Posts Tagged Early church

What type of Church has salvation? Leonardo Boff

What type of Church has salvation?

Leonardo Boff

Theologian
Earthcharter Commission

 

The core of the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth was not the Church, but the Kingdom of God: a utopia of total revolution/reconciliation of the whole of creation. This is so true that the Gospels, with the exception of St. Matthew, never speak of the Church, but always of the Kingdom. With the rejection of the person and message of Jesus of Nazareth, the Kingdom was also gone. Instead, the Church appeared as a community of those who gave witness to the resurrection of Jesus and kept His legacy, trying to live it throughout history.

From the beginning, a bifurcation was established: the bulk of the faithful took Christianity as a spiritual path, in

in the eastern church he is “St. Constantine”

dialogue with the cultural environment. Another, much smaller, group, under the control of the Emperor, took over the moral leadership of the severely decadent Roman Empire. In organizing the community of faith, this group copied the imperial juridical-political structures. This group, the hierarchy, structured itself as «sacred power» (sacred potestas). This was a very risky path, because if there is one thing that Jesus always rejected, it was power. To Him, the three expressions of power, as they appear in the temptation of the desert –prophetic, religious and political–, when they reflect domination rather than service, belong to the sphere of the diabolical. Nevertheless, this was the path followed by the Church -a hierarchical institution, modeled on an absolutist monarchy that refuses to allow the laity, the great majority of the faithful, to participate in that power. The Church thus comes down to us under a cloud of very deep distrust.

It so happens that love disappears when power predominates. In effect, the organizing principle of the hierarchical Church is bureaucratic, formal and often inflexible. In the hierarchical Church, everything has a price; nothing is either forgotten or forgiven. There is practically no space for mercy, or for a true understanding of the divorced and of the homo-affectionate. Its imposition of priestly celibacy, deeply-rooted anti-feminism, distrust of everything related to sexuality and pleasure, the cult for the personality of the pope, and its pretense of being the only true Church and the «unique guardian of the eternal, universal and immutable natural law established by God», brought it, in words of Benedict XVI, to «assume a directive function over the whole humanity». In 2000, then cardinal Ratzinger repeated in the document, Dominus Jesus, the medieval doctrine that «outside the Church there is no salvation» and that those who are outside «are in grave risk of damnation». This type of Church surely does not have salvation. It is slowly losing sustainability all over the world.

What would be a Church worthy of salvation? It would be one that humbly returns to the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, the simple and prophetic laborer, incarnated Son, imbued with the divine mission of announcing that God is here, with divine grace and mercy for all; a Church that recognizes other Churches as different expressions of the sacred inheritance of Jesus; that is open to dialogue with all religions and spiritual paths, seeing therein the action of the Spirit that always arrives before the missioner; one that is ready to learn from the accumulated wisdom of all of humanity; that renounces all power and spectacularizing of the faith, such that it is not a mere facade of a non-existent vitality; one that appears as «advocate and defender» of the oppressed of any class, that is willing to suffer persecution and martyrdom, as did her founder; where her pope would courageously renounce the pretense of juridical power over everyone and instead would be a symbol of reference and of unity of the Christian Proposal, with a pastoral mission of strengthening all in faith, hope and love.

Such a Church is in the range of our possibilities. We need only to immerse ourselves in the spirit of the Nazarene. Only then would it be the Church of humans, the Church of Jesus of Nazareth, of God, the corroboration of the truth of Jesus’ utopia of the Kingdom. It would be a place for realizing the Kingdom of the liberated, to which all of us are called.

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The importance of the Assembly Pt 2 of D. Donovan

Who Presided at Eucharist in the Early Church?

Fr. Dan Donovan, August 22, 2011

(Fr Daniel Donovan is a priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney NSW. He holds degrees in Theology and Education. He has worked in parishes in Australia and the United States. He has worked in teacher formation programs teaching theology and Religious education at University level. He is involved with religious programs on National Television and Radio networks. He continues to pursue his pastoral and academic interests through retreats, lecturing and conference work especially in aspects of spirituality and faith development.)

Whether the Churches were Jewish or Gentile, it is clear that there was not any cultic priesthood which lead the Eucharist in the first century. There were at least three reasons that the early Christians did not require priesthood.

