Category : Eucharist

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly–Can Episcopal clergy consecrate bread and wine online?

In the late 1970s, the Episcopal Ad Project began releasing spots taking shots at television preachers and other trends in American evangelicalism.

One image showed a television serving as an altar, holding a priest’s stole, a chalice and plate of Eucharistic hosts. The headline asked: “With all due regard to TV Christianity, have you ever seen a Sony that gives Holy Communion?”

Now some Anglicans are debating whether it’s valid during the coronavirus crisis to celebrate “virtual Eucharists,” with computers linking priests at altars and communicants with their own bread and wine at home.

In a recent House of Bishops meeting — online, of course — Episcopal Church leaders backed away from allowing what many call “virtual Holy Eucharist.”

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

Douglas Farrow on the Meaning of the Ascension for Ascension Day

Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.

–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CLJ) Bernhard Blankenhorn–A Short History and Theology of Spiritual Communion

The food of the Jews has some features in common with our spiritual food. They are alike in the fact that each signifies the same thing: for both signify Christ. Thus they are called the same food: “All ate the same spiritual food” (1 Corinthians 10:3). He calls them the same because each is a symbol of spiritual food. But they are different because one [the manna] was only a symbol; while the other [the bread of the Christians] contains that of which it is the symbol, that is Christ himself. Thus we should say that each of these foods can be taken in two ways. First, as a sign only, i.e., so that each is taken as food only, and without understanding what is signified; and taken in this way, they do not take away either physical or spiritual death. Secondly, they may be taken in both ways, i.e., the visible food is taken in such a way that spiritual food is understood and spiritually tasted, in order that it may satisfy spiritually. In this way, those who ate the manna spiritually did not die spiritually. But those who eat the Eucharist spiritually, both live spiritually without sin, and will live physically forever. Thus, our food is greater than their food, because it contains in itself that of which it is the symbol.[10]

This doctrine serves Thomas well when he asks why young children (in the Latin Church) do not receive Communion, for apparently, Christ himself made it necessary for salvation, when he solemnly proclaims: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Thomas overcomes this difficulty with an appeal to the notion of attaining a sacrament by desire.[11] In his Summa theologiae, he notes that, just as the catechumen who dies before the Easter Vigil can be saved through his desire for baptism, so the baptized believer still lacking access to the Eucharist can obtain its spiritual fruit, and this, even by an implicit desire (as in the case of children who have not reached the age of reason).[12] Aquinas unpacks this analogy with receiving baptism by desire. One can eat the Eucharist “spiritually” before eating it sacramentally in two ways: in the Old Covenant, where the faithful Israelite ate the physical manna along with the spiritual food provided therein, and in the New Covenant, by a desire of receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist.[13] In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Thomas explains: “The person spiritually eats the flesh of Christ and drinks his blood . . . is made a sharer in the unity of the Church, which comes through charity.”[14] Hence, “the sacrament is in reality or desire (in voto),” meaning, the res can be obtained before fruitful sacramental eating.[15]

Hence, desire for the Eucharistic Lord becomes a central theme, theologically and in the practice of piety. By “desire,” Thomas especially means acts of hope and charity directed to Christ. These acts involve the soul’s motion or actualized impulse toward God. Such motion is grounded in the supernatural imprint that the Holy Spirit has left in the heart, more specifically, in the hearts of all believers who abide in sanctifying grace. Aquinas develops this psychology of love in dialogue with Dionysius the Areopagite. Thomas notes that the beloved’s absence induces desire, and impels the believer to seek the joy of the beloved’s presence.[16] Charity enables and produces a holy, selfless desire, while hope imparts a positive kind of eros, the wholesome creaturely longing for divine goodness, which promises to satiate the soul’s God-given natural and supernatural longings.[17] The fulfillment of Eucharistic desire is deeper union with the Incarnate Word:

Thus, in reference to Christ [substantially] contained and signified [by the species of bread and wine], one eats his flesh and drinks his blood in a spiritual way if he is united to him through faith and love, so that one is transformed into him and becomes his member.[18]

The Angelic Doctor also adds a precision to Augustine’s exegesis: sacramental eating should not be seen as superfluous, for this kind of eating (or actually receiving the host, or the host and cup) induces a richer spiritual effect than does spiritual eating alone.[19] In other words, spiritual communion does not replace the Mass, but can grant a powerful though (usually) partial share in the fruits of sacramental reception.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Theology

South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence writes the Clergy in Easter Week

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Risen Lord!

As we continue this journey through the Covid-19 Quarantine, we do so walking with the Risen Christ more fully into Easter, the Great Fifty Days. I pray we can walk in joy and on the right side of Easter. The French writer Louis Evely observed that the disciples before meeting the risen Jesus “were sad because they believed he was dead—and we [too often] are sad even though we believe that he is alive.”

