INTRODUCTION: “Father… may they be one.” This prayer provides a fitting conclusion to the HighPriestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17. It certainly demonstrates the deepestdesire of Jesus for complete unity amongst all His followers. But areality-check reveals various historic and continuing divisions in Christianity,both internal and external, with all their various challenges and opportunities.
While pertinent questions relating to these may not find easy solutionsimmediately, the concern here is to examine common grounds for ecumenicalrelationship amongst believers across all Christian denominations. This studywill be limited to considering some fundamental features of Jean-MarieTillard’s work which contributed immensely towards the concept of ecclesiologyof koinonia (communion). Other conciliar and post-conciliardocuments may be considered for this purpose accordingly.INTRODUCINGJEAN-MARIE TILLARD Engagingwith the challenges of divisions amongst Christians has generated differentdiscourses and pragmatic actions. Indeed, this communion-approach ecclesiologydid not first begin with Tillard. Besides other historical movements anddevelopments,1koinonia gained popularity amongstCatholic theologians in mid 20th century, particularly withecclesiological giants like Yves Congar, who greatly influenced Tillard. Congaremphasises ‘a new development’ of communion of the Church, where believers arebrought into a relationship with the Triune God and with one another.
2 Tillard’s great contributions to this approach arecredited to his “thoroughness, the depth of insight, the mastery of the biblicaland patristic sources, and especially with the ecumenical sensitivity, which (he)has displayed….”3His masterful rendition is rooted in the Scriptures alongside relevanttheological scholarship spanning across earliest, scholastic and contemporaryCatholic-Orthodox traditions. Tillard’s metamorphosis into an ‘ecumenicalpioneer’ and an ‘creative ecclesiologist,’ besides his enriching experience atVatican II, is also traceable to his long-lasting and passionate engagement inpost-conciliar theological-ecumenical conversations and movements.4Adopting a method which combines personal, discursive, and patristic style ofwriting, Tillard primarily focuses on forming a theological language thatreflects common ecumenical framework while facilitating a shared Christianheritage.5Restlessness against the divisionTillard is convinced that the division inChristianity is the most abominable scandal of its history; in his view, therefusal to work towards dissolving these walls of divisions is much more thanother vices that afflict our societies – it is a “sin against the Spirit.
“6This common ground of harmful polarisations is particularly confounding – iteffectively estranges God from humanity, human beings from one another,humanity from creation, faith from life, and more. Indeed, if the communion ofbelievers with the Triune God is separated from or contradicts the communionamongst believers themselves, a sign of poor Christian witnessing, thepossibility of witnessing to the world of the necessity of the gospel messageis weakened significantly. The complexity of this unsettling “phenomenon ofestrangement,”7and Tillard’s restlessness in finding a common path, define his ecclesiology ofcommunion.THE CHURCH OF CHURCHES IN COMMUNION Common Elements What sort of communion and unity ispossible amongst Christians considering the realities on ground? What Church orChurches should be so considered? Tillard’s systematic ecclesiology primarilyconsiders a local church (if applied in today’s Roman Catholic parlance, adiocese), that is a local Eucharistic community, which is in communion withother local churches.
Although some editors may have interpreted Tillard’s ideaas an addition or an amalgamation of local churches, he vehemently denies andrebuffs such view as a scandalous misinterpretation, emphasising as follows:I have always affirmed,thousands of times, the contrary…that the Church of God is the communion…oflocal churches that exist, have existed, or will exist…There is this singlefaith, this single baptism, this single Eucharist, this single (apostolic)ministry which the Spirit offers to the human community of Corinth, of Rome, ofLyons, of Milan, of Ottawa, of Harare and which, accepted by them, makes themChurches. By this faith, this baptism, this Eucharist, this ministry, allindivisible, these Churches are among themselves in communion.8 This affirmation contains what defines the gatheringof human communities anywhere, in the Name of Christ, to be called a church.Such gathering is linked with a faith-and-action-oriented acceptance of the mentionedgifts of the Holy Spirit. Other fundamental elements include universalmissionary undertakings, common prayer, worship, liturgy, martyrdom, Christianmorality and structures as containing the essentials for all denominationalChurches.9They contain the common seeds for engaging in a faithful-and-fruitful Christianenterprise in general and for any meaningful ecclesiology of communion inparticular. They form the building blocks for identifying and strengthening thepillars of the Church (or Churches) of God in oneness, holiness, apostolicityand catholicity. The most prominent element is the uniting faith in the Christevent: faith in the Person, Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ, whichculminates in the Pentecost event.
