12 October 2012

Liturgy Part-Time 2.1, Creation, Trinity and theologies of worship and prayer

Baptism and Eucharist … celebrations of Creation and worship in communion with the Trinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Liturgy Part-Time 2.1: 12 October 2012

This evening:

Liturgy Part-Time 2.1:
Creation, Trinity, and theologies of worship and prayer.

Liturgy Part-Time 2.2: The development of the liturgical year and the daily office.


Outline of course content for part-time MTh residential weekends in Semester 1:

Friday 12 October:

1, Creation, Trinity and theologies of worship and prayer.

2, The development of the liturgical year and the daily office.

Saturday 13 October:

1, The nature and theology of sacraments

2, Baptism and Eucharist (1) from the early Church to the Reformers.

Friday 9 November:

1, Baptism and Eucharist (2) liturgical renewal in the 20th century; the contemporary life and mission of the Church.

2, Rites of passage, e.g., Marriages, Funerals

Saturday 10 November:

1 and 2: Visit to a public place of worship of another faith

Liturgy 2.1: Creation, Trinity, and theologies of worship and prayer.

It is the total gift of oneself to the beloved that is the ideal of love, of human love in this life, and that is only a faint image of the total self-giving which is the Love of God. For ever in the Holy Trinity, the Father gives Himself to the Son and the Son to the Father in a torrent of love which is the Holy Ghost. The whole perfect Being of God passes eternally from one to another and returns in an unending dance of love – the perfect love of the perfect lover for the perfectly beloved, perfectly achieved and perfectly returned for ever. That is the life of God himself in the eternal abyss of his own being. It is love. and it is joy, illimitable joy. Self-sacrifice in this world and the joy of God’s own being are one and the same thing from different worlds.
– Dom Gregory Dix, God’s Way with Man (Dacre Press, 1954), p. 76.

All our liturgical prayer is expressed in the plural, and not in the singular.

All our liturgical prayer is the prayer of the Community of Faith, not merely of the gathered congregation, but the prayer of the whole church:

In Holy Communion 2 (Great Thanksgiving, Prayer 1), the preface states we pray not on our own but with the whole Church, visible and invisible: “And so with all your people, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven …” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 209].

And that prayer goes on to ask “that we may be made one in your holy Church” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 211].

Or, in Prayer 2, we pray: “… bring us with all your people into the joy of your eternal kingdom” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 215].

Similarly, in Prayer 3, we state: “with your whole Church throughout the world we offer you this sacrifice of thanks and praise …” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 217].

And because our faith is incarnational, those Great Thanksgiving prayers are connected both with the whole groaning creation, and with God as Trinity.

This afternoon, I first want us to consider the Trinitarian foundations and underpinnings of the liturgical worship of Church, and to relate that in an incarnational way to the celebration of God’s creation and the anticipation of the fulfilment of God’s plans for creation.

Then, secondly, after the break, I’d like us to look at the practice of prayer in the Benedictine and Franciscan traditions. Indeed, it would be impossible not to think about Creation and to relate this to Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality and the care for all creation.

In looking at the Creation, the Trinity and theologies of worship and prayer, I shall draw particularly on the Eucharist (the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Prayer). The Book of Common Prayer (2004) speaks of the Eucharist as “the central act of worship of the Church.” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 75].

“Because this is the case,” Bishop Harold Miller says, “we will find that the Holy Communion Service gives us a window in to all that is most vital in our regular worship.” [Harold Miller, The desire of our soul (Dublin: Columba Press, 2004), p. 115.] But I hope from this that we can move on to interpret what we do as the Church in our other forms of public prayer.

Part 1: Liturgy, prayer and the Trinity:

A modern icon in the style of Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Old Testament Trinity or the Hospitality of Abraham

Bible study (1): Genesis 18: 1-15

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on – since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’


Jürgen Moltmann, Gerald O’Collins, and other theologians across the traditions have written about Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Trinity placing the Eucharist at the centre of the life of the Trinity. The three figures in the icon surround a “chalice on the table, which links the scene with the Eucharist, and hence with the saving and revealing story of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.” [Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (London: SCM, 1981), p. xvi; Gerald O’Collins, The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999), p. 11.]

The three figures form a sort of mystic circle and they seem to say to us: “May you all be one as we are one.” (cf John 17: 21). The communion of the Holy Trinity is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.

This icon speaks of the Eucharist and the Church as if the mystery of Christ in the broken bread is immersed in the ineffable unity of the three divine Persons, with the Church itself an icon of the Trinity.

