Monday, August 17, 2020

Lockdown Life: Let's Look Again At Eucharists Online

 For overseas readers, NZ having enjoyed a few months of Level 1 (more or less normal life), is back up a level or two. Auckland (our largest city, about 1/3rd of our population) is in Level 3 (stay at home, church for 10 or fewer people, etc) and the rest of us at Level 2 (work from home if possible, schools open, church for 100 ir fewer people).

Natch it is time on ADU for another look at eucharists online.

Our guide is none other than Thomas O'Loughlin (previously featured here on ADU) who has had a few things to say in a YouTube post about eucharists in the time of Covid-19, reported here by the Catholic Herald.

The YouTube post is provocatively titled, Can you send an apple by email?

Note that we should presume O'Loughlin in a Catholic context is talking about viewing eucharistic services online, without domestic consumption of bread and wine; and not about "Zoom eucharists" meaning eucharists viewers participate in using their own bread and wine

According to the report, there are several lines of critique:

1. Online eucharists are not real experiences:

"The Catholic Church is selling “the Eucharist” and people short and is making a mistake by turning Mass into a YouTube experience.

The comments are from Thomas O’Loughlin, emeritus professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham and Director of Studia Traditionis Theologiae.

“There are some things Zoom and YouTube just won’t do because real experiences are whole human experiences,” O’Loughlin said."

2. Communion is about community and an online experience is not a community experience:

"People wanting to have Mass on their TV or computer at home and priests supplying it sounds a warning about the real nature of the community, he said.

“Eucharist makes little sense without a community.”

Challenging the meeting, O’Loughlin posed the question as to whether the Church had stopped being a real community and is being reduced to religious ideology."

3. In a note that could also apply to "Zoom eucharists", O'Loughline observes:

"He sounded a warning that we may be reducing the Eucharist to just getting communion, almost makes it a commodity!"

4. There are better ways of praying and worshipping virtually:

"O’Loughlin said that the Liturgy of the Hours, shared prayer, Lectio Divina, prayer together and scripture study we just some of the examples from the Church’s spiritual tradition that respects the characteristics of the liturgy and that are easily adapted to a virtual environment.

“Why did we pick on something so physical such as eating and drinking?” O’Loughlin asked."

5. Spiritual Communion is dangerous re-emergence of Jansenism (!!):

"Questioned on whether it was appropriate to use the readings of the day and make a “spiritual communion,” O’Loughlin sounded a stern warning.

He observed that spiritual communion came from the time when only priests received communion and was developed by the heretical Jansenists to a point were nuns were not seen as worthy of physically receiving communion.

Spiritual communion “is tied up with notions of unworthiness and impurity” and it is a part of a moral theology we left long ago, he said."

6. It's clericalism!! Bonus critique from an NZ Catholic liturgical leader:

"Host of the conversation, Dr Joseph Grayland, Director of Liturgy in the Palmerston North Diocese, New Zealand, says the idea for “Let’s Talk Liturgy” came about due to the disruption to worship brought about through the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Grayland says the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted laity and clergy alike.

“For many people, the online Mass, viewed from the living room was sufficient, they didn’t have to go out and it fulfilled the need for Sunday Mass.”

“The priests also liked doing this because it was readily identifiable as part of their mission”.

Labelling online video Mass as a form of clericalism, Grayland says there are real concerns around the passive, observer approach and the personal nature of the “priest’s Mass.”"

Well. What do you think?

I have some thoughts but let's have your comments!


Anonymous said...

As you mention, Peter, the virus is resurging in places where it had been beaten back. And it mutates even as immunologists rush to develop a vaccine for the strain we somewhat know. Other known zootic viruses are poised to infect their first human hosts, yet not much is being done to prevent this. Epidemiologists have long speculated that occasional pandemics could become a fact of daily global life. For at least a couple of years-- or decades-- they will be.

