PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN UNITY
Called to proclaim
Jointly prepared and published by
Scripture quotations: The scripture quotations contained herein are from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989, 1995, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used with permission. All rights reserved.
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TO THOSE ORGANIZING
The search for unity: throughout the year
The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the days between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul, and therefore have a symbolic significance. In the southern hemisphere where January is a vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the week of prayer, for example around Pentecost (suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the Church.
Mindful of the need for flexibility, we invite you to use this material throughout the whole year to express the degree of communion which the churches have already reached, and to pray together for that full unity which is Christ’s will.
Adapting the text
This material is offered with the understanding that, whenever possible, it will be adapted for use in local situations. Account should be taken of local liturgical and devotional practice, and of the whole social and cultural context. Such adaptation should ideally take place ecumenically. In some places ecumenical structures are already set up for adapting the material; in other places, we hope that the need to adapt it will be a stimulus to creating such structures.
Using the Week of Prayer material
BIBLICAL TEXT FOR 2016
1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
INTRODUCTION TO THE THEME
Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
(cf. 1 Peter 2:9)
The oldest baptismal font in Latvia dates from the time of the great evangeliser of Latvia, St Meinhard. It was originally located in his Cathedral in Ikšķile. Today it stands at the very centre of the Lutheran Cathedral in the country’s capital, Rīga. The placement of the font so near to the Cathedral’s ornate pulpit speaks eloquently of the relationship between baptism and proclamation, and the calling shared by all the baptised to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord. This calling forms the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2016. Inspired by two verses from the First Letter of St Peter, members of different churches in Latvia prepared the resources for the week.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Christianity was first brought to Eastern Latvia in the 10th century by Byzantine missionaries. However, most accounts date Latvia’s Christian origins to the 12th and 13th centuries, and the evangelising mission of St Meinhard, and later of other German missionaries. The capital, Rīga, was one of the first cities to adopt Luther’s ideas in the 16th century, and in the 18th century, Moravian missionaries (Herrnhut Brethren) revived and deepened Christian faith throughout the country. Their descendants were to play a central role in laying the foundations for national independence in 1918.
The past, with its various periods of conflict and suffering, has had noticeable consequences for church life in Latvia today. It is a sad fact that the use of force by some early missionaries and crusaders misrepresented the essence of the Gospel. Over the centuries, the land of Latvia has been a religious and political battleground for various national and confessional powers. Changes in political dominance in different parts of the country were often reflected in changes in people’s confessional affiliation too. Today, Latvia is a crossroads where Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox regions meet. Because of this unique location, it is home to Christians of many different traditions, but no single one of them is dominant.
Latvia first existed as a state from 1918 until 1940, in the wake of the First World War and the fall of the Russian and German empires. The Second World War and the decades that followed with their totalitarian anti-Christian ideologies – atheistic Nazism and Communism – brought devastation to the land and people of Latvia, right up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During those years, Christians were united in common witness to the Gospel - even to the point of martyrdom. The Bishop Sloskans’ Museum in Latvia records this common witness, listing martyred Christians from the Orthodox, Lutheran, Baptist and Catholic Churches. Christians discovered their participation in the royal priesthood mentioned by St Peter through enduring torture, exile and death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. This bond of suffering created deep communion among Christians in Latvia. Through it, they discovered their baptismal priesthood, through which they were able to offer their sufferings in union with the sufferings of Jesus, for the good of others.
The experience of singing and praying together – including the National Anthem, God Bless Latvia – was crucial to Latvia regaining its independence in 1991. Fervent prayers for freedom were offered in many churches throughout the city. United in song and prayer, unarmed citizens built barricades on the streets of Rīga and stood shoulder to shoulder in defiance of the Soviet tanks.
However, the totalitarian darkness of the 20th century estranged many people from the truth about God the Father, his self-revelation in Jesus Christ and the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, the post-Soviet period has been one of renewal for the churches. Many Christians come together for prayer in small groups and at ecumenical services. Conscious that the light and grace of Christ have not penetrated and transformed all the people of Latvia, they want to work and pray together so that the historical, ethnic and ideological wounds which still disfigure Latvian society may be healed.
The call to be God’s people
St Peter tells the early Church that in their search for meaning prior to encountering the Gospel they were not a people. But through hearing the call to be God’s chosen race and receiving the power of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, they have become God’s people. This reality is expressed in Baptism, common to all Christians, in which we are born again of water and the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:5). In Baptism we die to sin, in order to rise with Christ to a new life of grace in God. It is an ongoing challenge daily to remain aware of this new identity in Christ.
