Monday, February 1, 2010

Khaled Anatolios on the boundaries of the Eucharist

Associate Professor Khaled Anatolios, a Melkite Greek Catholic, teaches theology at Boston College. He is the author of Athanasius: The Coherence of his Thought (Routledtge: 1998 & 2004) and the Athanasius volume of the Routledge Early Church Fathers series (2004). The following paragraph is from his article Heaven on Earth in Byzantine Liturgy, published in Antiphon, Volume 5, Number 3. Go HERE for the complete article.

"The fact that the simultaneous looking back at the historical details of the death of Christ and the looking upward in an eschatological gaze occurs most explicitly in the context of representing the sacrifice of Christ should alert us to the fact that this context is crucial for interpreting the phenomenon of liturgical time. From the perspective of the heavenly liturgy motif, we have here an assimilation of earth to heaven in a temporal key, as the assimilation of time to eternity. For the Byzantine liturgy, the saving events of Christ are always celebrated as happening 'today'; and the 'today' of the liturgy is explicated as meaning 'now and ever and unto ages of ages.' The prayer of the anaphora presents a highly concentrated synopsis of salvation, from creation to eschatological fulfillment, and it reads the whole history which extends to eternity as already fulfilled and now liturgically realized in the remembrance of Jesus sacrificial self-offering. The result is that the fulfillment of the Kingdom, which is explicitly qualified as the future Kingdom, is also paradoxically spoken of as a past event, in the same way as creation is something that already happened: 'You it was who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away, you raised us up again, and you did not cease to do all things until you had brought us back to heaven and endowed us with your future kingdom.' After the faithful join in the triumphal angelic hymn, chanting, 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' before the divine throne, the priest pronounces the words of consecration. Immediately afterwards, by way of explicating the sacramental remembrance, the priest once again 'remembers' the past, present, and future of salvation as an event already realized in the act of Jesus now being re-presented: 'Remembering, therefore, this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, and the second and glorious coming again, we offer to you, O Lord, your own from your own, in behalf of all and for all.' The future consummation of the kingdom is itself remembered within the remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. There is nothing beyond the paschal mystery of Christ - not temporally, not logically, not ontologically. Through the Passover of his death and resurrection, Christ has entered once and for all into the heavenly realm, so that henceforth all time, including future time, can be 'remembered' through a double reference to the past event, by which this entrance was consummated, and to the present reality of the person of Christ who reigns eternally at the right hand of the Father."


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