The Sacraments

The definition of a sacrament is rooted in the biblical teaching about creation. The glory of God is reflected in the physical world He made. Romans says, "Ever since the creation of the world [God's] invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (1:20). The creation is an outward and visible sign of the glory of the Creator.

The Incarnation and the Sacraments

In the New Testament the Creator Himself became a part of the creation. St. John’s Gospel says, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (1:14). Colossians says that Jesus is "The image of the invisible God" (1:15). Jesus Christ is the archetype of all sacraments. Jesus Christ is the definitive outward and visible manifestation of the invisible God.

We refer to the phenomenon of God becoming man as the Incarnation. Incarnation means literally "enfleshed." The Sacraments are extensions of the Incarnation into the present. Jesus Christ is the means of grace for salvation. The sacraments, which are manifestations of His Incarnate presence, are the most objective means we have of access to Him.

The Objective Presence of Jesus in the Sacraments

We can understand the nature of the sacraments by reflecting on the distinction between things that are objective and things that are subjective. Something that is objective does not depend upon personal opinions and feelings. To say "The world is round," is a statement of objective truth. It cannot be changed by what we think or feel about it. Something that is subjective depends upon feelings or opinions. Debates about which sport, wine, food or vacation spot is the best will always be matters of subjective opinion or feeling.

The sacraments are objective manifestations of the presence of Jesus. We receive grace from God in the sacraments whether we feel it or not. The objective grace of the sacraments will frequently produce a positive subjective response in us. This will be more and more the case as we mature in the faith and develop the spiritual vision to perceive the grace of the sacraments. Nonetheless, Christ is present in the sacraments whether or not we feel or perceive that He is present. We should also be aware that the objective presence of Christ in the sacraments can have a harmful impact if we receive Him in an unworthy manner (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

We live in an age that puts great stress on subjective feelings. This is why many who are accustomed to cultural and evangelical forms of worship, which focus on the emotional response, don’t understand sacramental worship, which focuses on the objective presence of God. The presence of Jesus in the sacraments does not depend upon whether we experience a sense of excitement. It does not depend upon the charisma of the minister. The presence of Jesus in the sacraments is an objective fact.

In this light, we can understand the sacraments as gifts from Jesus to the Church that enable us to avoid a roller coaster religion of up and down emotions. When we come to Jesus in the sacraments, in whatever state of strength or weakness we find ourselves, whether we feel good or bad at the moment, we receive Jesus. We know we receive Him because in the outward and visible sign, He pledges to us the inward and spiritual grace. In courtroom terms, we have evidence of His presence.

A Sacramental World

It is wrong to think of the sacraments as things that are entirely different from or other than the rest of creation. The Sacraments are the fulfillment of the creation. In the world to come there will not be sacraments because the whole creation will, once again, be a sacrament.

It is only because of sin that we think of things that are physical in opposition to things that are spiritual. Man was created in harmony with God as a union of flesh and Spirit. In the Fall, man took the creation and said, "This is mine." The consequence is that man pursues the creation as the end of life, as an idol, as something to seek apart from God rather than as a sign of the creator.

The answer to the Fall is not to withdraw into the realm of pure spirit. The answer is the Incarnation. God became part of the creation in order to redeem it. The Incarnation is the beginning of the redemption of the whole creation. The Sacraments, as extensions of the Incarnation, point forward to the fulfillment of the creation on the Day of Resurrection, an event for which "the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs" (Romans 8:22).

