Project Canterbury

Discerning the Lord's Body
The Rationale of a Catholic Democracy

By Frederic Hastings Smyth, Ph.D.
Superior of the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth

Louisville, Kentucky: The Cloister Press, 1946.

Chapter VII. The Liturgy of the Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood


THE VERBAL FORMS, together with the ritual gestures, ceremonies, and acts appropriate to their accompaniment, by which the Catholic Church has customarily performed her bounden duty and service [These words are found in the Canons both of the Latin Mass and of the Liturgies of every member of the family of Anglican Prayer Books.] of the Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood, have varied considerably throughout the centuries of her history. They have also varied--and still do vary--in different sections of the Church throughout the world. All Catholic Liturgies, wherever found, contain irreducibly in their central structures three indispensable parts. These are distinguished as, first, the Offertory; second, the Giving of Thanks (called Eucharist in Greek), in conjunction with the Consecration of the Bread and Wine; and third, the Distribution of the Body and Blood, called the Holy Communion.


The Offertory consists in putting forward of their contributed portions of bread and wine by the members of the assembled congregation. This is done solemnly, with appropriate prayers, and with expressions of the corporate intention to offer to God (within and through the Incarnation of Our Lord) the new increments of growth in the content of the redeeming organism of Our Lord's social humanity which are embodied in them.

At this point it should be freshly emphasized that the bread and wine, when set forth by the Divine Community [75/76] at its Offertory, are no longer what can be called ordinary bread and wine. It is true that every object made or manufactured by men sums up within itself the structure of the history of its preparation. Even in a fallen world a manufactured article always emerges as it were at the apex of a pyramid of complicated and varied human activities which have entered into its preparation; and which now converge within it as it issues forth, an objective, material embodiment of a causal structure reaching back in time and extending in space. But the bread and wine of the Catholic Offertory issue from a structure of human actions and relationships which are themselves already ordered within the social humanity of Our Lord. It is true, as we have now seen, that the Divine Community in its preparation of this bread and wine has usually had to draw--sometimes largely--upon the help and cooperation of men and women not as yet within its own newly ordered social life. It has had to make use of human relationships and organized activities which are still unredeemed--sometimes deplorably unchristian in their constitution--within an as yet untouched environmental, fallen world. But the bread and wine of the Offertory are none the less put forward within, through and by the Community of Our Lord's humanity. They have, therefore, been already received into the first stage of the process of the Incarnational redemption of the world. They are fresh structures of content in Our Lord's humanity; they further fill it up.

In this they are entirely analogous to additions to Our Lord's individual humanity as this grew and increased in content within its own particular environment. For every new item of empirical knowledge appropriated into His human mind came originally from a disordered and perverted environmental world. Every new human relationship into which He entered had to be with another individual still largely enmeshed in the arrangements of that same world. It had to be with an individual who in himself remained more or less sinful and a prey to the frailties stemming from both original and actual sin. Yet, within the pattern of Our Lord's humanity, such additions to its [76/77] content were redeemed "at His end" of every external relationship--if we may put it thus--into a perfected order which corresponded to God's will, under the circumstances of a still environing fallen world. They were thus taken, it is true, into a pattern only of contingent perfection, and the necessarily remaining linkages with the still unredeemed world were not the least factors in this very contingency. Nevertheless they formed, or marked out, a newly ordered pattern capable of receiving that absolute perfection which was later to be bestowed upon it. The bread and wine of the Divine Community--the Community which by virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost functions as a social organism extending the individual organism of Our Lord--this bread and wine also embody elements of human life redeemed at their central convergence into the contingently perfected structure of the social humanity of God Incarnate.

The Offertory, then, is a highly important and solemn moment in the performance of Our Lord's Memorial; for it is the putting forward of a newly ordered content of the Incarnation which originates in the growth of Our Lord's social humanity. This is put forward that it may be received by Him who is about to emerge from the level of His divine nature to clothe this additional, contingently perfected portion of a redeemed world upon His risen and ascended Self.


The Western Church, unfortunately, has tended to minimize the ceremonies of the Offertory in her Liturgical practice. And this is a matter which calls for careful remedy; for without an understanding of the place of the Offertory in Our Lord's Memorial, the understanding of the great action as a whole remains seriously deficient.

