An illustration: High vs. Low Church
The question? "Why do we celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday?"
Here's how the Episcopal Church's liturgical officer, the Rev. Clayton Morris responds:
The worship life of the Episcopal Church is ordered in a series of rhythms. The liturgical year is punctuated by seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time.
From Advent to Pentecost, the life and ministry of Jesus is the thematic focus, Sunday by Sunday. From Trinity Sunday until the last Sunday after Pentecost, the weekly gathering of the community reflects on how it can "seek and serve Christ in all persons and strive for justice and peace among all people," in the words of the Baptismal Covenant. The week has its own rhythm.
The Book of Common Prayer calls the church to daily prayer, providing offices for morning, noon, evening and night. The prayer book also calls the church to gather as a congregation once a week to celebrate Eucharist.
Why does the church gather around a table with food and drink in its primary act of worship? Because God calls the church to a ministry of reconciliation. The church is called to restore the dignity of creation. It is all about feeding and being fed. It is all about making certain that all God's children are safe, whole and nourished. The ritual breaking of bread in the midst of the assembly reminds us of our task while it embodies its reality.
In its early history, the church always celebrated the Eucharist on Sunday. For a host of historical and circumstantial reasons, weekly Communion fell out of fashion over time so that, by the time Anglicanism was transplanted to the North American continent, Sunday morning worship without Communion was common. The drafters of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer were very clear about restoring the Eucharist to Sunday morning as a way of underscoring the church's ministry in the world.
So, as faithful Christians, we use the Daily Office in some form, alone or in community, to say our daily prayers. On Sunday, we gather as the body of Christ in the eucharistic assembly. We take bread, bless it, break and share it. Then we take our nourished bodies and souls into the world to do the work God has given us to do.
There is some stuff here that looks straightforward but is not, and could be unpacked--I've put it in boldface. This type of explanation strikes me as low, left evangelical, and rather well done for what it is. Notice a critical and, it seems to me, high-church reaction from a layperson on Fort Worth's Standing Committee (empahsis via boldface added by me):
This article written by the Rev. Clayton Morris, liturgical officer for the Episcopal Church, concerning “Since You Asked: Why Do We Celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday?” (Episcopal Life, March 31, 2008) is shocking in its explanation of the Holy Eucharist.
This explanation could apply to any secular gathering or meal where the goal is to make sure that “all God’s children are safe, fed, nourished, and whole.” This could be such things as a food bank project or any number of community gatherings or meals.
This has nothing to do with the Christian meaning of the Eucharist! Where is the saving, atoning death of Jesus on the cross in this explanation? Where is any mention of Jesus’ Body which was given for us and His Blood which was shed for us, as a final and complete sacrifice? Where is even a simple word about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Where is any mention of our part in preparing to receive the Eucharist – “earnestly repenting of our sins, being in love and charity with our neighbors, and intending to lead a new life . .?” And where is any word about forgiveness of sins, strength, and amendment of life granted to partakers in this blessed sacrament by our Lord and Him alone?
The above explanation of the Eucharist has nothing to do with the holy sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood in this sacrament. It is appalling in its omissions.
The blog Apostolicity reporting this exchange presents it without comment, as if it did not need one: just another in a long series of events no longer needing elucidation. That is the saddest thing about it, I think; the layperson from Fort Worth sees only a complete negation of proper doctrine, a line of sentences completely secularized, having literally nothing to do with the genuine article. It might be natural for the layperson from Fort Worth to take the additional step of suspecting the Episcopal Church is apostate, or slipping into secularism, or committed to another religion altogether.
I'd disagree with the assessment from Fort Worth; it seems to me if the boldfaced items from Rev. Morris' piece were unpacked, they would coincide with the core concerns of the critic's piece. The difference is one of style (low-church evangelical vs. conservative high-church) and general emphasis or direction (left vs. right), not one of substance. The church catholic ought to be able to include both peacefully.