This Advent we are reflecting on Sacraments, Associate Vicar, Dr Beranrd Sixtus writes:
Across Fr Mark’s incumbency, we will be sharing together in reflections about the sacraments this Advent, as we listen to sermons on this theme each Sunday. And as we begin to do so, I would like to, as it were, complement this upcoming series by some thoughts about shared liturgical life in general.
For a long time, I suspect that for me one of the best things about the ‘Catholic’ or ‘sacramental’ tradition of Anglicanism in which we share here has been and continues to be the place of ‘common’ (that is: shared) daily worship. From the time of living alongside a monastic community while studying at Theological College, through my time in Paris and now here, this rhythm of shared prayer has become almost something like ‘second nature’ to me, and I certainly find I miss it when I have to be away.
However, at first sight this may sound like an overly ‘churchy’ thing to say – after all, is ‘being Church’ not much more about being a real, living ‘community’? And do we not meet as such a community far more ‘personally’ in non-liturgical settings?
Thank God we do not have to choose between the two – but I do think that there is nothing in our life together that expresses who we are as Church better than praying together: we are a ‘community’ only because God has brought us together. Being together as Church, we are to be the sign and sacrament of that encompassing unity which will be the final overcoming of the alienation and isolation of people from each other and from God that we call ‘sin’. Praying together and above all celebrating the sacraments, chiefly perhaps the Holy Eucharist together, we do indeed make all this to be a present reality already, we are united both with God and with one another – but are so precisely in these sacred, saving ‘signs’ of His love and our communion with Him and one another.
For—and this is why the truth of this is indeed most aptly expressed in our shared sacramental life—we do well to remember that the present reality of all our unity is one that has the character of a ‘sign’ that is not itself the final goal: ‘Christians’, observed Avery Dulles, ‘commonly experience the Church more as a companionship of fellow travellers on the same journey than as a union of lovers dwelling in the same home’. And so it is precisely in worshipping and praying together – and doing so ‘liturgically’ and ‘sacramentally’ – that we are perhaps most like the kind of community we can and should be as Church: very obviously together but ‘on the way’ still, with our ‘companions in the way’, to that final fulfilment of all things in God, the true ‘union of lovers dwelling in the same home’ that is: our sharing in the very life of the Holy Trinity which all sacraments foreshadow and anticipate.