Thursday, July 27, 2006

Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry

In 1982, the World Council of Church's Faith and Order Commission produced a document, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM), which was heralded as a breakthrough in Christian communion. It was the result of over 50 years of discussions, beginning in 1927, and received its final revision at Lima in 1982. The committee requested responses to the document, which many of the major denominations provided, and which have largely been published in the "Responses to BEM" series.

The reviews of this document have been mixed, with some seeing it as opening interdenominational dialogue, and others seeing it as having little effect, perceiving in its effort to be inclusive of all Christians a lack of doctrinal stances. It is, however, a major document in regards to both the ecumenical and liturgical movements, and many of the books which I am studying for my upcoming comp refer to it. Here is a brief summary of the Eucharist section:

The Church receives the Eucharist as a gift from the Lord. Jesus is recorded as sharing many meals during his earthly ministry, which proclaim and enact the nearness of the Kingdom of God. The eucharist continues these meals of Jesus after his resurrection as a sign of the Kingdom. It is a sacramental meal which by visible signs communicate to us God's love in Jesus Christ, by which Jesus loved his own "to the end."

The eucharist is one complete act, but is considered in five main aspects:
  1. As Thanksgiving to the Father
    It is the great thanksgiving to the Father for everything accomplished in creation, redemption and sanctification, for everything accomplished by God now in the Church and in the world in spite of human sin, and for everything that God will accomplish in bringing the Kingdom of God to fulfillment. It is thus the benediction (berakah, a Jewish thanksgiving prayer) by which the Church expresses thankfulness for all God's benefits. It is also the great sacrifice of praise by which the Church speaks on behalf of the whole creation. It signifies what the world is to become: an offering and hymn of praise to the Creator, a universal communion in the body of Christ, a kingdom of justice, love and peace in the Holy Spirit.
  2. As Anamnesis or Memorial of Christ
    It is the memorial of the crucified and risen Christ, i.e. the living and effective sign of his sacrifice, accomplished once and for all on the cross and still operative on behalf of all humankind. Christ is present in the anamnesis, granting us communion with himself. It is a foretaste of his parousia and the final kingdom. It is thus both representation and anticipation, which are expressed in thanksgiving and intercession. It is the sacrament of the unique sacrifice of Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for us, and we make intercession for others with Christ, the Great High Priest. This anamnesis of Christ is the basis and source of all Christian prayer. Further, in Christ we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice in our daily lives, which activity is strengthened by the eucharist. We are renewed in our unity with Christ and communion with all saints and martyrs by his blood. The anamnesis is as much present in the preached Word as in the eucharistic meal, therefore, each is codependent on the other. The words and acts of Christ in the institution are the heart of the celebration. The Church confesses his real, living and active presence in the eucharist. This presence does not, however, depend on the faith of the individual—but, to discern the body and blood of Christ, faith is required.
  3. As Invocation of the Spirit
    The Spirit makes the crucified and risen Christ really present in the eucharistic meal, fulfilling the promise in the words of institution. There is an intrinsic relationship between the words of institution, Christ's promise, and the epiklesis (the invocation of the Spirit) in the liturgy. The whole action of the eucharist has an "epikletic" character because it depends on the work of the Holy Spirit. Through the virtue of the living word of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine become the sacramental signs of Christ's body and blood. The Church, as the community of the New Covenant, invokes the Spirit in order that it may be sanctified and renewed, led into all justice, truth and unity, and empowered to fulfil its mission in the world. It is through the Holy Spirit that the eucharist gives a fortaste of the Kingdom of God—the life of new creation and assurance of the Lord's return.
  4. As Communion of the Faithful
    The communion with Christ who nourishes the life of the Church is at the same time communion within the body of Christ, the Church. The sharing in one bread and the common cup in a given place demonstrates and effects the oneness of the sharers with Christ and with their fellow sharers in all times and places. It is a representative act of thanksgiving and offering on behalf of the whole world. As participants in the eucharist, we are inconsistent if we are not actively participating in the ongoing restoration of the world's situation and the human condition. Solidarity of the body of Christ and care for one another and the world find specific expression in the liturgies, whose manifestations of love are directly related to Christ's own testimony as a servant, and in whose servanthood Christians participate. The place of ministry between the table and the needy properly testifies to the redeeming presence of Christ in the world.
  5. As Meal of the Kingdom
    The eucharist opens up the vision of the divine rule which has been promised as the final renewal of creation, and is a foretaste of it. Signs of this renewal are present wherever the grace of God is manifest and human beings work for justice, love and peace. The world, to which renewal is promised, is present at the whole eucharistic celebration. Reconciled in the eucharist, the members of the body of Christ are called to be servants of reconciliation among men and women and witnesses of the joy of resurrection. It is an instance of the Church's participation in God's mission to the world. Finally, it brings into the present age a new reality which transforms Christians into the image of Christ and therefore makes them his effective witnesses. However, when they cannot unite in full fellowship around the same table to eat the same loaf and drink from the same cup, their missionary witness is weakened at both the individual and the corporate levels.
In reference to the celebration of the eucharist, BEM notes that the best way towards unity in eucharistic celebration and communion is the renewal of the eucharist itself in the different churches in regard to teaching and liturgy. At the celebration, Christ gathers, teaches and nourishes the Church—it is He who invites to the meal and who presides at it. Since the eucharist celebrates the resurrection of Christ, it is appropriate that it should occur at least every Sunday. It further helps to deepen Christian faith.