The Sacraments in Particular

The Church has generally come to recognize seven sacraments. In each sacrament there is an outward sign or form and an inward grace (sometimes called the matter). They can be summarized as follows:

Sacrament

Outward Sign or Form

Inward Grace

Baptism Water Dying and rising with Christ

Romans 6:4;
Colossians 2:12
1 Corinthians 12:13 through the gift of the Spirit

Confirmation Laying on of Hands Strengthening (sevenfold)
Acts 8:14-17, Hebrews 6:2 gifts of the Spirit
Holy Communion Bread and Wine Body and Blood of Christ. Food
1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:17-33;
St .John 6:35-59 for the life born at baptism
Confession Form of Confession Forgiveness
St. John 20:23 Form of Absolution
Unction Oil
or Laying on of Hands
Healing James 5:13-15
Marriage Ring

Strength to keep wedding vows
St. John 2:l-ll; Ephesians 5:31-32

Ordination Laying on of Hands

Strength to keep ordination vows
St. John 20:21; 1 Timothy 1:6, 4:14; Titus 1:5

Because of the sacraments, we need not struggle with whether we have received the gift of the Spirit. We know that Jesus has pledged the saving and strengthening gifts of the Spirit to us in the objective signs of water in baptism and the bishop’s hands in Confirmation. We need not ask, "Where is Jesus?" He said, "This is my body. This is my blood." The initiative in the sacraments, as in the Incarnation, is with God. We are called to respond to God’s grace with faith and love, but the presence of grace does not depend upon us.

Objections to the Sacraments

Some people say they don’t need the sacraments because they receive grace directly from God through personal prayer and Bible reading. To say that grace comes through the sacraments is not to say that grace comes only through the sacraments. Grace comes to us in many forms and we should welcome them all. Every Christian should have habits of personal prayer and Bible reading, but this should not keep one from receiving the objective grace of the sacraments. These are complementary aspects of a healthy spiritual life.

Some also object that they don’t need the Church or other individuals (bishops, priests and deacons) to be intermediaries between themselves and God. This is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Church as the body of Christ. We are not saved as a collection of unrelated individuals. We are interdependent. Each part of the body depends upon the other parts (cf. Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 St. Peter 4:7-11).

Each Christian is a sacramental person, a sign of Christ’s presence and a mediator of grace to others. Each Christian is called to represent Christ to others through his gifts. For example, when we are feeling low, Christ’s presence is mediated to us through those who have the gift for encouragement. We need the grace that comes to us from the other members of the body. The other members of the body need the grace that comes from our gifts. We all need the sacraments, which are mediated through the apostolic ministry. We have direct and personal access to God through Christ, but if that is all we have then we have a deficient biblical understanding of the nature of the Church as the body of Christ.

Sacramentals

In addition to the sacraments, there are also various "sacramentals." These are tangible signs that remind us of God’s presence and aid us in worship and prayer. The palms we use on Palm Sunday fall into this category. They are a tangible reminder of Christ’s march to victory on the cross. Holy water is another sacramental. We sprinkle ourselves with the sign of the cross as we enter and leave the Church as a reminder of our baptism and as a symbolic prayer for protection and guidance. Statues and pictures are sacramentals. As we look at them, our hearts are lifted to contemplate the realities they represent. People wear crosses and medals, or have certain icons and pictures in their homes, or create a special place for prayer.

Some people are concerned that the use of statues, crosses and pictures in worship runs into the danger of violating the second commandment concerning idolatry. However, a close examination of their use reveals that few people actually worship the physical things. Rather, the physical things we can see point us to things we can’t see. A representation of Jesus on a cross helps us to call to mind what He has done for us. An icon calls to mind the witness of a saint – and saints always point us to Christ and what He has done in them.

There is a danger that devotion to an object might become excessive, that one might come to view a devotional aid as the end of devotion and not a means to the end of God. It is a danger, but it is not a great danger in our devotionally reserved culture.

The greater danger is that a devotional aid might be viewed in a magical sense, as a sort of "good luck charm." The practice, for example, of burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard of a home that is for sale might be an example of this. Objects used in Christian devotion are meant to point us to what they represent and cultivate faith. They are not meant to be a substitute for faith. For example, the wearing of a cross should be a sign of genuine faith in Jesus, not a thing worn for good luck, even though the wearer makes no real effort to follow Christ.

A Closing Note on The Sacraments

The sacraments focus on the presence of God in the ordinary. Though we pray for and at times experience miraculous healing and extraordinary signs of God’s presence, we also see Christ in ordinary water, bread and wine, in ordinary Christian people, in God’s sovereign control of daily life. The greatest miracle from the sacramental perspective is Christ’s redemptive presence in all things (Romans 8:28), rather than the odd moment when something unusual happens.