In this latter regard the Anglican Communion has been a chief offender. Historically this is probably accounted for by the damaging influence which Luther's thinking had on the mind of Archbishop Cranmer. To Luther, any emphasis upon the Offertory seemed to imply that the redeeming [77/78] action of God depended upon a prior preparation for such action which had to be carried out by man. This seemed to him to make man's salvation partly the work of unaided, sinful humanity.

Now this is unthinkable. It would be a form of the Pelagian heresy. [Pelagius, an Englishman who lived in Rome at the time of St. Augustine, taught that natural man, granted sufficient knowledge and proper leadership, could perfect himself. The logical conclusion from this would be that the Incarnation and Our Lord's Redemption of Man are superfluous.] Therefore, it is as clear to Catholics as it is to Lutherans that man's salvation, his fallen condition being what it is, must in the final analysis be exclusively the work of God. Our Lord said to His followers: Without me ye can do nothing--and He certainly meant this quite literally. [John 15:5.] However, in the Incarnation, God wills to carry out the work of man's salvation by utilizing certain contributions to His action which are solicited by Him from man.

Thus, in His individual Incarnation, He solicited the first elements of His own human body from a woman, His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. In precisely a parallel manner He solicits gifts of bread and wine from men on earth as He clothes Himself further with a social body so that His Incarnation may continue to take into itself ever-widening reaches of human life, and thus redeem the world. But, even so, these human offerings which are solicited to further His redeeming work are by no means the result of unaided human effort. If they were, this would indeed make God's action dependent upon man's contributory cooperation. Man would then be genuinely contributing to his own salvation by virtue of His human works--the doctrine which Luther thought was embodied in the Catholic Offertory and which he, with Cranmer, so emphatically rejected. Therefore, it must always be made clear that man can give to God something which can be utilized by Him in the work of redemption, only by virtue of a prior action by God which enables man to make a gift adequate to the purpose for which it is solicited.


Our Lady, as a human being in a fallen world, could not have offered a primal human seed fit for the initiation of Our Lord's individual Incarnation, unless God had enabled her to do this. He enabled her to do this by redeeming her retroactively within His Son's Incarnation, before its actual initiation in time. By a special act, which was entirely His, God enabled Our Lady to put forward to the use of the Divine Logos the seed of an individual human being which had already been taken from the disorders of a fallen world's environment into the contingent perfection of the first stage of the process of man's redemption. Our Lady, at the time of the Annunciation, was already disengaged from the disorders of a fallen world and was within the perfected pattern of that humanity of Our Lord which was later to take its own individual beginning from her. As this is usually put, she was immaculately conceived. This means that the redeeming operation of the Incarnation which was presently to utilize her individual offering as the basis of its initiation, was retroactively applied to her at the time of her own Conception. As an individual, she was then brought into that redeemed and ordered status which other members of Our Lord's social humanity were to receive at Pentecost. And this had to be accomplished even in advance of the emergence of that individual unit of Incarnate humanity out of which the social humanity of Our Lord later grew.

Ever since Pentecost, entrance into the redeemed order of Our Lord's Incarnation is normally accomplished through the Sacrament of Baptism. It is thus that men and women are moved from the environment of a fallen world, from the entanglements of Original Sin, into that new social world which can provide the environing pattern of Our Lord's human perfection. It may therefore be said that Our Lady, by a special--indeed, by a unique--Act of God, was given the status which Baptism provides, even before the establishment of the Sacrament itself. She received, as an individual, the status of membership in the social [79/80] humanity of Our Lord, even before the emergence of His individual humanity.

It is interesting to note that Our Lord's Mother was also present with that group of His followers who received the Gift of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. She thus eventually took her corporate place among all the other members of her Son's social humanity. But before that time came, she had herself become an individual Antetype of the social extension of the Incarnation.