The Trinity denotes that “God, who is one and unique in his infinite substance or nature is three really distinct persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Or as the Athanasian Creed states: “We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.” [see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 771.]

The Trinity and the Eucharist in the Fathers of the Church

Saint John’s Gospel in particular provided a great deal of material for the Fathers of the Church to indicate the intimate link between the Eucharist and the Trinity.

For example, Saint Cyprian of Carthage (died 248) teaches that our union with Christ in the Eucharist “unifies affections and wills.”

But, while the unity of the three persons in the Trinity is substantial, our unity with Christ and the Trinity is accidental. So while nothing outside of us can separate us from God’s love, if we turn away from God through sin, we lose this communion with Christ and hence with the Trinity.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (ca 315-387) speaks of our union “with Christ through the Eucharist by comparing it to two volumes of melted wax: when brought together, they become one. Hence, in Communion, Christ is in us and we in him.”

His Western contemporary, Saint Hilary of Poitiers (ca 315-367/8), in his De Trinitate, written to counter the Arians, speaks of the Eucharist as the bond of unity between God and us. He begins by citing Christ’s words: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6: 56).

He then summarises this, saying that when we receive the Eucharist, “we are in Christ and Christ is in us,” and by being united to Christ, who is the second person of the Trinity, we are united to the Trinity, including the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Saint Hilary of Poitiers (ca 300-ca 368) says the Eucharist has been understood in light of the mystery of the Trinity from the inception of the early Church, presents the Eucharist as the bond between God and us, and shows how it is possible to have access to the mystery of the Trinity through the living reality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria (died 444) is one of the great patristic teachers on the Eucharist. Quoting John 6: 35 (“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”), he links our participation in the Eucharist with receiving the Holy Spirit, and participating in God’s own nature.

Trinity and Eucharist in the writings of the saints

The Basilica of San Domenico, also known as Basilica Cateriniana ... Saint Catherine of Siena says “to be placed within love is foremost to find oneself in the Trinitarian life of God,” and speaks of a unity between the Trinity and the Eucharist when she talks of “the Holy Trinity as food for our souls.”(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Later, Saint Catherine of Siena (ca 1347-1380), generally recognised as one of “Doctors of the Church,” says that “to be placed within love is foremost to find oneself in the Trinitarian life of God,” and speaks of a unity between the Trinity and the Eucharist in a short prayer in which she talks of “the Holy Trinity as food for our souls.”

What we can see in the Patristic writings and the writings of the saints is an understanding of the Eucharist as a union with Christ that expands into a union with the Godhead in the Trinity.

Liturgical prayer and the Trinity:

In recent years, theologians in general and liturgists in particular have rediscovered the practical importance of the doctrine of the Trinity for Christian worship and human life.

In 1989, The Forgotten Trinity, a report by an ecumenical theological commission of the British Council of Churches, declared: “A fresh awareness of the doctrine [of the Trinity] and its implications can lead to a renewal of worship and a deeper understanding of what it means to be a person, since the fulfilment of human beings is to be found in relationships in community and not in self-assertive individualism.”

God’s covenant people have always worshipped a God who is named, a God who is self-identifying. That God reveals himself as “the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34: 6).

As Christians, we have confessed the name of God in our worship for centuries, forming our understanding of God in the context of praise. For the early Christians, worship of the Lord God took place “in the name of Christ,” in the lived experience of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and through the experience of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

And so they could only talk about that God, and talk to that God through Christ and in the Spirit.

There is a Monty Python sketch in The Meaning of Life (1983), in which a sanctimonious chaplain, played by Michael Palin, leads a large assembly in a public school chapel in prayer:

Let us praise God. O Lord,

O Lord , ooh, you are so big,...
... ooh, you are so big, ...

... so absolutely huge.
... so absolutely huge.

Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell you.
Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell you.

Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and...
And barefaced flattery.

But you are so strong and, well, just so super.


But our worship is not a human activity directed towards a God “out there” – it is our entry into the perichoresis of the Trinity, the dance of the Trinity.

Trinity and Eucharist in the Liturgy

The liturgy as the prayer of the Church is filled with Trinitarian references, right through to the final blessing at the end of the liturgy, so that the Trinity is an integral part of the public prayer. The Eucharistic Prayers are addressed to the Father [see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 186, 188, 209, 212, 216.], and all our Eucharistic prayers end with similar Trinitarian doxologies:

“By whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.” [Holy Communion 1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 189.]

“Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory is yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever.” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 211.]

“… through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom and in whom, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we worship you, Father almighty …” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 2, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 215.]

The exception is Holy Communion 2, Prayer 3 [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 216-217], which is phrased throughout in an integrated Trinitarian language.

And so, the Eucharist becomes the action of the entire Trinity and provides a glimpse of what will be experienced in the Beatific Vision. We remember and enter into the one complete and all sufficient sacrifice to the Father, where the Son offers himself, and we remember his saving action, by the power of the Holy Spirit; and so this action cannot be separated from the action of Trinity.

The Trinity in the other prayers of the Church:

The Sacraments are a sign of how we are brought into the life of the Holy Trinity. Our Baptism brings us into the Family of the Trinity, draws us closer into the life of the Trinity.

Baptism is not in the name of Christ, but in the name of the Trinity. Today is the Feast of Saint Philip the Deacon. Philip’s baptising in the name of Jesus Christ in the Samaritan city (Acts 8: 12, 16) was supplemented later by the prayers of Peter and John. Although we are baptised into Christ, we are baptised, in accord with the Great Commission, in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit [Matthew 28: 19; see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 350, 365.]

Some concluding remarks:

Some prayers I have heard:

I have prayers that could be paraphrased like this:

“Lord Jesus, we come before, grateful for all your saving acts. May our worship this morning be to your praise and glory. And this we ask for the sake of your son, our Saviour, Amen.”

Some things that have been done

In the Kyrie during the prayers of the people [Morning and Evening Prayer [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 112], I have heard people say “Lord have mercy,” heard the response “Christ have mercy,” and then not heard the third refrain: “Lord have mercy.”


We have all heard someone add a Gloria or doxology to the canticle Te Deum. Why do we add the Gloria or doxology at the end of the Psalms at times, or at the end of some Canticles, but not others?

[Discussion; see Harold Miller, The desire of our soul (Dublin: Columba, 2004), p. 68.]

In our prayers, when we fail to think and prepare, we often betray some of the age-old heresies, including Modalism, Monarchianism, Sabellianism and Arianism. But there is no true Christology without a true Trinitarian theology

Part 2: Liturgy, prayer and creation:

Bible study (2): Matthew 3: 13-17

A modern icon of the Baptism of Christ

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved,* with whom I am well pleased.’

13 Τότε παραγίνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ' αὐτοῦ. 14 ὁ δὲ Ἰωάννης διεκώλυεν αὐτὸν λέγων, Ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχω ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι, καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με; 15 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἄφες ἄρτι, οὕτως γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην. τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν. 16 βαπτισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος: καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν [αὐτῷ] οἱ οὐρανοί, καὶ εἶδεν [τὸ] πνεῦμα [τοῦ] θεοῦ καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν [καὶ] ἐρχόμενον ἐπ' αὐτόν: 17 καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα.


The story of the Baptism of Christ is the first revelation of the Trinity to the creation and is like the story of a new creation. All the elements of the creation story in the Book Genesis are here: we know we are moving from darkness into light; the shape of the earth moves from wilderness to beauty as we are given a description of the landscape; there is a separation of the waters of the new creation as Jesus and John go down in the waters of the Jordan and rise up from them again; and as in Genesis, the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters of this beautiful new creation like a dove.

And then, just as in the Genesis creation story, where God looks down and sees that everything is good, God looks down in this Theophany story and lets us know that everything is good. Or as Saint Mark says: A voice came from heaven saying: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

God is pleased with the whole of creation, God so loved this creation (cosmos) that Christ has come into it, identified with us in the flesh, and is giving us the gift and the blessings of the Holy Spirit.

Creation and the Mission of the Church

In the Egyptian Liturgy of Saint Mark, we find the following prayer:

“Bless, O Lord, the fruits of the earth, keep them for us free from disease and hurt, and prepare them for our sowing and our harvest… Bless now also, O Lord, the crown of the year through thy goodness for the sake of the poor among thy people, for the sake of the widow and the orphan, for the sake of the wanderer and the newcomer and for the sake of all who trust in thee and call upon thy Holy Name.”