We continue to make this journey with our people in a time of unusual uncertainty: uncertainties regarding the novel coronavirus with confusing, seemingly contradictory statistics, predictions, and interpretations of where we are in this unfolding crisis both as a nation and as South Carolinians; uncertainties also about the flattened economy and of how a financial depression will affect our people and our congregations. Hardly a deanery clericus zoom conference ends without the question being asked just when I think we will be back in our buildings. My answer continues to be that the medical and social state is fluid and it is not realistic for me to predict an answer at this time. My commitment to you is that I will continue to keep in regular communication with you regarding this and other developments and attempt to give you advance notice whenever I can.

For now, we continue to be out of our buildings for public worship. That means for most of you the online services are the primary means of congregational worship. I am however permitting those who believe it will be beneficial for their people the opportunity to administer the pre-consecrated sacrament. Please note this is permissible not required.

In many of our larger congregations, the logistics of offering the sacrament in this manner may only add to the burdens of ministry and therefore will not be helpful or even advisable at this time. Indeed, many of our larger congregations will choose to wait and continue with the present methods of ministry. This may be true for smaller congregations as well particularly where the priest is in the immune sensitive category. Others may find it a welcome “loosening” of a prior restriction.

One final observation for us all. As our nation moves into state and regional models of reopening, we may well be faced as a diocese in realizing that “one size” or model of adapting and reopening will not do for all, at least for all at the same time. I will do my best to protect our unity even as we may not have complete uniformity in the timeline. This may be but one early example. Realistically, of course, all should understand that this has already happened in the shutdown and even continues. Some of our smaller congregations were not able to adapt as quickly or as well as our larger churches to the online worship service models. Frankly, they had the hardest time hearing my Episcopal Directive in closing their churches particularly as attendance isn’t much larger than what others have in order to do a live online service.

Now, for those who are planning to offer the pre-consecrated sacrament to your people these are my directives and recommendations. I will want to have a conference call with those who choose to distribute the sacrament on April 26 early in that week to learn from your experience. We will then evaluate this moving forward.

Directives. The first Sunday this is permitted will be April 26, 2020. You will need to consecrate the bread and, where in prepackaged individual cups, the wine well in advance of the Sunday worship. If you have not already purchased the individual cups, please do not try to construct or assemble your own. Also, please recognize this is not an abandonment of the common cup. It is a temporary allowance for our current crisis. If you do not have the pre-packaged sealed hosts, you will need to package this in sealable plastic bags. You or those doing this shall have thoroughly washed their hands and used disinfectant (and if you so choose, plastic gloves). However, the gloves do not make up for washing with soup and water. Please also use facemasks when packaging. How you distribute this to your people will be determined by your local systems but please instruct those involved to use every precaution of recommended social distancing.

Recommendations: Those parishioners who receive the sacrament should store the sacrament in a respectful place in their home perhaps placing it in a vessel and then putting it in a china cabinet or other respectful, protected place. On the Sunday of the communion, they should place the sacrament on a plate removing the bread from the prepackaged wrap or plastic bag prior to the service. Creating a reverent atmosphere is encouraged. After participating in the online service—the gospel read and preached, creed, confession and absolution, words of institution and Lord’s Prayer, the priest leading the service and the parishioners at home will receive the sacrament. For those who will be viewing the service but without the sacrament please include the prayer for “Spiritual Communion” as a means of including everyone. You may have parishioners participate who choose not to receive the preconsecrated sacrament, who live in a retirement community, or out of town and are viewing your worship service.

Drive by pickup for same Sunday Communion. As you know from the Deanery Zoom calls I’m less sanguine about this but should you choose to do it on the Sunday of April 26 you will need to allow for sufficient time after the service concludes to package the host for distribution for those driving by the church to pick it up. All the precautions noted above shall be employed. This applies to those distributing to the parishioners who drive by the church. Practice the best patterns of social distancing.

I remain grateful for you and your faithful ministry to our Lord and his people and confident we shall be more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us!

May the Peace and Joy of the Risen Christ be with you and the people of God you serve in Him,

–The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence is Bishop of The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina

Posted in * South Carolina, Easter, Eucharist, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

(Church Times) Dana Delap–How we shared the bread and wine on Zoom

LAST Sunday morning, the glorious first Sunday of Easter, I asked my congregation to bring bread and wine to their front rooms and kitchen tables. I was aware that the situation was domestic, but I want to believe in a God who meets us in our homes and places of work, as well as in our churches.

We had a short service of holy communion on Zoom, at which I and many of the 90-plus people who joined me shared together, as our Saviour taught us whenever we gather together. They intended to be fed by Christ with the sustenance that they need for their ongoing journey during their isolation, lockdown, and Covid-19 illness.

As I reflect on the service, I think that it was the least-worst way to offer holy communion. I do not think that I will need to offer it again, unless we are still locked down at Christmas. But it was a gathered community, it was seemly and reverent, and people who were there have described it as a community communion.

Maybe it was even a little more inclusive than communion in church might have been, because I was in my home and so were the congregation. We made a holy space for God into our Sunday to Saturday lives.