This event effectively sprang up the premierapostolic community, the first Christian church, which included but grew beyondthe first disciples who witnessed the actaet dicta (actions and words) of Jesus’ ministry.10Tillard particularly identifies the relevance of theLetter to the Ephesians,11 forunderstanding the fundamentals of ecclesiology of communion. The key theme isthat of reconciliation and unity in the Body of Christ, who is in perfectcommunion in the Godhead and in whom ‘the new humanity is established and madeready.
’12It is in the flesh of the Crucified Christ that all the hatred, wickedness and separatingwalls – between humanity from God, and humanity from themselves – are ultimatelyand effectively abolished (Eph 2:13-16). Thus, the new, post-Pentecost,understanding of communion between God and humanity is not in doubt just as theChurch, in all its diversities, bears this message of reconciliation andforgiveness as the ‘new living sphere of all people opened up for them on theCross.’13Communion here entails solidarity, prayer andsharing faith and life with one another and these are underpinned by the factthat humanity is often marked by its history of pains and joys, projects andproblems, burdens and blessings.14Tillard employs an allegory for his many-sided explanations of the Pentecostevent, opposing it to the drama of Babel. While Babel, for instance, with onelanguage (counting the pollution of human intention) confuses, separates,divides, brings hatred, antipathy and eventually death, the Pentecost event,with many languages (counting the work of the Holy Spirit) occasions areunification and reconciliation of diverse peoples.15Thus, the Pentecost event reverses the misfortunes of a divided humanity andthe Church, beginning with the first apostolic community, becomes effectivelyempowered to proclaim the message and mystery of salvation, as revealed,throughout the world.
The Church is thus a mystery of the God-human spherewhere Salvation is given by God in Christ, received by faith through baptismand ultimately celebrated in the Eucharist. An individual person becomes amember of a local church where communion with others is nourished. Ultimately’the flesh of the church,’ the communion of believers, is inseparable from hercommunion with ‘the Flesh of Christ,’ the Risen Lord.16The visible is in a mystery communion with the invisible, in ahorizontal-vertical pattern. Tillard asserts that the gift of the holiness inthe Church is inseparably linked with the holiness of Christ; this is necessaryfor avoiding the temptation of such human communion becoming ‘a gathering ofsinners.
’17Vatican II, in Unitatis Redintegratio,affirmed that this holiness of life is “the soul of the whole ecumenicalmovement.”18It makes the case for strengthening the ‘spiritual ecumenism’ through prayer,and “sharing in the means of grace.”19 Diverse communion across times andplacesThe catholicity of the church is the communion of infinitehuman forms and traditions in theunity of faith, liturgy, sacrament and the Word, albeit differently expressed. Withthis understanding, the “Church of God (is the) Church of Churches, a communion of local Churches, therefore acommunion of communion.
“20The root of the Christian faith in the Christ-wrought revelation of the TriuneGod, including the Tradition that receives, proclaims and celebrates it, cannotbe bound to one or some of these differing traditions. Without denying thesetraditions, the Tradition rather depends on them and equally transcends them acrossall generations.21Thus, the sign of catholicity in communion, for example, is evident in the actualformulation of common faith in the Credo,counting its several versions, which makes it possible to recognise identicalfaith across different traditions.22 The communion in the local church communityeverywhere fits into the three dimensions of time: the present, past andfuture.
