Those who visit St. John’s on a Sunday morning discover that our worship is provided from the Book of Common Prayer. Much of the liturgies it contains can be traced back at least to the middle of the second century AD. With regard to the Mass there are two interrelated parts that make up the Eucharistic liturgy: (1) the liturgy of the Word of God (BCP, p. 355) and (2) the liturgy of the Altar of God or the Holy Communion. (BCP, p. 361)
(1) The liturgy of the Word of God contains an introductory portion, extensive reading of holy Scripture, the sermon, the Nicene Creed, prayers, confession of sin and sacramental absolution, and the exchange of peace. Anglican worship is rooted in God’s Word proclaimed and taught. When it is time to read from the Holy Gospel we actually carry it out to the middle of the congregation to proclaim the words of Christ.
The choir sings a gradual hymn, our acolytes carry torches and the processional Cross all to lead the Holy Gospel into the midst of the people for the proclamation. This is done to share our belief of the presence of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, in the midst of His family gathered.
(2) The second half of the service is the liturgy of the Altar, or Holy Communion. This consists of the offertory, the Great Prayer of Consecration, the communion of the people of God, the post-Communion prayer, and the blessing and dismissal. Through the ministry of the priest we gather with Jesus at the “Last Supper.” This liturgy of the Mass enshrines our Lord’s actions of taking bread and wine, blessing both, breaking the bread and pouring the wine to give His sacred Body and Blood to the Church.
During Holy week on “Maundy Thursday” night our Lord commanded the apostles to preserve these four sacred actions of taking, blessing, breaking and giving. What is preserved in the Church is our Lord’s holy death on the Cross and His resurrection to glorification.
But we must follow the details has He laid them out. The Mass is not something that we can compose afresh on our own. Why is this all so important? Every soul depends on the Mass. In this holy sacrament any person in any era can feed upon the divine mystery of our Lord’s Passion and glorification. Holy Communion is just that! It’s intimate union with Jesus Christ who said, “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (Jn 6:56) Our supernatural life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me.” (Jn 6:56)
The lasting value of Anglican worship using the Book of Common Prayer does not depend on the clergy or anyone present. It depends solely on Jesus Christ who is the true Priest and Victim. With Him we are united, in spite of our nothingness. We offer Him our intellect and our will, our heart and our soul, our body and our blood, so we may be filled with grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Jesus, that He may dwell in us, and we in Him.
Our heavenly Father knows us not so much due to our imperfections, but rather He knows us in His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. At St. John’s our worship lifts high the Cross between Heaven and earth so Christ may bestow the fullness of forgiveness and the supernatural life.