Our sisters and brothers in other denominations have been pondering the same big theological questions during this pandemic. I hope that the House of Bishops will spend some time considering the work of those whose area of study is of digital worship — for example, as CODEC (Centre for Digital Theology) at Durham University.

IT MAY be that I am clinging to the eucharist as Mary did to Jesus. I know that, in presiding, I have broken my promise of obedience to my bishop….

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Eucharist, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Episcopal Directive Regarding Spiritual Communion

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Blessed Savior Jesus Christ as we walk with him in the Way to the Cross trusting that it will be for those we shepherd and to us the way of life.

As it seems prudent during this time of public and self-quarantine given the recent requests of national and local government as well medical professionals, for us not to gather in our churches or go to extraordinary means to offer the sacrament to our parishioners in piecemeal manner. Therefore, as I am not rescinding the prior prohibition on distributing the sacrament, I want to offer you some guidance on the matter of Spiritual Communion.

This is especially important as we draw near to Easter Sunday, the Sunday of the Resurrection. It seems appropriate that of all Sundays a priest, if at all possible, should be in the local church, or elsewhere to preside at the Easter Eucharist on behalf of the people of God and in festal celebration of our Lord’s victory over Sin, Death, Satan, Hell, Judgement and Wrath—wherein he trampled down death by death. The Anglican tradition has been for the priest to do this with two or three others being present even if they do not receive the sacrament (see my prior Episcopal Directive).

The ACNA Book of Common Prayer 2019 presciently has a prayer “For Spiritual Communion” on p. 677.

Dear Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to possess you within my soul. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you, together with all your faithful people [gathered around every altar of your Church], and I embrace you with all the affections of my soul. Never permit me to be separated from you.  Amen.

I recommend that you take a moment either after the offertory and before The Sursum Corda, or immediately after The Fraction and before the minister receives to draw attention to this prayer and give a very brief instruction about it. Some have chosen to read it in the place of what normally would be the “Prayer of Humble Access”. The celebrant would then receive the sacrament and, if not fasting in unity with the members of the congregation, the attending priests or deacons then receive. Once again, I reference the guidance of my previous directive. I share with you a comment a parishioner from Christ-St. Paul’s sent to the rector after last Sunday’s Palm Sunday Eucharist, “The spiritual communion was necessary and filled my soul.”

I also recommend for your consideration a seven-minute video, which our retired Archbishop, The Most Rev. Robert Duncan, has made, explaining the history of Spiritual Communion in the life of the undivided Church of the first five centuries, as well as in our Anglican history and the long tradition of the Book of Common Prayer. It is professionally produced, timely, and very instructive. While perhaps too long to show in the midst of Sunday worship, it will benefit those in our congregations if the link is available in advance of the Easter Eucharist.

One brick in this long tradition he did not reference is that found in the 1662 BCP. This prayer book, that is still the standard for many of the Churches across the Anglican Communion, has a rubric regarding spiritual communion in “The time of plague, sweat or other like contagious times of sickness or disease….” Reading such a rubric reminds me of just how relevant the teaching of the Bible remains. As we read in the Book of Ecclesiastes, ‘Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.’ (Eccl 1:10) The rubrics as do the Holy Scriptures continue to guide and teach us. I quote a portion of the rubric for your reference. “But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness,…or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood: the Curate shall instruct him that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore; he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Savior Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.”

One final word. Having followed what many of you are doing on line or by report, as well as in written word, I want to tell you how grateful I am for the ministry and the effort you are making to reach your people, as well as many others far and wide, with the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is an honor to serve with you in this most unusual season. This continues to be a Holy Week unlike any we have ever known. Let us continue to be vigilant not only in social distancing but also in social care—in the ministry of intercession for our world. As Jesus challenged his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “So, could you not watch me with one hour?”

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Bishop Mark Lawrence's signature

The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Eucharist, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology

Paul R. Hinlicky–Why Virtual Communion Is Not Nearly Radical Enough

Now to return to virtual communion and the recommendation for Eucharistic fasting during this divine judgment on our social greed. Let’s take an exemplary proponent, Lutheran theologian Prof. Deanna Thompson, who is now at St. Olaf College. She is a personally credible interlocutor on the question of “virtual” ministry, as she writes out of her excruciating experience of life-threatening cancer in the prime of life. She’s published a book, The Virtual Body of Christ, in which she makes the case for employing the new social media technologies just as the Lutheran Reformation employed the Gutenberg press. I agree with much of this, as I said above. Nevertheless, I respectfully and yet sharply disagree with her urging in the present pandemic crisis that people at home should set up bread and wine, as if to participate via the Internet in the live streaming of the Lord’s Supper liturgy. As I’ve listened and pondered the arguments being made in favor of this proposal, I have come to a certain realization which I would like briefly to argue here.

