Sermon preached by the Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan
Over these weeks in Lent I will be offering 5 sermons based on the Liturgy – the weekly offering of the church in which God’s glory in Christ, and in us, is celebrated. This is the third in the series.
Each week the subject will be preceded by the word ‘sacrament’. I am using this word in its loosest sense because I do not want to confuse what we are doing with the 7 formally recognized Sacraments of the church. This ‘looseness’ of the word ‘sacrament’ I discovered recently when reading a book on the Eucharist by the great Orthodox theologian, Father Alexander Schmemann.
I am working with the basic meaning of ‘sacrament’, namely ‘the outward visible sign of a hidden invisible grace’. In other words, a mystery revealed.
To recap – in the first week we thought about the nature of the church focusing on the image of the ‘household’ and then we moved to thinking about the Sacrament of the Gathering of the household of faith, and the immediate need for repentance, Kyrie Eleison, followed by the outburst of Gloria (except in Lent and Advent). In week 2 we reflected on the Sacrament of the Word, balancing the word of God in scripture, and God in Christ as the Word made flesh. Last week we considered the Sacrament of Prayer, looking at 5 points in the Liturgy when prayer is the task of the household of God.
As we think of the Sacrament of Offering, of course no greater offering could be made that the offering of Christ on the Cross. It is this self -offering that characterizes Christianity. It is an offering that in the Reformed language of the 1662 Prayer Book refers to Christ’s offering as an ‘oblation’ which makes a ‘full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world’.
This language is intended in the Anglican tradition to guard against the Roman Catholic dogma of the ‘Sacrifice of the Mass’ in which there were tendencies to think of Christ being repeatedly sacrificed each time the Mass was celebratd. Anglicans have none of this, and with sound scriptural understanding accept that what Christ did on the Cross, he did once and for all. There is a Greek word hapax, which means ‘only once’, and it occurs only once in NT Greek vocabulary in the Letter to the Hebrews, and in fact has been absorbed into English grammatical language. If a word occurs only once it is referred to as a hapax legomenon.