Rt. Rev. H. B. Whipple: Are Your Words & Acts Hastening or Retarding the Reunion of Christendom?

Feast of St Anastasios, Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Saturday of Souls

Henry_Whipple_Square.jpegMOST REVEREND and Right Reverend Brethren: No assembly is fraught with such awful responsibility to God, as a council of the Bishops of His Church. Since the Holy Spirit presided in the first council of Jerusalem, faithful souls have looked with deep interest to the deliberations of those whom Christ has made the shepherds of His flock, and to whom He gave His promise, “Lo, I am with you always to the end of the world.” The responsibility is greater when division has marred the beauty of the Lamb’s Bride. Our words and acts will surely hasten or (which God forbid) retard the reunion of Christendom. Feeling the grave responsibility which is imposed upon me today, my heart cries out as did the prophets, “I am a child and cannot speak.” Pray for me, venerable brethren, that God may help me to obey His word – “Whatsoever I command, that shalt thou speak.” I would kneel with you at our Master’s feet and pray that “the Holy Spirit may guide us in all truth.” We meet as the representatives of national Churches; each with its own peculiar responsibility to God for the souls entrusted to its care; each with all the rights of a national Church, to adapt itself to the varying conditions of human society; and each bound to preserve the order, the faith, the sacraments, and the worship of the Catholic Church for which it is a trustee. As we kneel by the table of our common Lord we remember separated brothers. Division has multiplied division until infidelity sneers at Christianity as an effete superstition, and the modern Sadducee, more bold than his Jewish brother, denies the existence of God. Millions for whom Christ died have not so much as heard that there is a Savior. It will heal no divisions to say, “Who is at fault?” The sin of schism does not lie at one door. If one has sinned by self-will, the other has sinned as deeply by lack of charity and love. The way to reunion looks difficult. To man it is impossible. No human eirenicon can bridge the gulf of separation. There are unkind words to be taken back, alienations to be healed, and heart burnings to be forgiven. When we are blind, God can make a way. When “the God of Peace” rules in all Christian hearts, our Lord’s prayer will be answered – “That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they all may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” […] There are blessed signs that the Holy Spirit is quickening Christian hearts to seek for unity. We all know that this divided Christianity cannot conquer the world. At a time when every form of error and sin is banded together to oppose the kingdom of Christ, the world needs the witness of a united Church. Men must hear again the voice which peals through the lapse of centuries bearing witness to “the faith once delivered to the saints,” or else for many souls there will be only rationalism and unbelief – while this sad weary world, so full of sin and sorrow, is pleading for help, it is a wrong to Christ and to the souls for whom He died that His children should be separated in rival folds.

~Bishop Henry Whipple, “Unity and the Lambeth Declaration”

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