I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the unusual Advent Vespers series at “Graymoor”:http://www.atonementfriars.org/ focusing on…Islam.
The idea was to use the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, a time of hope and anticipation, to reflect on a recent letter to the Christian world from 138 Muslim leaders and scholars from several countries.
The awkwardly named letter, known as “A Common Word Between Us and You,” can be read “here.”:http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en&page=responses
Anyway, the first speaker was Dominican Sister Anne Tahaney, a member of the Archdiocese of New York’s Catholic-Muslim dialogue.
Here’s the lead from Beth Griffin’s “coverage”:http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0706917.htm for Catholic News Service:
GARRISON, N.Y. (CNS) — During Advent, Catholics are called to “put on the armor of light, to be peacemakers beating swords of war and anger into plowshares, and to poke holes of light into the darkness which often seems to permeate our lives,” according to Dominican Sister Anne Tahaney.
“The common themes of Advent, expectation and waiting in joyful hope call us to reflection and peace, yet tension and stress surround us in our own personal lives, and war and death and destruction loom daily before us in newscasts,” she said.
Tahaney taught in Pakistan for 29 years.
We were not allowed to proselytize, but we like to think that we taught by example. In doing social work, teaching in schools and ministering in hospitals, we shared our lives with Muslim people. Many of the country’s leaders were born in Christian hospitals and educated in our schools.”
She also said:
Dialogue concerning the letter is the work of scholars and theologians. Yet we, by the witness of our very lives, must be responsible agents in letting the light of Christ shine through our being.
On the second Sunday of Advent, the speaker was Metropolitan Michael Javchak Champion, the archbishop of New York and metropolitan of All America for the
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Michael grew up in Peekskill and I’ve been working on a profile of him that will run in the Journal News/LoHud.com one day soon.
He noted that there has been no official response to the Muslim letter from any Orthodox Christian leader.
Here’s a piece of what he said:
Orthodox Christianity probably lives the closest to our Muslim brethren than does any other Christian branch. This has been true throughout the course of history. Throughout the Middle East and parts of Europe, Orthodox Christians and Muslims
live side by side, many times in a very amicable environment. I know for a fact that in Jordan and Syria, among other places, there are not great difficulties between the two faiths. We have parishes in our Archdiocese that are of Arabic origin. The differences however are striking.
I know places where our clergy and parishioners associate freely and closely with their Islamic friends, especially those from the same areas. On the other hand, I am familiar with Orthodox who will continually argue and complain about the Islamic faith, pointing out what they see to be the “errors” of Mohammad and the truths of Christianity. It’s not a pretty picture.
When you think about it though, we should not be surprised that Christians, especially Orthodox (and Catholic) Christians look with such distaste upon those who believe differently. It can be understood why some, whose minds are perhaps not yet open to the “newness” which the Reign of God ushers in to us, prefer to repeat and repeat, arguments of who is right and who is wrong, while ignoring what is in common and failing to see the opportunities to work together for the good. When one is taught their whole life that they belong to the “one true church” against which “all others are false and fall short of the grace of God,” it is only natural that they might take the time to exhaust themselves on polemics.
This Sunday’s (Dec. 16) speaker (Vespars will be at 4 p.m.) will be the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, deputy for interfaith and ecumenical relations for the Episcopal Church.
The final speaker, on Dec. 23, will be me.