18 November 2010

Liturgy 7.2: Ecumenical liturgical dialogue

The Liturgical Movement has enabled insights to be shared across traditions within the wider Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgy 7:2

Seminar: readings in ecumenical statements: ARCIC, WCC Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, and the Church of Ireland Methodist Covenant.

Patrick Comerford

EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 09:00 to 11:00, Thursdays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 7: 18 November 2010

Readings in ecumenical statements:

Irish Methodist missionaries commemorated in a window in a Methodist church in Orlando, Florida (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

ARCIC, WCC report, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, and the Church of Ireland Methodist Covenant.

For the ARCIC Final Report, see: http://www.prounione.urbe.it/dia-int/arcic/doc/e_arcic_final.html

For the WCC report, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper No 111 (The Lima Report) see: http://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/faith-and-order-commission/i-unity-the-church-and-its-mission/baptism-eucharist-and-ministry-faith-and-order-paper-no-111-the-lima-text/baptism-eucharist-and-ministry.html

For a study guide to the Lima Report, see: http://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/ecumenical-movement-in-the-21st-century/youth/study-guide-on-baptism-eucharist-and-ministry.html

For the Church of Ireland Methodist Covenant, see: http://www.ireland.anglican.org/index.php?do=about&id=47

Ecumenical liturgical dialogue

The influence of the Roman shape of the liturgy has been considerable among most liturgical churches of the west, including the whole of the Anglican Communion, the Methodist Church in England, and less formally liturgical churches such as the United Methodist Church of the US.

On the other hand, there have been various criticisms, mostly from within the Roman Catholic Church, at the loss of mystery and the reduction in the sacrificial element of the Mass. And yet, apart from the influence of Rome on other churches, we should not neglect the fact that Gregory Dix and other Anglicans influenced reform within Rome too.

ARCIC dialogue:

Venice ... one of the many venues for ARCIC (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the aftermath of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI invited a number of outside theologians to meetings of the Commission for the Implementation of the Liturgy Constitution (now the Congregation for Divine Worship), including two influential Anglicans, Ronald Jasper of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission, and Massey Shepherd, a major architect of the revised American Prayer Book.

Throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, ecumenical dialogue was dominated by the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commissions (ARCIC 1 and 2), especially their discussions on Eucharistic doctrine.

Archbishop Henry McAdoo, Anglican co-chair of ARCIC ... detail from his portrait in the Chapter House of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

The Eucharist was the first topic discussed by ARCIC, which was co-chaired by Bishop Henry McAdoo of Ossory, later Archbishop of Dublin. In 1971, ARCIC-1 published its first report, the Agreed Statement, or the Windsor Report on Eucharistic Doctrine. The Commission said it had reached substantial agreement as to the nature of Eucharistic belief in the two Communions.

The second ARCIC statement on the priesthood was reached at Canterbury in 1973. ARCIC also produced a statement on Authority at Venice in 1976.

At Salisbury in 1979, ARCIC published elucidations of the first two Agreed Statements in the light of criticisms. An elucidation on the Venice report was published in 1981, and a second statement on Authority was produced at Windsor in 1981.

The level of convergence claimed for these agreements was much less than that alleged to have been achieved in the statements on the Eucharist and Ministry.

All the Agreed Statements, together with their Elucidations, were collected together in a Final Report in September 1981, and submitted for approval by the Vatican, Roman Catholic hierarchies and Anglican provinces throughout the world.

In the agreement, there is no categorical assertion that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, neither has this been excluded. In fact the whole thrust of the reasoning here is that the Eucharist makes present the once-for-all Sacrifice of Christ here and now.

The Vatican’s official response to these ARCIC reports has been wanting in many respects. Nevertheless, there are four areas in which there are mutual influences and even convergence between Roman Catholic reforms and recent Anglican revisions:

● The Sunday Eucharistic lectionary;
● The Eucharistic prayers;
● The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults;
● Liturgical language.

Meanwhile, the Societas Liturgica, founded in 1967 by Anglicans and Roman Catholcs, has grown to become the international and ecumenical academy of liturgists, and has been an important forum for co-operation and agreement between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

The initiative was taken by of Wiebe Vos, a pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church who had founded Studia Liturgica in 1962 as “an international ecumenical quarterly for liturgical research and renewal.”

In 1965, he invited 25 liturgists from Europe and North America to meet at the Swiss Protestant community of Grandchamp, in Neuchâtel. They formed Societas Liturgica “for the promotion of ecumenical dialogue on worship, based on solid research, with the perspective of renewal and unity.”

