On Sunday, May 25th we had the blessing and joy to watch the online, live stream, coverage of the "prayer service" with Pope Francis of Rome and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople while they were both in Jerusalem.
It wasn’t a prayer service in a traditional Orthodox way… It was neither a Compline nor a Vespers. The clergy were not dressed in vestments. The Patriarch wasn’t wearing a miter and he didn’t carry his gold staff. It was a simple arrangement of a greeting, the singing of “Christ is risen.” in Greek and Arabic, a Gospel reading in Greek and Italian, a statement from each hierarch and they all recited the Lord’s Prayer. Liturgically, it wasn’t very impressive. But the significance of the gathering was… amazing.
It was a historical event in a way that I can't even begin to understand. It was a seed whose fruit I will never see mature. And it doesn't matter. It was a step in the right direction towards a unity that could take as many centuries to repair since the schism was declared. Up to the year 1054, we were the same church and now, in 2014 we are taking another step to be reunited. (The math equals 960 years of separation.)
I had first understood the need for dialogue between the two churches when I became involved in the ministries of Metropolis of Pittsburgh. I had worked in the metropolis for several years in the 1990's as a volunteer in their summer camp programs and later as the director of their youth ministries. His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos was a humble and faithful employer. Everyone knows of his dedication to the youth of the metropolis, monasticism in America and to the dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. As I now understand what his vision was (he is now retired), I see it as first, to educate and prepare the next generation to a fuller understanding of the teachings and expressions of the Orthodox Faith. Second, to instill a love and devotion for prayer as we understand it to be our most basic expression of Orthodoxy. And third, to experience our Lord's words to the Father, that those who believe in Him "may be made perfect in one."* These three legs (education, prayer and unity) are the support for the future of the True Faith.
Yesterday brought me a certain joy... Like when my dad would come home from a few weeks working on the road or the first time my sister returned home from college for Christmas break; when we returned to the way things were supposed to be and we were once again a family.
Reunification is a joy the Church wants for us. Unity is a must for the full expression of the apostolic faith. Since the 4th century, the Orthodox Church has recited the Nicene Creed which includes the line: "In one, holy, catholic (meaning universal), and apostolic Church." We are constantly praying and standing for this unity. After 50 years, we have finally taken another step in the right direction.
It's time we fully responded to our Lord's Great Commission,** not only through evangelism but all the things He commanded.
*John 17:20-23 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
**"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28-18-20)
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.
It's time for us to start talking... to be as siblings... as one family.