So lockdown liturgics may be more than a passing improvisation. A second ordo to which we relapse from time to time should be more than a plug for a hole in the weekly calendar. It should address the daily spiritual needs of those in lockdown-- isolation, depression, anxiety, grief, mourning. And it should order the worship of small congregations without ordained leadership.

Weekly online eucharists do not seem adequate.


Anonymous said...

Here up yonder, Father Ron, yesterday was a red letter day-- Saint Mary the Virgin.

Collect: "O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever."

Preface: "Because you gave Jesus Christ, your only Son, to be born for us; who, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, was made perfect Man by the flesh of the Virgin Mary his mother, so that we might be delivered from the bondage of sin, and receive power to become your children."

In Rome, of course, it was the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in the East the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.

The collect and preface are from the versatile hand of Reginald H. Fuller.


Father Ron said...

I recently challeneged the Dean of St. Mary's (Anglican) Cathedral in Glasgow, who put out a post suggesting that ALL Masses are 'virtual' on account of their 'virtual' representation of the sacrifice of Christ in the Liturgy.

To my mind (as an Anglo-Catholic believer in the 'Real Presence' at the Mass), this would seem to deny that 'Real Presence' as an outdated and unnecessary theory that denies the efficacy of believing in such a eucharistic doctrine. I believe that Jesus offered the Eucharist as an opportunity for believers to access the actual reality of Christ's bodily presence, in order to receive the grace of'connection' with Him in this community exercise.

I can see, however, that there can be a spiritual benefit (to a lesser degree) for a visual observation of the Liturgy (telepod broadcast - or at the Liturgy of Benediction, for instance), where the separated onlooker could recall the sacrifice of Christ, thus making an act of what I have no hesitation in calling an act of 'Spiritual Communion'.

One does also need to factor in the reality of, say, unconfirmed people attending a 'live' Eucharist. Do they have any access to the saving grace of Christ while not yet receiving the Sacrament orally. These are all questions that have various degrees of importance to different communities of Christians.

Then, too, we have the record of Pierre du Chardin, who recalls his experience of wanting to celebrate Mass with no physical elements to hand. He is reported to have asked Jesu to 'be' the elements of the Mass for him on this occasion!

I do know where my own preference lies: First; attendance at the liturgy with the reception of H.C. Second; attendance at an Exposition of the Sacrament - either in a Liturgy (Benediction) or privately in church. Third; observing a telecast.

Anonymous said...

Has alert Father Ron found another brain caught, at least momentarily, in the Rome Trap?

"ALL Masses are 'virtual' on account of their 'virtual' representation of the sacrifice of Christ in the Liturgy."

Then the ideal communion is, not a ritual, but a video of the crucifixion? Of course not.

The Rome Trap? Lateran IV defined *transubstantiation*. Trent confirmed it, so Rome still teaches it. These councils pegged much on the mode of the Lord's presence, and ignored what would not hang from it. In reply, Protestants of magisterial churches have pounded other presence-theories into the wall as pegs of their own. ** Thus they wander into danger.

An unwary victim today, pleased to have a pet peg of his own, likewise hangs everything he can on it. And he too just forgets anything in the canon or tradition that he can't. Clever he then boasts with glee that he need not worry about the scruples that perplex others. The Rome Trap has sprung. He is caught.

Now wriggling in agile Father Ron's net, we seem to observe a specimen of *A. virtualismus* on whom the Rome Trap has snapped shut. Because congregational ritual per se will not hang from his Virtualist peg, he thinks that what the Lord commanded his disciples to do *together* is not essential to what the Lord commanded *him* to do himself. Says who?

This is deeply ironic. Richard Hooker proposed what we call *virtualism*, not as itself a theory of the presence, but as a criterion for other actual theories. It's not a peg; it's a wise way out of the peg-fixation that Hooker saw tearing Lutherans and Reformed apart on the Continent. In contrast with much else that he wrote, Hooker's way is *particularist* because he was speaking about a squabble over the salvation of souls one-by-one.

