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Archive for May, 2008

Trinity Prayer

trinity riblev

Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth:
Set up your kingdom in our midst.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God:
Have mercy on me, a sinner.

Holy Spirit, breath of the living God:
Renew me and all the world.

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“…our faith is already ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1). It is, it manifests and it grants that to which it is directed: the presence among us of the approaching kingdom of God and its unfolding light.”

Whoa.

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Still reading Fr. Schmemann. I’m processing his view that the world was created and given to man for conversion from creaturely life to divine life.

He says:

“If in baptism water can become the laver of regeneration, if our earthly food – bread and wine – can be transformed into the body and blood of Christ, if with oil we are granted the anointment of the Holy Spirit, if, to put it briefly, everything in the world can be identified, manifested and understood as a gift of God and participation in the new life, it is because all of creation was originally summoned and destined for the fulfilment of the divine economy – “then God will be all in all.”

This knits together something I’ve been thinking about for some time. Since shifting to Anglicanism and having the meaning of sacrament open up before me, I’ve struggled not to see many things which are not considered sacraments clearly have sacramental qualities. Catholics differentiate between the sacraments and the sacramental in this way.

I wonder if this sacramental view of the world – in lieu of Schmemann’s comments – isn’t the essence and gift of what it means to be “walking in the light” which is talked about in 1 John? It’s light. And this light permeates our lives, our worship, our liturgy, our tradition in order for us to live in sacramental realities. Sin – or darkness – is falling away from a world where creatures seek to live into sacramental reality (e.g. the divine life), into a world of non-sacramental reality that does not live according to God (e.g falleness)?

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I’m reading The Eucharist by Alexander Schmemann. In the first chapter he talks about the Eucharistic nature of the assembly. The church gathers not to be together in the temple but to constitute the Eucharistic reality. He notes that the essence of liturgical piety has become something it was never intended to be – individualistic. I think we’ve talked about this before, how one of my chief concerns is that many people mishandle communion by considering it to be about individual spirituality or their personal encounter with God. In the very sacramental nature of the Eucharistic, assembly is the primary form in which the sacrament happens. Therefore it is by nature rooted in the sacramental reality. It is the sacrament of the assembly.

In the Eastern Orthodox church, their Eucharistic prayer contains a line, “And unite all of us to one another who become partakers of the one Bread and Cup in the communion of the Holy Spirit.” The Anglican equivalent is in Rite II > Prayer D > Prayers before the fraction:

Grant that all who share this bread and cup may become one body and one spirit, a living sacrifice in Christ, to the praise of your Name.

Schmemann points out that any reduction or narrowing of meaning for the Eucharist “openly contradicts the very ordo of the Eucharist, as it was preserved by the Church from the very beginning.” He goes on to add that liturgical development is natural and is not what he means here by ordo. Rather he points to the a priori, abstract categories and definitions that belonged to how the early Church understood worship. St. Irenaeus stated, “Our teaching in harmony with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist confirms our teaching.”

So it was Eucharistic worship that informed and guided the contours of theology. Schmemann laments that the Western Scholastic model for theology is unconcerned with worship. Rather, it decides a priori what is important, “and what is deemed “secondary,” as having no theological interest is worship itself.”

My professor Jim Packer hammered home again and again that the goal of theology is always doxology. It sounds nice and it is the way it should be but I think Schmemann is right. We are too often concerned with dividing and conquering our knowledge of God until there is either nothing left to be worshiped…or little energy or interest left over for a heartfelt response.

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