19. A Reflection on Liturgy

Holy Spirit (1)

The Introduction

Send out your Light and your Truth, let them lead us. Let them bring us to your holy hill, and to your tabernacle. Then we will go to the altar of God, to God our exceeding joy. Psalm 43:3-4

Give to LORD, the glory due to his name. Bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship LORD in the beauty of holiness. Psalm 96:8-9

From a book by Johannes H. Emminghaus called the “The Eucharist” we receive this gem concerning the Jewish Passover celebration, “The festival itself was already, even before Moses, a nomadic celebration connected with the “shifting of pastures.” In a ritual shepherds’ meal, one of the new lambs was sacrificed, roasted on the fire, and eaten …. The original character of a nomadic meal, in contrast to the customs of hunters and farmers, is thus deliberately preserved [in the Jewish Passover] … Unleavened flat bread of the nomads was much older than the customary leavened bread of farmers, which was baked in ovens.”

Within this light we once again see that nothing is new, just reformatted to fit the need of whoever was borrowing it and this reformatted shepherd’s ritual has served the Jewish community for many centuries now – with very little change. The focus of the Jewish Passover is freedom from bondage, enslavement, and injustice.

When the Christians were removed from the Jewish synagogues, they simply did what their forefathers did, reformed the style of worship. In all likelihood their worship had the appearance of the style of worship found in a synagogue with a community meal attach to the end of it. For both Jewish and Gentile Christians worship was a celebration that was a time for the people to gather for reflection, guidance from the Scriptures, and the celebration of the sacred mystery of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit of Christ in the bread and wine.

First Point: Development through the Years

As the years passed, the different Christian communities evolved and so did their worship. In the Latin speaking communities worship was a Roman “work of the people (Mass)” and celebrated with reverence. During this time, the Roman community had a preference for simplicity of worship, as seen in the works of Justin Martyr and Hippolytus. However, as the years turned into centuries, different cultures and communities would add their own ideas to the Roman Mass. With these additions, the Roman Mass also received new names to reflect the additions. Such as the Ambrosian liturgy, the Gallic liturgy, and the Frankish liturgy to name a few. By the Middle Ages there was one Roman Church, but it had many different liturgical expressions of the same Mass.

In time, these liturgical expressions evolved into a variety of worship styles that was very different than the format and structure of the early Roman church. By the time the Reformation hit the Roman Church, the liturgical experience had all the appearance of a theatrical program. The downside to this elaborate style of liturgy was the limited participation of the laity.

Under Pope Pius, V the Council of Trent did a little house cleaning and standardize the rubrics and the liturgy. Furthermore, any liturgical expression with less than a two-hundred year history was suppressed. While the work of the Pope and the council did little for incorporating the congregation into the celebration of the Mass, it did go a long way in giving the Roman Church a common universal form of worship. This meant that an individual could go into any given Roman parish in any given country and experience the same liturgy spoken or sung in the Latin language.

Now let us turn our attention the revised Mass of 1969. This Mass was conceived during the second Vatican Council. I believe this revised form of worship has done three major things: it has returned the Roman liturgy to a simple and dignified form of worship, it has incorporated the entire congregation into the celebration of the liturgy, and it has embrace both the language and customs of the local congregation. So in many ways this revised Mass is not necessarily new, but a return to a much order style of Roman Catholic worship.

The Second Point: The Liturgy of the Word

From the Mass: Opening Prayer, First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, Alleluia Song or Gospel Acclamation, Gospel Responsorial, Gospel Lesson, Homily, Profession of Faith, Prayers of the Faithful or Special Rite

The Liturgy of the Word begins with music and after an introduction it moves to a general confession. This is a non-specific form of a personal confession. The Eastern liturgies do not begin with a confessional, but it is very common for liturgies of the West to have a confessional during the beginning section of the Mass. After the confessional a prayer of the day (celebration) is offered, this prayer sets the tone for the reminder of the Mass. With the prayer done, the liturgy moves to its primary function, which is the instruction of the gathered assembly. Through the appointed Scripture readings and the homily (sermon) the people receive instruction on living a Christian life.

After being instructed in the Christian faith, the congregations affirm their faith through a Creed, like the Apostles’ Creed, and offer their intercessory prayers. While reciting a creed is nothing new, the intercessory prayers are something new for the modern Christian. What was ancient is new again, the collective prayers of the gathered assembly are offered during the Mass. For over a thousand years the intercessory prayers of the entire community had been removed from the gathered assembly and neatly inserted into parts of the Eucharist Prayer. The liturgical reforms of the second Vatican Council brought these prayers from the altar to the pews and by doing so restored an ancient practice.

