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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Lamb's Supper Part 4 - Dissecting the Mass

This part of the study actually took 3 weeks to do in our parish setting as it involved so much, but I am publishing all three parts here as one as it gives a flow to the whole focus of the chapter in Dr. Hahn's book.  Essentially, we are going to dissect the Mass into its component parts, and as necessary I will also "Anglicanize" some due to the fact the Dr. Hahn's book is a Roman Catholic text, and there are some elements the Anglican Mass has that the Roman Mass doesn't, and therefore they will be included.

Scripture and Holy Tradition both tell us that there is an order to our worship.  And, despite much of the "touchy-feely" stuff we hear and see in American Christianity today, order and routine are actually not bad things.  As a matter of fact, and as Dr. Hahn notes, order and routine can be indispensable to a good, godly, and peaceful life.  Faithfulness to our routines demonstrates as well a love for what we do, and where better to demonstrate that than in our worship of our Lord!  Life, and specifically a life of faith, must be lived with constancy, and not based on "how we feel," because feelings are fickle and can change at a moment's notice.  Our faith, therefore, is deeper than emotion, and that depth is expressed best in a set order of worship we call liturgy.  

Routines are not just good theory, but they also work in practice too.  The more routine we develop, the more effective we become in that which is the object of our routine.  And also, routines free us from the stress over small details, because the good habits that an established routine foster develop and take over, and thus the "minors" are covered.  This security is liberating to the mind and heart, and that acquired liberty allows us to move upwoar and onward in our life's pilgrimage.

The liturgy, therefore, is the habit which makes us more effective (and highly so!) in religious duties as well as life in general.  The major reason for that is that liturgy engages the whole person - it is not just a cerebral exercise of sitting, singing a few songs, and listening to a motivational talk, which is what so much of this "seeker-friendly" church stuff we hear about does, but rather it makes us participate with our entire being - body, soul, and spirit.  And, therefore, we as Anglican Catholics don't just hear the Gospel, but we see, smell, and taste it as well.  Let me give you a good example of how that works for our Eastern Christian brethren.  Back in the day when many Eastern people were being evangelized, there was a great problem with illiteracy among many ethnic groups, in particular those in Eastern Europe.  So, the Eastern Church utilized the icon as an aid to communicate the Gospel to these people, and icons in themselves became an evangelistic tool - even today, when you speak of creating an icon, it is said that that iconographer is writing the icon, not painting it.  To illustrate this further, let's take a look at a Romanian country church in which the entire Gospel story has been presented in icons all over the exterior of the church building:

As you can see, if it were not for the foresight of the sainted missionaries to these regions to use a holy image as a teaching aid, many people would not have received the Gospel message.   Therefore, icons have become an integral part of liturgical worship, although at times our Fundamentalist Protestant brethren miss that.  

Let us now consider the term "Sursum Corda," which is a Latin term meaning "Lift up your hearts."  This petition is an integral part of the Mass that we will discuss more in detail later, but the reason it is important here, as Dr. Hahn notes, is that because the Mass is heaven on earth, our hearts are to be lifted toward heaven in our participation in worship.  However, to understand it more clearly, we need to also see what the component parts of the Mass are, as the rest of this study today will focus on that.  Unless we understand both the parts and the whole, the Mass can run the risk of becoming a mindless routine that is devoid of heartfelt participation, and if that happens, the full benefits the Mass offers us will not be realized, and we may even risk partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily if we are not careful, which is something we do not want to do.  With that then, we begin the dissection of the component parts of the Mass.

The typical Mass (or Liturgy) is composed of two parts - the first is called the Synaxis, or Liturgy of the Word, and the second is called the Eucharist, or Communion of the Faithful.  Every Liturgy of the Church - East and West - can fundamentally be divided into these two component parts.  In turn, each one of these is further composed of specific rituals, all of which are important and lead to the primary focus of why we are there - Jesus Christ at the center of our worship. The Synaxis, for instance, is composed of the Processional, Introductory Rites, Penitential Rite, readings, recitation of the Creed, Homily, etc.  The Eucharistic Rite in turn is composed of the Sanctus, Eucharistic Prayer, Communion Rite, etc.   It is important to understand that although many actions are involved, the Mass is still one offering that centers on Jesus Christ, and our renewal of covenant with Him.  If we understand that cardinal fact - what we call the Christocentric focus of the Mass - it will prepare us to better grasp why we do the various things we do, as they all point back to Jesus Christ as the focus and sole object of our worship and adoration.  

One of the very first actions of the Mass is the Sign of the Cross, which summarizes our faith in one single gesture.  The Sign of the Cross is not some "Roman Catholic innovation," as some Fundamentalist hardliners often charge, but rather is an ancient practice that goes back to the beginning of the Church itself.  In the second century AD for instance, the Church Father Tertullian wrote that "in all travels and movements, in all our comings and goings, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead with the sign of the Cross." (Tertullian, On the Soldier's Crown, Ch. 3, as quoted in Peter Gillquist, Becoming Orthodox {Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 1989} p. 119)  St. Anthanasios, in his great classic work On the Incarnation, also said that "by the sign of the Cross, all magic is stayed, all sorcery confounded, all the idols are abandoned and deserted, and all senseless pleasure ceases, as the eye of faith looks up to heaven from the earth."  (St. Athanasios, On the Incarnation, translated by John Behr {Crestwood, NY, St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 2011} p. 82).  Even Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther acknowledged the importance of the gesture, as he wrote in his Small Catechism the following - "In the morning when you rise, make the sign of the Cross and say, 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen." (Gillquist, p. 119).  Other Reformers, such as Calvin and Wesley, also had no qualms with making the Sign of the Cross, and the churches that claim heritage from all these - Methodists Lutherans, and some Presbyterians - still make the Sign of the Cross in their worship.  With Anglicans of course, it goes without saying, as it was an integral part of the Book of Common Prayer from the beginning too.  The thing is, this simple gesture is a very powerful one, and now we shall see why.

