Tuesday, January 22, 2013, DAY 5: Walking in celebration
The biblical texts on this day speak about celebration, not in the sense of celebrating a successful completion, but celebration as a sign of hope in God and in God‘s justice. Similarly, the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is our sign of hope that our unity will be achieved according to God‘s time and God‘s means.
Yes, I reflect, to walk humbly with God does not mean walking alone. It means walking with those who are those vital signs of God’s presence among us, our friends.
There are moments of anxiety and something of dread as I boarded the international flight from Seattle for St. Petersburg, Russia, with members of the Sisters Cities Program. A few of these members I knew with some I was somewhat acquainted. Most of the twelve person band I did not know, only that they were representatives of Christian faiths and only that each one had chosen to spend some ten days in exploring the Christian culture and life of our Sister City, St. Petersburg.
The first leg of this long flight took us to Stockholm, Sweden on Scandinavian Airlines. The last lap of the journey was on a Russian airliner. During both flights my prayer and my conversation with those sitting next or near to me centered on the desire to be eager and joyful in this blessed opportunity to not only travel with friends and acquaintances who were loving Christians, but that our fresh and new experiences would open up an exchange in meaningful awareness that we were friends in Christ. We were walking on a journey of faith that could be called a “second road to Emmaus.” I prayed for a love that would echo the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel, “I call you friends.”
On landing in St Petersburg, the Russian world was somewhat frightening, no familiar faces, nor cheery smiles, only the solemn formalities of arriving as a delegation into a place where passports and visas were the ingredients of the day. However, my heart warmed as I met and embraced the Lutheran and Orthodox Christian folks of sincere hospitality…yes, I was reassured that the life of and in Christ found a bright and warm bond even thousands of miles away from home in Seattle.
Those ten days were packed with journeys to large and small communities of Russian Orthodox people, with visits to majestic cathedrals and small out of the way rural homes of families where faith and the face of a loving God were quickly translated into a joy and an exchange in gesture when even the language fell into confusion. “You have searched me out and known me” of the 139th psalm challenged me in these meetings with Russian Orthodox priests and Bishops and extended to the innocent faces of small children who prayed with us in their own language. It was God who was beyond all language but profound in hearing our prayers in the language of love spoken in English or Russian.
Undoubtedly, what is still vivid in my memory some twelve years later was the experience in a vast cavern of a breathtaking and profoundly beautiful cathedral…Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian , Methodist…all caught the unassuming simplicity of the Russian babushka-covered, peasant woman praying silently and piously before a magnificent and penetrating icon of Christ! Yes, I would tell of visits to the palace of the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan and the grandeur of the castles and the treasures present in the famous galleries, and the starkness of the seminary where we ate and slept. However, it was here praying next to this unassuming Russian elder woman that I knew more than anything else that I was walking with a friend of Jesus who shared with me a hospitality of love beyond language and beyond nationality. Our silence together shouted to the heavens of our relationship beyond all boundaries and beyond all earthly language and nationality. This was Christ’s hospitality to friends in Christ. This is what I celebrate.
Sister Joyce Cox, BVM
Director in Ecumenical/Interreligious Dialogue
Office of Mission, Archdiocese of Seattle
Gracious God, may your Holy Spirit fill our communities with joy and celebration, so that we can cherish the unity we already share, and zealously continue in the search for visible unity. We rejoice in the faith and hope of peoples who refuse to allow their dignity to be diminished, seeing in them your wonderful grace and your promise of freedom. Teach us to share in their joy and learn from their faithful endurance. Rekindle our hope and sustain our resolve, that in Christ‘s name we may walk together in love, raising a united voice of praise, and singing together one prayer of adoration. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.
- What are the struggles towards justice in your community? What are the causes for celebration on the way?
- What are the struggles towards Christian unity in your community? What are the causes for celebration along the way?