Friday, October 15, 2010

Pittsburgh's "Seusscharist" sacrilege

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." (I Corinthians 11:26)

First there was the Clown Eucharist from Trinity Church, Wall Street, NYC. Now comes this latest bit of folly from the Episcopal (TEC) Diocese of Pittsburgh. I know the link will go away once the event is over, so I have copied the relevant text and graphics here:

With brains in your head and feet in your shoes
Please come to Calvary from any direction you choose.

Friday, October 22 will be the day.
Fun is waiting, so get on your way.

We'll have a light supper and share together
A little Seuss fun, no matter the weather.

A movie, and popcorn, and stories, too.
We'll finish with a Seusscharist designed just for you.

Five thirty is the time that we will start.
We know you will join us, if you are smart.

Weezie is the one that you should call
She'll take reservations for family, friends and all.
412-661-0120, ext. 40

Age is no limit, bottom or top.
We know that our gathering won't be a flop.

Have any questions you'd like to ask?
Just call Adele. She's up to the task.
412-661-0120, ext. 16

Calvary Episcopal Church
315 Shady Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15206

Now, before someone calls me a GRINCH for casting aspersions on this program, let me be clear about my reasoning. The Eucharist is to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ's death, whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, until He comes again. That is its message, and that is the meaning. It needs no other metaphor. Dressing it up in other garb can only obscure—not enhance—its message and its meaning.

The concept of a sacrilege teaches us that "sacred objects are not to be treated in the same way as other objects." That's the point of the matter. And no, this kind of display (Clown Eucharists and Seusscarists) isn't what the Apostle Paul means when he calls the preaching of the Gospel foolishness in I Corinthians. Even though C.S. Lewis does a wonderful job of symbolizing the atoning death of Christ in Aslan's death in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I would not be in favor of a Narnia Eucharist either. (And neither would C.S. Lewis!)

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup" (I Corinthians 11:27-28). Literally interpreted, this text means that we should not approach the Eucharist with impure motives or unconfessed sins against God and our neighbor, thereby having little regard for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But does it not also mean that, when it comes to the Eucharist, we shouldn't be clowning around? We are dealing with holy things in the Eucharist, when God in the flesh died for the sins of humankind. I can state it no better than the Book of Common Prayer:
An Exhortation

Beloved in the Lord: Our Savior Christ, on the night before
he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and
Blood as a sign and pledge of his love, for the continual
remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, and for a spiritual
sharing in his risen life. For in these holy Mysteries we are
made one with Christ, and Christ with us; we are made one
body in him, and members one of another.

Having in mind, therefore, his great love for us, and in
obedience to his command, his Church renders to Almighty
God our heavenly Father never ending thanks for the
creation of the world, for his continual providence over us,
for his love for all mankind, and for the redemption of the
world by our Savior Christ, who took upon himself our flesh,
and humbled himself even to death on the cross, that he
might make us the children of God by the power of the Holy
Spirit, and exalt us to everlasting life.

But if we are to share rightly in the celebration of those holy
Mysteries, and be nourished by that spiritual Food, we must
remember the dignity of that holy Sacrament. I therefore call
upon you to consider how Saint Paul exhorts all persons to
prepare themselves carefully before eating of that Bread and
drinking of that Cup.

For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living
faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if
we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord's Body.
Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.

Examine your lives and conduct by the rule of God’s
commandments, that you may perceive wherein you have
offended in what you have done or left undone, whether in
thought, word, or deed. And acknowledge your sins before
Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life, being
ready to make restitution for all injuries and wrongs done by
you to others; and also being ready to forgive those who have
offended you, in order that you yourselves may be forgiven.
And then, being reconciled with one another, come to the
banquet of that most heavenly Food.

And if, in your preparation, you need help and counsel, then
go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest,
and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of
absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal
of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the
strengthening of your faith.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own
blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God
and Father, to him be glory in the Church evermore. Through
him let us offer continually the sacrifice of praise, which is
our bounden duty and service, and, with faith in him, come
boldly before the throne of grace [and humbly confess our
sins to Almighty God]. (BCP, 1979, p. 316)

Now, who wants to clown around with that?


TJ McMahon said...

Some of us are old enough to remember when no bishop would have allowed this on the grounds that supper was being served before the Eucharist, and not after, a period of fasting being required before receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord.
Which is to say, the evening is outside the bounds of the rubrics without the open sacrilege of the parody of liturgy that will no doubt result from parsing it into Seuss's meter and rhyme scheme. I am sure whatever egoistic "priest" concocted this will be thrilled to hear the little giggles from the congregation over his clever turns of phrase during the "creed" (or whatever it turns into), or during the "eucharistic prayer" (intentionally not capitalized, as a Eucharistic Prayer is one in which we remember our Lord, and not Dr. Seuss).
Someday, our Lord Jesus Christ will come back. It seems to me that the best course, when planning a Eucharist service, even if it is "just another Sunday", is to assume He has arrived and will be sitting in the congregation.
He is, of course, watching in any case. Something that seems forgotten, or just not believed, by too many.
Don't take this as a criticism of Dr. Seuss, while I really didn't want to read Green Eggs and Ham one more time, I dearly cherish those evenings with my kids when they were little. Not sure that Dr. Seuss would be any happier over this than St. Paul.

