Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cosmic Mass Now Playing

Two wonders are too great to be told but must nevertheless be declared. There is the wonder of creation and the wonder of the human journey toward wholeness and redemption. One of my favorite rites in the Episcopal Church is Eucharistic Prayer C which proclaims the drama of redemption against the backdrop of the mystery of creation.

Everyone has experienced a sense of wonder in the presence of creation. “Breath-taking” and “awe-inspiring” are terms often ascribed to nature. There are innumerable examples which can connect us immediately with the wonder of existence, causing us to marvel at the mystery of the universe.
Who cannot stand in wonder when gazing at the night sky? I can recall as a child the joy and amazement I felt when looking at the stars. By the time I was 10 years old I had been schooled in the concept of light-years and by the time I was 14 I had watched the Apollo lunar landings as our first steps of space exploration were televised. I spent many a night looking toward the Pleiades, marveling at the vastness of the universe and wondering about my place in it. The sheer grandeur such a sight can give one the sensation of being afloat on a sea of mystery, as if on the cusp of tapping in to an ancient memory in the mind of God.

Beginning in the 1990s when the Hubble Space Telescope began sending us images from deep space, we saw a multitude of galaxies at various stages of formation. Increased knowledge led to increased wonder and amazement.

Juxtaposed to that outward vision of the universe, the inner journey that we all make can also instill us with wonder. Some call it a journey toward wholeness, some call it salvation, others call it enlightenment. It is a path we take as individuals and also as a community. Sometimes increased moments of awareness come in private meditation; sometimes that awareness comes while gathered in community. Often it helps to proclaim the Great Mystery as we come together for worship. Eucharistic Prayer C can be a vehicle for that proclamation.

What is Eucharistic Prayer C?

The prayers for Mass, or the Eucharistic service, are labeled Eucharistic Prayer A, B, C, and D. The most frequently used are Eucharistic Prayers A and B. By far the most poetic and the most cosmic of the Masses is Eucharistic Prayer C.

Consider the opening prayer as the Eucharistic Rite begins:

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of 
glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of 
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, 
and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, 
and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us 
the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed 
your trust; and we turned against one another.

Later in the Mass, just prior to the consecration of the bread and wine, we hear this prayer:

Lord God of our Fathers: God of Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our 
eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver 
us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace 
only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for 
renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one 
body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the 
world in his name.
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.

The Celebration at St. Andrew’s Church

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
I was delighted last Sunday as the service unfolded at St. Andrew’s Church to hear those magnificent liturgical prayers from Eucharistic Prayer C. At the end of the service, my wife commented to the rector, the Reverend Ed Hunt, about how much she loved Eucharistic Prayer C. Father Ed replied that the church will be using it in the liturgy from now until September. You heard it right – the Cosmic Mass will be playing for the rest of the summer at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Birmingham’s Southside.

So come one and all, every Sunday from now until September at 10:30 a.m. to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church  in Birmingham where you can meditate on a cosmic scale in  music, worship, liturgy and poetry.


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