The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Monday, December 11, 2006

One More Mass Reflection


Is there such a thing as a six month old Calvinist?

I was at Mass yesterday and there was a young famiy in sitting in front of me with four little children squirming all over the place. While most find this a "distraction to prayer", I always think that noisy kids help me pray better. They help me realize that the Mass is not about how I feel, it is about the Body of Christ. And these small noisy children are Its purest part. Having been a monk, I suppose I know that I don't need hyper children to distract me when I pray. I do that very well all by myself. True, parents should try and keep their kids under control during Mass, but this can only be done within reason. Even when the children are well-behaved (and these children were), they are still children. And God bless them. It was really cool when the six month old tried to snatch the rosary right out of my hand. I just smiled and wrapped it around my fist. I wasn't going to let some infant drool all over my rosary.....

When the elevation came, I was astonished that the children stopped squirming for one second and looked up. Now, I am not a big fan of the "Kodak-moment" concept of consecration. While it is surrounded by beautiful cermonial, many obsess too much about the "exact moment when Jesus comes down". This can reduce liturgy to overly mechanistic principals. This being said, when I saw that six month old look up at the priest silently elevating the Host, I realized then what really constitutes our formation as Christians. It is that moment when we watch and marvel before we can even rationalize or speak that binds us to God for the rest of our lives. That is real participation and it cannot be created by a liturgical committee. Thanks be to God that those kids have parents who go to the traditional Mass.

At Holy Communion, I have to say I missed receiving from the chalice. In both the Anglican and Byzantine traditions, you are given the Blood of Christ as well, either directly from the chalice or on a spoon. However, if one principal has led to my recent change of heart on many things it is the one that states that the better is often the enemy of the good. In the Roman Catholic Church, they now give out the Blood of Christ as well but in a manner that destroys the hierarchical principal behind the liturgy. Now that everyone has to receive Holy Communion at every Mass, "Eucharistic ministers" are employed to save time and Communion degenerates into a free-for-all of irreverence. Some would advocate giving Holy Communion by intinction, but this is just another novelty. Haven't we had enough of those lately? In the end, Communion under one kind is a good, and not entirely unique to the Roman rite. (See the Byzantine Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts, for example.) Trying to replace it with something better has only made things worse.

Going back to the first point, however, I have always wondered if there is really a such thing as a Protestant child. How do you instill an ideology that exalts the word over the image to those who cannot yet read or even speak? It just doesn't seem natural to me. Sola Scriptura doesn't work because it doesn't work for children. And if it doesn't work for these little ones, what good is it for us?

28 Comments:

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Matt K said...

What is the "hierarchical principal behind the liturgy" that is "destroyed" when the Blood is given by Extraordinary Ministers of Communion?

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger JGurrea said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:26 AM, Blogger JGurrea said...

"In the end, Communion under one kind is a good, and not entirely unique to the Roman rite. (See the Byzantine Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts, for example.)"

Sorry, but you may have just been experiencing a Uniate aberration :) All kidding aside, the Presanctified Gifts are prepared as- *I've* seen them prepared (I'm an acolyte)- with both the Body and the Blood.

This quote is from the OCA service book, but the same applies to Greek and Antiochian practice:

[BEGIN QUOTE]

"...When he signs the breads at the invocation of the Holy Spirit, he says: 'And make this bread . . .,' in the singular, as Christ is one; he does not say 'these breads' in the plural.

When he elevates, he elevates them all together, and he breaks the first one offered, and lays the part IC in the holy chalice and pours in warm water as usual.

Then taking the holy spoon in his right hand, he dips it into the holy Blood; with his left hand he takes one of the other Breads, touches it with the holy spoon, **which has been moistened with the holy Blood**, [emphasis mine] in the form of a cross on the side on which the cross is traced, under the soft part, and places it in the artophorion (or other suitable container).

Then he takes the others and does the same with each, and puts them all away in the artophorion. Then the priest prays as usual, communicates as usual, and completes the Divine Liturgy as usual."

