I’d imagine that any priest you asked could tell you their favorite parts of the Eucharistic Canon. Some might have a favorite Eucharistic Prayer. For others, it might be a paragraph, a sentence, or even a few words. I have two favorites – one in Rite I and one in Rite II. I think it is important to pay attention to these parts, the pieces of the liturgy that hit deep in your soul, because, quite frankly, when you are standing up in front of a crowd of people saying the same words over and over again, it can quickly become a rote recitation rather than a prayerful activity. For me, I find it helpful to feel the prayers in my body, to experience where my heart flutters a bit, where my breath quickens, or where my soul aches. Favorites change. Sometimes, it’s about the hurt that Jesus came to assuage. Sometimes, it’s about the joy that salvation brings. Most often, for me, it is about the mission to which we are called. Which is why, more often than not, if you asked me what my favorite part of the Eucharist is, I’d have to say this phrase from Rite II, Prayer A, “Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace…”
These words came to mind this morning as I read Paul’s admonition to the Church in Rome. His thesis is clearly one of unity and peace for the sake of a consistent application of the Gospel. It seems as though Jewish and Gentile Christians were at odds with one another. Why else would he feel the need to prooftext four different Old Testament passages? That Jewish and Gentile Christians didn’t always get along isn’t an unknown concept. The reason we have Deacons as an order in the Church is because Roman Christian widows weren’t being treated the same as Jewish Christian widows. And so, the prayer of Paul for the Christians in Rome is that God might grant these two communities harmon with one another so that they can glorify God with a united voice.
Unity, Constancy, and Peace.
Given the deep divides in our common life as Christians in 21st Century America, it might behoove us to all be praying for the God of steadfastness and encouragement to grant us to live in harmony with one another in accordance with Jesus Christ. We ought to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. Not throwing the other away for their theology which we have determined to be anathema. Not doubling down on our own rightness as if our beliefs could somehow save the faith, but rather, by listening with open ears and open hearts to the hopes and fears of the other so that we might move toward unity, constancy, and peace.
This is difficult work. For progressive Christians, it means giving ear to a theology that seems to be dehumanizing to our LGBT+ siblings in Christ. For conservative Christians, it means creating space for a theology that seems to discredit some of the foundational understandings of Scripture. Without the ability to even listen to one another, however, we dehumanize the other and throw out the Gospel of grace. Without an ability to hear the fear of the other, we cut short the work of welcoming the stranger and make impossible the hope of unity for the sake of the Gospel. Without grace and a willingness to let God do the hard work of deepening faith and relationship, Christians do nothing more than mimic the poisonous culture of politics, echo chambers, and fear.
For 2,000 years, the Church has struggled, perhaps most of all, to make space for the other who also calls on the name of Christ Jesus. May Paul’s prayer for the Romans be our prayer for this day so that we might come a bit closer to living in harmony with one another, with God, and with the whole world.