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One Eucharist?

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Friend and fellow-blogger, Peter Carrell, said something strongly recently which has kept me thinking since he wrote it on his website:

It matters not one whit how much nerve I (or you) have, nor whether we believe there is only One Bread etc, nor whether various popes make pleasant and, yes, encouraging gestures, the simple ecumenical fact of the matter is that neither of us is welcome to preside at a Roman Mass. And, to keep perspective, neither yet is a Methodist Presbyter welcome to preside at an Anglican eucharist.

We have a lot of ecumenical ground to cover before that great day when all sectarian divides will be overcome in heaven!

To borrow profound words about relationships from facebook: “It’s complicated”.

[I will, probably next week, write about this point in relation to the Anglican Communion, but in today’s post I will, accepting Peter’s evident point, dig a little deeper to some other underlying issues.]

The NZ Anglican General Synod Te Hinota Whanui decided that clergy from the Negotiating Churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, Church of Christ, Congregational) could be invited to preside at the Eucharist at the altar in Anglican church buildings, wearing vesture normal for Anglican clergy, and using rites authorised for Anglicans.

Our doctrine commission, however, determined that, when this happens, what is happening is not an “Anglican Eucharist”.

It looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but our doctrine commission has determined that, whatever it actually is, it definitely is not a duck.

When this decision was conveyed to our diocesan synod, I asked a formal question whether those (non-Anglican) clergy and/or the service participants would be told of this doctrine commission determination. The formal response was “it depends” (read, “no”); the jokes that followed tended to confirm the-best-Anglican-response-to-issues-is-not-honesty-but-fudging-mumbling.

I wonder, however: Is there actually such a thing as an ‘Anglican Eucharist‘? (cf my starting quote for this post). I am going to posit, “No”. There is just “Eucharist“.

There is an image that worked better when we all faced East (with the priest with his back to the congregation): we could imagine the altar table bursting through the East wall of the church building, with century after century of people, all around the world, gathering around one eucharistic table back to Jesus. But I think I still want to hold to the point of the image: when we celebrate Eucharist, we are all gathered around the single table, “with all who stand in earth and heaven”.

Dali Eucharist

I am a priest in the Church of God (not just an ‘Anglican priest’). Many accept the validity of my priesthood and the eucharists I preside at, and some people do not. But, in some real sense, there is not an Anglican Eucharist, a Roman Catholic Eucharist, a Russian Orthodox Eucharist, an Old Catholic Eucharist – there is only one Eucharist.

Validity is one dimension of this one Eucharist (hence the requirement that bishops not tinker with ordination). Another dimension is efficacy. [For more on this read Licit Valid Efficacious Sacraments]

Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox eucharists are seldom questioned for validity; a home communion led by an unordained person may not satisfy traditional requirements for validity. But the perfunctory going through the motions in the former may leave no one transformed, while in the latter it may result in deep engagement with the poor and oppressed – a deeper living out of Jesus’ life. The latter (“invalid”) may be closer to the one Eucharist than the former (“valid”).

What do you think? Is there one eucharist to which we approximate to a great or lesser extent? Or are there other ways to look at this?

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19 thoughts on “One Eucharist?”

  1. Your (agreeable) comments make me think of parallel statements re “church” (or “the church”). Thus your second to last question, “Is there one eucharist to which we approximate to a greater or lesser extent?” raises the question re nature and status of (denominational) churches, “Is there one church to which we approximate to a greater or lesser extent?”

    1. Yes, Peter! Thanks for making the connection – very helpful. I believe in ONE holy catholic apostolic church. I like the Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology – one church embodied in many churches. Blessings.

  2. One could also ask the same question of the other sacrament, “Is there one baptism?”

    We seem to be more accepting of the baptisms performed by each other and have greater restrictions on the acceptability of the holy meal, for which baptism is the qualifying admission ticket.

    1. Yes, thanks, Br David. I stress this – that when I baptise, they are full members of the church – not just of an Anglican bit of it. Blessings.

  3. Thanks for this thoughtful piece. It seems to me that there is one (holy catholic apostolic) church (albeit in many churches), one baptism, one body, one Lord and Father of all, and one eucharist.

    Lenten blessings to you and yours!

  4. Many of the comments are correct that there is one holy catholic (universal) and apostolic church. That Church is the bride of Christ. Started when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the Apostles. St. Peter began that apostolic tradition and passed it to each successive Pope. Changing the plan of Jesus and his Church by creating new denominations for no other reason than to appease man and his faulty desire to alter God’s plan does nothing but build a wall between humanity and Jesus.