Our problem today is, not the odium of that old Lutheran-Reformed dispute, but that our here-and-now congregations cannot meet. It is squarely in a white space that magisterial Protestants left empty because their central quarrel with Rome was about particular souls, not the wholeness of churches. And as *particularism* says nothing about congregations per se, nothing dangling from a presence peg can tell ours how to remain bodies. Nor does Hooker's *virtualist* criterion for pegs also choose among options for communicating online, being small, growing cells, or meeting infrequently.

When we have tried everything else, we will think about the Lord's command. In the scriptures, that is a charge given to his Body. If you can obey it, then do so, of course. If you cannot, then... you cannot, obviously. The biblical God knows about this; he rules the earth.

In that case, should you do anything else on Sunday instead? This is a worthwhile question. But it cannot be answered by manualised denominational humdrum responding to Lateran IV.

** The Orthodox have no peg at all. East of Trieste, nobody has a clue how Christ is present, nor precisely when he shows up. In different celebrations, his presence may be sensed at different times. A sudden metaphysical lurch from bread and wine to veiled God is not in that tradition.

So on one hand, this is why their conversations about the eucharist are so different from Western quibbling about our cherished denominational pegs. And on the other hand, it is why, precisely when Catholics and Protestants have most heatedly disagreed about the eucharist, they have sounded essentially the same to the Orthodox.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If you must be *Reformed*, be so like this.

Princeton Theological Seminary's George Hunsinger has written a commentary on Philippians. Hunsinger is a Reformed systematician best known for ten books on Karl Barth. So this commentary is, not a neutestamentler's masterpiece for the guild, but a theological one for the soul.

At Philippians i 6, Hunsinger's first sentence echoes the beautiful, heartbreaking question that opens the Heidelberg Catechism--

"What is your only consolation in life and in death?"

Quintessentially Reformed. But whom does he quote in the next sentence? See if you recognize this--

“In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our righteousness is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own righteousness and to receive from you the eternal possession of yourself.”

George Hunsinger is so Reformed that he can recognise a kindred spirit in the Carmelite mystic known to Rome as St Thérèsa of Liseux. That is, he writes things like (p 6)--

“Grace always involves an ‘in spite of’ structure. It comes again and again to deliver the faithful from sin and death. It comes, that is, to deliver sinners from what they would otherwise deserve. It is not merely, as is sometimes said, that grace is undeserved. Of course it is undeserved; but more to the point, it is contrary to what is actually deserved. Grace brings mercy and life instead of condemnation and death. Therefore it is always unsettling and new.”

--and also the last decade's most important work of ecumenical eucharistic theology. Because he is authentically Reformed, he is also ecumenical. The truly Reformed have always been that way.

Again, dear reader, I myself incline to the Lutherans' side of the old quarrel in which the Church of England stood for a both-and-neither *via media*. I would no more want to be unilaterally Reformed than to have an eye put out. If I have to choose, better Cyril than Nestorius.

But we are who we are. If you cannot abide theology in the stream from the Book of Concord through Martin Chemnitz to Robert Jenson, and instead feel drawn to the one from the Four Forms of Unity through Zacharias Ursinus to Hunsinger himself, then you are indeed Reformed. God help you.

But you are in excellent company-- the House of Torrance, Oliver Crisp, Fred Sanders, Kevin J Vanhoozer, to name a few more. Even in TEC, Hans Boersma and Katherine Sonderegger.

Moreover, that evolving tradition maintains a lively dialogue with a well-known communion headquartered on the Tiber. Vatican II would have been very different without Karl Barth. Reformed theologians today are still in an intriguing conversation with their Catholic colleagues. (Compare, for instance, John Webster's Holy Scripture and Matthew Levering's Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation.) Today, as in the C16 and after, the Reformed are an international and transdenominational force of responsive thinkers.

