Sacraments: The Eucharist
Steve Surprenant, MBA, STB/MA
Senior Vice President & COO
Mercy Community Health, CT
February 3, 2009
Objectives
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Understand the biblical foundations of the
Catholic Sacrament of The Eucharist
Understand the impact of historical changes
on the Sacrament of The Eucharist
Understand the current sacramental
theology of the Sacrament of The Eucharist
Today’s Agenda
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Introduction
Sacraments of The Eucharist
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The evolution of Catholic interpretation
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New Testament and in the early Christian
communities
The Middle Ages and The Council of Trent
The contemporary theology of the Sacrament of
The Eucharist
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Following Vatican II
Introduction
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Catholic Church
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Also called Roman Catholic Church
“catholic” from Greek for “universal”
All come under the jurisdiction of the Pope, successor
of Saint Peter, Bishop of Rome
Western Rite (Latin Rite)
Eastern Catholic Churches (comprised of 22 rites)
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Byzantine, Coptic, Armenian, Maronite, Syriac and Chaldean
Scope of Discussion
What is a Sacrament?
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The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by
Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is
dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments
are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper
to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive
them with the required dispositions. (#1131)
A sacramental celebration is woven from signs and symbols.
Their meaning is rooted in the work of creation and in
human culture, specified by the events of the Old Covenant
and fully revealed in the person and work of Christ. (#1145)
Signs taken up by Christ. In his preaching the Lord Jesus
often makes use of the signs of creation to make known the
mysteries of the Kingdom of God. He gives new meaning to
the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the
Exodus and the Passover, for he himself is the meaning of all
these signs. (#1151)
The Holy Eucharist
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"At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our
Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and
Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the
cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and
so to entrust to the Church, a memorial of his death and
resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of
charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the
mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is
given to us.‘” (#1323)
"The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of
that communion in the divine life and that unity of the
People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the
culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in
Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through
him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.” (#1325)
Signs and Symbols
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The Passover Meal
Early Christians viewed the Last Supper
from the viewpoint of the Passover meal
The apostles would have seen a shortlegged table surrounded by cushions
where they would sit
On the table was a bowl of saltwater and
dish of bitter herbs
A container of mashed apples, raisins and
plums coated with cinnamon looked like
the bricks they made
The Passover Meal
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Platters of unleavened bread stood next to
the large Cup of Blessing filled with wine
A roasted lamb symbolized the sacrificial
quality of the meal and recalled the blood of
a lamb on their doorposts that saved them
Psalms and prayers were recited to recall
the ancient event when God saved the
people of Israel from Egypt
The Last Supper
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Jesus opened the meal with a psalm that
praised God for his mighty deeds of
salvation in the Exodus.
Then he took the bread, gave thanks for it
and, breaking tradition, followed this with
new words: “Take and eat. This is my
body that will be given up for you.”
This bread was now his body. It would be
given up, that is offered on the cross.
The Last Supper
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At the end of the meal, Jesus took the
Cup of Blessing filled with wine and again
broke tradition and said, “Take and
drink...This is my blood. . . It will be shed
for you and for all for the forgiveness of
sins.”
Once more Christ referred to his forthcoming passion where he would shed his
blood
As they drank of the one cup and ate of
the one bread, they experienced their
unity in Christ
The Last Supper
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Finally, Christ gave them and their
successors the power to celebrate
Eucharist: “Do this in memory of me.”
They all sang a psalm and Jesus went
forth to his saving death and resurrection
In this event Jesus gave us the sacrament
of the Eucharist and the ordained
priesthood
The Early Church
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Early Church followed command of Jesus
and “broke bread” in His Memory
Over time, the apostles and their
successors developed the Eucharistic
celebration into the structure that endures
to this day
First named it the “Breaking of the Bread”
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Soon the need to separate the rite from a
meal, both because of abuses at meals (1 Cor
11:17-22) and because they wanted a more
prayerful setting for this act of worship
The Early Church
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Eucharist was moved to Sunday in memory
of Christ’s resurrection
In place of the meal the early Christians
created a Liturgy of the Word
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Modeled after synagogue prayer
Included readings from Scripture, singing of
psalms and an instruction
Around the words of Jesus, they added
prayers of thanksgiving, praise and
intercession (eucharistein = thanksgiving)
The Early Church
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By year 150, the basic structure of the
Mass was already in place
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Held in people’s homes
As communities grew, became more difficult
2nd and 3rd Centuries
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Absent the Apostles, began to reflect upon
the writings of 1st generation leaders – Paul
When Jewish-Christians were no longer
welcome at the synagogue service, they
added its prayers, singing, chanting, and
homily to the Eucharistic liturgy
The Early Church
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Liturgy of the Word on Sunday
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Two readings by a lector
Homily by the priest
Eucharistic Prayer and Communion
A collection for widows, orphans and needy!