The Sign of the Cross first off reminds us of the covenant that began at our baptism, and serves as a renewal of our baptismal commitment (especially when signed with holy water).  It also confirms the Trinitarian faith into which we were baptized, and it proclaims our redemption by the Cross of Christ.  The Cross, it must be remembered, is the means by which salvation is offered to us, and it is the means by which we become partakers in the divine nature as well.  And, this simple sign embodies the entire Creed - it affirms the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Redemption.  A very profound expression of the Sign of the Cross is found in the Eastern Church, in which the sign is made in a very specific way.  First, the thumb, index, and middle fingers are held together to represent the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Second, the ring and pinkie fingers are folded into the palm of the hand to represent the dual nature of Christ - fully God and fully man at the same time; two natures in one person.  To illustrate it, here is a diagram of how it looks:

In the West, most Christians tend to make the sign without a specific hand gesture like this, but the Eastern sign serves an educational/catechetical purpose, as it communicates profound and fundamental theology to the person who makes the sign. If we see it this way, the Sign of the Cross then is not only an act of worship, but it is also a reminder of who we are too, not to mention who the object and focus of our worship (Jesus Christ) is.  Historically, and the "liturgically-correct" way to make this sign is to sign ourselves whenever the Trinity is invoked - "In the name of the Father + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen!".  This reflects a family relationship as well, namely the inner life and communion of and with God.  Christians after all are the only religion where the mystery of God being one, but also a family, is something we affirm and profess - God is our "eternal family," and the Sign of the Cross reminds of that.  The sign of the Cross also serves to remind us that Holy Baptism is a sacrament of the Church (from the Latin sacramentum, "oath") that binds us to the family of God (Christ's Church).  Therefore, the sign of the Cross serves a similar purpose for us as swearing on a Bible in a court of law.   We are therefore not mere spectators in worship, but actual participants, and therefore our participation witnesses fully to the totality of truth.  It also serves to remind us that by the Cross of Christ, Satan was defeated, sin was cancelled, and the full and perfect sacrifice was made in full.  So, by identifying ourselves with the Cross in physically signing it upon ourselves, we bring its power into action (Gillquist, p. 123). 

Another important part of the Mass is the Penitential Rite, which we find in our Book of Common Prayer on pages 75-76.  An ancient document of Church discipline called The Didache reminds us that an act of confession should precede our participation at the Lord's Table.  In making such a confession, no one accuses us but ourselves, as "we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly Thy wrath and indignation against us." (BCP, p. 75).  It is also reflected in a short prayer prayed before we receive Communion in the Anglican Mass called in Latin the Domine, Non Sum Dignus ("Lord, I am not worthy..." People's Anglican Missal, p. 299).  As we pray the latter three times just before approaching the Eucharistic table, we are encouraged to smite our breast as an act of contrition with each time we recite the prayer.  These components of the Mass serve to remind us that, as St. Paul writes, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23, NKJV) and as St. John reminds us as well, that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1;9, NKJV).  It also serves to remind us that even the best of us, with the best intentions, screws up - Solomon in his proverbs reminds us of this when he wrote that "for a righteous man may fall several times, and rise again..." (Proverbs 24:16, NKJV).  It is important to remember that we don't have to be perfect to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist, but we do have to approach the Lord's Table in humility and contrition, and resolve those things which would cause us to partake (to our peril) of the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily.  Hence, the purpose of the Penitential Rite in the Mass.

One of the next important components of the Mass is what is called in Greek the Kyrie Eleison, which simply means "Lord, have mercy."  Depending on the type of Anglican parish in which the Mass is offered, this is found on page 70 of the BCP and is either recited in its 3-fold or 9-fold form (our parish does it 9-fold).  In the mid-19th century, an anonymous Russian writer penned a spiritual classic that was semi-fictional but contained great spiritual truth entitled The Way of a Pilgrim, and the focus of this entire book is on what is called the Jesus Prayer.  The Jesus Prayer is essentially the full Kyrie, and its full text is "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me a sinner."  As traditionally prayed in the Eastern Church, an aid called a "prayer rope," which is similar in many ways to a Rosary, was utilized upon which each knot the Kyrie was prayed.  As we look at The Way of a Pilgrim on page 75, we see why this is so - the Gospel and the Jesus Prayer are one and the same, as the divine name of Jesus Christ itself contains within it all Gospel truths.  The Holy Fathers (as documented in the 4-volume Philokalia) say that the Kyrie is indeed an abridgement of the entire Gospel, and as we pray it, what we are essentially praying is this - "Anointed one who is our salvation, give us your kindness and compassion, although you by all right should punish us severely."  It is also in conjunction with what we pray in the Lord's Prayer when we say "Thy will be done."    Although it is not treated as a specific devotion like this in the Anglican Mass, it still is an important Trinitarian petition in that it, by either its three-fold or nine-fold expression, appeals to all three persons of the Godhead to extend this mercy to us.  Mercy, after all, is among the greatest of God's attributes (note Exodus 34:6) and in Scripture the appeals to God's mercy as reflected in the Kyrie may be found in Matthew 15:22 (the Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter who appealed to the mercy of Jesus for her daughter's deliverance), 17:15 (the father who had an epileptic son and sought Jesus to heal him), 20:30 (the two blind men on the Jericho road), and Psalm 6:2 (King David's suffering from a physical ailment).  In these contexts, the Christian East is consistent when it incorporates the abbreviated Kyrie into what is called the Great Litany, which consists of several petitions chanted by the priest to which the faithful respond "Lord, have mercy."  In short, the message of the Kyrie reminds us that it is by the mercy of Jesus alone that we are allowed to partake of His Table, and our acknowledgement of that prepares us for just that.  