  • The Jewish community was “a community of priests and a holy nation” [Exodus 19: 6] and the priest represented the people in his cultic role.
  • Early Christians did not feel the need for priests as they had access to Jewish priests at the Temple before the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.
  • Jesus was the supreme priest [Hebrews 7-10 especially Hebrews 7:17-21]. Not until the second century as bishops took charge of a number of church assemblies was there a need for the order of presbyters (priests).

Whatever the reason, the terms “bishop, priest and deacon were somewhat fluid in the apostolic age, by the beginning of the second century they had achieved the fixed form in which they are used today to designate the three offices whose functions are clearly distinct in the New Testament.”[13] Authors such as Gunther Bornkamm and Hermann W. Beyer[14] believe that there was never one bishop/elder/pastor in any oneChurch and “they led as servants by way of example rather than as worldly lords” [Lk 22: 25-27: 1 Pt 5: 1-5: Mt 20; 25-28; Mk 10: 42-45]. Likewise the Pastoral Epistles would tend to confirm the role of the bishop within the community as a servant rather than as an office of power [1 Tim3:2 and Tit 1:7]. Not until the early part of the second century (circa 110 A.D.) in the writings of St Ignatius of Antioch does the role of “the monarchic bishop” begin to emerge.[15]

On the other hand, the early Church did not require the person who presided at the Eucharist to be ordained. In the Didache – Teaching of the Twelve Apostles[16] prophets still presided at the Eucharist [Didache 10:7] which was still celebrated in conjunction with the agape [Didache 10:1, common meal] to which Paul refers in 1 Cor 11: 20-22.[17] Fr Edward Schillebeechx[18] concludes that the New Testament did not reserve the right to preside over the Eucharist to any specific group within the assembly.[19] Edward Schweitzer reaches a similar conclusion about ministry in the early Church and the right to preside at the Eucharist suggesting that serving bishops and deacons “carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and deacons” [Didache 15:1]. Therefore it would be safe to conclude that in the Didache, the bishop does not necessarily have a liturgical function but rather his role is better understood as an “unremunerated public service” (leitourgia). Perhaps the persecutions which plagued the Church until AD 310 were the catalyst for the concentration of powers in one leader including the right to preside in the liturgical assembly?

History of Holy Orders

Vatican II and “the Gathered Assembly”…

In the liturgical renewal of Vatican II, the Council Fathers returned to the early Church and its emphasis on the gathered Assembly [Mt 18:20; Lk 22:23-26; 24:13-31; Jn 13:3-17] because recognition of the risen Lord in each other is the precondition for cognition or knowing him in his sacramental presence. In the Assembly each person has his or her unique function in the ecclesial act of worship in which specific roles were always undertaken by the minister in the name of the Assembly even today the dialogue before the Eucharistic Prayer between the priest and people in which the priest seeks the assent of the people for him to offer this Prayer on their behalf. St John Chrysostom (349-407) taught that if any member of the Assembly was not present at the liturgy then the sacrifice could be considered deficient because it was not offered by the whole body of Christ. The author of the post-baptismal catechesis in First Peter writes “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” [1 Pt 2:4-5].

Again the author of First Peter refers to the gathered people as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” [Exod 19: 4-6] and God will make a new covenant with them [Jer 31: 31-34]. Eucharistic Prayer III reiterates the meaning and the purpose of the gathered Assembly when it prays:

Father, you are holy indeed and all creation rightly gives you praise. All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.

This opening prayer of praise clearly states that God gathers the Assembly for the purpose of making a perfect offering to God. The Assembly is holy because it is gathered by God, the Father through the Son by the working of the Holy Spirit. The creative Spirit overshadows the Assembly (as Mary in Lk 1:35; Jesus at the Jordan [Lk 3: 22]; the gathered disciples [Acts 2: 4]) so that the “perfect offering” is the whole Christ (head and body) made to the glory of God. The Eucharist is holistic — its primary symbolism is to transform the celebrating community which is expressed as follows in Eucharistic Prayer III: “Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one, body, one spirit in Christ.”[20] The secondary symbolism is the transformation of the gifts into the sacramental presence of Jesus. As the members of the Assembly eat the body and drink the blood, they proclaim that they are the body of Christ and are prepared to serve as Jesus served [Mk 10:45], or as Eucharistic Prayer III states “may he make us an everlasting gift to you”. The people are gathered through the Spirit so that they might proclaim and celebrate the paschal mystery (mystery of faith) in word and sacrament and that they might go back into the world to be Eucharist.

