TEACHING ON THESERVICE OF
HOLY EUCHARIST Ė BCP RITE
By: Father Larry Winslow
As we enter the Church, before entering our pew it is customary to pause for a moment and make our reverence toward the Cross. Why do we do this? It is a sign of recognition. If you were to meet a friend on the street, quite naturally there would be a sign of recognition - a simple word "hello" or perhaps a wave of a hand. As we enter Godís house, we should make some form of recognition of the One who is our Host, This is done very simply with neither great elaboration nor any form of artificiality. In the Anglican Communion you will see a variety of forms for such recognition. Some simply pause facing the Altar and bow their heads. Others will make a slight bow from the waist. Still others will perform a full genuflect (i.e. the full bending of the right knee). However, you choose to perform this function within your own form of worship toward Almighty God, it must be remembered that the Cross is really a form of short-hand: those two pieces of metal joined together stand for the birth, life, work, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are not bowing TO the Cross-, but rather to ALL that the Cross stands for.
One of the main principles that we follow in all our Services is that of good manners. While we are here in Church, not only do we put on our best manners, but also we make honesty the keynote of all our thoughts, words, and deeds. To take an example, suppose you were to go to the office of some big executive. The first person you meet is the secretary, and she says, "Is there something I can do for you?" In other words, she is asking you to state the reason for your being there ó "STATE YOUR~ BUSINESS! Now, this is exactly what we should do when we come to Church. After entering the pew, we kneel and state our business. Did you ever wonder what an outsider must think when he sees someone duck quickly into a pew, bob his head down for a few seconds, then sit up and say through a sigh, "Well, thatís done!" Can you remember what you said in your own prayer today? So often we mumble something unintelligible without any real thought behind it. This is the time when we should state our business ó we express in clear terms our purpose for being here. It may be to express gratitude, worship, adoration, or to ask for guidance or assistance. Whatever may be your purpose - STATE IT CLEARLY AND PRECISELY TO ALMIGHTY GOD!
As you say your prayers, you appreciate quietness. Noise, especially talking, distracts us when we are at our prayers. So WE must remember that OTHERS also appreciate quietness. This means that we should refrain from all unnecessary talking while in Church. There are so few opportunities for real quietness these days that we must make every effort to hold onto this ONE GREAT OPPORTUNITY. The Greeters in the Narthex will welcome any newcomers. As a congregation, we will have time to greet each other and other visitors at the end of the service. Of course, if it appears that someone needs assistance in the process of our service, we should quietly do our best to help him or her.
Since this is a teaching service, we shall lose some of our usual atmosphere of devotion. This is a time for us to look and see exactly what is going on, so that the next time we attend the Holy Eucharist - in two weeks (i.e. the week after we attend next weekís saying of the OFFICE of Morning Prayer) ó we shall KNOW what is going on without having to watch every motion of the Celebrant and the Servers. While our next Holy Eucharist may not be said according to this rite as it is in the Book of Common Prayer, the principles discussed today also apply to the BAS Services Ė albeit in some revised order and/or form.
We stand as the Celebrant, the Lay Ministry, the Servers, and the Choir enter the Church. (Congregation Stands) We do this because it is a sign of good manners. If you were attending a special function you would, I trust, stand when the members of the head table entered the room. Here, the leadership that has been authenticated by the free choice of the congregation enters with the Great News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember, we are NOT honouring the Clergy and Lay Leadership. We are honouring the Holy Word of God and the Sacramental Ministry that they bring to us.
At this point the celebrant, or a Lay Minister designated by the Celebrant, reads the sentence of the day. This sentence serves to focus our attention toward the general Gospel point that will be the central point or theme of the dayís worship. Then the same person announces the opening hymn. (The Celebrant reads the Sentence and the Processional Hymn is announced)
(After the Hymn) It is taken for granted that each person who attends this Service will prepare for this act of Worship at home. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make the most of this Service unless there has been some private preparation. The general rule is that we make our private preparation the night before. But life is such that we meet various trials and temptations practically every moment of our lives.