 

Addendum: Notes on Holy Orders or Apostolic Ministry

Apostolic Ministry in the Bible

In a sense, the sacrament of Holy Orders is the source of all the sacraments since all the sacraments are administered by those duly ordained – with the exception that a lay person may administer baptism in extreme situations.

The word “apostle” means, "one who is sent." In St. John 20:21, in the upper room on Easter night, Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (see also St. Matthew. 28:16-20, Acts 1:2-8). Thus, apostolic authority comes from Jesus Himself.

The apostles exercised spiritual authority in the early Church as a result of their commission from Jesus. St. Paul wrote, "I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction"

(2 Corinthians 13:10). In Acts, the apostles govern the Church based on the authority they have been given by Christ, not by popular vote.

The apostles who were sent by Jesus in turn sent others. St. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:6, "I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." Those sent by the apostles in turn are instructed to send others. St. Paul writes in Titus 1:5, "For this reason I left you (Titus as Bishop) in Crete, that you should… appoint elders (= presbyters = priests) in every city as I commanded you." And again in 1 Timothy 5:22 he writes, "Do not lay hands on anyone hastily" (see also 1 Tim. 4:14). Instructions are given as to the qualifications for those being ordained (1 Timothy 3; Titus l:7ff.). Spiritual authority in the Bible flows from Jesus through the apostles.

The Development of Holy Orders in the Church

The New Testament mentions four orders of ministry: apostles, bishops, elders or presbyters and deacons (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1:5). It appears that the title bishop and elder were used somewhat interchangeably (cf. 1 St. Peter 5:1, where St. Peter, who is an apostle, calls himself an elder). After the death of the apostles, the title of bishop was used for the men who were said to have succeeded the apostles in their office. By c. A.D. 110, St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, speaks of a three-fold ministry of bishops, presbyters (who later came to be known as priests) and deacons.

The Doctrine of Apostolic Succession

The authority Jesus gave the apostles for ministry was passed on by the apostles to successors through the laying on of hands. These successors are the bishops who stand in lineal succession from the apostles. Authority for ministry today in our Church flows through the bishop and is derived ultimately from Christ Himself (Ordination of Priests, BCP, p. 546). The bishop is our tangible link with the apostolic Church. The Apostolic Ministry is the pledge of sacramental grace.

However, authority for ministry does not exist in separation from the proclamation of the true faith. It is an authority of Word and Sacrament (St. Matt. 28:16-20; Acts 1:2-8). The origin of Apostolic Succession was the succession of authentic teaching in opposition to heretical or false teaching. If a bishop comes to deny the faith or teach false doctrine, he acts contrary to the very nature of his office. The early Church taught that Christians must separate from heretical bishops. This is why we are separate from the Episcopal Church.

During the Reformation, the continental reformers (Lutherans and Presbyterians) threw out the visible succession of bishops and said that only a succession of teaching was important. Anglicans hold that both lineal succession and right doctrine are essential to the fullness of the Church’s ministry.

Sacramental Grace Not Dependent Upon the Minister

The character or worthiness of the individual sacramental minister does not affect the flow of sacramental grace. This teaching was worked out in the Church by the great Church Father St. Augustine in his debates with the heretical teachers known as the Donatists. It is expressed in Article xxvi of the Articles of Religion (BCP, p. 608). The Church teaches that the minister in every sacrament is Christ, for whom the visible minister is but a [very inadequate] icon. Our personal opinions and feelings about the priest are irrelevant to the flow of sacramental grace. However, this doctrine does not mitigate against the need to discipline ministers who misbehave.

What Bishops, Priests and Deacons Do (BCP, p. 294)

1. Bishops

a. are the focus of the Church’s unity – Chief Pastor.

b. ordain all ministers. (Note: priests and deacons are ordained, bishops are consecrated.)

c. confirm those who are baptized.