LORD, your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. Luke 11:28

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68

Teaching and preaching the Word of the Lord. Acts 15:35

We have looked upon, and our hands have touched, the Word of Life. 1 John 1:1

His name is called The Word of God. Revelation 19:13

The Third Point: The Mystery of the Bread and Wine

From the Mass: Preface Dialogue, Preface Prayer, Holy, Holy, Holy Song (Sanctus), Eucharistic Prayer, Doxology, Great Amen Song, Lord’s Prayer

God takes away the first sacrifice that he may establish the second. By which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:9

I will begin with a question that was once was asked of me, is the presence of Christ in the bread an idea the Christians created? I pointed out to the individual that holy bread as the host for the Presence of God was an ancient Jews practice that Jesus and his disciple knew very well. Before walking away, I gave the individual something else to further think about. I said, the third cup of wine of the Passover is the cup of redemption, which reminds us of the shedding blood of an innocent Lamb which brought redemption. Who is the innocent Lamb of God?    

Now let us explore the presence of Christ among us. There is diversity among Christians on “how” the manifestation of Jesus happens. Most would agree that a presence of some kind takes place, but they have tendencies of disagreeing on many of the key points of how this presence happens. For me personally, I favor the position of the Eastern Orthodox Church. They teach that this a is a great mystery that is beyond human understanding, it is enough for humankind to know that through the Holy Spirit the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ becomes present in the bread and wine. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus fulfills his promise, when two are more gathered in my name I will be in their midst.

When Jesus held the bread and said this is my body, he was making a connection between himself and the bread of the presence in the temple in Jerusalem. From the time of Moses God choose bread to be the host in which LORD would reside in the presence of the Jewish people and humanity. The Jewish disciples of Jesus were very aware of the bread of the presence and what it meant. Therefore, the concept of the universal and living God dwelling within bread was already known to them. When Jesus said my body is in this bread, he was saying he is the God who dwells in the sacred bread found in the holy of holies, since the time of Moses and beyond. If the presence (spirit) of LORD can be found in bread, then it is realistic that the holy anointed one (Jesus) can be found in bread, since the two are one in the same. As the Creed says, there are not one or three masters, but one Master. There are not one, two, even three spirits, but only one Spirit. Therefore, the Logos of God (Jesus) was as present in the bread that Moses placed in the Tent of the Meeting as he was in the midst of the disciples. Jesus was now informing his disciples that the bread of the presence will no long be confined only to the holy of holies, but will be brought to all nations and be among humanity. Like the days of Moses and the Prophet Isaiah, he will be present in the bread and in the wine.

From a review of the worship manuals from Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and others we can see that this memorial celebration of Jesus was simple and dignified, a style of Christian worship that would become known as Roman. Through the book Apostolic Tradition written by the Hippolytus around 225 A.D. we have one of the earliest recordings of a Roman Eucharistic Prayer. To this day, this Eucharistic Prayer recorded by Hippolytus serves as the basic blueprint for all Eucharistic Prayers.

The Bread of the Presence and the Cup of Salvation is without question the bread and wine that serve as the hosts for the manifestation of the Spirit of Christ among all humanity. As the hosts they are interwoven with the Spirit of Christ and they are the source of spiritual strength and the Holy Food for the eternal soul. The entire body of Christ (blood, words, body, and spirit) are a reminder of the depth and greatness of the love of God to each and every one of us. Therefore, we should never forget that the mystery of the Body and Blood of Jesus is a sacred act of love and a sign of unity. An Easter meal in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and the soul is nourished.

You shall set upon the table the Bread of Presence before me always. Exodus 25:30

The priest gave him holy bread: for there was no other bread there but the Bread of the Presence; that was taken from before LORD. 1st Samuel 21:6

For the life of the body is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. Leviticus 17:11

We shall take the Cup of Salvation, and call on the name of LORD. Psalm 116:13

Daily bread and wine, these are the labor of human hands and the offerings of the faithful assembly gathered to worship the Almighty God. These are also the primary forms of substance for those of poverty throughout the world. In fellowship with the poor and the heavenly company, the Spirit of Christ has chosen these simple and common elements to serve as its hosts. These everyday items become the dwelling place for the Spirit of God, a visual means to offer general devotion and a means of renewal for the souls of the faithful. Therefore, in solidarity and of great love for humankind the Spirit of Christ comes to us and dwells within the most common everyday items, so that we may honor God and receive spiritual enrichment.

The Conclusion

The first time the Jesus came to us was through the Holy Spirit and the womb of Mary. Other than Mary, the humble servant, humanity played no role in this manifestation of God. Today, Christ comes to us through the Holy Spirit when an assembly offers their invitation through a presbyter.

