Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Christian Unity Week Recap

January 18-25, 2010, marked a week of prayer for Christian unity. King's College set off the first week of the spring semester in recognition of Christian unity. For many, the week was a great way to start off the semester.

For the first event of the week, accomplished iconographer Raymond Mastroberte explained what goes into the making of icons. Icons are sacred paintings of Jesus Christ, Mary, the saints and other holy persons and are important in Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic tradition. They are usually painted on wooden slabs and with luminous colors. The images are without shadow in order to portray the fullness of the pictured person's devotion to God. Icons must be painted according to a specific style, and many resemble ancient Byzantine Christian art from over 700 years ago.

Mr. Mastroberte explained how icons convey messages. All serve to convey the pictured person's holiness. Moreover symbols are often used, such as the three stars which often appear on Mary's tunic which symbolize her virginity before, during, and after her Son's life. Mastroberte displayed his favorite icon, a picture of Christ holding up the twin towers which he was inspired to paint right after 9/11. Each icon, he went on to explain, is a translation of a theological concept into color. Finally, Mastroberte discussed relations between Orthodox and Catholics, positing that perhaps each could learn from the other.

Wednesday, the Madrigal Singers of Wyoming Seminary performed at the chapel for evensong--an evening prayer service. They sang Taizé hymns with resolute candor. Said King's sophomore Matthew Hacker: "It was a great opportunity in the first week to build our spiritual awareness and strength for the rest of this semester." He continued that it was a beautiful event to experience God's love, and he lamented that more King's students couldn't make it.

Later that night, a Taizé prayer service was held on the 12th floor of Holy Cross Hall. Calming, repetitive music made for a reflective atmosphere. The music was followed by a scripture reading and a period of silence. King's junior Ben Foreman reports: "the Taizé prayer provided a great opportunity to take a break from all the work and activities associated with being back at school, and to just sit, relax, and reflect." He added that "the music and meditative atmosphere were great for prayer. Spending some time with God is always needed."

Taizé, many believe, embodies the spirit of ecumenism. Taizé prayers come from the Taizé ecumenical monastery located in France. Since 1949, Protestants, Catholics, and other Christians have belonged to the community at Taizé. Taizé services are ostensibly tailored so that all Christians are able to participate. The Madrigal singers sang Taizé hymns at the Evensong event, which was attended by Catholics and Protestants.

Thursday, several students and faculty members met for a luncheon in the Walsh room on the third floor of the Student Center. In attendance were chaplains from various Christian denominations, including King's own Fr. Aguilar. Sitting round the long table that was enshrouded by a crisp white table cloth, the chaplains fielded questions and conversed with students. The group discussed topics such as lax church attendance among some youth, the growth of Christianity in other parts of the world, individual choice regarding Christian faith, the church and the modern world, and even the abomination of desolation.

One train of thought that was consistent throughout the conversation was the comparison of church as the body of Christ vs. the church as an institution. One chaplain pointed out that many people today are not looking for highly institutionalized bodies of faith but rather for Christian communities that participate in outreaches to those in need. From the conversation, one garnered that ecumenism is a grassroots movement, usually occurring when people from different Christian backgrounds band together to worship God, to give aid to the poor, etc. In such situations, Christians must look for what brings them together, what makes them fellow travelers in Christendom. Christian unity, therefore, is achieved more in action than in doctrine. However, Christian institutions like churches still have their place. As one of the diners said, churches are composed of individual followers of Christ and should not be thought of as organismic things separate from the faithful. Regarding how Christian institutions differ, another diner lauded the richness of the various Christian traditions. Other table guests noted that mutual respect between different churches is characteristic of ecumenical gatherings.


Thursday night, students gathered in the candlelit Moreau Auditorium to witness an impassioned performance by a local Christian band called Velveteen. This was perhaps the best attended event of the week. Afterward, students participated in an open mic session which included a guitar duet, a poetry recital, and a country song. Most unique about the night was that students and band members alike spoke freely about God in a social setting. Furthermore, the setting was casual and intimate. The coffee house is a nice low-key alternative to a bar or a night club. More events such as this should be encouraged where students can live their own culture.

Although some the events this week were less than fully attended, all events gave the students who did attend the chance to join together before God and were therefore well worth the effort.

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