Christians urged to unite
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on Tuesday, 18 January, 2022. The theme is ‘We saw His star in the East’, chosen this year by the Christian Churches of the Middle East.
Tom Layden SJ, the Irish Jesuit Province Co-Ordinator for Ecumenism, has been communicating with Jesuits and colleagues to remind and encourage them to participate in the Week of Prayer in whatever way they deem appropriate or possible, given the Covid-19 pandemic.
The theme for the 2022 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity finds its origins in the Gospel of Matthew (2:2) in the story of the Magi coming to worship the newborn king.
Tom notes that the Magi have sometimes been seen as symbolic of the world’s diversity, in both religion and culture, coming to pay homage to the Christ-child. They come from far-off countries, representing diverse cultures yet driven by the same hunger to see and know the One born in Bethlehem and to pay him homage.
He says that the Magi’s journey story can serve as a metaphor for Christian Unity where we see different Christian peoples “drawn together in the common search to recognise Jesus the Christ, to know and worship him while bearing witness to the wider need to work for unity and to overcome injustice.”
In their reflection the Christian Churches of the Middle East suggest that it is the mission of the church to be the star that lights the way to Christ, who is the Light of the World. By word and action, says Tom, we are called to light the way so that Christ might be revealed, once again to the nations.
He notes, however, that “Sadly our divisions dim the light of Christian witness and obscure the path, preventing others from finding their way to Christ. Conversely, Christians united in their worship of Christ, and opening their treasures in an exchange of gifts, become a sign of the unity that God desires for all creation.”
It is important therefore, he believes, that we take the opportunity to engage in this week of prayer with Christians around the world: “It offers us a particular opportunity to recall all that we have in common, to express regret for the pain caused by our divisions and to ask the Lord to deepen in us the hope that we will all be one someday in the future”.
Tom also draws attention to the fact that this year’s texts have been prepared by the Christians of the Middle East This is a prompt for us, he says, to also pray for peace based on justice in that part of the world, which has known such conflict and division over the years. Also to pray especially in solidarity with the Christian Churches in the region in the context of the many challenges with which they have to contend.
Below are some suggestions from him as to how people can participate in the Week of Prayer. He also welcomes the fact that many participants will have their own plans or ideas based on their own experience and context.
• Remember the intentions of the Week in personal and communal prayer.
• Use some part of the order of service in the resources in the link sent along with this letter in either personal or communal prayer.
• Use the prayers from a Votive Mass for the Unity of Christians at Mass.
• Use one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation from the Missal.
• Watch online a Sunday service from a church of another tradition.
• Write a letter of greeting or send an email to a person from another Christian tradition whom you know either through work or personal contact.
In the conclusion of his annual letter Tom prays : “May the Spirit of Unity continue to be active in our midst. We give thanks for the growth in unity which we have seen in the years since the Edinburgh Conference (1910) and the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). We ask the Lord’s blessing on the work that still needs to be done.”
If anyone feels that Tom can be of further assistance to their efforts, he invites them to contact him at [email protected] or by phone at 00 44 74 79913293.