Lismore Cathedral, Co Waterford ... Dean Gilbert Mayes was the first secretary of Societas Liturgica

The first meeting of Societas Liturgica took place at Driebergen in the Netherlands in 1967. That meeting studied the Constitution on the Liturgy of Vatican II and recent work on worship by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. The Very Revd Gilbert Mayes, Dean of Lismore, was elected the first secretary.

The second congress was held in Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick, in 1969, and since then Societas Liturgica has met at two year intervals, meeting in Dublin in 1995.

Most of the papers delivered at meetings of the Societas have been published in English in Studia Liturgica. There are now more than 400 members of Societas Litugica. The international and ecumenical character of the society is illustrated by the list of its successive presidents and council members, including many Anglican liturgists such as Gray, Jasper and Bradshaw.

The International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, which began in 1983, meets every two years, with the active participation and engagement of ecumenical partners.

The WCC, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Lima) and Taizé:

the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches published Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, the Lima Report, in 1982

As we have seen this morning, an ecumenical consensus on what is important in liturgy has evolved in the past century or so. In addition, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches has encouraged ecumenical conversation and convergence on the liturgy with the publication of the document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Lima, 1982).

This liturgy was strongly influenced by the ecumenical community at Taizé, and particularly by the Sub-Prior of Taizé, Max Thurian, and his interest in a diverse range of liturgical traditions, from the French Reformed to the Eastern Orthodox.

It discusses the Eucharist under five headings:

1, The Eucharist as Thanksgiving to the Father;
2, The Eucharist as Anamnesis or Memorial of Christ;
3, The Eucharist as Invocation of the Spirit;
4, The Eucharist as Communion of the Faithful;
5, The Eucharist as Meal of the Kingdom.

Thoughts for theological discussion:

As a result of the Parish Communion Movement in the 1930s and the Parish and People Movement in the 1940s and the 1950s, a new emphasis was placed in the Church of England on “the Lord’s people at the Lord’s table on the Lord’s Day,” so that the Holy Communion has become less of a private devotion and more truly the place where we are most fully the Body of Christ.

The Baptismal font in Saint Edan’s Cathedral, Ferns, Co Wexford ... do we show we accept children are full members of the Body of Christ through their baptism (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It is natural then to ask questions such as:

● How far are children, who are fully baptised members of the Body of Christ, being excluded from the community meal?
● Is their baptism incomplete in some way because of their age?
● Are they full members of the Body of Christ and should they be participants of his grace offered to the Body in communion?

From the theological standpoint, there are two things involved in this shift:

● a renewal of the theology of the Church
● a renewal of the theology of the liturgy.

In the catechism it is said that in Baptism we are made members of Christ, children of Gd, and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. We become members of the Church, the family of God, the Body of Christ, by Baptism [see A Catechism (Board of Education of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland), pp 1 and 3]. In some other Anglican catechisms, the Church is described as “the community of the New Covenant,” and as, “the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head and of which all baptised people are members” (c.f. Article 27).

These understandings have some important implications. If all those baptised are members of the Church and children are baptised, then children are members of the Church.

It makes a difference whether we speak of the Church as the “people of God,” as the catechism and the Bible do, or as, “a congregation of faithful men” as Article 19 of the 39 Articles does.

This is not to sug¬gest that this latter definition is wrong, but only that it suggests a group of adults, while a “people” composed of all the baptised, suggests a family, which includes people of all ages.

If we think of the Church as a voluntary society, a membership organisation to which people belong because they support its principles and wish to participate in its activities, then we think of the Church as a group of adults, which may, quite properly, have suitable activities for the children of members.

If we think of the Church as a family, then the children are members, in just the same way that adults are.

In a family, not every member participates in every activity, but all take part in the important activities, like eating and celebrat¬ing. The children may ask to leave the table early, and they may be bored by some of the adult conversation, but they are there, they belong there, and they usually want to be there. We do not give children decision-making authority in most families, but we do consult them, and involve them in everything in which they have a stake.

With this new movement, the emphasis is on the Church as God’s family, and the nature of the Church in¬volves people of all ages in its membership and its work. The liturgy becomes the central work of the Church, and the Sunday Eu¬charist becomes the Church’s central act of worship. The Church is now seen as the Eucharistic community. It is the Eucharist, the sacred meal shared by his Body week by week as the anamnesis of Christ the head, which constitutes us as the people of God.

