Service of artoklasia for Christian unity
It is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity here in these isles. On Sunday 22nd January 2006, we had a service of artoklasia (Î±ÏÏ„Î¿ÎºÎ»Î±ÏƒÎ¯Î±, breaking of bread) at the Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity and the Annunciation. I have to say that getting censed along with the icons as images of God, and getting anointed after the service, was good for the self-esteem; and seeing others being done so was good for mutual respect. We were told that ‘The sharing of bread at the end of the service recalls the early Christian practice of the common meal as a sign of unity and mutual love, while the anointing with oil (Greek: ÎÎ»Î±Î¹Î¿Ï‚, elaios) reminds us of the mercy (ÎÎ»ÎµÎ¿Ï‚, eleos) of Christ, without which we cannot attain to that unity.’
There were many prayers, two of which I shall mention here. One is near the end of the service, when we prayed: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, you call us together in faith and love. Breathe again the new life of your Holy Spirit among us, that we may hear your Holy Word, pray in your name, seek unity among Christians and share more fully in your way of life. All glory and honour be yours with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.’
The other prayer was: ‘Most merciful Master, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, through the prayers of our all-pure Lady, the Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary; by the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; through the prayers of the holy, glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John; of the holy, glorious and all-praised Apostles, of our Fathers among the Saints, great hierarchs and ecumenical teachers, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom; of our Father among the saints Nicholas of Myra in Lycia the Wonderworker; of the holy and glorious great Martyr George, patron of England; of the holy martyr Alban, Protomartyr of Britain; of our holy father Birinus, evangeliser of Wessex; of our holy Mother Frideswide, patron of this city; of the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, and of all the Saints: make our supplications acceptable; grant us forgiveness of our offences; shelter us under the shadow of your wings; drive far from us all the snares of the enemy, and make our life peaceful, O Lord, and have mercy on us and on all your world, and save our souls for you are good and love mankind. Amen.’
And I was reminded that John Chrysostom said: ‘How think you that you obey Christ’s commandments, when you spend your time collecting interest, piling up loans, buying slaves like livestock, and merging business with business? … Upon this you heap injustice, taking possession of lands and houses, and multiplying poverty and hunger.’
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