It remembers and celebrates the past heritage as being foundationalwhile it is lived and renewed in the present. Indeed, the communion in theKingdom of God is already here but not yet here.23The hope in the promise of the future and perfect fulfillment of communion then provides reasons for deepening andstrengthening it now. This vision ofecclesial communion principally includes but extends beyond the majordenominations, be they of Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Evangelical faithcommunions. It is this deepening of the God-human communion, in the ekklesia tou Theou, the Church of God,with a New Covenant in Christ that fulfills the promise and hope of the ancientIsraeli-Sinaitic Covenant.
Indeed the regular communion at the Old Covenant qahal Yawheh, assembly of Yahweh, is prefiguredand is more excellently accomplished in the Eucharistic communion of the Churcheven though it is already here but not yet here.24Thus, the future realisation of eschatological communion then characterises and is alreadycontained in the communion now.Common Human Condition in HistoryTillard’s ecclesiology of communion does not ignorethe reality of human nature or the twists and turns of human history.
Indeed,the Church of Christ is a single body constituted by several Churches withseveral members performing several functions in several places with differentexperiences and different attitudes. For instance, while the ‘Bible is a fabricof traditions,’25the liturgy and the sacraments similarly develop in diverse forms respectively.It is easy to identify that several traditions, whether Yahwistic, Elohistic,Pauline, Johannine, Antiochine, and later Latin or Eastern rites had manifestedright from the very beginning.26The adaptation to different languages, customs and contexts with differentexpressions and mentalities, becomes necessary in this-sphere God-humanencounter.27This adaptation is concretely manifested at the Pentecost event as theSpirit-led apostolic community publicly expressed themselves in multipletongues to the bewilderment of all (Acts 2:5-12). This event boldly proves God’sinvolvement and design in the beauty of human diversity. Furthermore, Tillard recognises that this communion hic et nunc (here and now) remainssubject to continuous tests and limitations of conflicts which causes divisionsand splits.
While not celebrating the communion of such divisions, it must berecognised that this ecclesial communion is still fragile and imperfect andgoes beyond any visible koinonia.28The visible unity of the church is not uniformity, and it does not have oneopinion or one expression. It is a unity in diversity without which the Churchwill be a dead body although having a pluralism that lacks unity will simplydismember the body.29The specific differences can rather be perceived as assets for the church.
Tillard stresses that the differences are components that are intrinsic to thiscommunion. Thus, Unitatis Redintagratio restates that the Churchsees the endowments of Christ in the separated brethren, as they are notlacking in the mystery of salvation, despite the imperfections and dissensions.30 Itis clear that having or sustaining this ecclesiological unity is not byabsorbing, antagonising or abolishing the ‘differences.’ For Tillard, thisunity: “demandsthat a common reality, a unique value be present in all members andthat all have part init, albeit in diverse ways. There is a radical unity on whichtheir differenceflourishes … by causing the common reality hidden under differences to emerge,one manifests a communion, one reveals the riches ofunity, one acknowledgesthe nobility of difference.
“31Papal primacy, apostolic successionand conversion Howdoes papal primacy and apostolic succession fit into all these as it greatlyaffects the discourse and praxis of ecclesial communion? Tillard, while affirming the primacyof the Bishop of Rome, alongside the need for a genuine fraternal collegiality,categorically rejects the top-down technical-command structure. The Petrineoffice must be exercised by heart, for a true faithful witnessing following theexample of Christ, the Good Shepherd in order to make the internal and externalecclesiological communion easier.32Tillard prefers a broader perspective of apostolic succession or continuity interms of possessing the essential characteristics of the life of the Churchthroughout generations beginning from the original apostolic traditions infaith, the Word, sacraments, liturgy and charity. In his view, apostolicsuccession is not necessarily and cannot be merely reduced to a singleministerial line.33 The shame and thetragic errors of history cannot be merely abolished by mere acts of mea culpa. Indeed, self-denial, thegrace of forgiveness, generosity and the exercise of total humility34 arenecessary particularly for the Catholic Church if the vision of ecclesiologicalcommunion will see the light of day.
