For with you is the fountain of life (Ps 36 : 5-9)
The draft text was prepared by a local ecumenical group that included representatives of several of the major Christian traditions in Romania.
To those organizing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Adapting the text
This material is offered with the understanding that, whenever possible, it will be adapted for use at the local level. In doing this, account must be taken of local liturgical and devotional practice, and of the whole social and cultural context. Such adaptation should normally take place ecumenically.
In some places ecumenical structures are already set up for adapting the material. In other places, we hope that the need to adapt it will be a stimulus to creating such structures.
Using the Week of Prayer material
- For churches and Christian communities which observe the week of prayer together through a single common service, an order for an ecumenical worship service is provided.
- Churches and Christian communities may also incorporate material from the week of prayer into their own services. Prayers from the ecumenical worship service, the "eight days", and the selection of additional prayers can be used as appropriate in their own setting.
- Communities which observe the week of prayer in their worship for each day during the week may draw material for these services from the "eight days".
- Those wishing to do bible studies on the week of prayer theme can use as a basis the biblical texts and reflections given in the "eight days". Each day the discussions can lead to a closing period of intercessory prayer.
- Those who wish to pray privately may find the material helpful for focusing their prayer intentions. They can be mindful that they are in communion with others praying all around the world for the greater visible unity of Christ's church.
The search for unity: throughout the year
The traditional date for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Watson to cover the days between the feast of St Peter and the feast of St Paul, and have therefore a symbolic meaning. In the southern hemisphere where January is a vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the Week of Prayer, for example around Pentecost (which was suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the church.
But the search for Christian unity is not limited to one week each year. We encourage you therefore not only to be flexible concerning the date but also to understand the material presented here as an invitation to find opportunities throughout the whole year to express the degree of communion which the churches have already received, and to pray together for that full unity which is Christ's will.
For with you is the fountain of life (Ps 36: 9)
Introduction to the theme
There is great hope that this new millennium of the Christian era may soon bring about reconciliation among those who believe in Christ, in spite of the hindrance of many historical, theological, cultural, and psychological obstacles. It seems that we have not yet discovered the means for breaking down the barriers that still divide us and impede a unified proclamation of the gospel to the world.
The European churches have offered to the whole ecumenical movement a sign of hope in the Carta Ecumenica [Ecumenical Charter] developed after their two continental ecumenical assemblies (Basel 1989 and Graz 1997). This charter will shortly be signed at Strasbourg (17-22 April 2001) These assemblies had the goal of reflecting together on their responsibilities to the gospel and to history. The charter which expresses the churches' commitment to reciprocal reflection, witness and common action in a united but very diverse Europe is something similar to a navigational chart that the churches should adopt to hasten the voyage towards the port of visible unity. We may again ask: where is the secret of reconciliation and the key for making good use of an instrument such as a charter?
The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2002, "With you is the fountain of life" (Ps 36: 9) suggests that to unlock this secret we need to find the way to the place where the fountain of life is. The symbol of the fountain reminds us of the necessity to return to the origin, to the principle, to the roots, to the essential. To walk together, Christians need to be grounded in the Word of God, the revelation of God's face in Jesus Christ, the renewing force of God's Spirit, the discovery of the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Without light from the source of all light, the problems we encounter on our way remain shrouded in darkness and become insurmountable stumbling blocks. The fountain is an image for water welling up abundantly. We know the symbolic and theological richness of water in the Bible from the book of Genesis to Revelation. Water is life-giving and cleansing. Faith, prayer and common action can make water spring even from the desert rock of bitterness and cleanse the sin of division in Christendom.
This year's local group has given us the opportunity to reflect positively on the common source of life that we share. We all draw life from the one source of creation: the life giving Triune God. Throughout the history of salvation God has shown his steadfast love by creating, sustaining, renewing and redeeming humanity. As the fountain of life and the source of light, God revealed the depth of that love in Jesus Christ who came to draw all to himself with his abundant offer of the fullness of life, the very life of God. Jesus' love knew no bounds as he embraced all of sinful creation in his death on the cross. From the tree of life, he reconciled sinners to God. In the resurrection of Jesus, God confirmed his offer of abundant life to all who accept Jesus as Lord and are baptized into Christ and clothed with Christ. In Christ we are one, and heirs according to God's promise (cf. Gal 3: 27-29). It is by one baptism that we are united to Christ in faith, and also united to each other in the communion of Christ's body (cf. 1Cor 12: 13). This fundamental unity is what all Christians share and for what Jesus prayed on the eve of his death. The scandal of divided Christians urges us to recognize what we share in common in the one baptism and to bear witness visibly to this in the world.
