Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This Is My Body

You say you believe this. You insist it is so.

But you exchange the sublime liturgy for the music of entertainment, as if the setting for these Most Holy Things doesn't matter.

You carry on as though there's nothing special here. No need to genuflect. No need for holy trepidation. No need for taking pains.

You might put on your vestments to please some folks, but not if it's too inconvenient. Not if, say, it's an informal gathering anyhow. Informal? This can be informal to you? How?

You place this in plastic. You throw the remains down the drain. You spill, and it doesn't matter. You make crumbs, and they fly, and you don't care.

You don't care.

Yet you say it's the real thing.

Well frankly, guy, I'm having a real hard time believing you.

I think you're making a confession here, and it belies what you say you believe.


Anonymous said...

Was it clay or wood or bronze

The cup on which he laid his hands?

Fleshy hands enclosed the cup so humble

his blood filled the vessel for our good

Soon to be poured again on earthy clay, first wood.

And so it is now this day

Is it bronze or gold, wood or clay, perhaps

even polycarbonate?

Poor our confession though may be

here I confess is his blood poured for you and me

Forgive my shallow reverence

as you have the generations before

and bring us all to the place where you,

we properly adore.

Fr John W Fenton said...

Now that, my dear Ryan, seems a lame excuse. First, the question is not "If it was good enough for Jesus"--unless, of course, one is Jesus. Second, its not about imitation. Third, and most importantly, your case is made stronger if all one has is polycarbonate or wood. I dare say, however, that in one's finest dining one doesn't use plastic for the 2002 Napa Valley Merlot or the prime rib precisely because the setting means something.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Are not attempts to turn the holy things and the various parts of the liturgy into entertainment a greater undermining of the faith than any external public attacks? Thanks for the post.

Father Hollywood said...

I can't remember who made the illustration (maybe Prof. Marquart), but our mothers are still our mothers even if they are dressed in rags - and we love them the same, to be sure. But, if we can dress our mothers in dignified and fine clothing, why would we opt to let them dress like a beggars?

Let's face it, in our society, we have no problem spending $2,000 for a TV, or $5,000 for a vacation - but if someone were to say "let's spend a thousand dollars on a befitting chalice for our dear Lord's blood," - something to last for centuries, something unrelated to entertainment - there would likely be an outcry.

Of course, the Lord's blood is still the Lord's blood - even served in a shotglass or a Dixie cup - but unless one is in dire circumstances, why do so?

My own congregation never had the blasted little "Jesus jiggers" until the 1980s AIDS scare - and I would love to punch whatever pastor introduced it right in the nose (not the most pious thought, I know) because once people get attached to them, they are very hard to get rid of - and the unintended consequence is a confession that there is a difference between what we confess so loftily and what we *really* believe and do so crassly - and that is a terrible shame.

We show more "reverence" (as Fr. John pointed out) for secular things, like fine dining, than for holy things. If we go to a four-star restaurant and were served in plastic tumblers and given a disposable paper napkin, we would likely complain about it. But the Lord's true blood served in the same manner as cheap whiskey in a Tijuana slopshoot is perfectly fine, even lauded as somehow honorable! And that is, again, a terrible shame.

And I think Fr. Tim is correct to link this indifference towards the vessels to the current indifference towards the liturgy - both are symptoms of the real problem - a desire to be in charge and not to submit - not even to the God who gave us His lifeblood. And, as Fr. Fritz posits, this is linked to what one believes.

Doctrine and practice go hand in hand.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Whose poem is this?

Whose ever, Ryan, you have provided an unwitting verification of what I have written, particularly in these words: "Poor our confession."

Speak for yourself! Though, say, the offering of the poor, or the singing of the tone deaf is certainly an acceptable thing to Him, a poor confession is a different thing, and is altogether unacceptable.

Put it this way:

Jesus says: This is my body.
You confess: Ummm, I'm not so sure.

Would you be content with that poor confession?

Anonymous said...

I am not a whoever! My name is Fr. Ryan J. Fehrmann. I am called to Grace Lutheran in Paris Illinois. My poor poetry is mistaken among you fine gentleman. I am in agreement with what is written but I find it difficult to change current practice in my parish. My predecessor of 32 years made a change from Common to plastic as late as the 80s, and it stuck. My watch has been almost four years now.

