Eucharistic Father and Son: Ronald and David Jasper

Deacon Owen Cummings, D.D.

Regis Chair of Theology, Mount Angel Seminary, St. Benedict, OR.

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Every now and then a gem of an essay turns up in a Festschrift. Recently, reading Exchanges of Grace: Essays in Honour of Ann Loades [Natalie K. Watson and Stephen Burns, ed., Exchanges of Grace: Essays in Honour of Ann Loades (London: SCM Press, 2008)], I came across such a gem, “The Eucharistic Body in Art and Literature.” The author was David Jasper, Professor of Theology and Literature at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. I had come across some other works by David Jasper, but not anything on the Eucharist. So, the title of this essay was, to say the least, both intriguing and attractive. David is the son of Ronald C. D. Jasper (1917-1990),  an influential English-Anglican liturgical theologian, who is well known especially to students of the Eucharist through his anthology of eucharistic prayers Prayers of the Eucharist, Early and Reformed. One informed commentator says of Ronald Jasper, “He was the chief architect not only of the Alternative Service Book 1980, but also of ecumenical cooperation in liturgical matters in the English-speaking world” [Raymond George, “Ronald Jasper: An Appreciation,” in Paul Bradshaw and Bryan Spinks, ed., Liturgy in Dialogue: Essays in Memory of Ronald Jasper (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), 1]. A very high accolade, indeed! His liturgical gifts are confirmed and endorsed by Notre Dame’s Paul Bradshaw, who has written: “Had it not been for Ronald, it is highly unlikely that I would have entered the world of serious liturgical scholarship. Not only did he facilitate my admission as a graduate student at King’s College London, and supervise my doctoral research thesis, but he was also instrumental in securing the publication of my early writings and in enabling me to take my first steps in teaching the subject.” Ronald Jasper died on April 11, 1990, Holy Thursday. His biographer comments: “Surely that is a poignant fact when we recall his lifelong concern for the dignity and rightful celebration of the Holy Eucharist” [Donald Gray, Ronald Jasper: His Life, His Work and the ASB (London: SPCK, 1997), 140]. Here was a priest for whom the celebration of liturgy was constantly accompanied by its study, a priest who was “always priestly without being pompous or parsonic.”

David Jasper (b. 1951).

David Jasper, Ronald’s son, introduces his essay, “The Eucharistic Body in Art and Literature,” with some bold words: “At each new celebration of the Eucharist, and in obedience to the divine command, the body is displayed, eaten and consumed. The words are unequivocal — this is my body, this is my blood in the species of bread and wine, though there is a clear reference to the physical body of Jesus present before his disciples at their last supper together, now to be ingested by them as an act of remembrance.” The sheer realism of the eucharistic gifts is here expressed. Notice that he says the body is “displayed.” Behind this strange usage of “displayed” here, lies an implicit but very real expression of the sacrificial cross with its tortured and stretched body. Operating with a high Christology — “in obedience to the divine command” — the eucharistic body of Christ is displayed, eaten and consumed (notice the further strong verb “ingested”). The act of remembrance is for Jasper no mere memory as though a shadow in contrast with reality. “To remember is no passive thing but a recreation in the whole of, and at the depths of, our being, a presencing…” Anamnesis is never simply psychological recall but a new creation, “recreation,” deep within us that can only be described as “presencing.”

There has been, maintains Jasper, a recovery of the importance of the body in (post-modern thought), though he also thinks that Christianity has been somewhat ambivalent about the body, “perhaps inevitably given its focus on the cross.” In this essay Jasper seems to be saying that the body celebrated in the Eucharist is, of course, the resurrected and glorified body of the Christ, yes, but it must first be appreciated as mutilated. This is a very costly body indeed. Perhaps we are less aware of the costliness than the sacrament demands. After using a number of artistic and literary references Jasper writes: “Art and literature continue to touch upon a barely conscious depth that Christian consciousness, nursed by theology, can barely comprehend in its narratives of resurrection and ascension, for it is only in a radical reversal of such consciousness, in an acknowledgment of the utter scandal of the body, that sacramental presence can begin.” This is not an easy sentence to grasp. What exactly is he saying? I hear him saying that Christian consciousness moves much too quickly to resurrection and ascension when contemplating the body of Christ. Theology nurses this move towards the glorified Christ and his body, and in a sense encourages and develops this move. But, to reach something of the sacramental presence of the eucharistic body there needs to be a re-appropriation of the mutilated and dead body of the Christ, “the body displayed is a broken body.” There needs to be a retrieval of the pain and the scandal of the cross. Jasper goes on to say, virtually without contextual comment, “Into every Eucharist we die.” Jasper recognizes and accepts with the tradition, at least from the time of Athanasius of Alexandria, that God became human so that humankind may be deified, and that central to our deification is the Eucharist. Nonetheless, he asserts categorically: “But the suffering and the scandal remain — absolutely.” The suffering and the scandal remain absolutely but sacramentally. “The words remain insistently, showing and inviting to the even deeper horror of consuming the elements, thus becoming one with the flesh incarnate, dismembered and resurrected.”

