Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Unity of the Faith

At every Divine Liturgy, just before the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, the Deacon offers the litany “for the Unity of Faith.” This unity of Faith also includes, in the original Greek, the intention of praying for the unity of “the Faith.” It is an acknowledgement from the time of the Church Fathers that the essential Oneness of the Church requires the prayerful assent of human will.

As Byzantine Christians, we join with all Catholic Christians and Christians of the East in affirming that the True Church of Christ is found principally through the so called marks of the Church, enumerated in the Creed; that is, the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

The Apostolic mark is shown in the continuity of Tradition within the Church, the handing on of the phronima, the traditions and mindset that marks the life of individual Christians and the Christian community of Faith.

The catholicity of the Church is revealed in the adherence to those essential doctrines that distinguish true Christianity from the lies and falsehoods of heretical teachings, like gnosticism, atheism, and syncretism (especially in its New Age/Wicca “I’m OK, You’re OK” versions).

The holiness of the Church is preserved through the Rites and devotions of the Church that flow from the living witness of the Spirit preserving us in right worship (“orthodoxia,” literally, “right glory”). Thus, the worship of the Church itself preserves the integrity of the Christian witness.

When holiness, catholicity and apostolicity are found, the final and definitive mark to distinguish True Faith is the Oneness, or Unity, of the Faith. All religious groups claim truth, but the Unity of the Faith uniquely manifests itself in the bond of fellowship that fully incarnates our Lord’s prayer “that they may be One.”

More than a mere claim that we believe the same thing as someone else, Unity of Faith reveals a spiritual joy and cooperation, a prayerful thanks and trust in the persevering power of the Spirit to guide us into all things. Unity of the Faith does not admit the jurisdictional squabbles of pride and division but fearlessly embraces the path of brotherhood and fellowship.

To be truly orthodox is to throw off the shackles that separate for the celebration of the Eucharistic Mystery that unites us all in Christ. Believing the same Truths, we refuse to separate ourselves from others who also share the Unity of the Faith. The Church of Christ is more than an ethno-theological ghetto. Holy communion can not be denied to those who believe the same Faith as we, who proclaim the same Gospel as do we, who pray the same prayers as we.

In our Byzantine community we rejoice to share in that Unity of the Faith with all historic Catholic and Apostolic Churches. This unity is manifest in our openness to all who share the historic Creed of Nicea and the teachings of the Great Ecumenical Councils. It finds its fullest freedom in our acquiecence to the historic prerogatives of the Pope of Rome as the visible source and foundation of that Unity, whose representative, the Bishop of Cordova, chaired the Holy Council of Nicea in a.d. 325.

At the same time, we proudly offer our unique contribution to the Unity of the Faith in fully and dynamically expressing our Byzantine Catholic witness to the Gospel. We reject the fog of a ghetto-mentality that replaces unity with uniformity and would blunt the victory of our Lord’s Resurrection and Victory with a spirituality of fear and xenophobia. We neither gloat nor cower as we live out our witness to the Gospel of our Lord handed down from the Apostles. In a family there is no fear of bondage, and in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church all are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. As St Cyprian said, "If God is our Father, the Church is our mother."

Thanks be to God for the Unity of the Faith and the sharing in His Sacred Body and Blood offered on the Cross for our salvation and given us at every celebration of the Divine and Holy Liturgy throughout the world and through the ages. Amen.