The catechism defines membership in the Church in terms of baptism (see The Book of Common Prayer 2004, p. 766, Question No 2; A Catechism, pp 1, 3, Questions No 3 and 12). It can also be defined in terms of Eucharist, for they are the two necessary sacraments of participation in the paschal mystery of the dying and rising again of Jesus Christ.

The Body of Christ is the community which gathers to share in the meal which is also the Body of Christ

The Body of Christ is the community which gathers to share in the meal which is also the Body of Christ. We are what we eat.

Even at the human level it is participation in the common meal which makes us members of a community. We cannot refuse to eat the birthday cake if we are to be part of the celebration. We must at least put the champagne glass to our lips to toast the bride and groom or we are not members of the wedding. To be a member of a community means to share its food and meals. At the Jewish Passover, even the smallest child must drink the four cups of wine (even if their parents dilute them substantially with water). To take part in the Seder is to be a Jew; to fail to take part is to cut yourself off from your people, and from your God.

In the celebration of the Eucharist, as Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy so well expressed it, “The faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the real nature of the true Church.”

The vision in the Book of Revelation recorded is one of a congregation making Eucharist: the bishop seated in the centre with the elders, or presbyters, seated around in a semicircle; the deacons standing before the altar, and the congregation arrayed in their white baptismal robes, joining in the praise of God.

The Book of Common Prayer sets up a similar iconic representation of the Church. The bishop stands as chief celebrant at the Lord’s Table, the priests stand with the bishop and join in the celebration, deacons serve as waiters, lay persons read and sing and pray and offer, and all is done in a single harmonious whole.

What do we do to this icon of the Church if all of the participants are of one gender, or of one ethnic origin, or of one age? There are many occasions in which the situation will reduce the spectrum of participants in the Eucharist, but in principle all are there.

Children belong in the Eucharistic community. And the community needs the presence of the children. Families without children exist, but families with children do not usually exclude them from the family dinner table or relegate them to a parallel world of children. As baptised members of the Church, children have a share in the Eucharistic assembly. That means that we need to think of the assembly as one in which children can have a share, will want to have a share, and from which they do not feel excluded.

Baptism unites us with Christ in the paschal mystery. It makes us participants in his death and resurrection. In the water of baptism we are buried with Christ into his death, so that when we come up out of the water we are children newborn into the risen life. That life is nourished and renewed by our participation in the Eucharist, which in an on-going manner unites us to the same paschal mystery.

In the 5th century, Saint Augustine said that we are what we offer in the Eucharist. We are the bread lying on the paten, the drops of wine in the chalice, so that we become the Body of Christ. It is not a matter of our understanding, but a matter of God’s mighty acts.

Meaning and Mystery

One of the objections to children receiving Holy Communion is that small children cannot understand communion.

Does any one of us understand it adequately?

Do I understand it?

Do you?

Did Saint Thomas Aquinas?

Surely it, quite literally, surpasses human understanding. But that does not mean that you or I, or a little child, or Saint Thomas Aquinas cannot experience it. I am sure our explanations of what is going on will be very different, but that is because we are different people with different gifts. Possibly the little child understands it the best of any of us.

Baptism has given us the ability to experience the Eucharist. Experiencing it, and being helped to grow in knowledge and understanding about that experience, is what spiritual formation is all about. And that is the job of the Church, assisting in the spiritual formation of its children.

The fathers of the 4th century, the great mystagogic teachers like Ambrose and Cyril, did not attempt to explain the Sacraments to people who had not received them.

They provided a good deal of instruction for their adult catechumens, but instruction in the Sacraments was not included. It was only after the catechumens passed with Christ through the grave and gate of death in the baptismal washing and began to receive the Eucharist that they thought it possible to teach about it. Modem educational theorists agree that you must first have an experience before you can reflect on it.

Ideally, all of the baptised members of the Church should take part in the Eucharist. Children should begin to take part in the worship of the Church as they begin to take part in everything else.

How can we make the parish Eucharist an experience which both children and adults can share without pain on either side?

What should we do about children and the ministry of the Word?

Is the special children’s liturgy really as bad as we think it is?

And if so, why?

These are some of the questions we face, but we need to know that children are members of the Church and need to be included in its worship, not just as an educational experience, but because they need to worship now. We need to have children in our assemblies, not to ensure future growth, but to ensure present life and worship.




Next week:

Baptism and Eucharist (3) the contemporary life and mission of the Church; worship and inculturation.

8.2: Seminar: the ‘Word’ expressed in music and art.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were prepared for a discussion in a seminar on 18 November 2010 that was part of the Module EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

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