Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's About Time

I’ve always been intrigued by a brief congregational part inserted in the Eucharistic prayer, three lines, called the “acclamation of faith.”

The Book of Common Worship (1993) presents four alternative acclamations following separate introductory phrases:

Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus:
Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory
According to his commandment:
We remember his death,
we proclaim his resurrection,
we await his coming in glory.

Christ is the bread of life:
When we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus,
until you come in glory.

The fascinating thing to me about all of these is that they cast the people’s acclamation of faith in temporal terms. The past is celebrated, the present is experienced and the future is anticipated.

It’s not that worshippers are expected to jump from one chronological time zone to another in the space of ten words or so. The past is not celebrated as past that is gone and remembered nostalgically. Nor is the future merely a pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by wishful thinking to be longed for. Rather both past and future are brought front and center by the presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist.

The fullness of the present experience is in the recognition that our living Lord has redeemed the past, transforming the tragedy of the cross into a triumph to be shared with us in bread and wine, his body and blood.

Our present meal serves as appetizer for the heavenly banquet yet to come where Christ will preside just as he does before us now.

Both past and future are seen to be a present reality in the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is our host at the Communion Table feeding us with his life, giving us to drink of his spirit. This past-present-future enfolding presents the Paschal mystery in all its fullness.

The rubrics for the acclamations of faith indicate that the people may “sing or say” one of them. Yet it is difficult to find melodies to use. So I composed one for the first acclamation, that we used for a number of years, as follows:

Do you use any or all of the acclamations in your church? Are they sung or spoken? If sung, where do you find the music?


I’m not sure of the history of these acclamations, since they are new to us Presbyterians as of the Book of Common Worship (1993). I believe they have been in use in the Roman Church for some time, at least since Vatican II.

In 2005, however, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Chicago voted to withdraw one memorial acclamation text (“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”) that was on the original list of about a dozen or so alternatives in a proposed study document of the new English translation of The Order of the Mass I.

The explanation of the withdrawal was:

Unlike the acclamations of the Ordo Missae, the acclamation “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” is more an assertion, a statement, rather than an expression of the gathered assembly of its incorporation into the Pascal Mystery. No pronoun is used to signify the people being incorporated into the Pascal Mystery. In the other memorial acclamations that incorporation is specified. For example: “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life ...” Therefore the committee voted to drop this one acclamation. (From

That’s an interesting, if very fine, point. Nevertheless, I would consider its use by the gathered community to be an action that in itself signifies “the people being incorporated into the Pascal Mystery.”

1 comment:

  1. Eternal Time and Created Time are ministered to us as the King-Priest who is the Prophet of all time and times, the Sage of the Creation and the Wisdom of God for us---after the Order of Melchizedek! I hope we can take seriously a belief in this High Priest of all time and times.

    John Emory McKenna


Thanks for joining in the conversation!