Depart to Serve

And now the time has come for us to return into the world. “Let us depart in peace,” says the celebrant as he leaves the altar, and this is the last commandment of the liturgy. We must not stay on Mount Tabor, although we know that it is good for us to be there. We are sent back. But now “we have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit.” And it is as witnesses of this Light, as witnesses of the Spirit, that we must “go forth” and begin the never-ending mission of the church. Eucharist was the end of the journey, the end of time. And now it is again the beginning, and things that were impossible are again revealed to us as possible. The time of the world has become the time of the Church, the time of salvation and redemption. And God has made us competent, as Paul Claudel has said, competent to be His witnesses, to fulfill what He has done and is ever doing. This is the meaning of the Eucharist; this is why the mission of the Church begins in the liturgy of ascension, for it alone makes possible the liturgy of mission.

—Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 45-46

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Revelation and Response (17)

Worship as response to revelation in the canticles of the Christmas story in Luke 1–2:

REVELATION: Annunciation to Mary & visit to Elizabeth (1:26-45)

RESPONSE: Mary’s Magnificat (1:46-55)

REVELATION: Annunciation to Zacharias & birth of John the Baptist (1:5-25,57-66)

RESPONSE: Zacharias’ Benedictus (1:67-79)

REVELATION: Angel’s announcement of Christ’s birth (2:8-13)

RESPONSE: The Angels’ Gloria (2:14)

REVELATION: Promise and fulfillment to Simeon (2:35-37)

RESPONSE: Simeon’s Nunc dimittis (2:29-32)  (“my eyes have seen”) RESP.

—Walt Barrett

Emmanuel! (30)

Jesus whom we worship was born into a specific culture of the world. In the mystery of the incarnation are the model and the mandate for the contextualization of Christian worship. God can be and is encountered in the local cultures of our world. A given culture’s values and patterns, insofar as they are consonant with the values of the Gospel, can be used to express the meaning and purpose of Christian worship. Contextualization is a necessary task for the Church’s mission in the world, so that the Gospel can be ever more deeply rooted in diverse local cultures.

—Constance Cherry, The Worship Architect, A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services, 293

Emmanuel! (29)

Though in our sin we are rebels deserving only the censure and judgment of God, in our human state apart from sin, that human experience into which Jesus entered, we are the glory of the entire creation. We are made like Him, as like Him as any creature could be made; and we are made for Him, for fellowship with Him to all eternity. The real marvel of incarnation is not that God should become man, but that He should do so for us men and for our salvation. At the end of the day, it is not chiefly a marvel of the mind, but a marvel of the heart.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 28

Emmanuel! (28)

Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light,
and usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with affright,
but hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be;
the pow’r of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.

Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light,
to herald our salvation;
He stoops to earth—the God of might,
our hope and expectation.
He comes in human flesh to dwell,
our God with us, Immanuel;
the night of darkness ending,
our fallen race befriending.

—Johann von Rist (1641), translated by John Troutbec

Emmanuel! (27)

“And the Word became flesh. . . . [Jesus said] My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” John 1:14; 6:55-56)

The Eternal Son took on human nature, but more than that, took on flesh, dilapidated human nature, so that He could restore it. He entered fully into the world of sin and death so that He could bring life and righteousness. Light entered the darkness so that darkness could be turned to light.

And now Jesus tells us that this flesh that He took on has become food, food that gives life, food that binds Him to us and us to Him. The bread on this table is not another incarnation of Jesus. It would be a sin, and a grievous one, if we were to bow down and worship this bread in the way the wise men bowed down to worship the infant Jesus. But through this bread we do feed on Jesus, the living and life-giving Incarnate Son of God.

Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven: He who eats and drinks of Jesus has eternal life, and Jesus will raise you up on the last day.

—Peter Leithart (blogpost)