Celebrating the Eucharist: A Practical Ceremonial Guide for Clergy and Other Liturgical Ministers by Patrick Malloy [218 pages].

Buy this book. I have no real idea why it has taken six years for me to discover this exists. Then I check – it is not in our local Theology House library; it is not in our national seminary John Kinder Library. I don’t know if that should ease my distress or increase it! [In fact, it does not appear to be in any library in New Zealand whatsoever!]

There are very few contemporary guides for the celebration of the Eucharist. This is a solid, sensible book to help you in this reflection. I wrote a guide to fill this gap. My book, Celebrating Eucharist, is available free online here.

[In different styles of presentation there have been, from the same context, Prayer Book Rubrics Expanded (1987); The Ceremonies of the Eucharist: A Guide to Celebration
(1989); A Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church (3rd Edition) (1998)]

Celebrating the Eucharist is clear, intelligent, and thought-provoking. It starts (rightly) from principles, works through liturgical space, vesture and vessels, the year, ministries, postures and gestures, and then step by step through the Sunday Eucharist, with a final chapter on Baptism included in the service of the Eucharist. It has clear, attractive, inclusive illustrations throughout. I will consider preparing blog posts around some of the material this book presents.

Some critiques

  • There is no reference to further reading, or to support interesting (read, debatable) points. Just one example:

Archeological and textual evidence make it clear that in the early Christian church buildings, altars did stand a great distance from the east wall…study shows that the presider did not face the assembly across the table but stood facing east, along with the rest of the group. (p41)

  • The book (rightly IMO) argues for simplicity, but then (as just one example) appears to provide no alternatives but to stretch out hands over the elements during the epiclesis for them. Then, crossing oneself for the epiclesis of the people is only provided with the alternative of a profound bow (page 179). There is no suggestion or discussion of the obvious simplicity of orans throughout.
  • “The epicletic gesture is essentially the laying on of hands, something every priest instinctively knows how to do prayerfully and thoughtfully.” (page 179). This sort of statement reinforces the sort of attitude that ordination magically comes with presiding skills. Or its watered-down version, even more common (certainly in this province), that real training and formation starts after ordination – a major shift in thinking from ordination coming at the end of intentional, intense formation, study, and training, to ordination being the entry to (well let’s be honest) 10 (partial) days or so a year of group discussion around a variety of topics. What I would prefer to see is full courses in preparation for presiding before ordination using a book like this (and others) as part of that, and videoing, critiquing, and discussing practice.
  • The book, in places, could have done with an editor. The same sentence will appear three times on three consecutive pages. [A common error of using a wordprocessor].

A suggestion

Buy the book or (the Kindle edition here).
Use it alongside my Celebrating Eucharist so that two approaches are held in dialogue and open up what may be appropriate in your context.
Use this (with my book) in a community worship committee, special discussion or study group, as part of renewing worship in your community.

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