Why the long prayer? Eucharistic Prayer I

In the Lutheran Book of Worship (my mother was a Protestant), the different prayers are set side by side, so that the difference in length is obvious. So as a child, I immediately saw which prayer was being used, and inwardly rejoiced if it happened to be the shortest one. Somehow I missed the drama of our redemption as it is recapitulated in the liturgy of the Eucharist!

Eucharistic Prayer I would have put me off. But in zoning out, I would have missed the opportunity to recall the mystery and glory of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Not only that; Eucharistic Prayer I gets its length partly from the lists of saints—apostles and martyrs, and special mention of Abel, Abraham, and Melchizedek.

Now, the saints don’t appear in any of the Eucharistic prayers I heard regularly as a child, which is a pity. Remembering the saints connects our Sunday worship with our weekday life: ‘we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help’. We ask the Lord to ‘admit us into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon’. Meditating on the saints (especially if we are fortunate enough to have our namesake mentioned, as two of my children are) also gives us concrete examples of faith, so we have a sense of where we’re asking the Lord to direct his attention when the priest prays that the Lord ‘look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’. These are the ones who have gone before us in the faith, lights who mark the way of Christ in this life and point us toward the joy of heaven. So the next time Eucharistic Prayer I begins, we should receive it as a gift, and listen for the names of those saints. We pray in communion with them as we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist, and seek to reflect the same light that shone through them as we go forth in the peace of Christ.

Part of a series by Medi Ann Volpe

Chaplaincy Mass of Thanksgiving, BBQ and Garden Party

The last Saturday of the University Term, 18 June 2016, sees a double celebration. At 12:15pm there will be a Mass of Thanksgiving for the academic year now ending. All are warmly invited.

The Mass will be followed by a barbecue and garden party for all members of the Chaplaincy past and present – current students and staff as well as alumni.

NB As a result of these celebrations, there will be no Mass at 9:15am on Saturday 18 June.

24-hour Vigil of Prayer

The Catholic Society is organising a 24-hour Vigil of Prayer starting with Mass at 12:15pm on Thursday 16 June and concluding with Mass at 12:15pm on Friday 17 June. The church will be open and the Blessed Sacrament exposed throughout the period, and the vigil will be punctuated by the celebration of the Divine Office and other prayers and devotions. The Vigil coincides with a “relay” vigil taking place around various churches of the Deanery and for which we are taking the “night shift!”.

While this is organised by the students, all from the Parish and Deanery (and beyond!) are warmly invited to join the vigil for as little or as long as possible. If you can commit to an hour (or more) before the blessed sacrament, please sign up on the list at the back of the church – we need to ensure that there are at least two people before the Blessed Sacrament throughout the vigil.

Thursday 16 June

12:15 Mass of Exposition
16:00-16:30 Taizé Prayer
17:00-18:00 Confession available
18:15-18:35 Vespers
20:00-20:30 Praise and Worship (quiet songs interspersed with silence)
22:00 Compline

Friday 17 June

07:30-07:50 Office of Readings
08:00-08:20 Lauds
12:00-12:10 Angelus and Benediction
12:15 Concluding Mass

For more details contact John Morris, CathSoc Prayer and Worship Secretary, on prayer@durhamcatholic.org.

Eucharistic Prayers Ancient and Modern

Although we hear a variety of Eucharistic prayers at Mass (another legacy of Vatican II), they share the same long history. In the middle of the second century, St Justin Martyr (whose feast we celebrated last week on 1 June), explained what happens at Mass: “There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen.”

St Justin describes a scene quite similar to our experience of the Mass: the offertory, prayer, and the great Amen. Outside of Mass, however, the situation was very different. The description we have of the Mass comes from Justin’s First Apology, in which he attempted to convince the Emperor not to persecute Christians just for being Christians. Christians were accused of being stupid (by Celsus in particular, later in the second century), and were “excluded from houses and baths and markets” and even from public places in general. Yet during these same years the Church grew exponentially. (See Larry Hurtado, Why on earth did anyone become a Christian in the first three centuries?) The faith that we have received from St Justin and his contemporaries, and all those who have followed in it down the centuries, has shared this same core: the bread, the wine, the thanksgiving, and our wholehearted assent. May the Eucharist strengthen us to meet all the challenges to our faith with the courage of Justin Martyr and all the saints.

College Mass – University College

The 7:00pm Mass on Wednesday 8 June will be celebrated in the Tunstall Chapel of University College. All are welcome and warmly invited to the Mass. A member of the CathSoc Exec will be at the lodge to direct you to to the chapel.

Because of the college Mass there will be no “holy half hour” of Vespers, exposition and confessions at St Cuthbert’s that Wednesday evening.

Catholic Theology Research Seminar: World as Sacrament

Prof Stephan van Erp  (University of Leuven) will speak on “World as Sacrament: The Political Theology of the Church” at the Catholic Theology Research Seminar on Tuesday 7 June.

Venue: St Chad’s College, 18 North Bailey
5.15pm for drinks in the SCR; paper and discussion 5.30pm-7.00pm in the Chapel

A group will share a meal afterwards at a local restaurant.

All are welcome to attend. Please email ccs.admin@durham.ac.uk or call 0191 334 1656 if you wish to attend, noting whether or not you wish to dine afterwards.

The Eucharistic Prayer

The legacy of Vatican II – Mass in the vernacular – is an incredible gift for us. If you remember, or have attended, a Tridentine Mass, the difference will be stark. Whereas in the old Mass, the altar server (boy!) voiced the responses of the congregation, now we voice the responses ourselves, the whole congregation together, mostly in our own language. The act of responding, along with the different postures assumed during the Mass, makes our participation in the Eucharistic prayer more evident. Even though the priest faces the congregation, he’s not talking to us but for us. We do better to think of ourselves as gathered together around the altar. We are all fixed on a single point: the host and the chalice, from which we will receive the most precious body and blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life when God will be all in all” (CCC 1326). In the Eucharist, “we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation” (CCC 1357). Nevertheless, this offering is a sacrifice: a “sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father…for all his benefits,” especially “creation, redemption, and sanctification” and a “sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation” (CCC 1360-1361). Far from being a prayer that the priest offers, while we are merely the audience, the Eucharistic prayer is a prayer that we offer, and God is the hearer. So let us incline our hearts to the Father and unite our voices with the words spoken by the priest as he prays:

We entreat you, almighty God,
that by the hands of your holy Angel
this offering may be borne to your altar in heaven
in the sight of your divine majesty,
so that as we receive in communion at this altar
the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,
we may be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace.

Holy Island 2016

This year’s pilgrimage to Holy Island with Churches Together in Elvet & Shincliffe takes place on Saturday 11 June. A coach will leave the student union building at Dunelm House at 9:30am (please note this is a little later than in recent years) arriving back at Durham at about 8:00pm having travelled via Seahouses. Fares will be just £10.00 for adults and £8.00 for children so please book early to avoid disappointment.

More details and booking forms are on the noticeboard in the narthex.

Please note there is also a student residential retreat to Holy Island the same weekend. See www.lindisfarne2016.uk or the Chaplaincy noticeboard for more details.

The Most Holy Trinity

Following the Council of Constantinople in 381, the emperor Theodosius had the Creed promulgated. But he did not assume that its implications were obvious. So he named several bishops, including Gregory of Nyssa, as trustworthy interpreters. Shortly after the council, Gregory wrote a treatise for catechists (who mostly would have been bishops), which detailed the tenets of the faith. The first doctrine he tackles is the doctrine of the Trinity. After setting forth the doctrine of the Trinity, he explains the purpose of such teaching: ‘a studied examination of the depths of this mystery does, in a veiled way, give [one] a fair, inward apprehension of our teaching on the knowledge of God. [One] cannot, of course, express the ineffable depth of the mystery in words, how the same thing is subject to number and yet escapes it; how is is observed to have distinctions and is yet grasped as a unity; how it admits distinction of Persons, and yet is not divided in underlying essence’. We might well ask what the doctrine of the Trinity does tell us, given that Gregory mostly seems to be saying here what ‘the knowledge of God’ doesn’t include.

For Gregory, ‘the knowledge of God’ refers in the first place to a way of life, a commitment to developing the purity of heart and mind that alone can prepare us to receive God: knowledge of God requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Although Gregory would certainly admit that some people are cleverer with words and ideas than others, the real obstacle to our apprehension of God is sin. In the second place, ‘knowledge of God’ means grasping the shape of a mystery. We hold the knowledge that God is Trinity in tension with our incapacity to ‘express the ineffable depth of the mystery in words’. That is, we can be sure that God is Trinity, but not how God is Trinity. Any explanation of mechanics involved in being three and one will fall short of the reality. The rest of the treatise goes on to explain why this mystery is the essence of our salvation. In short, the doctrine of the Trinity is the basis on which Gregory can describe who Jesus is and why he can save us. Far from being an appendix to our theology, the doctrine of the Trinity is the heart of our faith.

EU Referendum Debate

Durham Churches Together is organising a debate on the EU Referendum at 7:30pm on Friday 27 May at 7:30pm in Durham Town Hall.

Speaking for “remain” are Roberta Blackman Woods MP, businessman David Teasdale and academic Marek Szablewski; for “leave”, Jonathan Arnott MEP, businessman Colin Moran and campaigner Ajay Jagota. The debate will be chaired by Rev. John Durell.

All are welcome.

(Photo credit)

Women in Church

Karen Kilby, Bede Professor of Catholic Theology at the Centre for Catholic Studies, will give a talk entitled Women in the Church on Wednesday 25 May at 7.00pm in St Godric’s Church. It is hoped this will be the first of what will become an annual event. All welcome.

Ushaw Lecture: English Secular Priesthood

Dr Judith Champ (Oscott College) will deliver an Ushaw Lecture The English Secular Priesthood: History, identity and renewal on Thursday 26 May.

Mass (celebrated by Bishop Séamus Cunningham), 4:15pm; Drinks Reception, 5:30pm; lecture 6:00pm-7.15pm
Venue: Ushaw College

All are welcome; registration is required. To book a place please email Dr Hannah Thomas, hannah.thomas2@durham.ac.uk or telephone Dr Jane Lidstone on 0191 334 1656. If you need help with transport to and from Ushaw College, please mention this when booking and book by 9am on Tuesday 24 May.

The Gloria as Spirit-filled worship

Perhaps the liturgy of the Mass is not the first thing to come to mind when we think of Spirit-filled worship. Perhaps the whole idea of being led by the Spirit in worship seems to identify something spontaneous, and maybe a little bit chaotic. So it must have been on the day of Pentecost: one theme (‘the mighty works of God’), many voices, and many languages. Yet one of the great gifts we have, in the Bible and from the early Church, is a language for praise that is Spirit-filled. Or, it might be more apt to say, we have a language for praise that invites the Spirit to fill us.

Some of this language comes directly from the Bible. Especially in the Psalms, we find words to express the whole range of our human experience. Feeling joyful? There’s a psalm (many psalms!) for that. Feeling desolate? There are plenty of psalms for that as well. The Bible and the liturgy meet us in all those moments. But the Bible and the liturgy do not only give us words to express what we do feel. At times, in Mass and in prayer, we are called to express what we don’t feel, whether joy or sadness or even anger. Yet, we are not untrue to ourselves and our own experience: we transcend our own feelings and pray with the Church: we weep with those who weep; we rejoice with those who rejoice. The Gloria is no exception: we praise God, we bless God, we adore God, we glorify God and give God thanks, not because we feel like it, but because ‘it is right and just’. But how can we praise if we are desolate, or mourn if we are joyful? As St Paul writes, ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought’ (Romans 8.26). So as we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, let us ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that we might join in exaltation with the whole Church as we sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest…’

The Gloria: praising the Trinity

Karl Barth (1886-1968) described theology as best done in the second person, that is, as response to God. When we gather for Mass, we offer our prayer to God the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit—and the elements of the liturgy are some of the richest works of theology we will encounter. In the Gloria, we respond to the One who has called us, and who, by the Holy Spirit, gathers us for worship. We exalt God together, as a people acclaiming their king. But this is an extraordinary king, whose glory is eternally shared by the Son and the Holy Spirit. Not only that: the Son, whom we praise as ‘the Most High’ we also call by name—Jesus. And Jesus not simply ‘Only Begotten Son’ but also, simultaneously, ‘Lord God’ and ‘Lamb of God.’ He is the One who takes away the sins of the world, who takes away our sins and restores us to friendship with our heavenly King and Father.

The Gloria ought to draw our attention to the Trinitarian character of our worship. It might have been a popular hymn in the third century, but its theology is not in any way impoverished. As we sing the Gloria, we address the Father and the Son and (indirectly) the Holy Spirit. For all its apparent simplicity and repetition of phrases, the Gloria expresses, obliquely, the deepest mysteries of the faith: the Trinity and the Incarnation. We are invited to ponder the great glory of God and God’s boundless love for us as we join together in prayer. Let us do so joyfully.

Celebration of Marriage

Bishop Séamus will celebrate Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday 14th May at 11.00am to give thanks for the Sacrament of Marriage. He has invited each parish community to be represented by two couples, young or old, newly married or celebrating a significant anniversary. This promises to be a wonderful celebration and will provide affirmation and support for Marriage across the diocese and to the wider North-East community.

If you would be interested in representing St Cuthbert’s Parish, please get in touch with fr. Ben: but the Mass is open to all.

Image Credit

What has Christianity to do with welfare?

A Catholic Social Thought and Practice Lecture will be delivered by Nick Spencer (Research Director, Theos – www.theosthinktank.co.uk) on What has Chrstianity to do with welfare? on Thursday 12 May 2016, 4:00pm-5:30pm in the Senate Suite, University College.

Please contact Jane Lidstone if you wish to attend – ccs.admin@durham.ac.uk or telephone 0191 334 1656. Booking is preferred, though not essential.

Glory to God in the highest

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal devotes a paragraph to describing the Gloria and its setting in the Mass. “The Gloria in excelsis is a venerable and ancient hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 53). While the Gloria may be sung by cantor, choir, or people (or a combination of these), the instructions emphasise the indispensability of this precise text for this point in the Mass. But why?

I can suggest two reasons for the Church’s particularity about the Gloria. Its antiquity is only half a reason: the period of the Church’s history in which it originated and its genre make it a treasure of the Church’s liturgy. During the second and third centuries, when the Church underwent vigorous persecution, poems of praise (psalmi idiotici) composed by the faithful were popular. Only two of these remain: the Gloria and the Te Deum. The Apostolic Constitutions (4th century) recommend the Gloria as a morning prayer — not just for Mass, that is, but for every day! And the whole hymn is built on the song of the angels who heralded Christ’s birth: it also belongs to the rare class of hymns named ‘angelic.’ Singing the Gloria at the start of Mass gives us an opportunity to remember that we are in the mystical company of the angels and saints, and to join in their eternal praise.

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