Presented by Mary Lou Burke
July 22, 2002
HISTORY OF THE EUCHARIST (from the Greed word meaning "THANKSGIVING")
The most important focus for all Catholics is EUCHARIST. There have been many changes that have occurred since the institution by Jesus. Signs and symbols have come down over the years and since Vatican Council II, many of the former rites have been restored.
The Christian Eucharist grew out of the Semitic attitudes of hospitality and bonding that occurs around a dining table. Meals played a large role in building relationships between peoples. The manna in the desert is another figure of the Eucharist: it was something sustaining and nourishing from God, miraculously provided for a pilgrim people. A final aspect of the Eucharist in the Old Testament is the perfect transition to the New Testament, the Passover meal.
While they were at supper, Jesus took bread, blessed God for it, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying "Take and eat, this is my body broken for you". He took the ancient Passover ritual of his Tradition and breaking the ritual rules, he shaped a new ritual to be done in memory of his own Passover through death into a new life. He took the unleavened bread of affliction and identified it with his own body, given up and broken for us.
The Last Supper was the last in a long line of suppers Jesus shared with his friends. Dining with Jesus has ethical consequences that challenge us to live a faith which others might not understand. To understand Eucharist in the New Testament is to study Jesusí behavior, he excluded no one from his company at table, he would dine with anyone and teach all through the meal.
When we gather in our parish on any given Sunday, we make Jesus as real as he gets in our world these days. Then we take him out with us-to home, school, work, mall or marketówhere our bodies now become the saving flesh for the life of the world.
EARLY CHURCH: in 90AD a book called the DIDACHE or THE TEACHING OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES was written, it is a "church ordo" (order) preserving what bishops did for the early Christian community. Apologies was another type of information written to emperors and magistrates. Justin Martyr wrote a famous one in the middle of the 2nd century. From these two works we see the structure of Eucharist remains from the Last Supper. The presider, as Jesus did, takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the assembly, then the cup is taken, blessed and given. Other things may change but the presider always takes, blesses, breaks and gives.
From the Jewish religion came the understanding of Eucharist as a "memorial" (anamnesis). Remembering triggers the experience again and creates new ways for God to act on our behalf. In Rome around 215, Hippolytus describes the full rite of Eucharist with a complete Eucharistic Prayer. For him an important part of the Eucharist was the "epiclesis" invoking or calling down the Holy Spirit. The eucharistic elements of bread and wine were prayed over with an epiclesus, accompanied by a descending gesture of the hands, palm down that we still see today during our eucharistic prayer. In time Sunday Eucharist moved from the neighborhood homes to Roman law courts called Ďbasilicasí
With the collapse of the Roman empire, there were significant effects on our liturgy. Literacy decreased and bishops had to have texts read to them, With the Franks and Goths there was wholesale baptism but they had little understanding of the Eucharist.
In the first six centuries the Mass had moved from a Jewish through a Greek to Latin cultural expression. In the early Middle Ages (600-1000) the stress was on Christís divinity and the people appreciated God as their warrior god. Prayers were being directed to Christ alone rather than the Roman Trinitarian pattern "To the Father, through the Son in the Spirit" The Church always believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist from the beginning but now the question was how and when he became present. The arguments continued until the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
In the late Middle Ages (1000-1400) respect and worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass became a dominant style. What went on outside Mass captured peopleís attention, what occurred within the liturgy was mostly the priestís doing. Communion was reserved for priests and religious so the bells at the consecration alerted the faithful to look on with awe. The Mass was no longer a public event but a private act of the priest. It was no longer an action of the assembly.
EDUCATION #2 7/22/02
Reformation and the Council of Trent (1400-1700) Europe was involved in one war after another. The Church and its liturgy were in disarray. Martin Luther in 1523 presented a book "Mass Formula" in which the service was in the vernacular, German, communion was under both species and hymns were in German. In England in the 1549
Book of Common Prayer there were theological differences. Text was in English, early parts of the Roman canon were kept and unleavened wafers were used. In the 1552 book, and suggestion that the bread and wine were Christís body were removed. Ordinary bread was used. The invention of the printing press allowed for greater distribution of printed books of ritual.
TRENT TO VATICAN COUNCIL II
The Council of Trent shaped the Church for centuries to come. The Tridentine reforms of the liturgy made the language (Latin) simpler. Everything was clearly defined, symbolic ritual gave way to coded, laws and rubrics.
Christís presence remains beyond the time of the sacramentís use, therefore, reservation and adoration are acceptable. Christ is present under both species in his full divinity as well as his humanity. The person receives Christ in a sacramental and real manner, not merely spiritually and not merely physically.
In 1905, Pope Pius X encouraged more frequent communion among the faithful and in 1910 allowed young children to make First Communion at seven years of age.
Before Vatican II if the questions were asked what is the single most important role, people would say
the priests. After the Council, the most significant role is the celebrating assembly. The emphasis was concepts like "community" and "celebration".
In 1969, Pope Paul VI issued a new Missal. This Mass was made of many rituals restored from former times, general intercessions, sign of peace, communion under both species, facing the people and the Sunday Mass anticipated on Saturday evening.
What has always remained in all the liturgies over the years is
TAKE, BLESS, BREAK AND GIVE
THE LITURGY NOURISHES GODíS PEOPLE!