From the Editor

“I KNOW MORE THAN YOU DO!”

During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (its bookends are days on which the church remembers Saints Peter and Paul), ELCA Lutherans and Roman Catholics gathered in the undercroft (to the non-traditional: read “basement”) of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

The event had two parts. The first was a panel discussion focused on the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” a version of which representatives of the two churches inked in Augsburg Germany more than a year ago. The second part was a joint Vespers service upstairs.

I attended both events. Appropriately, I thought, the two center doors at the Basilica are named for Peter and Paul. (Following my Lutheran instincts, I entered through the Paul door.) The discussion itself was energized by the wise reflections of Susan Wood (Roman Catholic) and Merlyn Satrom (ELCA).

During the worship service, sitting in the big, gloomy nave, I was reminded of a visit I’d made to this place 20 years before. On that occasion I’d asked a tour guide to explain to me why what looked like the letters “A” and “U” were chiseled in stone high atop two pillars flanking the altar area. (This time I looked again. A & U haven’t gone anywhere in 20 years.)

The guide’s transparent response was refreshing. He told me the ecclesiastical design team gave the builders templates for “Alpha and Omega” (the Greek letter omega looks like an upside-down “U”) and told them to chisel them into the two blank stone shields waiting to receive them. But the builders, not knowing Greek, ‘recognized the letter U when they saw it.’ In effect, the builders told the designers, “We know more than you do.” They chiseled in the letter “omega” — upside down!

There’s a parable here. It’s been speaking for a century, in the Basilica nave.