There is more to David Jasper’s complex essay than the emphasis I have drawn, but that emphasis is there. The costliness of the cross is folded into the costliness of the Eucharist, and to neglect that dimension is to sell the tradition short. Needless to say one could become overly obsessive with this dimension of the Eucharistic mystery — the suffering, pain, the sheer brutality, the costliness of it all. But to be unaware is to neutralize all that emerges in those words of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel: “Having loved his own in the world, he loved them to the end (eis telos)” (John 13:1), and his final word, “It is ended (tetelestai)” (John 19:30).


God Where We Are: Reflections from the Byzantine Liturgical Tradition: Part 2

Fr. James Karepin, O.P.

Chair, Ecumenism Metro Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Administrator, St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church (Mishawaka, IN)

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Platonic philosophy formed the underpinnings of the Byzantine world. According to this worldview, there is a two-tiered universe: reality exists in an ideal world above, whereas what exists here below is merely an imperfect reflection of what is above. For the Platonists, the ideal world above is spiritual, as opposed to the “fallen” world below which is material. The chasm can be overcome, however:  for Plato, the philosopher can break the hold of ponderous matter by contemplation, thus being transported beyond the veil to the hidden spiritual realms; in the Church, the philosopher becomes a mystic.


This view is congruent with salvation history: the fall of humanity and the banishment of Adam and Eve from Paradise parallels the Platonic fall from the spiritual ideal to the material shadows; the chasm is bridged by Jesus Christ, Whose descent from heaven and subsequent return models our own trajectory. In the prayer before the ambo of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, the celebrant sings,

“Sanctify those who love the beauty of Your house, and glorify them by Your Divine Power. … For all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from You, the Father of Lights.”

Is it not the Platonic view of salvation which is being celebrated here?  The Platonic view of salvation undergirds the Byzantine liturgical theology. This is evident in the words of the Cherubic hymn, which is sung at the time of the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy, and which serves as an offertory hymn.

Let us who mystically represent the cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity now lay aside all the cares of life … that we may receive the King of all, escorted invisibly by ranks of angels. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.


Beneath the poetry, the Platonic worldview comes out clearly. When we sing that “we mystically represent the cherubim”, we admit that the cherubim are in heaven – i.e,.  in the ideal spiritual world of which our own earthly existence is merely a reflection: as the immortal angels assemble in heaven around the throne of God, so do we mortals gather around the earthly throne which God chooses – namely, the altar. Our liturgical celebration – complete with clinkers and a reliance upon ecclesia supplet – is an imperfect attempt to imitate the heavenly celebration: as the angels in heaven sing God’s praises, so do we on earth. This is our liturgical theology in a nutshell.

While the Cherubic hymn is being sung, the bread and wine are transferred to the altar for consecration. Christ, Who bridges the gulf between the material and spiritual worlds, is made visible in this procession with the gifts. Clearly evident in the Great Entrance is the commercium divinum – the exchange of gifts between heaven and earth. David Power explains this succinctly:

From the earth, the Word takes human nature, but brings it into an exchange with the divine, and so sanctifies it by the gifts of grace. The exchange therefore is not rooted in the bringing of gifts by the community, but in the gift that comes from God in the incarnation and that constitutes an exchange, or a commercium between the divine and the human.  (Cited in Celebrating Divine Mystery: A Primer in Liturgical Theology by Catherine Vincie, RSHM, p.56)

Note that the emphasis is on divine gift rather than human action. This is evident throughout the sacramental life of the Byzantine Churches. For example, the baptismal formula emphasizes God’s action rather than that of the priest by its use of the passive form: instead of saying “I baptize”, the priest says “the servant of God is baptized”. In the case of marriage, it is not the man and woman who bestow marriage upon one another by their vows; rather, they receive the gift of marriage in the crowns bestowed by the Church, thus being held up as living icons of Christ for the community. God works, and we are transformed – if we allow it.


The Church is the New Jerusalem. This fact is represented in the Church building, which houses the assembled Pilgrim People of God; again in Platonic fashion, the church building represents the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God in heaven. The beauty of the building, with its architectural and artistic elements – along with the total sensory experience which is the liturgy itself – gives the congregation an experience of heaven. (c.f., visuals) We stand with Volodymyr’s awestruck emissaries and wonder whether we are still on earth; the words “Thy Kingdom come” become a reality. If our jaws drop at the beauty of the church which we behold, then the architects and artisans and artists have done their job.

Just a word about the extravagant sensory experience which the Byzantine liturgy is. The sights and sounds and smells all contribute to an atmosphere aimed at transporting the faithful beyond the earthly to the heavenly realms. Our churches should not have pews – as unfortunately they usually do in this country; rather, the faithful should be free to wander, following the inspiration of the graced moment. Remember what has been said concerning Platonism: the philosopher escapes the fallen material world by contemplation; does the congregation not do the same thing?


Being Capacitated for Liturgy: Part III

David Fagerberg, PhD

Associate Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

Senior Advisor of NDCL, Co-editor of Oblation

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This talk was given at the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy’s June Conference, Formed for the Liturgy, Reformed by the Liturgy.

