CONCELEBRATION: IS IT CO-CONSECRATION

 

Holy-Eucharist-IconFr Georgekutty Sakalapuri M Th

 

INTRODUCTION

            The priest is the mediator between God and man. He is a minister in the church to serve both God and his people. The priest, through his priestly ministry, continues the priestly ministry of Christ.  Christ’s ministry was to reconcile God and his people through the offering of the holy sacrifice. In the same way, the ministry of the priest is concentrated and culminated in the offering of the holy Qurbana. In other words, the ministry and spirituality of the priest is centred around the offering of the holy Qurbana. So the priestly spirituality derives its inspiration from the role he plays in the celebration of the holy Eucharist.

Through the offering of the holy Qurbana the priest manifests in time and space the mediation of Christ, the eternal high priest and mediator. Every priest at the offering of the holy Qurbana earnestly pleads before God for the redemption of his people and tries to achieve the fruits of redemption such as pardon of debts, forgiveness of sins, and great hope of resurrection from the dead and new life in the heavenly kingdom. The priest imbibes a kind of inspiration daily from the sacrifice he offers daily on the altar of the Lord. Thus the liturgical celebration remains as a source of daily inspiration for the priest to perform his pastoral ministry in all aspects. A priest being inspired from the liturgical celebration tries to become a model to his people and tries to give an able leadership to his people in the church to become to Christian, a faithful sheep of Christ.

            In the celebration of the holy Qurbana the priest acts as in several ways. He is the one who is specially chosen and appointed by God for the celebration of the mysteries. He is the one who reveals to the people the Divine will and the salvific plan of God. He is the mediator between God and man. Being this is the case it is necessary to have an idea about the concelebration of the holy Qurbana. This small paper is an attempt to bring in to light certain points such as the meaning of concelebration, the role of the priest in the concelebration, concelebration a sign of communion and concelebration in the Syro-Malabar Church etc. Through this paper Ialso try to mention the problems which may occur in the concelebration of the holy Eucharist.

 THE TERM CONCELEBRATION

            Majority of the people seem to agree that a genuine concelebration of the Eucharist pre supposes the following conditions: a principle celebrant, a group or college of priests functioning as such which, under the hierarchical guidance of the principal celebrant, celebrates the Eucharist together with him, and does so in the midst of the participating community[1]. The principal celebrant acts as hierarchical leader and as the principle of the unity of the college of the priests. The outward form of concelebration has not always been the same in the church, and even today there are differences in both East and West.  Historians and theologians have found it rather difficult to give an exact description and an accurate theological assessment to these differences. For instance, it has not yet been possible even to find a satisfactory terminology to indicate the principle categories. Hendrik Manders speaks about two kinds of concelebration-spoken and silent concelebration. According to him at yhe spoken concelebration the whole participating college of priests pronounces at least the words of consecration together with the principal celebrant. At the silent concelebration the concelebrants do function as a college of priests in the celebration, but do not pronounce the words of consecration, which are pronounced by the principal celebrant only[2].

 THE MEANING OF CONCELEBRATION

            The real theological problem is not the antiquated scholastic question of whether several priests can together pronounce the words of consecration validly. Nor it is the question of whether only the spoken concelebration effects the consecration. All sacraments, including the holy Eucharist, are actions of the church. In such an action- here: the memorial celebration of the paschal mysteries of Christ in its totality- God leads the church to self realization, and this self realization takes place in the free, human, active cooperation in which she performs Christ’s mystery through symbolic activity[3]. The whole community celebrates the paschal mysteries of Christ, but each member according to the function he has in the community as a whole.

The Eucharist is a sacrament in which the church experiences the mystery of Christ in its fullness. It is therefore also the sacrament in which the unity of the church becomes real in a communal and hierarchical celebration. Concelebration makes real the unity of the college of priests in the one Spirit of the ministry in the midst of the community for which their function was given[4]. Each functionary, performing the sacramental task, for which the church ordained him, cooperates sacramentally with the bishop or his delegate as the centre of this unity and thus the unity of Christ’s body becomes manifest, as it must be manifested in the world[5].

CONCELEBRATION IN THE SYRO-MALABAR CHURCH

            The Church is the concretization of a particular apostolic Christ experience in the life situation of a people. Liturgy is the blue print of the life of the church. In other words, it is a celebration of what the church is. At the same time one can also say that liturgy is the celebration of one’s own Christian experience. In short, the liturgy is a celebration of one’s own ecclesial identity, one’s own individual identity and that of his or her church. Liturgy is a celebration, a celebration of what we are, a celebration of our own Christian experience. Celebration takes place through the cooperation and involvement of many persons, many things, various attitudes and so on. Any celebration is a reminder of a historical fact. The reminder naturally evokes sentiments of praise and thanksgiving, first to God Almighty and then to all persons related. It leads also to a self examination, discerning and detecting good and evil, which evokes sentiments of satisfaction as well as repentance. A celebration, thus, is a real personal transformation or transfiguration.