Celebrant had considerable freedom in the
creation of prayers
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Over time, became more standardized
Second Eucharistic Prayer from Hippolytus of
Rome in 215 was incorporated by many
communities
Changes in the Celebration
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Year 313 was a turning point
Persecutions suddenly ended and
Constantine gave freedom to Christians
Used basilicas for Eucharistic worship so
modest house churches gradually ceased
Stately ceremonies suitable in a huge
church emerged. Processions, courtly
movement in the sanctuary, metered
chant (composed by St. Ambrose) and
sung litanies
Changes in the Celebration
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Latin became the language of the
celebrations
Incense and bells, kissing sacred objects
and the use of genuflections began to
accompany the ancient structure of the
Eucharist
The celebrants wore vestments, clothes
worthy of a Roman senator
Simple plates and cups of house worship
became elaborate chalices and patens
Changes in the Celebration
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7th C, Pope Gregory the Great declared
that the Latin Mass in Rome was the
standard for the Western church
Pope Gregory's decree, with some
changes made by Pope Pius V in 1570,
gave the Roman rite its basic form until
the reforms of Vatican II
An inevitable evolution due to social
acceptance, organizing an empire-size
Church and, indeed, ecclesial prosperity
Changes in the Celebration
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This era witnessed the rise of
extraordinary bishops, known now as
Church Fathers, such as Augustine and
Chrysostom, whose homilies were rich in
theology and pastoral in application
Their theme was “The Body of Christ
[Eucharist] builds the Body of Christ
[Church].“
“Become that which you receive.”
Changes in the Celebration
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The sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist grew
in importance while the meal symbolism
faded into the background
The theology stressed Christ's divinity
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Led to the people feeling less worthy to
approach the Lord, the creator and judge of
the universe
As a result, there was a decline in the
reception of communion
“The Ages of Faith”
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(9th – 15th C)
Stunning Gothic cathedrals in medieval
Europe signaled a resurgence of faith
Religious processions, pilgrimages to holy
shrines, and birth of new religious orders
But also decline in active participation in
the Mass
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Emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the mass
Growing sense that the laity were spectators
to a drama unfolding on the altar
Led to a feeling that the consecration was the
high point of the Mass
“The Ages of Faith”
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Focus fell not on receiving Jesus in
communion but on seeing and adoring the
Lord in the Eucharist
The assembly was removed from
participating by screens of stone or iron
that hid the choir and altar from public
view
Ringing of bells were introduced to focus
attention of the congregants to the
consecration
“The Ages of Faith”
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The monks and priests conducted their
corporate liturgy away from the assembly
The Mass remained in Latin, even though
people began using their local languages
for most things in their lives
When the people complained of the Mass’s
remoteness, they were given side altar
Masses where the priest faced the wall
and prayed in Latin
“The Ages of Faith”
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The people compensated for their
estrangement by asking the priest to hold
up the host for their view and adoration
Many Catholics had ceased receiving
Communion
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Had long since moved to using “the host” at
Mass (sacrificial nature of the term)
Lateran Council IV (1215) also mandated
Communion at least once a year at Easter time
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
became popular along with benediction,
Corpus Christi processions, etc.