A third component of the Mass common to many historic liturgies is what is called the Gloria in Excelsis (Latin for "Glory be to God on high").  In the Anglican Mass, we find it in the Book of Common Prayer on page 84, and it is recited or sung most Sundays of the year with the exception of Lent and Advent seasons.  The Gloria, as Dom Gregory Dix notes in his seminal On the Shape of the Liturgy (New York: Seabury Press, 1945) enjoyed a long usage in the Christian East, but was not made a part of the Western liturgical form until around AD 500, although it was introduced around AD 363 by St. Hilaire of Poitiers during his exile to the East (p. 456).  Due to the joyous nature of the Gloria, it is omitted during Lent and Advent due to the fact these seasons are more penitential in nature and therefore it would not fit.  Also, the Gloria in Excelsis is not to be confused with the shorter Gloria Patri ("Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, world without end, Amen") which we often hear during Morning Prayer services and is accompanied with the Sign of the Cross.  In Scripture, the Gloria in Excelsis is found in Luke 2:14 (as part of the Nativity narrative) and in Revelation 15:3-4 (echoing Exodus 15:1-21, the "Song of Moses," and in this context a part of the vision of St. John regarding the Tribulation martyrs of the future).  The Gloria expresses praise and adoration to God for blessings we have prayed for throughout our Mass, which is why in the Anglican BCP tradition the Gloria follows the Communion of the People.  There are also echoes in the Gloria of the Old Testament Todah we discussed earlier too.  So, the Gloria expresses the faith of those who know God's providential care, and even when it's not immediately evident, we express adoration to God for those things regardless. 

Being Dr. Hahn is coming from a Roman Catholic perspective in his book and I am directing this study to an Anglican Catholic parish group, there are a few elements that are distinctive to the Anglican Mass that the Roman Catholic Mass doesn't have, and I want to address a few of those here now.  Some years ago, when I first attended a more mainstream Episcopalian charismatic parish called Christ the King here in Lakeland, I learned about a new thing called a collect, and although a cursory observation of an Episcopalian service or an Anglican Mass would give the correct indication that a collect is a type of prayer, I was still at the time wondering "what on earth is this??"  Later, I was to find out that a collect is a very important prayer component of the Anglican Mass, and as the classic catechetical text The Practice of Religion defines the word on page 57, a collect is a "short prayer comprising a number of petitions collected together and said for the people collectively."  The collect, then, serves the same purpose to a degree that the Preface in a Roman Catholic Mass does.  There are several examples of collects in the Book of Common Prayer, and one such example is said by the priest at the start of every Mass and is called the Collect for Purity, and it reads like this - "Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from Whom no secrets are hid.  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may more perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy Name, through Christ our Lord, Amen." (BCP, p. 67).  In addition to this, each Sunday and feast day of the Church has a daily collect which is coordinated with the Scripture readings of that day, and they are usually found with the readings in the Book of Common Prayer.  There are also a series of collects which are part of the service of Morning Prayer, found on pages 17-19 of the Book of Common Prayer.  The collect is a distinctly Anglican prayer tradition, and is part of the liturgical life of Anglican Catholic Christians to this day.

A second uniquely Anglican component of the Mass entails the Summary of the Law and the Decalogue, which are found in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 68-69.  Also at the beginning of a regular Anglican Mass, the Summary of the Law entails two things - love of God and love of neighbor as self - and it is found in Scripture in Matthew 22:37-40.  The Decalogue is simply the Ten Commandments, and it is customary for those to be collectively recited at one Mass per month in the Anglican tradition.  The Decalogue is an important part of the Mass too, as it comprises one of what is called the "Four Pillars of Catechesis," the other three being the Lord's Prayer, the Creeds, and the Sacraments themselves.  The Summary of the Law also tends to summarize the Commandments of the Decalogue as Jesus did by saying that they embody everything Scripture teaches as it relates to worship of God and how we also relate to each other - this is particularly true when one studies some Pauline Epistles, such as Ephesians, as this theme is echoed throughout Scripture.  When the Decalogue is fully recited, after the priest recites a Commandment, the people respond with "Incline our hearts to keep this law," which again correlates to the petition in the Lord's Prayer that "Thy will be done."  Many modern liturgies have omitted the Decalogue from their texts, and that is unfortunate, but the Book of Common Prayer has faithfully retained it, as it is integral to our faith. 