The texts for the eight days provide a reflection on the common source of life that we share. We are part of God's creation (day 1), given life from the Trinity, and created in God's image and likeness. God's faithful love is freely offered to all who will accept it in Jesus, saviour and redeemer of humanity. When Jesus is baptized, God reveals that all people have access to the fountain of life in Jesus, the spiritual rock from whence springs life-giving water (day 2). However, on our journey, we encounter many personal and communal challenges. The same is true for the churches on their ecumenical journey. In spite of the temptation for us to give up in the face of these anxieties and doubts, God gives us the assurance that he will sustain us with water from the fountain of life (day 3). Sin entered our world because humans freely chose it. The same water that sprung from the source of life now has to restore life where death reigned. Because of God's steadfast love, he renewed creation in his Son, Jesus, who came to show the way to the kingdom of God. Jesus taught that no one could enter without being born of water and the spirit. Christians have come to realize that through our baptism we have become a new creation and members of one another in the one body of Christ (day 4). The encounter with God, the fountain of life, in baptism generates a new vision of the human person and community, and new ways of acting and witnessing in the world (day 5). As disciples of Christ, we are invited to carry on his mission of bringing healing and life to the world (day 6). The fruits of new life, constantly watered by the word of God, shine forth in the lives of individual Christians as well as in the ecumenical journey of the churches (day 7). God, the fountain of life, is also the source of hope. The offer of new life in Christ is a gift. In accepting this gift we enter into the communion of those who have accepted Christ as Lord and, through our common baptism, commit ourselves to seek the visible unity of Christ's body (day 8).
Preparation of the material for the Week of prayer for Christian unity 2002
This material was prepared by an international group appointed by the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (of the Roman Catholic Church) at a meeting held at the guesthouse of the Evangelical [Lutheran] Church of the Augsburg Confession in Romania, in Vulcan, Romania in October 1999. We are grateful to Bishop Christoph Klein of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as well as to the staff of the Casa de Odihna for the warm welcome they extended to us.
The international preparatory group worked from a draft text prepared by a local ecumenical group that included representatives of several of the major Christian traditions in Romania. We were happy to be joined in our work by four representatives of the preparatory group.
Introduction to the worship service
The proposed outline of the service is deliberately simple: opening, invocation of the Holy Spirit, repentance, proclamation of the world of God, confession of faith, intercessions, exchange of a sign of peace and blessing.
It is for each community to adapt this service according to their own tradition and culture. It should be prepared, on the local level, with the greatest possible level of ecumenical collaboration, which will give it proper significance:
Christians from different churches celebrate their Lord in whom is the fountain of life. Together they become one body through their common baptism remembered here; they approach the source of their faith. They pray together in Christ for full communion. They affirm their commitment to make this evident to the world. Through their ecumenical celebration they are united with all Christians throughout the world, addressing to God in the Spirit the praise of all the baptized.
"We affirm and celebrate the increasing mutual recognition of one another's baptism as the one baptism into Christ"
(Day 4, Worship book, 5th World Conference of Faith and Order at Santiago de Compostela)
The liturgical welcome is followed by a presentation of the communities present and of their leaders. It is recommended that time be taken for mutual welcome. With the singing of a hymn, united voices lead to unity of hearts. A brief introduction to the service and its theme follows.
Invocation of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to sincere repentance, encourages prayer, and prepares us to truly hear the word of God. In the Holy Spirit, the prayers of all become those of Christ. He prays with us to the Father. He prays in us because we are part of him. He prays for us and for our unity, gift of God.
Prayer of confession
The recognition of our sins and a plea for forgiveness may be accompanied by a moment of silence, for the wounds which we remember even today have ancient roots and to heal these wounds it is necessary to enter deeply inside ourselves. From this silence comes forth the acclamation of the Holy Trinity.
Reading of the Word
Psalm 36, 6-10, text of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2002, sets the chosen theme in its context: "With you is the fountain of life". Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus (Jn 3: 1-21) illustrates the significance of the mystery of our personal rebirth to new life. Paul in Rm 6: 3-11, allows for the development of the paschal and ecclesial dimensions of our life in Christ, as inaugurated at our baptism.
Confession of faith
This is the high point of the worship service. It could inspire a movement towards the water which has been placed in front of or in the midst of the congregation in memory of our baptismal profession of faith. A movement towards the baptistry could also be possible, followed by the exchange of the sign of peace.
The prayer intentions lead from the universal to the particular. If the Charta Oecumenica [Ecumenical Charter] is mentioned, it is given as an example and should be seen as an invitation to each local group to include prayers for regional or local ecumenical projects.
Sign of peace
This is traditionally a symbolic gesture from the celebration of adult baptism. The sign exchanged between the baptised is the solemn affirmation of their common prayer. It expresses their communion in the faith and the new life of the children of God gathered in unity. It is a sign of unity in the peace of Christ still to be perfected, and it may be accompanied by commitment to renewal of mutual trust or more energetic engagement for Christian unity throughout the year.
(Aspersion, signing with water, evocation)
Not forgetting other symbols such as the Bible, water may be used in several ways depending on the local situation, the desired adaptation for the particular community and the specific point in the worship :
- At the prayer of repentance, water evokes the bath of baptismal renewal in Christ and forgiveness of sins.
