“Together, Christians can…”

 — Apr. 13, 200713 avril 2007

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This article deals with the first chapter of cardinal Walter Kasper’s booklet A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism (HSE). The chapter is entitled “Deepening Christian Faith,” and is laid out in two parts. Paragraphs are numbered, making consultation and reference easier.

The first part of this chapter bears the title “The Word of God in Sacred Scripture,” and provides us with much teaching and encouragement. The focus is on how the Word of God in the bible can help Christians come closer to each other:

“Everything that can be done to make members of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities read the Word of God, and to do that together when possible… reinforces this bond of unity that already unites them, helps them to be open to the unifying action of God and strengthens the common witness to the saving Word of God which they give to the world.” (at the start of the chapter)

The text then lays out the classic Roman Catholic understanding of the trinomial Scripture – tradition – Church’s teaching office (magisterium). Quoting Vatican II:

“The Church receives the one deposit of the Word of God through sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture together. It also has been entrusted with the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God and with a teaching function that ‘is not above the Word of God but stands at its service, teaching nothing but what is handed down, according as it devotedly listens, reverently preserves and faithfully transmits the Word of God, by divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit.'” (12)

The central role of Scripture in the life of the Church -– in liturgy/worship, preaching, promoting easy access to Scripture for all, etc… — is accurately described. For the purpose of HSE, the key question is: How can sacred Scripture increasingly be used as an “instrument of the highest value” along the path of Christian unity? (14) The operative word is “increasingly.” Churches are called to create new space(s) so as to answer the question positively and creatively.

A short section (14b) is devoted to encouraging the lectio divina (divine reading) of sacred Scripture, for “when we pray, we talk to Him; when we read the Divine Word, we listen to Him.” (DV, n. 25, quoting St. Ambrose, On the duties of Ministers, I,20,88; PL 16, 50) (14b)

N. 15 uses for the first time, in HSE, the phrase “Together, Christians can…” which will return as leitmotiv throughout the booklet. This feature is one of the best gifts of HSE: it provides us, with great regularity at every few pages, a cluster of concrete suggestions for common action in a given area of spiritual ecumenism. Here, four excellent suggestions are made dealing with Scripture.

The Lund principle

This “Together, Christians can…” is another way of formulating the famous ecumenical directive called the “Lund principle.” At a world conference on Faith and Order, meeting at Lund, Sweden, in 1952, a text called A word to the Churches was agreed upon in which one sentence raised the issue:

“Should not our churches ask themselves whether they are showing sufficient eagerness to enter into conversation with other churches, and whether they should not act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately?” (italics mine)

The final section of that sentence became known subsequently as the Lund principle. The statement was in fact a question to be answered. The question still remains well worth asking.

My own conviction is that, by and large, churches today, though they may pay lip service to the Lund principle, are far from answering the question it raises in the affirmative and factually. The churches are simply not doing together what they might well, and worthily, do. And, if they don’t, it may be because they have not yet received the grace of ecclesial conversion, whereby is born a new willingness/eargerness to give witness and do ministry together, as the one Body, in all due diversity. It seems there is a lack of vision, determination, a lack of will to overcome institutional hurdles/barriers/inertia that are bound to impede or slow down to a crawl any “Together, Christians will…”

The ecumenical movement of faithfulness to the will and prayer of Christ will not progress, in any substantial manner, until a critical mass of willing and determined churches each commit at least 10% of their overall pastoral/ministerial resources -– personnel, programs and priorities, financial enablement, etc… –- to praying/acting/ministering/witnessing together. Such 10% (rising to 20% as soon as generously possible) is a necessary “tithing” in favour of reconciliation and unity in the one Body of Christ. Such tithing would enable a new culture of reconciliation and communion to be born. The inescapable price: ecclesial conversion.

(to be continued)

Posted: Apr. 13, 2007 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=3107
Categories: Reconciliation & unityIn this article: Bernard de Margerie, spiritual ecumenism, Walter Kasper
Transmis : 13 avril 2007 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=3107
Catégorie : Reconciliation & unityDans cet article : Bernard de Margerie, spiritual ecumenism, Walter Kasper

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