This Sunday will be the first in a series of two Sundays in which I will lead an "Instructed Eucharist" for our weekly celebration of the Divine Liturgy. If you've been following along with the writings in our weekly announcement insert you will have insight into the description of the liturgy as a drama or story that we enacting and participate in when we celebrate the Eucharist. As a result, there is a rationale behind the various elements and actions that are part of our liturgical worship; the more we understand these elements the more richly we can engage in this corporate act of worship.
I am dividing the instructional elements between two Sundays. The first Sunday (June 10) will cover the first half of the liturgy, from the procession through the homily; this portion includes all of the Scripture readings. The second Sunday (June 17) will cover the second half, from the offertory (and setting of the altar) through the dismissal; this portion includes the consecration and and distribution of the elements. Instructional insights will be periodically interspersed amongst the normal liturgical elements with the goal of helping us all gain a better understanding of the meaning of the prayers and actions that we engage with each week. To allow sufficient time for the instructional insights there will not be a homily these two Sundays. However, it is my hope that you will be encouraged and challenged by what we learn from the drama of the liturgy itself, for it is through this drama that we are welcomed to the throne room of God, first to learn from Him and then to commit ourselves to follow Him.
If you are interested in the ancient roots of the Eucharist, in particular, how much of Jesus' teaching at the Last Supper (and therefore the church's practice of the sacrament of Holy Eucharist) has roots in the Jewish temple worship of the Old Testament, I recommend reading Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper. In this work, Pitre concludes that Jesus' institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper was not simply for us to remember and participate in His death, but also to experience the reality of His resurrection. It is in our participation in this sacrament that our eyes our opened to the life-giving reality of Jesus' triumph over sin and glorious conquest of the grave.
In commenting on Luke 24:28-35, in which the disciples initially did not recognize the resurrected Lord but finally knew Him and His resurrection "in the breaking of bread" (v.35), Pitre writes, "Only with the breaking of the bread was the risen Jesus made known to them. And then, a soon as thy did see him, he vanished. Why? Jesus was pointing them to the way he would be present with them from now on. After his ascension into heaven, he would no longer be with them under the appearance of a man. From then on--with the singular exception of his appearance to Paul, on the road to Damascus--he would only be present under the appearance of the Eucharistic bread. By means of his miraculous appearance on the way to Emmaus, Jesus was showing the disciples that the Eucharist is his crucified and risen body. . . Jesus answered their prayer outside the village of Emmaus, when they said to him: 'stay with us' (Luke 24:29). In the 'breaking of the bread,' in every Eucharist, he answers their prayer, saying to them--and to all of us--'I am with you always, even to the end of time.'"
Join us this Sunday as we consider more deeply the mystery of the Eucharist and our own participation in Jesus' promise to never leave us nor forsake us.
(As published in St Luke's E-News Update, 6/6/18)