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:
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.