Reflection 1: The Mystery of the Bread and Wine
April 21, 2016
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
There is diversity among Christians on “how” the manifestation of the Logos happens in the Eucharist celebration. 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 have confidence that through the Invocation of the Holy Spirit the body of Jesus, the Logos, becomes present in the bread and wine. As the Spirit of God, Jesus fulfills his promise, when two are more gathered in my name I will be in their midst.
For Sacramental Christians the Bread of the Presence and the Cup of Salvation is without question the elements that serve as the hosts for the manifestation of the Spirit of the Logos among all humanity. As the hosts they are interwoven with the Spirit of the Logos and they are the source of spiritual strength and the Holy Food for the eternal soul. The entire body of the Holy Anointed One (blood, words, flesh, and spirit) is a reminder of the depth and greatness of the love of God has towards to 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. This meal is a great thanking in which the Logos, the Anointed One, is consumed in a common way, but with extremely uncommon results; the mind is filled with the favor of the love of God and the soul is nourished and strengthen.
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, here the Living God 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 of LORD can be found in the bread in the Holies of Holies, then it is realistic that the Logos can also 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, the Holy Anointed One, was as present in the bread that Moses placed in the Tent of the Meeting as he was present with Peter, Andrew, and John. 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.
In the daily life of humanity, bread and wine are the labor of human hands and the offerings of an assembly gathered to worship God. These are also the primary forms of substance for those who live in poverty throughout the world. In fellowship with the poor and the heavenly company, the Spirit of the Anointed One has chosen to reside in these simple and common elements. These everyday items become the dwelling place for the Spirit of God, a visual means for the faithful to offer devotion and a means of renewal and strength for the soul. Therefore, in solidarity and of great love for humankind the Spirit of the Holy Anointed One comes to us and dwells within the most common everyday items, so that we may honor God and receive spiritual enrichment.
The Conclusion. From a review of the worship manuals from Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and others we can see that this celebration that invites the living embodiment of the Spirit of the Holy Anointed One to come among the gathered assembly 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 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, the Logos comes to us as the Holy Spirit when an assembly offers their invitation through a presbyter acting as their messenger. The Roman work of the people (Mass) 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.
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
A 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.
Reflection 2: The Eucharist of the Swedish Lutherans
August 28, 2018
“Sanctify by your Spirit this bread and wine, which earth has given, and human hands have made. Here we offer them to you, that through them we may partake of the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” From A Swedish Liturgy
Through these words in their Eucharistic Prayer the Swedish Lutherans separate themselves from most other Lutherans throughout the world. The Swedish Lutherans believe the Holy Spirit, through an invitation, transforms the gifts of bread and wine and they become the host and presence of the Living Spirit of the Logos. Through this presence and manifestation, the Logos, the Holy Anointed One, comes and dwells within them and among the gathered assembly. This is the practice of the ancient Christian Assembly, the consecration (transformation of the gifts) and the elevation (memorial offering).
This is a continuing practice from the days of Moses, when a priest would say a sanctifying prayer that invites the Living God into the assembly of humankind to dwell in the Bread of the Presence. This is a great Mystery and is beyond all human reasoning, it is enough to have confidence that this happens and the presence of the Holy Anointed One is indeed in the gifts of bread and wine. The Swedish Lutherans affirm this and celebrate this presence. They joyfully recite the invocation prayer for the Spirit of the Logos to become present in their midst and dwell among them.
Reflection 3: The Eucharist – The Cleaning Presence of the Spirit of God
May 6, 2018
Father Lawrence Farley of the Archdiocese of Canada – Orthodox Church in America wrote this wonderful statement about the Holy Eucharistic, “We walk into the church guilty, stained, weighed down with sins and heavy laden; we walk out of the Church after receiving the Eucharist forgiven, cleansed, liberated and light.”
In the Christian rite of the Holy Eucharistic an individual is immersed in the presence of the Spirit of the Holy One and this immersion into the presence and manifestation of the Spirit of God cleanses them and restores them to original purity. What the water of the Mikvah of repentance provided humanity before the Incarnation of the Logos the Holy Eucharist, environment and elements, now provides.
In theory Christians can still participate in the Mikvah of repentance as a means of rededicating themselves to God and the teachings of Jesus the Anointed One, but it should never separate them from fully participating and receiving the Holy Eucharist and being immersed in the cleaning presence of the Spirit of the Living God.
Finally, we should never forget the history and purpose of washing rituals, they came to Christianity from it Jewish roots. Through Judaism we are reminded that we are born with original purity and because our journey through life causes us to become dirty we occasionally need to be cleansed and renew our dedication to God. It is within this context that we can see why so many Jews, Christians, and other religions would see an immersion as a means of cleansing an individual from their mistakes and offences that they have committed and rededicating them to a religious life.
A Reflection of the Western Divine Liturgy
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. Most likely 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.
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 preferred 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.
In closing, 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 embraced 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.