This is the time of the year for Harvest Thanksgiving Services throughout the Church of Ireland. And traditionally, in Anglican worship, we have prayed for the harvest, for seasonable weather, for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for protection in the case of natural disasters. The blessings for natural elements – fields, vineyards, first fruits, wheat, etc. – show how the Church recognises the transformation of all aspects of creation through the salvation and glorification of humanity and thus of all creation.

However, we have been slow to explicitly express the reality that our worship takes place within Creation, is offered on behalf of Creation, and looks to the fulfilment of God’s promises for all of Creation.

The four marks of the Church’s mission were first agreed at a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nigeria in 1984.

Two meetings later, in Wales in 1990, the ACC declared in a report, Mission, Culture and Human Development: “We now feel that our understanding of the ecological crisis, and indeed of the threats to the unity of all creation, mean that we have to add a fifth affirmation: ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’.”

It took us as Anglicans until 1990 to articulate responsibility for nature, for the environment, for the life of this planet, and to acknowledge that this is an integral part of the mission, and therefore, the worship of the Church.

Why did it take so long? And why, when we Anglicans were working out our mission statement over quarter of a century ago in 1984 did we just stop at four? Why did it take six more years and two more meetings of the ACC before Anglicans realised we all share the responsibility “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth”?

Some explanations that have been offered include:

1, A mentality that if Christ is coming again soon, we need not worry about the state of the world or the environment – perhaps we might even can help history along and encourage his return.

2, The Church withdrew from engaging with science after the bruising it received in the debate about creation. As Professor Owen Chadwick, the historian of Victorian Anglicanism, said: “They drew up the drawbridge and boiled the oil.”

3, A negative view of nature and the environment: that the creation is to be prayed about because we fear storms, floods, earthquakes, the sea, the mountains, all seen as hostile.

4, An even deeper problem is the idea that we are created to have dominion over the earth and all of creation. This idea is enhanced by traditional readings of passages such as the creation account in Genesis 1, including: “and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth, an over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (verse 26; c.f. verse 28); and of passages such as Psalm 8: 5-8:

You have made them [human beings] a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given us dominion
over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

The traditional interpretation is that the rest of creation was made for us, that we are at the top of the pile and that it was all made by God just for us, so we can do what we like with creation.

In Genesis 1, God brings all life into existence, declares it is all good, and puts it in an harmonious ecosystem. We are God’s representatives, made in God’s image, and are called to act in the same way. We are God’s deputies, God’s stewards. The dominion that God seeks is one that protects the defenceless and gives justice to the oppressed. So dominion over creation implies the call to protect it.

Meanwhile, in the last 25 years, as Anglicans, we have started praying in words such as

Awaken in us a sense of wonder for the earth and all that is in it. Teach us to care creatively for its resources [New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 413.]

We remember with gratitude your many gifts to us in creation and the rich heritage of these islands. Help us and people everywhere to share with justice and peace the resources of the earth. [New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 416.]

We thank you for your gifts in creation – for our world, the heavens tell of your glory; for our land, its beauty and its resources, for the rich heritage we enjoy. We pray for those who make decisions about the resources of the earth, that we may use your gifts responsibly; for those who work on the land and sea, in city and in industry, that all may enjoy the fruits of their labours and marvel at your creation; for artists, scientists and visionaries, that through their work we may see creation afresh. [New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 463]

Prayers like this are absent from New Zealand’s 1966 and 1970 revisions, and only begin to appear in the 1984 revision. They begin to appear in The Alternative Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland that year, and were developed in the Book of Common Prayer (2004), as in the weekday intercessions and thanksgivings for Monday, on the theme of “Creation in Christ: Creation and Providence” [Alternative Prayer Book (1984), p. 97; Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 139.]

So what happened between 1984 and 1990?

These were times when we were becoming increasingly aware of how fragile this world is. A series of major environmental disasters in these decades included the Torrey Canyon spillage (1969) and the leaks at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986).

In a ground-breaking initiative in 1989, Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople called for “prayers and supplications to the Maker of all, both as thanksgiving for the great gift of creation and as petition for its protection and salvation.” He invited Christians everywhere to observe 1 September, the Ecclesiastical New Year in the Orthodox tradition, as the annual Day of Prayer for Creation.

It is a fundamental dogma of our faith that the world, the cosmos, was created by God the Father, who is confessed in the Creed to be “maker of heaven and earth and of all things, seen and unseen.”

So our worship conveys this profound understanding of creation. Our liturgical worship is an expression of the faith and the hope that the whole of the universe worships and offers gifts to the Creator.

