Eucharist and Creed  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Anglican priest Ralph McMichael is director of the Center for the Eucharist in St Louis, Missouri.  He is the author of Eucharist:  A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark International 2010).  This is an excellent overview of eucharistic practice and theology from a very catholic and sacramental perspective.  Chapter 5 analyses the sequence of actions that comprise the eucharistic celebration (in the Western church), including the significance of the congregational recitation of the Nicene Creed.

The excerpt is found on pp 115-116.


Two types of confession characterize the Eucharistic life.  The first type is associated with the recitation of the Nicene Creed, and the second type is associated with the confession of sins...One type of confession is the act of adhering to a statement or set of beliefs preceding  the confessors.  There are statements of belief, truth, and meaning that one recites as a way of submitting to them.  Confession is not a sharing of opinion, and the corporate act of confession is not an aggregate of opinion.  In fact, agreement with content is not the essence of the confession; it is not an expression of what we think.  It is to submit to the boundaries of belief so that one might learn to live in this new territory.  The content becomes the subject of thought; we are to wrestle with what is said.  The Creed, and whole Eucharist, is the way that we are incorporated into the mind of Christ, which exists as the ecclesial Body of Christ.  The development of Creeds began in a Christian regula fidei, a rule or a way to regulate the faith.  Faith as that which is believed, in contrast to faith by which one believes, is not an amorphous entity requiring our agreement to keep it afloat.  Faith is a regulation of Christian life; it keeps us heading the right way.  The recitation of the Nicene Creed in the Eucharist is directed forward and is not a bit of nostalgia for the old days of certainty.  The Creed is our way to communion...

The common faith recited and received in the Eucharist requires commitment but not consensus.  A theme present in each dimension of the Eucharistic life is that communion is received by the offering self, the offering assembly, and is not an achievement of proper order and thought.  We do not achieve, possess, or produce communion, but we do submit faithfully to its life and demands.  Confessing a common faith is a visible manifestation of a gathering of persons for the purpose of sharing a life given to them.  These gathered, confessing, persons will keep meeting each other within this faithful act, a place to encounter confessors from previous ages and other Eucharistic celebrations within this common faith.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 at Friday, July 29, 2011 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 comments

Joe, thanks for this excerpt and pointing me to a new book. His idea that confession is about commitment more than content or consensus is really helpful in responding to a culture of individualism. The liturgy asks of us obedience. That obedience, it seems, helps us be present and open to something and Someone larger than ourselves.

Peace, Mike+

July 30, 2011 at 6:28 AM

I don't believe this. I am an atheist. Why should I go to church? What is there for me?

October 7, 2011 at 11:37 PM

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