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Pray for Christian Unity

Deacon Pedro

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Last Tuesday was the beginning of the Week for Prayer for Christian Unity. This has been taking place for 103 years and is celebrated around the world. The Holy Father, in his Angelus address last Sunday invited all to join him in “praying earnestly for the gift of unity among the followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
This is something that I pray for every day.
But this week I've been thinking about ecumenism and perhaps most people don't even know what that means. Ecumenism is the movement promoting unity among Christian churches or denominations. The word refers to the "representation of  the entire (Christian) world," as it comes from the Latin oecumenicus, meaning  "general" or "universal". The Latin actually comes from the  Greek oikoumenikos, which is a word that referred to "the inhabited world" (as known to the ancient Greeks). (For those of you who love words and etymology, this comes from oikoumenos, which is the present passive participle of oikein, which means  "inhabit," which in turn comes from oikos, which is "house" or "habitation.")
I wish more parishes and Christian congregations would do more to build relations with each other. When I was in the Middle East, last October, I was humbled at how the Melkites, the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholics and the Protestants and Anglicans have no issue praying together, and in certain circumstances worshiping together. In fact, over there, they don't refer to themselves as "Catholic" or "Lutheran" or "Copt" or  "Maronite." They're all "Christians." Isn't that what Jesus prayed for? (See John 17:20)
Here at S+L we're doing a little bit - and perhaps we should do more. Tune in this Friday, January 21st at 7:00 or 11:00pm ET/8:00pm PT, for the Weekly Edition of Perspectives when we ask the question, "What is God's plan for ecumenism?"
And if you're wondering what your plan can be, you should visit the Canadian Council of Churches. You will find all kinds of wonderful resources to get you on your way to practical ecumenism.
This year's theme is "One in the Apostles' Teaching" and was developed and chosen for the whole world, by the church in Jerusalem.
Ecumenism, or the work of Christian unity predates Vatican II. Since the beginning, Christians have been sorting out what Jesus meant when He prayed, "may they all be one." But, Vatican II put out a Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio. It is a great document that I encourage you to read:
All the faithful should remember that the more effort they make to live holier lives according to the Gospel, the better will they further Christian unity and put it into practice. For the closer their union with the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, the more deeply and easily will they be able to grow in mutual brotherly love.
This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name, "spiritual ecumenism".
Let me leave you with a thought: ecumenism requires conversion. For all of us. We may not know what Jesus wanted when He prayed that we all would be one and we may not know God's plan for ecumenism, but we do know that we are called to be the Church that Christ founded and intended.
And so we pray:
God, from whom life flows in rich diversity, unite us in love. May we be mindful of Christ as the source of our life together and strive to build up your Kingdom of love. We pray in the unity of the Spirit.
May we all be one.

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