2. Priests

a. preach and exercise pastoral care over the congregation. (Note: One need not be ordained to preach or to exercise pastoral gifts.)

b. consecrate the communion elements.

c. give blessings;

d. pronounce absolution.

3. Deacons

a. read the gospel in the Mass.

b. administer communion in church and take the reserved sacrament to the sick.

c. function directly under the authority of the bishop.

Questions

1. What is a sacrament?

2. How are the sacraments related to the Creation and the Incarnation (God becoming man)?

3. List the Seven Sacraments, giving for each its outward sign or form and its inward grace.

4. Why do we baptize infants?

5. What is the doctrine of the Real Presence?

6. What is Apostolic Succession? What are the two essential components of it?

7. What are the three orders of the Apostolic Ministry?

8. Which two sacraments must be administered by a bishop?

9. hat three things does a priest do in the liturgy of Mass that a deacon does not do?

10. What two liturgical functions does the deacon traditionally carry out in the Mass?

THE CHURCH AND ITS SYMBOLISM

This session of the class will begin with a tour of the church and a discussion of the meaning and purpose of the various items of furniture and art listed below. We begin at the back of the church.

Baptismal Font. Traditionally by the entrance because we enter the church through baptism (1 Cor. 12:13). When we pass by the font, we should remember our baptismal vows.

Holy Water. Holy water is water that has been blessed with prayers asking that the water be a defense against evil. Typically, one will dip one’s finger in the holy water and make the sign of the cross. This acts as both a reminder of our baptism and a prayer for God’s grace and protection.

Nave. The nave is the body of the church where the people sit. From the Latin navis, meaning ship.

Sanctuary. The area around the altar, which represents the Holy of Holies in heaven (cf. Heb. 9:3). It is separated from the nave by the communion rail.

Altar. The place where sacrifice is offered. There were various Old Testament altars where the patriarchs of Israel offered sacrifice before the tabernacle and temple were built. The tabernacle and Solomon’s temple both had two altars: An altar of burnt offering and an altar of incense. In the Christian tradition, the Altar is the place where Christ’s sacrifice is remembered and represented before God in the liturgy (cf. Hebrews 13:10, Malachi 1:11).

Tabernacle. A safe-like structure atop the Altar that contains the Reserved Sacrament – the body and (less frequently) the blood of Jesus that have been consecrated at a previous celebration of the Mass. The sacrament is reserved so that it can be taken to the sick and also to foster contemplative prayer in the church.

Sanctuary Lamp. A candle that burns continually to indicate the presence of the reserved sacrament in the tabernacle.

Credence Table. A table on which the elements are placed in preparation for the Mass. Also contains water and a bowl for washing the priest’s hands before the consecration.

Lectern. A desk on which the Bible sits, from which are read the lessons at Morning and Evening Prayer and the epistle at the Mass.

Pulpit. The desk from which the sermon is usually preached.

Crucifix. A cross with an image of the body of Jesus on it. This helps us to call to mind the death of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26).

Candles. Symbols of the presence of the Holy Ghost (cf. Rev. 1:12). The two candles on the Altar are Eucharistic candles and are lit for every celebration of the Mass.  Traditionally there should also be an additional six candles on the Altar, and these are typically placed on the re-table (back shelf of the Altar). These are called the “office lights.” They are lit for Morning and Evening Prayer (“the daily offices”) and for choral celebrations of the Mass. God willing, one day St. George’s Church will be blessed with these six additional candles on our Altar that we might properly observe all of the services of the Church

Statues and Pictures. At the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicea II, 787, the Church formally approved the use of pictures and images in worship as an extension of the principle of the incarnation. God himself took on form; therefore, it is okay to use art as an aid in worship.

The San Damiano Crucifix is an early Church crucifix, as the corpus is painted onto the cross. What is unique about this particular crucifix is that it depicts both Christ’s passion and His resurrection.   It also reflects the direction God gave to St. Francis:  “Francis, do you not see that My house is falling into ruin? Go, and rebuild it for Me.” We are thus reminded of the importance of rebuilding the Church in our time.

