Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 31 is All Hallowed Eve/Reformation Day But There is Yet Hope for Christian Unity

Today is a special day for both Catholics and Protestants.

If you are Catholic, October 31 is All Hallowed Eve, the eve of All Saints Day. All Saints Day honors the lives of all saints who have not been officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. For there are many who have gone before us and are with God in Heaven as saints.

If you are Protestant,October 31 is Reformation Day. On this day 493 years ago, Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral. On Reformation Day, Protestants recall the lives of the reformers - the most famous ones being Martin Luther and John Calvin.

As you can see, October 31 divides Christians. But there is hope. On All Hallowed Eve/Reformation Day 1999, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification saying,

"In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.

All people are called by God to salvation in Christ. Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith. Faith is itself God's gift through the Holy Spirit who works through word and sacrament in the community of believers and who, at the same time, leads believers into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in eternal life.

We also share the conviction that the message of justification directs us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God's saving action in Christ: it tells us that as sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way.

Therefore the doctrine of justification, which takes up this message and explicates it, is more than just one part of Christian doctrine. It stands in an essential relation to all truths of faith, which are to be seen as internally related to each other. It is an indispensable criterion which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ. When Lutherans emphasize the unique significance of this criterion, they do not deny the interrelation and significance of all truths of faith. When Catholics see themselves as bound by several criteria, they do not deny the special function of the message of justification. Lutherans and Catholics share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, who alone is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediator (1 Tim 2:5f) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts."

             - The full document can be found on the Vatican website:

This is so exciting and definitely made my day. We are now one step closer to unity. Of course, there is a long way to go and I doubt complete unity will be achieved in my life time; however, this declaration is certainly a cause to rejoice. Let us continue to love and learn about and from each other, for it is certainly NOT through hatred and ignorance that Christians will ever achieve unity. God Bless You All!!

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