Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, February 23

Eucharist and Liturgy make sense

Coming into the Church of England from a non-conformist background, I have always had issues with the Liturgy. Not the words themselves in general, but the simple fact of it's existence. My relationship with my wife and children is not governed by written phrases prepared in advance by others, so why should my relationship to God be so governed?

But apart from that, I have sometimes asked proponents of liturgical forms why we use these particular words, rather than others. The words are OK, I reasoned, but they are not so outstandingly good as to warrant endless repetition over the years. Furthermore, when I visit churches that do use a full liturgy (my Anglican Church uses the minimum) the congregations rattle quickly through words that are really pretty good but without any real meditation on them. Which annoys me. I know some argue that by familiarity, you get beyond reading the words to saying them from the heart. OK, but why rush them?

Anyway, this is all a digression; a little rant to set the scene for my generally negative view of repetitive liturgy.

And one phrase that has particularly wound me up is in the Eucharist - "we offer you our sacrifice of praise" (or something like that). This has always been a trivial phrase in the middle of some good stuff, which doesn't have a direct parallel in the relevant scriptures.

So I was very interested to read in "The Cross of Christ" by John Stott a little of the background to the phrase.

You see, Cranmer was very keen to distinguish between propitiatory sacrifice, that saves us from sin, and other sacrifices that are thanksgiving and praise. So in calling it a Eucharist, and in putting in what I now see as an important phrase in the Liturgy, he emphasises that the Anglican communion service is NOT a propitiatory sacrifice that saves us from sin. In we may offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, but we don't come out any more saved than we went in. Christs sacrifice was 'once for all', and is commemorated, not repeated or continued, in the Eucharist.

So good for Cranmer!

I will now say that bit of the liturgy with more enthusiasm!

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