An important component as well of the first part of the Mass, the Synaxis, is the actual reading of the Word itself.  If you remember Hans Urs von Baltasar's "Threefold Cord of Catholicity," the very first is the Word proclaimed.  In the Anglican tradition, it is customary to have two readings (called lessons) from Scripture, one being from either the Old Testament or the Epistles (the First Reading) and the second the passage from the Gospels.  The Gospel readings are organized by the Church calendar often in a book called a Lectionary, and generally if one is a regular attendee at Mass, one will have read through the entire Bible within at least 3 years!  Often, the Fundamentalists like to accuse Catholics of not practicing "biblical Christianity," but the fact of the matter is that the average Catholic - Anglican, Roman, or otherwise - gets probably more Scripture in a Mass than most Protestants get in one of their worship services - we are in reality "Bible Christians" in the truest sense!  And, as Dr. Hahn makes very clear, the "natural habitat" of the Bible is the Liturgy!  Remember Romans 10:17 -  it doesn't say that faith comes by reading, but rather that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  We hear the Word proclaimed throughout the Liturgy, both in its component parts as well as the actual reading of Scripture.  Of course, it doesn't hurt for our people to study the Bible personally too, through personal devotion and also self-catechesis to a degree; a strong Christian, after all, is an informed Christian, and we are challenged in II Timothy 2:15 to "study to show ourselves approved unto God" (KJV).  This is important for our discipleship too, because people may call on us to give witness to our faith when we are in the workplace and other places as well. And, Scripture reading is a luxury we as 21st-century American Christians have that earlier ages often could not afford - in the early days of the Church, even up into the Middle Ages, a general lack of money and a lack of literacy facilitated the need for the Mass to be the primary venue for many to receive the Gospel, although visual aids such as icons (per earlier discussion about the "painted churches" in Romania and elsewhere) also helped.  The bottom line is this - the Scripture readings we have each week for Mass are normal and essential to our preparation for receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  And, that is a big reason why in the Christian East even today during the Liturgy the deacon will often proclaim before the reading of the Gospel "Sophia!" which means "Wisdom, let us attend!"   It is also an important reason why we are exhorted to stand for the reading of the Gospel as well.  So, to use von Baltasar's "Threefold Cord," it is the office of the Church that prepares us to receive the celebrated Word (the Eucharist) by preparing us through the proclaimed Word (the reading of Scripture).  

Of course, after the readings from Scripture (the Lessons) are read, the priest or other celebrant then gives what is called a homily, which is an instructional sermon based on the day's Lessons.  The homily can be from 15 to 30 minutes in length, and serves to instruct the faithful to make the readings of the day a part of their own lives by personal application.  At the close of the homily the Creed is then recited.  There are three historic Creeds that are used in the life of the Church - the Apostles', the Athanasian, and the Nicene Creed.  The third is commonly the one used during Mass, although on Trinity Sunday the lengthier Athanasian Creed is recited by the congregation in order to affirm that Jesus is fully human and fully God, and that Jesus is one part of a triune Godhead.  These three major Creeds constitute another important "pillar of catechesis," and they summarize our faith in a short couple of paragraphs.  However, what is important to remember is that when we recite the Creed, we are publicly and openly accepting the faith of the Church as our own as an objective faith.  In the Book of Common Prayer, the Nicene Creed is found on page 71, and without going into a huge discourse on the Creed, there are some specific issues that often are the object of discussion and debate with certain parts of the Nicene Creed, and I want to spend a little time addressing those.

The first notable aspect of the Creed I want to mention involves the second paragraph, which deals with the person of Christ.  At a certain part of that paragraph - "Who for us and our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man" - it is customary in the West to genuflect at that point in reverence, as it reminds us that Jesus came to earth as a man to save mankind.  In the Christian East, they do not customarily do this, but I find it to be a very reverent practice.  A second aspect has been the source of a great deal of debate between East and West since the Council of Nicea itself, and that involves a phrase in the third paragraph of the Creed that was added later after we profess that "we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father..."  The West later added another part to that sentence that we call the Filioque - Latin for "and the Son" - with the noble intention of trying to circumvent the proliferation of the Arian heresy, which denied the Holy Spirit was a person, as well as subordinating Jesus.  The Filioque was not a part of the original Creed, and personally I still omit it when I recite it myself, but it really doesn't alter the meaning of the Creed or the orthodoxy of faith either way, so it is perfectly acceptable for Western Christians to say it if they feel so led;  however, it is equally acceptable to omit it as well.  Our Archbishop, Mark Haverland, even notes in his book Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice (Athens, GA: Anglican Parishes Association, 2011) that technically it shouldn't even be included in the Creed today, a view that many of us who are traditional Anglican Catholics share (Haverland, p. 143).  But again, it is of little consequence, and it will not imperil one's salvation, if it is said or not. A third issue specific to our Book of Common Prayer involves the statement on the Church following the Holy Spirit in the Creed in its last paragraph.  The phrase "I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church" in the prayerbook omits the adjective "Holy," which should have been included.  The People's Anglican Missal, which many of our parishes also use, does include it in parentheses on page 275, and it is acknowledged by many Anglican scholars to simply be a "typo" omission, something that is concurred by Archbishop Haverland as well (Haverland, p. 142).  This is not theologically significant, and as long as our parishioners are made aware of that fact, the consensus is that we would concur that the Church is indeed holy, as well as Catholic and Apostolic.  The third issue comes in the same phrase too, as oftentimes it is inadvertently said as a slip of the tongue although it is rightly not recorded in the Book of Common Prayer.  That issue centers on the word "believe" in the Creed.  For this, we look to famed Catholic theologian Henri de Lubac, who in his seminal classic The Splendor of the Church (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1956) makes an emphatic point of saying that faith in full sense of the word can only have God as its object (de Lubac, p. 33), and as such, we cannot say we believe in the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church because to do so would be to believe in an institution.  Rather, we believe the Church, and believe in Christ.  The Book of Common Prayer and the People's Anglican Missal both have this worded correctly, so it is not the fault of our liturgical texts, although I have heard people when they recite the Creed in Masses say they believe in the Church, but I think they do so out of habit.  This is yet one of those things we need to educate our people better on.  