The mode of participation of the Assembly…

James Dallen provides four verbs which indicate the mode of participation of the Assembly in the four parts of the Mass: GATHER, LISTEN SHARE, SENT. The graphic below will serve to illustrate a more inclusive and Catholic explanation of the community action and role of the whole Assembly in the Mass.

Role of Whole Assembly in the Mass

  1. The visual has three concentric circles. Circles in themselves are symbolic in representing God’s action because circles do not have a beginning or an end. The outer circle represents the “working of the Holy Spirit” in the history of Israel; and in Jesus’ life; death, resurrection and the Church. The arrow heads on the circles signifies energy or the dynamic activity of the Spirit.
  2. The second circle represents the created world and human culture. Sacraments draw upon the created gifts of God to become the visible symbol of the invisible grace of God so the Church anoints with oil, baptises with water, eats and drinks bread and wine, etc., to facilitate the encounter with the risen Lord. Also, cultures and human meanings assist understanding “fruit of the earth and work of human hands … become our spiritual food and drink”. The Spirit’s dynamic energy and power is not confined to the Church but also drives human cultures and their institutions. The early Christians were able to draw upon the cultural practices and workings of their times to catechise their converts.
  3. The inner circle represents the Assembly. There are two arrows at the bottom of the figure, the left arrow represents God’s initiative gathering the Assembly through the Son by the working of the Holy Spirit. The people are gathered from their work and life in creation and culture and gather to be the “spiritual sacrifice” the perfect offering to the glory of God. Note Jesus is present [Mt 18: 20] when the Assembly GATHER at the Introductory Rites. Their union with and in him is “the perfect offering”. At the Liturgy of the Word, the people LISTEN. Jesus is always present in his word as “he carries out the mystery of salvation, he sanctifies us and offers the Father perfect worship.”[21] SHARE in obedience to Jesus’ command, Do this in memory of me, the gifts of bread and wine are presented to the priest who will lead the Assembly in the Liturgy of the Eucharist (taking, blessing, breaking and giving/receiving) through the exchange of gifts the people share in Jesus’ self-giving to the Father and for his people and bonding them in the new covenant in his blood. Their “Amen” at communion professes their identity as the “body of Christ” and their responsibility to be Eucharist in their lives and to work for the “coming of God’s Kingdom” for all peoples. In the Concluding Rite the Assembly is SENT: returns to their lives in the world. Christ is present in the sending. The right arrow balances the “gathering” [Mt 20: 18] with “sending” [Mt 28: 20], the rhythm of Christian life as the people, the Church (ekklesia) becomes the sacrament of God’s salvation in the world [Jn 3: 16].

Conclusion:

Vatican II structured its Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (LG) with Chapter 2 on the people of God prior to the chapter on the hierarchy because it was reasoned that before a person could be a member of the hierarchy, he must first be a member of the people. In doing this, the Council restored the traditional importance of the Sacraments of Initiation. Through baptism/confirmation and Eucharist the person is incorporated into the people of God and becomes a member of the body of Christ. These sacraments are not only the foundation for membership of the Assembly but are the doorway to valid reception of the other sacraments, even Holy Orders. Therefore before a person can assume a position of leadership in the Assembly he/she must be a member of it.

Secondly it would appear that leadership in the Church developed gradually, over the early centuries. From the fluid leadership of the years following Jesus’ ascension the established ministries of bishop, priest and deacon developed. The community chose members [Acts 6:3-4] who were prayed over with the imposition of hands to fulfil community ministries “to equip the people for the work of ministry” [Eph 4:12]. By the second century, the bishop and clergy had been confirmed in liturgical role within the community.

Thirdly the clergy and the sacrament of Holy Orders (bishop, priest, deacon) were not over the community or a privileged class but were rather servants and models of the Christian life for the people [Lk 22:25-26; Heb5:1]. Throughout the history of the Church whenever there is a resurgence of clericalism there is a corresponding de-emphasis on the dignity of God’s people and their participation in God’s mission.

