2. Letting Christ pray in us to his Father for Unity
3. An expression of this attitude, given as one example among many
4. To rise above is not to deny, still less to forget
5. The Catholic Church claims to be the One Church which Christ willed
6. The Roman Catholic's psychological conviction as to his Church's Unity
7. Evidence of all Christians' state of mind towards the problem of Unity
8. The Unity of the Church a revealed truth, but also something yet to be
9. The Catholic Church of the future
10. The problem of Christian Unity if not 'returning' but 're-embodiment'!
11. Unity cannot be attained by a great number individual conversions
12. Corporate reunion is the normal way of Unity
13. Preparing for this reconstitution
14. 'No one has the right to pray that another Christian Church be overthrown'
15. Spiritual realism
16. Spiritual realism in the Communion of Saints
17. All without vagueness, indifferentism, interdenominationalism
18. No new buildings for praying together, to desert separate places of worship
19. Prayer is the greatest of cosmic forces
20. The Evidence of Peter Wust
21. Visible Christian Unity will be attained
22. When will visible Christian Unity be attained?
23. An undeniable fact
24. The annual revival of the Universal Prayer of Christians for Unity
25. Perseverance in prayer . . . passing the torch from hand to hand
26. Prayer necessary for mutual understanding, essential for realizing Unity
27. Psychological unreality
28. Basis of the supreme importance of charity in the psychological order
29. Difficulties of understanding each other - a typical example
30. Of the mystery of language and of the mind
31. To understand, we must dwell in God
32. General Conclusion
An ineffable change takes place by which our prayer is stripped to be re-clothed in his prayer. In the attentive silence of our listening soul, our attachment to him is affirmed with our whole will, not only in our words, feeling and desires. The more we find ourselves in him, in whom we truly live, or he in us, in whom he truly lives, the more effectual does our prayer become, since it is he who prays in us, free from our burden of self. Such a state of mind is the work of God, gift of the divine generosity: it is a pearl of great price, bought at the royal price of renunciation ion. It sets us at the antipodes of inert passivity of the spirit; and vocal prayer, either private or public, will be permeated by this attitude, provided that it can be surrounded by deep silence, and have a certain deliberation of utterance.
'For my soul to draw near to you, O God, it would be better that she should walk unknowing rather than knowing, exchanging what is comprehensible and variable for the unvarying and incomprehensible which is you yourself. My confidence in you, O Christ, throws me into your heart where I find your prayer; "Father, that they may be one, that the world may believe that you have sent me, Father, that they may be made perfect in one". My sinner's prayer is your prayer to yourself, and it is in your prayer alone that I find peace. Then how will Unity come about? What obstacles are to be overcome? It is your work: my faith can only bid me to pray with you, and in you, that your Unity may come, the unity which you have not ceased to desire, which you continue to prepare, which you would have brought about long ago, if everyone - everyone, including myself - had been as crystal between that in the creation which wishes, through the Christian, to ascend to you, and that which, by the same channel, desires to come down from you to the world.'
Indeed, how could he desire or ask of the Father anything other than what Christ himself asks? Christ would no more be the life of his soul. He knows well that when he 'lets Christ pray in him' Christ asks us to walk in the paths he will choose, however unknown, long, hard and full of suffering they may be. And if, by virtue of his belief regarding this question of the Unity of the Church, the Catholic finds himself in a different intellectual or metaphysical sphere from that in which some other groups of Christians are placed by reason of their beliefs, it is still true that the Catholic faith, as it is developed in the soul of the believer becomes a psychological reality) apart from which faith would be nonexistent, since it would be in a spiritual vacuum. Now this psychological reality produces a state of mind, with regard to one's beliefs, similar to that created in the mind of one's Protestant, Anglican or Orthodox brothers by the psychological reality of their respective beliefs. It would seem then that, psychologically, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox are in a similar position with regard to the problem of Christian Unity.
7. Evidence of the psychological identity of the state of mind of all Christians towards the problem of UnityThe witness of Orthodoxy, by Father Sergius Bulgakov, Professor at the Academy of Paris:
'Thus there is agreement and opposition, unity and division, the love inspired by the Church and equally the aversion inspired by it - the Church's problem has as it were its own dialectic: thesis and antithesis, characteristics which are closely linked, the one increasing in proportion to the growth of the other. The ecumenical mind of the Church, which is always seeking the way of Unity, is accompanied by an ever more acute and sensitive consciousness of differences of belief, together with a growing sense of deep Christian Unity.' (Quoted from Russie et Chrétienté, No. 1 (1934), pp. 40-41 - review edited by the Dominican fathers of the Centre Istina.)