- At the confession of the trinitarian faith, water expresses that full unity in faith towards which we aspire, and in the same way as we aspire to one baptism. It underlines the idea that at the baptismal fountain we became participants of the trinitarian communion, and of the mystery of the church, as well as members of a
At the conclusion of the service, the shared glass of water brings us back to our mission to the world, to humanity seeking a source of life to assuage its thirst.
The use of these symbolic actions demands reflection in the groups. They would not always be appropriate. Sometimes they provoke questions which might then provide the occasion for fruitful discussion between members of different churches.
The different elements of this worship service can help us become conscious of the diverse Christian family which we compose. The hymns and songs of praise, the renewal of our hearts through repentance and the joy of the Holy Spirit, contribute to the festive atmosphere.
The different elements of worship, together with the solemn reading of the word of God and the few, aptly placed moments of silence, also give a sense of mystery.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
I - Opening of the Celebration
Solemn entrance (with a sign or symbol of God's gift of life, the Bible first, then if deemed appropriate, a cross, the tree of life', an icon, or the water of baptism), accompanied by organ music or a processional hymn.
1. Opening: (Welcome to the congregation and brief explanation of the service in relation to the theme for the Week of Prayer 2002; chant or hymn.)
2. Invocation of the Holy Spirit
(It may be appropriate either to chant this prayer or, interspersed with the prayers of the congregation, to transform it into a litany.
Other well known prayers such as "O Holy King"; "Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful", Veni sancte spiritus, or similar prayers calling upon the Holy Spirit might also be used. Such prayers can be found in the collections of hymns and prayers from the great ecumenical gatherings (Basle, Graz, Santiago de Compostela).
3. Prayer of Repentance
a) Confession of sins (silent and prayer)
L: Eternal and all-powerful God, you put away nothing of what you have created, and you forget the sins of those who repent. Create and awake in us a new and contrite heart, that we may regret our sins, recognize our wickedness, and receive from you, God of all mercy, full pardon and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.
(or another appropriate prayer)
L: Let us seek the forgiveness of God and of each other for the divisions that have hindered Christian witness: Lord we have sinned against you and against each other. C: Lord, have mercy.
L: O Christ, our divisions are contrary to your will and have impeded our common witness to you. C: Christ have mercy.
L: Lord, we have not loved you enough in our brothers and sisters, created in your image, but different from us. C: Lord, have mercy.
L: Creator God, let us no longer live beside each other as strangers. Satisfy the longings of our hearts, grant our rightful requests, and unite us soon in one holy church through your Son Jesus Christ who with you in the communion of the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally.
b) Praise to the Holy Trinity
We praise you, Father, creator of heaven and of earth
Glory be to you, O Father, for your only beloved son, Jesus, Christ and Lord, in whom you have fulfilled all your promises to us of life, of peace and happiness.
Glory be to you through the Holy Spirit, Breath of life which caresses all flesh.
(Other traditional hymns of praise might be used: for example "Glory to God in the highest..")
4. Reading of the Word
a) Epistle: Romans 6: 3-11
5. Confession of Faith
There are several possibilities:
L: All-powerful God, you are the fountain of life.
L: When we see the triumph of violence and hatred degrade men and women, destroy the future of children and young people throughout the world, we dare to pray that your kingdom of justice and peace might come. "Continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!" (Ps 36: 10) Uphold the hope of "those who are thrust down, unable to rise".(Ps 36: 12)
L: When the churches and Christians in Europe commit themselves to the way of fuller cooperation by an ecumenical charter, the hope of unity becomes stronger. Awaken in us all the spirit of discernment, of concord and the confidence necessary to reach full communion.
L: When, in the last century, churches recognized you at the source of the ecumenical movement, their life was transformed. Revive this ardent desire for unity within the hearts of all Christians in the world.
L: When we lose courage in the face of distress and the problems we meet in our efforts towards the unity of all Christians, help us to turn to your love. When we are enveloped by the darkness of doubt in the face of the opposition of the churches, give us the hope that one day we may reach unity:
L: When we are up against the barriers we have erected between us as a result of our suspicions, send us the strength to overcome them once more, and to recognize the good intentions of those we meet:
L: When we are discouraged by our own anxiety in the face of others, send your light to overcome it and to be able to calm the anguish of others.
Prayers relevant to the local situation
6. Exchange of the Sign of Peace
a) Invitation to pray the Lord's Prayer
b) Sign of peace
Blessing and Dismissal (organ music or chant)
The psalmist sings the praises of a God whose love embraces all of creation - humans and animals alike - because God sees in them his creative activity. The extent and depth of this love go beyond our imagination, since it is a love that draws us into the very mystery of God "with whom is the fountain of life".
The breath of life breathed into humans is one way that the Bible represents how God places his image and likeness in us. Since human beings bear God's image, they have a unique dignity. This is the reason for his faithfulness in sustaining us. Man and woman have a unique place in God's creation since he has entrusted its care to them.
Christians recognize the Triune God as the fountain of all life and meaning, as well as the desire of all human longing. Since all things were created in Jesus Christ, the first born of creation, we have access to the fountain of life through Jesus, in whom "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell". In Jesus we live, we move, we have our being. In other words, the love of God dwelling in Jesus, reconciles all things to himself, the source of all life.
