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INSTRUCTED EUCHARIST

by Elle Morgan, Seminarian Intern

April 28, 2024


NARRATIVE #1 


Welcome.  Today's service takes on a different form from our usual Sunday worship structure.  We are going to enter into what we are terming as an “Instructed Eucharist”.  Rather than a specific sermon, I will act as your narrator and offer eight brief reflections at key points in our worship.  In short, the purpose of this “Instructed Eucharist” is to provide an opportunity to learn more about why we worship as we do.  While some of us may have worshiped from the Book of Common Prayer for years, or maybe today is your first day with us, liturgy can always benefit from an explanation.  After all, the word “liturgy” means “the work of the people”; and there is no more essential work for the people of God than worshipping the Source of all our lives.


So, let’s start at the beginning at the point where we have gathered, and corporate worship starts. Our worship begins with a processional, which in fact is an entrance parade.  One of the first things people notice about parades is how the participants’ dress.  In our church processionals, each participant dresses differently depending upon his or her role.  For example, those singing in the choir wear a cassock covered by a white cotta.  Acolytes and lay eucharistic ministers wear an "alb," which means "white thing" in Latin – a symbol of a baptized Christian.  As baptized Christians, Clergy also wear a cassock-alb but also with Eucharistic vestments – including a stole, which symbolizes their ordination.  Today, our priest is wearing a white chasuble.  The chasable recalls Jesus’ seamless tunic and its color (white) also signifies that we are in the Easter season.


At the head of this church parade and leading our way to the altar is a cross. The processional symbolizes the pilgrimage of the Christian life, the movement from distraction to mindfulness, from isolation to presence, the journey to the kingdom. And now, we are ready to begin.


NARRATIVE #2


We have arrived!  Like a liturgical GPS, we have found ourselves exactly where we belong: At God’s Altar, God’s Table.  And our response is to shout for joy, blessing the Holy One who is beyond us, by our side, and in our deepest hearts: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.


At this point, we also pause to remember the purpose of our worship, using what is called the “Collect for Purity”.  The “collecting” prayer reminds us that our worship of God addresses the One” from whom no secrets are hid” and that Jesus has promised that wherever two or three gather in his Name, the Risen One will be present.  Consequently, our task in worship is to make conscious room for this Godly presence and for us to pay attention to what this intimate experience is like.  One response we make to this Holy Presence is to sing the angels’ song: The Gloria.


NARRATIVE #3


In our Communion worship, the liturgy holds two focuses.  One is the “Liturgy of the Word”, in which we are reminded of who we are and Whose we are.  The other is the “Liturgy of the Altar”, in which we are given what we have been reminded of, namely, God life in the body and blood of the Holy One’s son, Jesus Christ. 


In the “Liturgy of the Word”, we turn to the stories about God and the God-life.  The Bible contains those stories, and we refer to them because we believe they contain the Word of God.  This is to say that these scriptures are  inspired by God; and through their human authors they still speak to us.  In the Liturgy of the Word, we honor the Judeo-Christian conviction that God acts with and through human history.  In the context of Holy Communion (Eucharist), the “Liturgy of the Word” contains four scriptural resources: usually one from the Hebrew scriptures; one from the Psalms; one from the New Testament Epistles (Letters); and one from one of the four Gospels.


Clearly, the Gospel may be sung or said amid the people as a symbol that the Good News of Christ is to be proclaimed among the people. The Gospel is often preceded by a sequence hymn – which transitions us from the Lessons to the reading of the Gospel.


NARRATIVE #4


The people's response to the proclamation of the Word is expressed in the Nicene Creed, which dates from the fourth century.  The creed sums up the essential and historical beliefs held by all faithful Christians, a belief that is not limited to any one time or place or preference.


It is both appropriate and telling that our proclamation of belief should be followed by our petition to put what we believe into action.  The People’s prayers are just that: A fervent plea to the Holy One to enable us to live more nearly as we pray.  This plea also includes our “Confession” concerning how we have broken Communion with God and separated ourselves not only from the Holy One but also from and one another.


NARRATIVE #5


The Peace and the Offertory prepare us for Communion participation.


In the “Peace”, we mortal human beings carry the Peace of God and offer it to one another.  While this is not a “pre-Coffee Hour”, halftime break, the “Peace” is about our humanity conveying the God-life.  It is both blessing and hope.


In the Offertory, there is an exchange between partners.  The Offertory statement we use at St. Philip’s summarizes both the partnership and the exchange: “All things come of Thee, O Lord; and of thine own have we given Thee.”  We offer the fruits of our labor (bread), our joy (wine), and our power (money) to God, and in return the Holy One provides us with Communion with the Creator of heaven and earth.