If we were participating in a Roman Catholic Mass, at the point of the offeratory the Synaxis would conclude and the Communion of the Faithful would begin, but the Anglican Mass actually concludes the Synaxis with the General Confession, the Comfortable Words, and the Act of Contrition.  The reason for this is to challenge the unbaptized to come to Christ, and also to challenge the catechumens to seriously commit to the faith they have assented to follow.  I feel that this is something that may owe its origins to the influence of the Reformation on the Anglican liturgy, as Protestant theology tends to challenge a person to a more individual faith.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, in that there needs to be an evangelical element to our worship too, but this same thing is notably absent from other historic liturgies of the Church and seems to be distinctive to Anglican tradition.  As mentioned in an earlier part of this study too, this section of the Anglican Mass may have also provided the root for the "altar call" we see that emerged from the revivals of colonial frontier America, as many of the facilitators of those meetings then were Anglican clergy (many being Low Churchmen).  We have already discussed to some degree those sections of the Anglican Mass, and now I want to focus more on the Offeratory.

The Offeratory in the Mass bespeaks a commitment, and is given some physical demonstration by bringing bread, wine, and financial offerings to support the Church's work to the altar of the Lord.  In the early centuries of the Church, faithful parishioners often baked the bread themselves that would be used in the Eucharist, and in the Christian East this is still done today - I myself have a full set of what are called Prosphorae, which are the seals that mark the bread with the sign of the Cross.  It was also customary for faithful parishioners to press and distill the wine as well, and in the Ethiopian Church today this is still done by pressing raisins.  The only requirement for the bread and wine was that the bread had to be a wheat product, and the wine a grape product - in other words, no corn chips, Pepsi, Koolaid, or vodka was to be used!  Even the Evangelical Protestants are faithful to a degree in observing this rubric, although in many cases they use tiny square wafers and regular grape juice rather than wine, as they don't really place the sacramental importance of the Lord's Supper on the same level we Catholic Christians would.  The purpose of the offering is to offer ourselves, and all that we have, because our faith authenticates to us that God can take what is temporal and make it eternal, as well as what is human and make it divine.  Everything we have is offered on the altar, and is sanctified in Christ.  Although the Book of Common Prayer omits this part of the Mass, the People's Anglican Missal does contain on page 280 the prayer we say at the offeratory - "The Lord receive this sacrifice at thy hands, to the praise and glory of His name, both to our benefit and that of all His holy Church."   At this point then too is another important element of the offeratory process, the Doxology.

When I first became a Christian at the age of 16, I attended a Baptist church, and after the offering was taken the classic Doxology was sung that went something like this - "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen."  I thought for many years that this was a distinctly Protestant offeratory hymn until I started hearing it as part of Anglican Masses too, and I thought to myself, "Why the heck are Anglicans using a Baptist hymn??"  I later learned that I had that backwards - it was the Baptists that "borrowed" a traditional Anglican Doxology, and not the other way around!  And, as far as Doxologies go, it is rather new compared to many the Church has.  But, what exactly is a Doxology??  In researching it, the word comes from two Greek words, one being doxa, which translates as "glory" or "praise," and the second is the familiar term logos, which translates as "word" or "speech."   Putting those two words together gives the meaning of "doxology" as being "a word of glory," or to make it even more profound, a "glorious word."   The Doxology, therefore, is a "glorious word" offered by us to God for what He has given us, and we see a second one of these at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer as well.  

The beginning of the Anglican Mass's second part, the Communion of the Faithful, is a proclamation of Sursum Corda, "Lift up your hearts," to which we respond, "we lift them up unto the Lord," because "it is truly meet, right, and our bounden duty" to do so (BCP, p. 76).  The Sursum Corda and the Sanctus serve to remind us that from this point, we will look with faith and not with sight at the mystery which we are about to participate in.  And, that begins the Communion Rite, in which the priest says the Eucharistic Prayer which begins with what is called the epiclesis (calling down of the Holy Spirit through a hand action - in the East it is symbolized by the priest replicating the flapping of dove's wings with his hands) and includes the Narrative of Institution, which is taken directly out of the Gospel narrative of the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist (note BCP, p. 80 - "On the night He was betrayed, He took bread...").  However, this is not a mere narration, but rather the priest speaking in the person of Christ, as it is Jesus Himself who is the principle celebrant of the Mass. That is why when, unlike the Protestants who make it a "memorial supper" they celebrate 4 times a year at most depending on the denomination, the term "in remembrance" is not indicative of a mere memorial, but rather is a renewal of the covenant Christ made with us.  It also doesn't mean that we as Catholic Christians are "killing Christ again" at every Mass we celebrate - it must be remembered that Christ made one, and only one, sacrifice, but through the mystery of the Eucharist that we cannot explain but know by faith, He comes to us because He is not bound by temporal circumstances as we are, as He transcends time and space.  So, yes, we do receive Jesus, and His Body and Blood, when we partake of the Eucharist, but the mystery of how is best left unsaid as the important thing is that we receive it in joy and humility. 

The Our Father (Lord's Prayer) is also said prior to receiving the Eucharist, and as we discussed when studying Guardini's study of the Lord's Prayer, the "our daily Bread" the Our Father talks about is a direct reference to the Eucharist too.  With that, then, we need to briefly discuss what "communion" means.

The Greek word koinonia in the New Testament is the word that is commonly loosely translated as "Communion," and it is used to describe a familial bond - in Communion, we renew the bond we have with our entire spiritual family (the Church, both local and universal) and in doing so some more recent liturgies, such as the commonly designated Novus Ordo Mass of the Roman Catholics as well as a more formalized version in the Orthodox Churches, have a practice called "the Sign of Peace."  This is derived from the "holy kiss" we talked about in the previous study, and it emphasizes the importance of making "peace" with our brethren before approaching the Lord's Table.  Traditional Anglican Catholic Masses don't normally do this, but we show that bond in less formal ways for the most part in our parishes.  This preparation though makes it possible for us to receive Jesus in our midst not only individually, but as a Body.  Therefore it is an integral part of our parish life.

