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Reformation Day

31 October 2011

Today is Reformation Day, and for many Protestant denominations is an occasion of much celebration. I think this is certainly right, because without Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, nailed to the doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral 494 years ago today, the important changes that the Reformation brought about would never have occurred, or at least not at that point. And also, Martin Luther was an inflammatory nutcase at times (e.g. burned the papal excommunication bull, married a nun) so that’s always fun.

At the same time, I think it is a day for some mourning, because those reforms were bought at a great price: the further fracturing of the Church. Already, two great schisms had happened: first in 449, when the Oriental Orthodox split over the Council of Chaceldon; second in 1054, when Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity split. The Protestant Reformation meant yet another major split in the church, and within that movement, further fracturing. These splits cause somewhat irreconcilable differences between people who should be banded together, and is the source of much pain for those of us who claim in the Creed to believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

In light of all this, two prayers—the one more reforming, the one more unifying:

Gracious Father, we pray for the holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen.

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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