WEnaturally tend to think of the Octave of Church Unity as a time of prayer specifically directed to the reconciliation of Christians to the Catholic Church in communion with the See of Peter.
Nor is this, the necessary aim of our Catholic prayer, inconsistent with a belief that the needed reconciliation may be promoted by changes and reforms within the Catholic body whose effect would be to make it easier for some at least of our separated brethren to become disposed to the reception of the grace of faith. Indeed, the present Holy Father himself, in connection with the coming General Council, is desirous that this question of adaptation of what is accidental in the Church to the needs of the world of today should be studied.
YET one may suggest that in this first year of the new decade the Church Unity Octave could also be seen and expressed in a wider context.
For it is becoming clear that in this second half of the twentieth century man is increasingly aware that the happiness of the human race must depend on a growing sense of brotherhood between all people who have to live together in a world of inescapable interdependence — inescapable, that is, if peace and progress are gradually to diminish the friction and division whose logical end must be a holocaust of disorder, unspeakable suffering. and death.
If we consider the matter in the simplest and most obvious way, it is clear that we cannot sincerely consider any kind of unity to be fully real if it is not the whole man, the whole personality. which is united with others. Brotherhood in Christ. if it is fully realised, cannot mean anything else, and indeed we have the witness of the early Christians to a brotherhood which wholly transcended the accidental differences of nation, rank, occupation. function.
It was a failure to realise the full meaning of Christian brotherhood and it was the tragic effect of sin which together led not only to the separation of Communions but also to attaching, too often, greater importance to national and other secular divisions than to the claims of religious unity. The history of Europe, which should have been one Christendom truly transcending necessary, but accidental, differences between groups and groups and man and man, has been one long witness to the weakening of the impact of the Gospels, which proclaimed to the world the tremendous meaning of sonship of God and brotherhood in Christ.
IT mar be suggested that, after so many hundreds of years of divided nations and divided men, it is Utopian to hope for the restoration of the ideal of brotherhood as the condition of unity.
In a sense it is, especially if
we think exclusively of the reunion of divided Communions and religions or the reunion of separated nations and groups.
But in these times when, on the one hand, the tragedies and appalling dangers of wars and, on the other, the potentialities of new knowledge and techniques impel a reasonable man to labour towards the effective realisation of "one world," it is not quixotic to work for brotherhood at a spiritual, moral and personal level.
After all, it is man, the human person, compounded of body and soul, who is threatened yet who alone can shape a more united and happier future. It is man who is the victim of the abominable weapons which committed statesmen accept as counters in the nationalist and diplomatic game. It is man who becomes less than a man when governments, corporations, parties, and captains of finance and industry treat him as a mere unit or number in their plans.
It is in this sense that the quest for Christian Unity must find its roots in our growth of loving and understanding one another and our hatred of the evils which result from the denial of the spirit of Christ, just as love and understanding can only grow from the deeper knowledge of Him.