By FATHER PAUL A. BURKE, Special To The Bulletin | Published December 9, 2010
The celebration of the saints, following the Solemnity of All Saints Day, was the theme of the recent Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical gathering that took place Nov. 4 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta. This gathering was the fourth occasion on which Catholic and Orthodox clergy and laypeople have joined together in common prayer.
In welcoming Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Archbishop Alexios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta and their respective clergy and laity, Father James Schillinger, IHM pastor, emphasized the importance and significance of the gathering together in response to the Lord’s desire “that all may be one.”
The event included readings from Scripture, remarks given by both hierarchs and hymns sung by the traditional choir of Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta. The intercessions were based on those from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. An icon of Sts. Peter and Paul was incensed and carried in procession throughout the church.
In his address, Archbishop Gregory stated, “Two of the great treasures of the Christian faith that all Orthodox and Catholics share in common is our love and respect for God’s holy and sacred Word which nourishes and strengthens the Church and our public and ancient veneration of God’s Holy Ones—the saints of the Church. Many of the Church’s saints we share as they achieved their extraordinary sanctity in the early centuries of the first Christian millennium. Countless numbers of these men and women were martyred for their faith, others were great teachers and preachers of the Christian faith, and some lived a quiet mystical way of life that showed us all the overwhelming power of God’s grace dwelling in the human soul.”
In his remarks, Metropolitan Alexios explained that “in the Orthodox faith, we believe that salvation is offered to the world by God, and is not a personal matter and doesn’t refer only to the individual … the example of the saints communicates the wonders of God by word and action.” In essence, he said that every person is called to a life of holiness.
This sentiment was echoed by Archbishop Gregory in reflecting on the experience of Atlanta as the Catholic and Orthodox Churches continue to find opportunities to come together in prayer and fellowship.
He said, “Surely the gatherings here in the Atlanta community that we have been able to share over the past several years would clearly please the hearts of all of our saints since we are putting into practice the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in asking God to give us a share in that unity that is to be found perfectly in the Trinity.” Metropolitan Alexios added his prayer that “Almighty God will inspire, enlighten and strengthen us to find the path that leads to Him.”
A reception followed the gathering in the parish hall and was a welcome opportunity for all present to come together in fellowship. Much progress has been made building Catholic-Orthodox relations in Atlanta in the past few years. Many initiatives are in the planning stages, including a joint statement on the sanctity of human life, a joint office for Catholic-Orthodox relations, a symposium on the Holy Spirit and a joint website to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of our sister Churches. All of these plans respond to the prayer of Christ “that all may be one.”
For further information on future events and initiatives, contact Father Paul A. Burke at (404) 252-4513 or email@example.com.