July 30, 2017

Easter

Proper 12 - Year A

An Instructed Eucharist Experienced on July 30, 2017

 


Both personal knowledge and sources from the internet were used to put this together. If you identify your original material, St Stephen's thanks you. You can identify yourself in the notes. Due to the speed at which this was assembled, proper referencing was abandoned. Mea culpa.

 
Processional Hymn


Good Morning. This Morning we will be following what is called an Instructed Eucharist. Instead of our usual sermon slot, we will stop from time-to-time to explain the various elements of the service. It is an opportunity to learn as we worship.


This service is known by many names. ‘Mass’ from the Latin ‘to send out’, ‘Eucharist’ from the Greek for ‘thanksgiving’, ‘Holy Communion’ and ‘The Lords Supper’. Whatever the name used, it is a central part of our Christian worship to make a spiritual connection with the Last Supper because Jesus told us to “do this in remembrance of me”. What we do here each Sunday is in fellowship with one another and with Jesus.


The word ‘liturgy’ means ‘the work of the people’, and we all have a part to play. The priest is at the altar; members of the congregation help in reading the lessons and in leading prayers; we sing songs and hymns together; and we pray both together and quietly to ourselves.


We begin our service with an invocation if the Holy Trinity. When we mention the Holy Trinity, we sometimes cross ourselves. With the tips of your fingers, touch your forehead, your belly button, your left shoulder area, and lastly your right shoulder area. Other times we cross ourselves are at the mention of the Resurrection during the Creed, at the Absolution after the Confession, at the Epiclesis on the people – when we ask the Holy Spirit to help us to receive Christ in the Bread and Wine, before and/or after receiving Communion, and at the final blessing,


So, calling upon the Holy Trinity, we begin”


Invocation and Preparation


The Eucharist falls into two major parts. The first part is referred to as The Word of God or Liturgy of the Word. It includes the readings, the sermon and the prayers of the people. The second part is the Eucharist itself, known as The Holy Communion or the Liturgy of the Sacrament or the Liturgy of the Table, celebrated at the altar.


Generally, we stand to pray, say the Creed and to hear the Gospel because of the importance Christians have placed on these acts of worship. We sit to receive teaching and instruction, as with the readings and sermon. We are more informal and flexible with kneeling, sitting and standing than in the past. If you choose to kneel when you pray, please feel comfortable when doing so. Likewise, feel comfortable standing to pray.


We begin with the Prayer of Preparation, also known as the Collect for Purity. The Collect for Purity was originally a private prayer said by the priest as he vested. Its roots are in the Jewish concept of being ritually clean. No longer a private prayer, we, as a royal priesthood of believers, exercise a part of our priesthood, so that we may approach God, cleansed in God’s sight.


Collect for Purity


Gloria


The Gloria is an ancient hymn of praise. Used for centuries, the words remind us of the song of the angels on the night Jesus was born. The Gloria, at its most basic, offers our praise to the Three-in-One of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.


Collect of the day


A collect, (pronounced COLL-ect) is a short prayer following a rigid set form, almost poetic in structure and form: opening salutation, ascription, petition, doxology. The word “collect” signifies the summing up of the prayers of the individuals who have been called to pray. It may also designate the prayer said at the collecting of the people at the start of the Mass, since centuries ago, the collect was inserted immediately after the salutation, serving to call the people to attention before the reading of the first lesson.


The First Reading


The Bible readings are taken from a published document called The Lectionary, which gives a fixed cycle of readings for the church’s year in a three-year cycle. The Lectionary, used by most of the Christian denominations around the world, is part of what connects the Church Universal, as millions of congregations, all different types of Christians, will be hearing the same Bible passages each Sunday. At the reader‘s stand (the lectern) is a Bible, always open, for use by the laity. At any time you may come into the church and read the Bible for yourself. This is a custom we maintain from times when Bibles were scarce, illiteracy common, and English an unrefined language. Anglicanism has traditionally favored the inclusion of Bible reading into the habits of the people of God. We recognize that the public reading of scripture is a form of ministry, requiring some training and a certain preparation.


The Psalm


Following the Old Testament Lesson, we worship through the Psalms. The Psalms were composed and originally used in the worship of Israel as hymns. They were very much a part of the life of Jesus. They were his hymnal. The manner of reading the Psalms can vary: responsively by half-verse or whole verse with a leader and congregation; or the traditional antiphonal style, with each side of the congregation responding to the other; or said in unison, like we do today; or sung, using Anglican Chant like we do at the 10 o’clock service when the Choir is present. The possibilities are endless.