Stained glass windows. Often in churches there are stained glass windows of Christ, of saints, or of scenes from the Bible.  The stained glass windows at St. George’s Church bear no such depictions, but they will almost certainly be included in the windows of our future church.  The natural light that shines through characters in stained glass windows symbolizes the light of Christ. This highlights the reality that in Christ the saints are on fire with the love of God.  As our worship of Almighty God joins with that same worship in Heaven in the Mass, it follows we should heighten our senses to the reality that we are on holy ground. Stained glass windows help capture that effect by refracting the rays of sunlight as they pour through the windows, giving our chapel a beautiful and ethereal quality.

The della Robia sculpture of the Blessed Virgin with Child  reminds us of the genuine humanity of Jesus and the faith of Mary – “Be it unto me according to thy word” (St. Luke 1:38). Her faith stands in contrast with the disobedience of Eve and is a model for all Christians in their acceptance of Jesus Christ. The depiction of the Blessed Mother and Child also emphasizes the Incarnation. Many Christian heresies have their roots in denying the Incarnation. Having an image of the Blessed Mother and Child reinforces the doctrine and thereby serves as an added safeguard against slipping into heresy.

The icon of our Patron St. George.  A Roman solider, who converted to Christianity, and who was martyred around the year 303 A.D. during the height of the Christian persecutions. St. George is unique among the saints in Church history because he is popular both in the Eastern and Western Churches and is the patron saint of soldiers and of such countries as England and Portugal. He is often depicted on a horse slaying a dragon with a spear. The dragon represents Satan, but is also a symbol for evil and paganism. St. George wears red, symbolizing his martyrdom and emphasizing that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” His and his fellow Christians’ witness to the Christian faith led to the overthrow of the pagan Roman empire.  He is a model for Catholic Christians for our time as we battle anti-theistic forces at play in every corner of our daily lives. May Christ give us the same resolve and courage to fight the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

The Tabernacle. Our particular tabernacle has two cherubim facing one another engraved on its sliding doors.  To emphasize the holiness of what is contained behind the tabernacle’s doors, the cherubim are kneeling, their heads bowed, their faces solemnly expressing reverence.  Each holds the Blessed Sacrament above his head; the cherubim on the Gospel side (the left door) holds the Host and paten; the cherubim on the Epistle side (right door) holds the Chalice.

The use of the tabernacle dates back to the early Church. One archeological dig of a church uncovered a tabernacle dating back to the 200s A. D.  Early Church practice was for deacons to retrieve from tabernacles the Blessed Sacrament that had been consecrated by the bishop on Sundays and to distribute it to the surrounding churches as well as to administer to the sick and shut-ins.   

The tabernacle has its historical antecedent in the Ark of the Covenant of the Old Testament.  God commanded His Chosen people to make an ark of wood, overlaid with pure gold to house the two tablets of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:10-21).  God also instructed Moses to craft two cherubim facing one another on either end of the mercy seat above the tabernacle. God said to Moses “And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim …” (Exodus 25:22).

As Catholic Christians we believe in the Real Presence of our Blessed Lord in the bread and wine consecrated at the Mass.  He is “made known to us in the breaking of bread” as He was to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the Eve of that first Easter Day (St. Luke 24:25).  The Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is therefore an objective reality (I Corninthians11: 23-29; St. John 6:48-58) and is His great gift to His Bride, the Church.

Our church, therefore,  is more than a meeting hall or a building with pews or a stage; it is Holy Ground, and the Presence of our Lord is REALLY HERE and does not depend on our subjective feelings. This is what makes our Catholic Church in the Anglican tradition unique. 

Whenever you see the Sanctuary Lamp (which hangs from the ceiling near the Gospel side of the Altar) lit, it means the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Tabernacle. It is, therefore, important that you genuflect whenever you enter or leave your pew, to show reverence to the Real Presence of our Blessed Lord upon the Altar.