Because preparation is so important, the Celebrant, Lay Ministers, Choir and the Servers, along with any other Lay Ministers who are participating in the leading of the Worship, have a time of prayer immediately preceding their entry into the Sanctuary. This preparation should really be more all-inclusive, but due to the rush from our neighbouring Parish, it normally consists of a prayer asking that God will bless them as they lead the devotions of the people. In actual fact, the saying of the Lordís Prayer at the beginning of the Holy Eucharist is the final prayer of this special Service of Preparation. Therefore, the Priest alone says it. (The Priest says the Lordís Prayer).
As we begin our part of the Service, we ask God to cleanse our hearts, using the Collect for Purity found on page 67. In many Churches the Priest alone says this. In our Parish we say it together. (The Collect for Purity)
We now turn to the foot of page 69 where, in the words of Our Lord, we find a summary of our duty to God and our neighbour. On some Sundays we will say the complete Ten Commandments. Either of these readings represents our learning of Godís Will from the Old Testament. (The Summary Commandment is read with the Peopleís response and the Kyrie Eleison)
Now comes the Salutation, which we shall hear throughout the Service. This has the effect of uniting the Priest and People. The whole event is something in which we must participate TOGETHER. (The Salutation and Call to Prayer)
We now turn to the Propers for the Day. Today is _____Sunday and we find the Propers in the Book of Alternative Services (BAS) on pages ______ē (Reference Bulletin) (For the sake of continuity with the flow of Lessons and Intentions we take the Propers from one place Ė the BAS). The Collect is a prayer in which we collect our thoughts and centre them upon one particular aspect of our Christian Life. In this way we bring ourselves into a unity of thought and purpose, which is in accord with the sentence of the day, the lessons we hear from Scripture and, normally, the Sermon we hear preached. (The Collect for the Day)
We sit to hear the first reading, which normally comes from the Old Testament (sometimes the Apocrypha). This tells of Godís unchanging Word as it is contained in the historical writings of those guided by Godís Holy Spirit before the establishment of the Final or New Covenant in Jesus Christ.
Following this reading we say the appropriate Psalm for the day from the BCP but according to the BAS Propers. The Psalm is chosen to provide a "bridge" from the OT Lesson to the NT Lesson. At one time (as in the BCP lectionary, the Psalm became the OT lesson. It provides a form of "bridge" as it gives time to assimilate the OT message and prepare for the NT Lesson. Also, the Old Testament can be divided into Torah (the Law), History, Prophecy, and the Writings like Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. Today our Psalm is number _____ and is found on page ____ of the BCP (ref. Bulletin).
We now receive the instruction of the Epistle. The (Epistle is a letter written to those who are already within the Christian Faith. It is a letter of explanation. (The Reading of the Epistle)
We then sing a Gradual Hymn. The purpose of this hymn is to provide us with a transitional period, which allows us to reflect upon the teachings developed in the first three readings (OT, Psalm, and Epistle) and to prepare ourselves for the hearing of the Gospel reading. We remain standing for the Gospel reading to show our great respect for the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In the Holy Gospel we hear from Our Lord Himself. The Priest introduces the Gospel, telling us where it is found; and in an effort to express our humility and thankfulness for the words of Jesus, we say together "Glory be to Thee 0 Lord." During these words you may notice the Priest, and some people who find themselves so moved, either sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross to remind themselves that the words which are about to be read come from the Crucified and Resurrected Lord Jesus; or they may use the threefold Sign of the gross on the forehead, mouth, and chest together with the prayer, "God be in my mind, God be in my speaking, God be in my heart!" The Gospel is then read and at the conclusion the people respond to the joy of having heard the Word of God with the exclamatory "Praise be to Thee, 0 Christ!í Of course, the use of the various signs of the Cross are personal and should be utilized only by those to whom they mean something and are an aid to proper worship. (The Holy Gospel is read together with the statements)
At this point the Sermon is preached. Of course, today there will be no sermon.
