As articulated in the writings of the Apostle Paul and further developed in the liturgies of late antiquity, identification with Christ was understood as a sharing in Christ's prayer and in his passion, death and resurrection. The early Church eventually came to understand this communion as transformative, not only of the offered gifts of God’s creation, but of their self-offerings as well. Those who partake in this communion become the body of Christ.
Many of the Church Fathers understood this mystery as a physical reality. Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 332-389 C.E.) held that a physical Eucharist is necessary for the sanctification of the totality of the human person; while the soul is united with Christ by faith, our bodies our divinized through the reception of his flesh—the consecrated bread and wine.
It must be acknowledged, however, that this necessary communion had not been universally understood as a physical one. The philosophical Logos-theology of Origen (ca. 185-251 or 254? C.E.) saw equal efficacy in the hearing of the Word, which he described as drinking the blood of Christ. Seeing the material and the spiritual worlds as being at odds with one another, he was prevented from seeing the Eucharist as a primarily physical communion: “Let the bread and the cup be taken by the simpler sort according to the more usual interpretation of the eucharist, but by those who have learnt a deeper understanding according to the diviner interpretation and as referring to the nourishing Word of truth.”
Origen’s point, of course, does not negate the fact that most of us find an embodied spiritual experience to be essential. Our community is painfully aware of this reality, as articulated in “The Liturgy of the Stones” and as evident in the fact that half of our members no longer worship with us, choosing to partake of the Sacrament at local parish communities rather than “fast” with us. Still a eucharistic people, we cling to the Church’s understand of Christ’s presence not only in the Consecrated Bread and Wine but in the the Word, in the Presider, in the People Gathered, and in the
A RITUAL OF AFFIRMATION
OF THE GOSPEL ALIVE IN THE MIDST OF THE COMMUNITY
After the Proclamation of the Gospel THE WORD OF GOD is be passed throughout the Assembly. By this ritual action we bring the word we hear into dialog with the word which God is speaking through us. The reverence displayed in its pace and the focused attention of the participants is evidence of a holy communion that fills me with awe.
After the Proclamation of the Gospel, the presider/preacher hands the Lectionary to the closest member of the Assembly as s/he acclaims:
The Gospel of the Lord.
ALL respond: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lectionary is passed from person to person throughout the Assembly.
The presider/preacher receives the book from the last member of the Assembly and processes to the altar. With the book raised high above her/his head,
one of the following prayers is said:
Good and gracious God,
your life-giving Word is continually unfolding,
for every person in every generation has a unique role
in its interpretation and communication.
Grace upon grace, from your fullness may we receive,
that the gospel we proclaim in word and deed
may more perfectly reflect the truth of your liberating love.
We ask this through your Word made flesh and dwelling in our midst
who is Christ the Lord. Amen.
Almighty and ever-living God,
stories of your liberating love have been recorded throughout time.
Bring this sacred witness into dialog with your Spirit
as she moves through our lives made sacred by your love.
As revelations old and new inform each other
may the gospel we proclaim reflect the fullness of your truth.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Creator God, your Word became flesh and made his dwelling in our midst.
In retelling his story, his glory is revealed across the millennia––
his grace and challenge passed from one heart to the next.
May this communion with your Word unite us,
that our visions and dreams of justice and love
may reveal your truth.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lectionary is then placed standing upon the altar and the Reflection is delivered from the ambo or the center aisle.