We have the great privilege to commune with Him before the Reserved Sacrament in the Tabernacle on the Altar, whether in prayer or in contemplation, so that “when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied.” (Psalm 17:16)

The Processional Cross is a cross on a pole carried by the crucifer (the one who carries the cross) in procession at the beginning and conclusion of the Mass and for other liturgical purposes.  As an Anglican Church we are blessed to have a crucifix which is appropriately Celtic in design with the cross overlaying a circle.  Many crosses in the early Church of the British Isles bear this unique marking. To help in the conversion of pagans to Christianity, it was customary for the early Church to take pagan symbols, such as the sun god of the druids, and give them a Christian meaning. The circle was the symbol of the sun and, by  incorporating it into crucifixes, its pagan meaning changed to representing Christ, who is the Light of the world, the Day Star from on High.  This teaching device helped pagans make the transition from worshiping part of God’s creation (common in most primitive religions) to worshipping the Redeemer of the world, the Son rather than the sun.

The processional cross is also a  reminder of our Lord’s call to us, His disciples, that we are to carry our cross for the furtherance of His kingdom in our lives and in the lives of others. The cross is the great symbol of God’s love for us and a reminder that love and sacrifice go hand-in-hand.

Holy Water Stoup. A receptacle inside the church door which has been blessed.  Signing oneself with this water upon entering and leaving the church invokes God’s blessing upon us.  In addition, it serves as a reminder of one’s Baptism. Holy Water stoups may also be placed inside entrances to private homes. Our Holy Water stoup is near the chapel doors beside the Baptismal font.

Stations of the Cross. A reminder of the events of our Lord’s passion on Good Friday and serve as a wonderful devotional for Catholic Christians during the penitential season of Lent, as well as at other times of the Church Kalendar year.  

Stations of the Cross have a long and early history in the life of the Church, evolving during the period pilgrimages by Christians to the Holy Land became popular.  Pilgrims would retrace the path our Lord took on Good Friday, making stops (or “stations”) for prayer and meditation at certain points where special events of our Lord’s passion transpired.  Because many Christians could not make the journey to the Holy Land, churches throughout Europe made replicas of the incidents of our Lord’s Passion, and over time the customary number of stations became established as fourteen.

Columbarium. In the Anglican tradition of caring for its parishioners from birth and baptism to death and burial, church yards often served as cemeteries. As cremation has become more popular, many have built columbaria to provide a tranquil and holy setting for the inurnment of ashes. Saint George’s offers that comfort to its parishioners and their families in a beautiful columbarium within the church. It creates a soothing environment where families may not only pay their respect to the memory of the deceased, but worship God “with them.”

When our Lord returns to earth on the Day of Judgment the dead in Christ will rise from the dead.  Because of this, many of the faithful see it more than fitting to be on Holy Ground to meet our Lord when He returns.  When we celebrate the Mass, we can experience in its fullness the Communion of the Saints, for as we behold our Lord veiled in the Blessed Sacrament, so our loved ones who have gone on to Paradise, now behold our Lord face to face. It is in and through Christ that we have communion with those who rest in Him. If you are interested in reserving a niche for a family member or for yourself, please speak with the Rector.   

The art pieces in the chapel summarize the Creed: conception and birth; suffering and death; resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God; the Holy Ghost and the Communion of the Saints.

The Church as an Image of Heaven

The form of the church follows the Old Testament idea of the temple. God told Moses to build the tabernacle (and, later, the temple) in a very specific way because the temple on earth was built to be a mirror image, a copy of the true temple in Heaven (Hebrews 9:24). The worshiper, entering the earthly temple, learned the truth about God in Heaven.

The sacrificial system of the Old Testament taught the Jewish people that sacrifice was necessary to atone for sins and reestablish fellowship with God. One could not approach God in any way one chose. One had to approach God through the system of sacrifices and offerings He had commanded.

Historically, Christian churches have been built, like the temple, to reflect the reality of heaven. Christian worship is temple worship carried on in the light of the fulfillment of all sacrifice by Jesus on the cross.