The Way said...

I thought U2charist and the Hip-Hop Hymnal were an abomination, and this is just more of the same. The Anglican/Episcopal Church was once a wonderful source of theology and sacred worship around the sacrament of the Eucharist. It has managed to not only forget the meaning and purpose of the sacrament, but has managed to bring the glory and holiness down to the lowest intellectual and spiritual common denominator possible.

The Church has not only become apostate, but is now mocking the central sacrament that should be the center of every Christian's life. Come home to the Orthodox Church.

Anonymous said...

Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse!

kiwimac said...

Respectfully I disagree. Jesus created wine, ate with 'sinners and tax-collectors' and added that the Sabbath was for man not man for the sabbath. The Eucharist is FOR humans not the other way around.

It is neither sacrilegious nor foolish to playfully enter into the mystery which is the life of God.

Rev. Raymond McIntyre

Robert S. Munday said...

Ray, what you say is true: Of course Jesus created wine, ate with sinners and tax collectors--but what has that got to do with anything? We should not be afraid to eat and drink with sinners. And, of course, even when we partake of the Eucharist, WE ARE still sinners--penitent ones, but sinners nonetheless.

And, yes, the sabbath is made for man, it is made for us to worship a holy God and grow in the love and knowledge of God.

But think what the Eucharist is, what it means, and how it was instituted: Jesus didn't make silly faces or clown around when he said, "this is my body, given for you" and "this is my blood shed for you."

The death of God come in the flesh for us is the most sacred moment in all of history. We should enter into the experience of the Eucharist joyfully. But there is a BIG difference between joy and silliness or irreverence.

jschwarz42 said...

I think perhaps we need to lighten up a little about sacred things. Humor and light-heartedness are not "sacrilegious", and are appropriate to a joyous communal occasion when we come together to Our Savior's table to sacramentally "receive" him and be joined with him

As Chesterton once wrote: "Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth."

John Schwarz

Undergroundpewster said...

I pray we can all enter into His courts with joy, praise, humility, and awe, but joining in the Eucharist so often reminds me of the deadly seriousness of the mystery of being accepted into those courts. Who are we to make light of God's sacrifice? This is no game. Don't play around.

The Religious Pícaro said...

You're writing as if you knew what a "Seusscharist" was, or was supposed to be. Do you know it's anything other than a cutesy name? Have you contacted the parish involved to find out just what's going on?

Robert S. Munday said...

John, I don't think I can say it any better than my response to Ray: "There is a BIG difference between joy and silliness or irreverence." If you look at the whole of G.K. Chesterton's writings, he knew this well and, while understanding the place of mirth in the Christian life, would never have trivialized the Eucharist in the way that Clown Eucharists or Seusscharists do. Much like Lewis, who reveled in whimsy and obviously loved a good story, I believe he would have been horrified at the thought of dressing up the Eucharist in another metaphor.

Robert S. Munday said...


Oh, the places you will go
and the things you will see
If you hang around with T-E-C.

The ad is enough to tell the whole story.
This thing is about silliness and not God's glory.

I read plenty of Dr. Seuss when I was little.
But the Eucharist is something with which I won't fiddle.

So go if you must
and in TEC you do trust.
But I'll stick with God's Word
and avoid things absurd.

bob said...

And every Episcopalian is in full "communion" with this thing. I wonder how anesthetized the remaining believers must be to stay where they are. Mere blasphemy, not Mere Christianity.
Someone remarked to me that Mr. Geisel once said if he were invited to a party with his characters he wouldn't show up. I wonder what he would have thought of a sham eucharist like this? Things have been at the bottom for a good while now. This is just what occurs to people who are there. They can't think of anything better.

Tom said...

What I am more offended by is the poor imitation of Seuss's poetry on the invite. If they can't do any better than that, I would not interested in coming, even if I didn't have a problem with the concept. I think mediocrity is at least as a offensive as bad theology or worship practice.

Free Range Anglican said...

I followed up on Seusscharist, if you can handle it, on my blog.

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

Following up on Free Range Anglican's comment, the entire Suesscharist liturgy is available here.

Robert S. Munday said...

Brian, thank you for the link to the text of the Seusscharist. I am glad for the opportunity to read it. In some ways I can appreciate the cleverness behind it. But, overall, it strikes me as a trivialization of something very holy. And substituting "Yertle the Turtle" for a Scripture lesson? Yikes!