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Celebrating the Eucharist

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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8 thoughts on “Celebrating the Eucharist”

  1. “lanyon of hands”? This I would like to see before I train it into the fledgling presiders of our province! 🙂

    I think to be fair (he says, full of defensiveness!!) re training of priests in priestly arts, in my/our diocese a strong presupposition is that ‘how to preside’ is in the hands of the training vicar, with diocesan training group work being a complement to that rather than the large part of such training.

    But the complement part is important and not taken lightly as part of the ten (even eleven, depending on other diocesan events) training days.

    Incidentally, I am not a believer in or adherent to epicletic action, so I would need to wheel in a local expert for that part of training. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Peter.

      Thet typo has nwo bean corerctered 🙂

      To be fair, there are places where training vicars go through a course to train them in the training of others before they are allowed to apply to have a curate. Our province is not such a place. So following the principle you say applies here there is a lot of we-have-always-done-it-that-way and that’s-what-I-was-taught-to-do liturgical practice. [Let’s not even go into the discussion about clergy being put in charge of parishes straight after ordination without a training vicar present there].

      To take seriously your comment about “epicletic action”, I write about the myth of “not doing anything” during the Eucharistic Prayer in my book. You will have some posture and gesture during the epiclesis, and your actions will speak louder than the words.


  2. Jordan Greatbatch

    A friend purchased me this book for my ordination to the priesthood a year ago. Fantastic resource, something all priests should have in their hands.

  3. Also important is prerequisite body awareness of the presider and other liturgical ministers, to eliminate distracting behaviors of (for example) excessive moving about, or almost walking sideways on the spot from one foot to the other, sitting with legs crossed as if in a lounge. And yes, hand actions too, such as indiscriminately adopting the orans position every time the mouth is opened to speak, thereby confusing and diminishing the appropriate significance of action.

  4. For a time in my previous diocese the former Ministry Educator ensured every ordinand received a copy of Robert Hovda’s excellent ‘Strong, Loving and Wise’. It is an ongoing concern that there is little recognition of the importance of learning how to preside well, not helped by the expressed belief of some (including the occasional bishop) that “any monkey” can lead a liturgy.

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