By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Joy of Concrete Ecumenism

Liturgy in Orthodox churchImage via Wikipedia
It is important to share the following--with our fellow Christians and especially and more importantly with non-Christians, whether they are of other religions or without any religious identity whatsoever: when Christians from different traditions (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant) come together to pray and to study, it is an experience of robust joy, peace, and contentment. Let me give some examples from my own recent experience.

A friend of mine, a Catholic seminarian, and I periodically attend the Divine Liturgy at the local Greek Orthodox church as visitors. We do not receive Holy Communion, but we join in the praise and prayer and are invited to receive the blessed (unconsecrated) bread called prosphora which is available to all visitors after the liturgy. (This bread is technically called antidoron, "instead of the gift," when unconsecrated and distributed to those who cannot receive Holy Communion.) We later attend our own Catholic Mass where we do receive Holy Communion. But the central point is this: we delight in attending the worship of our sister church; and we delight in the friendship we have with the local Eastern Orthodox priest, who is doing a great job at his parish.

The same friend and I also gather regularly with a good, Protestant evangelical friend of ours to study ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament. We are learning and reviewing the Lord's Prayer together in Greek. We are actively translating and studying grammar. We explore theological points in what we have translated. Recently, we have been exploring that unusual word in the Lord's Prayer that appears nowhere else in the Greek language: epiousion (translated "daily," or  even "super-substantial" by some). Since this mysterious word is believed to make its only appearance in Greek only in the Lord's Prayer and not anywhere else, it is called a hapax legomenon.

The message I wish to share is the following: ecumenism is alive and well, and it is a great joy. I invite all Christians to seek out these opportunities for fellowship and study with Christians from different traditions. I invite non-Christians to notice how we love one another and to consider becoming part of the fellowship and communion of Christians (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant) bound by friendship in Jesus.
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