Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reflections on Reunion

          When it comes to overcoming divisions I am reminded of a passage from the Philokalia. It says that through the sacrament of baptism we receive “mystically the fullness of grace” (St. Mark the Ascetic v1, pg.133)”. This is important to understand because through baptism we become fully members of the Catholic Church and receive mystically everything that God is. It doesn’t matter if I get baptized by a Roman Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox because all those that are baptized into Christ are now “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). In addition, this is also described in the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism where it says, "All those justified by faith through Baptism are incorporated into Christ. They therefore have a right to be honored by the title of Christian, and are properly regarded as brothers and sisters in the Lord by the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church"(15)”. As a result, everyone that is baptized is truly a member of the Catholic Church. Being all members we find ourselves now with the obligation to overcome our divisions and establish a full visible communion.
     Even though we who are baptized have the fullness of God, growth in this reality is not achieved in isolation. The scriptures describe certain ministries that bring about a unity of faith (Ephesians 4:13). Based on this God works through other people to help us develop our spirituality. This is why the Church  like the incarnation of our God in human flesh is made up of not just the invisible but it is also a visible means of salvation. This is also stated Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution of the Church where it says that the Church is a "complex reality" involving both human and divine elements for salvation (8). As a Catholic I believe the fullness of these elements"subsists" in my tradition. However, as long as there are divisions it does not matter if have all of the Church at my disposal because my spirituality  remains personally effected (1Cor. 12:26). Whether we like it or not a division will always be a mutual problem and if I am not doing my part to heal the Body of Christ than the divisions will continue.
     Without a communion in faith those in the Church are weakened in there spiritual progress. However, as I said there are as  the scripture teaches different ministries that help bring about the unity that we need. With this in mind we should take advantage of the fact that the Eastern Orthodox and Catholics share in the fullness of these ministries needed for unity. It is for this reason Blessed John Paul the Great called the Eastern Orthodox sister churches. He also referred to the sister churches (Rome and Constantinople) as now working to reestablish a mutual communion that they both lack. As he says in UT UNUM SINT 59: “Since its establishment in 1979, the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has worked steadily, directing its study to areas decided upon by mutual agreement, with the purpose of re-establishing full communion between the two Churches”. The language he uses here is vital because in one way it reveals that the churches on both sides of the division are hurting. Some might say to me it’s because they don’t have a Pope but I believes that  Blessed John Paul the Great would say it’s because we don’t have them. The Great Schism is a two way street and we who are Byzantine Catholics have a special obligation to do what is in our power to heal what separates our churches.
          My suggestion for the ecumenical effort is pretty simple. It is not to go on a Latin purge, something that is often proposed in our ranks, but rather to purge the worldliness in our lives. We need to fully embrace the ascetic traditions of our byzantine fathers, which help us to be enriched in our relationship with Jesus Christ. This includes regular fasting, daily mediation in the word of God, and most of all to set a time each day for deep prayer. In addition, we should always be working toward establishing our churches as places of evangelization and prayer. We can do this by making available the opportunity to have traditional liturgical services during the week in addition to establishing various ministries that flow from the life of our churches. This may seem simple but if we remain committed to Christ we can only hope to see God healing what divides our churches. The only thing that will heal us is what made us what we are and this is what we must embrace, which is to say that we must become what God is through the grace that we all have received in baptism.

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