"Poor our confession" is intentional verification, not unwitting! God help me, this is where I must labor.

My words intent was an asking that I would be forgiven the poor practice that occurs on my watch and am confident that despite the ideal does not occur, the vessel, whatever the material, does serve the sheepfold the very blood of Christ.

I have taken it upon my self to increase the practice of the Altar Guild in reverence in handling the elements before and after. I am working mightily, and mighty patiently! to bring a more frequent offering and reception of the Sacrament to these people under my poor care.

I feel a heavy burden of the law each time this issue is brought up since Gottesblog and other places seem to say that I myself am irreverent and am a poorer confessor and pastor than I already am, and this when I am trying as I might to bring about salutary changes, one at a time, over time, as I may.

I'm sorry if my words penned did offend but they were more a cry of deep sorrow as I read the latest post last night than of condemnation of the beloved author of this blog.

Perhaps if the Fr. Eckhardt does not feel my first words should stand he is free to remove them.

Bryce P Wandrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr John W Fenton said...

Pr Fehrmann,

Your explanation indicates your quandry--between feeling guilt for doing what you know is not right, and yet not having the wherewithal to effect more quickly the changes you know that must be made. The first would be remedied easily if the second could be speedily accomplished. Yet there is a third element: the challenge of effectively being a "free agent" without outside support which would say, "Fear not, even if all leave or hate you should you do the right thing."

Of course, one must realize that, since faith and liturgy are interlinked, one must be patient with those in one's charge. However, there is also a time when patience must give way to the Gospel. (One of your heroes, in speaking of the liturgy, once wrote "something must be dared for the sake of the Gospel.")

May God grant you wisdom to know when to be bold, and when to be patient.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Fr Fehrmann

Bewilderment does not quite describe my confusion over your two posts, which almost seem to have come from two different sources.

In the second case you beg indulgence for someone such as yourself who is in a confessional quandry of sorts, but in the first case you indicate no evidence of this quandry, but instead seek to defend the practice to which you are evidently tied.

Perhaps you were seeking some sort of justification for the practice, as this would ease your conscience.

If this poem is your own, well then, what is it, a confession
or a lament? It sounds like the former, but your second post indicates you intended it as the latter. You can't have it both ways.

The burden you say you feel is "heavy," which suggests that it is not I who have really imposed it on you.

Of course you must be patient with poor ignorant sheep, and bear with them; but your first post suggests that perhaps you'd rather not have to lead them.

Hoping, of course, that is not the case.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

I have to say that Ryan's confession, in both senses of his posts, seem to be quite genuine and faithful. And what is poetry but something to be interpreted? I know that I have interpreted poems (namely Herbert's) incorrectly until someone has shed some light for me.

Ulitmately, I think the nature of the opening post, and Ryan's responses, are reason enough to tone down the rhetoric of such posts.

But that is just my humble opinion...

Anonymous said...

Hmpf this is why I suppose I lurk more than post anywhere.

Yes Fr. Eckardt I truly am the author of the poetry, I see no reason why you should doubt. You have met me a few times in person, and I hold you in good esteem. I hope the same in the end will be said of me!

It is confession as much as lament, confidence of the Lord's presence as much as prayer for a better practice that confesses clearly His holy blood. And I must confess a little sleepy indignation. Perhaps I should not try verse at 1am!

And by the way confession and lament are not opposites... indeed both are found in contrition, I confess I am a poor miserable sinner.

You are correct though, you did not impose a heavy burden, but I feel great guilt in this practice of which perhaps part my timidity to change, on the other hand would create great damage if I am not patient. Many are still even learning to appreciate the Sacrament for what it is.

I do desire to lead but at times I stink at it.

Thus your words struck to the quick because walking into my church perhaps by the plastic jiggers I may be judged lacking reverence and remiss in my duties and calling... though now rereading your words see that they were not so much aimed at my situation.