These are re-echoed by Vatican II whichinsists that any ecumenism worth its name is impossible without a change ofheart and renewal of mind.35John Paul II in Ut Unum Sint upholdsthat this conversion is necessary for purification of memories from pastmisgivings, prejudices and mutual understandings. The long-standing burdens ofindifference, complacency and mutual insufficient knowledge can only worsen thesituation.36Evaluation:any reality and ideal of communion? Attainingor re-establishing this long vision of Christian unity: a “full visible unityamong all the baptised”37remains the ultimate goal of ecclesiology of communion.
It is one of the majorconcerns of Vatican II.38The pertinent concern is on the reality and future of efforts of variousecumenical movements and ecumenical dialogues which continue to this day. Indeed,the attitude towards other Christian denominations is apparently changing andbearing fruits with the changing language of inclusivity, common ecumenicalcelebrations, and communion through participating in common projects thatadvance common good, charity, peace and justice. Tillard, no doubt, has immensely contributed to this discourseon koinonia: ecclesiology of communionand ecclesiology as communion.Tillard’s approachcombines various elements from soteriology, Christology, pneumatology,Christian anthropology and ultimately eschatology in demonstrating the featuresof the Catholic tradition’s perspective on the ecclesial communion of Churches.39In sum these, the dominant tone is proclaiming that the salvation revealed byChrist, in the power of the Spirit, leads humanity on with all its strugglesand strengths; this enflames the hope of the baptised along the promise of thefullness of communion with the Triune God in the future. Tillard’s koinonia ecclesiology continuously recallsthe need to always heed this tone.Brian Flanagan isquoted as suggesting that one temptation of this visible koinonia approach is the easy reduction of its ultimate goal tosome systematic theological terminologies which will always have the fullsupply of slogans for refreshing ecumenical commitments.
40Will beautifully-crafted theological terms substitute or lead toreal-and-visible communion? Tillard is certain that the reality of ecclesiologyof community seeks more than reconciled differences such that differentdenominations, without the need of renouncing what is specific to them, cancontinue to live as they have been while they offer concrete andcommonly-shared ecclesial values which are mutually non-contradictory and whichare essential for a visible and full communion.41In order to reduce the concerns about realising the “full visible unity amongall the baptised,” and what it will lead to hicet nunc, it seems better to talk about a Church of Churches hic et nunc. Furthermore, while thereality on ground shows that divisions will remain and while one can wonderabout whether and when the efforts of ecclesiologists like Tillard will berealised hic et nunc, the ultimategoal of the eschaton provides thehope against all hopes and provides the inspiration to strive towards the sameunity. For now, one cannot but agreewith Tillard’s reference to the common uniting elements that are found in manydenominations: these provide for ‘spiritual ecumenism’ for all Christians asthe realisation of ‘physical ecumenism,’ given the yet-to-be-resolved humanconditions, may present greater challenges.Without the aboveposition, Tillard’s ecclesiological project may only become idealistic. MaryTanner’s defensive response of Tillard admits that the latter’s passion forecumenism essentially emphasised not the actual but the ideal, but for areason: the mixed and twisted burden of Church history for which he alwaysspoke with caution.
42For this really promising-but-hard-to-forget history of the Church, and withthe introspective question of Augustine: “what have you done with the giftwhich was confided to you?,”43the enormous responsibility at stake necessarily provokes authenticity which willhelp in observing some balance between the reality and the ideal ofecclesiological communion. Although the drama of divisions and great trialshave defined Christianity with outbursts of anguish and suffering which affectshumanity in historic proportions, the conviction that the Church is God’sproject, already fulfilled in Christand now led by the Spirit, never fails.This conviction propels Tillard to make clarion calls at the battle frontlines againstthe Christian division with a restlessness that seeks for authentic ecclesiologicalcommunion while readily admitting of limitations and imperfections in hisideas.
