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Flowing from the Altar – Lecture 3

The Soul of Ecclesiatic Renewal

St. Peter Diocesan Theology Course 2013:
The Chaldean Renaissance: Flowing from the Altar

Week 3: Wednesday, November 20, 2013; 7-9 PM

By Bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo

The whole life of the Church must have a core, a soul from which it draws its energy and vitality; this core is known in Theology to be the Qurbana of the Church, and by extension, the entirety of the life of the Sacraments, Liturgical Seasons and Daily Prayer. This is the heart of the ecclesial body that pumps spiritual blood of life to everyone and every organ in the Church, both as a community and as organization. A bishop must provide and organize, in the best manner, the requirements for its confection, offering and consumption. “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin….” (Heb 5: 1).

The subject of this lecture is to study and present the ecclesial meaning of this core, its centrality in the Christian life of faith, with its impact as an irreplaceable catalyst; looking carefully at its scriptural origin, as well as the modalities of its embodiment in our liturgies, in our devotions, ecclesial connections, and pastoral application.

Central worship in the Scriptures: 

The basic requirements of Worship are: Priesthood, Sacrifice, Temple; the peak of all is expressed in the Passover Offering. Jesus does not destroy the temple needed for worship, but he constructs a new one, which is his body. He is also the new High Priest, and his crucified Body is the Sacrifice. There are 2 basic moments: altar and banquet; a) Presentation and offering, in the temple. b) breaking and consuming in family homes. It is paramount to expose how the Sacramental founding act of Christ in the Last Supper corresponds to and replaces the Jewish Passover.

The Jewish Passover Practice: The day of April 14, in the afternoon, a lamb for each family ought to have been slain and offered in the temple of Jerusalem. Then the representatives of the family would take the rest of the offered lamb to their family, to be consumed by them in the evening, according to Passover prescriptions.

Christ’s Passover: Jesus was crucified on the same day, called “of the preparation”, dying on the cross in the corresponding hour when lambs were slain in the temple. Then, his body was taken from the cross to a nearby new tomb, where he was buried; Sunday early morning he was not anymore in the tomb but found risen. That is the Christian Passover in its first moment; the difference between the Jewish and the Christian Passover is that this Lamb of God, Jesus, is not slain as a final status of existence, but after being slain and buried, he is risen.

For the second moment, the consumption of the lamb, though the Jews wondered at the seeming absurdity of Jesus’ plan in making himself a true nourishment of eternal life, the bread of life: “how can this man give us his body to eat?” Thus, the Lord Jesus established the sacrament of the Eucharist in which bread and wine will become, by the consecration, his body and blood; therefore the Qurbana of the church, through the consecrated elements of bread and wine, is to be consumed by the faithful.

Therefore, in the Mass: the first Eucharistic segment (the presentation of the gifts and their offering) makes present for us what happened on Golgotha, the offering to the Father of Jesus’ self, to become our own Qurbana; in the second Eucharistic segment, we prepare for communion by the fraction of the Body of Christ and its signing with his Blood, followed by the communion itself.

Collecting the basic Christian Passover data:

* The temple, where there was an altar facing the Holy of the Holies, there the slain lambs were offered; on Holy Friday Jesus becomes the Lamb of God, Golgotha and the tomb become the Christian Holy of the Holies; Mother Mary with John the Beloved, and few devoted ladies stood in front of the Cross and, afterword with Peter, in front of the tomb. These are the most important features of the new Christian temple, built as the body of Christ.

* The banquet is the second principal segment of the Eucharistic celebration, therefore, while the altar serves the presentation of the offering and their consecration and offering to the Father, the Banquet serves the breaking and signing followed by the communion. This section, according to the founding act of the Lord, in substitution to the Jewish Passover, is properly organized to face the people.

* The heart of Jesus as the ultimate sanctuary and refuge of our souls: The two scenes of the Gospel of John, one describing the piercing of the side of the Lord, the other the touching by hand of Thomas of that opening is for me the most powerful historic and theological reference, both for the liturgy, as well as for personal and community devotion.

Thus:  a) A cross, without the icon of the crucifix (with the bloody mark in his side), is a drastically diminished representation of Golgotha, inaccurately attributed to ancient Fathers of the Chaldean Church; those leaders who promote the iconoclastic doctrine of a Nestorian current within the Church of the East, were more in the business of pleasing their Islamic rulers than fulfilling the implications of Christian dogma.

b) The opening of Jesus’ Heart is represented eloquently and dramatically by the opening of the veil in our churches, giving us access to the divine throne of mercy.

Pursuing a course of spiritual renewal in our diocese 11 years ago: Where to start, what is the ultimate reference?

IT IS: Organizing our Holy of Holies, the Qanke, according to the scriptural requirements, and living in continuity and harmony with it, was since the beginning of my episcopal mandate, and remains as long as I am the shepherd of this eparchy, the solid spiritual core of our diocesan renewal. 

BECAUSE the fundamental principal is the following: authenticity, truth, and bearing faithfully our responsibility is to be expressed first of all in front of the altar; otherwise, nothing else could be seriously authentic. This is where everything noble and serious begins and ends –obedience to the call of God, human dignity, concrete charity, redemption of self and of humankind, sacramental ministry, restored grace and paradise– everything pertaining to eternal life is nothing but a consequence and application of the Paschal events and celebration.