The New Testament Lesson


In the first century church, it was common to read from the letters of traveling missionaries, with Paul chief among them. Gradually a corpus of “guiding letters” grew to be recognized as having special authority. From this collection of letters, part of our New Testament was formed. The readings are known as the Epistle or the New Testament Lesson.


The Sequence Hymn


The Gospel


The Gospel, meaning ‘good news’, is the focal point of the first section of the service. This is taken from the accounts of Jesus’ life found at the beginning of the New Testament. The Gospels were written respectively by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We stand to hear the Gospel because of its importance. The ancient synagogue practice of the Jews of standing for the procession of the Torah is carried over into the Christian tradition. The practice of greeting the Gospel with singing (like our Sequence Hymn), glad shouts of joy, triumphal marches, and sometimes incense, is also an ancient one.


Some people at this point make the sign of the cross on their forehead, lips and chest so that God might be in what they think and say, and so that they will carry God in their hearts.


The Gospel is not read; it is Proclaimed! The proclamation is done from among the people. The proclamation is made by the deacon, or a priest in the absence of a deacon. It is a part of both the deacon’s and the priest’s ministry to make the Risen Lord known to us, both in the Proclamation of the Gospel texts and in the sermon which follows.


The Sermon


Usually the sermon follows the Gospel, and the people are seated. It is not optional, and anytime the Eucharist is celebrated, a sermon or homily is to be preached. This may be teaching based on the theme or readings for the day and perhaps linking them with events in our lives and the world. There is no sermon today because of our teaching throughout the service.


We will take this time to explain the special clothes worn by the priest for parts of the service, which are called vestments. The traditional vestments have their roots in the everyday clothes of ancient Rome.


The white robe is called an alb, and was a basic Roman garment. It later came to symbolize the white baptismal clothing worn by early Christian converts.


a. The cincture or girdle symbolizes purity and spiritual watchfulness.


b. The stole began life as a towel or handkerchief and now symbolizes the sacramental ministry of a priest. The color of the stole relates to the seasons of the churches year or special occasions. White or gold is the color used for celebration, therefore used in the seasons of Christmas, Epiphany and Easter, celebrating Christ’s Birth, Miracles and Resurrection. Red was used on Pentecost to symbolize the Holy Spirit, and is also used to commemorate the martyrs of the Church. Green is used during this the long period of Sundays after Pentecost. Purple or blue will be used for Advent, and then again in Lent.


c. The ornate and colorful robe worn over the alb is called a chasuble. The chasuble, or ‘little house’ in Latin, was a unisex outdoor cloak worn in Rome, which came to represent the yoke or mantle of Jesus Christ taken on by the priest, meaning that the priest symbolically takes on the burden which Jesus bore for us on the Cross.


The Nicene Creed


After the sermon is The Creed a statement of our faith and belief, which asserts our belief in the Trinitarian God and Salvation through Jesus Christ. The Nicene Creed is a translation of the creed agreed by the Church in the 4th and 5th centuries by the councils of Chalcedon and Nicaea, hence the name The Nicene Creed. The Apostle’s Creed, slightly shorter than the Nicene Creed, is used at Morning and Evening Prayer. The Creed of Saint Athanasius is considered a historical document, and can be found in the Book of Common Prayer on page 864.


The Prayers of the People


The Prayers of the People, or the Intercessions, can be led by a member of the congregation or by the leader of the service. It is an opportunity to ask God’s help for ourselves and each other, and to give thanks. Prayers are offered for the church, the world and those in need.


The Confession


In the confession, we admit to God, ourselves, and each other that we have fallen short of what God wants for us as individuals and as a community. We also admit that we have fallen short in our willingness to be open to God’s will. Our Reformed or Protestant heritage is the congregational Confession of sin or General Confession. This is a new development for the congregants to join in the Confession, begun in “only” the 16th Century. The custom developed in the Middle Ages of the priest and his assistant to confess to one another. Later, as a general act of the people it became the custom for those who were to receive communion to be invited to the altar rail to confess. This was at a time when Communion of the people was an occasional event, required only annually of the faithful, not weekly, as is more often the case in eucharistically-centered churches today. It is customary to either stand or lean forward from the waist in a “profound bow”, both positions of humility before God.


