minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the tag “bread and wine”

Missa – Orate, fratres et sorores

Institution-of-the-eucharist--Sassetta--Siena_PinacotecaThis post is a follow up to “Bearing Gifts” as it is the completion of this first part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. As noted the gifts are brought forward and the priest along with his assistants will bring them to the altar which has been prepared earlier during the collection. So lets look at this first.

The altar itself is an idea; a symbol. To most the very word brings to mind things like worship or sacrifice. And so it is in the Mass. The altar is very much the centerpiece of the church and the centerpiece of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. During the first part of the Mass the main focus is on the Lectern or “pulpit” because the Liturgy of the Word is primarily about the revelation of God in the Sacred Scriptures and Tradition. We read the Scriptures and hear a Homily. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist we are exploring the revelation of God through the Incarnation, the event where God became flesh for the purpose of the Sacrifice we know as the Crucifixion. So the Altar is now before us to remind us of the cost of our salvation. To also remind us that this sacrifice is unlimited by time and space, but will be present in these gifts just as it will be present to the believer today, like it will be a hundred years from now or as it was to the very apostles who sat in wonder at the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper.imagesCAT2BBUS

In preparation for the gifts several items were placed on the altar. The Corporal, the Purificator, the Chalice and a Missal. The Corporal is a large square cloth where the Body and Blood will be placed. Corporal comes from the Latin for “body” and its purpose very much like a “place mat” to catch crumbs and drips from the Body and Blood. In a similar way the Purificator is similarly like a “napkin” which will be used for cleaning the Chalice and Paten (a gold dish used to hold the Eucharistic bread). Keeping in mind that in the catholic faith the Eucharist is the Real Presence of our Lord, these items are meant to keep the Body and Blood from being treated like mere crumbs or spilled wine. As such even the cleaning of these must be done with certain care.

The Chalice is pretty obvious. When the bread and wine are brought forward the wine is brought also with another container of water. In the chalice the wine will be poured and a few drops of water will be added. Water and wine, divine and human, or the water that poured from the side of at the crucifixion is tied into this. On top of the chalice is another cloth called the pall which is used simply to keep dust or insects from falling into the chalice.

The last item is a Missal which is where the prayers will be read for the liturgy, and several of them will be read during this first process which will conclude the “Preparation of the Gifts”

The Preparation, if you haven’t noticed is very much like the setting of a dinner table. The altar has a table cloth, dinner matt, a cup and napkins and even candles to provide light and in this case to also increase illumination to draw attention to the altar. And the prayers are also very much like dinner prayers. This is the other side of our altar idea. The altar is a symbol of sacrifice and worship but it is also very much like that heart of the home where people gather in the domestic communion of dinner. As a matter of fact it is very easy to see the church’s’ roots in Jewish tradition here where there are similar blessings for the bread and wine used before dinner.

Here are some of the prayers and responses you will hear as the gifts are prepared:

The Priest holds the paten, a dish which contains the bread, above the altar.
Priest: Blessed are you, Lord God of all
creation, for through your
goodness we have received the
bread we offer you: fruit  of the
earth and work of human
hands, it will become for us the
bread of  life.

People: Blessed be God forever.

The priest pours the water into the wine and says: Priest: By the mystery of this water and wine
my we come to share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity

And then he will raise the chalice:
Blessed  are you, Lord God of all
creation, for through your
goodness we have received
the wine we offer you: fruit of
the vine and work of human
hands it will become our
spiritual drink.

The priest bows and says: With humble spirit and contrite
heart may  we be accepted by
you, O Lord, and may our
sacrifice in your sight this day
be  pleasing to you, Lord God.

The priest stands and washes his hands at the side of the altar. Wash me, O Lord, from my
iniquity and cleanse me from my
sin.

The Priest moves to the center of the altar and extends his hands to the congregation and says:
Priest: Pray, brethren (brothers and
sisters), that my sacrifice and
yours may be acceptable to
God, the almighty Father.

People: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands
for the praise and glory of his name,
for our good, and the good of all his holy Church.

The sacrifice here is our offering of the bread and wine as well as ourselves. Our words are meant to identify us as a body,  in communion, for a purpose which will be the very Eucharist, but also our spiritual sacrifices which we all offer together with the priest.

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi procession

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) celebrates the ancient tradition concerning the Sacrament of Eucharist. From the earliest times in the church, and right within the Gospels, we see this focal point of christian celebration in the writings and practice of early christians as well as in the very words of Christ at the last supper where He states concerning the bread and wine that: “This is my body; This is my blood”.

In the Catholic Church there is a term called Transubstantiation which defines how we understand the Real Presence. It states that during the consecration at Mass a change occurs where the “Accidents” of bread and wine become the “body, blood, soul and divinity” of Christ substantially. The physical appearance of bread and wine remain. The concepts of substance and accident were not inventions of the church, but come from philosophy.  The basic idea is that a thing can truly be something other than what it appears to be. This is a concept not confined to the Eucharist alone. Baptism, Marriage, Orders, and the other sacraments also hold to a hidden and real grace that is bound to the physical but not necessarily seen. For instance Marriage is not a matter of a mere documented forensic declaration; it is a substantial reality that the man and woman have become one flesh. Not seen in appearance or the physical but understood in a “spiritual” way. Other examples can be found in scientific terms like physical change. For instance the substance of h2o can make up ice, water and steam. The outside appearance doesn’t change the substance within.

A Monstrance

The Feast of Corpus Christi has some interesting traditions which are still practiced. One of these would be the procession of the Eucharist in a Monstrance. A Monstrance is a vessel, which the Host (Eucharist) can be placed into for adoration. The word comes from the Latin monstrare which means “to show” (think demonstrate) and during the year many parishes have times set for Eucharistic Adoration. Worshippers can come and sit before the Sacrament, to pray , contemplate, and meditate. During Corpus Christi it was common to form a procession that would carry the Host through the town in a monstrance, and while it is not common, this practice is still observed by some today.

In the last several centuries the belief in the real presence and especially the catholic definition of transubstantiation have been challenged. Early reformers like Luther still held a similar concept which was termed consubstantiation, and the feast of Corpus Christi was retained for a time. In many of the modern sects the belief is completely rejected. In a way which I find ironic, the belief that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ has been “transubstantiated” into a belief that the bread and wine have become crackers and grape juice.

“This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”

Justin Martyr: “First Apology”, Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155.

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