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Local Christians pray for unity


Father Edward O’Flaherty, Greek Orthodox Father John Maheras and Bishop Walter Edyvean recite a prayer at the service held Jan. 23 at St. John Chrysostom Church in West Roxbury to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Also leading the service was Rev. Jack Johnson of the Massachusetts Council of Churches. Pilot photo/ Sarah M. Barrett

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WEST ROXBURY -- Representatives of Boston’s Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant communities gathered in prayer on Jan. 23 to mark the 101st Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Leading the ecumenical prayer service at St. John Chrysostom Church were Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, Rev. Protopresbyter Father John Maheras of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Rev. Jack Johnson of the Massachusetts Council of Churches and Father Edward O’Flaherty, SJ, Ecumenical Officer of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Individuals from the different faiths assembled in prayer for the unity of all Christians, especially for the unity of Christians in Korea, one people divided into two countries, and for all nations and communities with deep divisions and internal conflicts.

Father David Michael, pastor at St. John’s, welcomed the congregation to the parish, inviting them to pray for a deeper appreciation of their common baptism in the one body of Christ.

“We gather tonight as the community of the faithful, and we know that the Lord is delighted that we are here. The Lord is in our midst and the Lord is inviting us to pray for the unity that is his will and which was the will that he expressed the night before He died to the apostles,” he said

Father Michael recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with perseverance.”

Bishop Edyvean and Father Maheras’ opened the service with salutatory prayers for God’s grace, peace and mercy. Rev. Johnson invoked the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of God uniting two separate pieces of wood, calling for the assembly’s interfaith unification.

“We gather as Christians from divided communities, praying for forgiveness for the scandal of our disunity and our inability to be ambassadors of reconciliation in the world,” Rev. Johnson prayed, adding, “What paths of personal and ecclesial conversion must we take to arrive at full communion in Christ?”

Rev. Johnson concluded quoting the prophet Ezekiel, “Then they shall be my people and I shall be their God. They shall be one in my hand. God, you are our only hope. Help us to be instruments of your reconciliation.”

The congregation heard two readings and a Gospel reading followed by a sermon by Father Maheras reflecting on the Gospel.

In his sermon, Father Maheras spoke on the mandate given by St. John in the Gospel reading as a warning of what happens when unity is not actively sought after. For centuries, this mandate was largely ignored, he said.

“We -- you and I, and all of us together -- have been challenged to be instruments of God’s reconciling love in a world where separation and hate is taught, where war and violence prevails, and are still major obstacles to the unity willed by God for humanity,” he said.

These obstacles are the result of unhealed divisions which exist inside ourselves and in human arrogance, preventing us from recovering the real underpinning of our existence in the Lord, he added.

Father Maheras concluded his sermon asking the congregation to remember their common profession of faith and their promise as Christians to live a life based on moral humanism.

The hope and faith of the final coming, he said, is what encourages us to persevere in the search for Christian unity and the struggle against all forms of war and violence.

Together, the congregation sang “Lift High the Cross,” prayed the Our Father and professed the Apostles’ Creed in Latin, Greek and English.

Before the conclusion of the prayer service, Bishop Edyvean gave his benediction to all those gathered as a sign of reconciliation through the power of the cross.

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