100 years of praying for Christian unity

 — Sept. 10, 200710 sept. 2007
By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Anyone who thought a look back at 20th-century history through the eyes of prayer would be comforting, uplifting or anodyne might want to begin with the 1919 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Organizers of this early version of the annual week of prayer pulled no punches when they began, “The crowning horror and blasphemy of our divisions is that we shut one another out from the one great Sacrament of Love.”

In the months just after the unprecedented slaughter of the First World War, the organizers of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity had harsh words for Catholics and Protestants alike.

“If it (the Eucharist) be the approach to the Real Presence of Christ, if it be the reception of His actual Flesh and Blood, if it be the representation of and the participation in the one full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, whereby we may receive the very Life of God in Christ, how dare we believe that Christ will deign to dwell in us and we in Him until we are reconciled to Him (and) to the brethren for whom He gave Himself?” the 1919 prayer guide asks Catholics.

The 1919 liturgy is one of a century’s worth of prayers for Christian unity members of the Faith and Witness commission of the Canadian Council of Churches have been gathering for a book to commemorate the first century of Christians praying together for unity. The Liturgies for Christian Unity: The First 100 Years will be published by Novalis in January, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the annual ecumenical event, and will concentrate on the uniquely Canadian prayers supported by prayers that were prayed in Canada and around the world.

The editing committee for the book found the relevance and timelessness of the earliest prayers both surprising and consoling, said Mary Marrocco, the CCC’s associate secretary for the Commission on Faith and Witness.

“Those are prayers we could pray today,” she said.

Taken together, the collection shows remarkable consistency in how people prayed for unity, said Marrocco.

“There has been all along a breath of prayer here that is not an institution — that’s real,” she said.

During the Second World War co-ordination between churches caught on the Axis and Alliance sides became difficult, but the organizers still felt the importance of praying for unity.

“That Christ our Lord may bind in one those who by many worldly claims are set at variance, and that the world may find peace and unity in Him,” they prayed in 1942.

By 1967 the Christian world was mostly peaceful and far richer than it had ever been. The moon was within reach. At Montreal’s “Man and His World” World’s Fair Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics were working together on the Christian Pavilion.

“Since you want us to be one that the world may believe, show us how to unite in making the Christian Pavilion a manifestation of your salvation,” they prayed at the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism.

Though the Canadian Council of Churches has managed to collect prayers and liturgy guides for most of the 100 years, and more than enough to fill the book, there are gaps in the record of praying for unity in Canada, said Marrocco. The Canadian Council of Churches would love to hear from anyone who has dusty old prayer and liturgy guides from before 1948.

“I think they are in people’s attics and church basements,” she said. “It’s amazing to me how people do not keep their own records.”

The book of mostly Canadian prayers will be aimed primarily at pastors and people leading prayer services, said Marrocco. The result should be a collection of ideas for prayer and liturgy that could be used during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity or all through the year.

Posted: Sept. 10, 2007 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=344
Categories: NewsIn this article: spiritual ecumenism, WPCU
Transmis : 10 sept. 2007 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=344
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : spiritual ecumenism, WPCU

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