How do we understand our common call to be “God’s people”?
Hearing of God’s mighty acts
Baptism opens up an exciting new journey of faith, uniting each new Christian with God’s people throughout the ages. The Word of God – the Scriptures with which Christians of all traditions pray, study and reflect – is the foundation of a real, albeit incomplete, communion. In the shared sacred texts of the Bible, we hear of God’s saving acts in salvation history: leading his people out of slavery in Egypt, and the great mighty act of God: the raising of Jesus from the dead, which opened new life to all of us. Furthermore, prayerful reading of the Bible leads Christians to recognise the mighty acts of God also in their own lives.
In what ways do we see and respond to God’s “mighty acts”: in worship and song,
in work for justice and peace?
Response and proclamation
God has chosen us not as a privilege. He has made us holy, but not in the sense that Christians are more virtuous than others. He has chosen us to fulfil some purpose. We are holy only insofar as we are committed to God’s service, which is always to bring his love to all people. Being a priestly people means being in service to the world. Christians live this baptismal calling and bear witness to God’s mighty acts in a variety of ways:
Healing wounds: Wars, conflicts and abuses have wounded the emotional and relational lives of the people of Latvia and many other countries. God’s grace helps us to beg forgiveness for the obstacles which prevent reconciliation and healing, to receive mercy, and to grow in holiness.
Searching for truth and unity: Awareness of our common identity in Christ calls us to work towards answering the questions that still divide us as Christians. We are called, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, to share our experiences and so discover, that in our common pilgrimage, Jesus Christ is among us.
An Active Commitment to Human Dignity: Christians who have been brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Kingdom recognise the extraordinary dignity of all human life. Through common social and charitable projects we reach out to the poor, the needy, the addicted and the marginalised.
As we consider our commitment to Christian unity, for what should we beg
Introducing the rest of the materials
The ecumenical Celebration uses the symbols of a Bible, a lighted candle and salt to express visually the mighty acts that we are called, as baptised Christians, to proclaim to the world. Both salt and light are gospel images that Jesus uses in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5:13-16). They describe our Christian identity: You are the salt… You are the light…. And they describe our mission: salt of the earth… light of the world...
Salt and light are images of the what it is that Christians have to give the men and women of our times: we take a word from God that gives flavour to life, which can so often seem bland and empty; and we take a gracious word that guides and helps people to see and understand themselves and their world.
Representatives of a variety of ecumenical projects in Latvia were asked to reflect on the chosen theme and the experience of their work. Their reflections form the basis of the materials offered for the eight days of the Octave.
THE PREPARATION OF THE MATERIAL
The preparatory work on the theme for this year’s week of prayer material was undertaken by a group of representatives from different parts of Latvia, brought together at the invitation of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Rīga, the Most Reverend Zbigņevs Stankevičs.
Gratitude is extended in particular to:
Ms Anda Done (Lutheran Church)
The texts proposed here were finalized during a meeting of the International Committee nominated by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The members of the Committee joined with representatives of the Latvian Churches in September 2014 at the Rīga Metropolitan Roman Catholic Seminary. They extend very heartfelt thanks to Mgr Pauls Kļaviņš for generously hosting the meeting, and to the staff and students of the seminary for their kind hospitality. In particular they wish to thank Fr Aivars Līcis and Fr Kārlis Miķelsons who facilitated their work and visits. The participants were generously accompanied and guided on a visit to the Island of St Meinhard on the Daugava River near Ikšķile with ruins of the first Cathedral (consecrated in 1186), the Lutheran and Catholic Cathedrals of Rīga, and St Saviour`s Anglican Church in Old Rīga. These visits proved to be invaluable in the production of the text.
ECUMENICAL WORSHIP SERVICE
Introduction to the worship
The Latvian writing group suggests that representatives from different churches enter carrying a Bible, a lighted candle (which may be a Paschal or Easter Candle) and a bowl of salt. They further suggest that each of these symbols is provided by a different congregation. The Bible should be placed on the lectern for the readings, and the salt and candle may be placed either by the lectern, as they are symbols of God’s Word, or by the font, as they are signs of our baptismal calling.
A basket of small candles should also be set on the sanctuary so that after the homily members of the congregation can light individual candles from the flame carried in at the beginning of the service.