Let me begin, by affirming that Christ is “really” in the preached word which can be conveyed through these media. He is really present to offer himself in his righteousness, life and peace for the auditor’s sin, death and disease. Long ago, however, I discovered that in the Lutheran confessional writings what was at stake was never this so-called “real” presence but rather the “bodily” presence of Jesus Christ according to his word and promise. What difference does this apparently subtle distinction make? Answer: historically it excluded the so-called “spiritual” (or “real”) presence as the specific blessing or benefit of the Lord’s Supper just as it excludes notions of “invisible” church as the “real” church as opposed to the visible assembly gathered around Word and sacrament. By the Holy Spirit the word of the gospel awakens faith and if we want to speak of “spiritual presence,” we are talking about this ministry of the Holy Spirit who makes Jesus Christ “real” to us. But what differentiates the Lord’s Supper is the promised presence of Jesus Christ personally in his own body-and-blood, so that the blessing is not merely privative, the forgiveness of sins, but also positive: life and salvation on account of this specific union with Christ that consists in physical eating and drinking in the common meal of the Lord.

Why does this specificity of Jesus’ bodily presence matter? For one thing, it concerns the identity of Jesus Christ as the very body born of Mary and crucified under Pontius Pilate but vindicated and exalted to be present in his glorified body for the gathering of his faithful. This act of identification is precisely what the Lord’s Supper liturgy depends on, the specific act in the gathering as the church when a specific loaf is picked out with the words, “this is my body given for you….”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

A paper from the London College of Bishops:The Eucharist in a time of Physical Distancing

Consistent with this position, we offer several options for parishes as long as the current physical distancing restrictions apply:

  1. Some parish churches may wish temporarily to suspend the celebration of Holy Communion until they are able to meet together in person again. We are already having to cease the practice of public Baptism for the duration due to the restrictions placed upon us, and so a church may choose to do the same with the other dominical sacrament. As one incumbent put it recently: “We will take this opportunity to fast from the Sacrament while we feast on the Word.”
  1. To ensure congregational involvement, where a parish church wishes to continue to celebrate the eucharist within the current advice issued by the London College of Bishops, and only the priest can be present, it should, whenever possible, be livestreamed, so that others can at least (as Cranmer put it) “see with our eyes” even if they cannot “smell with our noses, touch with our hands and taste with our mouths.” This enables the kind of spiritual reception that is at the heart of the sacrament, even if physical partaking is not possible.
  1. If that is not feasible, at the very least, it should be clearly advertised in the parish and among the congregation when the Holy Communion is to be celebrated in the home of the priest, with or without the presence of another member of that household. Such public advertising is insisted on in the ‘Exhortations’ in the BCP that are inserted between the Prayer for the Church Militant and the Confession. This way, others can be invited to pray and perhaps read the Scriptures at that time, so that the service takes place within some kind of extended communal act of worship in that parish, even if dispersed, and does not become merely a private act of devotion. Some prayers that would enable people to take part in such a celebration might be prepared.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology

(Guideposts) Apollo 11: When Buzz Aldrin Took Communion on the Moon

For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July, 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing.

We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets.

Dean often speaks at our church, Webster Presbyterian, just outside of Houston, about the many meanings of the communion service.

“One of the principal symbols,” Dean says, “is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life.” Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine–common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.

One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today.

I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe. For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, History, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(CT) Mark Galli–Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

Let clarify my use of the term sacrament. Some evangelical churches call the Lord’s Supper and baptism ordinances, to suggest they are actions Jesus commands us to participate in, and that they signal our faith in and obedience to Christ. The term sacrament includes these two ideas and another crucial one: that they are means of grace. By “means of grace” I’m not proposing any specific theology—whether trans- or consubstantiation, whether real or symbolic presence. But for all believers, Communion and baptism are practices in which one’s faith is deepened and strengthened, and that sort of thing only happens by God’s grace. This is what I mean by “means of grace” in this article, and why I will use the word sacrament to talk about them.

As I said, I believe these sacraments are in a profoundly low state in many areas of evangelical church life.

Take baptism. Even among churches that believe Matthew 28:19 is the church’s rallying cry—“Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ….”—the sacrament is no longer central to their mission. It would be difficult to come by statistics that suggest the problem, but one anecdote suggests it’s a serious one. I belong to an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, which meets not far from Wheaton College. The charismatic singing and Bible-centered preaching attract many Wheaton College students to attend worship and to become members. However, to partake in Communion, as well as to become a member, one must have been baptized. The pastors are continually surprised at the number of Wheaton College students—no doubt some of the most earnest, devout, and intelligent young believers in the evangelical world—who have yet to be baptized. One would have thought that their churches would have attended to this matter long before they left home for college.

Another sign of the problem is the deep fear some evangelicals have of baptism. I attended an independent church in Dallas, Texas, on a Sunday on which they were having a mass baptism for some 400 people. This speaks well of the effectiveness of their outreach and their desire to obey the commands of their Lord. As part of the service, four or five people came on stage and were interviewed by the pastor to help them give their testimony. At the end of each testimony, the last question the pastor asked each was this: “But you don’t believe that baptism saves you, right?” It wasn’t just the question, but the leading way in which it was asked time and again that suggested to me that the pastor was deeply afraid of the power of the sacrament. And the fact that he also asked this right before each person was baptized went a long way into ensuring that the sacrament did not become a means by which God broke in and blessed the recipient but became all about the horizontal: an act of the person’s faith.