Having heard the Word of God from Old Testament, the Epistle, the Gospel, and the sermon we now turn to page 71, and express our faith, as it is taught by the Holy Scriptures, in the words of the Nicene Creed. As a sign of our unity of belief in Jesus Christ, we all turn to face the Altar, which is at the ecclesiastical East end of the Church. During the Creed you will note that the Priest, Lay Ministers, the Servers, and the Choir bow at the Name of Jesus and at the fact of the Incarnation. In some Anglican Churches the genuflect is used at these points. Your usage is entirely up to you. Also, you will note that the Priest uses the Sign of the Cross at the end of the Creed. This reminds him that he has just expressed faith in the One Triune God who was most perfectly revealed in the Crucified and Resurrected Christ and who lives today and is present on earth through His Body, the Church. Again your use of this symbol is entirely up to you. (The Nicene Creed)
We now say our Intercessory Prayer before God. This may be according to the format on page 75 or according to some alternative form. This is our opportunity to pray for others Ė both our family friends and neighbours and those outside our intimate circles Ė we pray for the WHOLE STATE OF CHRISTíS CHURCH MILITANT. (The Intercession is said).
In the early days of the Church, those who were not yet Confirmed were permitted to be present until this point and then they were required to retire; only those who had been Baptized and Confirmed were permitted to remain. Today, this is no longer our custom. Most people have been Baptized as infants and, by rights, those who are not Confirmed should be in Church with their parents who are performing the work of instructing their children.
At this point in the service we enter into the Communion proper. The Priest, or a minister appointed by him, invites the people to the proper approach to the Holy Eucharist. It is here that we are called upon to make a full Confession of our sins to Almighty God and to receive His Divine Forgiveness through His Absolution pronounced through His Priest. It is only in the state of grace, which comes after full and proper Confession that we can be truly ready to approach the Sacrament, whereby we truly receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Remember how St. Paul taught us that if we do not approach the Sacrament discerning the Body and Blood then we are eating and drinking of our own condemnation. (The Priest reads the Invitation, the Congregation makes its Confession, and the Priest pronounces the Absolution)
To make a true Confession is always a difficult thing to do. It is a truly humbling experience. At the conclusion of this act, the Comfortable Words are read. In our Parish the Servers perform this reading. We must remember that the word "Comfort" comes from two Latin words which mean "with strength." To comfort is to strengthen. These sentences from Holy Scripture give us strength as they remind us of Godís pardon which has been granted to us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. (The Comfortable Words are read).
At this point, due to certain changes in the overall liturgical proceedings, we share the "Peace of the Lord" with each other. This is not a time for conversation. It is not a time for visiting. It is not a time for frivolity. Rather it is a time to sincerely wish each other the Peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! (The Peace)
We sing our Offertory Hymn. During this hymn we make our financial offering to the work of Almighty God remembering that we are also offering ourselves (time, talent, and treasure) to Him. Also, during this hymn, the Priest prepares the elements (the Bread, Wine, and Water), which are also offered to God and made ready for the Consecration. The offering is then received and presented to God for His blessing. (The Offering is presented)
Sometimes the Priest will then make use of the Lavabo Dish, if one is available, to wash his hands. The word "lavabo" means "I wash." During this act the Priest prays that as he is symbolically washing his hands so God will wash his heart in order that he may lead the people into the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. (The Priest washes his hands)
We now come to the Sursum Corda on Page 78. This section of the Service begins with the Salutation followed by the bidding to Lift Up Our Hearts in thankfulness to God for the blessing of His pardon. We now approach Almighty God in the purity of our hearts, which He has granted us through His cleansing us from our sins. For this we offer our Act of Praise including, on special days, the Proper Preface followed by the Sanctus expressing the true and full glory of God, and the Benedictus Qui Venit which expresses praise to Jesus Christ who has come to us in the Name of God Almighty. (Sursum Corda, Sanctus, and the Benedictus Qui Venit).