    Each denomination that further separates itself from the one true Church also separates itself, and by nature its followers, from Jesus.

    Christians should come home to Jesus for he is truly present at each Mass performed by a Roman Catholic Priest and an Eastern Orthodox Priest. Jesus is there waiting for us on the Altar after the host is transubstantiated into the true body and blood of Jesus.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Chris. You seem to be mixing a number of approaches – on the one hand condemning those who are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome as separating from Jesus, and on the other saying that at a Eucharist in an Eastern Orthodox Church (remember they are not in communion with Rome) we come home to Jesus truly present. You also appear to limit the passing on of the apostolic tradition to Peter as the sole source – a position that I do not know any denomination holds. Blessings.

      1. First, I’m in no way intending to condemn any Christian, and I apologize if I came across in that manner. I’m just a sinner like everyone else who’s trying to find the true path to closeness with Jesus.

        Apostolic succession is paramount and fundamental to the Roman Catholic teachings since that is how Bishops pass the validity and authority to new Roman Catholic priests in the sacrament of Holy Orders. Holy Orders is what makes the Mass valid. The Liturgy of the Word followed by the Liturgy of Eucharist combine to complete the Mass and believers share in the true body and blood (substance) of Jesus Christ just as has been done since the Last Supper.

        The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained why apostolic succession is a “constitutive element of the Church.” It also explains why, in documents like the 2nd Vatican Counsel, the Catholic Church does not refer to Protestant Christian communities as “churches.” Because Protestant Christians have broken the lineage of Peter’s, along with the other Apostles, apostolic succession, they have not maintained the genuine foundations of the Eucharistic Mystery, part of the Mystery of Faith, and cannot therefore be referred to as “Churches” in the most proper sense.

        My statement , according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that the Protestant denominations does in essence distance itself from Jesus by not partaking in the Apostolic succession thereby negating any validity of their version of consecration.

        The Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholic Bishops recognize the validity of each sects Holy Orders and therefore each maintain the true succession from the “Chief of the Apostles” to present day Bishops and Priests.

        1. Your sources are blinkered, Chris. There are what you call “Protestant denominations” which have preserved “Apostolic succession”. Blessings.

  5. If it “looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck”, but all the other ducks seem to be rejecting it, I think one might consider the possibility that this might be a baby swan. The metaphorical possibilities to so called “ugly ducklings” abound.
    😉

  6. The 20th century ecumenical movement went a long way toward convergence on Eucharist and Baptism. Not everything is identical within the participating denominations, but their validity or equivalency was affirmed for the most part. At least that’s how I read the document, “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry.” It seemed that the bigger stumbling block was Ministry due to some not having an episcopacy and not being in the historic succession. I realize that the document never made it to final acceptance, sadly. But those principles have furthered the establishment of several full communion partnerships.

  7. (fr) Paddy (as they insist on calling me

    excellent post Bosco, helpful to me out here in the wilderness of mindless forms of godliness in the orthodox churches and even worse in the ‘born again’ churches as they are called out here.
    But wait there’s more…. The Supervising Bish and the VG asked me to train up new Lay Readers to “breach” the walls of rigidity that abound in our church ‘out here’.
    So thanks dear brother, i need the scholastic mental challenges ‘cos the otehr ones are doing my head in! 🙂

  8. (fr) Paddy (as they insist on calling me

    excellent post Bosco, helpful to me out here in the wilderness of mindless forms of godliness in the orthodox churches and even worse in the ‘born again’ churches as they are called out here.
    But wait there’s more…. The Supervising Bish and the VG asked me to train up new Lay Readers to “breach” the walls of rigidity that abound in our church ‘out here’.
    So thanks dear brother, i need the scholastic mental challenges ‘cos the other ones are doing my head in! 🙂

  9. Bosco’s question “Is there one eucharist to which we approximate to a greater or lesser extent?”

    Answer – Yes, the messianic banquet

    Peter’s question “Is there one church to which we approximate to a greater or lesser extent?”

    Answer – Yes, the company of heaven.

    I’m sorry if these answers seems trite, I’m not trying to be facetious, but if we allow any other answers to satisfy us we have taken our eyes off the goal. If we believe that we are church and that the sacraments we celebrate are real then let’s behave as if we believe it without looking over our shoulders.

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