Jesus teaches us not to be concerned about our life since God, who is the source of all good gifts, will attend to all that is necessary. Together as children of God, responsible for creation, we turn to the same source of life and, in drawing near to this unique source of life and light, we draw near to one another.
O God, fountain of life and source of all light, fill the hearts of your children with wonder for the gifts of your creation. Sustain us with your steadfast love and bring all your children, reconciled to you by Jesus Christ, to drink from the river of your delights. To you, life-giving Trinity, be all praise, glory, and honour forever. Amen.
Jesus' baptism reveals to us what we proclaim in our common faith: God - Father, Son and Spirit - "in whom is the fountain of life" leads us to this same fountain through Jesus. And all is transformed.
Jesus comes from Nazareth, yet his Father points him out as his "Beloved Son" from heaven.
The fountain of life comes to give living water to the whole earth and will flow on abundantly even unto death, as Saint John says in his gospel of the passion.
So together, united in the same faith, we can rejoice with the redeemed, "those who are guided to the holy abode", and can be united in the proclamation of this good news.
Together, we can rely on this rock, Christ, for it is from this rock that the waters of life spring.
Lord our God,
Let us acclaim you for the salvation
The people of Israel began their journey to the promised land full of hope. Yet soon they faced the experience of the desert - a time of crisis, doubt and questioning. They lost confidence, and complained against Moses: "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us... with thirst?" they cried. They quarrelled and tested the Lord and began to hanker after their former slavery.
Even though they showed themselves so stubborn and ungrateful God remained steadfast in his love. When they demanded water he gave it in abundance from the rock. He revealed himself once again to be the fountain of life.
On our life's journey there are desert stretches when anguish and questioning can gain the upper hand. "How am I to live my life?" "Is God with us in our difficulties?" "Does God care about us in our need?" "What does following Christ demand in today's world?" The temptation to give up and turn back can be very real.
Sometimes our questions are rather arrogant but God remains faithful. "He is not far from each one of us". Even in arid darkness when perseverance is difficult he cares for us and calls us to persevere, to be faithful, to continue along the way with him.
Our ecumenical journey also takes our churches through the desert. Questions and doubts arise. "What must we do?" "Are we progressing?" The temptation to turn back and return to a time of isolation and captivity is ever present. But our steadfastly loving God is with us, calling us to leave completely behind all sin and separation and to drink together at the fountain of life.
God, our Father, give new courage to your pilgrim people. You bring forth life in the desert and water from the rock. Take our doubts and questions and make them fruitful. May we and our churches support one another as we seek and thirst for you.
Accompany us and show us your loving presence when the way is hard and we falter. Bring us to the unity you desire for your people, through Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord. Amen.
Until today Christians from different churches have been slow to recognize each other. At present Christians are not yet able to share one table as a sign of full communion. When will it be so? This depends on how far Christians Nicodemus stands for all who feel something is missing, who are thirsting for the kingdom of God. Looking for an answer he turns to Jesus, visiting him by night. He recognizes Jesus as the one who has come from God and begins to follow him in faith.
Christ offers Nicodemus, and others like him who are searching, the precious gift of a new life. Through water and the Holy Spirit they are set free from the power of their sins. With all the baptized they become brothers and sisters. They bear witness throughout their lives to the inestimable riches of knowing Christ, in their care for the sick and needy, the downtrodden and neglected.
The ecumenical journey of recent decades has caused Christians to become much more aware of the sacrament of baptism. By our common baptism we have already become members of the one body of Christ and so "from now on we regard no one from a human point of view". We have all been reconciled with God and entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation.
Our persistent sinful divisions have hindered us from recognizing the full significance and implications of our common baptism. May we draw more fully from the fountain of life and truly minister God's reconciliation to one another and to the world.
Father, you have reconciled us with yourself in Christ your Son. With him we have been buried in the waters of baptism and raised to share his life by the Holy Spirit. In him we have become a new creation. Help all those who bear his name repent of their sins, reach out to each other and come together to the fullness of life. We ask you this in his name, Jesus Christ our one Lord. Amen.
Today we meet a woman called Lydia in a place of prayer where she has gathered with other women. To be able to find her, we need to go outside the gate, among people whom we do not know. There by the river we experience a real encounter. The Lord opens the heart of Lydia to listen to the word of God. She and her household are baptized and soon her home becomes a place of shelter for Christian community.
Today we reflect on the everyday act of listening which is essential whenever Christians and Christian communities encounter each other. As we gather together, coming from different communities, traditions and cultures, we need to listen carefully to the witness of each other. We are called to listen in order to understand and to manifest the unity of the church. This calling is not based on our ability to cross borders. It is not our own achievement but its foundation is baptism, which has made us God's people.
We have often failed to live as one people, baptized in Christ. We have failed to listen to the witness of one another patiently and eagerly. Therefore our continuous prayer is that God would show us new places and ways of encounter.