Fourthly, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit is the bond of unity within the Church making it “a perfect offering to God”.

FOOTNOTES:
[13] Catholic Answers, “Bishop, Priest and Deacon”, Acts 11:30 (Jerusalem Church); 14:23 (Paul’s early work); 15:2,4,6,22,23 (Council of Jerusalem); 16:4; 20:17,18; 21: 18 (Paul’s latter missionary work); Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 5; 7; Tit 1:5: Heb 13:15; Jas 5:14 (Pastoral Epistles witness to the growing importance of the three orders in Pauline churches). http://www.catholic.com/library/Bishop_Priest_and_Deacon.asp See also Mark M. Mattison, “The Rise of the Clergy”, http://tgulcm.tripod.com/ohc/clergy.html
[14] Mattison, ibid. http://tgulcm.tripod.com/ohc/clergy.html
[15] William R. Schoedel quoted by Mattison would argue that “…Ignatius does not actually place the bishop in the place of God but depicts him rather as one sent by God.” See Schoedel William R., (1985), Ignatius of Antioch, Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, pp. 22-23. As the single bishop emerged during the second century, there were mixed blessings for the local assembly. One bishop meant in most cases “stronger leadership” especially in times of persecution but Beyer points out that it also produces “authoritarian bishops in direct antithesis to the recommendations to elders in 1Pt 5:2-3.” See Hermann W. Beyer in Geoffrey W. Bromily, ed., (1985) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridgedin One Volume, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, p.933. The role of the clergy developed during the third and fourth centuries in the writings of Clement of Alexandria (191-208 AD), Hippolytus of Rome (215 AD), Origen (234 AD) and in local Councils such as Elvira (300 AD) and the First Council of Nicea (325 AD), and John Chrysostom (402 AD).
[16] Scholars disagree about the precise date of the Didache with some placing it as early as AD 50 while others would place it as late as the third century. It is a book of Church order and lacks a specific theology or interest in theological issues. The Didache was discovered in a Constantinople monastery and published by P. Bryennios in 1883. Didache in Michael W. Holmes, (2006), Editor, The Apostolic Fathers in English, Third Edition, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, pp.157-171.
[17] The Didache 9:1 uses the Greek word eucharistia which has the sense of “thanksgiving” in the New Testament Acts 24; 3; Phil 4:6; 1 Thess 3; 9. The word became the “technical term” for the Lord’s Supper by the second century Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans 6: 2; and Justin Martyr’s First Apology, Chapter 67. The structure of the Eucharist as described by Justin Martyr follows a similar structure to that of the Didache. Justin in chapter 67 of his First Apology names various ministries in the assembly the people, the reader, the deacon and the president who “verbally instructs and exhorts to imitation of these good things.” The president also “offers prayers and thanksgivings (the word for the Lord’s Supper) according to his ability, and the people assent, saying “Amen.” Finally, the collection “is deposited with the president…” It would seem that even at the time when Justin was writing that the president at the Eucharist was not necessarily a bishop or an ordained cleric.
[18] Aaron Milavec, (1989), The Dediche: Faith, Hope & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities 50-70 C.E., Mahwah, N.J.: Newman Press trademark Paulist Press Inc., Part II Ch 6 “How and Why the Didache checked Meddling Prophets?” pp. 423-491, p. 479. In Acts 27: 35-38, Paul uses bread to give thanks to God and his actions would indicate that he intended it as a memorial meal. Also in Acts 21: 8-9 Philip is called an evangelist and is said to have “four virgin daughters who prophesied.” If then this pericope of Acts 21: 8 is read in conjunction with the Didache 10: 7 then these women could preside at a Eucharist.
[19] The New Testament confirms that in the “house Churches” the head of the house presided at the Eucharist.
[20] This is the Prayer of Invocation (epiclesis) of the Holy Spirit whose “workings” were the context for the whole Eucharistic Prayer and who is present in the gathered Assembly. This Prayer has two Invocations of the Spirit, the first invocation is over the gifts of bread and wine; “We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ…”
[21] Hoffman, Op Cit, p. 128, Lectionary for Mass Introduction LM Intro #4.
[22] Paul A. Feider, (1986), The Sacraments: Encountering The Risen Lord, Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press. This text provides an outstanding introduction to the historical and theological foundations of the sacraments. The timelines illustrate the historical development of each sacrament over the centuries. Figure 1 (sacraments of initiation) and figure 2 (Holy Orders) Feider, pp. 14, 30, 104 . Each sacrament is an act of the body of Christ (the risen Lord and his people) so the plant is a living entity for Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches” (Jn 15: 5). The roots of each plant are firmly embedded in the living Tradition of the Church while remaining open to continued growth within the life of the Christian Assembly. Sacraments must never be fossilised memories of bygone times but must always be present encounters with the risen Lord and the participation of his body in that “dangerous memory” of Jesus who gave himself for all so that his people might do likewise.
Note in Figure 1 that the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist had lost their intimate union by AD 500, as baptism was administered to infants soon after birth to eradicate the effects of original sin in a time of high infant mortality. The western Church held over the sealing of baptism for the bishop and different communities administered confirmation at different ages between 8-14 years.
Baptism/confirmation is one sacrament, a bath of water for the forgiveness of sins and an anointing with chrism for the reception of the Holy Spirit, as in Jesus’ baptism (Lk 3: 21-23). Gradually baptism/confirmation became two sacraments. Eucharist completes initiation with full participation and membership in the life of the Assembly. The final disconnect between the sacraments of initiation resulted from the withholding of Eucharist from newly baptised infants (severing the union between baptism and Eucharist) because infants have a problem of reflux and could regurgitate it. Some Eastern Rite Catholic Churches did not drop Eucharistic reception for infants.
Later it became common practice to introduce children to penance at 5 and Eucharist at about age 16. Pope Pius X (1835-1914) complicated the reception of the sacraments further when he allowed children to make their First communion at age 7. Pius’ reform further disrupted the unity and order of the sacraments of initiation after 1910 with baptism at birth, penance and Eucharist at 7 and confirmation later about 10 years of age. This new order of the sacraments suggested “a link” between penance and Eucharist while further undermining the union between baptism and Eucharist in the process of initiation. The Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1972 restored the importance of initiation as incorporation into God’s people and the body of Christ. The separation of the sacraments of initiation into three separate rites weakened the identity and dignity of the Assembly and allowed the emergence of a hierarchically organised Church rooted in Holy Orders. The clerical control in the Assembly is a direct result of the decline in and break-up of the rite of initiation.