To return to last Thursday’s theme of liturgical space and place, in Orthodox churches, the very shape of the churches, including the place of icons, mosaics and frescoes within them, are seen as a microcosm of the universe that illustrates the role both of humanity and of the rest of creation in relation to God. But this it is not only an expression of what is on earth today. It is an expression too of what exists in heaven and what is to come – the eschatological promise and redemptive transformation of all creation through the salvation wrought by Christ [see Romans 8: 22-24].

Our prayers and our psalms tell us of the sanctification of all creation. Psalm 103 says: “Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103: 22).

Good public worship includes the celebration and the use of all aspects of the human senses: it engages sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.

At the Eucharist, we offer the fullness of creation and receive it back as the blessing of Grace in the form of the bread and the wine, to share with others, a sign or a sacrament that God’s grace and deliverance is shared not just with us but with all of God’s creation. As humans, we are simply yet gloriously the means for the expression of creation in its fullness and the coming of God’s deliverance for all creation.

The vocation of humanity, as shown in our liturgy, is not to dominate and to exploit nature, but to transfigure and to hallow it. In so many ways – through the cultivation of the earth, through crafts and through the arts, but especially in our liturgy – we give material things a voice and render the creation articulate in its praise of God.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware lecturing in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge ... he points out we bring to the altar not sheaves of wheat but loaves of bread, not bunches of grapes but wine poured out; fruit of the earth and work of human hands, this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It is significant that in the Eucharist, when we offer back to God the first fruits of the earth, we offer them not in their original form, but reshaped by our hands. As Metropolitan Kallistos [Ware] of Diokleia has said, we bring to the altar not sheaves of wheat but loaves of bread, not bunches of grapes but wine poured out – “these gifts of your creation” [The Book of Common Prayer, p. 214]; fruit of the earth and work of human hands.

In our Eucharist, we acknowledge and praise God a Creator: The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” Our Eucharistic liturgy is first and foremost about giving thanks for God’s work for us, which begins with creation. To bless is to give thanks. In and through thanksgiving, we acknowledge the true nature of things we receive from God and thus enable them to attain the fullness God intended for them. We bless and sanctify things when we offer them to God in a Eucharistic movement of our whole being.

And as we stand before the cosmos, before the matter given to us by God, this Eucharistic movement becomes all-embracing. We are defined as a “Eucharistic” animal because we are capable of seeing the world as God’s gift, as a sacrament of God’s presence and a means of communion with him. So we are able to offer the world back to God as thanksgiving: “for all things come from you and of your own we give you.” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 208.] We are able to bless and praise God for the world and his creation:

“Blessed are you Father, the creator and sustainer of all things …” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 210].

“For he is your eternal Word through whom you have created all things …” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 212].

“Merciful Father, we thank you for these gifts of your creation, this bread and this wine …” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 2, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 214].

“Father, Lord of all creation, we praise you for your goodness and your love.” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 216].

And in the shared Post-Communion Prayer:

“May we … who drink this cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 220].

These liturgical expressions reflect the vision and understanding of our relationship both with creation and with the Creator. We are the free agents through whom creation is offered to the Creator. The Eucharist is the most sublime expression and experience of creation transformed by God the Holy Spirit through redemption and worship. In the form of bread and wine, material from creation moulded into new form by human hands is offered to God with the acknowledgment that all of creation is God’s and that we are returning to God that which is his.

The primordial relationship of Adam to both God and Creation is restored in the Eucharist, and we have a foretaste of the eschatological state of Creation. But when we look today at our world, we see a very different picture. Humanity’s rebellion, pride and greed have shattered the primordial relationship of Adam. It has ignored the Church’s understanding of our role as priest of creation. By doing so, our world is facing a crisis of death and corruption to a degree never before experienced.

We must attempt to return to the proper relationship with the Creator and creation in order to ensure the survival of the natural world. We are called to bear some of the pain of creation as well as to enjoy and celebrate it. That means to perform Liturgia extra muros, the Liturgy beyond or outside the walls of the church, for the sanctification of the world.

An understanding of Creation in Baptism:

As we have seen in our second Bible study, the baptism of Christ a new creation, or a renewal of creation.

Baptismal water represents the matter of the cosmos, and its blessing at the beginning of the baptismal rite has a cosmic and redemptive significance. God created the world and blessed it and gave it to us as our food and life, as the means of communion with him.