The state of the Lord’s Supper is in a worse state.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Eucharist, Evangelicals, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(CT) Peter Leithart–Taste and See That the Lord’s Supper Is Good

Evangelicals need to thicken our theology of the Lord’s Supper, first by drawing more of the Bible into the discussion of the Supper, and second by drawing more of the Supper into discussion of the Supper.

Even a fine recent treatment of Reformed sacramental theology, Todd Billings’s Remembrance, Communion, and Hope, is still too thin on both counts. Billings does discuss the key New Testament passages—the institution narratives, Jesus’ resurrection meals, 1 Corinthians 10-11—and makes passing references to Passover and other Old Testament passages, meals, and festivals. But the richness of Old Testament theology still feels lacking. Billings observes that Paul sees manna as a type of the church’s covenant meal, but he doesn’t follow up the clue. If manna is a type, might there be others?

Many examine the Supper through a “zoom lens,” focusing narrowly on the most disputed point in historic debates—the metaphysics of the bread and wine. Much to his credit, Billings pulls back the camera to give us a wider view. In several “congregational snapshots,” he reminds us that the Supper involves people gathered to say and do, eat and drink. He rightly shows that a theology of the Supper must be integrated with the theology of the church.

But we need an even wider angle. Communion bread doesn’t fall from heaven. Wine doesn’t come tricklin’ down the rock. As one Eucharistic prayer puts it, the bread and wine are “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands.” Bread and wine represent nature transformed into culture by human action. A thick theology of the Supper needs to broaden beyond the theology of the church into a theology of culture. So, I offer a suggestive, not definitive, picture of what a thicker theology of the Supper might look like—a pencil drawing, not a portrait.

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Sacramental Theology

(TLC Covenant) Eugene Schlesinger–Things Fall Apart: Musings on TEC and Eucharistic Hospitality

There is a movement afoot in the Episcopal Church to remove our restriction that only the baptized receive Communion. In my new location, it seems to be diocesan policy not only to allow the unbaptized to commune, but to invite them explicitly to do so. Every parish my family has visited in the diocese has made it very clear that absolutely everyone is invited to the altar for Communion. I have found this grating, theologically. It disregards the proper sequence of initiation. It undercuts the long-standing historical practice of Christian churches. It renders incoherent any sort of claim to have a baptismal ecclesiology. Most important, it downgrades the central role of commitment to Jesus Christ and a life of discipleship to something optional. I’d heard of such things from afar, and now my eyes have seen them.

Recently, our family ventured a bit further north, into the Diocese of California, to a parish where the logic of Communion without baptism is being carried to its logical conclusion, which is also a reductio ad absurdum. The parish we visited did much well: the hymnody and chant were excellent; the liturgy, while using expansive language, remained fairly grounded in traditional forms. Then we reached the fraction anthem.

After a verse about Christ giving himself to his beloved in the bread, we turned a corner in which claims about breaking this bread with Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims were articulated. While I am confident that the intention behind these words was to be open and inclusive, to express solidarity among people of faith, its effect was to undo any sort of claims about Christ’s uniqueness or the necessity for salvation, as well as to colonize these other religious traditions, rather than respecting them in their diversity.[1]

The canons of the Episcopal Church are clear: no unbaptized person is eligible to receive Holy Communion at our altars (I.17.7). This creates a rather interesting contrast in the current church.

Having updated our canons (but not our doctrine, as set forth in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer) to make marriage gender-neutral, there is a movement afoot to bring Communion Partner bishops into line, so that the trial rites for marriage are celebrated in all jurisdictions. At General Convention, Resolution 2018-B012 provided a means for doing this while also respecting the consciences, teaching office, and liturgical presidency of bishops within their dioceses. William Love, the Bishop of Albany, has caused a furorwith his refusal to comply with the provisions of B012, prompting suggestions that Title IV charges be brought against him.[2] Leaving to the side the question of the precise canonical force of a resolution passed by General Convention, and, hence, the applicability of disciplinary charges, we must acknowledge that this outcry is in some tension with other realities in our church….

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Eucharist, Pastoral Theology, Sacramental Theology, TEC Bishops, TEC Polity & Canons

Douglas Farrow on the Meaning of the Ascension for Ascension Day

Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.

–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Ecclesiology, Eucharist

(CNA) Marriage and Communion: Roman Catholic Norms address interchurch couples

For the universal church and in the guidelines offered by different bishops’ conferences distinctions are made between the faithful of the Orthodox churches and the faithful of the Anglican and mainline Protestant churches.

The Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orthodox sacraments and welcomes members of the Orthodox churches to receive the sacraments in a Catholic Church, although it cautions that their Orthodox pastors and bishops might object.

The U.S. bishops’ brief guidelines, published in 1996, said, “Members of the Orthodox churches, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these churches.”

