The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity begins tomorrow, January 18, and ends on January 25. The custom was originated by two Anglican priests who advocated corporate reunion with Rome. Of late, the Octave has developed into a more general form of prayer for the reunion of Christendom, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. You can read more about the history of the Octave here, and about the founders of the Octave here.
I’ve often wondered what ecumenically-minded Eastern Orthodox might do during the Octave, especially now that it’s no longer merely a Roman Catholic or Anglo-Papalist custom. Most of the orders of prayer I’ve seen are really unsuitable for Orthodox use, both the older form (reflective of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic ecclesiology) and the newer forms (far too contemporary, not reflective enough of Eastern liturgical ethos and piety, and probably a bit more broadly ecumenical than most Orthodox would be comfortable with).
The website Ancient and Future Catholics presents a version of the Octave primarily devoted to the intention of Orthodox-Catholic unity, but with a secondary focus on the unity of all Christians and the conversion of non-Christians.
We believe the best way to achieve unity between Orthodox and Catholics is twofold: prayer and mutual understanding. This is also how we will accomplish greater unity with our Protestant brothers and sisters. On Ancient and Future Catholics we have always worked towards mutual understanding and now we want to make prayer for visible unity another primary focus. What better way to achieve that goal than to start with the octave of Christian unity? We have several suggestions for these 8 days. The first obvious activity is prayer. Each day we will post prayer suggestions, but above all, we must pray for visible unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, and with other churches as well. Secondly, we will provide a reading from both Eastern and Western Christian writers. This purpose is to help each side become more acquainted with the riches involved in the Western and Eastern heritage. This will also include liturgical texts. Finally, we will give practical suggestions for better relations with individual Orthodox and Catholics, principles which apply also to our relationships with Protestants. Although we are primarily focusing on Catholic-Orthodox relations, our secondary focus will be prayer for the unity of all Christians and the conversion of non-Christians. This effort is not officially associated with any diocese or parish and we are loyal to the Magisterium and our bishops. We are simply laymen trying to live out our faith.
I particularly like the patristic readings assigned for each day. I’d imagine that this form of the devotion would be more accessible to the Orthodox, although, again, it would be better to have a form more reflective of Eastern ethos and piety (I wonder if the various families of Eastern Catholics have a form of prayer for the Octave?).