 

 

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The importance of the Assembly – Dan Donovan Pt1

"The importance of the Assembly" Part 1 by Fr Daniel Donovan

In this informative and instructive, yet challenging two-part commentary, Fr Daniel Donovan argues that those who seem so intent on “reforming the reform” of the Second Vatican Council are actually challenging some of the earliest traditions of Catholicism. The “reform of the reform” does not take us back closer to the insights of Jesus and the early Church leaders but it takes us back to clericalism and a time of triumphalist certitudes that are totally disconnected from our authentic traditions and ecclesial insights. This commentary was sparked by further research Fr Donovan undertook following his recent series on the Eucharist [LINK]. As usual with Fr Donovan’s commentaries the footnotes are often as instructive as the main text.

The Assembly: A most important Liturgical Symbol…

Back in 1978 the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference (USCBC) produced a most significant document Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (EACW) which responded to the liturgical reforms of Vatican II in the Constitution Sacrosantum Concilium [1963] and the revised Roman Missal [1969]. Andrew Ciferni in his commentary on EACW[1] writes;

The renewed understanding of God, church, sacrament and ministry that emerged in the reforms required a vastly different approach to church building than that used during the 400 years before Vatican II. Thus the need for guidelines to assist communities and architects in the process of renovation and/or new building was and is a strong one.

