is there no mention of the Eucharist in the creeds?
no expert in the history of the Creeds. Yet it seems to me the Nicene-Constantinopolitan
Creed was shaped and formed over many years in response to disputes over the nature
of the Trinity and the relationships of the three divine persons.
Creeds expanded and new articles were added
as new challenges to the faith arose. The early Councils tried to put into clear language
what Christians believed about God and the theological questions of the day.
Theological disputes in the first four
centuries did not center around the Eucharist. So the Fathers of the Nicene and Constantinopolitan
Councils did not make credal statements concerning the Eucharist.
There is, however, some body of opinion
that the Latin phrase communio sanctorum in the Apostles Creed is a reference
to the Eucharist.
We are accustomed to seeing this phrase
as a reference to persons, translated as "communion of saints."
There are those, however, who argue that communio
sanctorum was the Latin translation of the Greek phrase kononia ton agion.
This phrase or expression was imported to the Western Church from the East.
Berard Marthaler, O.F.M.Conv., in The
Creed (Twenty-Third Publications), says the phrase was a reference to holy things
and was a traditional term for the elements of the Eucharist.
Marthaler says if communio sanctorum translates
the Greek kononia ton agion, it is a clear-cut reference to the Eucharist. Marthaler
also says that medieval theologians were aware of the two views. As different as they
are, they are not mutually exclusive, and St. Thomas Aquinas tried to synthesize them.
One theologian I consulted wrote, "When
the Creed expresses faith in the Holy Spirit and the Church (one, holy, catholic
and apostolic), the Eucharist is implied. It is the Spirit who consecrates the elements
in this central act of the Church's worship."
In our own time, interestingly enough,
Pope Paul VI was concerned about confusion regarding Catholic doctrine.
In 1968 he issued a profession of faith
that is called the Credo of the People of God. It repeats the substance of the Nicene
Creed with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time.
In this profession of faith, 30 paragraphs
long, paragraphs 24, 25 and 26 are devoted to declaring our faith in the Eucharist.
For more on the Creeds, consult Early
Christian Creeds, by I.N.D. Kelly (David McKay Company, Inc.).
Abstain From Meat?
non-Catholic co-worker of mine recently asked me why Catholics abstain from eating
meat on Fridays during Lent. I talked about making sacrifices and acts of contrition,
but couldn't provide her with the answer she was looking for.
She is interested in the history behind
it all. How did it get started and why? Can you help me provide her with an answer?
books usually treat the topics of fast and abstinence under the same heading. And in
practice, they frequently go hand in hand. Fasting refers to doing without food or
limiting the amount of food we eat. Abstinence refers to doing without a kind of food
or drink or something elsemeat, alcohol, cigarettes.
Apparently fasting as a religious practice
goes back before written history. Already in the Book of Exodus (34:28) we find Moses
fasting 40 days and 40 nights to placate the Lord for the guilt of his unfaithful people.
In the New Testament Jesus fasts 40 days
and 40 nights before the beginning of his public ministry (Matthew 4:2 and Luke 4:1-2).
According to Adolf Adam in The Liturgical
Year (Pueblo), writings from the second century refer to a complete fast in which
no food or drink at all was taken. At Easter Christians were obliged to spend 40
hours or two full days without eating or drinking.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia tells
us abstinence from certain foods, especially flesh meats, was established early in
the Church. The observance of Friday abstinence in commemoration of the passion and
death of Jesus was common in both East and West.
Days and customs regarding fast and/or
abstinence varied from place to place and from one time to another. For details over
the centuries, you can consult The New Catholic Encyclopedia. But it seems evident
abstinence from flesh meat was chosen because for most people it was a real sacrifice.
The latest revision of the laws of fast
and abstinence was made by Pope Paul VI in 1966 in an apostolic constitution called Paenitemini (Apostolic
Constitution on Penance).
Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia briefly
gives the purpose of fast and abstinence: "to unite the believer through a discipline
of self-sacrifice to the sacrificial love of Christ and to free the person from self-centeredness,
in order to facilitate deeper prayer and more generous charity."
Those fasting and abstaining seek to die
to self with Christ in order to share his victory over sin. Those doing penance offer
it in reparation for their sins and the sins of the world. Through their self-denial
they hope to detach themselves from the pursuit of material things and pleasure and
seek first the Kingdom of God.
Piety of Penance
assumed that long ago, days of fasting and abstinence were eliminated except during
Lent. But I recently learned that these and other forms of Friday penance were
supposed to continue and that days of fast and abstinence were not discontinued
after all. Is this true?
The article I read said that if these
Friday observances were not observed, then I have sinned. But I never heard or hear
anything from the pulpit even after I enlightened my pastor and my parish council
about it. If I didn't know about it, how could I have sinned? If I didn't sin, then
latest revision of the laws of fast and abstinence was made by Pope Paul VI in 1966
in Paenitemini. In that apostolic constitution he left certain things to the
judgment of the national conferences of bishops.
The U.S. bishops determined that Catholics
in the United States should fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain
from meat on all Fridays during Lent.
The U.S. bishops recommend voluntary fasting
throughout Lent and voluntary abstinence on all Fridays of the year.
In Paenitemini, Paul VI reminded
us of the need we all have to do penance. And penance can take many forms: acts of
charity like visiting the sick or people in jail, tutoring slow learners, almsgiving,
doing without candy, liquor, TV, etc.
Finally, you can never commit a sin without
knowing it. One of the conditions for sin is knowledge of the evil or disobedience
Crosses and Statues During Lent
the church I attend, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday a large purple drape covers
Jesus above the altar. The statues are not covered during this period. I thought
that Jesus and the statues were covered from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday. Has
the Church changed its position?
custom of veiling crosses and images during the last part of Lent has changed over
According to Adolf Adam in The Liturgical
Year, in the 11th century a cloth, called the "hunger cloth," was suspended in
front of the altar beginning with the fifth Sunday of Lent. At the beginning of Lent
public sinners were excluded from Church. The "hunger cloth" may have been an acknowledgment
that we all are sinners and are partaking in a "fast of the eyes."
By the end of the 13th century statues,
crosses and pictures were veiled. French Bishop William Durandus explained it by saying
Jesus veiled his divinity during his passion and that the Gospel of the fifth Sunday
of Lent ended by telling us "Jesus hid and went out of the temple area" (John 8:59).
Later writers would tell us the veiling
was to remind us of Jesus' humiliation and to imprint the image of the crucified Christ
more deeply on our hearts.
In 1969 the Commentary on the General
Norms for the Liturgical Year and the new Roman calendar said, "Crosses and the
images of the saints are not to be covered, henceforth, except in regions where the
episcopal conferences judge it profitable to maintain this custom."
A note following the texts for the Mass
of Saturday of the fourth week of Lent in the present Sacramentary reads: "The practice
of covering crosses and images in the Church may be observed, if the episcopal conference
decides. The crosses are to be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord's
passion on Good Friday. Images are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter
The U.S. bishops' conference has made no
decision to veil crosses and images during the old season of Passiontide. The Sacramentary
for Good Friday, however, provides two forms for showing the cross prior to its veneration.
One begins with a veiled cross; the other with an uncovered cross.
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