[END QUOTE]

Sooo.... the Presanctifieds, just like Communion at every other Eastern liturgy- and just like the Sacrament taken to the sick- consists of the Holy Body soaked or moistened with the Holy Blood.

-Julio

 
At 8:32 AM, Blogger JGurrea said...

I know you've gone back to Rome, but it doesn't mean you have to change your mind about all those great points you always brought up. In particular, I'm thinking about this comment from the current post:

"However, if one principal has led to my recent change of heart on many things it is the one that states that the better is often the enemy of the good. In the Roman Catholic Church, they now give out the Blood of Christ as well but in a manner that destroys the hierarchical principal behind the liturgy."

That may be true of the Romans, but the silliness like "Eucharistic Ministers" is part of general post-Vatican II silliness in general, not a problem uniquely related to giving Communion under both species. Is there irreverence when or problems with "Eucharistic Ministers" in Byzantine liturgies? What about Coptic, Armenian, or Syrian liturgies? BTW, in the last three I mentioned they give communion in both kinds and *without* a spoon. I've seen the giving out of Communion take an hour at a big Coptic liturgy, but trust me- there was no irreverence about it.

-Julio

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger The Scrivener said...

Sola Scriptura doesn't work because it doesn't work for children.

I like that statement very much.

 
At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Schultz said...

Sorry, but you may have just been experiencing a Uniate aberration :)

In my Ruthenian church, and every other Ruthenian church I've ever been to during Lent, we always received the Pre-Sanctified Gifts via the spoon from the Chalice. So it's not an across the board Uniate practice.

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Okay, you got me. The particle is indeed slightly dipped into the chalice when it is prepared. Some would say, however, that this is a distinction without a difference.

Main point: there is no really reverent way to have Communion under both kinds in the Roman rite, so it's better if we just abandoned the idea altogether. Orthodox Churches are relatively small here in the U.S., and in the old country Communion is just not received that often. So the Orthodox dodge the logistical problem altogether. (You are only supposed to give Communion out of one chalice anyway, and special permission is needed in order to break this rule.)

 
At 8:58 AM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

On hierarchical principals in the liturgy, see this post:

http://sarabitus.blogspot.com/2006/05/hierarchies.html

 
At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How do you instill an ideology that exalts the word over the image to those who cannot yet read or even speak? It just doesn't seem natural to me."

That's a fair question. One might also ask it with regard to Judaism.

I think that 'sola scriptura' doesn't come into play with someone that young. I grew up in a tradition that really valued that principle, but never learned about it, and the history behind it, until I was in college. Talk about SS with a young child would be like talking about magesterium - they are too young to really grasp the details about it. In a very basic sense they might be able to grasp something about it, but not much. They just aren't "there" yet by reason of their age. And even so, these children are children of the covenant, and part of the people of God by baptism. There are other things that give them a strong religious identity. Like Jews, there is a strong sense of tradition and identity among many Protestant children - even children in the most iconoclastic traditions (e.g. Presbyterianism, Anabaptism [Mennonites, Amish]). It does not have anything to do with sola scriptura, as I said above, but rather involves things as varied as food/diet, singing, scripture reading, learning and visualizing bible stories, music, etc.

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger JGurrea said...

"Main point: there is no really reverent way to have Communion under both kinds in the Roman rite, so it's better if we just abandoned the idea altogether."

Then why was it given under both kinds for hundreds of years before giving only under one kind gradually came on the scene?

"You are only supposed to give Communion out of one chalice anyway, and special permission is needed in order to break this rule."

Ahhh... see in the enormous Russian cathedrals like Christ the Saviour, etc. they prepare the gifts and celebrate the liturgy with only one chalice. But have you ever seen one of those chalices? They almost look like a joke of some sort. Go to:

http://en.liturgy.ru/photo/nn/photo_n1.php

...and click on the second picture in the first row. Looks like it could hold more Blood than Jesus' precious Body was able to hold while he was still walking around on the earth before the crucifixion. The extra chalices aren't used until the gifts are going to be taken out and distributed, but the consecration and such happens in the BIG chalice and BIG diskos. Sure the extra chalices aren't original apostolic practice, but neither are spoons. They are just one example of how to deal with reality in a pastorally sound and reverent way.