By virtue, then, of her Immaculate Conception, of her baptized status pre-bestowed, she was enabled to put forward that Gift to God which He solicited in order that the individual Incarnation of His Son might have its beginning. She was enabled, by virtue of her advance redemption in her own Son's subsequent action, to make the First Offertory ever to come from a human source, but which at the same time was prepared in such contingent, but perfected, pattern that it could be clothed upon the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. And any view which denies to her this specifically prepared status seems to involve the heresy of Pelagius. [It is sometimes mistakenly suggested that the Immaculate Conception of St. Mary logically requires the Immaculate Conception of her own parents as well, and then of her grandparents, and so on indefinitely. But when the Immaculate Conception is interpreted in terms of the bestowed status of Baptism, it can be seen at once that this no more requires an immaculately conceived ancestry than the reception of Baptism by any other individual on his entry into the Church requires a baptized ancestry. The status of Baptism is given individually to every Christian without regard to the status of his progenitors. It is worth while pointing out that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception does not in itself assert that Our Lady was subsequently always free from voluntary or actual sin. This latter fact may well be believed, but it raises another question and one which does not enter the present discussion. All baptized Christians are relieved of the burden of Original Sin just as was St. Mary. However, experience teaches us that baptized men and women do subsequently fall into actual sin. This may or may not have been true of St. Mary, but the question is not under discussion here. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is the Catholic answer to the objections of Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr and others of the Neo-orthodox school of Protestant thought, that the traditional doctrine of the Offertory involves the Pelagian heresy.]


So too, the gifts of bread and wine brought forward at the Offertory of Our Lord's Memorial emerge from a Divine Community which, by the power of the Holy Ghost, is enabled to continue to build a perfected social structure having the pattern of Our Lord's spreading social Incarnation. This Divine Community, like Our Lady as an individual, [80/81] has been received out of the disordered social arrangements of the fallen world. Hence the gifts of bread and wine which it puts forward embody structures of growth and accomplishment which are the fruits of a living social organism disentangled from Original Sin. Like that first seed of the individual Incarnation, they are available to be clothed upon the Son of God. They are gifts which issue from a baptized community, the Community of the Holy Ghost. This community has corporately the same status relative to the world's Original Sin which was given to Our Lady in her Immaculate Conception. Growth in the ordered content of such a community is not achieved by the power of fallen man. It is a growth on the part of Our Lord's Incarnational life-process. Therefore, the bread and wine of its Offertory are already redeemed from the vitiating hindrances of the fallen-ness of the unredeemed world environment.

In both cases, this perfecting of the gifts of human origin is not completed by men. The adequate perfecting of Our Lady and the adequate perfecting of the Divine Community is in each case a perfection which basically emerges solely from the redeeming life-process of the Incarnation, working in the first instance within the individual called Mary of Nazareth, and in the second instance within the organism of Our Lord's social humanity. This life-process utilizes the elements of human life, but it does not depend for the order of its perfected pattern upon the contributing power of human beings. The one thing which might be considered a human contribution, either at the [81/82] time of the Annunciation or at the time of the preparation of the Offertory of the Divine Community, is the complete consent of the free human will that God's will may prevail utterly, that God may use Our Lady in the one case, and the Divine Community in the other, as the source within and through which He may prepare the human basis for His own further redeeming action. [The rational freedom of humanity is not here infringed or denied. For true and full freedom, in the Christian view, is the ability to understand the will of God coupled with an adequate power (grace) perfectly to conform to it. As the Prayer Book has it, the service of God is perfect freedom. If the prevailing of the will of God is interpreted as a necessity within His creation--the only ultimate alternative being the destruction of whatever created beings fail to conform to that will--then the Christian definition has much in common with the Marxian concept of freedom. The bases of necessity within the natural world are not the same for both Christian and Marxian, but their definitions of human freedom, once certain necessities are recognized, are practically identical. For Karl Marx's colleague Friedrich Engels following his earlier mentor Hegel, says that "freedom is the appreciation of necessity." (Anti-Dühring: The section on Morality and Law; Freedom and Necessity).]

Those who, like Luther and after him Cranmer, fear the implication of the Catholic Offertory have a deficient view of the nature of the Church. This deficiency is of course the fundamental Protestant heresy. Protestant thought denies that the Church is a genuinely organic social continuation of Our Lord's individual humanity. Therefore, Protestants do not realize that bread and wine prepared in this newly ordered social body partake of His perfection. They have this perfection because they here emerge from the Incarnate life-process of the Divine Logos who, by the enabling power of the Holy Ghost, still lives and grows within His Community. The offered bread and wine are thus themselves in reality prepared by God Incarnate. Human members of the Community are utilized in their social unity in this preparation--provided they fully and continuingly consent--but they do not, in any human right of their own, constitute themselves as a group capable of accomplishing it. They do not accomplish that necessary preliminary social perfection required for the preparation of the bread [82/83] and wine for the Offertory, any more than Our Lady herself accomplished her own individual freedom from Original Sin, her own individual contingent perfection in the Incarnation, her own individual Immaculate Conception. [In his letter to the Ephesians St. Paul writes (5:25-27) that Christ Our Lord so loved the Church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water (i.e. Baptism ) . . . that He might present it to Himself, a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle . . . . ; but that it should be holy and without blemish. This passage is a kind of locus classicus for the Catholic doctrine of the liturgical Offertory. Our Lord presents the structure of His human life and growth within this world in His Divine Community, under the forms of His bread and wine, to Himself as He now is, ascended and at the right hand of the Father.]


