Our Archdiocesan archivist Rachel has dug up for me an old service order with this on the front cover:
A Meeting of the People of God
sponsored by the Fortieth International Eucharistic Congress
and the Victorian Council of Churches
Thursday 22 February, 1973
Melbourne Cricket Ground
“Love One Another as I have loved you”
Today’s Theme: Unity in Christ
It’s all very sweet–and slightly unreal from today’s perspective. Imagine filling the MCG with an ecumenical worship service today. Nnnoooo… can’t quite do it…
But what is really touching is the introduction to the service on the front page. Here are a few snippets:
This is a meeting of God’s people…
Watch the crowd assembling…think of another great crowd of people–five thousand of them–who gathered long ago around Jesus not far from Lake Galilee. Jesus is with us too in this gathering of his people…
Relax… we are here to enjoy being together, to enjoy the processions and the music, to enjoy singing God’s praise and hearing his Word and offering our prayers, to enjoy eating togheter in a kind of symbolic picnic…
Think about the service which is soon to begin… We couldn’t have gathered in this way ten years ago, could we? Not from our different denominations (as we call them)… meeting in one big crowd like this, and getting to know one antoher as persons…
What will it be like in another ten years… This expression of the Church’s visible unity?
You have to admire their optimism. A bit like “those magnificent men in their flying machines” back in 1913 who said to themselves, “We couldn’t have flown around like this in our bi-planes ten years ago–think of it, we might be on the moon in ten years time!”
Given this sense of hyper-optimism, one can sort of understand why a document like the Clarifications on the Doctrine on the Church might disappoint a few. Unfortunately, what the Council actually said and what many in their enthusiasm heard the Council saying were two different things.
The moon remains a long way off.