Finally, the Eucharist itself is given to us, and in it we receive Him!  And, in the Eucharist we receive what we will be for all eternity - there is a metaphysical dimension of truth to the sacrament.  And, hence, now we can close by talking about why this all is called "the Mass."

When one thinks of the word "Mass," it conjurs images in the natural mind of some shapeless blob of goo, but of course that has nothing to do with the term.  The term "Mass" comes from the early dismissal in Latin, which was "ite missa est," meaning simply "go, it is sent."  Therefore, this is not to be viewed in lieu of a dismissal, but rather a mandate - we are being commissioned by uniting ourselves to Christ's sacrifice!  Therefore, when we leave the church building, we do so in order to live the mystery, sacrifice, and truth we have just celebrated in our own lives, through the splendor of our ordinary lives in the home and in the society which we live.  And, that essentially covers the basics of the Mass, its component parts, and why we celebrate it as we do.  Next lesson we will begin to see how the Eucharist fits into the Book of Revelation in greater detail.  God bless until next time. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Lamb's Supper Part 3 - The Mass in the Early Church

When you see these movies such as The Exorcist, do you often wonder why they seem to attack and parody the Mass rather than a Protestant religious service?  Occultists tend to attack things in Christianity that exalt Jesus Christ, because they want to mock Him and what He stands for, as He is the central focus of Christian worship and faith.  The Mass, of course, via the doctrine of the Real Presence, is a tangible and very visible expression of the Christocentricity of our faith, and therefore a target of those who wish to come against it.  I recall one of our Anglican priests talking one time about a Mass he was celebrating in which a witch wanted to take a Communion Host and desecrate it for use in some occultic ritual.  Of course, a priest doesn't always have any way of knowing who is what in the congregation, in particular if new people show up, so as he was distributing the Body of Christ to the faithful at the communion rail, this witch took it in her mouth.  Immediately, she went nuts - the report was that she felt as if her mouth was set ablaze, and the Host she intended to desecrate never left the Church as a result.  The Eucharist is a very powerful sacrament, perhaps more so than many of us who partake of it every Sunday realize, and that is why we need to be more educated about why the Eucharist is so important.

And, although occultists and neo-pagans attempt to desecrate the Eucharist today, it is not the first time it has been attacked.  As Dr. Hahn points out in his text, the dominant pagan Roman society of the time often brought accusations and rumors against Christians of "cannibalism" and "human sacrifice" as they were interpreting what was happening through a distorted lens of gossip (which is why one of the Ten Commandments also commands us not to bear false witness, as this is what a false witness entails).  All of this controversy over the Eucharistic meal meant that the early Christians were doing something more than just munching on matzoh and sipping red wine - the Eucharist was (and still is) the most identifiable element of Christian life and worship, and as such it was bound to attract attention.  This is something we see repeated throughout the history of the early Church, and as we will see, why it was taken so seriously.

Among the earliest Christians, only the baptized members of the local congregation were permitted to attend the sacraments, and even discussing these mysteries of faith with non-Christians was often discouraged due to the fact it led to a lot of gossip and false witness against Christians.  And, to them, to be a Christian was to go to Mass.  Luke 24:30-31 tells us that after Jesus was resurrected from the dead and appeared to His disciples, they didn't know who He was until "He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him..." (NKJV).   As the Church was inaugurated at Pentecost some fifty days after Jesus ascended to heaven, it began to grow, and as it did, we read that "they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers..." (Acts 2:42, NKJV).  By the time we get to I Corinthians 11:23, we already see a formula for the Eucharist that was set down by the Apostles, and as such there were several provisions for partaking of this mystery.  For one, the faithful were exhorted to "as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (I Corinthians 11:26, NKJV).  And, "whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the Body and Blood of our Lord," (11:27 NKJV) which is why "let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup, for he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's Body.  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" (11:28-30, NKJV).  This establishes the doctrine of the Real Presence, especially in I Corinthians 11:29, from Scripture, and also explains that we need to approach this Eucharist we receive in a spirit of contrition and humility.  Within the post-Apostolic Church, we have a doctrine of Church discipline called the Didache, which was written very early in the Church's history, and was possibly in use at the time of the latter Apostles of the Church.  The Didache sets "the Lord's Day" as Sunday, and notes that it is necessary to repent of one's sins before receiving the Eucharist, as Dr. Hahn notes on page 31 of his text.  As we will see in the next chapter, a penitential rite developed in the Mass which was partaken of just before the Communion of the Faithful which prepared the hearts of the faithful to receive Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist, as a high regard and reverence for the Body and Blood of Christ identified the communal worship of the Church from its very roots.  Many today ignore this to their peril, either because they don't fully understand or they just take for granted that this is just "a thing we do every Sunday."  We must be careful with viewing the Eucharist in that light, because it can and will have consequences for us either now or when we pass into eternity.