'Let us say it again: Jesus Christ, mediator between God and Man, is the Unity of the Church, the Unity which embraces a multiplicity of parishes, gifts and persons, but excludes a multitude of Churches. It is the duty of the Church to be one Church. We cannot neglect the insistent demand of Christ. It is a duty and a command which our Lord imposes upon the Church, if we truly believe that Jesus is the Unity of the Church, and that the multiplicity of Churches is our wretchedness. If we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, the Unity of the Church must needs be a burning question. The union of the Churches does not come about of itself, but we discover and realize it in obedience to Christ in whom unity is already accomplished. . . The union of the Churches is too great a thing to be the result of a movement, even the best of movements.
'The first and last word in this situation, practically speaking (for in the eyes of the Church we are one by right, though in practice we are many), must be prayer for pardon and sanctification, addressed to the Lord of the Church. The duty of uniting the Churches coincides essentially with the actual practical task of listening to Christ, which is the presupposition behind every action of the Church. This means in fact that the issue of the Church must be raised in Churches at present numerous and separated, for how can we listen to Christ except in a specific way, namely in the Church to which we belong, to which we are bound by ties of obligation? Ecclesiastically speaking, if we exist at all, it is in separation. The existence of a multiplicity of Churches is evidence of our refusal to face the situation. We cannot listen to our Lord without taking a decision, making an acknowledged choice. Nor can we do it without keeping ourselves apart, and so we approach him in a state of contradiction. Who are we?' (Oecumenica, July 1936, pp. 142, 140, 141, 148, 145, 146, 151. The italics are ours.)
'The place where our concern and Christian love are to be exercised is first of all the religious body which, having brought us to Christ and nourished us in the faith, will always occupy first place in our concern and activity.
'To strive for understanding does not and should not mean that we are to become cosmopolitans without a country or Christians situated between the Churches; but rather that we should, corporately and positively, become evangelical and Lutheran in the fullest sense, men who know in their lives the depth and fullness of biblical evangelicalism . . . who, as true Lutherans are receptive to everything authentically Christian.' (A long and remarkable letter dated 11 March 1941 from Bishop Meiser to his people. In the heart of this letter he points out, at some length, that true charity between Christian brothers demands integrity, the affirmation of respective beliefs. This letter states concisely the differences between Lutherans and Catholics and the true way of working for Christian Unity. The italics are ours.)
In a living organization, whatever it may be, the two apparently opposite terms of being and becoming co-exist harmoniously each in its own right. The whole unifying force of that which will become an oak-tree, the unity of the oak-tree itself, is already present in the acorn when it fills to the ground. This unity in the acorn will open out into a manifold variety of form and structure: it will open - that is, it will grow taller and broader, and will grow beyond itself in the course of its own integral life. Has not the unifying force of the acorn become stronger, and its power to unify greater, when it holds together in due order the whole imposing mass of the oak and the energy which this mass contains, than when it only held in one simple little acorn the little mass which constituted the acorn and the energy contained in that little mass? The unity of a living organism is either dynamic or it is non-existent. Not only does that 'unity' or unifying' force become greater with the growth of the organism which it energizes, but never at any moment in the life of the organism does it cease to be active and dynamic; for through it the. organism, which each moment is destroying itself and dying through the action of physical and chemical forces, is each moment created anew. It is the story of the whirlpool of life.
This is only a distant analogy, but it can be applied to whatsoever is to become the unity of any organism - even one which is spiritual, supernatural and divine - for then the unity will transcend both its actuality and its future development. And so it is with the Church.
If we were miraculously transported to the Church as it will be in several centuries time, we should be in a strange world, albeit a world of living faith, just as if we had been transported to the Christian community of the first century; but in either situation we should soon find ourselves at home in the faith.
10. The problem of Christian Unity if not to be thought of in terms of 'returning' but of 'integration', or 're-embodiment'!Since all things move forward, progress, and change in the process, since God is present in his creation, in humanity, and in every group of Christians whom he leads forward (a fact which none acquainted with them will deny), it follows that the problem of Christian Unity is not purely and simply co-extensive with the idea of 'returning', an ominous and misleading word. History cannot be reversed. Those who left the Roman Catholic Church centuries ago are no longer alive, and their descendants would not recognize the places left empty by their ancestors in the living cathedral, because it has grown and changed. Without any doubt the question of Unity has an historical aspect which is of great importance. But its most significant aspect is one which can be adequately defined by saying that the Christian bodies are at present facing each other as if they had never known each other - they are discovering each other. For they have yet to discover each other, come to a clear understanding and agreement about what they have in common in their Christian life. And this common heritage is much greater and deeper than is generally supposed, because Inherited prejudices, lack of concern, and spiritual pride are already present, venomous and blinding. They must above all pray together in Christ, and in Christ's prayer. How are Christians to discover each other, recognize each other, and love each other unless prayer, the source of power, the only power which can move all, is the primary incentive acting upon their souls, which would otherwise be helpless before these crippling separations!
