Monday, May 19, 2008

Consecration in the East

An interesting article on the website of America the magazine stirred up a few thoughts on those churches of Eastern rites.

Before I began the article, I thought of the strife which is quite commonplace in the geographies of these churches. Iraqi Archibishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was murdered this year in the middle of March. Between restoring a country after the Communist Era and the warfare that stretches through the West Bank and into the Middle East, the faith communities in those areas experience life through a different lens than I.

The article itself addressed the question of a "Mass without consecration", which a prima facie is a utter contradiction. The issue, instead, is the situation shared by Chaldean and Assyrian Christians whose abilities to find ministers of their own rite are severely limited due to military situations or diaspora.

In October of 2001, the Vatican approved members of the Assyrian Church of the East to celebrate Eucharist with Chaldean Catholics. In short, the issue with this is that the Assyrian's Eucharistic Prayer, the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, does not include an Institution Narrative.

The committee approving this practice writes, "the words of Eucharistic Institution are indeed present in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, not in a coherent narrative way and ad litteram, but rather in a dispersed euchological way, that is, integrated in successive prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession." The writers, however, also note that according to the Council of Florence, "The form of this sacrament are the words of the Saviour with which he effected this sacrament. A priest speaking in the person of Christ effects this sacrament. For, in virtue of those words, the substance of bread is changed into the body of Christ and the substance of wine into his blood.”

Further it is important to note that in the Eastern liturgy there is no single point of consecration; instead, the whole prayer is the point of consecration. Some scholars attribute this sort of mysticality as an effect of the absence of scholasticism.

The text offers three reasons to permit the Anaphora without the Narrative. First, the Anaphora of Addai and Mari is one of the oldest anaphoras, and "it was composed and used with the clear intention of celebrating the Eucharist in full continuity with the Last Supper, in obedience to the command of the Lord, and according to the intention of the Church."

Secondly though the Assyrian Church of the East is not in full communion with Rome, the Assyrian Church is recognized as a particular Church with apostolic succession and orthodox faith.

Finally, as stated earlier the Anaphora seems to circle around the action of Christ's Institution without clearly stating the words.

As the Catholic Church continues to open itself to the world (though carefully) and minsters to the situations of the world, Christians should continue to serve one another while serving beyond the seeming limits of the Church. I believe that actions such as these will help the Church realize its place and mission in the world.

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