Thank you all for pointing to the folly of my words, hastily written, as well as the kind words in response to my situation. I'm sorry to have caused a tempest in a teacup er... plastic cup.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

It's sometimes hard to determine the tone of rhetoric. There's no anger on my part, certainly. A bit of curiosity, though.

I just thought I perceived a disconnect between Ryan's first and second post, and apparently I was right.

Here are some points in particular that came to mind as I read Ryan's second post. My points are italicized and in brackets:

"I feel a heavy burden of the law each time this issue is brought up since Gottesblog and other places seem to say that I myself am irreverent and am a poorer confessor [it was, incidentally, in this sense, and not in the sense of confession of sins that I was using the term] and pastor than I already am, and this when I am trying as I might to bring about salutary changes, one at a time, over time, as I may. [While I recognize that some things take time, I am also aware that when four years have passed, it starts to get more difficult to initiate salutary changes.]

"I'm sorry if my words penned did offend [no offense taken] but they were more a cry of deep sorrow as I read the latest post last night than of condemnation of the beloved author [thank you]of this blog."

Briefly, I am concerned that four years of offense to one's own conscience is indeed a heavy burden to bear, and I would suggest that you, as winsomely and humbly as you can, begin to explain to your people how you can not longer tolerate cheap plastic.

On "Cheap Plastic," for what it's worth--now there's a double ententre!--one could reference my latest piece in Gottesdienst (Christmas 2008).

Pr. H. R. said...

Fritz and Ryan,

Knowing you both personally, I think I have the gift of interpretation in this instance. Let me translate.

Ryan said, "Verily, I am cut to the heart. But where can I turn? In my weakness and my parish's I take some comfort in the grace of my Lord and beseech for the brethren's help - I'm working on it, but it's a hard slog I don't see an end to just yet."

Fritz said, "Right, then!" (here his monocle falls off as his eyes bulge) "Buck up and take a slug for the Gospel then and do what you know is right!"

Now, Ryan, Fritz might seem gruff in this advice: but he's earned it. He's taken his lumps and then some: and look, he's still alive. So take courage from faithful guys like him.

And, Fritz, while you and I both have avoided (you) or ran out of town (me) the plastic jobbies - we're both still stuck with uncanonical glass vessels for part of the distribution. . . so we've all got some room for bucking up, patient teaching, and determining the time to defecate or get off the pot.


Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Well, not exactly. It'd probably be more like, "Right, then, old chap!"

Eric's no fool; he already seems to know what to do, and doesn't need me telling him. But I also know myself, and that I'd be really dying inside if it were four years of this for me. As for the glass jiggers, they are offensive too, and we must be working toward their removal, but plastic is right out, to my mind. In the case of plastic, something would have to give. And I'd worry that it was my own integrity.

See what a nice guy I am, after all? Ryan's in danger, poor bloke! Maybe those ladies on the altar guild would have a little understanding if they saw it that way.

Pr. H. R. said...

"plastic is right out"

So is 5 - as is 2 excepting that you go right on to 3.


Daniel Skillman said...

Here's some advice for Ryan: Buy glass jiggers. Make it an anonymous donation. Present it to the altar guild as such. Who refuses a gift? Say, "Their feelings would be hurt if we didn't use these for a while." Then add that there's the bonus of the entire congregation making a better confession of the Lord's Supper by using glass as opposed to throw away plastic, and how you dream of doing away with the individual cups all together one day. But for NOW, glass is the way to go.

In Christ,

Jen O'Hara said...

All of this (this and the related posts) are very interesting food for thought.

My suspicion is that treatment of (what they call) Communion in evangelical-type churches is far worse, though. There's...Well, sometimes respect seems to be lacking. Respect for what it is meant to be, and lack of respect for the simple humans who are supposed to be examining themselves and contemplating Christ's sacrifice before partaking of such a precious and holy thing (mainly because the band is playing a Ben Folds Five song, halftime, while the pastor rumbles on about whatever).

Anyhow. Good points here. *shudder*

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

In churches which think of the Sacrament as a mere symbol of Christ's sacrifice, there is a problem with how they interpret "is," rather the same problem President Clinton had, interestingly.

In churches where they say they believe the "is," but behave in a juvenile fashion in close proximity to the Sacrament, their actions belie their words.