Again too, as we saw in the last part of this study, the Eucharist also has Old Testament antecedents.  For one thing, the prayers of the Passover Seder soon found their way into the Christian liturgical tradition, but even of more interest is another ancient Jewish ceremonial meal called the Todah.  Todah in Hebrew is the same as eucaristw in Greek, and it means "Thanksgiving."  In recent decades, a revival of this tradition has also made its way into the Christian Church as well, and of particular interest is something developed by Maronite Catholic priest Fr. Antonio Georges Elfeghali called the Tauditho meal (Tauditho, like Todah, means "Thanksgiving").  As Fr. Ziad Antoun, the Superior of the Community of Our Lady of Dormition in Ann Arbor, MI, notes, the Tauditho is "a gathering of those baptized in the name of Jesus around His Word of Life, the truth.  We share passages from the Old and New Testaments and from the history of the Church, particularly the Maronite Catholic Church.  Also, like Qoddas (the Mass), Tauditho prayer is a gathering around a meal that symbolizes the unity of those who share in it.  The Lebanese proverb 'Bread and salt unify us' underscores the importance of sharing bread as a unity maker..." (Fr. Antonio Georges Elfeghali, The Maronite Tauditho Meal - A Thanksgiving Meal {self-published, 2004} p. 7).  Although similar in a lot of ways to a Jewish Passover Seder, the Maronite Tauditho also takes the traits of another early Christian meal, the Agape Feast, which I want to discuss more shortly.  Any rate, the main traits of the Todah were first of all being a sacrificial meal shared with friends in order to celebrate one's gratitude to God.  And, it began by recalling some mortal threat, followed by the celebration of the participants of deliverance from that threat.  Its main Scriptural text is taken as well from Psalm 69, and it also consisted of unleavened bread and wine.  Think about how this connects to the Eucharist now - the greatest mortal threat that humanity faces is sin, and when Jesus died on the Cross and then rose again, He was our deliverance from the mortal threat/danger of sin.  Therefore, what better way to celebrate that than in the Eucharist!   This too is why it is called the eucaristw, because it truly is our "thanksgiving meal" from the sting of sin and death, as our Eastern Christian brethren sing at Easter in the beautiful troparion that rejoices with the words "Christ has risen from the dead, by death He trampled death, and to those in the tombs He bestoweth life!"  What Jesus did for us is nothing we should take lightly - He literally saved our lives!  And, in the Eucharist, we continue to receive His grace in that regard, and we do so both in humility and with gratitude.  

And now, we want to talk about that other "sacramental meal," the Agape Feast.  The Tauditho meal that Fr. Elfeghali writes about is a perfect example of a form of the Agape Feast, and in essence it is to be viewed as such.  We Anglicans also have a vestige of this too, as many of our parishes - ours does it at the third Sunday - have of course what is called a "potluck" in which members of the parish come together and "break bread" as a church family.  The "potluck supper" is a nice thing to have, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with having potluck lunches or suppers for the local parish family - as a matter of fact, one very strong attribute I have noted among our traditional "Continuing" Anglican parishes is that they often are very close, and the love parishioners have for each other is amazing - not to toot our own bugles, but we Anglicans have good people among us, and we should feel blessed!  However, the potluck supper is only a vestige of the original Agape Feast, as another group of Christians that exists today has probably a more authentic form of the ancient Agape Feast.  My folks, being Swiss-German on my mother's side in West Virginia, were part of an 18th-century Anabaptist sect called the Dunkards, which many know today as the Church of the Brethren denomination.  One hallmark trait of the Dunkards from back in the day was something they called the "Love Feast," which many of their more traditional congregations still celebrate today twice a year.  The way this Dunkard "Love Feast" was celebrated, as noted by Brethren minister Paul Fike Stutzman in his excellent book Recovering the Love Feast - Broadening Our Eucharistic Celebrations (Eugene, OR:  Wipf and Stock, 2011) has its Scriptural basis in Jude 12, where some caustic rebukes were given by the Apostle to those who were attending these meals only to fill their bellies rather than understanding the true intentions of the feast, and in 2 Peter 2:13 a similar rebuke is meted out by the Apostle St. Peter to people who go out, sin and do wicked things, and then attempt to feast with the faithful.  St. Paul, in I Corinthians 11:21-22 basically addresses a similar problem in the Corinthian church of the time, and he sternly tells these people in effect to eat at home if they are just coming to fill their bellies with a free meal, and also fail to share their food with their poorer church brethren (Stutzman, p, 31).  The purpose of the Agape Feast was not so much to be a meal for satisfying appetites, but rather for bonding the people of God together in such a way that the meal becomes a sort of covenant.  In my understanding of this, the Agape Feast was for the members of the Church to covenant with each other, while the Eucharist covenants them with Jesus - Stutzman states a similar conclusion on page 33 of his text, noting that the first was called Koinonia/Agape while the second was anamnesis.  Therefore, some requirements were placed upon those who partook of this Agape Feast.  First, it involved a sort of group penance - if there were any disagreements among brethren, they needed to be resolved before setting down at the table for fellowship,  This sort of group-penance was physically demonstrated by the sacramental act of footwashing - the reconciled parties washed each other's feet as a form of humility and also an expression of forgiveness for any wrongs.  The next demonstration was also a physical act, called the "holy kiss," which is also practiced in the Christian East as a form of greeting even today.  Then, the actual meal took place.  Unlike the Eucharist, the Agape Feast was a full supper, and using the Brethren/Dunkard model, it often consisted of a roasted side of beef or lamb, bread (in true Penn-Dutch tradition, often with apple butter as well), a thin beef consumme, and cold water for drink.  In the old days, all partook of a communal plate, but some congregations have modified it to include individual plates for the people, but the same requisites still remain.  Personally, this would not be a bad tradition at all to revive in our churches, as we could really benefit from the fellowship bonds a feast like that would reinforce.  As mentioned, there are vestigial elements of that feast in our potluck suppers and coffee hours after Mass, but they don't contain quite the same substance that this Agape Feast does.  If anything, in this case, I would say my Dunkard forebears probably have the most Scriptural concept of the Agape Feast, and it is worth a closer look in its own study. 

