Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Supper of the Lamb: The Mass as Heaven on Earth

This weekend I had the joy of participating in the "Supper of the Lamb: The Mass as Heaven on Earth" conference sponsored by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and Franciscan University's Office of Chapel Ministry.  The link to the conference webpage is here.  We were privileged to have Bishop Serratelli of the Diocese of Patterson, New Jersey, giving the initial keynote on Saturday morning.  Bishop Serratelli is one of only eleven bishops on the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the commission that oversees the translations of the Mass and other liturgical rites for all English-speaking Catholics worldwide.  Bishop Serratelli spoke about the process that lead to the New Translation of the Mass, which goes into effect this Advent.  The New Translation is more literal, dignified, poetic, and biblical than the texts that English-speaking Catholics have been using for the last forty years.  For those curious about the inner workings of the translation process, the podcast of Bishop Serratelli's talk should prove intriguing.

I spoke after Bishop Serratelli on the theme of the confluence of nuptiality and liturgy in Scripture and the Mass.  My talk outline is below the break.

We also had the pleasure of an address by Dennis McNamara, one of the nation's foremost authorities on Catholic church architecture; Mr. Adam Bartlett, and expert on liturgical music; and batting clean-up, Dr. Scott Hahn addressing the mystical relationship between the earthly and the heavenly liturgy ("A Heavenly Banquet for Earthly Beggars").

Podcasts of the talks will be available shortly, and I'll post links when they are up.

I'm afraid I'm not able to do my usual commentary on the readings this weekend since I was occupied with the conference.

The Mass as Marriage Supper: Square Brides and Sheepish Grooms in Scripture
Dr. John Bergsma
Associate Professor of Theology
Franciscan University of Steubenville

I.  The New Translation of the Mass more clearly discloses the biblical references of the prayers, strengthening the unity between Scripture and Liturgy:
This is the Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world.
Happy are those who are called to his supper.
Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

The New Translation provides the opportunity to investigate and contemplate the meaning of the Mass as “the Supper of the Lamb”:

II. The Biblical Context of the “Supper of the Lamb”
A. The Basic Reference:
Rev. 19:6: Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;  8 it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure” — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Thus, The “Supper of the Lamb” is specifically a “marriage supper” or wedding feast (cf. Matt 22:1-14)

B. The Description of the Bride:
Rev. 21:9   Then came one of the seven angels ... spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  10 And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,  11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed;  13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.  14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15   And he who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.  16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and breadth and height are equal.

The Bride is a perfect cube of enormous size!
This is a very unusual wedding, indeed!
What is the meaning of this imagery?

III.  The “Sheepish Groom” in Scripture
A.  Our Lord:
1. Our Lord as Lamb:
John 1:29   The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

2. Our Lord as Bridegroom:
John 3:28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.  29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.

            B.  Earlier Types of the Bridegroom Lamb: David (the “Beloved”)
1. David the Bridegroom:
2 Sam. 5:1   Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. ...  3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them ... and they anointed David king over Israel.

Song 2:8 The voice of my beloved (lit. “my David”)! Behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills...

2. David the lamb:
Psa. 23   A Psalm of David.  1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;  2 he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;  3 he restores my soul ...

            C. Earlier Types of the Bridegroom Lamb: Isaac
1. Isaac treated like a “lamb lead to slaughter” (cf. Isa 53:7):
Gen 22:7 And Isaac said to his father... “My father! ... Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  8 Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

“He ... entered willingly into his Passion... (New Translation of Institution Narrative)

2. Isaac the ideal bridegroom:
Gen 24:67 Then Isaac ... took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her.
Gen 25:5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac ... (Gen 26:13) he became very wealthy.
Gen 25:21 And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren ...
Gen 26:8 Abimelech ... saw Isaac caressing Rebekah his wife ...

D.  Summarizing the Significance of the “Bridegroom Lamb”:

Bridegroom: One who loves us and is beloved by us, who enters into a covenant relationship of intimacy
Lamb: Self-sacrificial one, who gives the gift of self, offers his self as sacrifice on behalf of the Bride, not just any sacrifice but liturgical sacrifice.

