At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (see John 17.21). Hearts are touched and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The event that touches off this special experience is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Traditionally the week of prayer is celebrated between 18-25 January, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul. In the southern hemisphere, where January is a vacation time, churches often find other days to celebrate it, for example around Pentecost, which is also a symbolic date for unity.
“We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him.”
— Matthew 2:2
The Middle East Council of Churches, based in Beirut, Lebanon, has been the convener for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022 drafting group. The World Council of Churches and the Vatican have now published the material in several languages.
The reflections explore how Christians are called to be a sign to the world of God bringing about unity. Drawn from different cultures, races and languages, Christians share in a common search for Christ and a common desire to worship him.
Although churches and the people of Lebanon have been burdened by the daily consequences of a persistent political and economic crisis, and faced the tragedy of the August 2020 explosion in Beirut, which caused hundreds of deaths and left hundreds of thousands injured or homeless, Christians from different churches in Lebanon and neighbouring countries have found the spiritual force to come together and prepare the resources, said Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, acting deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches and director of its Faith and Order Commission.
“They invite us to turn to the star in the East and worship together the Son of God incarnate,” said Mateus. “For this precious spiritual gift, we are thankful to God and to them.”
Christians from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt developed the local draft for the resources. As is the tradition, it was finalized by an international group representing the by the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission. The resources include an ecumenical opening prayer service, biblical reflections and prayers for eight days, and other elements of worship.
In order to prepare for the annual celebration, ecumenical partners in a particular region are invited to produce a basic liturgical text on a biblical theme. Then an international editorial team of WCC and Roman Catholic representatives refines this text to ensure that it can be prayed throughout the world, and to link it with the search for the visible unity of the church.
The text is jointly published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the WCC, through the WCC’s Commission on Faith and Order, which also accompanies the entire production process of the text. The final material is sent to WCC member churches and Roman Catholic episcopal conferences, and they are invited to translate the text and contextualize or adapt it for their own use.
|Material for 2022|