The Eastern Church has maintained a Liturgical tradition with regard to the Offertory much more explicit than that of the West. [At any rate, since the seventh century. The authority for this is Dr. E. F. Brightman. Cf. Mr. H. Hamilton Maughan's The Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, (London, 1916), p. 21, note 1.] In the Eastern usage, the portions of bread and wine later to be consecrated are prepared solemnly upon a table specifically provided for that purpose. This table might appropriately be placed near the door of the church where the members of the Divine Community first enter to bring in their Offerings. In every case the table of the Prothesis, as it is called, is quite separate from the Holy Table of the Altar where the Consecration of the Bread and Wine is later to take place. [See Appendix III, page 200.] The people's Offerings are here made ready. Prayers are solemnly intoned with an accompanying showing of lights and incense. Subsequently the prepared bread and wine are carried in solemn procession to the Holy Table. As a matter of fact this procession of the offered, but still unconsecrated portions of natural bread and wine, this Greater Entrance as it is called, is outwardly the most impressive and seemingly climactic moment of the whole Eastern Liturgy, not [83/84] excepting the Consecration itself. And the preliminary prayers of the Offertory contain certain invocations, blessings, and allusions to sacrificial action which make this preparation of the bread and wine seem a kind of quasi-consecration. Theologians of the Eastern Church suggest in fact that the liturgical Consecration of the Elements does somehow begin with the Offertory, that is, at the time when they are presented by the members of Our Lord's social humanity within the doors of the building where the Memorial is to be performed. And this impression is heightened when we see the proffered Offerings, even before the central moment of formal Consecration, revered in a procession to the Altar, accompanied by lights, incense and music while the people bow before them and cross themselves.

Even in the Latin Rite, where we find the liturgical emphasis of the Offertory considerably reduced, the still un-consecrated bread when brought to the Altar is lifted up and offered to God with a prayer which refers to it as "this spotless Victim"--a phrase applicable in all strictness only to Our Lord Himself within the Sacramental Elements after being consecrated. And the poured wine, mingled with water within the Cup, is offered as "the Chalice of Salvation," a phrase scarcely appropriate to plain or ordinary wine.

In liturgical practice, therefore, both East and West, the bread and wine of the people's Offertory are clearly enough set forth as particular kinds of bread and wine. They are, in fact, the concrete summations of an additional content within Our Lord's humanity. They are the same kinds of additions to His Incarnate growth and experience as would have accrued from a new week of redeeming activity, of fresh social contacts, of more widely extending empirical human knowledge, of more deeply developing religious teaching, in the individual historical life of the Man Jesus. For this bread and wine emerge within and through a Community which since Pentecost has been constituted by the enabling action of the Holy Spirit as a social continuation of that same life. As material objects they have not been produced by unaided man; neither do they emerge from [84/85] an unredeemed social process. They emerge from the social relationships of a Community which lives and moves in a new Incarnational World, a Communion of the Holy Ghost, a world which continues to clothe the Divine Logos in an ordered pattern whose social perfection triumphs over the difficulties which inhere in the disordered human time-process. They are thus material objects embodying structures of human life still on the natural level of this world, but not of the fallen world; for they have been rescued from the meshes of Original Sin. They have been perfected thus by Our Lord Himself as He enlarges the boundaries of His redeeming action through the growth of His social humanity. The bread and wine at the Offertory set forth structures in history which have been brought out of the fallen world into the first stage of its redemption.


