Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
The following prayer is taken from the resources for the designated 'Week of Prayer for Christian Unity' from the 'Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity' (all materials and the full set of resources for the week can be accessed at the website address below):
'Lord God, illumine our path by the light of Christ who moves before us and leads us. Enlighten us and dwell within us. Guide us to discover a small manger in our hearts where a great light still sleeps. Creator of light, we thank you for the gift of that unfading Star, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May he be a beacon for our pilgrimage. Heal our divisions and draw us closer to the Light that we may find our unity in him. Amen.'
This week (18th January – 25th January) as part of the ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’, we might take a few moments to consider in more depth how, during the many months of the pandemic, we have been authentically and earnestly alongside people of different faiths and different religious traditions.
In our neighbourhoods and within our communities, in our working lives (be that virtually or face to face), and in our reliance on those in the health, the social care and the retail sector, it is likely that our interactions have been with a broad range of people, some of whom will have very different backgrounds, faith journeys and religious practices to our own.
There have been some touching stories of friendships that have flourished in these testing times and of deeper levels of appreciation, communication and understanding that have characterized this period of anxiety and uncertainty. Human stories that go beyond faith boundaries.
Below there is a photograph of 'All Hallows Church' in South Liverpool, an Anglican church very close to where I live, and where I was most warmly welcomed by clergy and by the congregation as we began to slowly emerge from restrictions after the long phases of lockdown and shielding. I am sure there are countless examples of active support, service and ministry spanning across Christian denominations.
Perhaps the ‘great light still sleeping’ within our hearts is a blend of both tenderness and courage to make the inroads necessary to forge a genuine Christian Unity. The practical can often lead to a burgeoning sense of trust between people, built on a tender response to see 'all brothers and sisters' before us (‘Fratelli Tutti'!). We must be courageous in confronting the obstacles that might prevent us from seeing the 'inner light' or potential of another human being.
To hold too strongly to a particular theological position in an intense and a rigid way might mean that we overlook the spiritual needs and reality of those we encounter. If we are 'pure in heart and stout in conscience' we are flexible enough to walk in new directions with ‘love of God and love of neighbour' as the guiding principles. May Jesus Christ continue to be our 'beacon' and may he truly 'heal our divisions', divisions so exposed by such simple yet powerful acts of love across religious boundaries over recent times.