We now turn to page 82, and the Celebrant begins the Prayer of Consecration, wherein the Bread and the Wine are Consecrated to be our heavenly food. After the prayer the Bread and Wine is still Bread and Wine but it has been set aside, or made Holy, in that it is to be to us the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is through this outward receiving of this special Bread and Wine that we believe God will grant us the inward and spiritual grace of the strengthening gifts of His Holy Spirit to guide us in the living of our daily lives. Pay special attention to the words of this prayer and you will have new and wonderful revelations concerning the act that is being performed by the people of God at this time. (The Prayer of Consecration)
We are now in the presence of all that is Holy. It is here that we find true peace for our souls. We take a moment of real silence to consider the true meaning of what has just taken place. (Reader Takes a Period of Silence)
Having experienced the awe and wonder of the situation in which we are now living through this most wonderful Sacrament which has been commanded of us by Jesus, we can do no other than to approach Our Lordís Altar in deep humility. (The Prayer of Humble Access)
As we prepare to go forward to Godís Altar, we are reminded that we can never Earn or be Worthy of this great privilege. So before we receive the Holy Communion, we make a final plea to the Holy Spirit to cleanse and forgive us, using the words of the Agnus Dei, found on page 84. (The Agnus Dei)
The Celebrant first makes his own Communion. Then he draws the others in the Sanctuary into this Sacred moment. (The Celebrant, Servers, and Eucharistic Assistant are Communicated)
After those in the Sanctuary have received their Communion the Priest will turn to the people and, in some suitable way, invite them to the Blessed Sacrament. (The Invitation is made).
Those who intend to make their Communion go forward to the Altar Rail in orderly fashion. It is also suggested that those who are not yet admitted to the Sacramental Reception come forward to receive a special blessing of the Church. Such individuals are to kneel with their hands at their side or crossed over their chests so that the Priest will know who to communicate and who to Lay-on Hands in Blessing. As you kneel in the presence of God, use the time to ask that God will strengthen you through this experience so that you will be able to live a better Christian Life to His Honour and Glory.
One properly receives the Holy Communion by holding out his/her crossed hands (right over left) to receive the Body of Christ (the Bread) and normally takes the base of the chalice to guide it to his/her lips. The reception of each should be followed by the response to the statement of administration of "AMEN." (Pause here until the first rail has received and returned to their seats)
We should use the waiting time before and after receiving our own Communion to reflect upon our lives, to pray for our friends and neighbours, to pray for those who have done us harm, to reflect upon the act of Communion as being the twofold act of Communion with God and Communion with our fellow members of the Body of Christ. It is permissible, if the Choir sings some hymns during communion, for members of the congregation to join in the singing in a prayerful manner. (Remain silent throughout the remainder of the Communion)
As directed in the rubrics, the Priest consumes the remainder of the Sacrament unless the Church contains an Aumbry or Tabernacle to store the Consecrated Elements for future use. Then he cleanses the vessels; he rinses the Chalice ófirst with wine only, then with water and wine, and finally with water alone. The Patten and Ciborium (The Patten is the plate we use while a Ciborium is a cup-like vessel for holding the breads - we donít have one in this Parish) are also cleansed. All the Holy Vessels are put in order, and covered with the Linen Veil that is the colour of the current Ecclesiastical Season. Sometimes our minds wander a little, or we are so taken-up with our reflections upon the act that we have just undertaken and experienced in the presence of God and our fellow members of the Body of Christ, it is necessary to draw us back into the act of corporate worship. This is accomplished once again through the Salutation after which we give thanks to God in the Words of the Lordís Prayer found on page 85. (Salutation and the Lordís Prayer)
This is what God has done for us - given us His Son. And what we do is make our offering in return. We can offer Him some of our possessions ó our money. But is this enough? Hardly! We can offer Him some of our time. But is this enough? No! We can offer Him some of our talents. But is this enough? No! Is all of this together enough to offer Him in return for all that He has done for us? No! Not nearly enough! The only really precious thing that we have to offer to God is the unqualified totality of OURSELVES! And so, we thank God for His gift by acknowledging the nature of the Sacrament and offer ourselves wholly to God in the Prayer Of Oblation, which is said on our behalf by the Priest. (The Priest says the Prayer of Oblation)
Now, we stand, and in a final Act of Praise, we join in the Gloria In Excelsis. We do this throughout the year except in the Seasons ofí Advent and Lent. This is a great act and expresses the total glory of Almighty God ó Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (The Gloria In Excelsis)
We go forth NOT on our own strength but with the Power, the Wisdom, and the Peace ofí God resting upon us. Therefore, we kneel for the final Blessing. (The Blessing)
Now we stand and prepare for our exit into the world singing a hymn. Today this is Hymn is #
Following the Recessional Hymn the Priest, or an appointed Lay Minister, dismisses the people into the world with a Dismissal Statement. The people respond to this dismissal with the words "Thanks be to God." From Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost the word "Alleluia" (i.e. Praise the Lord) should be added.
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