I'm wondering though how the Coptic Church "dodges the logistical problem altogether" with hundreds of communicants at St. Mark's Cathedral in old Cairo every Sunday. Mind you...

-they receive under both kinds
-most people in the Coptic Church receive and receive often
-they don't use spoons (its one line to the paten for the Body then one line to the Chalice for the Blood)
-they use leavened bread (which has crumbs)

The point of all this? If traditional Latins wants to give only the Host and claim it is a little "t" tradition which doesn't diminish the fullness of the Sacrament, then they are in their right. Due to the long standing practice in the Roman Church, they are somewhat correct in this regard. However, A) there are ways to give Communion under both kinds in the Western Church and do it with reverence, and B) the lack of reverence and general sloppiness that you rightly note in many Novus Ordo parishes that give under both kinds is a direct result of their deeper underlying attitude toward the faith and not a result of the logistical "difficulty" of giving communion under both kinds.

Anyway, this is one of those "opinion" things anyway. Each Church is ultimately going to do what it feels is wisest. I just hope they do it for the right reasons.

-Julio

P.S. For another good example of what reverent communion under both kinds would look like in a Western setting, see the Armenian Church celebrate the Badarak (Mass). They give unleavened bread that is nearly identical to the Western version, and have given Communion by intinction for hundreds of years.

 
At 12:27 PM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Julio,

I have seen the videos from Russia of the enormous chalices, so I know what you mean. To reiterate, if it was good enough for your ancestors and good enough for mine, it's good enough for me. If I were Pope (not this again!!!), I would ban all liturgical innovation for 100 years.

Theological principals are one thing, but practice is another. It is a much superior theological principal to have Communion under both kinds, but you cannot have it at all costs. I would argue that even the Byzantine praxis is not perfect because there is no "take and drink this", it's more like slurping from a spoon.

Liturgical practice never can take place in a vacuum. In reality, I think the Anglican practice is the most Patristic and devout: the faithful receive in the hand and kneeling, and they partially take the cup as well. Not even the Copts do it this way. But that is good for them, it doesn't mean that you Orthodox have to do it that way now. The better is often the enemy of the good. The Roman practice before the 1970's is good, the Byzantine practice is good, etc. There is always something better, but that does not mean we have to constantly be pursuing it, particularily if other factors come into play.

Fr. Anderson,

Sorry, I am not going to let you off that easy. I know you are very Anglo-Catholic, so you know that in comparing classical Protestantism with modern Judaism, you are really portraying both as a shadow of what should be; i.e. the religion of the Incarnation. I am even reminded of recent archeological excavations in the Middle East that found synagogues that were as ornately decorated as churches, images and all. And the Jewish child was probably formed by his trips to the Temple, which regardless of the injunctions against idolatry, was very ornately decorated and was the polar opposite of the contemporary evangelical church. Even rabbinic Judaism (the cult of the pure shadow) is very ritualistic, and could easily grip the mind of a young Jewish child.

Sorry, no dice.

 
At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Alcuin said...

Julio wrote:

"But have you ever seen one of those chalices? They almost look like a joke of some sort."

I saw one of them for the first time on the Canturbury Tales blog (http://cantuar.blogspot.com/) and that was exactly my reaction! I couldn't believe my eyes at first. I thought it must be some joke done on photoshop.

This is a great blog, by the way. The depth and disarming honesty of some of these posts is just exceptional.

 
At 12:53 PM, Blogger albion said...

With all due respect, I see nothing reverent about people queuing up in a generally disorderly fashion and rushing through the procedure as fast as possible.

I grew up in an Episcopal parish that had only one priest, and no deacons, and before eucharistic ministers had been dreamt up. People would reverently kneel at the altar rail, where they would first receive the bread. The priest would return to the altar for the chalice, and make a second pass down the line. This process repeated itself until all had communicated.