Diane / Mary: The true resolution of the Confession is not in the absolution alone, but in the total process of being made whole. This process of being made whole may also include the laying-on-of-hands in healing, and the blessing of God. The priest gives the Absolution immediately after the Confession. Hence, the Confession/Absolution, the laying-on-of-hands in healing or Unction (if part of the service), and the exchange of the Peace of God are a part together. They flow into the Thanksgiving of being made whole by Christ Jesus.


The Peace


Diane / Mary: We stand to be greeted by the celebrant with the Peace, and then to pass the Peace along to our fellow congregants. Jesus said that we are all brothers and sisters, and before we bring our gifts to the altar we should be at peace with one another. While passing the Peace of Christ, it is appropriate to greet one another with “The Peace of the Lord be with you”, and to respond saying “And also with you”. This is the Lord’s peace with which we greet one another, a peace that passes understanding. A variety of tokens may be used in passing the Peace: a handshake, nod, embrace, or a kiss. None is necessarily better than any other is and some may not seem appropriate to some individuals. This is perhaps the freest flowing time in the service; the Peace of Christ can be wholly encapsulated in no single form.


The Holy Communion


The Offertory and Anthem


We now focus on the Great Thanksgiving, the very heart of our celebration, one of gratitude (the meaning of the Greek word Eucharist is Thanksgiving.) The act of Thanksgiving begins with our return to God of some of the riches given to us in God’s creation. This is the Offertory. The Offering is not something a money-hungry modern church has instituted. It reaches all the way back to our first experience. Nor is it simply here to pay the bills and to allow us to get on with the business of the church. The first offerings were food, bread and wine, the necessary staples of life. The bread and wine were tangible expressions of the re-creation of God’s gifts of wheat and grapes, which in turn were re-created and given back by God as the Body and Blood of Christ. So it is today that our offering of money is the offering of the works of our hands to be re-created by God into the Body and Blood of Christ! When the offerings are brought forward to be placed on the Altar, it is appropriate for the congregation to stand as the priestly community in the offering of the gifts in thanksgiving.


It is during this time that the Altar is prepared. The priest dons his chasuble, or outer coat, in preparation. This is similar to our Lord’s “coat without seam,” for which soldiers cast lots. The bread and wine are brought to the Altar by members of the congregation, recalling the original offerings of the early Christian Church. Sufficient bread and wine are set out. The wine is mixed with a little water in the chalice. This serves a dual function. First, it is a mixture of wine and water, most likely used at the Last Supper. Second, at the piercing of our Lord’s side, out came water and blood. So, here in our Communion is his Water and Blood. This is the beginning of our anamnesis. Anamnesis is a technical term used to describe this whole part of the Eucharistic service. It means the opposite of amnesia. It is the recalling into the present of that which is past. It is the taking into oneself of Christ’s history, identity, and purpose. It is enacting memorial of the Christ event. This is the re-presenting of the whole of salvation history.


The priest washes his hands, a ceremony from the time when the priest handled animals at the offertory, so the priest washes his hands or fingers just before the Eucharistic Prayer. Water is poured over his hands, into the lavabo (lavabo is both the name of the act and of the bowl used to catch the water), signifying the ritual cleanliness of the priest.


The Great Thanksgiving


The Sursum Corda follows, while the congregation remains standing. It is the section beginning “Lift up your hearts.” Based upon traditional Jewish blessings of God, we likewise follow the Jewish practice of standing for this act. This initial call-an-response is typical of the dialogue which introduced the Jewish berakoth (form of blessing). It is followed by an appropriate Preface, or general introductory prayer. This sets the right note for the season or specific occasion.


Sanctus


Following the Preface is the Sanctus, or Holy, Holy, Holy. This is the song of the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision of God. Its use is directly taken from Jewish liturgical practice. In it, we join with the angels in singing their eternal song of glory. The last two lines are the acclamation of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Some make the sign of the cross when they proclaim “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’. Others change the words to “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” to be gender-inclusive. Both are wrong, but that’s OK. “Blessed is He” refers to Jesus when in Matthew 23:39 He proclaims: “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”” When the people bless Him, the Messiah will come. Making the sign of the cross upon oneself is an indication of receiving blessing, rather than calling upon the Messiah. Since the tradition of making the sign of the cross spans the generations, if it is your custom, that’s fine!