Although no hymns have been indicated, the Latvian writing group suggest Trinitarian hymns. They also suggest that the responses Kyrie Eleison and Christe Eleison be sung. During the Liturgy of the Word a short congregational response is provided in the text. The introduction to the readings uses the expression, “explosion of love”, which comes from the founder of the Pro Sanctitate movement, Guglielmo Giaquinta. This movement is active in Latvia and its members contributed to the preparation of this celebration.
After the service:
A Latvian symbol of hospitality is bread, particularly black bread. When people move to a new home friends will often present a loaf of bread with salt sprinkled on top in the shape of a cross as a sign of blessing. The Latvian writing group invite Christians around the world to imitate this gesture of hospitality in their time of fellowship after the service.
Order of Service
Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
Words of welcome
L: Dear friends in Christ, as we gather together in this service of prayer for unity, we thank God for our Christian dignity and vocation, described in the words of St. Peter: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”. We pray this year with the Christians of Latvia, who have prepared this service in the hope that we may grow in our communion with our Lord Jesus Christ and with all our brothers and sisters aspiring to unity (cf.1 Peter 2:9).
II. Prayers for the Holy Spirit
Song of praise
III. Prayers of reconciliation
L: God invites us to reconciliation and holiness. Let us turn our minds, hearts and bodies to receive the grace of reconciliation on the way to holiness.
IV. Proclamation of the Word of God
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18
1 Peter 2:9-10
Matthew 5:1- 16
V. A gesture of commitment to be salt and light
The Leader then makes the following invitation to the congregation:
VI. Prayers of hope
VII. Sharing of the peace
VIII. Blessing and dismissal
Today’s reflections are prepared by the Catholic Youth Centre of the Archdiocese of Rīga, and spring from their experience of organising an Ecumenical Way of the Cross: a very influential annual ecumenical event in the life of Latvia. This experience prompts reflection on what the passion and resurrection mean in the Latvian context, and what are the Lord’s mighty acts that baptised Christians are called to proclaim.
Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.
In the Soviet era a Christian presence through public media was impossible in Latvia. After independence, Latvian State Radio began broadcasting Christian programmes with a focus on unity and mission, providing a forum for leaders from diverse churches to encounter one another. This public witness of mutual respect, love and joy contributed to the spirit of Latvian ecumenical life. The experience of the creators of Christian programming at the Latvian State Radio inspired this reflection.
God of love, look upon our willingness to serve you despite our spiritual poverty and limited abilities. Fulfil the deepest longings of our hearts with your presence. Fill our broken hearts with your healing love so that we may love as you have loved us. Grant us the gift of unity so that we may serve you with joy and share your love with all. This we ask in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For over a decade Chemin Neuf, an international Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation, has been present in Latvia, with both Catholic and Lutheran members. Together they experience the joy that comes from fellowship in Christ, as well as the pain of disunity. As a sign of this division, they place an empty paten and chalice on the altar during evening prayer. Their experience inspired this reflection.
Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, we pray to you for the unity of Christians according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see our sin and to hope beyond all hope. Amen.
These reflections were inspired by the producers of the Sunday morning Christian programme Vertikale. The challenge of maintaining this Christian voice on Latvian national television has taught them that it is only when we learn to recognise other Christians as brothers and sisters that we can dare take God’s Word into the public space.
Lord Jesus, you said that everyone will know that we are your disciples if there is love among us. Strengthened by your grace, may we work tirelessly for the visible unity of your Church, so that the Good News that we are called to proclaim will be seen in all our words and deeds. Amen.
The fellowship of Christian leaders shapes the visible expression of ecumenical life in Latvia. They gather regularly at Gaizins, Latvia’s highest hill, and other locations, for a 40-hour period of prayer and simple fellowship around shared meals. For the duration of these meetings they are supported in non-stop prayer and worship by the faithful. These encounters renew the leaders as fellow-workers in Christ. The experience of the founder of the Latvia House of Prayer for All Peoples inspired this reflection.
God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may you give to all Christians, and especially to those entrusted with leadership in your Church, the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that with the eyes of our hearts we may see the hope to which you have called us: one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above and through all and in all. Amen.
Christian disunity hurts. Churches suffer from their inability to be united as one family at the Lord’s Table; they suffer from rivalry and from histories of combativeness. One individual response to disunity emerged in 2005 in the form of an ecumenical journal: Kas Mus Vieno? (“What unites us?”). The experience of producing the journal inspired this reflection.