From the Offertory, the Liturgy of the Memorial moves to the central part of its action which is called the Consecration. Here, both in word and prescribed gesture, it follows as closely as possible the Scriptural records of Our Lord's Institution at the Last Supper. The earliest written account of this is found in one of the letters of St. Paul. [1 Cor. 11:23-25. About A. D. 55.] Here we read that the Lord Jesus in the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks He brake it and said: Take, cat: this is my Body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying: This cup is the New Testament in my Blood: This do ye, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.

The two chief actions of the Consecration of the people's offerings of bread and wine are therefore those of Thanksgiving for all of God's gifts and mercies--including His present provision that His people may make this Offering to Him--and of making a Memorial of His Incarnate life, of His death, His resurrection and ascension. The Church's prayer of Consecration is invariably so framed as to include all these elements. It reaches its solemn climax in the [85/86] recital of Our Lord's recorded words at His own first setting forth of the Bread and Wine: This is my Body .... This is my Blood.


In present day usage, the popular concepts both of thanksgiving and of making a memorial (doing something in remembrance of somebody) have almost completely lost the full sense in which they are employed in the Church's Liturgy. This is unfortunate from the point of view of liturgical clarity. Certainly the members of Our Lord's social humanity have a duty to understand the liturgical meaning of the terms they use.

As commonly understood, to give thanks represents little more than a verbal exchange of courtesy between two individuals, one of whom has received a favor or gift and the other of whom has bestowed it. It may also signify an attitude of genuine gratitude on the part of the recipient, and it may include an implied assurance that the recipient stands ready to make a return favor or gift should the opportunity arise. But to give thanks in this sense alone remains a transaction which expresses only mutual attitudes between two people who have been involved in a giving-receiving relationship. It is not a transaction in which the gifts themselves are involved as material objects. To give thanks does not do something to any material object. In other words, it is not a transitive verbal expression. Thanksgiving is not an action which effects a change of state or causes a transition in those gifts for which the thanks are returned.

In liturgical use, however, the concept of Giving Thanks does have precisely this other, active, transitive sense. The original Greek word meaning to give thanks, eucharistein, [eucaristew] conveys in earliest Christian usage the idea not alone of returning thanks (in our present day sense) to God for benefits received, but also of acting upon the Offerings of bread and wine in such wise that they become the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Liturgical Thanksgiving is synonymous with Consecration. St. Justin Martyr, writing in the [86/87] middle of the second century, says that the Church "Eucharistises"--"Thanksgives"--her Offerings into the Body and Blood of Our Lord, lie speaks of the consecrated material objects as "Eucharistised"--"Thanksgiven"--Things. The consecrated Elements therefore are themselves called by the name of Eucharist, and he states without qualification that through the action of Thanksgiving they have become the Body and Blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. [St. Justin Martyr: First Apology.--Hipollytus also has equivalent expressions. The expression "Sacrifice of Praise and Thanksgiving" of the Anglican Liturgies means properly: "Sacrifice of Praise and Consecrated Bread and Wine." The words follow the Consecration.] It is Thanksgiving in this deep sense of effecting a Consecration, of causing a substantial change to take place in the bread and wine of the just completed Offertory so that they become the Body and Blood of Christ, which lends to Our Lord's Memorial its most ancient and most universal name: The Holy Eucharist. [The name "Mass"--Latin, Missa--is a popular word found only in the West. It is probably derived from the words pronounced by the Deacon at the conclusion of the Liturgy notifying the congregation that it may disperse: Ite Missa est. Calling the Eucharist by the name Mass sometimes arouses antagonism, because in some quarters it is indissolubly associated with what are thought to be grave ecclesiastical abuses. If the word Eucharist is given preference, we must then be quite clear that while we reject abuses, we are not also subtly rejecting essential truths about the Liturgy for which the name Mass, in spite of associations in certain minds, does really stand. In the West, Eucharist and Mass, rightly understood, are synonymous. They ought therefore to be interchangeable in common speech.]


Thanksgiving blends immediately into explicit words of Memorial. Here again, the word "Memorial" used by Our Lord when He said do this as a Memorial (in remembrance) of me, is rendered in the texts of the Scripture records by a Greek equivalent of His own original Aramaic which is almost untranslatable into English.

For when in English usage we call some man or the events of his life to remembrance, it clearly implies that [87/88] the man is absent, and that the events now recalled are done and past. These things are brought up in the minds of others now present, but if the man were himself in our midst, or if the events recalled were even at that time going on, we would make no Memorial of them. To do so would involve a contradiction between present reality and that which is implied by the English word "Memorial."

