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Posts tagged ‘ecumenism’

The Root and the Shoot

I have had an amazing year.

Like Dorothy to the Scarecrow, my heart is telling me I will miss one thing the most now that I have returned to my St. Louis home and left my Chicago apartment.


Her name means Pearl in Hebrew. And a pearl she is.

It was worth purchasing the entire field, that season of life that lasted from November 2015 to last week–just to possess this great pearl.

Do you know what it is like to talk with a Jewish woman who knows her faith about Chanukuh or Shavuot or Pesach?

When you both realize that Shabbat features Challah bread, with leavening, but Pesach (Passover) only has the unleavened bread, like the Eucharist…you realize something.

When you both realize that there is an exquisite Hebrew poem that talks about the Queen of the Sabbath and you realize that Saturday is known as Mary’s day…you realize something.

When you both begin to wipe away tears because you realize that holiness means something very much the same to each of you, and that the Ten Commandments are the bedrock for both of you, and that you have far more in common than what you do not have in common…

When you realize that you love the same land.

When you discover that Ruth and Naomi are favorites to you both.

When you realize that she prays for the deceased Jewish man or woman and invokes Sarah when the name of the deceased person’s mother is not known, and you realize that you ask for the intercession of Mary, the New Eve. When you realize that she asks for the intercessions of Eva for all others.

When you find out that you are both praying for the Messiah to come–and it is a daily prayer.

When you see the similarity in the Mezuzah and the Holy Water Font, the Mikvah and the Baptismal Font, the days of feasting and fasting.

When she asks if Christians think that Jews are irrelevant now that their Messiah has come and you realize that she just needs to know that nothing could be further from the truth, that the Old Covenant with the LORD remains because God does not revoke His promises, that the New Covenant with Christ means that the Light of the Nations really has gone out into the nations and that you are a beneficiary of that holy nation.

When you choke on your deeply-felt emotions as you say in a husky voice, it is as though you are my matriarch and I am your offspring, even though you are old enough to be her mother.

When you realize that Judaism doesn’t see itself as going out to convert the world even though it is promised to be a Light to the Nations–and you see that paradox clearly yet fully fulfilled in Christ, because we are called out to share the Gospel. It is a mandate. A calling. A supreme duty.

When you talk about the minutiae of both religions and realize that it really is the Root and the Shoot, that she is part of the root, and you are a branch of the Shoot…

That is when you realize that ECUMENISM is the most exciting thing you have encountered in a very long time. It is not dry. It is not dead. It is not hopeless or wrought with angst.

It. Is. Beautiful.

When she pauses one day in Advent to ask how you can believe in the Ten Commandments and yet not believe in One God, and you say that you definitely believe only in One God, and her face is full of questions and doubts. When you say that you believe in God the Father, and she nods in agreement. When you say that you believe in His Spirit, and she nods in agreement. You pause and think, I am 2/3 the way through the difficult teaching on the Trinity. When you say that you believe God became a Man because the whole world needed to be redeemed, and she says, but God did not become a man, and you say:

“He didn’t–

Until He did.”

And in that moment you realize that you have never been asked to defend the Incarnation, but what just came out of your mouth is true.


That the Incarnation was unthinkable.

It was impossible.

It was not even in the realm of the imagineable.

And then, God did the unthinkable, impossible, and unimaginable.

So that the holy nation that was once a tribe and before that a family and before that a married, childless couple might become a Light to the Nations–

So that you, too, might be grafted in.

I am Ruth.

She is Naomi.

And I highly doubt that we will ever be the same…though I am old enough to be her mother.

Let My Love Open the Door

He just keeps doing it – loving them into listening, loving them into looking, loving them into letting-the-wall-fall.

Who is he? He is Pope Francis. And he keeps reminding us that we must not trip over the things that have always come between us as Christians. My friends, we have certainly learned by now that we cannot make progress in this quest for unity if we keep going about it as we always have. We must focus our first gaze on that which has the power to bind us – love of Christ.

There is something healing and totally freeing about Pope Francis. He permits us to pick up old conversations, but let them find new paths. The old paths are dead ends. Read more

Playing Church

Audrey and I were good friends when we were young. In high school, our paths didn’t cross very often as we simply didn’t have many classes together.

But in middle school, things were different. On one occasion, she came to my house, and we ended up at the church. That wasn’t so odd, because my brother and sister and I were in the church quite often after hours. It was almost a second home (since our dad was pastor there). And it was just a block away.

When you’re twelve or thirteen, you begin to think of church differently. You notice that people don’t worship the same. And you talk about the differences.

It’s not like when you are young – and oblivious.

It’s not like when you are older – and you are sure your way is the right way.

When you are young, you are malleable. You are eager to learn how you are different from your friends – and how you are the same. You have a great desire to open your world up and make new friends. Try new things. Experience new places.

Audrey and I found ourselves in the church sanctuary (a very small country Presbyterian parish). At first, we just played church. But then, we realized that we were drawing on different worship experiences. Soon, we were taking turns, explaining to each other what worship looks like at our church. How we do it. What the preacher does. What the priest does. What the people do.

We didn’t quite grasp the finer points of each other’s faith, but we were having fun. We were talking. We were showing, explaining, experiencing something very important.

Even at that young age, we felt the great desire to participate in ecumenism. To discover what we each believed – and to find common ground.

And like all good ecumenism, it was grounded in friendship and goodwill. There was no desire to win. We simply wanted to share.

I forget these things – now that I’m all grown up. I forget the friendship part and want to go right to the explaining part. I forget the desire to find common ground and find myself wanting, instead, to win.

I can still see Audrey in my mind, standing on the platform where my father stood every Sunday, explaining to me what the priest does in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And I realize that I would love to go back to that childhood home and visit the parish where many of my friends received the Sacraments. What we were yearning for all those years ago, we’ve actually discovered.

True ecumenism leads to unity.

While we have grown up and gone different ways, in the most important way, we have come together. We are both part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Christ bestowed unity on His Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time. Christ always gives His Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her…. The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit” (n. 820).