Holy People: A Liturgical Ecclesiology

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It is the voice of the Church, echoing that of the prophets, apostles and Christ. A moment of silent recollection gives time for each to meditate on the Word received.

In an ecumenical spirit of fidelity to the original text of the Nicene Creed, we use here that form approved at the Council of Constantinople in , as was done at the Lima Conference and at the WCC Central Committee meeting in Geneva. The th commemoration of this Council in by and large restored this primitive text to its rightful place of honour, reconciling East and West in the expression of fundamental faith. The prayer of intercession unites the believing community, now nourished by the Word of God, in prayer for the needs of the Church and the world. The liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the presentation of the bread and wine, accompanied by two benedictions from the Jewish liturgy also used in the revised Roman Catholic liturgy , and by a prayer inspired by the Didache.

This preparation is completed by the very ancient eucharistic acclamation " Maranatha " "Come, Lord! The great eucharistic prayer begins with a composite preface, which also take its themes from the BEM document. First of all, thanksgiving for creation is focused on the life-giving Word, giving life in particular to the human being who reflects the glory of God. In the fullness of time Christ was given as the way, the truth and the life. In the account of Jesus' life, the preface recalls the consecration of the Servant by baptism, the last supper of the eucharist, the memorial of the death and resurrection, and the presence of the Risen Saviour in the breaking of the bread.

Finally, the preface refers to the gift of the royal priesthood to all Christians, from among whom God chooses ministers who are charged to feed the Church by the Word and sacraments and thereby to give it life.

Gordon W. Lathrop

In conformity with the Alexandrian and Roman traditions, the in-vocation of the Holy Spirit the epiclesis precedes the words of the institution of the Holy Supper. The epiclesis asks for the Holy Spirit to be poured out, as on Moses and the prophets, on the Virgin Mary, on Jesus at the River Jordan, and on the apostles at Pentecost, to transfigure the thanksgiving meal, so that the bread and the wine become for us the Body and the Blood of Christ. The idea of transfiguration by the Spirit of life and fire is in-tended to point to the consecration of the bread and wine in a sacramental and mystical manner transcending all our understanding and all our explanation E Just as the beginning of the epiclesis took up the themes of the preceding Sanctus O God, Lord of the universe , you are holy and your glory is beyond measure , so too the beginning of the institution links up with the epiclesis and to its response, by referring to the Ho-ly Spirit.

This indicates the unity of the action of the Spirit and of Christ in the eucharistic mystery. The Holy Spirit accomplishes the words of the Son who, "on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread The Holy Spirit "makes the historical words of Jesus present and alive" E The blessing of the bread and the cup is accompanied, as in the Jewish liturgy, the passover meal in particular, by thanksgiving. The rendering of "Do this for the remembrance of me" is preferred in order to avoid the subjective idea of a mere souvenir.

The eucharist is a memorial, an anamnesis , i. The acclamation which concludes the institution has been adopted in many recent liturgical revisions: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Swedish, American Lutheran.


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It associates the congregation with the proclamation of the memorial. The anamnesis is the celebration of the "memorial of our redemption".

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The sacrifice of the cross and resurrection, made present and active for us today in the eucharist, is central in the anamnesis. But, as the BEM document says, what is recalled in thanksgiving in the eucharist is the whole existence of Christ E6. In the present liturgy, certain events are emphasized because they correspond to the BEM themes: the baptism of Jesus, his last meal with the apostles, his ministry as High Priest who makes intercession for us all. In the eucharist the whole people of God are united with Christ's unique priesthood, each member in accordance with the charism and ministry received.

We present the memorial of Christ, i.

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The eschatological acclamation is uttered as an act of faith affirming the coming of the Lord: " Maranatha "! The eucharist, given in the Spirit to the church as a precious gift, is received by the Father as an intercession and a thanksgiving, one with the very offering of the Son which reestablishes us in the cove-nant with God. In a very beautiful text of , Luther showed how the interces-sion of Christ and the offering of the Church are intimately united in the eucharist:. It is not we who offer Christ, but Christ who offers us to the Father.

In this way, it is permissible, indeed helpful, to call the ceremony a sacrifice; not in itself, but because in it we offer ourselves in sacrifice with Christ. In other words, we lean on Christ with a firm faith in his covenant, and we present ourselves before God with our prayer, thanksgiving and sacrifice, only in the name of Christ and by his mediation Christ welcomes us, he presents us, ourselves, our prayers and our praise to God ; he also offers himself in heaven for us He offers himself for us in heaven and with himself, he offers us. A second epiclesis then invokes the Holy Spirit on the congrega-tion, a fresh outpouring consequent on communion in the Body and Blood of Christ.

This effusion of the Spirit rallies together the Body of Christ, the Church, and inspires it to spiritual unity; it makes the congregation a living offering to the glory of God; it anticipates the coming Kingdom.

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Here, once again, the eucharistic prayer is punc-tuated by an acclamation: either the response "Veni Creator Spiritus", echoing the second epiclesis , or, once again, the eschatological " Maranatha ". According to the Western tradition, this is where we mention all those for whom we wish especially to pray, remember those who preceded us in the faith, and all the cloud of witnesses by whom we are compassed about. These mementos make explicit our concern for the whole Christian community on which the Holy Spirit has just been invoked, which explains their location here after the second epiclesis.

