Liturgy and the Trinity  

Posted by Joe Rawls

 As Christians, when we think at all of how the sacraments "work", we tend to have more or less vague notions that they somehow connect us to Jesus.  However, Jesus is part of a Trinitarian God, and the efficacy of sacraments means that they connect us to the Father, through the risen Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  

For today's celebration of Trinity Sunday, we look at some insights into how the liturgy expresses Trinitarian theology.  They are contained in an essay by Roman Catholic theologian Susan K Wood.  It is found in the excellent reference The Cambridge Guide to the Trinity, Peter C Phan, ed, Cambridge University Press, 2011.  The excerpt below is found on pp 383-384. 


The movement of God's saving action and our response are related to two essential liturgical elements, anamnesis and epiclesis.  Anamnesis, translated as "memorial", "commemoration," or "remembrance", actually has the much stronger meaning of making present an event or person from the past.  Anamnesis asks God to remember his saving work in Jesus Christ in order that the benefits of Christ's sacrifice may be made present to the faithful here and now.   These deeds are actually made present in the liturgy in the anamnesis, not as a repetition of his saving deeds or as a mere recollection of them, but as an actualization of them within the modality of sacramental sign.   The anamnesis is accomplished through the work of the Spirit, who "awakens the memory of the Church then inspires thanksgiving and praise." 

The epiclesis is a calling on the Spirit to transform the material of creation and make it salvific in its sacramental use.  Sacraments are effective because they are Christ's action, made present through the power of the Spirit.  Although we may think of the epiclesis primarily in terms of the Eucharist, most of the sacraments, as we shall see, have an epicletic moment.  The Holy Spirit brings us into communion with Christ, effects our spiritual transformation into the image of Christ, both individually and corporately, and constitutes Christ's eccesial body, the corpus mysticum.  Thus the Spirit is the bond of unity in the church and the source of empowerment for service and mission. 

The Father as the source and end of all blessings of creation and salvation is the source and goal of the liturgy, which reveals and communicates the divine blessing.  We receive these blessings through the incarnate Word of the Father, who, in turn, pours out the gift of the Spirit.  The liturgy offers adoration, praise, and thanksgiving to the Father by offering to the Father his own gifts, especially the gift of his Son.  The Spirit "recalls and makes Christ manifest to the faith of the assembly", "makes Christ present here and now", and "unites the Church to the life and mission of Christ". 

The end or purpose of all the sacraments is reconciliation with the Father and the Father's glorification (Eph 1:12; 2 Cor 3: 18, Jn 17).  The Latin word for sacrament, sacramentum, is a translation of the Greek word mysterion, which refers to God's plan for salvation (Col 1: 26-27).  This plan is the Father's plan "to reconcile to himself all things through Christ, in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, who made peace through the blood of his cross" (Col 1: 19-20).  The paschal mystery is the keystone of the Christian mystery.  All the liturgical feasts and sacraments are referenced to the event of Christ's dying and rising and to this great pattern of reconciliation with the Father through Christ in the power of the Spirit.  Thus the liturgical year is not simply a memesis or imitation of Christ's life.  Christmas is primarily about God's Word becoming flesh and dwelling among human beings in order to bring salvation.  Sacraments are not just seven anthropological markers of lifetime passages such as birth, puberty, sickness, and marriage, but relate to the two fundamental sacraments, baptism and Eucharist, in their functions of reconciliation and building up the church as a messianic saving community.  Sacraments give access to participation in this plan of salvation, anamnesis (memorial) and epiclesis being essential to each of them.  Anamnesis recalls the saving event of Jesus' death and resurrection so that it is actually present today, and epiclesis makes it effective through the power of the Spirit.  As Louis-Marie Chauvet has noted, "the sacraments appear not as the somehow static prolongations of the incarnation as such but as the major expression, in our own history, of the embodiment (historical/eschatological) of the risen One in the world through the Spirit, embodiment whose 'fundamental sacrament' is the church visibly born at Pentecost." 

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 26, 2013 at Sunday, May 26, 2013 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



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