The Octave of prayer for Christian unity
The dates of the Week of Prayer are normally from January 18 to 25 around the world. These dates are chosen because they represent the feasts of two saints significant to our understanding of Christian unity. January 18 is the feast of the confession (or chair) of St. Peter. January 25 is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. Peter and Paul are understood as representing two competing experiences of Christianity which are reconciled in the gathering at Jerusalem (Acts 15). In a similar way, it is understood that Christianity today experiences a multitude of differing expressions of Christianity which are nevertheless ultimately reconcilable.
In many countries the Octave dates are changed to accommodate local arrangements. In Canada, the dates normally include the two Sundays upon which, or between which, January 25 falls. Of course, people are encouraged to observe the Octave at whatever time is most appropriate for local circumstances. Some communities have celebrated the Octave at Pentecost, others have chosen an autumn date. Whatever you choose, the resources are available to support your planning.
Theme: Jesus said to her: “Give me to drink” (John 4:7)
The biblical text of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, chosen by an ecumenical team in Brazil, invites us to try water from a different well and also to offer a little of our own. In diversity we enrich each other. The Week of Prayer for Unity is a privileged moment for prayer, encounter and dialogue. It is an opportunity to recognize the richness and value that are present in the other, the different, and to ask God for the gift of unity.
To drink water from someone else’s well is the first step towards experiencing another’s way of being. This leads to an exchange of gifts that enriches. Where the gifts of the other are refused much damage is done to society and to the Church. “Give me to drink” implies an ethical action that recognises the need for one another in living out Christ’s mission. It compels us to change our attitude, to commit ourselves to see unity in the midst of our diversity, through our openness to a variety of prayer and Christian spirituality.