Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mary and Christian Unity

As we begin the week of prayer for Christian unity, it can be easy to feel cynical, suspicious or just disengaged from the whole attempt. In many ways, we seem to have ground to a complete halt and some Churches and ecclesial communities actually seem to be moving further away from us by the day. As we drink bad tea at pointless ecumenical meetings, it's easy to feel disillusioned. Yet I remain strongly committed to bringing about Christian unity. Firstly because it affects me deeply on a personal level. My grandfather and many of my close friends are Orthodox, and I really long for the day when our Churches might be reunited. Secondly, and much more importantly because it's Christ's will that we might be one.

Last year, I was invited to preach at a local Anglican Church for the Sunday of this week of prayer. The Gospel was that of the wedding at Cana, and I decided to base my homily on Mary. Here's an extract:

It may seem tempting at times to take shortcuts in the search, to brush aside or ignore our differences. But this is ultimately doomed to failure. For the only true unity between our Churches will be one that is based on truth – on Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In finding this authentic union, we can turn again to Mary as our guide.

Mary is a powerful model for Christian unity because her gaze is always fixed on Christ.
Mary is a model of holiness, faith and obedience for all Christians. Like the Angel we heard about in the book of revelation today, she says "I am a fellow-servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!". Mary always points us towards Jesus. And this is the key to Christian unity. "Do whatever he tells you" she says to the servants. "Do whatever he tells you", she says to us. She has total confidence in Jesus. We are called to follow Mary's example of humility before His truth. We will find that nothing that comes from Christ will stand in the way of unity. And so my hope is that we will consecrate ourselves more fully to Christ and so come to a time when we are no longer divided because we have entirely given ourselves over to become fellow-servants of Jesus.

I'd probably phrase it differently now, but I am still convinced that Mary is the key to Christian unity. How does this affect us concretely? There are two groups that I belong to that I believe are not well known enough: the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Guild of our Lady of Ransom which I think I'll talk about in separate posts, as this one has rambled on long enough…

1 comment:

jnm said...

There are plenty of situations in which religious differences operate to validate and intensify political conflicts. Arguably, in many areas religion has been turned from a blessing into a curse - in the sense of those with the most absolute religious beliefs constitute the biggest obstacle to peaceful solutions.

Maybe, if this absoluteness were dismantled by the realisation that one's own religion is one amoung several valid human responses to the Divine, religion could become a healing instead of a divisive force in the world.

Possibly, what is to be hoped for in the future is that different traditions, while continuing to be distinctively different, gradually winnow out their aspects of unique superiority and increasingly influence one another in a dialogue of enrichment.

What do you think?