Part I     Part II

The passions

Let me sidetrack for a moment and sketch what the ascetical tradition has said about human nature, and how it is capacitated by the virtues, but remember that I am on my way back to considering how this relates to liturgy.  My remarks are not as irrelevant as they might sound when I begin in the Egyptian deserts of the third and fourth centuries, because that wisdom came out from there and passed into the great tradition, including the west, as I will explain.

But it is in the Egyptian desert that Christians made their first ascetical experiments upon the human heart.  I like to speak of it as experimentation because like all good scientists they tried to create a controlled environment for their experiment.  As anyone in high school science knows, in a controlled environment one removes any external factors that might affect the subject.

Well, these monks (by which we mean both men and women monastics) wanted to see what it took to reorder a life to God.  And they removed the external factors by removing themselves from the external factors!  They headed to the desert – away from city, family, wealth and property – not because they thought these things were bad, and not in order to do something none of the rest of us should do -but so they could carry out a closer examination upon the human heart.


When one of the monks was asked what he was doing there he took a stick and stirred up the mud in a puddle and asked the visitor to tell him what he could see.  “Nothing,” came the answer.  They sat for a while in silence, the mud settled, the water became clear and reflective again.  “Now what can you see?” he asked his visitor, and now his guest could now see his own reflection. “That is what I’m doing here,” he said.

Monastic ascetics let the silt calm down, and they report to the rest of us what they saw in the human heart.  Christians from the cities came out to these spiritual athletes to ask them “for a word.”  The Life of Pachomius says people streamed out of the city like bees from a hive.  And the instructions given by the monks were collected and passed down in Greek, Latin, and Syriac in books simply called The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

One of the visitors to the Egyptian desert was named Evagrius of Pontus.  He systematized and recorded what he learned during his 17 years in the desert until his death in 399.

Aidan Kavanagh concludes,

“There can be no doubt that Evagrius stands at the fountainhead of Christian commentary on the ascetical life for both East and West, for Moscow and Constantinople as well as for Monte Cassino and Rome.”

Evagrius begins by saying that a human being has three faculties, or powers of operation.  (Might we call them capacities?)  Following the Greek philosophers, the monk called them the concupiscible, irascible, and intellective powers.  In other words, we have the capacity to desire, the capacity to be moved in spirit, and the capacity to think.  When everything is in balance, then reason stands under God’s law and directs our anger and appetite toward their proper ends.  (There are injustices which deserve our anger, and there are things which we should desire at the right time, in the right way, in the right measure.)  These faculties were created by God, and when the engine is running right there is no problem.  The problem comes when the intellective capacity no longer obeys the divine law.  When that happens, then the other two abilities also become disordered, and Evagrius says a person suffers the passions.

This ascetical tradition is using the word “passion” in a different way than the word came to be used in the West.  In our Western tradition a passion is neutral and it can be good (as in, he has a passion for art) or cause trouble (as in, he killed her in a fit of passion).  But when the Eastern ascetical tradition speaks of passions it nearly always means a faculty run amok.

As Maximus the Confessor says “a passion is a movement of the soul contrary to nature.” In other words, we do not do nature naturally anymore.  Maximus again, “The vices, whether of the concupiscible, the irascible, or the rational element, come upon us with the misuse of the faculties of the soul.”

Evagrius identified eight passions, organized around the three faculties.

When the concupiscible faculty is in disarray the result is gluttony, impurity, and avarice. When the irascible faculty is distorted the result is sadness, anger, and acedia (which means a despondency that results in a slothful negligence of spiritual obligations). And when the intellective faculty becomes warped the result is vainglory and pride.

Finally, Evagrius describes the battle against the passions as going through three stages.  I will not go into that, because I do not need it for my hypothesis, but you should know something interesting about their names.  He calls the first stage praktike because it is the practical art of how to combat the passions.  He calls the second stage physike because once we are freed in some measure from the passions we can see God’s providential care in the physical creation around us.  And in the third stage we come to the Creator, not just his creation, and we enter into union with the Trinity.  (You might recognize these three stages in all mysticism, east and west:  purgation, illumination, and union.)

Now, this third stage Evagrius calls by the name theologia.  This is what theology was for the fathers of the church:

direct communion with God in prayer, and ‘to theologize’ is to pray in spirit and in truth.” (Berthold).  Evagrius says “If you are a theologian you truly pray; if you truly pray you are a theologian.”

So apparently, theology does not begin in the card catalog, it begins with prayer, fasting and almsgiving which cuts us free, like Lazarus, from our burial sheets, and leads us into eternal life.


And before there were universities with theology departments, there were theologians of this type.  That is how I stumbled into the ascetical tradition in my work on liturgical theology.

The whole aim of asceticism is to capacitate a person for prayer, and the highest experience of prayer is theology, and the liturgy is where we pray as Christ’s mystical body inspirated by the Holy Spirit.  And as I will show in the next posting, this approach to theology is the work of Mrs. Murphy.



Called to Grace: Behold I Am With You Always

Michele Chronister

Graduate of Echo 6

Catechist and writer

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I am always struck by these words of Jesus before He ascends into heaven. His promise to remain with us always, is made real to me each time I go to Mass or am in His presence in the tabernacle or monstrance. Coming to know Jesus in the Eucharist is about being open to the grace He brings, and about growing ever deeper in our relationship with Him. It is about sitting in the silence, so that we can hear that “tiny whispering sound.”

