recognise the the Almighty's existence. Those, who say blessing, they will be blessed, too - concluded his lecture rabbi Tamás Verő.

After the speeches, chief rabbi Alfréd Schöner answered questions. He mentioned that during the coffee break Cardinal Péter Erdő suggested that soon they shall commemorate together the cca. 500 Jews who were deported from Esztergom during World War II. After hearing this initiative, the rabbi referred back to the beginning of his lecture and said: "one word is back on the tablet".

In connection with the co-existence of the three great religions, the chief rabbi talked about a story. In the Jewish religion there are 613 commandments, half of which cannot even be held, because they were in connection with the destroyed Temple. When a wise rabbi was asked how many commandments shall be held - 248, 11 or 10 - he answered by quoting the Holy Scriptures: "the upright will live through faithfulness" (Hab 2,4). "The Jew shall be Jew, the Christian shall be Christian, and the Muslim shall be Muslim. Everyone shall respect the other's belief and recognise what is beautiful in it."

Source: Magyar Kurir

Photo: Janos Toth and Magyar Kurír