On the other hand, the Anamnesis of Our Lord's Body and Blood is not this kind of calling to mind of His absent Self, and of His past life, death, resurrection and ascension. It is on the complete contrary, His own appointed method of causing Himself to be present. It causes the historically past events of His life to emerge here and now in their eternal reality, and in such wise that His social humanity may be taken into, be included within, those very events. It should be recalled that Our Lord Himself celebrated His own first Memorial, the Last Supper, while He was physically present among His disciples still clothed in His individual human body in this world. Yet it is no contradiction in terms if we call this same Last Supper a Memorial of Him. If there is any distinction to be made between the one, the unique, Last Supper, and the Memorial of the post-pentecostal Sacrifice of the Church it consists in this: in the Last Supper the eternal events of His death on the Cross, of His resurrection and of His ascension, were made present by Our Lord in concomitance with His Body and His Blood, by His overruling intention, out of a future history; while ever since Pentecost these culminating events of His earthly life are made present to His social humanity out of an historical human past. The concept of a "Memorial" as used in the Scriptural accounts of the Last Supper as well as in the recurring Liturgy of the Church, has the same sense, and applies with equal exactness in both cases. Thus the Memorial of the Liturgy is a genuine re-calling of something. Very different from the mere contriving of a vivid subjective recollection on the part of those present, it is a true calling back of the thing itself. It is a causing of something which is historically past, but eternally available, to re-emerge into a contemporaneous situation, so that it [88/89] re-establishes its active operation here and now. [See "The Eucharistic Prayer," an Essay by Fr. Gregory Dix, O. S. B. in The Parish Communion (A. G. Hebert, Ed.), (London, 1937), pp. 120-121. The arguments for this exegesis of the Greek Anamnesis are also developed by Fr. Dix in an article in Theology, Vol. xxviii (1934), pp. 193-195. In a recent and valuable book, The Shape of the Liturgy, (London, 1943, but available in the United States only since the present text was written), Fr. Dix has both recapitulated and extended his earlier arguments in cogently definitive form.]

Thus in that solemn moment when a convened group of Our Lord's social humanity puts forward its Offertory of bread and wine, when it utters its Eucharistic Prayer and makes that Memorial according to the Institution of Him who is here re-called, Our Lord responds to the New Covenant which He Himself has thus established. He emerges to take again His own Gifts into Himself. The ascended Body moves to comprehend the earthly body. Our Lord reopens that bridge of transit between the levels of the contingent and of the absolute, between true humanity and Very God, which He alone has built through the way of His Incarnation and which He alone can therefore supply. Upon His Cross, now come again with Him into human history out of its eternity, He conveys the newly perfected structures put forward within His earthly humanity into His risen humanity ascended on high at the right hand of God. [Nicene Creed.]


The Consecration is therefore a true Sacrifice; for sacrifice consists essentially in this kind of conveyance of a structure perfected on the level of God's natural world into the level of God's transcendent Being. Also, the Priest who here effects this Sacrifice is Our Lord; for it is He alone who, receiving the offering within the content of His Incarnation, can effect the necessary transit. And He too, as on His individual Cross, is also Victim; for it is He who, working within His social humanity as this grows in a fallen world, has elicited the necessary bread and wine for the Offertory in such wise that these take form as increments in the [89/90] content of the expanding pattern of His socially continuing earthly life. Thus, fresh structures which accrue within the progressive process of the redemption of the world are clothed upon Him as Victim. They are conveyed by Him as Priest into the Glory of His divinity.

Priest and Victim within the Consecration Within the Being of Our Lord, His function as Priest and His function as Victim do not have individuated existences. As Priest and as Victim, He is but One Christ.