“The Ages of Faith”
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At Lateran IV Church affirmed Christ’s
Real Presence and introduced the concept
of transubstantiation (Thomas Aquinas)
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All things are made up of “substance” and
“accidents”
During the Eucharistic celebration, the
“substance” of the bread and the wine are
replaced with the “substance” or “being” of
Christ
Therefore, Jesus’ Real Presence in His Body
and Blood at the celebration of the Mass
The Reformation
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Council of Trent (1545) to deal with the
Reformation and its challenges
Re-affirmed “Real Presence” and theology of
Transubstantiation
Upheld “sacrificial nature” of the Mass
In 1570, Pius V decreed a standard book for
the celebration of Mass for the West
Participation of the people would be devotional
rather than liturgical
Mass text was to remain in Latin
The Late Middle Ages
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Introduction of Baroque architecture
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Choir stalls, screens and walls were removed
Distance between altar and assembly was
shortened; separated only by altar rail
Altar was placed against the wall, which was
lavishly decorated from floor to ceiling
Tabernacle rested on the altar and above it was a
niche provided for exposition and adoration of the
Blessed Sacrament
Soaring pulpit was situated near the middle of the
Church indicating the importance of a sermon but
not a homily
The Late Middle Ages
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Worship space glowed with self-confidence
and triumph
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Suited the mood of this Counter-Reformation
Church was a throne room; the assembly was
the audience
Sadly, most Eucharists were “Low Masses,”
generally without music and which the
assembly attended in silence
Eventually, in the 19th century, it became
clear that a return to the sources of the liturgy
was needed
Pre-Vatican Council
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Mid 1800’s liturgical change had begun
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Benedictines revived earlier liturgical practices
and were studying the roots of Christian liturgy
Pope Pius X (1903-1914) encouraged the use
of Gregorian chant, frequent Communion and
lowering the age for First Communion
Pius XII’s Mediator Dei (1947) lent powerful
impetus to the liturgical movement
1951 Joseph Jungmann, S.J., published The
Mass of the Roman Rite, that revealed the
complex history of the Mass.
Vatican Council
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First document approved by Vatican II was
Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963)
Little debate and very small opposition, the
Constitution on the Liturgy was approved by
the Council Fathers vote 2,147 to 4 opposed
“The liturgy is the summit to which the activity of
the Church is directed; it is also the fount from
which all her power flows” (10).
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The celebration of the Eucharist is the celebration of
the entire community
Post-Vatican II
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A number of changes were introduced
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Priest now faced the people
Vernacular languages replaced the Latin
People shook hands at the greeting of peace
Congregation was asked to participate actively in the
Mass, to sing and pray at various times
Inclusion of the Prayer of the Faithful
People were invited to receive Communion
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Either in the hand or on the tongue and to stand at its
reception
They were offered the chalice so they could share
Communion under both species, the Eucharistic Bread and
Wine
Post-Vatican II
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Laity and religious could serve Communion as
extraordinary ministers
Married deacons appeared, to assist the priest at
Mass and to preach homilies
Entrance processions were added
People brought up the gifts at the presentation of
the offerings
Mass readings provided a three-year series of
Scripture in which large sections of the Bible would
be heard
Homilies were expected to explain Scripture and
apply it to everyday life
Post-Vatican II
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Church architecture became functional and
minimalist in decoration
Guitar Masses surfaced and new hymns were
composed, leading to many arguments about taste
and suitability
Some experimentation went over the top. But in fact
the amazing thing is how little disturbance actually
happened
The dreams of the liturgical movement were fulfilled
and expanded upon. People are realizing that they
can enrich their spirituality mainly from the
celebration of the Eucharist
Concluding Thoughts
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Changes in the Eucharistic celebration,
whether large or small, have been occurring
since the Last Supper
The basics have never changed, but the
details, decisions by Church authority and the
attitudes of the participants have undergone
modifications and development
In this sense the celebration of the Eucharist
is a dynamic and living reality
Concluding Thoughts
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While a constant diet of experimentation is
not healthy, a loving attention to the quality
of the divine celebration is a necessity
The noble core of the Eucharist from the
Upper Room to an urban cathedral or a
village church has withstood the tumults of
history—and always will
Today, we emphasize "celebrating the
Eucharist." The mass is public worship in
which the community, led by the priest, join
in thanking, praising, and adoring God
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Sacraments: The Eucharist