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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 18-25, 2002

INTRODUCTION | BIBLICAL THEMES | ECUMENICAL SITUATION IN EUROPE
WEEK OF PRAYER THEMES 1968-2002 | SOME KEY DATES IN THE HISTORY


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"For with you is the fountain of life"
 
(Psalm 36:5-9)

 
    Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgements are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
    How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

(New Revised Standard Version)




 

"WITH YOU IS THE
FOUNTAIN OF LIFE"

 
(Ps 36: 9)

    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 Charta Ecumenica [Ecumenical Charter] developed after their two continental ecumenical assemblies (Basel 1989 and Graz 1997). 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).

 


 


BIBLICAL THEMES FOR THE 8 DAYS

 
    DAY 1 - The Triune God, fountain of life
Gen 2:4b-10 God formed man... and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life
Ps 36:5-9 With you is the fountain of life
Mt 6:25-33 "Do not worry about your life"
Col 1:15-20 "In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell"


    DAY 2 - Jesus leads us to the fountain of life
Ex 14:30 - 15:13 The Lord has become my salvation
Ps 36:5-9 For with you is the fountain of life
Mk 1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart
1 Cor 10 :1-5 And the rock was Christ


    DAY 3 - The steadfast love of God
Ex 17:1-7 " Give us water to drink"
Ps 36:5-9 With you is the fountain of life
Mk 10:17-31 "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Acts 17:22-31 God is not far from each one of us


    DAY 4 - Baptized into new life
Gen 7:15-23 Only Noah was left and those that were with him in the ark
Ps 36:5-9 With you is the fountain of life
Jn 3:1-7 "No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit"
2Cor 5:16-19 Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new


     DAY 5 - God, the source of unity
Ps 36:5-9 With you is the fountain of life
Ezek 36: 24-28 You shall be my people, and I will be your God
Jn 17: 20-23 "That they may all be one"
Acts 16: 11-15 We went outside the gate by the river


     DAY 6 - God, source of compassion
Psalm 36:5-9 With you is the fountain of life
Is 42:1-9 I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations
Jn 5:1-9 "I have no one to put me in the pool"
Acts 5:12-16 Many signs and wonders were done through the apostles


     DAY 7 - Fruits of the new life
Ps 1:1-6 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit
Ps 36:5-9 With you is the fountain of life
Matt 13:3-9 "Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain"
Eph 3:14-21 Rooted and grounded in love


     DAY 8 - God, the Source of Hope
Ps 36:5-9 With you is the fountain of life
Ezek 47: 6-12 "Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing"
Jn 4: 7-14 "A spring of water gushing up to eternal life"
Rev 21: 1-7 "The spring of the water of life"

 


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 Augsburg 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).

Ecumenical structures

    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 confessional-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/Trent, 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 Ecumenica [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
THEMES 1968-2002


In 1968, official joint preparation of the materials began by the WCC Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

 
    1968

To the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1: 14)
Pour la louange de sa gloire



    1969

Called to freedom (Galatians 5: 13)
Appelés à la liberté
(Preparatory meeting held in Rome, Italy)



    1970

We are fellow workers for God (1 Corinthians 3: 9)
Nous sommes les cooperateurs de Dieu
(Preparatory meeting held at the Monastery of Niederaltaich, Federal Republic of Germany)



    1971

...and the communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13: 13)
...et la communion du Saint-Esprit



    1972

I give you a new commandment (John 13: 34)
Je vous donne un commandement nouveau
(Preparatory meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland)



    1973

Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11: 1)
Seigneur, apprends-nous à prier
(Preparatory meeting held at the Abbey of Montserrat, Spain)



    1974

That every tongue confess: Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2: 1-13)
Que tous confessent: Jésus-Christ est Seigneur
(Preparatory meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland)

(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.)



    1975

God's purpose: all things in Christ (Ephesians 1: 3-10)
La volonté du Père: Tout réunir sous un seul chef, le Christ
(Material from an Australian group. Preparatory meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland)



    1976

We shall be like him (1 John 3: 2) or Called to become what we are
Appelés a devenir ce que nous sommes
(Material from Caribbean Conference of Churches. Preparatory meeting held in Rome, Italy)



    1977

Enduring together in hope (Romans 5: 1-5)
L'espérance ne deçoit pas
(Material from Lebanon, in the midst of a civil war.
Preparatory meeting held in Geneva.
)



    1978

No longer strangers (Ephesians 2: 13-22)
Vous n'êtes plus des étrangers
(Material from an ecumenical team in Manchester, England)



    1979

Serve one another to the glory of God (l Peter 4: 7-11)
Soyez au service les uns des autres pour la gloire de Dieu
(Material from Argentina. Preparatory meeting
held in Geneva, Switzerland
)



    1980

Your kingdom come (Matthew 6: 10)
Que ton règne vienne!
(Material from an ecumenical group in Berlin,
German Democratic Republic. Preparatory meeting held in Milan
)



    1981

One Spirit - many gifts - one body (1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13)
Un seul esprit - des dons divers - un seul corps
(Material from Graymoor Fathers, USA - Preparatory
meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland
)