For Anglicans and Protestants, the situation is more complicated and Catholic church law requires that they “manifest Catholic faith in this sacrament,” as the directory phrased it.

Shared faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not unlikely, however, because it formally has been affirmed over the course of more than 50 years of formal theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican and mainline Protestant churches.

Therefore, the norms published by the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, in 1999 stated, “Episcopalians and Lutherans can be presumed to believe in the real presence. For members of other communions there may be need for some further discussion concerning their belief in the Eucharist.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Ecumenical Relations, Eucharist, Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology

(CT) Peter Leithart–Taste and See That the Lord’s Supper Is Good

Evangelicals need to thicken our theology of the Lord’s Supper, first by drawing more of the Bible into the discussion of the Supper, and second by drawing more of the Supper into discussion of the Supper.

Even a fine recent treatment of Reformed sacramental theology, Todd Billings’s Remembrance, Communion, and Hope, is still too thin on both counts. Billings does discuss the key New Testament passages—the institution narratives, Jesus’ resurrection meals, 1 Corinthians 10-11—and makes passing references to Passover and other Old Testament passages, meals, and festivals. But the richness of Old Testament theology still feels lacking. Billings observes that Paul sees manna as a type of the church’s covenant meal, but he doesn’t follow up the clue. If manna is a type, might there be others?

Many examine the Supper through a “zoom lens,” focusing narrowly on the most disputed point in historic debates—the metaphysics of the bread and wine. Much to his credit, Billings pulls back the camera to give us a wider view. In several “congregational snapshots,” he reminds us that the Supper involves people gathered to say and do, eat and drink. He rightly shows that a theology of the Supper must be integrated with the theology of the church.

But we need an even wider angle. Communion bread doesn’t fall from heaven. Wine doesn’t come tricklin’ down the rock. As one Eucharistic prayer puts it, the bread and wine are “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands.” Bread and wine represent nature transformed into culture by human action. A thick theology of the Supper needs to broaden beyond the theology of the church into a theology of culture. So, I offer a suggestive, not definitive, picture of what a thicker theology of the Supper might look like—a pencil drawing, not a portrait.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Eucharist, Holy Week, Sacramental Theology, Theology: Scripture

Anglican Synod of SE Asia is in impaired Communion with Scottish Episcopal Church, Recognizes ACNA “as an Ecclesiastical Province in its own right”

Noting the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church on 8 June 2017 to change its doctrine of marriage and to recognise same-sex marriages and further to amend its Canons to allow for the rite of blessing of same-sex marriages, which is a contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998; and

Recalling that as a consequence of the then Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson as a Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, in contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998, the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declared in 2003 that it was in a state of impaired communion with ECUSA (now known as The Episcopal Church)

Now it is hereby resolved,

That the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declares itself to be in a state of impaired communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church with immediate effect….

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Scottish Episcopal Church, The Anglican Church in South East Asia, Theology

Douglas Farrow on the Meaning of the Ascension for Ascension Day

Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.

–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64

Posted in Advent, Christology, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Uncategorized

Christopher Howse on 1 word in the liturgy– the return of the dew that we hardly knew we'd lost

One word has been reintroduced into one of the Eucharistic prayers in the Mass which had previously been omitted by the translators. I’m glad to see it.

When I say one word, I mean it was one word in the Latin original. In the so-called Second Eucharistic Prayer the word is rore, which is now translated as “like the dewfall”. I find it not only poetic but very expressive of the way that God seems to work.

This is the sentence where it occurs: “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Read it all from the Telegraph.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Baptism, Church History, Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(Church in Wales) Confirmation no longer required for Holy Communion–Bishops’ letter

Anyone who has been baptised will be able to receive Holy Communion in church, regardless of whether they have also been confirmed, under new guidance coming into effect in November.

The Church in Wales is re-adopting the practice of the early church on admission to Communion ”“ the sharing of bread and wine ”“ in an effort to strengthen ministry to children and young people in particular.

In recent times, people wishing to receive Communion have usually had to have been confirmed first ”“ confirming promises made on their behalf at their baptism as infants.
However, from the First Sunday in Advent ”“ November 27 ”“ everyone who has been baptised will be able to receive Holy Communion. The policy will be rolled out across the parishes and ministry areas over the next year.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Wales, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Theology

South Carolina Cathedral Dean Peet Dickinson–Is or has been Sacrificed?

The fraction found in both the Rite I and Rite II services in our 1979 Book of Common Prayer happens immediately following the Lord’s Prayer and before the invitation to and distribution of Communion. The Celebrant breaks the consecrated bread and then says, “[Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” The congregation then replies, “Therefore let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]” Now, this statement comes from Scripture, specifically 1 Corinthians 5:7. Well, actually it is a mistranslation of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7, which is found only in the King James Version. The specific word that is mistranslated is the Greek word etuthe, which means a sacrifice that was completed in the past. Therefore, in most English translations, 1 Corinthians 5:7 is translated, “Christ, our Passover has been or was sacrificed.”

