What is the significance of being ecumenical by Ramón E. Delius, S.J. (+)
A resume of 10 parts of what it means to be ecumenical
- To pray regularly for the unity of the Church as Christ wishes it and when he wishes it.
Prayer is first and foremost. It has been said that the way through the door of unity is on our knees; prayer produces its effect in us. It changes our hearts and these are what most of all need to be changed. And this is the case when the ecumenical problem is not too acute in our own environment.
- To be rooted in a particular Christian tradition. Knowing it well, one is able to respond coherently to the Gospel from that Christian vision. Genuine ecumenists are not at the margin of their church’s life, but at the heart of it. Their hearts beat at the speed of what is essential to the Christian way of life and they can recognise it in other churches even if it may be differently expressed .
- Feel the scandal of our divisions. Unity is for mission. Our primary mission is to proclaim the Good News. The message we so joyfully announce is that we are reconciled to God and one another through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But our divided state of decision tinges it with sadness and deprives it of credibility “Being ecumenical “ means feeling a holy unrest at our failure to live consistent with our message, No one can be fully Christian without suffering because of the divided condition of the Body of Christ. (1 Cor 3…)
- Be willing to learn and remain in a state of continuous apprehension.
Each Christian tradition has preserved better than others, one or more aspects of the mystery of Gods work in Christ. The work of unity aims at restoring the fullness of our common appreciation of that mystery. For this we need to cultivate a historical consciousness. We’re on a pilgrimage. The church we have is not yet the Church God wants. We should refuse to make absolute a stage of development which is only the next step on the way to something greater. The wish and prayer of Jesus is:
“that they all may be one, as you and I are one” (Jn. 17,21 )
- To take an active part in a careful and honest appraisal for the renewal of one’s own church .
Ecumenism is not a speciality within the community, but an expression of every dimension in life. The purpose of dialogue is to help one another to acheive ecclesiastical renewal in order to carry out Christ’s universal mission for his one and unique Church. It is vital to overcome the individual and “unruly” sense of “ego” and be open and live as a real community, which implies profound and true sacrifice and generosity. For a Christian the water of baptism ought to be stronger than blood (1Cor. 13, 4.7)
- Be fascinated and curious about that which is different. Obviously avoiding whatever Paul tells us in his letters to Timothy (Tim. 4,1… Tim. 3,1…).We need to run the risk of peering out of our provincial perspectives and opening ourselves to wider and fully Catholic horizons.
Ecumenism is a spirited way of living that dares to think globally and to coexist with differences in the community. For this we need to appreciate and value the complex process of Church evolution by moving from alienation to reconciliation.
To struggle against the temptation to live in a closed, safe system that reduces our level of fear and satisfies our desires for control. Like those living in pilgrims tents, our best efforts today must be recognized as provisional and be ready to give way to better forms of advancing our community togetherness.
- To help this process we should have a deep appreciation and consideration for the hierarchy of truths in Christian doctrine (U.R.11). A belief has greater or lesser consequence in the measure in which it relates to the foundation of the Christian faith. Grace has more importance than sin, the Holy Spirit more than Mary, the mystical aspect of the Church more than its legacy, the Eucharist more than the anointing of the sick. Placing greater stress on these doctrines in closer relation to the heart of Christian faith enables us to build further agreement on the firm foundation that we share (Jn.5,39).
- To try to understand others as they understand themselves. To avoid any expression, judgment or action that falsifies their condition. Ecumenical honesty means we do not look on others through the prism of their weakest elements. Rather our ideals and practices are put next to their ideals and practices. Thus we can be willing to work together (3 Jn .8). Fear of the ´other´ is one of the greatest evils we face. The principle given to all churches for their life together is :
“Do everything together as far as conscience allows” (Lund-1952)
- Be ready to celebrate the vitality in the Body of Christ wherever it is found.
What advances the kingdom of God in any church helps all the others. The only triumph a Christian seeks is that of Jesus and his cross. This means to be open to God´s will for the church. Our unity in Christ is God´s gift, and the way to more visible expression of that gift will also be God´s gift. We have to empty ourselves of our self-righteousness and let go of our power games in order to let this be God´s work. Our contribution is our willingness to uncover and surrender whatever prevents our being filled with God and converse with Christ. It also implies being alert to the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of other Christians and members of other living faiths. The Church is the sign and sacrament of God´s presence in the world, but God´s activity is by no means limited to the Church and its members.
- Finally, in the ecumenical movement we all need to practice a biblical patience and above all love. This patience demands creative waiting, doing now what we can instead of complaining about what church disciplines will not allow us to do. It means being willing to accept or absorb negativity so that the person who is the source of it will eventually go beyond it. Christ suffered for unity. At times so will we.
Biblical patience involves staying with it, seeing it through, searching for healing, cooperation, understanding, forgiveness and above all, LOVE.
The convergence reflected in our Final report would appear to call for establishing a new relationship between our churches as the next stage in the journey towards Christian unity.
There are high expectations that significant initiatives will be boldly undertaken to deepen our reconciliation and lead us forward in the quest for the full communion in which we have been committed, in obedience to God, from the beginning of our dialogue.