Heavenly Father, grant us humility to hear your voice, to receive your call, and to share your dream for the unity of the Church. Help us to be awake to the pain of disunity. Where division has left us with hearts of stone, may the fire of your Holy Spirit inflame our hearts and inspire us with the vision of being one in Christ, as he is one with you, so that the world may believe that you have sent him. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The experience of praying together on each of the eight days of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has helped Christians in the small town of Madona to come together in friendship. A particular fruit of this has been the opening of an ecumenical prayer chapel in the centre of town, complete with elements from Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Here the Christians of Madona join in continuous round the clock prayer. This experience forms the background of the following reflections.
Lord Jesus, you asked your apostles to stay awake with you and to pray with you. May we offer the world protected times and spaces in which to find refreshment and peace, so that praying together with other Christians we may come to know you more deeply. Amen.
Different churches in Latvia have been able to work together in evangelisation through the use of the Alpha Course, developed in the Anglican Church of Holy Trinity, Brompton, London. Latvians who have come to faith through this programme remain open to learning and being enriched by the gifts of other Christian communities. This experience inspired the following reflections.
Lord Jesus, you have made our hearts burn within us, and have sent us back upon the road towards our brothers and sisters, with the Gospel message on our lips. Help us to see that hope and obedience to your commands always lead to the greater unity of your people. Amen.
THE ECUMENICAL SITUATION IN LATVIA
I. The Christian Churches
“Living ecumenism”: these words describe the ecumenical situation in Latvia today. Christians from different traditions are increasingly meeting each other for common prayer and common witness in a growing number of places and occasions. Part of this dynamic comes from the fact that the three largest confessions are approximately equal in size, while the smaller churches are very active. Latvia is a kind of watershed between the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions. According to official data released in 2011, 34.3% of the population are Lutherans, 25.1% are Roman Catholics, 19.4% are Orthodox and Old Believers, 1.2% belong to other Christian churches (such as Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, and other free churches), while 20% identify themselves as of other religions or no religion. Latvia officially acknowledges six religious traditions: Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox, Old Believers and Jews.
II. Lived ecumenism
Although churches in Latvia have not come together in a national council of churches, ecumenical life goes on bearing good fruit. Cooperation among Christians in Latvia is vital today ifthe Christianmessage is toreachcontemporarypost-modernsocietyin all itsdiversity andabundance of opinions. The ecumenical cooperation and relationships between different denominations in Latvia, is, one could say, based on proclaiming the mighty acts of the Lord.
It is a regular practice in Latvia that bishops from the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Baptist churches address a common message to society on issues of ethics, the protection of life, or social justice. Due to the fraternal relationships between the heads of the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran churches in Latvia, the consecration of the present Roman Catholic Archbishop took place in the Lutheran Cathedral of Rīga.
The leaders of the different churches join together during the celebration of the most important remembrance daysand holidays, such as the National Independence Day on November 18th. The Word of God is proclaimed,speeches are made andmusicians from many Christian churches are engaged. These same leaders meet together annually in the Spiritual Affairs Council at which the Prime Minister presides. In liaising with the State the four main Christian traditions jointly produced materials to be used in State schools which was approved by the Ministry of Education.
However, relationships between bishops and clergy of Latvian Christian Churches go beyond ecumenical services: they are rooted in genuine friendship. This challenges the dividing walls built in earlier centuries, and allows each to recognise in the other a fellow minister of the Gospel. Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist bishops meet regularly. They pray, praise God together in a fraternal atmosphere, and discuss issues relevant to Latvia.
There are also many examples of ecumenical cooperation among communities and at parish level. There are, for example, jointly organised evangelisation programmes based on the Alpha Course. The Catholic parishes of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and St Mary Magdalene, the Rīga Luther Church in Tornakalns, and the Baptist community in Āgenskalns join together in fellowship, social projects, and in publishing a calendar. Since the year 2000, the different Christian communities in Madona celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity each day in a different community. Through this experience many come to meet their brothers and sisters from other Christian traditions for the first time. A special fruit of this experience was the creation of the first ecumenical prayer chapel in Latvia, where brothers and sisters of different confessions can pray. The doors of the chapel are open day and night. Catholics and Lutherans take turns and ensure a constant prayerful presence in the chapel.