Now, why would this mistranslation make its way into the 1979 Book of Common Prayer when this form and placement of the fraction was never in any Anglican Prayer Book prior?

Read it all (if you need to know more about Peet Dickson see there).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Eucharist, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Get Religion on the Primates Gathering–TEC is in time out and its about Bible+Holy Communion

When you look at the current events in the context of an accurate timeline, it’s clear that (a) the Episcopal Church has merely been placed in “time out,” (b) that the global primates really do think this dispute is about the Bible and marriage, (c) that the state of sacramental Communion among Anglican leaders remains as broken as ever and (d) that all Canterbury has really achieved, with this meeting, is send the contest into extra innings (or perhaps “stoppage time” is a better term among global Anglicans)….the Church of England plays a crucial role, to say the least, in the affairs of the Anglican Communion and there will be tremendous political pressure brought on English church leaders to modernize their doctrines on marriage. Check out the first wave of incoming fire, in this news report at The Guardian.

So journalists: Eyes left. That is where the action will be in the next three years, while the Episcopal Church is in “time out.” The conservatives didn’t really win. They won on the marriage statement, but not on the ultimate issue of broken Communion.

Does anyone expect the Episcopal Church to compromise and move back to orthodoxy on marriage, after formally changing marriage rites?

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Justin Welby, Anglican Primates, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Eucharist, Media, Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) How one Pastor Seeks to Forge a New Path in Brooklyn

From the Lower East Side, St. Lydia’s went to a borrowed space at the Brooklyn Zen Center. Two years ago, the church took over a small storefront space, using about $140,000 to renovate the room into a daytime co-working space complete with an open kitchen and windows overlooking the street. Much of St. Lydia’s funding comes from her denomination, and she hopes to grow the co-working side.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, an author and the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, is part of Ms. Scott’s denomination. She described Ms. Scott’s participatory style of worship as drawing in a generation accustomed to user-generated content.

“There’s a whole population that is culturally millennial that is used to participating in the content of their lives, in a way that a generation before them were only consuming products that religious authorities were distributing,” said Ms. Bolz-Weber.

Yet to create that kind of church, she said, you need a charismatic leader who other people want to hang around. “It demands everything of you,” she said.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Eucharist, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(AI) Peter Berger–Rethinking the Reformation

On October 30, 2015, a joint Lutheran-Catholic statement was issued after a protracted consultation by theologians of both confessions: “On the Way: Church, Ministry and the Eucharist.” The opening phrase means on the way to full mutual recognition and intercommunion, which both sides acknowledge as having been the will of Jesus and as being the intended final relationship between the two communities. [As a sociologist I must observe that there is also a tacit empirical assumption here””that the disunity between churches weakens the credibility of the Christian faith. This may be true in Europe, where both Lutherans and Catholics come out of a history of state churches””and where secularization, as a decline of religion, has gone farther than on any other continent. In the United States this alleged nexus between Christian unity and the plausibility of the faith is less persuasive.]

“On the Way” was published jointly by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest and more liberal wing of Lutheranism in this country (known, not always affectionately, as Aunt Elka), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. There has also been input from the Lutheran World Federation, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and the World Council of Churches (to which most Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches at least nominally belong despite cacophonous disagreements). This document builds on an earlier joint statement in 1993 on the doctrine of justification, which has been a major disagreement between Lutherans and Catholics: The statement concluded in a somewhat tortured argument that there really were (or were no longer) any fundamental disagreements. It therefore decided, logically enough, to withdraw the solemn mutual condemnations (so-called anathemas, “accursed be”¦”) between Rome and its “separated brethren” (a phrase now considered impolite).

The gist of “On the Way” is a list of “32 agreements” (there is also an honest acknowledgment of issues on which there still is disagreement). Coming to the document as a non-theologian one is likely to be less than overwhelmed by what is supposedly agreed upon…

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church History, Ecclesiology, Ecumenical Relations, Eucharist, Europe, History, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Archbishop Longley rejects synod proposal on Communion for Anglican spouses

A synod proposal to allow Anglican spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion has been rejected by the Archbishop of Birmingham.

The proposal, contained in the working document is due to be discussed at the synod next week.

If approved it would mean Anglicans being allowed to present themselves at Communion during Mass if they were married to a Catholic but unable to attend a service in their own denomination.

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic), set up to further unity, has criticised the move, however, saying it did not meet the demands of either the Code of Canon Law or the Ecumenical Directory.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Eucharist, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Daniel Newman on The Prayer of Humble Access

Early in the prayer, we are reminded that what we are coming to is a meal. We are invited as guests to a table where God is the generous host, not an altar where we make an offering to appease God’s wrath. The rubric refers to the piece of furniture as ”˜the Lord’s Table’ or, in earlier versions, ”˜Gods borde’. We shall explore below what it is that we receive at this meal.