The symbolic world of the Church helps the worshiper to enter into the reality of heaven. The worship of the Church is modeled on the worship of Heaven described in Revelation 4 and 5. We "lift up our hearts" to join in the eternal Sanctus, the "Holy, Holy, Holy" of angels, archangels and all the company of heaven (Rev. 4:8). The centerpiece of worship is "The Lamb as though it had been slain" (Rev. 5:5) whose sacrifice we recall and present before God on the Altar.

In the liturgy, we learn that we have access to the Father through the sacrifice of the Son (St. John 14:6) – and no other way (St. John 10:1).

Authentic Worship and the Eucharist

The life and death of Jesus Christ are the perfect acts of worship. We participate in His perfect offering because we have become members of His Body in baptism. The Eucharist is the center of the Church’s worship. It is our most objective way of proclaiming and participating in Christ’s authentic act of worship. At the Altar the Church remembers and presents before God the perfect sacrifice of Christ. And the members of Christ’s body offer themselves to God in Christ and through Christ.

There are a couple of ways that this is shown in the liturgy. First, the offering of bread and of wine at the offertory is our offering to God. It represents the creation (wheat and grape) modified by human labor (turning wheat into bread and grape into wine). Our offering is made acceptable by the act of consecration. Our offering becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus. That is, our offering is united with, and transformed by, Christ’s offering. In this manner it is made acceptable to God.

Second, after we remember and present before God the sacrifice of Christ, we "offer ourselves, our souls and our bodies to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice." Our inadequate offering of self is made acceptable because it is united with Christ’s perfect offering. As St. Augustine wrote in his book The City of God,

The whole redeemed city, that is to say, the congregation or community of the saints, is offered to God as our sacrifice through the great High Priest, who offered Himself to God in His passion for us, that we might be members of this glorious head, according to the form of a servant…this also is the sacrifice which the Church continually celebrates in the sacrament of the altar, known to the faithful, in which she teaches that she herself is offered in the offering she makes to God.

The Eucharist as Remembrance

The idea of the Eucharistic sacrifice is not that Jesus is offered again in a manner that somehow adds to the one sacrifice of Calvary. Rather the idea of Eucharistic sacrifice is that the past event of Calvary is brought into the present and presented again before God so that we can experience its benefits now. This follows the Jewish understanding of Passover. The rabbis taught that each generation of Jewish people participated in the past event of the Exodus from Egypt through the Passover celebration. It was, the rabbis taught, as if each Passover participant set his feet on the bottom of the Red Sea. This is what is meant when Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me." “Remembrance” means to participate in the past event of the cross in the present moment.

The Holy Eucharist also looks forward to the future banquet in heaven (cf. Rev. 19:9). As we receive the Blessed Sacrament, we are united with God in Christ in a manner that looks forward to that more perfect union that we will enjoy in the Resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus, in the Holy Eucharist the past and the future are experienced in the present. We receive the benefits of Christ’s past sacrifice and we receive a foretaste of future glory. The Holy Eucharist thus captures that balance between fulfillment and expectation that is at the heart of the life of faith.

The Road the Emmaus. St. Luke 24:13-35 – A Pattern for the Eucharist

"Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?"And He said to them, "What things?" So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people”, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see." Then He said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us? "So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

Word and Sacrament

The Road to Emmaus story reveals the basic pattern for the liturgy: Word and Sacrament. Jesus explained the Scriptures to the two men. Then, after His instruction on the road was completed, He took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them in a manner that clearly recalls the Last Supper. St. Luke tells us, "Their eyes were opened and they knew Him."

St. Luke wrote this story to a church that had already been gathering to celebrate the Lord’s Supper each week (cf. Acts 20:7). From the beginning, the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper included two main parts. The reading of Scripture followed by an explanation on the part of the Bishop or Priest. This was followed by communion – the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of bread.

This story shows that the risen Christ is revealed to the Church in the same manner as He was revealed to the men on the road to Emmaus. His revelation to these two men is a pattern for his revelation to all subsequent generations of Christians.

As the Church gathers for her central act of worship, the Scriptures are read and explained. Then, the Church takes, blesses, breaks and gives bread. Our eyes are opened. We come to know Him in the breaking of the bread.

