Fr. Lewis considers me to be something of a ‘liturgical dinosaur’ because of some of the things I do at the altar.
One thing that particularly caught his attention was when I broke off a small piece of the consecrated Host and placed it in the Chalice. This action is known as ‘commingling’.
Its origins are complex, but have an honorable heritage.
Originally, there was only one Eucharist in each city on Sunday. The entire Christian community gathered together with an apostle or one appointed in his place (a bishop). As Christianity spread, it became physically impossible for all to gather for one celebration and different Eucharistic celebrations began to be held throughout the area. For these additional celebrations the bishop appointed priests or presbyters to preside over these gatherings.
In order to maintain the connection between that and the bishop’s liturgy, a small portion of the host consecrated by the bishop was taken to each of the other Eucharistic celebrations over which priests were presiding. This piece was called the fermentum, a Latin word that means leaven. It was placed into the chalice and “commingled” with the wine.
In our liturgy, we no longer receive a piece of the bishop’s host for each celebration. But, because I’m a ‘liturgical dinosaur’ I still break off a small part of the larger host and place it into the chalice – all to remind myself that my Holy Orders are devolved from the bishop, and that we as a congregation are a part of something far bigger. Episcopalians are not Congregationalists!
Another reason is also given for this ‘commingling’: that this small rite symbolizes the Lord’s resurrection. That is, in death, His body and blood were ‘separated’, but with the Resurrection they were united.
The above may seem quaint and of little value today, but there is, perhaps, another of the things that I do – actually, it is something that I say – that may be more pertinent.
It isn’t that long ago since we used our ears more than we used our eyes. Both senses have always been important, but our ability to communicate effectively and efficiently used to mean that the ears had it over the eyes.
Writing began to change this, but as only a few people could read and write, it was still the norm that hearing was the preeminent sense.
Then came along universal education, and what used to be unavailable to the masses suddenly became accessible. Stories, people’s thoughts and lives, history – all of these things and more became available. But even then, we preferred our stories in oral form – and when radio was invented it wasn’t long before the airwaves were, quite literally, filled with our stories.
But then TV was invented, and quickly this visual medium began to dominate over radio. Indeed, many popular radio shows transitioned over to TV – some finding more success than others, as the newly coined saying ‘He has a good face for radio’ might suggest!
Nowadays, something like 80% of the information we process comes from our sight, and our hearing has been relegated in importance.
There’s a problem with this.
TV shows and the like present us with information that requires little of us. We sit back and absorb it in a passive way as image after image hits our eyes. It is all prepackaged, all predetermined; it is, alarmingly, very much like a TV Dinner!
Listening, on the other hand, requires interpretation. When we hear something we need to pay attention; it requires us to be active in making sense of the information in a way that sight does not.
I can’t remember when the Bible readings began to make an appearance in the pews, but I believe that this happening is both a good and a bad thing.
It is good because it allows people to take home those Scripture readings and ponder them throughout the rest of the week. Reading – and pondering – Scripture is always a good thing!
It is bad because it is likely we no longer really listen. We read the words as the reader is speaking; we create our own inflections and voice rather than listen to the inflections and voice of the reader; we may get irked if someone pronounces a word differently than we would, or makes a mistake in the text.
But I’m a ‘liturgical dinosaur’ so at every Eucharist where I present the Gospel I say: “Hear the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to …”
At which, what I hear is a rustling of paper!
Might I suggest that as you stand for the Gospel Reading you leave your bulletin behind – and take the opportunity to hear the words of Jesus? Take this as an opportunity to let God speak to you through His Word.