Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark Tuesday, March 17th and from there took a train over to Malmö, Sweden. I spent a couple of days here before taking a Euro rail train to Karlsure, Germany for the new Old Catholic bishop's consecration. Fr. Rickard and Kristoffer (an Old Catholic seminarian from Sweden) were my hosts in Sweden and gave me a whirlwind tour of some of the magnificent church building in Malmö and Lund. The picture above is one of the many historical church buildings of the Lutheran Church of Sweden.
One of the very first thoughts that came to my mind was how rich and ancient the history here in Europe is. Most of the Lutheran church buildings in Sweden have a Roman Catholic gothic architechture -- beautiful in its own right -- and the liturgies here are more Anglo-Catholic than the Anglo-Catholics! In this particular church building I visited its underground crypt where bishops were buried before and after the sixteenth-century Reformation. To be able to touch a bishop's tomb from the twelfth-century was extraordinary, and reminded me of how short life truly is.
The Old Catholic communities here in Sweden are small quantitatively, but large qualitatively. Meaning, Old Catholics in Sweden have a dynamic calling to try and relate to the state run Lutheran Church of Sweden as well as their neighboring Anglican Church in Denmark. The quality and sense of authentic communion is ripe with the Swedish Old Catholics in that they seek to live out in diverse ways their communion with the Anglicans in addition to fostering a closer relationship -- centered in mutuality and repect -- with the Lutheran Church of Sweden.
It is here that I cannot help but recall the words of the Swiss Bishop and theologian Urs Küry (d. 1976) in defining Old Catholicism as being a manifestaion of the Western Catholic Church through the ages whose mission it is to "return to the principles of the Early Church;" not in imitating it anachronistically, but affirming the essentials that has always been received and accepted by the universal church, i.e. the authority of scripture and tradition, sacraments, episcopal ministry, and conciliar/synodality governance. What unites us in communion is our common baptism into the life of our Triune God. Baptism is the eucharistic essence of the church -- the gathering of the baptized in celebration of Christ's life, death, and resurrection -- and is the primary identity of the Sophia-Spirit that energizes the assembly to gather as ecclesia in Christ's name at the Mass. My stay in Sweden was the beginning of many wonderful experiences awaiting me in Germany and in Prague, Czech Republic.