One of the most debated and discussed topics in the world of those considering ministry for those with special needs/disabilities is the question of whether or not these individuals can receive Communion. From that comes similar questions about whether or not these individuals can receive other Sacraments, such as Reconciliation. (I hope it is not showing my hand too much to say that I am a strong proponent of making the Sacraments available for those with disabilities, even severe mental disabilities, whenever possible.) This is something that we will discuss in depth in a future post (or maybe even multiple posts) because it deserves much thought and reflection.

But, before we go down that route, I want to consider something more basic and foundational – the importance of the Eucharist in the lives of those with special needs/disabilities. I already shared the story of Paul in my previous post, the young man with more severe developmental disabilities who showed such joy when he received Jesus in the Eucharist. Paul is representative of so many who I have worked with. What is it about the Eucharist that is so important when working with individuals with special needs?

Any catechist who has ever taught  (let alone any catechist who has ever taught a class with students with special needs) knows the hopeless feeling that no matter what they say or do, they cannot reach certain students. I’m willing to wager many parents have experienced this feeling, too. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that most of us have felt this way at one point or another in our relationships with those we care about, “Will nothing I say change their minds or hearts?” This is a perfectly natural way to feel, especially when trying to catechize or convert someone. This especially applies to those working with students with special needs, who are facing even greater challenges in effectively communicating to those entrusted to their care.

The reason for this is simple.  The work of catechesis and conversion is not our own. It is God’s work, and sometimes, through His grace in us, we are permitted to take part in this beautiful work. This is especially apparent to the catechist of those with special needs. To many of these students, God may not be someone who they have been given the opportunity to know (although God knows and loves them very well). There are many reasons for this, most of which are out of the student’s control. For example, some individuals with autism are given to loud verbal outbursts, some individuals with Down syndrome many find Mass very long and can not stay until the end of a typical Sunday Mass, or an individual with ADHD may not be able to sit still for the Eucharist. For these students, Mass is often something that they and their families heroically endure and then leave as soon as possible. They may have to undergo unsympathetic looks or judgmental whispers from other parishioners who do not understand. Even in a best case scenario, where other parishioners and the pastor exhibit empathy, the whole ordeal may still be overwhelming and exhausting both for the family of an individual with special needs and the individual. The thought of staying after Mass to pray with Jesus in the tabernacle is the farthest thing from their minds, because of this.


Yet, with encouragement, these students can come to know Jesus in the Eucharist. In the parish I was placed at during my Echo apprenticeship, something simple we did to help with this was to build  time with Jesus in the tabernacle into every lesson.
Our classroom was not far from the church, and so we would walk to the tabernacle during each lesson and the students would gather and kneel  or sit around the tabernacle while we read a brief passage from Scripture and said a brief prayer. Each time we would ask the students, “Who is that in the tabernacle?” And many of them quickly learned the right response, “Jesus!” I have taught both children with and without disabilities in the catechetical setting and I am amazed by the difference in their reactions to this. The students I catechized who did not have special needs struggled to understand and accept how it could be true that Jesus was really in the tabernacle. Yet, the students with special needs were quick to accept and assert this truth!

Many a student have I had that I felt completely incapable of catechizing. I felt that no matter what I said or did, I could not reach them, could not help them to grow in faith. I knew I was doing everything I possibly could, but it just didn’t feel like enough.

Then, I would take them to be with Jesus in the tabernacle. Each time we visited Him, He worked on their hearts. He gave them His love. He became a real part of their existence, a real Person who they came to know and encounter. This was not so because of anything I said. It was the case because of what He said, in the silence, as we knelt in the dim church together, praying to Him and listening to His words in Scripture.

Although this is often not something thought about or considered, I am convinced that time with Jesus in the Eucharist – especially in adoration! – is an absolutely essential component of catechesis for those with special needs. Where our many words can do little, His silence speaks volumes…if only we let Him. By bringing our students with special needs to be with Jesus in the tabernacle or monstrance we give them the opportunity to come to know Love Incarnate. They are in the presence of the love of Christ on the cross, made present again in the Eucharist.

We would benefit from such time, too.

God Where We Are: Reflections from the Byzantine Liturgical Tradition: Part 1

Fr. James Karepin, O.P.

Chair, Ecumenism Metro Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Administrator, St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church (Mishawaka, IN)

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This talk was given at the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy’s June Conference, Formed for the Liturgy, Reformed by the Liturgy.

It is a great privilege for me to stand here before you, and a daunting challenge. You see, I am not a liturgist by training. My study of French gave me access to the works of my Dominican brother, Yves Congar, whose thought contributed so much to the renewal ushered in by Vatican II. In many ways, the mystery of the Trinity led me to follow in Congar’s footsteps as an ecclesiologist and an ecumenist. Being both a Ukrainian Catholic and a Dominican, I find myself daily called upon to live out the vocation which many have attributed to the Byzantine Catholic Churches – namely, that of a bridge. In short, my presentation comes largely out of my experience: as a Byzantine, I rely upon the liturgy itself to be my teacher; after all, for us Byzantines, the liturgy is not merely an expression of our faith, but rather a source of our faith: we take “lex orandi, lex credendi” seriously. Don’t look for a lot of footnotes: rather than a technical or academic treatment, I hope to share our faith in the Triune God as revealed in the Byzantine liturgical tradition. So I begin my presentation “God where we are: Reflections from the Byzantine Liturgical Tradition”.