The final statement is a call for Christian unity, looking for the day when the Church will again be united around one common table.

Getting Ready for Comps

In an effort to study for my first comp on August 8, regarding signification and the eucharist, I'm going to summarize some of the major books I've been reading to help me understand them better. Feel free to comment on them, especially if you've read them and think I've missed something important. I'm going to especially focus on signification and signs/symbols, so it will not be a full summary.

However, first, to keep track, I'm going to post all the Scriptures that are commonly referenced when discussing the Lord's Supper.

The first is Mark 14:22-26, the institution narrative. Matthew 26:26-29 is much the same, with only "for forgiveness of sins" added after the institution of the cup. Luke 22:17-20 is slightly different, with the addition of a cup before the bread instead of just afterwards. Also, it is notable in that the vignette with Judas' hand on the table occurs after the institution of the Supper.

John's account does not contain the Institution Narrative, although he spends a great deal of time discussing the other activities of the night before the crucifixion.

Paul address the Supper as well first in I Corinthians 11:17-34. Paul's account of the institution narrative is also slightly differrent, adding "Do this in remembrance of me." The cup is also called the "new covenant of my blood," perhaps a reference to Jeremiah 31:31-34. The synoptic institution narratives use the phrase "blood of the covenant," a reference from Exodus 24:6-8 that is also taken up in Hebrews 9:19-21 (I read a good paper about that—search for Amy). Paul addresses shortly before this reference, in 10:16-17, that because there is one loaf and one cup, the participants are one body.

These are all the explicit references to the Supper, although there are many more related, especially those about presenting ourselves as living sacrifices, Christ's ascension, the unity of the body of Christ, Christ mediating for us at the right hand of the Father, Old and New Testament references to banquets as eschatological events, etc. The doctrine of the Lord's Supper has been so long debated, it has been discussed in relation to most of Christian doctrine.

eBible, again

I have two more invites to eBible, if anyone wants them.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Organ music

Our first night in St. Andrews, we attended a concert at the Holy Trinity Church of organ and choral music. It was a beautiful venue, and the music was good, too. The organist was excellent, and he played some Vierne, along with several other pieces by lesser known composers, among them one by the choral director, David Gascoigne.

It's a beautiful instrument, with amazing French-influenced stops besides the "Bobby Jones Bombarde" (donated by the golfer's widow), well-suited to the Vierne he played, Clair de Lune. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although it was rather lengthy. Amy, on the other hand, did not enjoy this Vierne (although she did like the other pieces). And, as I glanced around the audience, it appeared she was not the only one. Granted, most of the attendees had gotten off a plane that same day, and were fighting back jet lag, but I saw several people "praying" or nodding in agreement.

So, Amy said to me, that that was why people don't like organ music—organists play long pieces that don't quickly move through expected cadences and melodies, but rather are a bit "noodly," as my first composition teacher would call them. My first thought was that people just don't understand music, and this should help them in their music education. But, then I considered that perhaps she's right. I've always tried to play easily apprehendable pieces for church, but, sometimes I know that I think, "well, this could be a little strange for people, but, they should be exposed to new things." Maybe this isn't good, though. In 2006, pipe organ music is definitely on the decline, if not at the bottom.

