January 2012 - Vol. 56
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity • January 18-25, 2012.

We will be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ 
(1 Corinthians 15:51-58)

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an 8 day observance or “Octave” of prayer. It has been this way from the beginnings of this international movement in 1908. Following are a set of 8 daily scripture readings  and commentary on the readings. These materials were developed by a group of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant leaders in Poland and were sanctioned by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. These readings and prayers are intended to be prayed in common by all those participating in the Week of Prayer around the world.

Additionally, we have added a reflection for families and a specific daily intercession for various aspects of our ecumenical life and mission in the Sword of the Spirit. For Saturday’s observance, we have also included a short Lord’s Day prayer that can be inserted in the section following the Blessing of the Wine which can be used similarly to the other seasonal variations in the Lord’s Day prayers if you find this helpful.

Please use these materials in any way you find most helpful in your personal and family worship times during this season of prayer. 

Daily Prayers for Christian Unity • January 18-25, 2012

• Day 1 - January 18 Changed by the Servant Christ
• Day 2 - January 19 Changed through patient waiting for the Lord
• Day 3 - January 20 Changed by the Suffering Servant
• Day 4 - January 21 Changed by the Lord’s victory over evil and prayer for Lord's Day Ceremony
• Day 5 - January 22 Changed by the peace of the Risen Lord
• Day 6 - January 23 Changed by God’s Steadfast Love
• Day 7 - January 24 Changed by the Good Shepherd
• Day 8 - January 25 United in the Reign of Christ

Introduction to the Theme for the Year 2012

“We will all be changed by the Victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” 
(cf. 1 Cor 15:51-58)

The material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2012 was prepared by a working group composed of representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and Old Catholic and Protestant Churches active in Poland. 

Following extensive discussions in which the representatives of various ecumenical circles in Poland took part, it was decided to focus on a theme that is concerned with the transformative power of faith in Christ, particularly in relation to our praying for the visible unity of the Church, the Body of Christ. This was based on St. Paul’s words to the Corinthian Church which speaks of the temporary nature of our present lives (with all its apparent “victory” and “defeat”) in comparison to what we receive through the victory of Christ through the Paschal mystery. 

Why such a theme? 
The history of Poland has been marked by a series of defeats and victories. We can mention the many times that Poland was invaded, the partitions, oppression by foreign powers and hostile systems. The constant striving to overcome all enslavement and the desire for freedom are a feature of Polish history which have led to significant changes in the life of the nation. And yet where there is victory there are also losers who do not share the joy and triumph of the winners. This particular history of the Polish nation has led the ecumenical group who have written this year’s material to reflect more deeply on what it means to “win” and to “lose”, especially given the way in which the language of “victory” is so often understood in triumphalist terms. Yet Christ shows us a very different way!

In 2012 the European Football Championship will be held in Poland and Ukraine. This would never have been possible in years gone by. For many this is a sign of another “national victory” as hundreds of millions of fans eagerly await news of winning teams playing in this part of Europe. Thinking of this example might lead us to consider the plight of those who do not win - not only in sport but in their lives and communities: who will spare a thought for the losers, those who constantly suffer defeats because they are denied victory due to various conditions and circumstances? Rivalry is a permanent feature not only in sport but also in political, business, cultural and, even, church life. 

When Jesus’ disciples disputed over “who was the greatest” (Mark 9:34) it was clear that this impulse was strong. But Jesus’ reaction was very simple: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). These words speak of victory through mutual service, helping, boosting the self-esteem of those who are “last”, forgotten, excluded. For all Christians, the best expression of such humble service is Jesus Christ, his victory through death and his resurrection. It is in his life, action, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection that we desire to seek inspiration for a modern victorious life of faith which expresses itself in social commitment in a spirit of humility, service and faithfulness to the Gospel. And as he awaited the suffering and death that was to come, he prayed that his disciples might be one so that world might believe. This “victory” is only possible through spiritual transformation, conversion. That is why we consider that the theme for our meditations should be those words of the Apostle to the Nations. The point is to achieve a victory which integrates all Christians around the service of God and one’s neighbour. 

As we pray for and strive towards the full visible unity of the church we - and the traditions to which we belong - will be changed, transformed and conformed to the likeness of Christ. The unity for which we pray may require the renewal of forms of Church life with which we are familiar. This is an exciting vision but it may fill us with some fear! The unity for which we pray is not merely a “comfortable” notion of friendliness and co-operation. It requires a willingness to dispense with competition between us. We need to open ourselves to each other, to offer gifts to and receive gifts from one another, so that we might truly enter into the new life in Christ, which is the only true victory. 

There is room for everyone in God’s plan of salvation. Through his death and resurrection, Christ embraces all irrespective of winning or loosing, “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3,15). We too can participate in his victory! It is sufficient to believe in him, and we will find it easier to overcome evil with good.

Eight Days reflecting on our change in Christ 
Over the coming week we are invited to enter more deeply into our faith that we will all be changed through the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The biblical readings, commentaries, prayers and questions for reflection, all explore different aspects of what this means for the lives of Christians and their unity with one another, in and for today’s world.

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