The Offertory begins the second half of the Eucharist.  The term "offertory" does not refer to the taking of a collection but to the offering of us together without monetary gifts and the elements of the bread and wine which will be consecrated.   The altar is prepared with the elements.  Enough bread is placed on the altar, and water is added to the wine to symbolize the union of human and divine natures in Christ.  At the end of the Offertory, the Celebrant washes their hands and recalls verses from Psalm 26:  "I will wash my hands in innocence before I go unto the altar of the Lord."


In the ancient Church, the Liturgy of the Altar was reserved only for the baptized.  Those who were not baptized typically left the service at this point.  At St. Philip's, all are welcome at God's table.    Historically, people came to Communion through Baptism.  Now, people often come to Baptism through Communion.  What are the issues present in this?


As was stated previously, in the Liturgy of the Altar, we are given God’s own life as a gift and a fortifier.  The Liturgy of the Altar moves us from the Word to God's table.  


NARRATIVE #6


The Great Thanksgiving is where we do what Jesus asked us to do – recall all that God has done for us in Christ's life, death, and resurrection and thank God for it. Each Eucharistic prayer describes the salvation story with different points of emphasis from God’s saving acts in history in creation through the saga of Israel.  Jesus is represented as the culmination of God’s work in overcoming the power of death and sin.


The Great Thanksgiving, or Eucharistic Prayer, is a long prayer that rehearses Christ’s redemptive life, expressed with four actions.   Each of these corresponds to a different action of Jesus at the Last Supper: Taking; blessing; breaking; sharing.


The first part is like an introduction and begins with a new dialogue, called by its original Latin Name, Sursum Corda, which means "lift up your hearts."  THERE IS “GOOD NEWS” AHEAD FOR OUR HEARTS!


Repeating Jesus' words and actions is central to all Eucharistic prayers.  This practice is based on scriptural accounts of the Last Supper.  The rubrics direct the Celebrant to hold or lay a hand on the bread and to hold or place a hand upon the vessel containing the wine to be consecrated.  You will also note that the Celebrant will make other gestures like the sign of the cross or lifting the elements high.


The Invocation – The prayer for the Holy Spirit is called in Greek the Epiclesis, whereby the Holy Spirit is specifically asked to "bless and sanctify" the gifts of bread, wine, and ourselves. In the Anglican prayer book tradition, the inclusion of the Spirit’s blessing of the bread and wine is proclaimed as being the “Body and Blood” of Christ; but this proclamation is never explained as to how this occurs. It is through the Spirit that Christ's presence is received.  It is noted that the final "AMEN" is the only one in the Prayer Book in all capital letters, indicating a robust congregational participation.


NARRATIVE #7


The breaking of the bread, called the “Fraction”, is the climax of the entire Communion experience.  It recalls Jesus breaking bread at the Last Supper. By breaking the bread, we remember the Lord's death and resurrection. In this action, the essence of the Christian experience is portrayed.  Unless a seed fall to the ground…[John 12:24-26]


The Ministration of the Communion – In Communion, we are joined with one another and God.  In each Eucharistic gathering, when it comes to sharing God's gifts, we are equally a guest at a table that belongs to the Church and the Lord.  It is ready for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who have no idea what they are hungry for, and those who have become so accustomed to starvation that they are unaware of how hungry they are.


At St. Philip's, all are welcome to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.  Children and adults who do not receive Communion may come to the altar rail for a blessing.  Please signify this desire by crossing your arms across your chest while kneeling on the rail.


To receive the Body of Christ, kneel or stand, place your right hand over your left, and hold the palm up so that the priest or deacon can easily set the bread in the palm of your hand. Tellingly, the consecrated bread is received, not taken. After the bread is placed in your palm, "amen" is typically said.  The bread is then consumed.  To receive the Blood of Christ, gently grasp the base of the chalice and guide it to your mouth.  If you don’t wish to receive from the chalice ______________________.  After receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, return to your seat.  It is customary in the Episcopal Church to pray for some moments after receiving Communion.  Often, choir anthems or hymns are chosen to assist in devotion – please feel free to join us in singing.


Post Communion Prayer – This prayer sums up our gratitude for what God has done with us in the liturgy and stresses that our worship has prepared us for our mission in the world.  In Eastertide at St. Philip’s, we sing our thanks with the medieval, German proclamation: “Christ is risen”.


NARRATIVE #8


Blessing and Dismissal – the priest blesses the people in God’s Name with a prayer, the content of which  may change; but the point is always the same: We who have received the new life of Christ are to go into the world as Christ-bearers.  This is the explicit message of the Dismissal. The Recessional hymn’s purpose also conveys that, as we have initially gathered for the service of worship, we now move to serve the world in Christ’s Name.


After Eucharist – Just as we don't begin worship without preparation, spending a few additional moments with God may be helpful.  One helpful prayer is found on BCP, 834: "Grant, we beseech you, Almighty God, that the words which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may, through your grace, be so grafted inwardly in our hearts that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honor and praise of your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Extemporaneous prayers of gratitude or silent meditation may help make this transition.

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