Fr Brian Daley: Do We Desire Unity Enough to Let Our Dialogue of Love Change Us?

Feast of the Holy Martyr Diogenes

Francis___Barth_Square.jpegECUMENICAL theological dialogue is a uniquely demanding, as well as a uniquely consoling form of religious conversation. To be successful at it – to engage in dialogue that is not only congenial but fruitful for those involved – requires time, expertise, and learning on the part of its participants, a commitment to doing the necessary homework in preparation for each meeting, a great deal of patience and self-control when tempers grow frayed or the conversation repetitious, and of course a sense of humor. It requires from each participant a clear commitment to his or her own theological and liturgical tradition, and the ability to articulate it honestly and completely, in a way that someone not from that tradition can understand; but it also requires a more than ordinary love for the traditions of the other side, a sympathetic understanding of their spirituality and liturgy, a desire to be nourished by their sources as much as by one’s own. More practically, ecumenical dialogue usually builds on personal relationships, on shared backgrounds, on the ability of members to speak the same language culturally as well as verbally […] Most important, perhaps, ecumenical dialogue really depends on the desire of everyone involved to move our Churches beyond the status quo, in which all of us, consciously or not, have a vested interest: It depends on the desire that there really should be, in some way we can not only vaguely imagine, a single communion of Orthodox and Catholic Christians that would allow our Churches to remain what we are, in everything that is truly of God, while proclaiming together a single faith, sharing (at least on extraordinary occasions) a single altar and a single cup, and recognizing in each other’s bishops a single, if diversely articulated, prophetic structure, founded on a single apostolic tradition. We have to want this seriously enough to run the risk of change, and even of loss, in all that is not a part of the essence of Christian faith and life. And the real question that stands before our Churches is not whether they are ready to talk intelligently about unity, but whether they really desire that unity enough to let our dialogue change us in profound yet unforeseen ways. Such a desire, I suspect, must spring from more than normal human interests and motives, and can only become real and effective by the transforming, inner gift of the Holy Spirit. We wait on that gift.

~Brian Daley, “Breathing with Both Lungs: Fifty Years of the Dialogue of Love”


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