If you mourn the splintering of Christianity, if you pray that all may be one as Christ and the Father are one, and especially if you, in whatever Christian tradition you worship, yearn for a strong ecumenism in which Christians speak from the heart as the Holy Spirit guides them, refusing to merely paper over substantive differences, then there’s something you must hear.
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, liturgical pit bull of Catholic traditionalists in America, has a podcast recording of Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I reciting the Greek text of the 381 Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed together. (You’ll have to scroll down through lots of white space on the link to reach the Greek text itself and the podcast link. The occasion, for those interested, was the liturgy for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, opening a year-long celebration of the life and ministry of Paul. Patriarch Bartholomew was at the Vatican in part to return Benedict’s recent visit to the Phanar in Istanbul.)
I realize that most Ekklesia Project endorsers are neither Catholic nor Orthodox, a handful at most can follow spoken Greek, and the thought of two patriarchs reciting a creed produced by a council called by Constantine I will strike some as too high church to stomach, but this is a moment of ecumenical history (to my knowledge only the second time this has happened since the 1054 schism), a millennium of division one step closer to healing.
Zuhlsdorf focuses on the wording of the text (The verb “believe” in first person singular, the absence of “and the Son,” and so forth). Other Catholic (see here and here) and Orthodox bloggers seem more taken by the event itself.
What disappoints me, though, is the lack of liberal (“liberal” misses the mark and is something of a category error, I know, but I’m sticking with the vernacular) commentary on the moment. Has the Nicene Creed (or any creed, for that matter) become “so five minutes ago” we can’t be bothered? When the Holy Spirit invites separated brothers to stand and speak together, are we to pretend nothing happened?
(Originally published Monday, June 30, 2008)