We went to a concert in Ocean Grove last summer, which I found to sometimes be a little cheesy, although that organist and organ were quite fabulous, too. But, maybe that's the idea. People don't want challenge in their music listening—they want to be entertained. That, however, goes against what I think about music in the church. It's not there for our entertainment, but rather, for the worship of God. So, if a piece is well-crafted, maybe it should be played regardless of whether or not people like it. I think that is what I wonder about organ music, however. Some pieces, like those by Vierne, are wonderful to show the colors of an organ; their form, however, might not be incredibly sophisticated, often being through-composed (realizing, that many do follow standard forms—I'm not doing a music theory analysis here). Is that a well-crafted piece? I tend to like pieces that do use a standard form, because I fell as if those forms give pieces a continuity that is sometimes lacking otherwise. But, the beautiful tone colors that arise from French organ music could possibly make up for this lack of form. Is all French organ music good for church? I'm undecided.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Let All Mortal Flesh...

One of my favorite hymns is "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," taken from the 5th century Liturgy of St. James. I like it both for its text and for the French carol it's set to, PICARDY. The current, common harmony is taken from The English Hymnal, 1906 (see my post, below). Here is the text, as presented in a few hymnals, translated by Gerard Moultrie (1829-1885) (some have some verses, others have others):

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood.
Lord of lords in human nature,
In the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the pow'rs of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim, with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the Presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Lord Most High.

These verses are taken from the Anaphora of the liturgy. Notable is the second verse, Christ giving himself for heavenly food. It is absent from some hymnals, among them the Baptist, while included in others (even those of the Protestant type). However, in Protestant hymnals (Episcopalians, Lutherans and the new Methodist hymnal excluded), this hymn is usually placed in the Advent section, or Christmas if there is no Advent section.

I've had churches sing this during Advent, and they generally react positively to it. The last couple of years, I've had our church sing it on our communion Sunday in Advent, which is more fitting given its history. But, should Protestants be singing it at all? Christ giving his own self for heavenly food doesn't bother me, because that can be interpreted many ways; but, does it confuse? Noone has ever asked me about it. I would prefer it to go away from the Advent section, personally, especially in those hymnals that leave out the second verse—the only one which specifically mentions the first advent.

But, would singing it at communion be appropriate at a Baptist church? I often feel like people have no idea what they're singing, anyway, so would it wake them up? And, I wonder how Orthodox Christians would feel about Baptists singing part of the Divine Liturgy?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I have three more invites to eBible! If you want them, email me and I'll give them away. So far, it's just a helpful study tool because you can add your own tags to passages or verses. There are some older commentaries included, as well. It's still a work in progress, and it looks like it could be really excellent as it continues to develop. I do like it, so far.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Music Maps

For my new favorite web toy, check out Live Plasma. You can make interactive maps of bands and their relationships, or movies, directors, etc., based on Amazon's database. It's pretty fun, although the classical catalog doesn't seem to work too well.

Friday, July 07, 2006


We spent Sunday-Tuesday in one of our favorite places to be, Boston, with our friends John and Amanda. We had lots of fun, and Tuesday evening, saw the most absolutely amazing fireworks display on the famous Esplanade with the Boston Pops. As the entire sky lit up, brighter than day, with fireworks that looked like shimmering water, Amy was jumping up and down in sheer joy. She said to me, "I'm not trying to be sacrilegious, but do you think that things like that will be in heaven when we see God?"

I was reminded of a conversation with millinerd, in which we were discussing craftmanship, whether it be of art, music, food, or anything. If we have been put on earth to glorify God, and will spend all eternity doing so, then are we just practicing for our more perfect job in eternity? As God has given us gifts and interests to perform our duties on earth, are those not the things that we will continue to do? And, those things that are beautiful because of the God-given gifts of the creators, will they themselves not remain to God's glory for eternity? In reading the scholastics (for an upcoming comp), they felt that all true creativity was from God—which would indicate more strongly that these works of art would last.

In thinking about music, as some pieces have lasted for hundreds of years (e.g., the music of PĂ©rotin), will not some of it last into eternity? And others, like "Breathe" (sorry Mike), will they last? Or what about Tarkus? It's a work of amazing craftmanship, but it already seems to have faded. Of course, we have no way of comprehension of what eternity will truly be like; however, these things which are glorifying to God's creative spirit seem likely to be a good starting point.

So, whether or not Pyro Spectaculars will be doing shows in heaven or not, at least their ingenuity will be helping, along with musicians, carpenters, bakers, and everyone else. Amy will be glad, at least.