Therefore this document contains specific guidelines set by the American Bishops for developing and maintaining the sacred space in which God’s people might assemble to praise and thank God for the mighty deeds of salvation in creation and in Christ experiencing and renewing their identity as “…a new people in whom the covenant made in the past is fulfilled.”[2] Accordingly, the Bishops declare in EACW #28;

Among the symbols with which the liturgy deals, none is more important than this Assembly of believers. It is common to use the same name to speak of the building in which those persons worship, but that use is misleading. In the words of ancient Christians, the building used for worship is called domus ecclesiae, the house of the Church.[3]

This emphasis on the gathered people, the Assembly, as the symbol of the risen Christ[4] [Mt 18:20] shaped liturgy in the decades after Vatican II has gradually been replaced with a neo-clericalism. As in the late fifth and early sixth centuries, Eucharist has in the third millennium again become the domain of the clergy. Eucharist is and always will be the action of the whole Christ (head and members) and through the active participation of the gathered people “brings out more plainly the ecclesial nature of the celebration.”[5] Therefore it is relevant to reclaim the symbolic importance of the gathered Assembly “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. [1 Pt 2: 4-5; GIRM # 3]

Sacraments of Initiation: The basis of the Eucharistic Assembly…

The Acts of the Apostles written by Luke, in the early 60’s AD traces the growth and spread of the Christian Church from Jerusalem to Antioch and eventually, throughout the Mediterranean world and finally Rome [Acts 27-28]. At Pentecost the proclamation of the Apostles moved the hearts of their listeners who enquired “what shall we do?” [Acts 2: 37] The answer was that the person “repent … be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This is the genesis of Christian assembly[6] which “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer”. [Acts 2: 42]

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church (ekklesia) daily those who were being saved. [Acts 2: 46-47]

John McKenzie points out that “ekklesia” was originally used (as in the preceding pericope from Acts) to describe the Jerusalem parent church but soon all the local churches were described as an “ekklesia”[7] the Assembly of the people of God. The apostolic proclamation of the Easter message (kerygma), “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again,” say to us that through God’s action the Church was growing through local assemblies gathered for “breaking bread and praising God and having favour with all the people.”[8]

Historical development of the Sacraments of Initiation.

The Assembly: The role of the Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles…

At his baptism [Lk 3:21] the Spirit is poured out on Jesus, the representative of humanity, and God is heard witnessing to the Son’s mission. Jesus is the bearer of the Spirit [Lk 11:20] and on Pentecost Day the Church is commissioned to continue his mission in the Spirit [Acts 1: 4-6][10].

Luke’s story of the Christian Church begins in Jerusalem as the disciples are gathered in prayer awaiting “the Promise of the Father” [Acts 1: 4]. Then the disciples would witness to Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and “to the ends of the world” [Acts 1: 8]. Immediately on receiving the Spirit, the disciples are empowered to speak and proclaim the mighty deeds of God throughout Israel’s history and especially the offer of salvation in Jesus.

Peter’s first sermon is directed to Jews gathered from around the world in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.[11] At first the Church in Jerusalem was considered to be another Jewish sect with a daily routine built around Temple worship [Acts 2: 36; 3:1] and the uniquely Christian fellowship meal or the “breaking of bread”. The converts on Pentecost Day were Jewish and believed that they would continue to follow the practice of the Jewish Law as well as believing in Christ.

The Jerusalem Church therefore followed the Jewish custom of leadership by elders James, Peter, John and the other apostles attended to the matters of daily life in the community as well as their proclamation of the Gospel [Acts 4: 4; 11-12]. Before long the apostles found that their proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus met with stern opposition from the Jewish authorities who ordered Peter and John “not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus” [Acts 4: 18]. Rabbi Gamaliel [Acts 5: 34-39] had seen many sects rise and fall in Judaism claiming religious authority for their teachings and beliefs. Therefore he suggested that the authorities “leave these men alone … for if this plan or this work is of man it will come to nothing” [Acts 5: 38] like those other sects and movements. “But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it … lest you even be found to fight against God” [Acts 5: 39] and with these words the wise old Rabbi rested his case.

Apart from these external difficulties, there were internal day-to-day issues of housekeeping in the community [Act 6: 2] between the Hellenist Jews [Acts 2: 5-11] and the Hebrew converts. Apparently the Hellenist widows were not receiving fair portions at the daily distribution of food. As a result the apostles summoned the assembly and stated that “it is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables”. Therefore the community was directed to choose from among them “men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” [Acts 6: 4]. The apostles “prayed over them and laid hands upon them” [Acts 6: 6].