Often these can occur even in the midst of strangers and mutual suspicion, outside the normal run of our daily life. Courage and patience are needed when Christians of different communities share married life with its joys and sorrows when one Christian community shares its place of prayer with another when Christians live with a non-Christian majority and try to share the joy of their faith in Christ.
In these painful and joyful occasions we are encouraged by our conviction that we are God's people and called to share God's gifts with the whole of creation.
In such encounters we do not only listen but also act accordingly. We need to search for and build places for Christians to pray ecumenically and to work for reconciliation. We also need to search for and build places for people to find refuge. In this way we will find our true selves as God's people.
Holy God, the source of unity, as we gather together, we thank you for the waters of baptism through which you brought us into communion. Let our churches and communities grow and flourish in one faith and one baptism. Encourage us to witness to Christ in daily encounters and to show more deeply the unity of the church. Keep us faithful in this calling as long as we live. Amen.
Today we meet a paralysed man at the pool of Bethzatha. He has been lying on his mat near the pool for thirty-eight years. Like many in the third millennium, he may not be sure what is wrong with him and he knows that restoration cannot come by his own efforts. Yet he has no one of his own to help him. Maybe he is unwilling to ask strangers for help. Jesus comes - and does not assume that he knows what the man wants. Jesus asks and then responds, bringing healing - as a stranger, since the man does not know who Jesus is.
Jesus' followers, in Acts, carry on this work of healing and helping. Isaiah speaks of the servant bringing forth justice - in a gentle, non-destructive way. He also speaks of God's call to us to be a light, to bring restoration of sight and freedom.
As individual Christians or denominations we may be held back from the fullest life God has for us. We may not know what we lack. Our road to real wholeness will require us to ask God's help and the help of other individuals and denominations - who may at the moment be strangers.
As we go on to be those who bring justice, health and wholeness to others do we follow Jesus' approach
God of compassion, grant us humility to seek what we need to bring us to fullness of life; to recognise in the stranger your spirit at work. Call us again to compassionate helping in the world you have created. We pray especially for small denominations inside and outside of ecumenical structures; for racial and cultural minorities in Europe; for individuals who feel they have no one "to put them in the pool". Enable us to follow the example of Jesus, in whose name we pray, Amen.
The image of the tree planted by streams of water shows us the origin of new life and its blossoming. Vibrant life cannot exist without life sources. As trees need water and roots, the Psalm speaks of the Torah, the word of God as the central fountain for the life of the people of God.
The word of God is like fresh water, like a constant fountain inspiring the churches and the life of Christians. It is not a dead but a living powerful word which bears fruit. It gives confidence, stability and orientation, endurance and freedom.
In so far as it transforms our life and actions, it is like a seed which springs up and like a tree which blossoms and comes to fruition.
The Bible is a gift we have to share. As Christians of different traditions and different cultures, we are called to come together and learn more and more to listen to what the Bible says to us today. In this way we make surprising discoveries and find mutual inspiration. When the community of believers listens to the one word there will be results. The word unites us and urges us to act together in the one Spirit. The more deeply we are rooted in Christ, the more we will work with conviction and purpose for example for the rights of the dispossessed; for the protection and the dignity of life; for the preservation of creation; for solidarity with the poor; and for reconciliation in a non-violent way.
In this way the fruit of the new life grows up among us. So in this broken world, we become a sign of hope that God is restoring his creation.
God, source of life, we thank you for your life-giving word.
These things are trustworthy and true: the new life in Christ is offered freely to all through the grace of God. The living water, which we have celebrated throughout these days of prayer for Christian unity, is God's gift offered to all. Salvation is not something we earn, or need to be "worthy" of; and no one, and no church, has a monopoly on access to the source of life, Christ Jesus our Lord. For this we offer praise to God.
This is a gift which each of us must accept and make our own. Each of us must decide how we will respond to God's offer of new life in Christ. But this does not mean that the Christian life is a solitary affair. In drawing near to Christ, we draw nearer to one another. We enter into the fellowship of all those who, around the world and through the ages, have acknowledged Christ as Lord of their own lives, of the church, and of all creation. We are joined with all those who belong to Christ, whatever misunderstandings or differences may divide our various confessions. For this we offer praise to God.
Christ offers us "a spring of water gushing up to eternal life". Our hope is based on God's promise of new life: the renewal of our own lives, the renewal of all the churches, and the renewal of all creation.
We know that we belong to one another through our common baptism. We thirst for unity in the lives of our churches - through common confession, witness, service and, one day, at the one table of our Lord. We know that we must work together toward this unity. And we look forward in hope, for surely the Holy Spirit has surprises in store for us.
God, source of hope,
We thank you for the hope of new life in Christ
We thank you that you have made us one.
