Unity is colorful
Uniform – Fascinating images
Everyone knows such paintings: boys’ choirs in uniform festive costumes, athletes in uniform sports outfits, soldiers in uniforms. This is already something: 20, 50, 100 or even more people wearing the same clothes. They are all uniformly dressed. It reminded me of a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome, where over 1,000 of the faithful had entered St. Peter dressed in yellow scarves. Immediately, associations like community, strength come to my mind. I would like to belong to it.
The external image often tempts us to attach the unity of the community to external things. Wearing the same clothes suggests the same habits, same preferences. And when the other person thinks and acts differently, the surprise is great. I did not think so …
Unity is not uniformity
In order to understand unity and then want to live it, one must first of all realize that unity is not uniformity. First I will deal with the realm of facts. The mountain meadow looks gorgeous. If you come closer you will see flowers and grasses of very different shapes and colors. The symphony consists of a multitude of different sounds produced by different instruments.
Diversity: a hallmark of our Church
Pentecost: Many peoples gathered in Jerusalem at that time, each hearing the apostles preach Jesus’ message in their own language.
Diversity among the Apostles: Only in the circle of the apostles can one see diversity: Peter and Paul, James and John – and the Bible tells us that the apostles also fought fiercely with each other on some matters (circumcision, keeping the Jewish law).
Paul: Many gifts of grace and one Holy Spirit
In 1 Corinthians, Paul describes the diversity in the church. He talks about the various gifts of grace he experiences in the church. He uses the Greek word “charisma” (the word “charming” is derived from it). Do you know the charisms (gifts, talents, abilities) of others (your family members, sisters, associates …)? It could be exciting (though not easy) to exchange ideas on this topic.
Paul sees a great enrichment in diversity, but also a danger, for example in the formation of small groups or divisions. Therefore, he calls for unity (1 Cor 1: 10-17).
One body and many members
Paul compares the variety with the image of the human body: one body but many members. Not only each member has a role and is important, but even each member is necessary (“The head cannot tell to the feet: I don’t need you!”). Anyone would agree to that immediately.
But the reality is different. Time and time again there are divisions in the world (past and present): “We don’t need him / her.” (foreigners we do not need; children we do not need in worship …).
Reflective question: Can you find Corinth in my life (in our monastery, in my family …)?
Unity has a purpose
Image of the human body can help us understand unity. Because the unity of many limbs has one goal: life. Especially in our body, we feel very quickly how much life is in danger when the limbs fail (sprained foot, headache).
Thus, unity does not just result from uniform appearance or uniform rules. They can indicate that everyone has a common goal.
In the case of athletes it is the will to win that binds them together, in the case of singers it is the joy of music.
The image of the human body can also be well applied to a community.
The external uniformity (religious habit, common prayer life) is a sign of a common goal that unites them – despite the individuality of their members: they want to serve life.
This applies to both physical and spiritual life, the life of the individual, as well as the life of the community.
And those who serve life also serve and give glory to God. There are many examples of this in the Scriptures, such as “Whatever you did to one of my brothers and sisters, you did to me.” (Matthew 25:40); or “I have come that they may have life and have it fully.” (John 10:10).
This is what Paul means when, in the diversity of the members, he speaks of one Spirit who animates all.
Prelate Dr. Stefan Dybowski
01/18/2021 Conference for the day of recollection at the monastery St. Augustinus, Berlin-Lankwitz