If the impossible happened, and this kind of union were to succeed, it would be through gradual assimilation, progressively destroying rich differences of culture; whereas it is the vocation of all to form one single vast harmony, a symphony of different complementary but concordant strains. The Creator has called all the riches of his creation to form a harmonious whole in Christ. This summons finds its expression on the personal level - for people are conscious that they bring with them a certain cultural heritage, or a past shaped by Providence, or a certain personal experience. All of these Divine gifts - in the rightful joy each must take in playing his part, adding his note to the whole. This joy should surely be left to him. Each and all should accept and value their present state, it they wish, as they should, to take their part in the thought of their Creator; otherwise how much poorer the Church of Christ would be in its effort to represent the Gospel message to the world! But no one can deny the right of individual conversion to a soul which no longer believes it is in the way of truth. These conversions, provided they are sincere and whole-hearted are as it were short-cuts and foot paths - it is only conversions of this kind which have any true value, and they will be acts of great nobility of character, which everyone should reverence and respect. There remains the great work, the task of the growth towards maturity of Christian groups, in relation one to another.
Each Christian group has its own particular religious riches, and these will be preserved when Christian Unity is restored within the Unity of the Church. This is a fact I would emphasize. 'For may there not- be, among our separated brethren, traditional forms of-expression, customs, or even doctrinal developments, which are not so easily perceived in the Mother Church?' (Revue apologétique, March 1937, page 343, article by Jean Guitton. The context, needless to say, gives the precise Catholic connotation of the expression 'Mother Church'.)
14. 'No one bas the right to pray that a Christian Church may be overthrown and that his own Church may reign supreme' (a true observation by Dr Rosendal of Sweden)1
Let every Christian be aware of this great flood of prayer, which drives into his own heart to find utterance of that 'Yes' which will let it unfurl like a breaking wave before the very throne of the Divine Majesty.
In exchange my prayer enters into the prayer of all other people. And if the beloved brother who launches my prayer towards the Holy Trinity lives more intensely the life of the Holy Trinity than I, then through him, even though he may be unknown to me, my poor prayer will make a more rapid flight to the Eternal and have greater efficacy in the presence of God.
At the altar of the Holy Sacrifice at which I celebrate the Holy Mysteries, there is present on its way Godward, finding completion there if needs be - so my Catholic faith affirms - every sacrificial element in what my Christian brethren have retained of the eucharistic agape of the first Maundy Thursday.
At the Choir Office, at the breviary prayed alone, in silent prayer, my Protestant, Anglican or Orthodox brothers pray with me and in me in my prayer. And likewise I am present and have my part in the loyal and sincere prayer which is lifted up to God through the splendours of the Divine Liturgy and offices of the convinced Orthodox. I am present and have my part in the public prayers of Anglicans - those lovely Canticles - Mattins and Evensong, which have never since the sixteenth century ceased to rise to God in every English Cathedral - those masterpieces of the faith of our medieval ancestors - and in the private prayers of fervent Anglicans, and still more in the service of Holy Communion; I am present and have my part in the worship, the prayers, measured and full of faith, and in the profound hymns of Protestantism, and particularly in the fervent commemoration of the Last Supper held by my Protestant brothers.
Parallelaboration - a newly-coined word which expresses very well the temper of the time now at hand when 'spiritual emulation' must be found among all Christians. Parallelaboration is the exact opposite of the uneasy and fruitless spiritual collaboration, or, as the theologians call it, 'communicatio in sacris' which can only tend to create a spirit of religious indifferentism, that is to say the profanation of holy things, since for practical purposes they are treated as identical, when they are in reality different. But it must be borne in mind that 'communicatio in sacris' does not necessarily take place on every occasion, and we should know how to discriminate, seeing it only where it does in fact exist.