In the joy of the resurrection to eternal life we pray, Amen
These prayers have been suggested by the ecumenical group which prepared the first project of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2002 and are published under their responsibility. They come from the worship book for the Ecumenical Assembly of Graz (23-29 June 1997) and have been translated from the German (W. Nausner, H. Beigelböck [Ed.] Words and Songs of Reconciliation and Praise, Graz 1997). We publish them with the kind permission of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences and the Conference of European Churches. They may be reproduced in the texts distributed after adaptation at local level.
L: Set our hearts on fire with love for you, O Christ, our God, that in its flame we may love you with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength, and love our neighbours as ourselves, so that by keeping your commandments we may glorify you, the giver of all good gifts.
L: Remember not the former things. Do not consider the things of old. Behold I create something new: Now it springs forth - do you not perceive it?
C: God we are waiting. Create something new amongst us.
L: I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low.
C: God we are waiting. Create something new amongst us.
L: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Here is my servant, the one I have chosen; I have filled him with my Spirit - he will not lose hope or courage: He will establish justice on earth. Distant lands eagerly await him.
C: God we are waiting. Create something new amongst us.
L: Sing a new song to God, sing God's praises, all the world. Praise God all you who live in distant lands give praise and glory to God.
L : Let us seek the forgiveness of God and of each other for the divisions that have hindered Christian witness: Lord we have sinned against you and each other.
C: Lord, have mercy.
L: O Christ, our divisions are contrary to your will, and have impeded our common witness to you.
C: Christ, have mercy.
L: Lord, we have not loved you enough in our sisters and brothers, created in your image, but different from us.
C: Lord, have mercy.
L: Creator God, let us no longer live beside each other as strangers. Satisfy the longings of our hearts, grant our rightful requests, and unite us soon in one holy church through your Son Jesus Christ who with you in the communion of the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally.
L: I praise you, Christ. You are with us every day on this earth, solid like the ground on which I stand.
You are the light of the world, and I take from your light. Thus it becomes light in my darkness.
You are the voice which calls my name, like the original sound in the storm of the beginning.
You are the source of life, I draw from you until I become myself the source from which the eternal life flows.
Beauty is spread around me, you are the God of beauty, above me, below me, I am part of you.
As a child you have called me, since then, I listen to you. And when I am old, I follow your path with a quiet heart.
I try my song. I sing it into the wind and let it fade away in you.
L: Triune God, we come before you with our deep longing for true community between young and old men an women, rich and poor, between all nations. We long to overcome the divisions between Christians. Help us to overcome the many barriers we erect. Help us to dispel our suspicions.
C: that we may see the good intentions in those we meet.
L: Help us to put aside our own uncertainty
C: that we may appreciate the dignity of others.
L: Help us to cast out our fears
C: that we may allay the fears of others.
L: Help us to conquer our own pride
C: that we may love our neighbours as ourselves.
L: Grant us the gift of true community in reconciliation with others.
God of goodness, before you I think of all people who are preparing for the night. I ask you to strengthen all those who are travelling and at work. I ask you to be with the sick, the depressed, the abandoned, the prisoners.
You are awake with those who are awake. You are the sleep of those who are sleeping, and the dying live in you.
Stay with us, because the night is coming, and the day has come to an end.
Stay with us and with all people. Stay with us in the evening of the day, in the evening of our life, in the evening of the world.
Stay with us with your grace and goodness, with your word and sacrament, with your comfort and blessing.
Stay with us, when the night of mourning and fear comes to us, the night of doubt and helplessness, the night of death. Stay with us and with all your children, in time and eternity.
God, may your faithfulness be not made vain by us. Help us to accept the message of forgiveness and live each day nourished by your endless love and mercy.
In Christ's cross you have reconciled yourself with us; may we live as reconciled with each other, so that your church may be an example of true peace.
Give us the strength to help each other, to build new life which you have given us in Jesus Christ.
But above all let your love be made known to those suffering, abandoned and persecuted. Be close to them with your help, be light and hope to them.
God of reconciliation, God of peace, hear our prayer through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus Christ, Son of God. Who has revealed to us the heavenly Father, make us your disciples.
Teach us always to act according to your will. Make us your children. Give us the strength to do your will and to keep your commandments.
May everything good and beautiful in the world remind us of you. May we see in sinners the reflection of our own sins. Teach us to look on those who think differently from us, who have different religious beliefs or no belief at all, as brothers and sisters
Let us remember how short life is, so that the thought of death inspires us to industry and service.
Grant us the strength to forgive, to love and to give.
Teach us to live in prayer. Grant us even now to be communicants of your kingdom.
Teach us to hate sin, but not the sinner. Give us the strength to be your witnesses.
Do not allow us to become vain, petty and barren.
Be for us the Alpha and Omega in this life and in eternity. May we be your disciples. Amen.
Ecumenical situation in Europe
(This description of the ecumenical situation in Europe was prepared by the local ecumenical group. It is reproduced here on their sole responsibility.)
For many long centuries, European culture has been marked by Christianity. But, on the other hand, the different national cultures have also influenced the churches. The schism of the churches at the end of the first millennium, between the occidental and the Byzantine Christianity of Eastern Europe, as well as the separation in the 16th century between the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant churches, had theological origins as well as ethic and cultural ones. It resulted in an ecclesial situation marked by deep differences between the diverse regions of the continent. Churches, which in one country may be an absolute majority, constitute a small minority in another.
