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Working from a variety of sources, Celebration draws upon highlights of the scriptural testimony to the presence and work of God, references to the Church's history of theology, and insights from the work of philosophers. It weaves together these strands to create a compact presentation of a theologically defensible understanding of the real presence, without rearguing the issues that cluster around Aristotle's philosophy of being. Whether you have found yourself living according to the Catholic perspective or the Protestant view of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Celebration extends the hope of discovering a way to transcend past conflicts and to return, instead, to the joy of celebrating Christ's eucharistic gift in both faith and practice.
The Old Testament and Apocrypha
The leading figures of the Old Testament were all men and women of action. They were not philosophers. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, Joshua—all were men of action. Most of what they did was good, some regrettably not.
The prophets recalled them to their faith in the One God who had chosen them. More importantly, they pointed to the future, and how the long history of God's chosen people was preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him,
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
he will not fail or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth.
In the inter-testamental period, the historical writings in Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, and 1st Esdras related the history of the period immediately before the coming of Jesus the Christ. These are important.
The Book of Judith told of the campaign of Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Assyrians, and his general, Holofernes, against the Israelites. Holofernes was intent on seducing Judith, who, after earnest prayer to God, succeeded in turning the tables on him, by waiting until he was in a drunken stupor, and then killing him with his own sword.
Additions to Esther contains a number of fragments relating how the Jew, Mordecai, together with Esther's prayers, saved the life of King Artaxerxes and thus gained the goodwill of the Assyrian King towards the Jewish people in his dominions, allowing them to practise their religion.
1 Maccabees relates how Antiochus Epiphanes, in 169 B.C., with the connivance of some Jews who were prepared to seek accommodation with their Gentile rulers, set up a gymnasium in Jerusalem, "and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant." (1.15) After conquering Egypt he returned to Israel and attacked Jerusalem and looted the Temple of all its religious objects used in Jewish worship. He commanded all the towns of Judah to offer sacrifices to idols. Circumcision was forbidden on pain of death.
However, God called Judas Maccabees to raise and lead a Jewish army through several successful battles against Antiochus, and then to cleanse the Temple and equip it again with all the objects necessary to restore Jewish worship. They then fortified Jerusalem against all enemies.
The other Apocryphal books tell of many battles, some between Israel's enemies, some between those enemies and Israel.
This brief survey of the Old Testament and the literature of the Apocrypha is given because it demonstrates that it was a long period of constant activity and movement. It also helps us understand more of the situation in Israel when the Son of God was born into the world.
The demands of God were set out specifically in the Ten commandments given to Moses as the people's representative on the mountain. Another shortened list was given through the prophet Micah: "he has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to DO justly, to LOVE mercy, and to WALK humbly with your God (Micah 6.8)" Actions. Works. Much, much more than mere thoughts or speculations.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke
This concentration on people's actions, their deeds, carried through into the Gospels. Christ never told anyone who approached him to merely go away and think, to ponder—but rather, to act. Neither Judaism nor Christianity are interested in speculative theory. They do not present us with a system of philosophy. And both traditions have produced many heroes of faith down through the centuries.
After tracing the genealogy of Joseph, the father of Jesus, Matthew's Gospel tells us of the events surrounding Jesus' birth, the family's flight to Egypt to escape from King Herod and their eventual return after Herod's death and settling in Nazareth in Galilee.
After the account of John the Baptist's ministry, calling people to repentance and baptising them in the Jordan, Matthew relates how Jesus joined the multitudes going to the river to be baptised by John. Reluctant at first, having heard of Jesus' birth and earlier life, John baptises him, and John sees a vision of the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
Matthew then tells us of Jesus' time spent alone in the wilderness where he was presented with a series of temptations that he withstood, and it was after this testing time that his ministry began.
He began by gathering about him a group of twelve disciples who moved about with him as he proceeded to teach in the Synagogues and in the open air, much of this being brought together in the Sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:1-7:28) that has received wide acclaim, not only from Christians:
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; ... You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Of particular interest are those words where Jesus took it upon himself to change the ancient law, in effect, claiming the power to do so:
"You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." ...
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery...."
"You have heard that it was said, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you."
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? and if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect...."
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you...."
"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day." ...
"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." ...
"Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' and then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers...."
"And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes."
Throughout these teachings, the emphasis is on doing. Christ's Gospel is about living. He lived himself, a very active life, and he called on his hearers to follow his example.
When he entered the Temple and saw the buying and selling and money-changing going on within its precincts, he took a whip and drove those engaged in those activities out (John 2.14-16).
He worked many miracles. When attending a wedding where the wine ran out, he turned water into wine (John 2.1-10). Numerous miracles of healing are recorded in the Gospels. He performed two miracles of raising the dead to life—the aforementioned only son of the widow in Nain (Luke 7.11-15) and Lazarus (John 11.1-44).
Much of his time was given to teaching—not only to the Twelve that he had specially chosen, but also to the people generally.
He gave several commands and condensed the Ten commandments to two, bringing together two verses from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18—"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22.27-40)."
Other commands dealt with the danger of judging others, on marriage and divorce, on men lusting after women.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" he answered, "have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'(Genesis 2:24)? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" he said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."(Matthew 19:3-9)
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' (Matthew 5:27=28)
His final command was to 'do this', to share the bread and the wine as often as they gathered, to celebrate the Eucharist as a regular act of worship, the norm of Christian worship, and it is this that is the primary topic of this book.
Finally he allowed himself to be sacrificially put to death on the Cross, and then rose again and ascended to the right hand of the Father.
A useful summary of Christ's deeds is given in Matthew 11:4-5, where he responds to a question put by John the Baptist's emissaries, "are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Christ responds, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them."
Matthew alone of the Gospels gives us Christ's account of the last judgement (Matthew 25:31-46), where the criteria of judgement is based entirely on deeds done or left undone.
"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? and when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? and when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' and they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'"
Mark adds nothing of unique significance, but Luke 7:11-15 tells us of Christ's restoring to life a man, age unstated, in the village called Nain.
The Gospel of John
John, in his Gospel, gives us a mature reflection on Christ's life and works, beginning his narrative with a re-writing of the Genesis account of creation in the light of the revelation that has come in Christ:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
With these words, John makes it clear that it was the Son of God who was specifically involved in the creation, with a special concern for the redemption of his people.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John tells us how John the Baptist was preaching on the banks of the Jordan, calling people to repent of their sins and be baptised. When he saw Jesus coming towards him, declared, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" prophetic words that came true later. Christ was the Lamb sacrificed for his people.
John in his Gospel sees great significance in what he calls 'signs', that is, clear indications of the true nature of Christ and his work.
The first of these occurred when Jesus attended the wedding at Cana, a village in Galilee. When the supply of wine for the guests ran short, Jesus, at the urging of his mother, turned some water into wine.
Excerpted from Celebration by BRUCE UPHAM. Copyright © 2013 Bruce upham. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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The Old Testament and Apocrypha.................... 1
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.................... 4
The Gospel of John.................... 12
The Acts of the Apostles.................... 17
St Paul.................... 21
The Captivity of the Church.................... 25
The Real Presence.................... 35