31 Dec – Ecumenical Prayer Service

ECUMENICAL PRAYER SERVICE
IN
ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
31st DECEMBER 1999
ADDRESS BY CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY

There is a lovely story told about King Edwin of Northumbria. In the year 627 he was trying to make up his mind whether to accept the Christian message or not. One of his counsellors stood up and said:
“Your Majesty, when you sit at table with your guests, in the winter when the fire burns warm and bright, and the snow storm is howling outside, it sometimes happens that a little bird flies into the hall. For the few moments that it is inside the hall it doesn’t feel the cold, but as soon as it leaves your sight, it returns to the dark of winter. Now it seems to me that the life of each one of us is like that. We do not know what went before, we do not know what is going to follow. If this new doctrine about Jesus Christ can speak to us with certainty about these things it is well for us to follow it”
The king followed the advice of his friend.

Over the last 2000 years countless millions have asked the same question: Who am I? What is the meaning of life? What is this creature that comes into the brightness and warmth of this human day, hurrying from the mystery of its origins to the mystery of its destiny?

And, over the past 2000 years Jesus Christ has certainly spoken clearly about these things. He has told us that, out of the fullness of His love, God the Father, created us. He sent His Son into the world that we may have access to the Father through him, and become His friends and share His everlasting life, and happiness.

Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. He is waiting for us to open that door. This is beautifully illustrated in Holman Hunt’s famous painting – Christ, the Light of the World. Christ stands with a lantern outside a door that has no handle. The handle is on the inside. It is up to each one to decide whether to open the door or not.

The beginning of a new millennium is a time for hopes and dreams. My hope is that we all become so convinced of God’s love for us and so secure in that love, that we will be able to reach out to others and assure them of our love for them. My hope is that when we realise that Christ has already reconciled us to the Father and to each other, we will see that he is calling us to become a community of reconcilers.
My dream is the dream of the prophet Isaiah, which we are about to hear in the next reading. He speaks of the nations of the world, coming to the light of Jerusalem. Jesus is the light, not only of Jerusalem, but also of the world. And yet, only one third of the world’s population believe in the name of Jesus. My dream is of a new springtime of missionary activity so that many more faces may grow radiant, and hearts throb with delight, at the name of Jesus.

My other dream is that the new millennium will see the great religions of the world join hands to help the developing countries so that the people there can live their lives in dignity and peace.
As we move into the new millennium we rely on the Risen Christ, to calm our fears and give us hope. Love drives out fear. May God’s love be with you, all and always, during this New Year.

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