Permit me to begin by mentioning a basic difference between Eastern and Western Christians. If asked “What do you believe?”, these two groups will answer in very different ways. Westerners, relying heavily upon cognitive functions and verbal skills, will attempt to convey their belief system in words: they will tell the questioner what they believe. Easterners, on the other hand, rely more heavily upon the senses and the heart, and will show questioners what they believe rather than telling them about it: the importance of the Gospel will be presented in the gilded, jewel-clad book with which we process and which we kiss; the Resurrection is proclaimed in the reuniting of the Body and Blood of Christ – both in the chalice, and upon the spoon with which Ukrainian Catholic clergy distribute the reunited Eucharistic elements to the faithful; the communion of saints, the “cloud of witnesses” surrounding us, becomes real in the icons with which we embellish the spaces we frequent, and which we venerate. Come to my church: I’d be happy to spend more time sharing faith à la byzantine; for now, we must move on.


Permit me to reflect upon yet one more distinctive Byzantine characteristic. As a Dominican, I cannot resist doing so using Thomistic terminology. In the West, conversion is brought about by efficient causality. Now efficient causality is how a nail gets into a wall: we work at it until the job is done. For us Byzantines, a different principle is at work – namely, formal causality, which I also like to refer to as “iconic”. We all know that Christ is the perfect image of God, the true icon revealed to us in salvation history. When we gaze upon an icon, we admire its beauty and are drawn to it; in the case of Christ, we are drawn to the divine perfection which burns in Him as if with the Pentecostal flame of the Spirit. We are in awe at the goodness which Christ manifests, and we desire to become more and more like Him. We are drawn to Christ, to His intimate embrace of love; we spend time with Him, developing a relationship; as we do so, we come more and more to resemble Him – as indeed married couples sometimes grow to resemble one another after years of life together. Eventually, we “catch the fire” and are transformed into living, breathing icons in which others can see the light of Christ, icons through which they can experience the warmth of God’s love. We are transfigured not only for our own salvation, but also that we might be instruments of salvation for all that we meet. In this “spiritual contagion”, we change the world by being changed: after all, nemo dat quod non habet. Our whole life is about conversion, and the liturgy plays an important role in this. Formal causality is foundational: contemplating the presence of the glorious Christ, we and the cosmos and everything in it can aspire to become a credible icon of the divine.


The Byzantine spiritual tradition was shaped by the imperial city of Constantinople in which it grew up; from there, it spread to Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and eventually to the wilds of northern Indiana. It was in the great Church of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia, that the envoys of Prince Volodymyr experienced a liturgy which made them wonder whether they had been transported to heaven. When Volodymyr chose this faith for his people and brought it to Kyiv in 988, a worldview came with it.

And over the coming week or so, I’ll share a bit of this worldview with you the reader.



Being Capacitated for Liturgy: Part II

David Fagerberg, PhD

Associate Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

Senior Advisor of NDCL, Co-editor of Oblation

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This talk was given at the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy’s June Conference, Formed for the Liturgy, Reformed by the Liturgy.

Part I

With this brief background I can easily state my hypothesis.  The liturgical renewal has spoken at length about skills and activities.  I do not say this as a criticism.  Not at all.  Liturgy is a collection of activities and can be said to be a ritual skill set.  It is made up of speaking words, making gestures, adopting postures, going on processions, singing songs, and espousing declarations that make up liturgy.  But in addition to skills and activities, I want us to think about the capacities required for liturgy.

And since capacities are not done by the hour, but by the lifetime, the thing I am trying to talk about is not something accomplished before the clock strikes noon on a Sunday morning.  Rather it seems to involve what happens between one eighth day and the next.  In addition to the liturgies that are done by the hour, what about the liturgy done over a lifetime?

Liturgies end, but the liturgy does not.  Joseph Jungmann gives us some helpful vocabulary.  He observes that the church of the first century clearly understood that what the Lord established at the Last Supper “is a eucharistia” and this is what the Church has been celebrating since.

“The word was suggested already by the eucharistesas of the New Testament accounts. In the linguistic usage of that time it means to consider and conduct oneself as eucharistos, that is, as one richly overwhelmed with gifts and graces.”

To translate into my shorthand, he seems to be saying that doing the activity of eucharistia involves being capacitated as a eucharistos.  I am speaking about the slow accretion of sanctity.  The lifelong effect of liturgies should be a growth in holiness. The liturgical life is like throwing a stone into a rock tumbler to be polished smooth, and it is a time-consuming process.  Each tumble we take in liturgy is supposed to polish the truth the image of God to a clearer and brighter state.  This requires repetition –

so here comes Advent and           Christmas again!

Here is the feast of the Annunciation once more.

Didn’t we do Lent last year?