The Roman work of the people is a celebration of worship and praise. It is a labor of love by an assembly of Christians who want to offer their devotion to the Living God. The Roman work of the people is also an ancient form of worship that goes back to the early Christian communities. In closing, I encourage all those who want to study Christian worship to read and research the history of the Roman work of the people.

== Written by Dave Pflueger February 2, 2009 © copyrighted by Pflueger


The Priest: Therefore, most merciful Father, we humbly ask of You and request of You through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, that You would grant to accept and bless these gifts, these presents, these holy and pure Sacrifices which, in the first place we offer You for Your Holy Catholic Church, to which grant it peace as also to preserve, unite, and govern it, throughout the world, together with Your servant __ (name of the individual who leads the denomination ) __ , our __ (formal title of leader) __ , and __ (name of the local Bishop ) __ , our Bishop; and all faithful believers and confessors of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

Remember, O Lord, Your servant(s) __ (names may be offered for those whom we wish to remember ) __ , and all here present, whose faith and devotion are known to You, for whom we offer You, this sacrifice of praise for themselves, their families and friends, for the redemption of their souls, for the health and salvation they hope for; and who now offer their promises to You, the everlasting, living and true God.

In communion with and honoring in the first place the memory of the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord – Jesus Christ. Then Your blessed Apostles, Martyrs, and all Your Saints, through whose merits and prayers, grant that we may be always be defended by the help of Your protection.
[Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.]

We therefore humbly ask You, O Lord, to graciously accept this offering of our service, as also of Your entire family; and guide our days through Your peace, preserve us from eternal damnation, and count us in the number in Your chosen.
[Through Christ our Lord. Amen.]

The Prayer of Consecration

We humbly ask you, O God, to bless, approve, ratify, make reasonable and acceptable in every way; that these may become for us the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Send now your Holy Spirit upon these offerings, so that the Spirit would make this bread the precious Body of your Christ, and that which is in this Cup the precious Blood of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, transforming them by your Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Remembrance

On the day before He suffered, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread (take hold and raise a little) into His holy and venerable hands, and having raised His eyes to heaven, to You, O God, His Almighty Father, giving thanks to You, blessed it broke it and gave it to His disciples saying: (hands upon additional bread) Take and eat all of you.
THIS IS HIS BODY. (elevate high, return it to its proper place, and then a personal sign of reverence)

In like manner, after He had the meal, taking also the excellent chalice (take hold and raise a little) into His holy and venerable hands, and giving thanks to You, He blessed it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: (hands upon additional wine) Take and drink all of you.
THIS IS HIS BLOOD, THE CHALICE OF THE NEW AND EVERLASTING TESTAMENT. THE MYSTERY OF FAITH, WHICH FOR YOU AND FOR MANY WILL BE SHED FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. As often as you shall do these things, do them in memory of Me. (elevate high, return it to its proper place, and then a personal sign of reverence)

The Offertory

Mindful, therefore, O God, we, Your servants and Your holy people of Christ, Your Son, our Lord, remember His blessed Passion, and also of His Resurrection from the dead, and finally of His glorious Ascension into heaven, offer to Your most excellent Majesty of Your Own gifts, bestowed upon us, perfect, holy, and a victim without sin.

The holy Bread of eternal Life and the Chalice of eternal Salvation, be pleased to regard them with Your gracious and tranquil countenance, and to accept them as it pleased You to graciously accept the gifts of Your just servant Able, and the sacrifice of Abraham our Patriarch, and those which Your chief priest Melchizedek offered to You, a holy Sacrifice.

Most humbly we ask of You, Almighty God, command these offerings to be borne by the hands of Your holy Angels to Your altar on high, in the sight of Your divine Majesty, that as many as shall partake of the most holy Body and Blood of Your Son at this altar, may be filled with every heavenly grace and blessing.
[Through Christ our Lord. Amen.]

Remember also, Lord, Your servant(s) __ (the names of those who have recently died may now be mentioned ) __ , who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, we ask You to grant of Your goodness a place of comfort, light, and peace.
[Through Christ our Lord. Amen.]

To us also, Your sinful servants, confiding in the depth of Your mercy, be pleased to grant us some part and fellowship with Your Holy Apostles, Martyrs, and with all Your Saints, into whose company we humbly ask You to admit us, not weighing our merits, but forgiving our offenses. Through Christ our Lord, by Whom, O God, You always create, sanctify fill with life, bless, and bestow upon us all good things.

Though Him and with Him and in Him
is to You, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory, one world without end.

The Great Amen Hymn

After the celebrant has concluded the Eucharistic Prayer with a Doxology, the people of the congregation either sing a version of the Great Amen Hymn or they say one of the following.

The People : Amen.