The congregants may either remain standing throughout the remainder of the Eucharistic Prayer or they may kneel. Standing is the stance of the priestly community offering the gifts to God. Kneeling is the position of a contrite and humble community in awe of the Presence of God in our midst.


The body of the Eucharistic Prayer follows, including the Institutional Narrative. These are the words that recount the events at the Last Supper when Jesus took, blessed, broke, and gave, thus providing the framework for the actions for the Sacrament. Great stress has traditionally been laid upon the Institutional Words “Take Eat: This is my Body” and “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood”. This is anamnesis. After recalling what happened on that night so long ago, we offer through the gifts the thanksgivings and memorials. This is the Oblation. “The Oblation is the hinge of the whole Consecration Prayer. It gathers up the thanksgivings and memorials that have gone before and offers them to God by means of the ‘holy gifts,’ the instruments of bread and wine which our Lord Himself chose to represent His own sacrifice and to be occasion of its continuing and ‘innumerable benefits’ to His Church.”


The priest invokes the Holy Spirit over the bread and the wine, called the ‘epiclesis’, which asks the Holy Spirit to make Jesus present in the bread and wine. Additionally, it is the offering of ourselves as part of the offerings that we bring – bread and wine – so that they may be transformative in us and we engage with Jesus Christ. According to Anglican understanding, we know that Jesus is present in the bread and wine, but we do not fully understand how. This theological concept call “con-substantiation” was developed by Martin Luther during the Reformation, and is distinct from both Trans-substantiation (the converting of the elements into the physical Body and Blood of Christ) and Memorialism (the Eucharist being only a meal of remembrance). This is from our understanding of the word ‘sacrament’, which, when translated from its Greek roots rather than its current Latin form, means ‘mystery’. Jesus’ presence in the bread and wine is known and felt, but how remains a mystery.


Amen is a way for the congregation to agree with what has been said; to affirm, to say “yes,” we approve. It is a direct loan from the Hebrew. When Israel affirmed what was said, prayed, taught it was with the word “Amen.” Thus, in like manner and in that unbroken tradition we approve worshiping God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We affirm the presence of God in our midst, and at the Holy Table which is God’s! And we agree with and affirm the offering of ourselves, our souls, and bodies, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.


The Lord’s Prayer


“The Lord’s Prayer” follows the Consecration Prayer, and is the immediate preparation for receiving the Sacraments. It is a standard part of the Eucharist from around 400AD. Following the Lord’s Prayer, one of the most dramatic moments in the service follows called the Fracture: it is the moment of the breaking of the Body of Christ. As so long ago His Body was broken for us, re-enacted here for us, in a memorial sacrifice of His Body, is Christ, still yet being broken for us. This is the climax of the Great Thanksgiving. Silence is kept for a time. As the disciples recognized him in the breaking of the bread at Emmaus, so we too recognize him in the Breaking of the Bread.


The Breaking of the Bread


The invitation is given, and we gather at a Common Table to receive. We do not just sit in our separate pews to passively receive, but we have our common call to come and receive Him “who takes away the sins of the world”. Rich and poor, young and old, short and tall, beautiful and ugly we are changed as we gather together at a common Altar, a common Table, as manifestation of our unity.


We receive either kneeling or standing. The former is symbolic of our humble approach to God, while the latter is symbolic of our nature as children of God. When the ministers pass among the communicants, they use the words “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ”, and we respond “Amen”, meaning “yes, I agree, affirm that this is the Body of Christ.”


Post-Communion Prayer


The Blessing


At the Blessing, the priest lifts his hands and blesses, much the same as the priest in the Temple of Jerusalem did so long ago. The Blessing is a kind of long distance laying on of hands for the entire congregation. We are fully healed or made whole in Communion, and this is symbolized in the Blessing. Some make the sign of the cross when the priest pronounces the Blessing. This manual action is entirely optional, but for some, that “long-distance laying on of hands” may feel a bit closer.


Dismissal


The Dismissal is taken from Jewish services, which begin and end by blessing in the Name of the Lord. There are various Dismissals to fit the proper time, occasion, and season, and the basic idea remains: a blessing of God. Following the Dismissal the ministers of the service leave. The congregation stands while the clergy, readers, and servers leave the sanctuary. This is our commissioning as Christians to go out into the world, empowered by the grace received in the Eucharist through the Holy Spirit and by our worship of God through Jesus Christ.

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