minima maxima sunt

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

Archive for the tag “eucharist”

Midnight in the Garden of Eden

So here is my latest. My original thought was to have the Tree of Life standing against the dark grey clouds of a storm, undying in the midst of the Fall. The Tree lit from within rising above the growing plants reflecting the light in the shape of a chalice symbolic of the Eucharist. A narrow path leading to or away from its strong roots might imply communion, or the “narrow road” or even that path which was walked away from for more tempting fruit. I ended up going with the black sky of midnight, and bright stars mingling with fireflies as heaven and earth are joined by specks of brilliant light in the presence of the Tree.



Missa – Sanctus

item_1601The Eucharistic Prayer is a section of the Mass which is found in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and follows the Presentation of the Gifts. It is a very special point in the liturgy because it truly is the heart of the Liturgy and of the Mass. In preparation of this prayer we find the Sanctus, which is part of the Ordinary of the Mass.

The word sanctus means “holy” and the prayer begins by repeating this three times. The first part of the sanctus comes from Isaiah 6:3 and as well as Revelation 4:8, which also uses the three “holy’s”. The second comes from the Gospels and reminds us of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

It is interesting that so much of the Mass uses this picture of “procession”, from the Entrance, to the gifts, and here the words from the triumphal entry. I suppose that the idea is to focus on movement, or more specifically to point out that the Lord is moving or active in our midst. In his covenant with Abraham he proceeds through the sacrifice, the incarnation he comes and dwells among us, he proceeds to Jerusalem and eventually he will bear the cross and again picture the idea of procession. In the end He is now still in movement as we participate in the mass and as He moves into our hearts. I am thinking of all of this when singing the Sanctus because all of this is essential but there is something more. As we conclude the Sanctus we will begin the Eucharistic Prayer and it is at this time that our gifts of bread and wine will become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Real Presence in the Eucharist and the concept of communion are all hinted at in the Sanctus by our profession of Holiness and Christ coming, for now we are entering the Holy of Holies of the mass. As the song concludes the people kneel and until the completion of Communion and the Host has been put away we will either stand or kneel in the Presence of the Lord.


Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.

Hosanna in excelsis.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Hosanna in excelsis

Holy, Holy, Holy

Lord God of hosts.

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest

Here come the Iconoclasts

Iconoclasm seems to have always been a part of human history. The word is Greek for “image breaker” and refers to the destroying of icons, images, statues etc, often for religious purposes but also for political, such as the burning of a flag. The issue of Iconoclasm concerning actual Icons of the church has an interesting history.

Now right off the bat, I’m going to say something that may be unpopular with some; and that is that I am not always opposed to Iconoclasm. I think there are images and idols which certainly needed to be destroyed or put down. For instance the destruction of Nazi symbology, like the swastika, is not only justifiable but was simply the right thing to do. In respect to religion it gets a bit more touchy. There are clearly acts of iconoclasm in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as found in the conquest of Canaan and the purging of paganism from Israel. We also see Israel the victim as the Temple was Jerusalem destroyed by the Persians and later by Rome. In church history we see such acts from both the church and those opposed to the church. It can sometimes be difficult to always agree with such destruction in a fair and just way, other than to accept it based on the times and customs of the day.

What I would like to focus on rather than the right and wrong of iconoclasm, is how iconoclasm was found within the church. In other words the controversy, not found between opposing belief systems, but rather within.

I have often heard the criticism concerning Icons, which are found in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. They are sometimes compared to the worship of false Idols, which is not only prohibited in the Sacred Scripture but also from within Catholic and Orthodox teaching. Much of the criticism came from Anti-Catholic sources especially after the reformation, where many churches and monasteries were raided for their riches, under the claim of iconoclasm. Treasures that belonged to the church (i.e., the catholic people), were now in the hands of a local ruler, or landowner, as a private possession. This, of course is the reality of the situation, but the engine that drove it was the idea that such art, riches and etc in the church was somehow wrong or false and indicative of worshipping a false God, an accusation that was not accurate.