III.  The “Square Bride” in Scripture
            A.  Only one perfect cube in Scripture:
1 Kings 6:6: 19 The inner sanctuary [the Holy of Holies] he prepared in the innermost part of the house, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD.  20 The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high; and he overlaid it with pure gold.

            B. St. Paul’s use of the same themes:
1Cor. 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you ...

Eph 2:19 So then you ... are members of the House of God20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  21 in whom the whole structure ... grows into a holy Temple in the Lord ...
2Cor. 11:2 I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband ...

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ...
            C. Summarizing the significance of the imagery:
1. The “Sheepish Groom”: the animal par excellence for liturgical sacrifice
2. The “Square Bride”: the new Temple city, the perfect sanctuary for the perfect sacrificial liturgy (the Day of Atonement)

IV.  The Unity of the Nuptial and the Liturgical in Salvation History

            A.  At the beginning, in Eden
                        1.  Eden, the original sanctuary (Gen 2:15; Ezekiel 28:13-14)
                        2. The climactic seventh day: the fundamental day of worship
3.  The climactic wedding on the seventh day: “Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of her Man (or Husband).” Genesis 2:23.

            B.  At the middle, in the Song of Songs:
                        1.  The Bride as New Eden-Sanctuary:
4:12 A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.  13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard,  14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices —  15 a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.

An ideal garden, a New Eden, filled with spices used in the Temple for incense and anointing oil ...
2.  The Union of Bride and Groom as an act of mutual eating and drinking:
Bride: 4:16 Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its fragrance be wafted abroad. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.
Groom 5:1 I come to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gather my myrrh with my spice, I eat my honeycomb with my honey, I drink my wine with my milk.
Chorus: Eat, O friends, and drink: drink deeply, O lovers!
3. Nuptial and Liturgical themes combined here and elsewhere in the Song

C. At the end, in Revelation 19–22, the texts from which the Ecce Agnus Dei draws.

Q. What is the significance of the confluence of the nuptial and the liturgical in salvation history?

IV.  The Significance of the Correlation of the Nuptial and the Liturgical:

            A. The Fundamental Relationship:
            1.  Two forms of Communion: between Man and Wife, between God and People
            2.  Two forms of Covenant Relationship
            3.  Marriage as icon of the Covenant between God and His People
            4.  Marriage as icon of the Trinity
            5.  Marriage as witness to the Divine Nature (image and likeness) within the natural order
                        a. Thus its the importance of its definition in society
B. The correlation of the nuptial and liturgical sheds light on both Matrimony and Eucharist...
C. The significance of the Nuptial perspective on the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
            1.  Liturgy of the Eucharist celebration as loving, intimate, personal communion
            2.  Eucharist as union surpassing nuptial union in the natural order
a. The natural marital embrace does not transform the flesh of the bride.
b. Only in the child does the flesh of groom and bride become transformed into one.
c. In Eucharistic union our flesh is made as one with Christ the groom, thus, at once like spouse and child of the Bridegroom
d. Analogous to the entirely unique nuptial relationship of Adam and Eve, Eve as (in a sense) child and yet spouse of Adam prior to the Fall.
e. In the Eucharist we “return” to this Edenic nuptial perfection of union.
                        3. The mystery of Eucharistic theosis or divinization
                                    a. There must be a fundamental likeness of kind among marriage partners.
b. 2 Pet. 1:3-4   His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness..., that through these you may ... become partakers of the divine nature.
4. The entire uniqueness of Eucharistic intimacy among world religions
a. This height of union with God is not even claimed to be offered outside the apostolic Church (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism)
b. The Eucharist is truly scandalous! (John 6:60-66 “This is a hard saying.  Who can accept it?” ...after this many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him.)


Anonymous said...

Great outline! Sorry I was not able to present the whole conference looked worthwhile!

John Bergsma said...