Module Five: The Sacraments
Word count: 1609
Assignment: 3. Trace the development of the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist from the early church with special reference to how it is understood and celebrated in the Church since the Second Vatican Council.
Assignment: 3. Trace the development of the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist from the early church with special reference to how it is understood and celebrated in the Church since the Second Vatican Council. We all have experience of ‘celebration’. When I think of a celebration what comes to mind are the external factors, the cake, candles, and the food. Sometimes we forget the real meaning of celebration, the story behind the festivity. The celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist is where we find our story. This essay will outline the development of the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist from the Early Church, paying particular focus on how the Eucharist is celebrated in the church since the Second Vatican Council. Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church celebrate something, and that something is to do with God’s love and grace, experienced and related to one’s own story. (CCRS notes). Vatican II’s desire was to restore the sacraments back to the centre of Church life. The earliest celebration of the Eucharist were home Masses (Acts 2:46 says ‘they broke bread at home’) even with small numbers these early Christians were establishing the traditions for the future. There is clear evidence of Christ in the Eucharist. There is clear evidence of his unconditional love. What makes the bread sacred is not magic but the reality of the words. (Huebsch 1989).
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."(Corinthians 11:23-30) The bread and wine for the early Christians was much more than a meal, it was a coming together of the community of God, each time a reference is made about the bread or the wine it is a reference to the people of God. For Huebsch the early Christians like us today are accepting the whole community of God when receiving communion, all his people with their strengths and weakness. An important development for the celebration of the Eucharist was the movement from the ‘home Mass’ of the very early Church to the Eucharist of the larger public buildings. The large basilicas allowed for processions. Sunday became a holiday, giving more time for Christians to celebrate. Liturgies became longer and more elaborate. In these early days, the celebrant at the liturgy had considerable freedom to compose their own prayers for the Mass. Soon, however, standardisation set in, as the various communities began to adopt the prayers of their more articulate celebrants. (Kellly:1998) In the Fourth century, Constantine's toleration of Christianity (313) led to its rapid spread throughout the Roman Empire. This led to significant changes in the celebration of the Liturgy. Latin became the standard language of the liturgy. At first, the assemblies met in basilicas later they built and dedicated churches and the clergy grew in numbers. During this era, they began to wear special clerical clothes. The sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist grew in importance, while the meal symbolism faded into the background (Kelly: 1998). This period stressed Christ's divinity; this led to the people feeling less worthy to approach the Lord. As a result, there was a decline in the reception of communion. Theologians in the Middle Ages debated the meaning of the "real presence" of Christ in the Eucharistic bread and wine. They used the term...
Bibliography: Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Geoffrey Chapman.1994.
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) 1963
Good News Bible, Second edition 1994
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) 1963
O’Deasss,F: http://theeucharist.wordpress.com/the-author/ Eucharist the basic spiritually, 2013
Huebsch, B: Rethinking the sacraments, London, 1989
Pacliva, M: The Eucharist: A Bible study for Catholics, USA, 2013
Kelly, L: Sacraments Revisited, What do they mean today, 1998
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