The Belfast-area initiative ‘In Joyful Hope: A New Step in Eucharistic Fellowship,’ continues this week with a celebration on Wednesday 23 November at 8 pm at St Malachy’s Catholic Church on Alfred Street in Belfast.
The initiative, which began last year, is an opportunity for Christians from different traditions to celebrate communion/Eucharist together.
Those who attend observe the discipline of the Catholic Church. This means that Catholics and those from Protestant traditions do not actually share the bread and the wine. Rather, those who are not permitted by their church to partake in another’s service simply observe, or receive a blessing.
I think In Joyful Hope is an imperfect but powerful way to draw attention to the pain that many ‘ordinary’ Christians feel about the continued divisions in the church – and to express their desire to heal those divisions.
This is a subject Fr Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery spoke about during a homily on 30 October.
Fr Gerry introduced the ‘Living Bells’ initiative for the upcoming Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June.
The Eucharistic Congress is of course a major international event for the Catholic Church. Fr Reynolds is among those Irish Catholics who see it as an opportunity to invite Protestant Christians to join in the celebrations.
Since March, a special Eucharistic Congress Bell, from the Dominican Convent in Portstewart, has been travelling throughout Ireland. The idea behind ‘living bells’ is that Christians will joyfully spread the word about the Congress, and in the process have their faith and their relationships with other transformed.
You can watch Fr Gerry’s homily in full here.
Below, I’ve quoted liberally from his text:
Fr Gerry Reynolds on the Living Bells of the Eucharistic Congress
It’s 80 years since Ireland was host to an international Eucharistic Congress. And the congress will be so totally different … the church is in a new place … the old enmities are fading away … the various churches are growing in friendship with one another and that’s going to make things very different.
First of all, because it is about Christ. Christ our saviour, our redeemer. Christ is for everyone. It’s a proclamation of his presence among us, a celebration of his gift of himself among us in the bread and wine.
[Second] … The congress is about our shared identity as Christians … all who are baptised are bounded in the body of Christ … we live in communion with Christ and with one another in him. So the congress is about that common shared identity, the grace of God that makes us one. [Though] not fully one, not fully reconciled …
Thirdly, the congress is about our common mission. All the churches share that mission to bring the good news of the gospel to all the peoples of the world. And for that mission Jesus prayed, may they all be one, so that the world may believe.
So the congress is about making an end to our divisions … We must hope, expect great transformation and cooperation together in our common mission to bring the good news of the gospel especially to the generation of younger Irish people … [We must] bring the experience of Christ to them that will transform their lives.
[Not long ago]… Pope Benedict … was speaking in Erfurt where Maritn Luther was a monk … He said in the 16th century Christians emphasised what divided them. So what came of that, we know.
But in our time Christians are growing to emphasise what unites them: the grace of God, the communion in the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father, that sharing in the life of God. And our great task is to make visible the invisible bond that is between us. To make it visible in the way we work together and the way we celebrate.
… [The] call of the bell is to be converted to Christ, to live his life, to give our whole lives for him.
Fr Gerry then suggests ways that Christians can become ‘living bells’ of the Congress, including praying the ‘living bells’ prayer that was distributed on leaflets at that day’s mass. He also urged listeners to participate in ecumenical activities, listing those that are supported by Clonard such as the Unity Pilgrims, ecumenical day at the Clonard Novena, joint bible study, joint prayers of adoration, and the In Joyful Hope initiative.
He concludes by saying of the In Joyful Hope initiative:
We live with the discipline of the Catholic Church because at our grassroots level we can’t change it. But we long to see it changed and see the common Eucharist that Jesus destines for us all.
The remaining In Joyful Hope Celebrations for 2011-2012 are:
St Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church, 23 November 2011
Joanmount Methodist Church, 7 February 2012
Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, 23 May 2012
(Image: St Malachy’s, sourced on Wikipedia)