Besides activities organized by churches or parishes, there are several ecumenical initiatives undertaken by highly motivated individual Christians. An eloquent example is the opening of the first ecumenical St John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene chapel in the small village of Igate. The building of the chapel was a private initiative. It is used by people from the four major Latvian Christian traditions – Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox and Baptist. The building was blessed on 18th January 2013 by the Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist bishops. One of the special intentions of the people from Igate is to pray for children, born and unborn, and for their mothers, and to help them.
Another example of individual initiative was the Gaizins Summit. A lay Christian invited the heads of the different Latvian churches to meet together at Latvia’s highest hill, Gaizins, for fellowship and prayer. They accepted. For the duration of these meetings they were supported in continuous prayer and worship by the faithful. This gathering has been organized seven times so far, and many more church leaders have joined.
What Unites Us? is a journal launched ten years ago by an individual lay person. It was inspired by a deep longing for the unity of the Church. In the first issue it focused exclusively on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Later on its different issues were dedicated to specific ecumenical themes. The journal is distributed free of charge in local communities of different churches.
Ecumenical co-operation can be found in the various prayer groups and communities of “Chemin Neuf”, “Blue Cross”, and “Kalnskola”, “Effata” as well as in social action projects such as prison chaplaincy, and in the Rehabilitation Centre for former drug and alcohol addicts, the “Bethlehem House of Mercy”. In all these movements and organizations, in daily prayer and mission, Christians from different churches join hands and contribute to Christian unity with their everyday service.
As Latvia is rich in Christian traditions, this influences family life. There are many inter-church couples that have to face in daily life all the questions related to the remaining divisions among Christian churches, such as wedding ceremonies, catechesis of children, attendance of Sunday services, and, most importantly for practising Christians, Holy Communion.
Christian families also face the problems presented by our modern globalised society. Dedicated particularly to serving families, the “Cana Fraternity” has been active in Latvia since 1994. Ecumenical family festivals, designed to draw attention to family issues and strengthen families, started in 2006 in cooperation with the municipality of Rīga. These events are especially supported by different free churches in Latvia in cooperation with the three larger traditions.
Media is very important for evangelization. An ecumenical team produces Christian programmes that are regularly broadcast by the Latvian State Radio and which promote unity and fellowship amongst Latvian Christians. A Catholic video information centre, “Emanuels”, produces the television programme “Vertikale” on Latvia’s Channel 1. The programmes try to show what unites Christians rather than what divides them. The producers of the programmes look for witnesses of Christ among the Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists and other Christian communities. In addition there is an evangelical radio station, “Latvian Christian Radio”, with many programmes of ecumenical relevance.
The Way of the Cross, celebrated every year, takes place on Good Friday in the streets of several cities in Latvia – Kuldiga, Valmiera, Madona, Liepāja amongst others. In Rīga, the Ecumenical Way of the Cross is organized by the Catholic Youth Centre of the Archdiocese of Rīga and brings together thousands of people, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals and other churches as well as Catholics. At the head of the procession the bishops and ministers of different churches walk side by side. Besides the usual contents of the Way of the Cross, it includes appropriate performances by professional actors from various theatres of Latvia, who also are from different denominations. This prayer unites people not only in a religious, spiritual way, but also in a cultural way. In this shared moment of devotion and reflection all Christians are united by the prayer of the Way of the Cross: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”
III. Challenges to the ecumenical movement
There are stable bases for developing ecumenism in Latvia because none of the churches is dominant and there are many ecumenical activities. At the same time it has to be admitted that such activities are developed by the relatively small group of people who are very open to ecumenical relations while many Christians remain either indifferent or even antagonistic to it.
Another challenge is the lack of official theological dialogue commissions between the churches in Latvia. Several issues call for ecumenical dialogue. Agreement on these issues would certainly motivate lay people to be more ecumenically engaged.
It is possible to say that ecumenical development relies largely on personal relationships and fellowship that ensure a successful realization of ecumenical events. In many cases, one of the churches takes the initiative but the responsibility for it is not quite shared by the churches. A small number of enthusiasts carries most of the burden. The task for the churches is to find a way to ensure an equal sharing of responsibility for ecumenical initiatives.
Finally, a very important challenge to the growth in communion is the political situation, which weakens the bonds of fellowship with brothers and sisters who belong to the Latvian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). Thus new possibilities in deepening relationships need to be sought.
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WEEK OF PRAYER
In 1968, materials jointly prepared by the WCC Faith and Order
KEY DATES IN THE HISTORY