When, however, His Incarnation within this world becomes socially diversified, then these two functions also become representatively individuated within His social humanity. Thus, as Victim corresponding to His individually offered humanity, the Church puts forward in her Offertory her necessary contributions to the Incarnation under the forms of bread and wine. So too every group within the Church puts forward its human representative to serve within the social Incarnation as a continuing human expression of Our Lord's eternal Priesthood. Our Lord then ratifies this human representative in a Sacrament known as Holy Order. The humanly chosen Priest is thus empowered to represent the Divine Community in the performance of its allotted, participating share in the setting forth of Our Lord's Memorial. The human priest, properly authorized by the Church and Sacramentally endowered by Our Lord, stands at the Altar as the individuated earthly representative of His mediating, sacrificing action within His Memorial. [Those representative men who are to be the principal priests (i.e. the Bishops) of the Catholic Church ought first to be put forward by democratic choice from among the laity whom they are to represent. After being thus democratically chosen they will have the priestly function and character bestowed upon them through consecration in Holy Order by other already consecrated members of the Church's ministry. But as representing the corporate body of the laity they should be democratically chosen. It is a serious and, indeed, a dangerous abuse when in any section of the Catholic Church the Bishops come to be selected by the exercise of an undemocratic, popularly non-responsible human authority, even when that authority is exercised by other Bishops, or by the Bishop of Rome alone. The bestowal of priesthood comes from Our Lord Himself as High Priest. This is therefore properly mediated through the already existing representatives of that Priesthood in the Church in earth. But all the laity should have their authoritative voice in putting forward that representative from among them who is to receive the priesthood individually in their corporate behalf. The early Church was always clear about this democratic principle and guarded it scrupulously in practice. Local Christian groups chose the man to be consecrated as their Bishop by popular acclaim. But when ecclesiastical authority presumes not merely to consecrate Bishops (its proper function), but also (as in the modern Roman Communion) to appoint the candidates for consecration without reference to the lay will, then we have an intrusion of an arbitrary, undemocratic human authoritarianism within the Church which is incompatible with full rational participation of all her members in her life. And when choice of candidates is made by a popularly non-responsible lay, or even non-Church authority (as in the Established Church of England) the abuse is potentially even more flagrant. It is an abuse which partakes of the evil, arbitrary authoritarianism of what we have come to call fascism.]

[91] But it cannot be too strongly emphasized that Our Lord's Priesthood still resides essentially in His Incarnation as a whole. If the life of His Incarnate Community on earth partakes of His Incarnate life, then His Priesthood is a function of that whole Community. The Memorial of His Body and Blood is an organic, metabolic movement within His One Body, a Body which has both its earthly and its heavenly constitution. Therefore, the act of Sacrifice, like the act of the Offertory, is carried through by Our Lord with the involving participation of His entire social humanity. The individual human priest stands as an authorized representative both of the ascended Lord and of His social body still within this world. But the Lord's Memorial is the concern of His Body as a whole.


Within the Liturgy, this purely representative function of the human priest is commonly recognized, both East and West, by subduing his necessary collateral, but merely human functions as much as possible. For example, the priest does not wear his customary clothes which normally characterize him as a human individual. He wears the [91/92] clothes--the vestments--which are the peculiar and traditional property of the Divine Community. [See Appendix IV, page 202.] The priest's movements and manual gestures are formalized and prescribed. He does not move within the Memorial as an individual; he obeys the directions of the group he represents. The Priest, qua priest, is a man under Orders in every sense of the word. At the liturgically central moment of the Consecration even the individual voice of the priest is decently and properly lowered so that his voice as that of an individual man may not take an exclusive precedence over the vocal participation of his fellow members. For the traditional and prescribed words of the Liturgy should be as familiar to every member of the sacrificing group as they are to the individual priest. The priest, therefore, may not here intrude his individual humanity. He may but lead his fellow members in their common corporate act. He does this by careful observance of certain commonly understood positions and gestures while he recites the Eucharistic Prayer in a reverently inaudible voice. He thus fulfils--but does not transgress--his authorized representative capacity. His function on its human side is here analogous to that of an orchestral conductor. The conductor reads the score silently. He plays no instrument as an individual-still less does he attempt to play every instrument at once! But he both represents and leads the orchestra as a whole, while each individual member makes his own necessary, functional contribution. Thus does the human priest lead the Divine Community representatively, while the Community corporately makes its appointed Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood.