When the water is poured into the font, we recall the waters of creation that cleanse and replenish, nourish and sustain us, all living things and the earth, the waters of freedom in the Red Sea and the Jordan that brought the promise of new life, the waters of Christ’s baptism, the waters of Christ’s death and new life, and our new birth in the Church through the waters of life. [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 363.]


There is an inseparable link between the Triune God we worship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the God who is the Creator of all.

This God we worship together and collectively in the public worship, the Liturgy of the Church, and this understanding is foundational for our understanding of liturgy and the prayer life of the Church.

Some resources:

(1) Confession

From Common Worship (Church of England):

We confess our sin, and the sins of our society,
in the misuse of God’s creation.

God our Father, we are sorry
for the times when we have used your gifts carelessly,
and acted ungratefully.
Hear our prayer, and in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

We enjoy the fruits of the harvest,
but sometimes forget that you have given them to us.
Father, in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

We belong to a people who are full and satisfied,
but ignore the cry of the hungry.
Father, in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

We are thoughtless,
and do not care enough for the world you have made.
Father, in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

We store up goods for ourselves alone,
as if there were no God and no heaven.
Father, in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

(2) Intercessions:

Let us pray for the Church and for the world.

Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honour one another and serve the common good.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honour and glory.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your salvation.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

The celebrant adds a concluding collect.

The Book of Common Prayer (TEC) pp 388-389.

(3) Collects:

Almighty God,
you have created the heaven and the earth
and made us in your own image:
Teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in all your children;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) p. 256 (The Second Sunday before Lent).

Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) p. 283 (The Third Sunday after Trinity).

See also the collects of Trinity XX, Trinity XXI, the Sunday before Advent.

(4) A creation focused preface:

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent you only Son, born of a woman, to fulfil your Law, to open for is the way of freedom and peace.
By his blood, he reconciled us.
By his wounds, we are healed.

And therefore we praise you, joining with the heavenly chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all those in every generation who have looked to you in hope, to proclaim with them your glory, in their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord …

The Book of Common Prayer (TEC) pp 370-371.

The Canadian Book of Alternative Services has adapted this prayer, changed “rulers of creation” to “stewards of creation” and inserted a regular refrain “Glory to you for ever and ever.” It has no cue for this refrain, so you either need the text in front of you, or the text must be sung with a musical cue for the sung refrain.

A suggested option is to use a set cue and response such as:

God of all creation
we worship and adore you

(5) Calendar

An autumn rainbow between Lambay Island and Portrane ... the Season of Creation is celebrated in many churches in September and October (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

The Season of Creation calendar has this basic pattern:

● 1 September: Day of Creation (as in Orthodox traditions).
● Four Sundays: four domains of creation, e.g, Forest, Land, Ocean and River Sundays.
● Saint Francis of Assisi Day (4 October).
● Blessing of the Animals.
● Special Sunday – appropriate to the country or community.
● Second Sunday in October (next Sunday) – Final Sunday of the Season

The Season of Creation 2011 (Series A): The Spirit in Creation

● 1 September: Creation Day.
● 4 September: 1st Sunday in Creation, Forest Sunday.
● 11 September: 2nd Sunday in Creation, Land Sunday.
● 18 September: 3rd Sunday in Creation, Wilderness/Outback Sunday.
● 25 September: 4th Sunday in Creation, River Sunday.
● 2 October: Special Sunday, appropriate to the country or community.
● 4 October: Saint Francis of Assisi Day.
● 9 October: Final Sunday of the Season, Blessing of the Animals

The Season of Creation 2012 (Series B): The Word in Creation

● 1 September: Creation Day
● 2 September: 1st Sunday in Creation, Planet Earth Sunday
● 9 September: 2nd Sunday in Creation, Humanity Sunday
● 16 September: 3rd Sunday in Creation, Sky Sunday
● 23 September: 4th Sunday in Creation, Mountain Sunday
● 30 September: 5th Sunday in Creation, Blessing of the Animals
● 4 October: Saint Francis of Assisi Day

In many parts of the world, the churches celebrate “Creation Day” on 1 September, and mark the period from 1 September to 4 October, the Feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, or the Sunday after 4 October as “Creation Time,” marking the priceless gift of the Creator who made us into his own image and likeness.

This ecumenical celebration dates from the initiative by Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople in 1989, when he invited all Christians to observe 1 September as the annual Day of Prayer for Creation.


Liturgy 3.2:
The development of the liturgical year and the daily office;

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on 12 October 2012 is part of the MTh module EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality with part-time students

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