            The liturgy of the church is also such a celebration; a remembrance-a Dukrana- an Anamnesis- of what we are[6]. There we are reminded of our Christian identity. Liturgy is the celebration of a commitment to the person of Jesus and his paschal mysteries. Liturgy is the celebration of the very reality of the church. It is in fact, a proclamation of our identity in the church, what is both cosmic and eschatological.

Liturgy is the transfiguring experience of the mystery of Christ in the Church[7]. Any liturgical celebration is an attempt of the church as a community to experience the Christ-event through signs and symbols and thus to be transformed and transfigured to the person of Jesus Christ. Because it is by the resurrection of Jesus that our humanity is transfigured and raised to the level of His divinized humanity.  Liturgy is the actualization of such transfiguration in Jesus Christ.

            For the Easterners, liturgy is a passage from this world to the other. It is an occasion to be liberated from tensions and worries of this world. It is not an escape from this world but liberation in the true biblical perspective. In short liturgy is a real practice for heavenly life. Liturgy is an action of the church where the heaven and earth meet together. It is the place where the heavenly and earthly choirs mingle together. The nature of our Christian existence today demands such an intermingling as often as possible. Christian liturgy is neither a celebration of cultures and modernities, nor a social and political situations, nor of their own lives, nor of their own struggle, nor even of their own fraternity or of anything in the day to day life but it is the celebration in the church- of the mystery of human salvation accomplished in Jesus Christ[8].

 CONCELEBRATION AS A SIGN OF COMMUNION

             Every liturgical celebration by its very nature is solemn; and concelebration is one of the important means of determining the solemnity. Concelebration means to celebrate together or in great number[9]. Thus, in the concelebration of the Qurbana, the priests celebrate the Eucharist together. In the liturgical meaning it denotes the celebration of the liturgy with the participation of many such as bishop, priests, deacons, choir and people of God, having different roles to play according to their rank in the church, all taking part in one celebration. It is the whole community, the Body of Christ, united with its head that celebrates. Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the church which is the sacrament of unity, namely, the holy people united and organized under the authority of the bishop[10]. It is generally understood today that each one- bishop, priest, deacon or layman- is offering the one sacrifice under the High Priest Jesus Christ, each one according to his rank in the church. Because the Eucharistic celebration is never considered to be merely an activity of piety; but it is understood as the centre of the living local community, and hence always celebrated solemnly and frequented by large numbers of faithful[11].

ROLE OF PRIESTS IN THE CELEBRATION 

            In the ecclesial dimension of the holy Qurbana the priest is the president of the liturgical assembly and it is he who performs the ritual celebrations on behalf of the whole congregation. Because the holy Qurbana as the liturgy of the church is celebrated in the church and is always administrated by an ordained priest[12]. In the celebration of the divine Mysteries  the president of the liturgical assembly is always designated as celebrant, and by presiding over the liturgical assembly he renders a ministry to the church. In the liturgical assembly the presidentship of a priest is an indispensible element. Because without the ministry of a priest an ecclesial assembly would be a shapeless mob and without him it won’t be a church at all[13]. The church as an assembly of God’s chosen people cannot exist without a person standing at the head of the community representing God before the people. The church as a worshipping community of believers who worship God is fully manifested in the liturgical assemblies which are presided over by the priests. In the liturgical assembly the presence of Christ is manifested by the presidentship of the priest.

            The visible presence of the priest in the liturgical assembly is a manifestation of the invisible presence of Christ in the church[14]. Thus in the liturgical assembly the presence of Christ is guaranteed and is visibly manifested through the presiding priest. According to Ignatius of Antioch the church is present where Jesus Christ is present and the bishop represents Christ visibly in the liturgical assembly[15]. Hence it is evident that the prayer and the worship of the church under the presidentship of the priest is a prayer and worship in union with Christ. The celebrating priest according to the Syro-Malabar church is delegated from the people to offer the Eucharist for and in the name of the community and so the priest stands at the table of the lord as the spokesman of the whole church[16]. According to A. Verheul, “when we consider the liturgy in its ascending line, as the response of the church to God’s salvific action in Word and Sacrament, here again we must see the hierarchic priest as the sacrament of Christ, the invisible head of the assembled community”[17]. It is in this capacity that the priest becomes the leader and representative of the people of God. Thus we can say that in every liturgical assembly the celebrant has a prominent role to play, since he is an important member in the church.

ROLE OF PRIESTS IN CONCELEBRATION                                                                                                             

            The Eucharist is a sacrament of unity which is realized in the celebration of one bread. In the first letter to the Corinthians St. Paul writes like this, “because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread”(1Cor. 10,17). This idea was later developed in to an important principle, “one community, one altar and one Eucharist”[18]. Today the communitarian aspect of the celebration is shown most commonly by concelebration by the priests. According to the Eastern tradition, each priest performs singly a distinct function or if they perform together a sacramental rite, one alone says the prayer[19]. The orations and functions in the pre and post anaphora are distributed among the concelebrants but always under the strict understanding that one single celebrant’s voice is heard at one time[20].