One of the deacons,[12] Stephen (a Hellenist) was stoned to death [Acts 7: 54-60] because he taught that Jesus was the fulfilment of Israel’s historical expectations. The ensuing persecution of the Church actually prospered the work of the Spirit scattering members of the Jerusalem Church to Judea and Samaria [Acts 1: 8]. Saul (later Paul) was present at Stephen’s death and thereafter undertook his persecution of the Church [Acts 7: 58- 9: 4].

The Jerusalem Church retained its Jewish roots in worship and the leadership of elders. Peter, one of the elders of the Jerusalem Church, receives Cornelius, the Roman centurion and his family (the first Gentile converts) into the Church [Acts 10-11] thereby signalling the Gentile mission and outreach to Antioch [Acts 11: 27] and the journeys of Paul [Acts 15]. Pauline Churches would be organised under an “episcopus” or an overseer to facilitate the smooth function of the various gifts of the Spirit building the assembly for service and mission in the world.

FOOTNOTES:
[1] Elizabeth Hoffman, (1991), Editor, The Liturgy Documents: A Parish Resource, (Third Edition), Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, Andrew D. Ciferni, OPraem, “Overview of Environment and Art in Catholic Worship,” (EACW) pp.314-316.
In the text below the Greek “ekklesia” has the meaning “gathered local church ” which was borrowed from secular Greek life and referred to the assembly of citizens with full rights. The Christian assembly (ekklesia) was the gathering of those fully initiated members (baptism/chrismation and eucharist) the body of Christ (head and members). For further details see notes # 6 and 7 below.
[2] Hoffman, Op Cit Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass (LM Intro) pp. 118-164, LM Intro #7
[3] Hoffman Ibid, United States Catholic Conference (1978), “Environment and Art in Catholic Worship” pp. 314-339, especially p. 324, EACW#28.
[4] Vatican II (1963), Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, in Walter M. Abbott (1967) General Editor, The Documents of Vatican II, London : Geoffrey Chapman, SC# 7 p.140.
[5] Hoffman, General Instruction on the Roman Missal, GIRM # 4 and Council of Trent, sess 13, 11th October 1551.
[6] John L. McKenzie (1966), Dictionary of the Bible, London-Dublin; Geoffrey Chapman, “Church” pp. 133-136 writes (point 2 p.134) the word “ecclesia” translated as church, “occurs 23 times in the Acts of the Apostles.” McKenzie further states that “In no passage does it certainly mean anything except the local church, usually the church of Jerusalem, but also the local church of Antioch and other cities.” Each local Church was called “ecclesia”. Membership of the “ecclesia” was through faith/baptism not through race as in Israel. The Greek word “ekklesia” did not have any religious significance but referred to the assembly of citizens for legislative or deliberative purposes. This citizens’ assembly was composed of those who enjoyed full rights “thus the word implies both the dignity of the members and the legality of the assembly.” Furthermore the Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek (for Hellenist Jews) the same word, “ekklesia,” is used to translate the Hebrew “Kahal” and in later Hebrew “kahal edah, the local religious assembly of the Israelites.”
[7] McKenzie, Ibid.p.134. The word “ekklesia” in Greek is composed of the preposition “ek-” meaning “from” and a verb, “klepto” meaning “to take or gather,” the same Greek verb is the root of English words such as “kleptomania” (an obsessive urge to steal) or “eclective” (taking ideas or the like from various sources). Thus “ekklesia” suggests a community of persons taken from various backgrounds and gifts drawn together by God’s initiative through the power of the Holy Spirit. The proclamation of God’s word moved the people to conversion in Acts 2: 5-12 asking; “What does this mean?” Later in vv.36-37, the people respond to the Easter proclamation by being “cut to the heart” and approach the Apostles to ask “What shall we do?” This is the new “ekklesia” or Assembly born of the Spirit and apostolic evangelisation. Thus Assembly precedes the hierarchical structure which would be chosen from the fully initiated members and put forward to serve and prosper the specific needs of the Assembly (Acts 6: 1-6).
[8] These local churches, “ekklesia” formed the body of Christ drawing their unity from their common confession of Jesus as Lord in the Holy Spirit. Assemblies were responsible for their own internal structure and while there were different ministries and diverse activities and gifts there was “one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor 1: 11; 12: 3-12; Eph 4: 4-12). Church unity was “ex pluribus unum” or “from many one” in the Spirit (Eph 4:11-16). The author of Ephesians attributes the gifts in the Assembly as directly bestowed on members by God to equip the body of Christ for the work of ministry while edifying the members so that they might grow into the “stature and fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4:13).