We step in and out of liturgies over the course of our lives, but I hope we never step outside of the liturgy.  As Robert Taft says, “the purpose of all Christian liturgy is to express in a ritual moment that which should be the basic stance of every moment of  our lives.”  At the beginning of the Eucharist in the liturgy of the St. John Chrysostom, the deacon bids the Church

“Let us stand aright; let us stand with fear; let us attend, that we may offer the Holy Oblation in peace.”


We are supposed to go into each liturgy with this stance, and each liturgy further improves our posture.  Standing aright in reverence before God means that our loves and desires have been properly aligned.  It is what St. Augustine meant by ordo amoris – rightly ordered love.  It is defined as a condition of the affections in which “every object is accorded the degree of love appropriate to it.”

But how does one reach ordo amoris? That takes practice and training, and this is what the great tradition meant by asceticism.  I am afraid the word has a poor reputation among us.  Asceticism makes us think of someone who is strict, stern, and pointlessly austere.  We confuse it with masochism, or Manichaeism, and being unable to appreciate the delights of creation.  But asceticism did once have a more positive meaning in the Christian tradition, and I am trying to contribute to the word’s rehabilitation.  It comes from the Greek word askesis, which simply meant “training.”

It was used of athletes, so to lock it in my undergrads’ minds I say “the baseball players are on their way to Florida for their spring askesis again.”  Asceticism is a kind of discipline, a physical exercise, a training regimen.  From the realm of physical exercise it was came to the also applied to the realm of spiritual exercise. Asceticism consists of the small steps taken to align our love and reverence properly.  Ortho means straight, true, correct; an ortho-dontist will tighten the wire to straighten my teeth; asceticism will tighten my dissoluteness so that I can stand straight and worship God with ortho-doxy.

This leads Paul Evdokimov to define askesis as the “reconstruction of the imago dei.”  We have not lost the image of God in us; original sin does not have that power.   But it has been rusted over, muddied, effaced.   The fathers of the church spoke of baptism refreshing image of God in us, but this is not a 5 minute ritual task, this is a lifelong capacitation.  Christian asceticism rubs baptisms sanctifying water into every nook and cranny of our life.

Fr John Behr’s study of asceticism in Irenaeus and Clement leads him to conclude,

“asceticism was not a detachable dimension of Christian life, a specialized technique … or the domain of the monastics. Rather, asceticism was the realization, the putting into practice, of the new eschatological life granted in baptism within the confines of the present life.”

A metaphor that he uses is an artist chipping away bits of stone to reveal a statue.  Olivier Clement describes the positive character of asceticism like this:

Ascesis then is an awakening from the sleep-walking of daily life. It enables the Word to clear the silt away in the depth of the soul, freeing the spring of living waters. The Word can restore to its original brightness the tarnished image of God in us, the silver coin that has rolled in the dust but remains stamped with the king’s likeness (Luke 15). It is the Word who acts, but we have to co-operate with him, not so much by exertion of will-power as by loving attentiveness. …

Now, there are many motives for practicing an asceticism – athletes do it to win games, Stoics do it to control emotions, a good philosopher could do it in pursuit of a moral life –but I propose that if one undergoes an asceticism, a training, in order to be capacitated for liturgy, then we should call it “liturgical asceticism.”

Liturgical asceticism is the struggle to imitate what we see in each liturgy, namely, a human being in filial communion with God the Father.  The goal of liturgical asceticism is for us to be conformed to Christ by the Holy Spirit.  This places us before the Father in praise, and in the world as servants.

If liturgy means sharing the life of Christ (being washed in his resurrection, eating his body), and if askesis means discipline (in the sense of forming), then liturgical asceticism is the discipline required to become an icon of Christ and make his image visible in our faces. 


To be continued on Friday…



2012 Liturgy Symposium: Become What You Receive, Receive What You Are

The Notre Dame Center for Liturgy is pleased to announce its roster of teachers for the first annual Liturgy Symposium, entitled “Become What You Receive, Receive What You Are.”  The event, focusing on the Eucharist as a mystery to be believed, celebrated, and lived will take place from June 18 to 21, 2012.  It is open to all directors of religious education, youth ministers, liturgical and music ministers, high school religion teachers, priests, deacons, and campus ministers.  For more information contact

Featured teachers include:

Fr. Paul Turner, S.T.D.
St. Munchin Parish
Cameron, Missouri



Sr. Joyce Ann Zimmerman, C.PP.S., Ph.D., S.T.D.
Founder and Director
Institute for Liturgical Ministry
Dayton, Ohio



Fr. Jan Michael Joncas, S.L.D.
Associate Professor
University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, Minnesota



David Fagerberg, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana


Timothy O’Malley, Ph.D.
Acting Director and Concurrent Professor of Theology
Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana


Jenifer Suehs-Vassel, M.Div.
Pastoral Associate
Our Lady of Help of Christians Parish
Newton, Massachusetts


Brian Suehs-Vassel, M.Div.
Campus Minister for Service Opportunities
Merrimack College
North Andover, Massachusetts









Being Capacitated for Liturgy (Part I)

David Fagerberg, PhD

Associate Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

Senior Advisor of NDCL, Co-editor of Oblation

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This talk was given at the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy’s June Conference, Formed for the Liturgy, Reformed by the Liturgy.    

