Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 26, 2004
Churches unite in peace prayer
Archbishop says purification must come first
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Like the poet Dante in the Divine Comedy, Christians must go on a journey of purification in order to achieve peace and unity, Archbishop Thomas Collins said at the opening service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18.
It is the will of God there be peace and yet Christians have experienced division for centuries, he lamented. "There is so very little peace, even in Jerusalem, the home and the heart of our faith."
The archbishop urged Christians to be open and receptive to the Lord's gift of peace but said they must also recognize that there is no shortcut to peace. "We need, like Dante, a journey of purification where we recognize with honesty those barriers that we ourselves have set up because of our own selfishness."
Collins was one of more than a dozen Christian leaders present at the opening service at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. About 150 people attended the one-hour event, which saw leaders from several churches say unity prayers.
"On this holy day which has brought us together, we implore you to grant unity to our Church: keep us in the fullness of your peace," said Bishop Lawrence Huculak of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy.
"Clothe us with your perpetual peace so that we may keep the trust of the apostolic faith and live united by the ties of charity, "said the Rev. Jane Alexander, pastor of St. Augustine Anglican Church.
"Decree us your peace, that we may all become, in the unity of the faith, a perfect being measuring up to the fullness of Christ," said the Rev. David Morck, pastor of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church.
"Merciful and gracious Holy Spirit, grant us the gift of peace, that we may become one in body and spirit, following the call of Christ," the congregation said near the conclusion of the service.
In keeping with the event's theme, My Peace I Give You, Collins centred his homily on Dante's Divine Comedy. During his journey, Dante encounters and holds conversations with the souls of the damned. At the end of the journey, at the bottom of hell, Dante must face Satan and confront the problem of how to escape from the underworld.
As he faces the forces of darkness, the poet has a vision of peace and races up to find that peace but he cannot do it for three great beasts pursue him.
What can he do? "He realizes that before achieving that gift of peace, that before entering paradise, he must undertake a journey of purification," explained Collins. "He also realizes he cannot make it on his own but that it will be a long journey."
Christians today must undergo a similar journey, suggested the archbishop. "We need to be aware that the gift of the Lord, that the gift of his peace is offered to us freely in abundance as individuals and institutions and to receive it we need to embark on a journey of purification."
This journey is necessary so we can face our sins and our responsibility for the division and violence that plague today's world. "We can't run from our sins; we need to repent," Collins said. "We need to be aware of the things in our own heart that drive us apart from God and from one another."
And, like Dante, "we have to face the fact that we can't complete the journey without the grace of God. We will not achieve victory on our own."