In a shorter liturgy they could be omitted and their content transferred to the moment of intercession No The introduction to the Lord's Prayer recalls the unity of all Chris-tians in baptism, which incorporates them into the Body of Christ and gives them life by the one Spirit. This unity of Christians permits them to say together the prayer of the children of God, the Lord's Prayer.

It also permits them to renew among themselves the peace of Christ and they give each other a sign of reconciliation and friendship. The breaking of the bread during the Agnus Dei hymn is announced in the manner of the Reformed tradition: "The bread which we break is the communion in the body of Christ In the prayer of thanksgiving we give thanks to God for the unity of baptism and the joy of the eucharist; we pray for full visible unity and for recognition of the signs of reconciliation already given; final-ly, we pray in hope that those who have already tasted of the meal of the Kingdom may also share the heritage of the saints in light Col.

After the final hymn before the benediction, the presiding minister may give a brief message of dispatch on mission, for exam-ple, by repeating the central biblical text on which the sermon was preached. This eucharistic liturgy may also be shortened in order to adapt it to different circumstances. The introductory part may consist only of the hymn, the saluta-tion, the litany of the Kyrie and the Gloria , , omitting the confession.

It may even consist simply of a hymn - a psalm or Gloria - and then go straight into the prayer 1 or 6, then 7. The liturgy of the Word always begins with a prayer, suited to the season, the festival or circumstances. There may be only two lessons instead of three: the first lesson or the Epistle, and always the Gospel.

Between the two readings a psalm and alleluia, or simply the alleluia, may be sung. The sermon should always focus on some aspect of the message of the Word of God. The Creed has not always formed part of the eucharistic liturgy and it may be reserved for Sun-days and feast days. A choice may be made between the intercession 16 and the mementos 25 , using only one or the other.

This would then give the simplified pattern: sermon, silence, preparation for the eucharist 13, 14, The liturgy of the Eucharist always begins with preparation It necessarily includes the following elements: the preface 19 adapted to the season, festival or circumstances, and permissibly in a shorter version; the first and second epiclesis 21 and 24 ; the institution 22 ; the anamnesis 23 and the conclusion The mementos may be omitted if already integrated in the intercession The prayer of peace after the Lord's Prayer can be omitted, retaining only the announcement: "The peace of the Lord be with you always The prayer of thanksgiving may be a free prayer, provided it is always brief and well-structured.

The liturgy ends with a final hymn, if possible, by a brief word of dispatch on mission, according to the occasion, and by the benediction. The life of the first Christian community is described in the Acts of the Apostles as follows: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and prayers And day by day, attending the temple together and break-ing the bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people.

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were be-ing saved" These verses epitomize the whole life of the Church through the ages. The Church will assume different faces through the centuries but only if these fundamental elements are found within it will it tru-ly be the Church of Christ. We have here the model by which it will be able to measure this fidelity in the course of history.

All periods of renewal in the Church will be due to the return to these original springs. In this description of the primitive Christian community, seven elements may be discerned which must always be respected by the Church if it is to remain faithful to its origins and keep within the succession of Christ's purpose and of the apostolic founda-tion: the hearing of the Word of God, the celebration of the breaking of the bread, the offering of prayers, concern for com-munion as brothers and sisters, the sharing of material blessings, the unity of praising God and witnessing in the world, and the mission accomplished by the Lord who builds the church and in-creases it.

The Christian community is born of the hearing of the Word of God: the reading of the Bible and the preaching of the Word. Thanks to the meditation on this living Word, it is gradually built up and strengthened.

The Holy Scriptures, read, preached and meditated on, distinguish the Christian community radically from every other human society or religious group. The increasing assimilation of the main themes of the Word transforms the com-munity; it becomes a place of liberation, peace, joy, celebration, friendship, influence and hope The Church cannot live unless it constantly returns to this life-giving source, the Word of God. This is why its worship is focused on the reading of the prophets and apostles, on the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, on the preaching of and reverent reflection on the Truth in the Spirit.

This Word of God feeds the Christian community and makes it grow; it makes it a centre of attraction and it sends it out into the world to announce the glad tidings. On Easter evening, the Risen Lord, joining his disciples on their way to Emmaus, interpreted to them the things concerning himself in all the scriptures. His Word prepared their hearts to recognize him. But it was when he sat at table with them, when he took the bread, blessed it and gave thanks, that their eyes were opened and their hearts, set on fire by his Word, recognized him in the breaking of the bread Lk.

This is why, when the Church celebrates the presence of the Risen Lord in its midst, chiefly on the Lord's Day, it proclaims his Word and is fed in the thanksgiving Meal: it recognizes him in the Scriptures and in the Breaking of the bread. Thus the complete Christian liturgy includes the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of the Eucharist. This proclamation and this celebration are surrounded by the prayers of the Church. The first Christians "devoted themselves to The primitive Church continued the discipline of Jewish prayers.

It wished to observe day by day, with regularity, "the prayers of the hours", in the Temple in Jerusalem, which would be at the origin of the liturgy of the daily office. This liturgy included the singing of psalms, the reading of the Word, and intercessions. This regular offering of prayers by the Christian community seals the communion of the Church and constitutes a sacrifice of praise and intercession in which its communion with God is constantly renewed.

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