    1982

May all find their home in you, O Lord (Psalm 84)
Que tous trouvent leur demeure en Toi, Seigneur
(Material from Kenya. Preparatory meeting held in Milan, Italy)



    1983

Jesus Christ - the Life of the World (1 John 1: 1-4)
Jesus Christ - La Vie du Monde
(Material from an ecumenical group in Ireland. Preparatory meeting held in Céligny (Bossey), Switzerland)



    1984

Called to be one through the cross of our Lord (1 Cor 2: 2 and Col 1: 20).
Appelés à l'unité par la croix de notre Seigneur
(Preparatory meeting held in Venice, Italy)



    1985

From death to life with Christ (Ephesians 2: 4-7)
De la mort à la vie avec le Christ
(Material from Jamaica - Preparatory meeting
held in Grandchamp, Switzerland
)



    1986

You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1: 6-8)
Vous serez mes temoins
(Material from Yugoslavia (Slovenia),
Preparatory meeting held in Yugoslavia
)



    1987

United in Christ - a New Creation (2 Corinthians 6: 17-6: 4a)
Unis dans le Christ - une nouvelle création
(Material from England - Preparatory meeting held in Taizé, France)



    1988

The love of God casts out fear (1 John 4: 18)
L'Amour de Dieu bannit la Crainte
(Material from Italy - Preparatory meeting held in Pinerolo, Italy)



    1989

Building community: one body in Christ (Romans 12: 5-6a)
Batir la communauté: Un seul corps en Christ
(Material from Canada - Preparatory meeting
held in Whaley Bridge, England
)



    1990

That they all may be one...That the world may believe (John 17)
Que tous soient un...Afin que le monde croie
(Material from Spain - Preparatory meeting held in Madrid, Spain)



    1991

Praise the Lord, all you nations! (Psalm 117 and Romans 15: 5-13)
Nations, louez toutes le Seigneur
(Material from Germany - Preparatory meeting held in Rotenburg
an der Fulda, Federal Republic of Germany
)



    1992

I am with you always ... Go, therefore (Matthew 28: 16-20)
Je suis avec vous...allez donc
(Material from Belgium - Preparatory meeting held in Bruges, Belgium)



    1993

Bearing the fruit of the Spirit for Christian unity (Galatians 5: 22-23)
Pour l'unité: laisser mûrir en nous les fruits de l'Esprit
(Material from Zaire - Preparatory meeting held near Zurich, Switzerland)



    1994

The household of God: called to be one in heart and mind (Acts 4: 23-37)
La maison de Dieu: Appelés à être un dans le coeur et dans l'esprit
(Material from Ireland - Preparatory meeting held in
Dublin, Republic of Ireland
)



    1995

Koinonia: communion in God and with one another (John 15: 1-17)
La koinonia: communion en Dieu et les uns avec les autres
(Preparatory meeting held in Bristol, England)



    1996

Behold, I stand at the door and knock (Rev. 3: 14-22)
Je me tiens à la porte et je frappe
(Preparatory meeting held in Lisbon, Portugal)



    1997

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5: 20)
Au nom du Christ, laissez-vous reconcilier avec Dieu
(Preparatory meeting held in Stockholm, Sweden)



    1998

The Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8: 14-27)
L'Esprit aussi vient en aide à notre faiblesse
(Preparatory meeting held in Paris, France)



    1999

He will dwell with them as their God, they will be his peoples (Rev. 21: 1-7)
Dieu demeurera avec eux. Ils seront ses peuples et lui sera le Dieu qui est avec eux
(Preparatory material from Malaysia: meeting held in Monastery of Bose, Italy)



    2000

Blessed be God who has blessed us in Christ (Eph 1: 3-14)
Benis soit Dieu, qui nous a benis en Christ
(Preparatory meeting held at La Verna, Italy)



    2001

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14: 1-6)
Je suis le chemin, et la vérité et la vie
(Preparatory material and meeting, Romania)



    2002

For with you is the fountain of life (Ps 36:[35] 5-9)
Car chez toi est la fontaine de la vie
(Preparatory material CEEC and CEC, meeting Ottmaring, Germany)


 


SOME KEY DATES IN THE HISTORY OF THE
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

 
    ca. 1740

In Scotland we find a Pentecostal movement with North American links, whose revivalist message included prayers for and with all churches.



    1820

The Rev. James Haldane Stewart publishes "Hints for the General Union of Christians for the Outpouring of the Spirit".



    1840

The Rev. Ignatius Spencer, a convert to Roman Catholicism, suggests a "Union of Prayer for Unity".



    1867

The First Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops emphasizes prayer for unity in the Preamble to its Resolutions.



    1894

Pope Leo XIII encourages the practice of a Prayer Octave for Unity in the context of Pentecost.



    1908

The observance of the "Church Unity Octave" initiated by the Rev. Paul Wattson.



    1926

The Faith and Order movement begins publishing "Suggestions for an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity".



    1935

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".



    1958

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.



    1964

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.



    1966

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.



    1994

Text for 1996 prepared in collaboration with YMCA and YWCA.


 


 

 
 
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