CONCLUSION An attempt hasbeen made to present the essentials of Tillard’s contributions towards restoringecclesiological communion across various denominations. The consideration ofthe common grounds for a ‘full and visible communion,” counting the insights frommagisterial documents, do not guarantee final and conclusive answers on this. Indeed,Tillard’s approach to koinoniadefinitely provides an excellent systematic theological framework, but theultimate solution may ultimately depend on the decisive answer to the High Priestlyprayer of Jesus in John 17:21-23: (Father … may they be One).1 One example ofsuch previous ecumenical approaches is the Lambert Conference of 1920 of theAnglican Communion.2 Mary Tanner, “Jean-Marie Tillard – EcumenicalPioneer and Creative Ecclesiologist,” Ecclesiologist,no. 10 (2014): 377, accessed Jan10, 2018, http://web.
a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1=3f83a9bc-5052-4aee-b5c9-b24be760e4a8%40sessionmgr4006.3 Tanner quotesFrancis Sullivan. Ibid., 378. 4 Tillard, amongother things, served on various international conversations between Roman CatholicChurch on one hand and Orthodox or Anglican Communion on the other as well asat the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.5 Tanner, “Jean-Marie Tillard,” 378.
6 Jean-Marie R.Tillard, I Believe, Despite Everything – Reflectionsof an Ecumenist, trans. William G.
Rusch (Collegeville, Minnesota:Liturgical Press, 2000), 42.7 Ibid., 34.8 Tillard, I Believe, Despite Everything, 24-25.9 Jean-Marie R.Tillard, Church of Churches: TheEcclesiology of Communion, trans. R.
C De Peaux (Collegeville, Minnesota:Liturgical Press, 1992), 157-158. 10 Ibid., 3-5, 17.11 Ibid., 23.
12 Ibid., 19.13 Tillard, Church of Churches, 19.14 Tillard, I Believe, Despite Everything, 13.15 Tillard, Church of Churches, 24.
16 Jean-Marie R.Tillard, Flesh of the Church, the Fleshof Christ: At the Source of the Ecclesiology of Communion, trans. MadeleineBeaumont (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2001), 9.17 Tillard, Church of Churches, 27-32.
18 “UnitatisRedintegratio,” Documents of the Second Vatican Council,(Nov 21, 1964): Para 8, accessed Jan 15, 2018, http://www.vatican.va /archive/ hist_councils /ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html.
19 Ibid.20 Tillard, Church of Churches, 29.21 Ibid., 142.22 Ibid., 167.
23 Ibid., 27,60-63.24 Ibid., 10.25 Tillard, Church of Churches.
, 141.26 Ibid.27 Ibid., 141-142.28 Ibid.
, 33-34.29 Ibid., 320.30 “UnitatisRedintegratio,” Para 3.31 Tillard, Flesh of the Church, 9.32 Tillard, I Believe, Despite Everything, 29-30.
33 Tillard, Church of Churches, 188.34 Tillard pointsout three reasons why the exercise of humility is necessary on the part ofCatholic Church: 1. Save for John Paul’s II asking for forgiveness, manyBishops and theologians continued to justify the past; 2. She can no longerpresent herself as a witness of ‘flawless faithfulness’ considering herparticipation in errors and atrocities; and 3. Christianity is fastlydiminishing while other religions advance.
See I believe, despite page 38-39.35 “UnitatisRedintegratio,” Para 7.36 John Paul II, “UtUnum Sint,” The Holy See, (May 25,1995): Para 2, accessed Jan 15, 2018, http://w2.
vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint.pdf.37 Ibid., Para 77.
38 “UnitatisRedintegratio,” Para 1.39 Tillard, Church of Churches, 319.40 Tanner, “Jean-Marie Tillard,” 375.
41 Tillard, Church of Churches, 319-320.42 Tanner, “Jean-Marie Tillard,” 383.43 Tillard, Church of Churches, 318.