Page 10, 2nd October 1998

2nd October 1998
Page 10
Page 10, 2nd October 1998 — Letter to Susanna II: Liturgy-and life

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Organisations: Eastern Church


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Letter to Susanna II: Liturgy-and life


Now YOU ARE asking too much! It would take me ages to show how the Mass as we know it developed out of the "Last Supper". Books have been written about the subject and I don't intend to add to them, but at least I can try to say something that might be helpful.

After the Resurrection the disciples still went to the synagogue and to the temple to pray, as they had done with Jesus, until they were thrown out as heretics. However this didn't stop them having their own prayer meetings based on the synagogue service. Then on the first day of the week, later called the "Day of the Sun" or "Sun-day", because the rising Sun became a symbol of the Resurrection, they celebrated the "Breaking of the Bread". However, because of the ever-increasing numbers of converts and the

unfortunate behaviour of a few it became advisable to discontinue celebrating the Breaking of the Bread in the context of an ordinary meal.

At first these two religious services were quite separate. The synagogue-style service was held once or twice on weekdays, whilst the Breaking of the Bread took place on Sundays. It was probably persecution and the consequent dangers of meeting too often that lead the first Christians to put these two religious services together as one.

From the beginning and to the present day this combined celebration was called the "Liturgy" in the Eastern Church. In the West it eventually came to be known as the Mass.

The first parr, based on the Synagogue service, consisted of two or three readings, several prayers and a sermon, Or explanation of the readings.

The readings would be from the Old Testament. Then readings were especially composedk based on the life of Jesus. They showed how he had fulfilled the readings from the Old Testament. Some believe that this is how the gospels came to be written, before developing into the narrative form that we know today. When the Creed was formulated and added with the Gloria, the general shape of the liturgy began to look distinctly like the Mass as we know it today.

Now when the disciples had reminded themselves of all that Jesus had said and done whilst on earth, they prepared to receive him amongst them again. but this time as he is in heaven. That's why it was sometimes called the "Heavenly liturgy". This time he would be doing only one thing, endlessly loving his Father and overflowing with what he received, on to and into all who would receive him. This is why he made himself present as ordinary food and drink, so that all who received him would be drawn into his new life and into the endless ecstasy of "loving" that united him with God for eternity.

In the temple where the disciples had gone with Jesus during his life on earth, it would have been one of the priests or the high priest himself who would offer for them whatever sacrifice they wished to make. After the Resurrection however, when the old priesthood had come to an end, there was only one priesthood and one high priest. and that was Jesus himself.

He didn't offer oxen or lambs or wheat or corn for others, he offered himself and made it plain that this was the only offering God really wanted in future. That's why the first Christians came to see that they were all priests because only they could offer themselves. no-one else could do it for them. But they also came to see that even this offering was only acceptable to God if it was offered in. with, and through Jesus.

St Justin, one of the early fathers of the Church, described how the early Christians would raise the roof with the "Great Amen" at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, when the presiding celebrant would say " in him, with him. and through him..." They knew only too well that the offering of their Jives, their loving and their struggles only had meaning because of the High Priest in whom and through whom all things were offered to God.

As daily Mass. and even regular Sunday Mass, wasn't commonplace in those early days, a practice gradually grew up of making what. in later times, came to be called a morning offering. In this prayer everything to be done in the day ahead was offered to God so that all human endeavour could not only be sanctified, but united with the offering of Jesus.

In this way they came to see that the whole of one's life. and every moment in it, could become the Mass; in other words, the place where we exercise our priesthood by uniting it to Christ's. If this means that your home becomes a place of sacrifice for you then the bank must be the same for your husband Pat and the hospital for my wife Bobbie and my office for me!

Love, David.

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