This was an opportunity for an anthem(s) from the choir, which always communicated first. There are also communion hymns.

I also get put off by priests who will not do the final ablutions until the beginning of the final hymn, so that people won't get "antsy." These people are only going to get antsy if they have not been properly formed in the liturgy. Had they been, they would be annoyed by the remaining elements just being left to sit, albeit reverently covered.

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Very important question. How old a mind can fathom religion?

 
At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PI,

Have you read the Ocholophobist's wonderful post on infant communion in his apologia? I think this makes your point against SS better than any other.

No offense, my friend, but your comment about "drinking" doesn't make any sense at all.

Does anybody know the history of communion under one species?

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger JGurrea said...

"To reiterate, if it was good enough for your ancestors and good enough for mine, it's good enough for me."

This is very true, but part of the reason I can't relate to it is because in converting to Orthodoxy, in a way I am not being true to what my ancestors did. It is sad sometimes, and when I see your journey I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I crossed the Tiber instead of the Golden Horn. There will always be a part of me that sits there amongst the gold and "Greekness" of Byzantium and asks, "What is someone with a last name of 'Gurrea' doing here?"

"I would argue that even the Byzantine praxis is not perfect because there is no 'take and drink this', it's more like slurping from a spoon."

I actually agree with you. Spoons are a late addition and one that we could do without, IMO. Laity can receive in the hand... but you have to be the Emperor or the Tsar. That is just plain silly, but it is historical.

"In reality, I think the Anglican practice is the most Patristic and devout: the faithful receive in the hand and kneeling, and they partially take the cup as well."

I agree. This much closer to what I imagine the early Church doing. I don't think I'll convince my bishops to start in his parishes. But that doesn't matter- as you've pointed out, "there is always something better, but that does not mean we have to constantly be pursuing it, particularily if other factors come into play.'

-Julio

 
At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points as usual, Arturo.

I guess I am constantly forcing myself to reevaluate what "is" ritualistic and incarnational (if that makes any sense). I used to date a Jewish woman, and would go with her to temple on "shabbat". I was struck at how iconoclastic and quasi-rationalistic the whole thing was on the surface (and similar to Presbyterianism in a way). But then I came to see the nuances, and the little bits ritualism and symbolism that were subtle but there... only in a different way than what I had become accustomed to over the years.

Likewise, with my wife coming from a strong Mennonite background (one of her ancestors was the first Mennonite bishop in America), I am constantly amazed at the strong sense of belonging and identity that these Mennonites have with their very simple traditions (so simple that you wouldn't notice them if you weren't looking for them - they are the more 'liberal' Mennonites who do not dress in the classic covering, etc.). So I guess the point I was trying to make was simply that in those who come from a sola scriptura tradition (like I did) there is a strong sense of "incarnation", and a sacramental approach to life in a way, though they might not say that, or phrase it in that way. It is there even in those "sola scriptura" faiths because it cannot be avoided, because the universe is sacramental and incarnational. But they appropriate that in a different way.

 
At 9:04 PM, Anonymous Han said...

Regarding Anon.'s question,

Communion under one specie developed in the Mediaeval period as a guard against accidentally spilling the Blood. Other things were tried as well, including intinction, or the use of either a reed or a straw made out off gold or silver (the fistula), or the dipping of the consecrated host into unconsecrated wine (I suppose the theory being consecration by contact). Experimentation in ways to admister the Sacrament under both species ceased after the Reformation in a sort of anti-sign to refute certain Protestants who said that the Body and Blood of Christ was not truly present in only one specie.

I, for one, would be interested in seeing greater use of the fistula. Assuming this sufficiently guards against profanation, would this method of administration be dignified? Or would sipping the Precious Blood through a golden straw just look too silly to be borne? It is my understanding that prior to the new Mass, the use of the fistula was retained in Masses celebrated by the Pope.

Han

 
At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Han,

Thanks for the kind note. I am a fan of communion under both kinds but not of tramping through the sanctuary in a belly-shirt to do so. I agree that it distorts the "hierarchical" nature and reverence of the liturgy.

