You know the look! It’s beyond glazed – that moment just before a friend’s eyes begin to roll back, often with a smothered yawn. At dinner with friends last evening at our favorite German restaurant I knew not to bring up the topic – we were there to have fun.
Earlier yesterday I had gasped upon hearing the news. Immediately doing the math, I calculated with delight, yes, I’d live to see the day! I wonder if my expectancy resembles that of a couple who are the only ones in the world who know they are pregnant — an irrepressible impulse breaks open, an indomitable hope and assurance of a future.
The only thing comparable in my lifetime came with the challenge set by President Kennedy on May 25, 1961: “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
With a stillness and the nearly imperceptible display that invariably distinguishes God’s most dramatic “annunciations”, it has been disclosed that Christianity will be getting a Nicaea III. A what? you say! (Please, fight the glaze rolling over your eyes. Resist the impulse to click the “close” icon.)
Who can calculate the consequences of the Great Schism of 1054? History books tell us of the centuries-old split between the Christian East and the West, with all the socio-political consequences from which our world still suffers. Only in our lifetime are we seeing healing, requisite humility and hope for reconciliation – the kind that is beyond human abilities and can only come from God.
The first Council of Nicaea called by Emperor Constantine occurred in 325 and bequeathed to us the core Christian beliefs we profess today – think: Nicene Creed. 318 bishops gathered at Constantine’s summer home to hammer out how this human being, Jesus of Nazareth, could also be God – funny how we seem to have the opposite issue today!
The second Council of Nicaea was held in the eighth century to clarify that it was okay and even helpful to use objects like icons to enhance worship space and prayer – hardly a burning issue compared to Jesus’ humanity and divinity! (Sorry! Glazed eyes are starting to roll… let’s move on!)
Now in our own day, after a thousand years of division bordering on animosity, Bartholomew II, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has announced that an ecumenical “gathering” will be held in Nicaea in 2025 — seventeen centuries after the first ever ecumenical council gathered there in 325!
“The dialogue for unity between Catholics and Orthodox” Bartholomew explains, “will start again from Jerusalem. In this city, in the autumn , a meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission will be hosted by the Greek Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III. It is a long journey in which we all must be committed without hypocrisy”.
Kennedy’s May 1961 challenge was achieved on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first human to step onto the lunar surface – a time frame not unlike the one set by the Patriarch for Nicaea in 2025.
That which was thought to be inconceivable happens even in our lifetime – for even when the past appears barren, nothing is impossible with God! (cf., Luke 1:26-38)
Nicaea is now Iznik, Turkey and rests in a fertile valley aside a lake 56 miles SE of Istanbul.
See the exclusive report with Patriach Batholomew’s announcement [here].