The response to yesterday’s post was, even by the standards of the usual comments here, phenomenal; I feel immensely blessed by you all – so thank you, both those who commented and those who just read and pondered.

The questions which arose about ‘essentials’ and ‘incidentals’ (my terms, and not perhaps the best ones, but let us stay with them for now) produced so many searching questions and incisive answers that it seems sensible to sat with them for a while and see if between us, we can make anything of them together; I know by myself I would get lost, but think with the guidance we are providing for each other, that won’t happen. Where will it lead? I honestly don’t know, but it seems good to be led.

The context, of course, was my little rallying cry that if Christians don’t hang together, we will probably hang separately, given the foes we face. That was not, let me emphasis, especially for those not familiar with earlier posts on the importance of orthodoxy, a plea for some sort of syncretism. This post, I hope, says something of where these thoughts came from, and this one, something about my attitude towards what divides us.

My friend crossingthebosphorus spoke powerfully from that Orthodox tradition he so admires, and writes about so well, when he articulated the difficulties thus:

 I was thinking generally of such essential things as the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist, and different theological perceptions. I don’t consider these to be merely “incidental.” So then the question becomes where do we draw the line at essential and incidental? And how far are we willing to toss aside certain beliefs and practices in the interest of unity? At what price are willing to accept such unity?

Anyone familiar with Orthodox Apologetics will recognise the authentic sound of that tradition. A good set of comments from Servus Fidelis which spoke in the authentic voice of the Catholic tradition, about preserving different Liturgical tradition as long as there is unity on the position of the Pope and the Creed, drew forth an excellent response to the effect that for all the problems between these two great historic Churches, there were even larger hurdles in the way of unity with so many Protestant churches.

In many ways, this encapsulated and said in short compass what the Catholic Congregation for the Defence of the Faith document Dominus Iesus said at greater length and in more detail back in 2000.

Between them, Servus Fidelis, like kathleen came to focus on ‘the deposit of the Faith’, with the former adding something which produced great responses:

 it is certainly possible to live our individual lives in such a way to invite others to join us and experience the joy we share in Christ Jesus. 

And it was the lovely Tom Mcewen, who went from there and linked it in a most helpful way back to ‘essentials’:

For me the essentials are the Eucharist because it gives us grace and tears to make us human.

2. the two commandments that Christ has given us, which is core of what we seek if we are to follow Christ and do God’s will.

3. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked,….heal those of a broken spirit. Mt 25:35
Those are my essentials.

His marvellous comment: ‘ I do what Christ calls for and for the rest is beyond my pay grade’ is a good place to rest for now.

But it seems that the Eucharist, which has been a sign of divisions, is also a common focus, and that a common service to Christ, are parts of what is ‘essential’.

I’d love your views, and try to take them into the next few posts if there is interest.