October 17, 2014

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

The prayer of the Church furthers Christian unity

It is said that in the fourth century Prosper of Aquitaine, a disciple of St. Augustine, stated: “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” This Latin maxim literally means “the law of prayer is the law of belief.” Or, to say it another way: how the Church prays witnesses to what the Church believes.

Throughout our liturgies, especially in the Mass, we voice what we believe. Our hope “that all may be one” is a distinct part of our belief. And so, we rightly pray for this.

Within the eucharistic prayers, we pray for all of our brother and sister Christians who have died. In the second eucharistic prayer, we hear: “Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the Resurrection … welcome them into the light of your face.”

Again, in the third eucharistic prayer, we hear: “To our departed brothers and sisters … give kind admittance to your kingdom.”

Finally, in the fourth eucharistic prayer, we hear: “Remember also those who have died in the peace of your Christ … ”

Such prayer reveals our belief that we are bound, in baptism, to all the baptized. That bond is sacred. And though our belief systems may differ in some ways, all are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Within the Roman Missal, there are Masses dedicated to Christians in general. They are: “For the Unity of Christians” and “For Persecuted Christians.”

Indeed, eucharistic prayer I for “Use in Masses for Various Needs” is titled “The Church on the Path of Unity.”

The penultimate prayer, however, is found in the Good Friday liturgy. After the homily, all stand for the 10 intercessions. These are ancient prayers of the Roman Rite which bid God’s blessing upon the Church and the world. They seek the good for all, especially in the life of faith.

The first four are directed for the Church, the pope, for those in holy orders and all the faithful, and for catechumens. The fifth concerns all Christians. It is titled “For the Unity of Christians.” Let me quote the presider’s introduction and the prayer.

“Let us pray also for all our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ, that our God and Lord may be pleased, as they live the truth, to gather them together and keep them in his one Church.”

The prayer then follows: “Almighty ever-living God, who gather what is scattered and keep together what you have gathered, look kindly on the flock of your Son, that those whom one Baptism has consecrated may be joined together by integrity of faith and united in the bond of charity. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

Our ecumenical work is focused toward an authentic unity. The work must be supported by our prayer. Prayer is essential to any work in Christ. And so, our hope “that all may be one,” a distinct part of our belief, finds such support in the official prayer of the Church.
 

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also dean of the Terre Haute deanery and pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes, both in Terre Haute. E-mail him at rginther@saintpat.org)

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