18. There must be no dream of building a place of worship in a town centre where everyone would come to pray together, deserting their places of worshipIn adding this caution, which is purely hypothetical in character, I am thinking particularly of certain timid Catholic souls, whose only conception of the problem of Christian Unity is based on a particular textbook attitude, showing no appreciation of the real nature of the problem; they have an abstract conception formulated by writers who have never really faced the problem of Christian Unity, nor suffered because of it, nor known any souls who have so suffered. It must he added that these timid Catholic souls are often very holy and devout, and admired by all who know them, but they are immature, and there is a lack of priests who can train them. As a matter of fact this dream of thus building has obsessed the minds of a number of liberal Protestants, sometimes most courageous in spirit and noble in mind. They were never very numerous, and indeed where there has been a positive revival of Protestant theology, the number has become smaller and smaller. It may be said that the ecumenical movement has outgrown this pitfall. The chief characteristic of the movement is the ever more ardent search for the 'unique Mind' of Christ who manifests himself to the world through the Church, the continuation of himself on earth. It has been said that the problem of the Church will be the great problem of the twentieth century, and this gives us a well-grounded hope that we shall soon see the rise of the dawn of Christian Unity.
Since God has made us members of Christ, he has given us, his children a power which is dreadful and terrible, but of indescribable sweetness - the power to ask and to obtain from him anything which can he brought within the orbit of the 'Our Father', the prototype of prayer his Son left us. The Gospel overflows with clear affirmations of the power of prayer and the conditions in which it is valid - faith, humility and perseverance. Everything which can be asked of the Father in Christ's name is vouchsafed by prayer, that is why all prayer implies surrender, for it is often very difficult to declare that Christ would identify himself with our petition or our thanksgiving, or even our so-called oblation, adoration and contribution.
Finally, by creating in the soul a condition of the will, prayer causes us to introduce into the universe a metapsychical force with strength proportionate to the strength calmness and stability of that will. There is nothing in modern science to refute this principle; and much can be inferred from it.
It is unthinkable, therefore. that the Church's present state of ecclesia peregrinans or of kenōsis should influence the mind of the Christian so as to accept the state of separated Christendom as normal, however one might try to make out a case or pseudo-defence for this, as being the normal state of affairs. The Church of Christ will one day achieve the splendour of visible Unity; it will become ever more beautiful and more and more holy; although still in the shadow of faith, it will glorify the splendour of Creation in ever wider, deeper and more heartfelt praise of God the Trinity, the Creator. And always, to the end of time, the Church will he confronted by anti-Christ, the symbolic personification of all the evil on earth and of all the perpetrators of that evil. When humanity - work of tile Creator who, dwelling within his creation, ceaselessly urges it towards the Truth - when humanity has reached a high degree of spiritual progress through the Church which vivifies and crowns it, the greater will be the danger of sin, and hence of disunion, for the temptation of the sin of pride, the sin of the spirit, will he greater. According to the Scriptures, Satan and anti-Christ will then have their day. This day will be short, soon to be followed by the dazzling final triumph of Christ, the whole Christ, who is the Church.
Because the Catholic affirms the unique nature of the Catholic Church as an integral part of his Faith, he must be the first to set an example of deep humility not merely in a passing moment of condescension but as an habitual expression of his sorrow for broken Christianity - a sorrow which persists as a token of true regret and contrition for the faults of his ancestors, remembering the human history of the Church, at once glorious and full of wretchedness; and remembering also his own faults. It is essential to do this, if his attitude to his beliefs is to be logical; also it will throw the glory of the past into great relief. He is likewise under an obligation, which is inexorable, to take the initiative in a mutual search for imaginative sympathy - the cordial welcome, the outstretched hand, the open and sincere heart, love of one's neighbour in the true, and therefore full sense of the word 'the one who humbles himself shall be exalted.' He who loves, provided that his love is persistent and admits of no exception, is he who in the last resort begets understanding. 'Where there is no love, put love, and you will receive love back', says St John of the Cross, echoing the great apostle John: 'We have known and believed the love that God has for us' (I John 4.16).
God has Created us free, in his own image, making us 'free sons in his own Son', and receiving us again into himself by his love; and he could not encroach upon this marvellous gift of freedom without to some extent destroying our personality; far from doing this, he has raised us by the infinity of the Person of his Anointed One.
Honour and responsibility, thanksgiving and guilt, humility and contrition; such are the two aspects of the human spirit. To hold in our hands the responsibility for Christian Unity - though not for the unity of the Church - to hold such great responsibility that if we were to neglect it, God in his justice would find terrible ways to make us fulfil our role - such is our Christian destiny, as glorious as it is terrifying. But let us take courage; God is love, and he is still our Father.
The circumstances make us recognize all these truths amid the darkness and uncertainty of these days. 'The more we lack on earth, the more we shall discover that better thing which the world can give us - the Cross.' (Charles de Foucauld, Écrits spirituels, p. 267.)