Alas Anglicans know *Reformed* more as a brand of denominational humdrum that owes more to English nationalism than to that living force. Those who want to fasten furniture to the floor buy nuts and bolts in boxes labeled "Reformed." They deem Liberals and Anglo-Catholics who want to loosen those nuts illegitimate because they do not sport tattoos of the 39A. Their theology is the science of thinking about God as Matthew Parker did.

In my own circle of friends, those who have styled themselves Reformed only because they were searching for enforceable authority have been tempted to swim the Tiber. And some have. What are the 39A against the papal magisterium? If you want the nuts tight on the bolts, this is not your Communion.

But in this comment I am thinking of those who are excited by ideas that are perennially Reformed. Friends, I do not care about them as you do. But I am very glad to have read them. Perhaps you should read and think and pray beyond the brand to the force?


Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman,

As a nonagenarian (91) I can closely identitfy with this paragraph of your most recent comment here:

“In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our righteousness is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own righteousness and to receive from you the eternal possession of yourself.” (attributed)

In the liturgical context (I still celebrate Mass at SMAA every Friday) I am disposed to pray as I prepare for the Consecration, this prayer, with my own addition in brackets: "Wash my hands in (Your) innocency, O Lord, and so will I go to your altar". (I am an Anglican following Catholic tradition).

For me, this is a necessary addition, as I am deeply aware that none of us is ever worthy of this great privilege of priesthood (clerical or lay).

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Bowman for deeper insights for me, a novice re Reformed life and theology - I shall lay my wrench down!

Hunsinger intrigues me - I shall follow up on Philippians.

The question remains, what is the Body of Christ to do to be the Body-at-worship when “particle-Ised” (or “dis-membered”) into our individual homes by Lockdown?

Prayer likely is the key (because we think of ourselves as the Body at prayer when we say our daily prayers privately but all pray for Jim who is all, for the forthcoming parish fete and for our political leaders.

Also reading Scripture because commitment to a common lectionary means we read Scripture “together” even when the readers are apart in separate places and spaces.

Anonymous said...

"Never waste an emergency."

"The question remains, what is the Body of Christ to do to be the Body-at-worship when “particle-Ised” (or “dis-membered”) into our individual homes by Lockdown?"

Thank you, Peter.

Three things: (a) Restore the daily office with *lectio divina* to home use, (b) Organize occasional communication of those not sick. Both follow Anglican precedent**, but can be enriched from ecumenical resources. (c) Use new technologies mainly to keep cells of worshipers informed and in touch.

On (a). Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are already rather eucharistic (Greek, thanksgiving) in theme, and some churches like TEC permit them to be used as the synaxis of the Holy Eucharist. However, for widespread home use, it may be wise to package them in a form like Rome's popular Office of Readings with rubrics for morning, noon, and evening, guidance about translations, singing, incense, icons, etc, and timely advice on how to read the appointed scriptures with God. The Holy Spirit would be pleased to see us follow your two keys in a single program.

On (b). Except at an empty streets level of lockdown, it is still lawful and prudent to communicate small groups and individuals as convenient. I have not seen a good survey of experience with lockdown communon, and local custom varies anyway, but it seems odd to not communicate anybody until one can simultaneously communicate everybody. Because classical Protestant theology gives such prominence to Holy Communion as an antidote to anxiety, depression, and despair, and because such melancholia is common in lockdown, an all-or-nobody approach to communion seems perversely unpastoral.

On (c).

** Up here in the C18, the normal Church of England service for *chapels of ease* on Sundays when clergy could not officiate was Morning Prayer with the Litany and Ante-Communion.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Apropos your most recent comment:
- In Level 4 (no one of the streets except for exercise and going to the supermarket) we had good signs of people Zooming into morning prayer and night prayer.
- In Level 3 (should we return) I think we need to encourage multiple small communion services (since up to 10 may gather together at that level).