The exchange of gifts

posted by Kaihsu Tai on May 18th, 2006

The Right Reverend Bernard Longley, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, preached at Mansfield College chapel this Wednesday on the topic of “The exchange of gifts”. Amongst other things, he told us about the Goth church (see also this BBC report on a Goth service), which I suppose do not claim any direct succession from the Third Council of Toledo (hmm, I wonder if there are any Goth bands by that name…). Seriously, he drew his sermon heavily from the encyclical Ut Unum Sint; the title is from §28. He also expounded on Luke 9:49–56, particularly verse 50, which was helpful for me.

A few weeks earlier, the Reverend Dr John Muddiman spoke at the same rostrum on the topic “The Anglican–Roman Catholic dialogue: Are we going backwards?” based on his experiences with Arcic; he was ultimately optimistic. My friend asked about it, so I gave him some general notes (not from John’s sermon). Maybe other readers of Pie and Coffee will find them useful as well:

Many (if not most) of the Protestant and Orthodox churches are in multilateral conversation in the World Council of Churches. The Catholic Church participates in WCC‘s Faith and Order work but not the other ones. So the Catholic Church mostly participates in bilateral dialogues: Catholic–Anglican, Catholic–Lutheran, Catholic–Reformed, Catholic–Orthodox, etc., etc.

There is a beautiful pronouncement in HH John Paul II’s encyclical of 1995 Ut Unum Sint: the Church must breathe with her two lungs! (§54), but also a frustrating one in Ecclesia de Eucharistia (§30):

The Catholic faithful, therefore, while respecting the religious convictions of these separated brethren, must refrain from receiving the communion distributed in their celebrations, so as not to condone an ambiguity about the nature of the Eucharist and, consequently, to fail in their duty to bear clear witness to the truth. This would result in slowing the progress being made towards full visible unity. Similarly, it is unthinkable to substitute for Sunday Mass ecumenical celebrations of the word or services of common prayer with Christians from the aforementioned Ecclesial Communities, or even participation in their own liturgical services. Such celebrations and services, however praiseworthy in certain situations, prepare for the goal of full communion, including Eucharistic communion, but they cannot replace it.

For more about the history of modern institutional ecumenism, I suggest the last chapters of volume 2 of the following excellent set of books:

  • González, Justo L. (1984) The Story of Christianity: Vol. 1: The Early Church to the Reformation. San Francisco: Harper. ISBN 0060633158
  • González, Justo L. (1985) The Story of Christianity, Vol. 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. San Francisco: Harper. ISBN 0060633166
Published in: Books, Heresy, Itinerant Communicant, Oxford | on May 18th, 2006 | Permanent Link to “The exchange of gifts” | Comments Off on The exchange of gifts

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