On the other hand, I guess I just don't see the profound distinction between "drinking" and "slurping" from a spoon or through a straw. Does the communicant get liquid? Is that not enough for "drinking"? What Would Aquinas Do? I also find the spoon to be a beautiful symbol of meekness.

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

"Have you read the Ocholophobist's wonderful post on infant communion in his apologia? I think this makes your point against SS better than any other.

No offense, my friend, but your comment about "drinking" doesn't make any sense at all."

I have read it, and if you look at the comments on that post, I made quite a bit of a ruckus over it. But that is another story.

As for the comment about drinking, here I wanted to articulate better the concept of sacramental symbolism. Traditional Roman theology divided sacrametal practice into the "res et signum" (grace and the sign). The "res" is what is most important, and for the Roman Church, the "res" in Holy Communion can be received only by receiving Communion under one kind. While this might be true to some extent, it is dubious that the Patristic church would have seen things this way. The partaking of both elements and the symbolism behind is something that is arguably essential to the sacrament. However, with the passing of history, these things were sadly lost.

As for the Renegade Eye's question, I would have to think about it.

 
At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Alcuin said...

Pseudo-Iamblichus said:

"and for the Roman Church, the "res" in Holy Communion can be received only by receiving Communion under one kind."

I think there's an issue here of what logicians would call "quantifier scope". Instead of saying that the 'res' can be received *only by* receiving Communion under one kind, wouldn't you want to say instead that the 'res' can be received *by only* receiving Communion under one kind?

 
At 3:41 PM, Blogger erudit said...

Spoons are a late addition and one that we could do without, IMO.

Is that really so? I recall reading about an Anglo-Saxon burial that contained a Coptic communion spoon, ca. 6th century I believe. Or is that late?

And while some Coptic churches may not use spoons, our parish does. It's true that it doesn't eliminate the danger of spillage. If there's a dribble, the priest wipes it quickly with a communion cloth.

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger JGurrea said...

"And while some Coptic churches may not use spoons, our parish does."

I know what you are talking about, but I've only seen it used for the Blood in Coptic churches. They have always given the Body first by hand directly into the mouth the times I've seen it. Then the deacons or other servants hand you a corporal (which you give back at the end) to put over your mouth and make sure nothing falls out.

On the other hand, we Byzantines put the Body and Blood together and give *both* mingled on the spoon.

 
At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psuedo,

Sorry I missed your point. I thought you were saying that communion-by-spoon didn't qualify as "drinking," which struck me as very odd. I find communion-by-spoon to be the most fantastic symbolism possible. And, because we Christians are "incarnational," visible symbols are the invisible reality that they communicate. In other words, to my sinful non-Orthodox eyes, the Byzantine style of communion is the best of all by far.

What I admired in Ochlophobe's post was the fact that Orthodox Christian infants commune! In other words, faith is not, nor could it be, primarily an intellectual endeavor. It is something that you taste and see and hear and do. Again, Orthodox got it right.

 
At 10:36 PM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Wow there, partner.... keep the triumphalism to a minimum. That type of talk makes me want to bust out with the dirty secrets of Orthodoxy in order to burst your bubble.

Believe soberly and you won't get yourself into trouble, especially on this blog.

 
At 10:42 PM, Anonymous mr thompson said...

Y'know, I can see there being 6-month-old Calvinists of a sort. I mean, they do at least baptise those things, you know? And at least one Reformed group is having a controversy about the liceity of communing infants. I mean, yeah, you're right, sola scriptura and a lot of the stuff doesn't work for kids, sure, but they can't be all that bad if they can still do those things.

mr thompson

 
At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PI,

Having read the Ochlophobe's uberfrom posts, I hope I have no illusions. And, as Catholics, we don't have much to brag about on that score.

Nor do I think "triumphalism" a sound description for every normative observation of a Christian communion. That is too easy.

Spooning-feeding is the perfect antidote.

 

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