Reception of the Holy Communion follows immediately upon the Consecration. The members of the Divine Community who have brought forward their common life and the fruits of their common work as a corporate offering to Our Lord for His reception and consecration under forms of bread and wine, now come forward themselves to receive [92/93] again these same Consecrated Gifts into their continuing corporate life. They thus receive Our Lord's very Body and Blood and, by a necessary concomitance, they receive Him in His totality. At the same time, and by a like concomitance, they receive again those structures of a redeemed world which had been garnered within the redeeming life-process of their Community for the preceding Offertory. And since these earthly Offerings, only contingently perfected within His social humanity here below, have now been conveyed into an absolute perfection through the transit just completed within the re-emerged Sacrifice of the Cross, they are returned to the Divine Community by Our Lord in His bestowal of the Holy Communion. They are returned out of the absolute level of His ascended life, of His divine nature, into the contingent level of this natural world. They are thus ready to form that adequate basis which is required for the continuing prospective life of the same Community which, at the outset, brought them forward in its Offertory. The Community is in this way made ready once more to resume its own living growth within this world without any interruption of its natural continuity, but none the less upon the basis of the absolutely perfected structure of its own past now, after complete Sacrifice, returned to it again. In this way, the whole cycle of Metacosmesis is Sacramentally completed by Our Lord for His socially extending post-pentecostal humanity.


Thus does the Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood beat rhythmically within the body of His social humanity. It beats as a heart beats at the center of a living animal body. The movement of the Liturgy does in fact manifest within the physical world the beating of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Himself; and the Blood which flows to and from this Heart, imparting life and ever renewed creative power to the body of the Divine Community, is the Life-Blood of the Incarnate Son of God. [Everyone taking part in the Memorial should, as a general rule, make his Holy Communion. Otherwise the metacosmic cycle is left incomplete in every individual instance of failure to communicate. An elaborate rendition of the Liturgy without the Communions of all the laity assisting--sometimes dubbed "High Mass without Communions!"--is really a scandalous abuse.

[Every member of the laity present should participate in the Offertory, and his individual offering, corporately integrated with Our Lord's social humanity, will thus be received into an absolute perfection in the Sacrifice of the Consecration. If large numbers of those who are received within the Sacrifice fail to receive Our Lord again together with their own living contributions to His humanity back into their continuing lives, they go forth from the Memorial left, as it were, hanging between heaven and earth. Their own substantial basis for a continuing earthly life and action has not been returned to their possession. The Memorial is thus made to seem like a heart which receives the life blood of a body, but is prevented from re-dispensing it to the body again. High Mass is certainly the normal method of the Church for performing Our Lord's Memorial, but this ought to take place in such wise that all those who assist may communicate within the liturgical action.

[It may happen, for certain unusual but adequate reasons, that among any large number assisting in the Sacrifice, there are found a few who are really inhibited from making their Communions at that time. The portions of bread which these non-communicating attendants have offered will therefore remain after all others have communicated. These should be reserved reverently in a properly provided receptacle--commonly called a Tabernacle--and thus kept either until the non-communicating individuals may return to receive them, and thus individually complete their own metacosmic cycles; or else until other individual members of the group may receive them (e.g. the sick or the dying). If others thus receive them in Communion, the metacosmic cycle is completed representatively on behalf of the temporarily defaulting members, as well as on behalf of the individuals actually communicating under their forms.

[The one thing which ought certainly to be excluded is the post-Communion consumption of all the remaining consecrated Breads at one time by the officiating priest. The priest in such cases has already made his own individual Holy Communion within the Memorial. He has no delegated representative authority whatever to make a kind of collective mass Communion after the celebration of the Memorial and immediately after his own individual Communion. He has no authority to do this strange thing on behalf of others who have been unable to communicate with him at that time. He has, perhaps, even less authority to do this than he has to make a collective mass Offertory without the individual gifts of the laity.

[Therefore, the consecrated portions of Bread must be reserved until they can be reappropriated by other individual members of Our [94/95] Lord's social body. Furthermore, they must be appropriated by making a Holy Communion. For Our Lord emerges within His Memorial not merely to receive the Offerings of His social body, but to return Himself in Holy Communion to its members. It is a shocking thing that Breads under whose forms He is thus conveyed should habitually be consumed without Communion, as it were merely to get them out of the way!

If there are ill members of the Community who know in advance that they cannot attend the Memorial, but who wish to communicate, these should be encouraged to send in their Offerings of bread by the hands of other lay friends. Or the priest may be specifically authorized to act as deputy presenting the hosts of the unavoidably absent. But if this is impossible, absent members may always communicate with the consecrated Breads remaining from the Offerings of the few non-communicants of some previous Memorial.

Project Canterbury