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What Is The Moment Of Consecration?


In the West Eucharist is called Mystery. And so it is in more ways than one. But while it's laudable that God's people have spent 2,000 years trying to better understand it, they should not over think it. What I am learning in my studies is that theologians of every generation have a keen interest in the moment of consecration. Alternately: what it is that accomplishes consecration. But having read the several sides of this contest I get frustrated. It feels like Job questioning the Lord; or like Noah's sons looking on their father's nakedness.

I wonder if we are not presumptuous in speaking about a moment of consecration, be it the western church via the Verba, or the eastern church by epiclesis of the Spirit (or some partnership thereof). And just who it is that "consecrates," for that too is still avidly discussed among the church's teachers. Is it the celebrant by special unction? The celebrant "in persona christi". Or is is the Lord himself with the celebrant simply serving as an illustration of the same, but having no more substantive part in it? These ideas, and still others! continue to be the topic of spirited debate among theologians. They don't seem to be, thank God, among the laity, who are content to commune with the holy.

It seems to me that the above questions are unanswerable. Maybe I'll learn more in time, but that is what I'm thinking presently. What we do know is that the church gathers on the Lord's (Christ's) Day for only one reason, that the Cleansed Bride might have congress with her Holy Groom; and everything she does therein is part of the equation; beginning with the act of assembling.

St. Paul says, "when you assemble as the church" (1 Cor 11:18). This congregating is the gathering of the baptized from the four winds. It is "parousial" in nature. A mysterious, yet real part of the Lord's second coming. Every Eucharist is. Further I think we do well to to consider every act of the baptized in Eucharistic assembly as "consecratory." The prayers, the worship, the confession and absolution, the offering, Sacred Scripture prayed, confessed, sung and preached, the holy movements ... all these lead towards the climax: our factual union with the Holy One in the Bread and Cup.

We may speak of the Liturgy of the Word, and of the Sacrament, but those catechetics can be misleading, too. Misleading because the church assembles on Sunday for only one reason: for Communion with the Holy. Thus, the Eucharist doesn't belong to the clergy, the "elders" or any person or group of persons in the parish; but is, supremely so, the Sacrament of the Assembly of the Baptized. This is why pastors in circuit, or synods in convention err to celebrate the Sacrament. Why, indeed, there is no such thing as "private communion" ... but only an extension of the church's altar, of necessity, for the home bound, (with a shelf life?); and where no "consecration" should take place. ("Shelf life" may be only a notion of propriety, but it is not unimportant. If leaving the remaining elements in the church to be used during the upcoming week, perhaps a tabernacle on the altar would be approriate.)

To use an example, if a man comes home to his wife elbow-deep in flour, pans, mixers and bowls, and asks what she is doing, she will answer: I'm baking a cake. True, at some point it is not a cake, and at some point it is, but the question is of no interest. Instead we are content to eat the cake! In similar fashion the Table which the Lord prepares for us, not only in the presence of our enemies, but in our presence, too! We are there for the making of it, and for the eating of it, and are thereby unspeakably blessed.

 

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