One has to be sympathetic with the concern, even if it was a false concern. It is after all easy to allow many things to push God out of the way. Work, peer pressure, political views, pessimism and even religious viewpoints have proven to be more damaging to ones faith than a statue or image. G.K. Chesterton once said:

Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting
up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when
they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.

I have seen this very thing in the anti-catholic world, from many discussions and arguments. The anti-catholic agenda becomes so big and in a way too sensational that it drives the persons faith. It becomes more important to discuss cults than the gospel, more interesting to speak ill of the Mother of God than to speak of her Son. I have even seen communion serviced interrupted to point out that the grape juice and crackers are just grape juice and crackers and not the true Body and Blood of Christ as “those Catholics” believe. The difference in belief is understandable given the separation between post-reformation sects and the ancient church, but the timing of bringing up anti-catholicism during a ritual that is supposed to be something more on the profound and contemplative side of even non catholic services, really demonstrates a type of idolatry to me, and I felt this way even when I considered my self against the ancient church.

What I find interesting in all of this is that the iconoclasm was not just a post-reformation problem in the church. The issue of icons was also challenged in the early middle ages, Byzantine, 8th century,  where instead of the concerns over the use of images of any kind the controversy was that there was only one image which was acceptable. The Eucharist. The issue may have been driven by Mohommedan influence in the middle east.

In the later iconoclasticism the challenge focused on the belief that no image was to be made, that the church was full of idolatry, and the Eucharist especially, was the worse king of abuse. The iconoclasm of the early church held just the opposite, that the most perfect image was that found in the Eucharist, being of the same substance,  and therefore all else should be dispensed with. Balanced in the center of all this is the church which from the earliest times used symbols, art, and sacrament. It understood that even in the prohibitions from the Hebrew Scriptures, there were exceptions like the Seraphs on the Ark and on the curtain which hid the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle; it believed that with the incarnation, where God became part of the physical world that such prohibitions were dispensed with. Christ being the proof of an invisible God made visible; it also saw art as a means of communication, which helped to teach the gospel and other stories from the scriptures to a world that was mostly illiterate.

To those who maybe have looked forward to the art in my posts, I must ask your pardon. It’s hard to find pictures of an iconoclast.

Oooops! Here is one.

The Iconoclast theologian John the Grammarian and an Iconoclast bishop whitewash an image of Christ, from a 9th century Psalter

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.

Mandatum Novum

The Last Supper from the Bedford Hours - 15th century

The Feast of Holy Thursday begin the Easter Triduum, which will last until evening on Easter. These are the most important days in the liturgical year, focussing on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. The first day (Holy Thursday) holds several significant stories from the Gospels, which are incorporated in the celebration. Primarily it commemorates the institution of the Eucharist by Christ at the Last Supper, which I would guess most people are familiar with. It is probably one of the most popular and iconic scenes from the christian faith next to the Crucifixion and the Nativity.

A lesser known practice during the Feast has to do with another part of the story which takes place on the same night. This is the washing of the disciples feet. In the Gospel of John we read that after supper washed the disciples feet, teaching that the greatest must be a servant to all. If Jesus, being their Master and Teacher, has taken on the role of a servant, so must they. And here an amazing thing happens. Jesus gives a new commandment:

John 13:34-35    A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.

John 13:34 “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos….

The latin for  the word commandment is mandatum and this is where Holy Thursday’s alternate name of Maundy Thursday is thought to come from. As such the pedilavarum or washing of feet is practiced on this day on Holy or Maundy Thursday by priest and pope alike.

In the picture above, which is from the Bedford Hours, you can see the Last Supper as the main scene and on the right three smaller scenes, showing the correlation to the Eucharist/Communion, the washing of the disciples feet and  at the bottom; Judas betraying the Lord with a kiss.

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