But this can only come about if all Christians, even though separated, pray this prayer, so that it beats and pulsates in unison, over and over again - prayed independently here on earth, but convergent in God. For at least one period each year there must be great and visible intercession on the part of all the children of Israel, a true 'revival' of supplication, a living resurgence of the unceasing melody.2 There are other factors, too, which make it necessary that this prayer should be visible, recurring and simultaneous.
For all Christians share to some extent the responsibility for the fragmentation of Christendom, by which God is offended before all people, and people are justly scandalized. There must therefore be a common, visible and simultaneous act of reparation, as far as such a thing is possible, before God and the world, and before creation both visible and invisible; for creation has a mysterious but real relationship with all Christians, vitally bound as they are to Christ, and it is therefore weakened in its Christ-furthering task by the burdensome weight of Christian disunity. The fact that the prayer is prayed by all simultaneously has the advantage that the spiritual forces of reparation and intercession are not merely added together but multiplied. It is because the strands are entwined that 'a threefold chord is not quickly broken'.
It is because the disciples are together (and in our case they will be so as far as possible) that Christ is in the midst of them. In the face of the ugliness of their separations, this simultaneity will allow Christians at last to present to their non-Christian brethren, and to all waiting creation, the moving and visible beauty of the unity of their spiritual efforts; the prelude and measure of Christian unity, transcending any purely human strivings for concord.
26. An attempt to show that the prayer of all is absolutely necessary for mutual understanding, which is an essential condition for the realization of Christian UnityIn the last analysis, to 'seek the Kingdom of God' means nothing unless it means to pray. Let us pray therefore and all the rest will be given in addition and 'all the rest' includes charity, which draws hearts together, by which means alone minds, too, will ultimately be drawn together, and will share the unity of faith - the Unique Thought of Christ, which is infinitely beyond the grasp of our own minds, in his eternal unity.
Psychologically, and in practice, the reverse is the case. When we say, 'it is from unity of faith that the bond of charity must emerge, Ut Unum Sint', if by that we mean that unity of faith must be established before anything else so that the bond of charity may emerge from it, afterwards, we are victims of abstraction.
Controversy, on the other hand, shuts the door of the soul to the breath of the Holy Spirit, for it immediately produces a defensive attitude, and that results in opposition in two camps, whereas if we look first for what unites us, and not what divides us, 'a union of hearts in prayer is established and a union of minds will follow in the sphere of faith' (Letter of a Carmelite).
In God the Holy Trinity, the Father precedes the Son and the Father and Son precede the Holy Spirit, following a logical but not an actual order, since in eternity they are co-existent simultaneously, related one to the other in their infinite personality according to the demands of the Divine Life. But Creation is the work of Love, that is to say of the Trinity eternally fulfilled in the Spirit, since God the Holy Trinity has created because he has willed to do so. As this Creation comes directly from God it follows that in this Creation, logically, actually, chronologically, and psychologically love precedes knowledge; will precedes thought; the union of hearts in charity of necessity precedes and most surely prepares for the unity of minds in the truth. When God wished to reveal to the world the secrets of his Life, he began by the act of Love which is the Incarnation. The Incarnate Word was revealed 'full of grace' so that we might know that he was 'full of truth'.
During a retreat for fellowship, prayer and study, shared by several pastors and priests, it so happened that, while speaking about the theology of salvation, one pastor, extremely sympathetic towards Catholicism, had to state the Protestant point of view. He began by reading long extracts from three modern Catholic theologians, each of whom expounded the Protestant position in the usual Catholic way. These theologians have the reputation among us of being remarkably well informed, endowed with comprehension and sympathy as well as penetration of thought, and are in fact distinguished both as men and as thinkers. When the pastor had finished reading he added, 'It is with deep sorrow, beloved brethren, that I have to tell you that we cannot recognize ourselves in these lines.' This shed a beam of light upon my soul and I realized how great was the gulf which prevents us from understanding each other. I understand lack of understanding:
Strangely unknown one to another
Their hearts no kinship show,
Not one of us discerns his brother.
Now there is nothing which will open for us the door to divine Life more than prayer. It is impossible for Christians to understand each other unless they pray. The more they pray, the more they will understand each other, because the same Thought will become more comprehensible to all, the same Word which 'enlightens every one who comes into the world'.
- I am using the term 'Christian Church' because it is convenient, and in current use by our non-Catholic Christian brothers, in the sense of what the Catholic Church claims should be called a 'group'.
- This revival takes place each year during the Week of Universal Prayer of Christians for Christian Unity, 18-25 January, when Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, both Lutheran and Calvinist, pray according to the spirit of these pages, and the number of those who pray, already immense, grows from year to year - see the leaflets on this subject which appear every year.