Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What is Christian Unity?

Divine Providence can be interesting.

Yesterday as I was going through some holy cards I came across a card which I had found in an old Roman Breviary I had bought about ten years ago. The card was a list of prayers for the "Chair of Unity Octave of Intentions" and is from some time before 1968. I had never paid any attention to the card until I came across it yesterday and looked over it.

The interesting part is that today in my daily email from the Vatican Information Service, I got the prayers for the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity." Looking over it I just began to wonder, "what the heck?"

"The theme chosen for this year's [2008] initiative, taken from the First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, is: "Pray without ceasing". The texts for reflection and prayer have been prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches."

Here's the comparison of prayer intentions:

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (2008).
19 January: Pray always, trusting God alone. "Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5, 18).

20 January: Pray without ceasing for the conversion of hearts. "Admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted" (1 Thessalonians 5, 14).

21 January: Pray always for justice. "See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all" (1 Thessalonians 5, 15).

22 January: Pray constantly with a patient heart. "Be patient with all of them" (1 Thessalonians 5, 14).

23 January: Pray always for grace to work with God. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5, 16).

24 January: Pray for what we need. "... help the weak" (1 Thessalonians 5, 14).

25 January: Pray always that they all may be one. "Be at peace" (1 Thessalonians 5, 13b)

Chair of Unity Octave of Intentions (pre-1968)

January 18: The return of all the "other sheep" to the fold of St. Peter, the one shepherd.

January 19: The return of the Oriental Dissidents to Communion with the Apostolic See.

January 20: The Submission of Anglicans to the Authority of the Vicar of Christ.

January 21: That Lutherans and other Protestants of Contental Europe May Return to Holy Church.

January 22: That Christians in America may become one in Communion with the Chair of Peter.

January 23: That lapsed Catholics may return to the Sacraments.

January 24: The conversion of the Jews.

January 25: The Missionary conquest of the World for Christ.

Wow, the differences are just amazing. First off, it almost seems like there is such an effort to avoid anything traditional that we call the 8 days of prayer a "week" rather than an "octave." Last time I checked, a week was 7 days and an octave was 8.

Then there's just the lack of anything about Christian Unity in this year's intentions. They are just vague prayers about the Christian life, but there's nothing there about all Christians being united under Christ, His Church, and His Vicar. I mean, we might as well pray for rain and good harvests and it would help about as much as this years prayers for Christian Unity.

I know that everyone is touchy nowadays about a supposed triumphalism, but good grief, this is ridiculous. I think we have Dominus Iesus that would clearly support the more traditional intentions. It's not like we've abandoned the concept of the One Church. Even last year the Church re-iterated it with Responses To Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects Of The Doctrine On The Church.

If we're going to pray for Christian unity, let's pray for Christian unity the way the Church teaches us to pray.

Here's the prayers for the Octave from the "Chair of Unity Octave Prayers"

Ant. That they all may be one as Thou Father in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me (Jn. 17:21).

V. I say unto thee that Thou art Peter.
R. And upon this rock I will build My Church.

Let us pray: O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine apostles: Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give unto you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will. Who livest and reignest God forever and ever. Amen.
Lord Jesus, most gracious Saviour of the world, we humbly beg of Thee, by Thy most Sacred Heart, that all the sheep now wandering astry may be converted to Thee, the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. Who livest and reignest through all eternity. Amen.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Unity, pray for us.



S said...


Philip said...

I much prefer the pre-1968 prayers. As you say, 'Dominus Iesus' leads the way, but then we encounter Cardinal Kaspar who seems keen to soften the tone at every turn. Still, at least my Anglo-Catholic friends will like the earlier intentions too, becuase they are not lumped with the Protestants.

Nice blog, BTW.

Jane said...

Well sorry and apologies for spoiling the party but I was deeply shocked by the pre 1968 prayers and find them quite stomach churning in their assumptions and theology. (But of course I'm a beyond the pale Protestant who believes in unity in diversity so that's not exactly surprising! ;-)
I do however quite like the word octave but from a linguistic point of view would point out that whereas in English we say a week is 7 days in French for instance a week is 8 days - so a week is an octave, they are synonyms and one doesn't have more theological prescience than the other.
Anyway thanks for your blog - a useful reality check for a heretic like myself.
Leb wohl as we say where I come from.