Since the 16th century these divisions have also been exported towards other continents by means of missionary activity. The modern ecumenical movement has resulted in all European churches feeling a responsibility towards allowing for change and for a progression towards fuller communion.
Instead of simple coexistence or opposition of the churches, where the differences in the area of faith brought into doubt even those things they still had in common, the communion given in Christ by the Triune God is underlined today and it is in this light that ancient theological differences are illumined and judged.
I - Ecumenical experiences
The communion between churches of the East and churches of the West has been deepened by numerous encounters and dialogues, not only between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches, but also between Reformed churches and Eastern Orthodox churches.
From an ecumenical point of view, the Declaration on the Christological Differences between Orthodox churches and Pre-Chalcedonian churches (1993) is extremely significant.
The Orthodox churches and the Reformed churches founded, in 1959, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in order to promote common witness and service in European society. It was precisely in Europe eleven years earlier that the World Council of Churches was founded.
Catholic-Protestant relations have changed fundamentally over the last few years. At the jubilee of the Augsbourg Confession - since 1530 the most significant Lutheran confession of faith - a joint document was drawn up "All Under One Christ" Almost everywhere in Europe, regular exchanges take place by means of ecumenical worship services and collaboration at many levels. The countries of central Europe, where confessional diversity is considerable, play a pioneering role in this. The "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" signed by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church, in 1999, deserves particular attention.
Protestantism, broken up between different churches, seeks and increasingly finds its unity within the ecumenical movement. In the Leuenberg Agreement, signed in 1973, the Lutheran, Reformed and United churches of Europe declare common recognition and "pulpit and altar/table fellowship". The Methodist churches have since joined the Leuenberg ecclesial communion. The Anglican churches have concluded agreements of reciprocal recognition with the Protestant church of Germany (Meissen, 1988), with the Scandinavian and Baltic Lutheran churches (Porvoo, 1994) and with the Protestant churches of France (Reuilly, 1999).
These ecumenical approaches, significant from the point of view of the history of the churches, must now be received and experienced amongst all God's people. For that to happen European ecclesial institutions must work more together on an ecumenical level (diaconia and social work, peace work, ministries for women, for men, for young people, etc.) The close relations which exist since the missionary era with churches outside Europe give food for thought to European churches. The partnerships between churches and, also between parishes, stimulate ecumenism.
In almost all European countries national councils of churches exist with an increasing participation of the Roman Catholic Church. At the level of local ecumenism, and above all in numerous confessionally-mixed homes, there exists a spirituality which encourages the ecumenical movement.
There are obvious brakes put on the ecumenical movement as well! Many Christians and churches frequently exist in a situation where they make do with little. "Ecumenism is all very fine and good. But is it so much better when we are alone": This remark, captured after an ecumenical worship, shows that ecumenical openness and spirituality are more necessary than ever.
II - The churches faced with a new commitment
Europe must face up to enormous tasks which necessitate moving forward with more ardour towards reconciliation between churches.
Since 1989, the political crisis which Europe experienced opened a new stage in the relations between churches of the East and churches of the West. For the fact that previously the churches had lived through quite different histories has resulted in a wealth of ignorance, incomprehension and suspicion on all sides.
The European churches are conscious of having a new responsibility in the face of the great problems of our times, such as: community life comprising a diversity of cultures, peoples and religions and in particular the encounter with Islam; the meaning of life; the encounter with new groups or religious movements which spring up outside the churches; the exchange of gifts between world religions; questions concerning human rights, from the possibilities offered by genetic engineering to cloning, and new dilemmas concerning the nature of the family unit, and the environment, etc.
The formation of the European Union demands the vigilance of the churches, especially concerning questions of ethics and culture. The churches must make sure that the unity of Europe is brought about in the perspective of equitable exchanges with other continents.
It is only together that the European churches can face up the these great challenges.
Collaboration between CEC and the CCEE
The Conference of European Churches brings together 126 Anglican, Protestant, Orthodox and Old Catholic churches. The Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe groups together the 34 episcopal conferences of the continent. The CEC and the CCEE each represent about half the Christians in Europe.
The collaboration between the two bodies constitutes a true ecumenical reality in Europe. It started in 1971 and has led to many common encounters such as those of Chantilly, Riva del Garda/Trente, Erfurt, Santiago de Compostela, Assisi and at summits such as the two European ecumenical assemblies (EEAs).
The European ecumenical assembly of 1989 in Basle, Switzerland, brought together all Christians for the first time in our continent around the theme "Peace with Justice for the Whole Creation".
In 1997, in the Austrian city of Graz, more than 10,000 delegates from all the churches of Europe and around 200 churches and episcopal conferences met to consider the theme: "Reconciliation - Gift of God and Source of New Life".
The joint committee "Islam in Europe" has established a network of meetings with Islam ; reciprocity, mixed marriages, relations between religion and state, prayer within religions and between religions.
