Let me say from the beginning that I fully understand and am aware of all the liturgical, historical, and translation reasons that memorial acclamation 1, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again” was removed from the soon to be current translation of the Roman Missal. I’m a liturgical purist, and a little piece of me is completely fine with this omission. After all, it’s not in the “original” latin. Following the standards set by Liturgiam Authenticam, it’s not an o.k. acclamation. It’s not addressed directly to God. And if it isn’t introduced well it really can seem like a side note that gets stuck in, mid Eucharistic Prayer, to make sure everybody’s paying attention. And yes, sometimes I do giggle when we sing the mass of creation version because it evokes a feeling akin to mixing the imperial march from star wars with John Phillips Sousa, and then repeats itself just in case you haven’t had enough imperial marching around. All that to say: I get why it got dropped. 

Dropping the text itself doesn’t bother me that much, for all the afore stated reasons. But singing it at mass for the last time last night really, really bothered me. What bothers me is that I think Mother Church could have done this differently, and used this as a way to reach across the boundary of schism to begin healing a very deep wound. It’s not time for finger pointing- and I heartily admit that protestants have their share to do for healing reformation scars. I find shifting reformation blame completely uninteresting and unhelpful. But it dawned upon me last night that no longer will Protestants and Catholics use the same words to profess their hope in the realization of Christ’s kingdom. This new translation, particularly the point of the mystery of faith, could have been a point where liturgical Protestants (at least mainlines) and Catholics worked together and informed each other. If we had worked together, we still could have dropped memorial acclamation one, no big deal. And when I say we I mean here my whole extended Christian family, weird cousins and all. Protestant liturgy could have grown toward an arguably better expression of the mysterium fide. And Roman Liturgy might have benefited from looking at it’s own genetic development as it was passed down toward its grand children and great grandchildren. We (and here I mean Protestant we) did, after all, steal most of the Roman Rite originally. Just take a close look at the 1662 BCP or Luther’s first few german translations, and you’ll see what I mean.

Again, I find figuring out who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ for its own sake completely uninteresting and largely unhelpful. Everybody’s to blame for continued schism. What I do find interesting are opportunities for healing and union in the body of Christ. The liturgy can only be for the life of the world when it is the wellspring of the church’s life, it’s source and summit. I’m not angry at anyone, and I’m not even annoyed. I think I feel more like a parent, who knows what my beautiful and brilliant child is capable of, watching that same child settle for less. It makes me unspeakably sad to see yet another opportunity for healing and life pass my Christian family by, untried. In this particular move, I think all of us would have benefited from an aim toward eternal life along with formal latin. The two need not be diametrically opposed.

Let’s do better by each other next time, y’all. We’re family.

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Re-Membering Church

October 6, 2010

In a recent post on the United Methodist Portal, Andrew Thompson offers some great thoughts on the UMC Re-Think church campaign. You can find that article here, to get those thoughts in detail (and I definitely encourage you to do so!). In his article, Andrew talks about a few ways we can engage “Re-Thinking”* church by “remembering.” Remembering can be an action we do with our minds, but it also means a deeper action, a putting back together of our church, our hearts, and our lives in Christ.

The question is, “how do we re-member?” Catechesis is one significant access to the memory-deposit of the church that many mainline Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic Evangelical pastors and theologians alike encourage our churches to turn toward. Catechesis engages new (and old!) Christians in a process of learning the content of the faith we profess. Catechesis trains Christians to remember the deposit of hope placed in us at our baptism, when we are initiated into Christ’s body.

But for re-membering to be a serious desire for the re-ordering of our lives, (and if we are seriously not Pelagians who believe we can do it all ourselves) we must also ask, “How are we re-membered individually and as a church?” Here we must expand our catechetical engagement to include sacramental catechesis. In other words, we must learn and teach the faith first in the school of Worship of our Living God.

In all worship, but especially in the sacraments, we remember and we are are re-membered by Christ. Now let me clarify my terms here: our sacramental memory is no “mere” memorial. Our sacramental memory is dynamic, our sacramental memory is anamnetic.** As we remember the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we are re-membered into faithful disciples obeying the call of the Lord. Our sacramental celebration of the Eucharist presences us within the broken body of Christ for the transformation of the world when we affirm the prayer of the church, “Pour out your Holy Spirit upon these gifts of bread and wine make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by His blood…” with our (hopefully vigorous!) Amen.

I’m a United Methodist female candidate for ministry attending a Roman Catholic university. I attend Mass as often as I can at school and Eucharist at my UM Church on Sunday because I take John Wesley’s admonition to “constant communion” seriously. Living in the liminal sacramental space of Christ’s severed body the church hurts my heart. This is not a statement to say that anybody is “wrong” in their open or closed table. It’s not a placement of fault: that’s an unhelpful dead end conversation. But the sacramental broken body of our Lord should break our hearts so that they can remember the love of our God in glory. Like Paschal, I am convicted every single day when I worship that “Christ is in agony until the end of the world.” I am convinced that re-thinking must begin with re-membering and being re-membered. Re-thinking church can only begin by allowing ourselves to be re-membered as the sacramental body of our Lord and by being renewed through the memory and mind of Christ offered to us in the liturgy of the Church.

Amen.

*Re-Think church names a recent United Methodist movement to open the windows and doors of the church to the renewal of the Holy Spirit. For a more in-depth discussion see the UMC website.

**Anamnesis is a greek term, and by it the church means indicates a type of memory that places us at Christ’s eschatalogical table. We remember the passion of our Lord in such a way that it becomes real in our twenty first century reality. We affirm that in the sacraments God’s Holy Spirit re-members God’s church to be the body of Christ even as we partake of the bread and the wine.