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What does "synod" mean?


The word synod comes from two Greek words:

bulletsyn- :  A prefix which means "together"  (e.g., synthesis)
bullethodos :  which means a "road" or "way" 

Thus, a synod is a meeting of the community which journeys "on the road together".  It is a time to consider where we have been, and to make plans for the road ahead.


This understanding of a synod should naturally draw our thoughts to the story of the appearance of the Risen Lord on the Road to Emmaus.  Luke tells us of the first Easter: 

Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.  He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?"  (Lk 24, 13-17).

Along the way, Jesus helps them to understand the events of the previous week in light of God's plan for the salvation of the world:

And he said to them, ". . . Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.  (Lk 24, 26-27)

Their experience of the Lord in the Eucharist helps them to put the lessons of their journey into context:

So he went in to stay with them.  And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.  Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?"  (Lk 24, 29-32)

Renewed by their communion with the Lord, they set out upon the mission He had entrusted to them:

So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"  Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  (Lk 24, 33-35)


This experience of Jesus "on the road together" with us is essential to understanding the significance of the Synod.  His gift of the Spirit sheds light on the lessons of life's journey, draws us to communion with Himself, and strengthens us for carrying out the Gospel mission in the world.

"The final object of an archdiocesan synod is to foster communion and mission."

Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua

Decree convoking the Tenth Synod
 of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia








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