[9] Paul A. Feider, (1986), The Sacraments: Encountering The Risen Lord, Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press. This text provides an outstanding introduction to the historical and theological foundations of the sacraments. The timelines illustrate the historical development of each sacrament over the centuries. Figure 1 (sacraments of initiation) and figure 2 (Holy Orders) Feider, pp. 14, 30, 104 . Each sacrament is an act of the body of Christ (the risen Lord and his people) so the plant is a living entity for Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches” (Jn 15: 5). The roots of each plant are firmly embedded in the living Tradition of the Church while remaining open to continued growth within the life of the Christian Assembly. Sacraments must never be fossilised memories of bygone times but must always be present encounters with the risen Lord and the participation of his body in that “dangerous memory” of Jesus who gave himself for all so that his people might do likewise.
Note in Figure 1 that the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist had lost their intimate union by AD 500, as baptism was administered to infants soon after birth to eradicate the effects of original sin in a time of high infant mortality. The western Church held over the sealing of baptism for the bishop and different communities administered confirmation at different ages between 8-14 years.
Baptism/confirmation is one sacrament, a bath of water for the forgiveness of sins and an anointing with chrism for the reception of the Holy Spirit, as in Jesus’ baptism (Lk 3: 21-23). Gradually baptism/confirmation became two sacraments. Eucharist completes initiation with full participation and membership in the life of the Assembly. The final disconnect between the sacraments of initiation resulted from the withholding of Eucharist from newly baptised infants (severing the union between baptism and Eucharist) because infants have a problem of reflux and could regurgitate it. Some Eastern Rite Catholic Churches did not drop Eucharistic reception for infants.
Later it became common practice to introduce children to penance at 5 and Eucharist at about age 16. Pope Pius X (1835-1914) complicated the reception of the sacraments further when he allowed children to make their First communion at age 7. Pius’ reform further disrupted the unity and order of the sacraments of initiation after 1910 with baptism at birth, penance and Eucharist at 7 and confirmation later about 10 years of age. This new order of the sacraments suggested “a link” between penance and Eucharist while further undermining the union between baptism and Eucharist in the process of initiation. The Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1972 restored the importance of initiation as incorporation into God’s people and the body of Christ. The separation of the sacraments of initiation into three separate rites weakened the identity and dignity of the Assembly and allowed the emergence of a hierarchically organised Church rooted in Holy Orders. The clerical control in the Assembly is a direct result of the decline in and break-up of the rite of initiation.
[10] Acts of the Apostles was also, written by Luke. In the Gospel Jesus had been the bearer of the Holy Spirit and following his ascension the Church continues Jesus’ mission in the power of the Spirit. In fact the genre of writing Acts in the Greco-Roman world recounted the exploits of public and cultural heroes. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles records the marvellous deeds of the Holy Spirit in establishing the Church throughout the world. Simply the hero of Acts is the Holy Spirit, the source of power and unity in the Church.
[11] Pentecost was a major Jewish Feast (Exodus 23: 14-17) which was originally an agricultural feast of the harvest time and later the celebration of God’s giving the Law to Moses.
[12]This initiative by the apostles gave rise to the order of deacon to manage the daily issues arising in the community thus freeing the apostles to devote their energies to proclaiming the Gospel as stated in Acts 6: 7 as “the word spread, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith”.

Fr Daniel DonovanFr Daniel Donovan is a priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney NSW. He holds degrees in Theology and Education. He has worked in parishes in Australia and the United States. He has worked in teacher formation programs teaching theology and Religious education at University level. He is involved with religious programs on National Television and Radio networks. He continues to pursue his pastoral and academic interests through retreats, lecturing and conference work especially in aspects of spirituality and faith development.

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