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

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Day 5 of the Church Unity Octave

"Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love bears all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony." - St. Clement (96 AD), bishop of Rome.

That quotation is from St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians, which was in today's reading in the Liturgy of the Hours. I think it is worth reflecting on the relationship between love and unity, particularly in light of St. Clement's teaching that "love admits of no schisms" (i.e. does not cause or provoke divisions), and that "love gives rise to no seditions", and "love does all things in harmony" (i.e. unity). St. Clement was the third successor of St. Peter in Rome, and according to St. Irenaeus, St. Clement had discoursed with the Apostles. (To read Pope Benedict's address on St. Clement, see here.) St. Clement was writing to the church at Corinth because of seditions which had arisen there. His letter is therefore important for those of us seeking how we might help heal the schisms among Christians today.

When we talk about unity with respect to persons, we cannot fail to talk about love. And when we talk about love with respect to persons, we cannot fail to talk about unity. That is because love in its highest form is the highest possible union of persons, as is evident in the Trinity. Love seeks out and delights in union with the beloved. For that reason, where unity is lacking, love is lacking. Where there is apathy about our divisions, love is lacking. Love seeks to heal divisions and reconcile us to one another in truth.

This is why our unity shows the world that the Father sent Christ and loves those in Christ just as He loves Christ. (St. John 17:23) Our unity shows our love. Our lack of unity, however, detracts from that witness, and hides from the world who Christ is, and therefore who God is. The world does not know the kind of unity (and thus peace) Christ offers, because it does not know this divine Love. This Love is the self-revelation (through the incarnate Christ) of the inner Life of the Trinity, as I recently discussed here. If therefore we wish to show to the world the Love of Christ (which is the inner Life of the Trinity), we must zealously pursue unity with one another, tearing down those walls that presently separate us, finding out their foundation stones and shining upon them the light of truth. We are the salt of the earth, the peacemakers for the world (St. Matthew 5:9), for the peace of Christ is true peace and transcends the world's illusory peace. (St. John 14:27) But how can we bring peace to the world if we ourselves are divided against each other? Must we not get the log out of our own eye? (Matthew 7:3) Should not judgment and cleansing and reconciliation begin with the family of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

Our love for each other is directly related to our love for God; our love for God is, in a way revealed and measured by our love for one another.

"By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:10)

"He who does not love abides in death." (1 John 3:14)

"The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8)

"If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20)

If we love Christ, then we will love His Mystical Body, the Church. And if we love His Mystical Body, we will seek to bring all Christians into full communion in His Mystical Body. Christ teaches us that reconciliation with each other is an important prerequisite for acceptable worship:

"If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:24)
In sum, if we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will be seeking union with them, for that is the very nature of love. And if wish to show to the world Christ's love (which is the inner Life of the Trinity), we will be seeking union with our brothers and sisters from whom we are presently separated by schism. And since our love for Christ is measured by our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore if we wish to love Christ, we will for His sake be seeking union with our brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. And if we wish to worship Christ, we will be seeking union with our brothers and sisters presently separated from us in doctrine, worship, and government.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving Yourself to us completely in Love. Help us to so love You that our hearts yearn for You to be made visible to the world through the unity and peace of Your people. Help us Lord Jesus not to rest until we have with Your aid rooted out those things that divide us. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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