The commission on "Church and Society" of CEC and the commission of Catholic episcopates in the European community (COMECE) both hold their sessions in Brussels and accompany the work of the European political institutions.
In the Easter week of 2001, 100 leaders and delegates of churches and ecumenical movements and 100 young people will meet, in Strasbourg, France, for exchanges between generations and to define guidelines for the beginning of the third millennium.
The churches of Europe have been engaged for many years in a demanding project with great potential: The Charta Oecumenica [Ecumenical Charter] for Europe. This will allow the churches to define the goals they wish to reach and determine the rules to travel the way together.
Prospects for the future
The Ecumenical Assembly of Graz has described the challenges before the churches that they may go forward to visible unity:
- The necessity for an ecumenical spirituality and culture which lead the faithful to the heart of the gospel;
- The enlargement of this ecumenical culture to include all believers;
- The opening of a new ecumenical space which can welcome confessional families in their particularity, but also the new churches of the east and west of Europe, from the north and south of the world. This space must be free of the obstacles linked to history, culture, psychology and law, in order to allow for a true theological dialogue;
- The deepening of dialogue, in order that there is no contradiction between the concept of dialogue and the concept of truth;
- The development of a living ecumenism which is evidenced by acts of love, encounter and humble service, that each may have a share in the gifts of all.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
In 1968, official joint preparation of the materials began by the WCC Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
"To the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1: 14)
"Called to freedom" (Galatians 5: 13)
"We are fellow workers for God" (1 Corinthians 3: 9)
"... and the communion of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 13: 13)
"I give you a new commandment" (John 13: 34)
"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11: 1)
"That every tongue confess: Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2: 1-13)
(In April 1974 a letter was sent to member churches and other interested parties concerning the setting up of local groups to be involved in the preparation of the Week of Prayer brochure. An Australian group was the first to take up this plan in preparing the 1975 initial draft of the Week of Prayer.)
"God's purpose: all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1: 3-10)
"We shall be like him" (1 John 3: 2) or "Called to become what we are"
"Enduring together in hope" (Romans 5: 1-5)
"No longer strangers" (Ephesians 2: 13-22)
"Serve one another to the glory of God" (l Peter 4: 7-11)
"Your kingdom come" (Matthew 6: 10)
"One Spirit - many gifts - one body" (1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13)
"May all find their home in you, O Lord" (Psalm 84)
"Jesus Christ - the Life of the World" (1 John 1: 1-4)
"Called to be one through the cross of our Lord" (1 Cor 2: 2 and Colossians 1: 20).
From death to life with Christ" (Ephesians 2: 4-7)
"You shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1: 6-8)
"United in Christ - a New Creation" (2 Corinthians 6: 17-6: 4a)
"The love of God casts out fear" (1 John 4: 18)
"Building community: one body in Christ" (Romans 12: 5-6a) "Batir la communauté: Un seul corps en Christ"
"That they all may be one... That the world may believe" (John 17)
"Praise the Lord, all you nations!" (Psalm 117 and Romans 15: 5-13)
"I am with you always ... Go, therefore" (Matthew 28: 16-20)
"Bearing the fruit of the Spirit for Christian unity" (Galatians 5: 22-23)
"The household of God: called to be one in heart and mind" (Acts 4: 23-37)
"Koinonia: communion in God and with one another" (John 15: 1-17)
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (Rev. 3: 14-22)
"We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5: 20)
"The Spirit helps us in our weakness" (Romans 8: 14-27)
"He will dwell with them as their God, they will be his peoples" (Rev. 21: 1-7)
"Blessed be God who has blessed us in Christ" (Eph 1: 3-14)
"I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14: 1-6)
"For with you is the fountain of life" (Ps 36: 5-9)
Some key dates in the history of the Week of prayer for Christian unity
In Scotland we find a pentecostal movement with North American links, whose revivalist message included prayers for and with all churches.
The Rev. James Haldane Stewart publishes "Hints for the General Union of Christians for the Outpouring of the Spirit".
The Rev. Ignatius Spencer, a convert to Roman Catholicism, suggests a "Union of Prayer for Unity".
The First Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops emphasizes prayer for unity in the Preamble to its Resolutions.
Pope Leo XIII encourages the practice of a Prayer Octave for Unity in the context of Pentecost.
The observance of the "Church Unity Octave" initiated by the Rev. Paul Wattson.
The Faith and Order movement begins publishing "Suggestions for an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity".
Abbé Paul Couturier of France advocates the "Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" on the inclusive basis of prayer for "the unity Christ wills by the means he wills".
Unité Chrétienne (Lyon, France) and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches begin co-operative preparation of materials for the Week of Prayer.
The "Decree on Ecumenism" of Vatican II emphasizes that prayer is the soul of the ecumenical movement and encourages observance of the Week of Prayer.
The Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity [now known as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity] begin official joint preparation of the Week of Prayer text.
Text for 1996 prepared in collaboration with YMCA and YWCA.