To end the week of prayer for Christian unity we had a rather different service on the campus this week. Fr John Yanny, a Coptic Orthodox priest, led a time of prayer which included the midday office together, Gospel reading and homily, and a time of intercession with the singing of the Jesus prayer between petitions (the singing was to a coptic tune which didn't respect the western conventions of tonality, dropping semitones all over the place). The Pope affirmed in his audience yesterday that we should continue to have such services of prayer together: "The first common duty is prayer. By praying, and praying together, Christians acquire a greater awareness of their condition of brothers, even if they are still divided; and by praying we learn better to listen to the Lord, as we can only find the path to unity by listening to the Lord and following his voice."
It's very easy to get to think of ecumenism only in our restricted context, surrounded by different Protestant churches. But on a worldwide scale, the dialogue with the oriental churches like the Coptic Orthodox has borne more fruit in terms of advances and growing closer. After the service, Fr John gave a wonderful catechesis on the Epiphany, showing that the whole mystery of Christ is about epiphany - the tearing open of heaven for us to enter in. He explained the relationship between the vision to Jacob of the stairway to heaven at Bethel, the Epiphany of Christ, his Baptism, and the Crucifixion, leading our assembled company of Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists up a catechetical path less travelled.