Thursday, July 22, 2010

How I'm Learning to Stop Worrying and Love the Eucharist

For awhile I was on track to being one of those people who take the wrong kind of interest in doing Church right. I didn't hit rock bottom with my attitude at Mass. But I fell a bit. I already stunk at paying attention, and in the last few weeks I had been losing my focus on the center of the Mass! Instead I was getting cheap satisfaction through irritation at small things which may not even have been liturgically illicit, when I stunk at paying attention even besides those.

In my later Protestant years this was already a problem, but I think it might have been made worse by a liturgy with rules. Somehow I got the idea that I should take liturgy really, really seriously, all the time, even if I cheated the Eucharist in the process.

My increasing conviction, not at all the result of just my efforts, led to this Q&A: What's happening here? Jesus Christ is becoming Really Present. What should distract me from that? Almost nothing.

My new policy is twofold. (1) Only things that can affect the Eucharist are big enough to distract me. If it's illicit or lesser, I forget it or file it away. (2) I make an effort to explicitly thank Christ for His body at least twice while at Church.

Anyone else have this problem?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An odd sort of remembrance

Dan brought me on awhile ago, and now, after much needed badgering, I'm finally getting around to writing stuff. I love studying liturgy, and the studying the Eastern Churches. I'm currently working on some posts concerning the 20th century reforms of the rites of the Latin Church, but I just wanted to start with an unrelated very interesting note.

A huge part of the theology of what goes on during the Eucharistic prayer (and the whole liturgy, really), is the idea of anamnesis. 'Remembering' in English doesn't quite give us the full sense. This is a sort of recalling and remembering that actually makes present- now- the event recalled (or, better yet, makes us present to the event). Anamnesis is the Greek term used when Jesus says in the various Last Supper accounts, to 'do this in memory/remembrance of me'.

Remembering is crucial to the Jew and the Christian. It can be seen to stem from the scene in Exodus where Moses pleads with God to remember his covenant, to remember the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so that He will relent and not destroy His people, Israel. In asking God to remember, we recall the covenant ourselves. We recall all that God has done for us, and recall how we have far from lived up to our end of the bargain.

An important part of most Eucharistic prayers then, is the act of recalling the great events of our salvation.

For instance, here is the version from the modern translation of the Roman Canon (aka Eucharistic Prayer I in the Missale Romanum):

"[Preceded by the words of institution]
Father, we celebrate the memory of Christ, your Son. We, your people and your ministers, recall his passion, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into glory; and from the many gifts you have given us we offer to you, God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation."

Or from Rite I of Holy Eucharist from the Book of Common Prayer:

"Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Savior Jesus Christ, we, thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here before thy divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same."

Everything I have said up to now is really just prefatory information. Now, on to the Really Neat Thing!

In the Byzantine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, during the anamnetic part of the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer), we find the following :

"Remembering, therefore, this command of the Savior, and all that came to pass for our sake, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father, and the second, glorious coming, we offer to You these gifts from Your own gifts in all and for all."

Notice anything odd? Anything particularly different from the other two?

Let's look at the sentence taking out all the stuff that gets in the way of noticing this little oddity:

"Remembering, therefore...the second, glorious coming..."

Whaaattt?? How can we remember something that hasn't happened yet? How can we remember the future?

Partly because there's a certain already/not yet tension going on, for in the Eucharist Christ has come again to His people.

But the bigger reason seems to be that there is truly only one liturgy, the heavenly one, and all others are an inbreaking of the eternal liturgy into a particular time and place. For Christ has ascended to the Father and dwells in eternity, where all is present to God. Mystery!!!!

On a side note, in Eucharistic Prayer IV, which is modelled after an Eastern Anaphora, we get the following:

"Father, we now celebrate this memorial of our redemption. We recall Christ's death, his descent among the dead, his resurrection, and his ascension to your right hand; and, looking forward to his coming in glory..."

Which, needless to say, just isn't as awesome....

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Red and the Blue...

Should be treated as apolitical. Basically this is a thought I've had laying around since my Senior year of college, at least. Now it comes out! Hopefully the graphs do all the talking so I won't have to. The case I didn't visualize, where the faith community is off on its own tangent, and the red and black lines converge, is definitely in some "bad" category. Where would you put it?
More graph-themed posts will be coming!