This prayer creates in us an attitude of humility, helplessness, and dependency on God. We do not deserve to be here. We have no suitable garment of our own to wear to the feast. The contrast is repeatedly drawn between what we do not have and what God does, between what we are not and what God is: ”˜not”¦ trusting in our”¦ but in thy”¦ We are not”¦ But thou art”¦’ Cranmer alludes to our Lord’s encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman, who says, “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7.28). This allusion is double-edged, for it expresses both great humility and great faith, as seen by our Lord’s commendation of the woman in the gospel accounts.

The Prayer of Humble Access has the same dynamic. It does not leave us in a state of hopelessness and despair. Although ”˜we do not presume to come”¦ trusting in our own righteousness’, God’s many, varied (”˜manifold’) and great mercies combined with his unchanging essence (”˜the same Lord’) mean that we do presume to come. Praying this prayer is an enactment of the gospel of God’s grace.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, --Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Christology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Sacramental Theology, Soteriology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(AI) TEC Bishops narrowly reject call to study question of Communion of the unbaptized

The House of Bishops has rejected the call to revisit the issue of allowing the non-baptized to receive Holy Communion. By a vote of 79 to 77 the bishops rejected Resolution C010 “Invite All to Holy Communion” which called for the creation and funding of a task force to study…[communion of the unbaptized].

During the afternoon session of the 7th legislative day on 30 June 2015 at the 78th General Convention meeting in Salt Lake City the House of Bishops took up three resolutions submitted for consideration by the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music.

Without debate the bishops endorsed Resolution A067 “Revise Book of Common Prayer for Revised Common Lectionary”, which calls for the church to use the lectionary found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and not the Revised Common Lectionary for services during Holy Week.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Eucharist, General Convention, Sacramental Theology, TEC Bishops, Theology

Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison–Should we not say Christ our Passover was Sacrificed?

Why do many of our clergy, in the service of Holy Communion, change the words “is sacrificed” to “was sacrificed?” The short answer is that the word in question, etuthe, clearly means action completed in the past (was or has been). The phrase “is sacrificed” is a mistranslation of the Greek word. It appears only in the King James translation and is corrected by every translation since.

Read it all (page 15).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, --Book of Common Prayer, Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Diocese of London) Ro Willoughby–Welcome to the Banquet

It is a holy moment. It almost always is. At the heart of the worship area the long banqueting table, covered by a shimmering purple-blue cloth, is set. In the centre is the platter with a large flat loaf resting on a mound of red grapes.

Once the Eucharistic bread and wine have been consecrated, the children will flock to take their seats at the banquet. Each child will be given a hunk of loaf followed by a handful of grapes. They will be reminded by name that Jesus loves them, that he died for them, that he is with them always and everywhere.

The children are not receiving Holy Communion. They have not gone through a preparation course although at least once a year they all explore the meaning of Holy Communion. Their parents may stay with them if they are very young but this is essentially a ”˜children only’ experience. Prior to his retirement, Bishop Peter appreciated the banquet when he visited us.

The Eucharistic banquet is rich in symbolism and meaning for these children and for the whole church at St Paul’s Finchley. Let me explain!

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Eucharist, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Pope Francis in his Angelus on All Saints Day 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
the first two days of November are for all of us an intense moment of faith, prayer and reflection on the “last things” of life. In fact in celebrating all the saints and commemorating all the faithful departed, in the Liturgy the pilgrim Church on earth lives and expresses the spiritual bond which unites her to the Church in heaven. Today we praise God for the countless host of holy men and women of all ages: simple men and women, who sometimes were the “last” for the world, but “first” for God. At the same time we already remember our departed loved ones by visiting cemeteries: It is a source of great consolation to think that they are in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles, the martyrs and all the saints of Heaven!

Today’s Solemnity thus helps us to consider a fundamental truth of the Christian faith that we profess in the “Creed”: the communion of saints. It is the communion that comes from faith and unites all those who belong to Christ by Baptism. It is a spiritual union that is not broken by death, but continues in the next life. In fact there is an unbreakable bond between us living in this world and those who have crossed the threshold of death. We here on earth, along with those who have entered into eternity, form one great family.

This beautiful communion between heaven and earth takes place in the highest and most intense way in the Liturgy, and especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, which expresses and fulfills the deepest union between the members of the Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ecclesiology, Eucharist, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Christopher Howse is worried no breakthrough for divorced Christians will come at upcoming RC synod

What is the point of this world synod of Catholic bishops on the family that is starting in Rome on October 5, a week tomorrow?

Most talk in the papers and in the crabbed and febrile world of the internet has been about whether divorced people who remarry should receive Holy Communion. This matters, because Communion is the symbol and channel of a Christian’s spiritual relations with God. And yet Pope Francis, who, we have learnt, is no friend of laws as a substitute for ideals, says that this is not the point of the synod at all.

The Pope often speaks openly when he shares an aeroplane with journalists, and, on the way back from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land earlier this year, he said: “I have not been happy that so many people ”“ even church people, priests ”“ have said: ‘Ah, the synod will be about giving Communion to the divorced’.” His difficulty was that he “felt everything was being reduced to casuistry”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Eucharist, History, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology