A Presider pondering presiding

Easter Season, 2017

A Presider ponders presiding by Rev. Jim Ryan, jimryan6885@gmail.com

Our Community at prayer is such a powerful and grace-filled event that it is important for you to know the perspectives that your presiders bring to the experience.  Perhaps it will deepen your own views on the what, the how, and the why we do what we do when we gather in God’s and each other’s presence.  Pondering on it certainly has given me time to pause, to think, and to be thankful.

I have three things to say about our liturgical life.  The first is the conviction now fifty years on that liturgy is the work of the people.  The second is the reaffirmation that Eucharist is pure gift.  And the third is the belief that we are Communitarian Catholics.

Here’s what I mean.  To say that liturgy is the work of the people is to recognize that from opening songs, through the Word and Eucharist, to closing song what we do is the work of us all.  To say it is work is not to drag up thoughts of a job grudgingly done.  No, this work is one of full and pleasant duties joyfully carried out.

In our worship this means that members read all readings.  The Gospel is not for only certain designated readers but for any member who wishes to read it.  The words of consecration are said by all because Jesus is already present within each one of us.  We sing heartily and in full voice so that all may feel comfortable in singing, even those who feel their voices are just a little off key.

To say, secondly, that Eucharist is pure gift is to hold to the awareness that God’s presence freely and totally occurs in the stuff of this world.  We celebrate a heritage that responds to this presence by the use of language, bread, and wine, as well as in each other.  For, after all, we are sacrament to each other.  The sharing of the Risen Christ in these things serves as evidence of this gift of divine presence in the community.  This gift is the property of no one person or class.  The words of the Gospel and the consecration are spoken by members regardless of distinction.  One practice in our liturgy is that individual members go to the altar to hold up the bread and wine while the words of consecration are said by the whole community.  We do this because we are, in the words of St. Peter (echoing back through the entire history of God’s people), a royal priesthood.

We celebrate in time while at the same time Eucharist – this full presence of Christ among us – is a theological moment.  At liturgies when I preside we show this moment in the practice of the three elevations.  The first elevation of the gifts at Offertory is a simple raising and bringing of the bread and wine to the altar.  The second elevation at Consecration is a raising of the gifts to the range of our eyes – seeing this presentation by, with, and in Christ.  The third elevation at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer – the Doxology – is a raising of the gifts above us all to celebrate the Christ who is All in All.

To say, thirdly, that we are Communitarian Catholics is to express the understanding that we are church, Christ being in each one of us.  A communitarian way of thinking gives full authority, full vision, full leadership to the people. Theologians speak of the notion of “church from below,” an unfortunately hierarchical term.  But what they affirm by this phrase is that the work of God is most real among us, within us, alongside us.  And sometimes this work is liturgy.

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Risen as He Promised, Alleluia!

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