            In the celebration of the Qurbana, the concelebration has certain specialities. In the East Syriac rite, although many priests are traditionally present in the sanctuary during the anaphora, only one of them wears the vestment characteristic of the sacrificing priest, and he alone says the words of the anaphora and makes the gestures[21]. While concelebration is the ideal form of celebration, it should be seen that co-consecratory or verbal concelebrations are later developments. In the Eucharistic liturgy, it is one priest, who, with the deacon, carries the oblata to the altar, offers them, deposits them on the altar and covers them with the veil[22]. The concelebrants do not perform any priestly gesture together with the leading celebrant, not even the gesture at Words of Institution and Epiclesis. The present practice of stretching the right hand towards the oblata during the words of Institution is a Romanization of recent origin. In concelebration all the priests by virtue of their priestly ordination are involved in the offering of the holy sacrifice. They all share the one and the same priesthood of Christ and all together offer the one and the same sacrifice of Christ. The unity of priesthood is already adequately expressed by the very presence of many priests, each having his own complimentary part to play in the celebration[23]. Thus we can say that in the concelebration, the presiding celebrant has an important role in the whole celebration of the liturgy. The priest who is reciting the prayers performs also the accompanying gesture. The main prayers are all said by the principal celebrant.

 CONCLUSION                    

            Concelebration is a serious matter which is to be discussed properly and clearly. We have to comprehend and understand the role of the priest in the celebration of the Eucharist in every rite. Because any liturgical celebration is incomplete without the presence of a priest. And when we come to the aspect of concelebration of the Eucharist, it is very necessary to understand the role of the priests in it. Any liturgical celebration by its very nature is solemn and concelebration is one of the important means of determining the solemnity. Concelebration generally means to celebrate together. In the liturgical meaning concelebration denotes the celebration of the liturgy with the participation of many, such as bishops, priests, deacons, choir and people of God having different roles to play according to their rank in the church.

                   The presiding priest is having an important role in the concelebration. In the celebration of the Divine Mysteries the president of the liturgical assembly is always designated as celebrant. And by presiding over the liturgical assembly he renders a ministry to the church. Because in the ecclesial dimension of the Holy Qurbana, the priest is the president of the liturgical assembly and it is he who performs the ritual celebrations on behalf of the whole congregation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

MANDERS, H.,  The  Church And The Liturgy (New Jersy, 1964).

PATHIKULANGARA, V., Liturgy Experience (Kottayam, 1995).

POOVANIKUNNEL, J., Role of The Priest In The Celebration Of The Holy Qurbana (Kottayam, 1996).

THADIKKATT, G., Liturgical Identity Of The Mar Toma Nazrani Church (Kottayam,2004).

VELAMPARAMPIL, C., The Celebration Of The Liturgy Of The Word In The Syro-Malabar Qurbana (Kottayam, 1997).

VERHEUL, A., Introduction To The Liturgy (Campfield,1972).


[1] H. MANDERS,  The Church and the Liturgy (New Jersey, 1964) 144. Here after, H. MANDERS, The  Church and the Liturgy.

[2]H.MANDERS, The  Church and the Liturgy, 145.

[3]H.MANDERS,  The  Church and the Liturgy, 148.

[4] H. MANDERS,   The Church and the Liturgy, 149.

[5] H. MANDERS,  The  Church and the Liturgy, 149.

[6] V. PATHIKULANGARA,  Liturgy Experience (Kottayam, 1995), 23. Here after, Pathikulangara, Liturgy Experience.

[7] PATHIKULANGARA,  Liturgy Experience, 24.

[8] PATHIKULANGARA,  Liturgy Experience, 25.

[9] G. THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity of the Mar Toma  Nazrani  Church  (Kottayam, 2004), 175. Here after, THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity.

[10] THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity, 176.

[11] THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity, 176.

[12] J. POOVANIKUNNEL,  Role of the Priest in the Celebration of the Holy Qurbana, (Kottayam,1996), 43. Here after, POOVANIKUNNEL,  Celebration of the Holy Qurbana.

[13] POOVANIKUNNEL,  Celebration of the Holy Qurbana, 50.

[14] POOVANIKUNNEL,  Celebration of the Holy Qurbana, 51.

[15] POOVANIKUNNEL,  Celebration of the Holy Qurbana, 51.

[16] C. VELAMPARAMPIL,  The Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word in the Syro- Malabar Qurbana (Kottayam, 1997), 259.

[17] A. VERHEUL,  Introduction to the Liturgy, (Campfield, 1972), 82.

[18] THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity, 176.

[19] THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity, 177.

[20] THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity, 177.

[21] THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity, 178.

[22] THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity, 179.

[23] THADIKKATT,  Liturgical Identity, 180.

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