The liturgy weaves itself into our daily lives.  It changes us, and we must prepare for it. This talk will consider what the person undergoes by this regular dance with liturgical reality. Special attention will be paid to the vices and virtues.

The presence of the word “capacitated” in my title is a salute to one of my mentors in graduate school, now many years ago.  It is interesting to find what voices one carries along in one’s head.  Paul Holmer was the professor who for me turned the noun “capacity” into a verb, “capacitate”.   In his world of discourse, capacity did not mean a vacant space, like an empty stage behind the curtain, rather it meant the process of fulfilling a potential – more like staging the set on which you will act out your life.  And so he did not speak of capacity as a blank slate.  He spoke of being capacitated as growing into a complete person by means of practicing the virtues.  Being capacitated means cultivating a form of life.

Capacities are woven into the texture of a life, and they make up that life.  He would make his point by distinguishing a capacity, on the one hand, from an activity or skill, on the other.

(a) Playing basketball is an activity, (b) playing basketball well is a skill, (c) but hoping is a capacity.

(a) Reading is an activity you can do (b) after you learn the skill in second grade, (c) but understanding is a capacity.

And one of the signs that distinguishes a capacity from the others, he would say, is that skills and activities are done by the hour, but a capacity is done by the lifetime.  It would NOT be odd for me to say that I will be reading in the library between 2:00 and 3:00;        it would be odd for me to say that I will be understanding between 2:00 and 3:00.  Understanding is a capacity, and not an activity.  Holmer meant that you have to develop capacities across the course of a life, you cannot just do it in an afternoon.  Capacities therefore operate steadily and persistently below the surface, and do not start and stop the way activities do.


So you get the sense that a capacity actually undergirds the person in all he or she does. They are not “on the clock,” so to speak, rather they are the scaffolding, the I-beams holding up the narrative of a life.

Being capacitated to love, hope, grieve, rejoice, or believe occurs over a lifetime.

Of course, I’m afraid that lives can also be capacitated to hate, be vengeful, envy, be avaricious or lustful.  A life can be capacitated by the virtues, or by the vices, resulting in one life that is virtuous, the other vicious.  We aid in the formation of capacities daily, like doing reps at the gym, and our flabby virtues gain strength by repeatedly forgiving, or steadfastly loving, or regularly rejoicing.  Our identity develops according to how we live.  And the task of our life is the acquisition of those capacities that will become a deep-seated and controlling disposition in us.

I will turn to one more point from Holmer in order to set my stage.  As a philosopher, he thought about what it would cost a subject to know something. (This is not subjectivism, as it is commonly defined.  He is not saying that the subject determines the truth of the indent proposition, or that truth is different for each subject, or that there are different truths for different subjects.)  Rather, he is suggesting that before certain things can be known, something will be required of the knower.  The knower must be capacitated to receive the knowledge.  Holmer makes his point in this pithy statement: “What we know depends upon the kind of person we have made ourselves.”

Think about it for a moment.  There are things that a certain kind of person cannot know.

  • There are tender things that a gruff and hardened person cannot know;
  • there are flickers of joy that come from giving a gift that the selfish person will never know;
  • someone who nurses a grudge for a long enough time may forget the gentleness that used to mark the relationship;
  • the avaricious man, who thinks only in terms of profit and cost analysis, will not be able to account for what motivates his generous friends and will only think them fools.

In order to understand the bright things in life, the cataracts must be removed from our eye.  We must be capacitated in order to see clearly.  And if Christ is ever going to teach us that the Father is love, more love, and nothing but love, we will not do so by simply stating the fact over and over again, instead we must be changed in our hearts.  I am at the threshold of what I mean by liturgical asceticism.  To be continued on Wednesday…


A Sermon from the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

David Halm, C.S.C.

M.Div. Candidate, University of Notre Dame

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Editor’s Note:  This reflection was given on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows at Moreau Seminary Chapel for Lucenarium in 2011.  For those interested in exploring more about the Congregation of Holy Cross, click here.

2 Timothy 2:8-12A

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.  Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory.  This saying is trustworthy:  If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we endure we shall also reign with him.

Continue reading A Sermon from the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Silent Spaces: A Theology of Discernment and Pastoral Response for the Quarter Life Crisis (Part VI)

John Glynn

Boston College Campus Ministry, Kairos Retreats

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Part I     Part II     Part III     Part IV    Part V

Silent Spaces: Charting a Pastoral Response

Rationale and Purpose:

In the Catholic Church in the U.S, most young adult ministry is largely characterized by gathering communities for the sake of fellowship and/or catechesis.  However, many churches struggle to engage emerging adults, as many emerging adults wrestle with larger issues of identity before they begin to solidify faith communities. As I have argued in the previous section, the need for the recovery of authentic discernment is crucial to the church of today and tomorrow in order to help emerging adults discover their authentic selves, and thus can begin to form communities of love and action.  Discernment, then, should serve as the pastoral approach for ministry to those in emerging adulthood – a stage of life that presents unique needs and opportunities, and when the process of identity formation is at its apex.

