Perspectief 2014-26

2014-26 The Changing Face of Unity, or: Cutting the Right Edges 23 Reag eer There is this story of a sculptor who moulded a fine piece of art. When visitors of the art studio applauded at the results and were amazed by its beauty, they asked him for his technique. The artist simply declared that the image was all the time there. He only had to cut off the right edges in the proper way. Catholicity is one of the profound marks ( notae ecclesiae ) of the Christian Church to be always there, though we may not always see it and be aware of it. And could it be, that due to the fact that it’s there, yet hard for us to see in to our estimations, the way catholicity expresses itself would change more or less? Sometimes catholicity comes to the fore as we expect it, as the glistering third of the four crown jewels of the church universal (one, holy, catholic and apostolic), as a keen and caring predisposition to unity, truly governed by the idea that only united with all the saints shall we ‘be strengthened to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth of knowing Christ’s love’. 8 However, at another moment catholicity expresses itself not in this royal way, because it just changes its face. The hidden gift of catholicity may then be displayed by other characteristics of the church. The attributes of the church cannot be sliced up into four or more separate pieces. The pursuit of visible unity, which catholicity represents, can only be fulfilled if all fundamental gifts work together. Accordingly, the mark of catholicity may occasionally behave differently, and may reveal itself in an almost concealed way. The gift of catholicity is the remarkable gift of ecclesial creativity to change from appearance, and yet to remain the same. 9 Due to all kinds of circumstances, the appearance of unity may change. Family beyond divisions In Early Church times Christians called one-another brothers and sisters. Christian life was like family life. When the Christian community was disrupted, endangered and scattered throughout the region due to persecution or other threats, new avenues were found to 8 Eph. 3:18-19. 9 Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik IV,1 783-784: ‘es redet von einer in allen Verschiedenheiten sich überlegen durchsetzenden Identität, Kontinuität, Universalität’ (…) In dem Charakter dieser Selbigkeit existiert sie (…): ich glaube (…) die Existenz einer Gemeinde, die (…) in allem Wechsel ihrer Gestalt unveränderlich ist’.