"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

While it is still Today; Night is Coming

I recently participated in a discussion in the combox of Jon Barlow's post regarding Matt Yonke's, "On How The Federal Vision Made Me Catholic". In that discussion, Jeff Myers, the senior pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church, claimed that the Catholic Church is "guilty of serious liturgical idolatry". That led to a discussion of the proper religious use of images and statues, and whether we may ask the saints in heaven to pray for us.

Jon also put up a link to Rick Phillips' [Reformation21] article on Mother Teresa titled "Mother Teresa's Redemption". My reply to Phillips' article is accessible here.

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine said something to me very notable concerning community. Community, she said, is formed over meals. But there is a Meal that is the source of true Community. That Meal is the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of our Lord. That Meal makes us one by incorporating us into Christ's mystical Body. I was reminded of my recent discussion (here and here) with Lane Keister, at Green Baggins, regarding "Church Unity". His position, which is not an uncommon position among a certain strand of Protestantism, is that we are all already united, spiritually, simply in virtue of believing in Christ. And that's the only sort of ecclesial unity that really matters, in his view. Efforts to increase institutional unity are unnecessary, according to that point of view, because the Church is not an institution, but merely a spiritual union spiritually united, an invisible Body with some visible members. But I am not fully united with Lane, because we do not partake of the same Meal. We are not in full communion because we do not both partake of the Eucharist. "
The wound is still more profound in those ecclesial communities which have not preserved the apostolic succession or the valid celebration of the eucharist." (Commentary on Responsa ad Quaestiones) Surely we cannot deny that the kind of unity Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would have includes the unity effected by sharing the Eucharist.

In early May, I wrote two things on Church unity that I have not yet linked here. The first is a theoretical evaluation of the four possible ways of unifying Catholics and Protestants. That is accessible here. (For the sake of simplicity, I use the term 'Catholic Church' there in a way that includes the Orthodox in the Catholic Church -- an expression of my faith that we will again be one in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.) The second is a sober look ahead, based loosely on St. Augustine's City of God. That is accessible here.

Let us keep striving, brothers and sisters, for full visible unity through our prayers, and through our charitable deeds, and through our dialogues with all those with whom we are not yet in full communion. "With God all things are possible" (St. Matthew 19:26) My own heart feels something like that expressed by Oscar Schindler at the end of "Schindler's List", when he keeps thinking, looking back, that he could have done so much more, until he is reduced to weeping. That is how I feel about the wounds and divisions in the Body of Christ. I could have done more. But we have today, to do what we can do today, right now, with what we have been given, to heal those wounds. Let us not grow weary in doing good. (2 Thess. 3:13).

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