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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Beware of Jesuits bearing gifts  

This weekend my parish brought in a Liturgy Expert to run a workshop for us in this year of the Eucharist. A nice enough and informed guy, once you get past the too-standard assumption that the apostolic church was a great thing, the post-Vatican church is a great thing, but everything that happened in the intervening 18 centuries is at best, ripe for correction; at worst, sadly misguided. Very little useful fruit grows from soil like that.

He made two points with which I disagree, respectfully but profoundly.
1) The consecration used to be the central focus of the eucharist; today we know that the real focus is the communion of the people assembled.

2) There are three primary objects of focus in the mass: the altar where the sacrifice is re-enacted, the ambo where the gospel is proclaimed, and the chair of the presider-priest.
Each true as far as it goes; like much post-Vatican theologizing, each goes too far.

Yes, communion is the central action of the mass. And the consecration, signifying the divine act of transubstantiation, is the single act that makes that possible. Everything else – and I mean everything else – is preparation, stage dressing, or commentary.

There are three centers of action, but the importance of one outranks the other two, by at least an order of magnitude. Christ present in the consecrated bread and wine is real, tangible, actual, material. Christ present in the assembly or in the word or in the presider is metaphoric, symbolic, analogical, potential. All are true, but all are not equally true.

Any choices (liturgical or otherwise) based on fundamental misunderstandings are unlikely to be correct ones. I will be pleasantly surpised if anything good comes from this; I will not be particularly surprised if something bad does. Call that the triumph of experience over hope.

posted by Kelly | 5:32 PM link
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