“As we trudge, sometimes wearily, along the road that must lead to full communion and eucharistic fellowship—because it is our Lord’s will, and nothing can finally thwart that— the existence of texts that we ‘have in common,’ that we can ‘pray together,’ is of the greatest possible encouragement;” Canon Donald Gray in Liturgical Renewal captures the spirit, goals and content of this rich and careful study of the points of intersection in the ecumenical and liturgical movements emerging from the Second Vatican Council’s challenge to undo the scandal of Christian separation. The authors gathered at Centro Pro Unione, an ecumenical research center in Rome sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, to discuss the state of the union, as it were, what has been accomplished and what happens next. These conversations celebrated the accomplishments of new texts and rites that had been created, along with the struggles and work that had brought them into existence. Fully committed to the gathering of all Christians in worship, this group was challenged to face the many setbacks and barriers to that end. In particular, the joint statement by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Liturgiam authenticam, dated May 7, 2001, of the Roman Catholic Church is mentioned in Liturgical Renewal as an apparent setback in the journey towards greater Christian unity.
David Holeton pointed to the Consultation on Liturgical Texts (CCT) and its fruits, the ecumenical liturgical texts A Liturgical Psalter for the Christian Year, A Christian Celebration of Marriage, A Celebration of Baptism, and Ecumenical Services of Prayer. Holeton noted the eschatological inbreaking of the Spirit that pulls Christians forward when they celebrate these rituals in common. Canon Donald Gray in reviewing the history of liturgical renewal in the Church of England, pointed to the important work of the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET) and the power of what they created, Prayers We Have in Common. Geoffrey Wainwright chronicled the liturgical dimensions of the Methodist-Catholic dialogues, and expressed the hope that the Roman church would join the Methodist church and adopt the Revised Common Lectionary. Lamenting the apparent departure of Roman Catholics from the ecumenical consultations, Horace T. Allen found himself, a Calvinist, on his knees in prayer before the grave of Pope John XXIII, thinking “his body is in glory, and his Council is in ruins.” Lament stretches further, as Teresa Berger pointed to the inadequacy of either movement in resolving the pivotal issues that women have raised in terms of word and worship, and challenged any future ecumenical efforts to face the ongoing marginalization of women.
Gordon W. Lathrop argued that the Lutheran tradition of creative tension between constancy in the practice of the catholic tradition and the need for its critique be a model for future ecumenical discussions. Thomas F. Best reviewed the historical development of the Disciples of Christ and its foundational commitment to ecumenism. He is convinced that the Spirit will continue to call for Christian unity. The World Council of Churches’ volume of liturgical texts Sinfonia Oecumenica: Worship with the Churches of the World, according to Ermanno Genre, embodies the principles it has articulated, that liturgy must be contextual, holistic, and consonant with the music and symbols of the people. Giulio Viviani shared his doctoral research, a detailed discussion and analysis of the seventy-five ecumenical celebrations of Pope John Paul II, quoting his words at the Anglican cathedral of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, “above all, we must never lose confidence in what the Spirit of God can accomplish in our own day.” The text ends with a discussion by Robert F. Taft, S.J. of the October 2001 Agreement on the Eucharist between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. He suggested that such agreements point to the emerging work of ecumenical scholarship, which intentionally seeks common ground.
In his opening remarks, James Puglisi stated that it was his hope that the work accomplished in this text would bring new energy and renewed commitment to bringing Christians to a place where they can pray and break bread together. The carefully constructed essays situated in their historical and ecclesial contexts, offer theological rationales and precise liturgical details that richly serve this purpose. It is a substantive response to the question, where do we go from here?