In this week of prayer for Christian unity, before one can pray an idea of what the prayer is for always helps. Christian Unity seems like a descriptive enough phrase, but what does that exactly mean. Christian of course is disciples of Jesus Christ, but that term unity requires a little thought. The dictionary definition of that term is a state of oneness, but has Christianity ever met that definition of unity? From the beginning of the church there were the Jewish Christians of the diaspora, Jewish Christians of the mid-east, and the gentile Christians. Each was distinct groups that strived for unity with Christ, and prayed intensely for that unity of beliefs. Perhaps their prayers were the first prayers for Christian unity. They did become united through doctrine, though I wonder if they were united through culture. Even in unity there is at least a certain amount of variation. Other examples of variation within that title of unity are the religious orders, each following a distinct charism but united in one Church. All are part of one piece, but each with a little variation.
In thinking of this Christian Unity, I began to think of a musical note on a page. Does that single note illustrate Christian unity? I don’t think so, and as I think back on that early Church I don’t think it could ever be thought of as a single note on a page. Every person that heard that gospel brought their own persona to that gospel, giving each rendition a slightly different pitch. Each religious order adds tone and timbre to that note, as does each region of the world where that gospel is preached. Perhaps rather than a single note being the ideal of Christian unity, a chord would be a more appropriate representation. A chord is not the single note, but rather two or more sounding simultaneously. According to music theory those simultaneous notes can be played as either harmonious or dissonant. Might a prayer for Christian harmony, be better than a prayer for Unity? Harmony allows for all the subtle variations and richness of a tone, while still being mindful of the root tone. Musicians describe harmony as the vertical aspect of a piece of music, while the melody is its horizontal aspect. Might Christian unity be a single harmonious melody, rather than that single note infinitely repeated? It seems that before the modern schisms between Orthodoxy and Protestantism and Catholicism there was that harmonious melody. It seems though to have morphed into a more percussive dissonance, which is more noise than music. It is as if each musician is playing as they see fit, while ignoring the intentions of the composer. Might Christian Unity best begin by reexamining the composers score? Perhaps I should pray for that.