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

Monday, January 7, 2008

Octave for the Unity of the Church

The Octave (i.e. eight days) for the Unity of the Church is coming soon. It begins on the [old day of the] feast of the Chair of St. Peter (January 18) and continues through the feast of the conversion of St. Paul (January 25). This year is the one hundredth anniversary of the Octave for the Unity of the Church. Prayers for each of the days of the Octave can be found here. This is a good time to prepare for the Octave. Consider fasting (in some respect) during the Octave and devoting more time each day of the Octave to pray for the unity of the Church. If you wish to pray a novena in preparation for the Octave, begin the novena on Wednesday, January 9. This is also a good time to speak with your priest/pastor to make sure that your parish/church offers prayers for the unity of the Church during the Octave. This year's theme is "Pray without ceasing". And prayer must be the foundation for our labors to unite all Christians in accordance with the sacred heart of Jesus, as revealed in His most self-disclosing prayer of St. John 17. We know that "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." (Psalm 127:1) And the Church is the household of God. (1 Timothy 3:15) Let us implore the Lord to help us bring unity to His people. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (St. Matthew 5:9)

To bring peace to God's people, we must pursue and receive within ourselves Christ's peace, for we cannot give what we do not have. If our hearts are in turmoil and we are at war within ourselves, we should first seek the peace of Christ, which is a supernatural gift of grace. (Philippians 4:7) Only then can we truly be peacemakers (St. Matthew 7:3-5). We should seek to be reconciled to God, and to His Church. Those two reconciliations go together. Once reconciled, we are admonished with St. Peter (in ecclesial union with him) to return and strengthen our brothers (St. Luke 22:32), for only those who have strength can give strength, and only those who need strength should be strengthened. And so the peace-making responsibility rests most heavily on those who have obtained peace, for from those who have been given much, much is required (St. Luke 12:48). But may we all diligently pursue Christ's peace, being thereby reconciled to God, to each other and to ourselves. Christ desires to give us His peace, for He said to His Apostles: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you." (St. John 14:27) To share in His peace is to share in the Life of the Blessed Trinity, for He Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). To pursue Christ is therefore (as an implication) to pursue peace with all men. (Hebrews 12:14). St. Peter enjoins us to seek peace and pursue it. (St. Peter 3:11), and St. Paul enjoins us to pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:19) It is our obligation and privilege to participate in the reconciliation of God's people, in the making of peace in the body of Christ, for the glory of His name and for the sake of the effectiveness of the gospel in the world. (St. John 17:23)


contrarian 78 said...

Could you describe the practice of a novena and how it contrasts with an octave? From your description it seems like any of various novenas are acceptable but that during this period there is a particular novena that will begin on 1/18.


Bryan Cross said...

Hello Jonathan,

I wasn't as clear as I should have been. A novena is a prayer that is prayed through nine days, often in preparation for something at the end of the nine days. The concept and practice of the novena comes from the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost, during which time the Apostles prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Octave for the Unity of the Church begins on January 18. If someone wishes to pray a novena in order to prepare for the Octave, that person would begin the novena today (January 8). Some people pray a novena during the Octave. I didn't have any particular novena in mind. But those which ask God for peace and unity, both in ourselves and between us and all other Christians, would (I think) be most appropriate.

I hope you and your family had a blessed Christmas.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan