Reflections on the Ecumenical Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

2014. január 21., kedd

In today’s landscape of separate Christian denominations, traditions and beliefs, the Ecumenical Week of Prayer for Christian Unity stands as an expression of oneness between brothers and sisters in Christ.

The worldwide Week of Prayer for 2013 (19-25 January) asks the question based upon I Corinthians 1:1-17, “Has Christ been divided?” The churches in Hungary examine this question with an ecumenical service held on … at the Reformed church at Kálvin Square in the heart of Budapest. During the service, a representative from each denomination – Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, Pentecostal, Orthodox and Anglican – brought one item to the Lord’s Table on behalf of their churches as a sign of the ecumenical unity present during the week. In addition to the service, the participating churches offered a reflection on their denominations role in the unity of Christ’s church.

Lutheran – the cross

Bishop Péter Gáncs

Ancient hymns say that so many things are hidden in the cross. Some people see it as a cruel tool for execution. Others have tamed it for decoration or jewelry, the use of which does not mean dedication. At the same time, this simple symbol has a deep message. We can discover a kind of coordinate system, which helps us find our place in God’s world. At the intersection of the horizontal and vertical axes, we can see the embodiment of the Gospel, the true God and true man.

Near the cross, we enter into the connection of body and blood with each other. This is the secret of strengthening our ecumenical communities: closer to the cross, Jesus Christ and each other. The cross at the middle of a heart is the most well-known Lutheran symbol, in the so-called Luther rose. That’s why, on behalf of the Lutheran Church, a cross is on the common table, which symbolises the ecumenical exchange of God-given talents. According to our faith, the cross and Jesus Christ who died on it but who rose from the dead, is the biggest gift from God; the gift that completely connects us to Christ’s universal church.

Roman Catholic – icon painting of Mary

Father Mihály Kránitz

Mary is not only for the Catholics, though many people believe it. In Eastern paintings, she is never alone. She is always shown holding a small Jesus. The divine child is on the arm of his earthly mother. Mary is the only one on earth who could bring the Messiah into the world. From the time she answered yes to the angel’s greetings until her fidelity at the cross, her life followed our human way of life with the savior.

Looking at Mary holding the Christ child, we see God came closer to us, and through the birth of the Savior, we are able to come closer to Him. He was born of a mother, raised in a family and lived in an atmosphere of love. We can find this image as early as 100 AD in the Priscilla catacomb, which teaches the first followers and us as well to be more caring to one another, so that the love of God may become tangible.

Methodist – the cup

Rev. István Csernák

The main theme comes from Paul’s question,  “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?“ (1 Cor. 1:13). Maybe different practices of the Lord’s Supper in different churches expresses the need for unity and how necessary it is to be united. This shows that Paul’s question is still relevant for today. The Lord’s Table connects us, people of Christ, together and doesn’t divide. Unfortunately, the burdens of diversity become painfully apparent at the Lord’s Table.

If I think of how the Methodist church can make ecumenism richer, we can refer the symbolism of the cup: the importance of community, experiencing the openness within it, and sharing the message of acceptance. Society, the Hungarian nation, needs different, stronger forms of expression for church unity. Building bridges, looking for peace among different parts of society and strengthening communities are the important roles of the churches. That is why the symbol of the cup is important. There has to be a place where everyone can enter and meet Christ and can see the image of God in others.

Orthodox – icon painting of St. Piroska

Father József Kalota

St. Piroska is a symbol of motherhood, fidelity, meekness and acetic lifestyle

For this topic, the icon expressed the Christian faith with colors and forms. Outside the church it is impossible to explain or understand it. It speaks in a language of images. As part of a church tradition and life, it shares the Gospel. Who knows this language? Those that can understand the sermon. It’s not enough to understand the language of the images. We have to be fed from the unending well that the iconography is born from. The iconography is not just a painted Gospel but a tool leading to the fountain of justice, to God.  Everyone who thinks of it as only a piece of art loses the opportunity to realize its potential. It is also good to remember that the icon is a fruit of the undivided church in the 1st century.

The personal message painted with colors makes us examine ourselves and confess our sins. In this way it shows you to the way of salvation and serves as a mirror reflecting ourselves in it.

Anglican – prayer book

Father Frank Hegedűs

Well, the Week of Prayer is a yearly ecumenical event dating back to the early part of the twentieth century, a time when many Christians zealously hoped and prayed for healing and oneness among the churches.  Paul Wattson, an Episcopal priest – that is, an Anglican priest in the United States – hit upon the brilliant idea of promoting an entire week of the church year as a time of prayer for Christian unity.

Sadly however, unity among Christians remains as elusive a goal today as it was a century ago in Father Wattson’s time. The rifts among Christians run deep. It is sometimes a sad spectacle, but all churches are after all a reflection of the broken and sinful world of which we are a part. We pray that this year’s commemoration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will bring all Christians one small step closer to our Lord’s fond hope – ut unum sint – that all may be one.

Baptist – the Bible

Rev. János Papp

On behalf of the Baptist church, I choose the Bible. I did it knowing that the Bible is a common treasure for every Christian community. To be honest, all of us put it on the table. Two important characteristics of our church are our respect of the scripture and the use of the Bible in family and congregation life. In the history of the Baptist denomination, we continuously contributed to the publishing and distribution of the Bible. The Baptist movement, as the third branch of the reformation, was focused on getting to know the Bible and taking the things we learned and putting them into use in our daily lives. The first point of our confession is about the Holy Scripture. It symbolizes and expresses our conviction that the word of God is infallible and the only one ruler of the Christian faith, our highest counselor in daily life and the most perfect touchstone with which we can examine every human tradition, teaching and practice.

Pentecostal – painting of a dove

Rev. Albert Pataky

The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit among Christians, since Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. Pentecostals are once more inviting the church to pay attention for the Holy Spirit and its work to treasure the colorful unity in the Body of Christ.

The new and special contribution of the Pentecostals to the common values is spirituality, focusing the Holy Spirit, which provided the dynamics of Christianity at its inception. Nowadays, it helps to find the unity and common points rather than making the differences sharper. We live in a time when the 100-year-old Pentecostal church and the bigger historical churches are looking for the opportunity of cooperation in social and mission work, learning from each other and the common values help us to genuinely reach the secular society and non-believers living in it.

Constant, fervent prayer, the adoration of God, the love of the Holy Scripture and the ability of sharing the Gospel with others characterizes the Pentecostals. We believe that the Holy Spirit wants to work in the Church now with the same power found in the 1st century.

Greek Catholic – Gospel book

The Gospel is our common basis, common well of every Christian person and Christian denomination. On the cover of the Gospel book you can see an icon of Jesus and the four Evangelists in the corners. Their personal relationship with Christ was different. They served in other communities in the apostolic time, but they understood the good news of salvation in the same way. We can imagine this like four artists creating four different paintings of the one face. I believe this is the ecumenical message of this decorated gospel book, in terms of the historical churches. Christ established one church and he loves his Church. Sometimes we see the same face in a different way and we are trying to interpret the good news from different perspectives, but it doesn’t have to mean the division of Christ.

 

Reformed – star

Rev. Károly Fekete

The contribution of the Hungarian reformed people to the colorful diversity of Christ’s church is the message of the star that you can find atop almost every reformed church building. They have a message.

The stars atop our steeples remind us of the star-related passages in the Bible: Balaam’s prophecy, in Peter’s second letter, or discovering the secret of the seven stars in John’s revelations. These are the most definite star-related texts that are all connected by the Bethlehem star, when the wise men asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” … “and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Through these Bible verses, we see the shining message of salvation from the star sermon. The star is a symbol of God’s glory. It leads us toward God’s glory, and it is the symbol of Christ’s presence. The stars at the top of our steeples tell us that God has made it easy for us to look up because he has created a meeting-point for the low and the high. He bent the sky to indivisibly connect the earth and sky, the heavenly high and earthly low by the embodiment of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Christ it became easier to find God and a home. The appearance of Jesus is the pinnacle of the relationship between God and humanity. The star is a messenger of grace and Jesus’ life-transforming power. We wish that the presence of this star reminds you all of the Lord of Salvation, who still gives strength and courage to share and live the message of the star.

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Reformed Church in Hungary

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We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.