“The Church ‘is’ the immaculate and indissoluble unity of the love of the Trinity poured out upon and received by the Handmaid of the Lord.”
The recently-concluded Jubilee year raised many hopes for a united Christian witness to God’s self-gift to the world. We have heard much discussion of the future of ecumenism, as the Christian Churches begin to feel the urgent need for an outward expression of their unity of belief in the triune God, so that the world may believe. I have chosen to approach this subject from an angle that is perhaps unexpected, but which allows us to situate Christian unity in its source in God. The Christian Churches already share the life of God himself, “through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31). In the deepest sense, the unity that we are striving to attain is already given to us in the gift of God. This gift is received by Mary, whose simple assent to the Word of God can lead us towards the witness of being one in God’s life and love. So, before embarking on a discussion of the future of Christian unity, we must join with Mary in listening to his Word, the better to discern the nature of this unity and the source from which it comes.
“That they may be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world might believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). The unity for which Jesus prayed and suffered, the unity he wants to share with all mankind, is the unity of the three divine Persons who are revealed in his death and resurrection. This unity made its entrance into human history when Mary of Nazareth spoke her “Yes” to God’s plan.
The New Testament bears witness that the unity of God and of his plan is a mystery of Love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). When Saint John the Evangelist speaks of the love of God, he is obviously thinking of the Father’s infinite love for the world, but his teaching goes far beyond that. The beloved disciple knows that, “He who loves is born of God and knows God . . . for God is love” (1 Jn 4:7–8). When he writes, “God is love,” he is thinking of God as he is in himself: Trinitarian Love, which has its source in the Father who begets the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The unity of the divine essence, according to the New Testament, must therefore be understood in terms of Love, that is, in terms of the Gift of self that begets the Other in order to be One with him, in the same Spirit.
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