Description of the Program:

Due to the noisy culture we live in, real silence is rarely experienced.  Yet, silence is crucial because it allows us to hear deeply the voice of God within ourselves – a voice that tells us we are loved.  Simply recognizing God’s affirming voice changes our lives and compels us to love outwards.  Listening to the voice of God helps to form us into discerning people that seek God’s presence and activity in all things.  But silence has to be the foundation of that listening, or else we will fail to distinguish God’s voice from the cacophony of voices in our world.  Therefore, this ministry program will seek to build habits of silence in its participants in order to lay a foundation for authentic discernment.  Sessions will feature a range of practices, including journaling, Eucharistic Adoration, and exploration of Ignatian spiritual practices found in the Spiritual Exercises.  The goals of the program include learning habits of connecting one’s feelings and actions, introducing and becoming comfortable with a language of vocation, and building a foundation for life-long discernment.  Prayer will begin and end each session, and light hospitality will be provided for the comfort of the participants.


The program is aimed at those who would identify themselves as going through the “quarter-life crisis” – the feelings of being lost, unmoored, confused, and/or aimless that accompanies many emerging adults in the first years away from the formal structures of one’s youth.  These workshops on discernment can be offered in a variety of locations – wherever there is access to a population of emerging adults, such as a parish, diocese, or graduate students on a college campus.  A possible title for the program could be “Silent Spaces”, which communicates what emerging adults can expect to experience in the workshops.  There will be six sessions, each lasting approximately one hour:

Session One: Introductions, statement of focus of program and basic assumptions about silence / discernment, invitation to be open and honest, hand out candles.

-Provide hospitality by way of light refreshments to help the group feel comfortable.  This is will be offered at the beginning of every session.

-Have participants introduce themselves and explain feelings that have brought them to the group.

-Lead them through “highs and lows” (which will later be connected to the Ignatian principle of consolations and desolations) as an introduction into how we will be thinking over the course of the sessions.

-10 minutes of silence.

-Practice at home: pay attention to feelings over the course of the week, make notes if necessary to bring back to group, spend 10 minutes “with the candle” every day – this exercise will help give something to focus on in the silence, as it can be extremely restless for people to sit in silence at first.  The candlelight also helps calm us – serving as a contrast to our technology-saturated world and allowing us to “unplug” with something tangible and real.


Session Two: Start with feedback from attention to feelings since last meeting, hand out journals, explain purpose of journaling and how it can be a helpful tool in discernment

-Lead them through the Ignatian practice of the Examen

-Initiation to journal for twenty minutes about what feelings arose

-12 minutes of silence

-Practice at home: make at least one good journal entry before next meeting, focusing on consolations and desolations, and spend 12 minutes with the candle each day

Session Three: Begin by discussing the experience of spending time with the candle over the week and journaling about consolations and desolations, lead Lectio Divina with the Baptism at the River Jordan from Mark 1:9-13, begin conversation about our individual images of God (in scripture, relationships, analogical images, etc).

-Journal for twenty minutes about feelings that arose in conversation

-15 minutes of silence

-Practice at home: continue to journal about consolations and desolations; spend 15 minutes with the candle every day

Session Four: Start with feedback about where they saw God, lead Centering Prayer using the guidelines for centering prayer found on the website, begin conversation about images of Jesus

-20 minutes of silence using centering prayer

-Journal for twenty minutes about feelings

-Practice at home: attempt to exemplify the image of Jesus that means the most to you in concrete ways over the course of the week, spend 20 minutes with the candle every day

Session Five: Start with feedback from homework, go into Eucharistic Adoration as a way of sitting silently with the Eucharist: the Real Presence of Jesus within our community.  It will be explained that Eucharistic Adoration is a way to spend time in silence with God in the sacred space of a chapel and can be a useful practice if it is hard for us to avoid distraction in our silent spaces at home.

-Spend 30 minutes in silence in the presence of the Eucharist

-Re-gather for concluding conversation about experience in adoration

-Journal for ten minutes

-Practice at home: spend 30 minutes with the candle every day


Session Six: Start with feedback from homework, discussion on how they feel they now compared to the beginning of the sessions, develop action plans going forward

-Spend 10 minutes in silence as a reminder to always seek silence

-Hand out the Henri Nouwen’s Way of the Heart or other spiritual resources for ongoing reflection

-Hand out evaluation forms to gather feedback about the program

-Thank you’s

-Practice at home: fill out and return evaluation forms

Anticipated Outcome and Evaluation:

Through the course of the program, participants will have hopefully experienced silence that led to an awareness of feelings, desires, and conflictions and became comfortable with silence.  They will have learned practices of discernment in the midst of silence, such as journaling, adoration, and prayer techniques such as the Examen.  They will have learned new language for speaking about God, vocation, and calling – a new vocabulary that will hopefully make them more aware of discerning God’s presence every day.  Ancillary outcomes are that they connected with other emerging adults and so built relationships within the community, understood the connection between God’s call and the career they are pursing and so generated vocational goals for the future such as reaffirming a current career or contemplating a new one, and became more hopeful and at peace with decisions about their lives.

An evaluation done in written form will help show the efficacy of the program and how it could be improved for the next round of sessions.