It is a sequence of Word, then Sacrament. We come to know Jesus through the Bible so that we can experience communion with Him in the Sacrament. This is reflected in the layout of the Church. The pulpit and the lectern can be seen as the gateway to the Altar. The Bible, read and preached, leads us to the Altar where we experience communion.

A Bishop once said, "If we do not know the Jesus of the Bible, we meet a stranger in the Eucharist." This is why daily Bible reading and prayer is so important. When we know and believe what the Bible says about Jesus, and when we know and respond to what the Bible requires of us, we are lead to genuine communion with God at the Altar.

An Overview of the Liturgy. Three Parts

1. The Rite of Entry. Preparing for Worship

Opening hymn

Collect for Purity and Introit

Summary of the Law (or Decalogue)

Kyrie and Gloria in excelsis (if the Gloria is said or sung here)

2. The Liturgy of the Word

Collect, Epistle and Gospel

Creed and Sermon

3. The Liturgy of the Eucharist

Offertory – "He took" – Bread and wine are offered on the altar.

Prayer for the Church

Confession, Absolution and Comfortable Words

Consecration – "He blessed" – The bread and wine are consecrated by prayer.

"Lift up your hearts" through the Prayer of Consecration

The Prayer of Consecration includes a recalling of the Last Supper; an Oblation or prayer by which the memorial sacrifice is offered to God; and an Invocation or a calling down of the Holy Ghost upon the elements. The Lord’s Prayer is the culmination of the consecration. We come to God through the sacrifice of Christ and, thus, have the privilege of calling God "Father."

Fraction or the Breaking of the Bread – "He broke"- The consecrated bread is broken.

As the Body of Christ is broken, the following is said:

Priest: "The peace of the Lord be always with you."

People: "And with thy Ghost.

Prayer of Humble Access

Agnus Dei (0 Lamb of God…)

Communion – "He gave" – The Sacrament is given to the people.

Reception of the Sacrament

Post communion Hymn

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Dismissal and Benediction

A Glossary of Vestments

Cassock. A black garment worn under the other garments. A red cassock is sometimes worn by servers.

Surplice. A white garment worn over the cassock. Cassock and surplice are the normal vestments for officiants and readers at Morning and Evening Prayer and for servers at the Mass.

Cassock and surplice are the normal vestments for Morning and Evening Prayer and for servers at the Mass

Alb. A white garment worn under the chasuble and other Eucharistic vestments.

Cincture. Rope worn around the waist over the alb.

Stole. A long thin vestment worn around the neck. It is worn over the front by a priest and over the side by a deacon. It represents the yoke of Christ.

Chasuble. The celebrant’s overgarment for the Eucharist. It represents the seamless garment of Christ.

The alb, cincture, maniple, stole and chasuble are the standard vestments worn by the priest when he is celebrating the Mass.

Dalmatic. Overgarment worn, on occasion, by a Deacon at a High Mass.

Tunicle. Overgarment worn, on occasion, by a Subdeacon at High Mass.

These are not normally used at St. George’s Church.

Chalice. The cup from which the Blood of Christ is administered.

Purificator. Linen cloth used to wipe the chalice.

Paten. The dish from which the Body of Christ is administered.

Pall. A firm, square piece used to cover the chalice.

Veil. The cloth, of seasonal color, that is draped over the chalice.

Burse. A cloth folder that sits on top of the veiled chalice.

Corporal. Square linen cloth upon which the bread and wine are consecrated.

These items are stacked together before and after the celebration of the Mass. The purificator is draped over the chalice. The paten sits over the chalice on top of the purificator. The pall sits on top of the paten and is covered by the veil. The burse sits on top. It contains the corporal and an extra purificator in case of a spill.

Lavabo Bowl. Bowl for washing the priest’s hands before communion.

Lavabo Towel. Linen towel used for drying the priest’s hands.

Bread Box. Box that holds the bread before it is consecrated.

Cruets. Vessels that contain wine and water.

These items sit on the credence table during a celebration of the Mass.