Saturday, August 05, 2006

May we be Transfigured by the Eucharist


In looking over the blogosphere, I found a wonderful quotation from Canon Vernon Staley, best known for his book The Catholic Religion, and his work on worship. The Patristic Anglican records that Canon Staley wrote in his 1904 Ceremonial of the English Church (p 113-115):
It is not well to regard the Eucharist as commemorative solely of the death and passion of our Lord, and to forget that it is also the memorial of His mightly resurrection and glorious ascension. In thus emphasizing His humiliation at the expense of His exhaltation some have been led to associate the crucifix with the altar rather than the cross of glory. In connection with this, it may be pointed out that our Lord in glory is a much more suitable subject...over the altar, than our Lord crucified.
I post his words here, because they reminded me of the eucharistic theology of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who so emphasized the eschatalogical presence of the Kingdom of God, the reality of the parousia, embodied in every Eucharist. "The remembrance of Christ which he He instituted (This do in remembrance of Me) is the affirmation of His 'Parousia,' of His presence; it is the actualization of His Kingdom," he wrote. In this context:
A sacrament is both cosmic and eschatological. It refers at the same time to God’s world as he first created it and to its fulfilment in the kingdom of God...It is, it manifests and it grants that to which it is directed: the presence among us of the approaching kingdom of God and its unfading light.
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky's critique of Fr. Schmemann is worth reading, as well. As I wrote in The Lion a few years ago, an appropriately balanced appreciation of Christ's sufferings and His glory is key to true devotion. I did not post this in order to re-open that issue, though. Nor did I post it to illustrate the similarities between certain schools of Anglican and Orthodox writers, evident as it is in some. (Fr. Pomazansky would be the first to disagree with me about this; Fr. Antony Bell, however, once wrote the two communions appealed to Scripture and Tradition the same way -- that the very best of Anglicanism is found in Orthodoxy.)

I merely pray on the eve of the Feast of Transfiguration that tomorrow when the priest exhorts, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him that taketh away the sins of the world," our beloved readers will see in the consecrated Sacrament the Lamb Who, upon His baptism, was acclaimed by the audible voice of the Father and the descent of the Holy Ghost as a consubstantial Person of the Blessed Trinity and Who, on this blessed feast, disclosed a glimpse of His pre-existent glory to His disciples "as they could perceive it." He was transfigured, and by His presence, He "shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed from glory to glory" (Phil. 3:21, the Chapter from Lauds for the Feast).
How happy he who feels Thy light,
Thou Sharer of the Father's might,
True Radiance of our native land,
Surpassing all we understand.

Thou Brightness of the Father's throne,
Goodness that never can be known,
The fulness of Thy love impart
By Thy true Presence in the heart.
-- Vespers Hymn for the Feast

May His true Presence transform us all, entering into our veins, our heart, consuming all our transgressions, burning away our impurities, and leaving behind His fleeting brilliance the sweet savor of a holy soul made pleasing through, by, and in Himself.

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