The Agape Feast, we see, basically would serve as preparation for the faithful to partake of the Eucharist, because any type of sin or contention in the local Body of Christ would be resolved, and the people would be more prepared to receive Jesus.  It is also worth mentioning too that the ancient Eucharistic Liturgy was locally diverse, but despite the local/cultural diversity, all historic liturgies of the Church have at their center the Eucharist.  That being said, there were basic elements all these liturgies shared, including a rite of repentance, readings from Scripture, a homily by the priest or other minister officiating, the Sanctus, the Eucharistic Prayer, etc.  And, this was an ancient formula that was faithfully expressed within the local liturgical expression used.  This ancient formulae, as noted by Fr, Peter Gillquist in his book Becoming Orthodox (Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 1989) on page 31, consisted of two parts of the Liturgy - the Synaxis, or Liturgy of the Word, and the Eucharist, or Communion of the Faithful.  As it relates to Anglican Catholic tradition, author David Bercot in his book Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up (Tyler, TX: Scroll Publishing, 1989) notes on page 150 that it was the Oxford Movement in the 18th century (out of which many Anglo-Catholics and High Churchmen owe their heritage) that worked toward a restoration of the sacramental in the Anglican liturgical tradition, free of Cramner's Reformed/Calvinistic influences that we see in the 39 Articles.  And, one of those Oxford High Churchmen by the name of John Wesley made the connection between holiness and the Eucharist, which also led to one of the most profound revivals to hit the new American landscape called the Great Awakening.  It is here that I want to sideline a little and relate something very interesting I found out.  

When the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was originally compiled around the year 1549, it drew a lot of elements from an ancient liturgical rite called Sarum (named for the city of Salisbury in England).  The Sarum Rite was one of the most ancient rites of the West, going back in its roots to the time when many of the invading Anglo-Saxon tribes that invaded Britain began to accept Christianity. At the conclusion of the Synaxis, as noted the catechumens and other unbaptized were often dismissed before the Communion of the Faithful began, and in the Christian East, as Anglican scholar Dom Gregory Dix notes, the deacon would proclaim at that time "Let the catechumens depart.  Let no catechumen remain.  Let the catechumens go forth!" and at their departure the same deacon would announce, "The doors! The doors!" which signified to the ushers who were attending the doors to close and lock them against those who would intrude and desecrate the Eucharist (Dom Gregory Dix, On The Shape of the Liturgy.  New York: Seabury, 1945).  This was customary of all liturgies at the time, and it was also a safeguard against persecutors and the pagan societies who would spread unfounded rumors of "cannibalism" and "human sacrifice" as discussed at the beginning of this lesson.   In order to give a more evangelical exhortation to catechumens to seriously consider following Christ, the reformer Thomas Cramner was partially responsible for the addition to the Synaxis of what we now call "The Confortable Words."  (Dix, pp. 644-645).  The "Confortable Words" are found in our Book of Common Prayer on page 76, and they are as follow:

Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn to Him:

Come unto Me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you (St. Matthew 11:28)

So God loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16)

Hear also what Saint Paul saith.  This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (I Timothy 1:15)

Hear also what Saint John saith.  If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins (I John 2:1-2)

What I am about to share with you now is something that is my own personal theory, but it makes perfect sense.  Growing up as I did in a Pentecostal/Holiness tradition, as well as being born again in a Baptist church, I am aware of the fact that one aspect of many church services in these traditions is something called an "altar call."   The purpose of an altar call is to call people to receive Christ as their Savior, and in doing so, many of the same Scriptures utilized in the Anglican Mass as part of the "Confortable Words" are also the basis for what is called an "invitation to receive Christ" in these Protestant Evangelical traditions.  This, I don't believe, occurred out of some vacuum, but rather goes back to the early days of the revivals and camp-meetings of the Great Awakenings of America's early history.  Many of the early revivalists who led those meetings were Anglican priests - some were Low-Church Reformed Anglicans, others like John Wesley were High Churchmen.  For a High Churchman and very devout sacramentalist like John Wesley, I could envision him doing a Mass for a parish and getting the inspiration from these "Confortable Words" to call people to conversion, and the "Confortable Words" we see in the Anglican Mass are in reality one of the prime roots of the altar services we see in revivals and other services among our Evangelical Protestant brethren.  As we will see throughout this study, many things Evangelicals do - even their own baptism rites, as well as specific things such as the Pentecostal teaching on the "Baptism of the Holy Ghost" and divine healing - are vestigial evidences of sacramental roots.  Many of these dear people would probably deny this hypothesis, as they claim that the direct inspiration of Scripture is their motivation for doing what they do, but thing is it was the Church which authenticated and presented the complete truth of Scripture to the world, and as such we have noted that much of the ancient liturgies uniformly contain the same elements, and if one took the time, they could all be shown to come right out of the pages of Holy Scripture!  So, whether they admit it or not, what makes Evangelical Protestants fellow Christians is the fact that they may not have a complete understanding of some things they do, but what they do is derived from the sacramental/liturgical traditions of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, in its many cultural expressions.  Some of us have learned that and have embraced the fulness of the Church's Holy Tradition on these things, but those of us who have made that step need not be arrogant or triumphal with sincere Evangelicals either - these people are still our brethren in Christ, and maybe the elements they have picked up on can help us who are Anglicans, Orthodox, and Catholics to have a greater appreciation for them as well as our own communions.  As we begin to dissect the basic elements of the Mass in the subsequent parts of this study, I will be revisiting that because there is some important truths about the Remnant of Christ that are revealed there.  God bless each of you until next time.