Weekly Email – Trinity 16
Three weeks ago, a fascinating discussion of eucharistic and biblical theology took place by Zoom as part of our online theology seminar programme. We discussed Brant Pitre’s book, “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.”
In essence, the work is a fascinating exercise in seeking to rediscover the Old Testament narratives and typological echoes that lie at the heart of the gospel narratives of Christ’s institution of the Eucharist. It is an attempt to establish what early Jewish and Patristic understandings existed of the Eucharist meal which Jesus bequeathed to his disciples.
Pitre explores with great clarity the way in which what Jesus did on Maundy Thursday has to be understood in the light of Jewish Passover practice, the story of the Exodus, God feeding his people with Manna in the Wilderness, and the importance of the Bread of the Presence in the Temple.
Out of this evidence comes a richer understanding of the Eucharist: not just as a memorial meal; nor yet as a magic trick that turns bread and wine into something they were not before; but rather as a celebration of the saving power of God made present in our midst in Christ – he who rescues his people from slavery to sin and leads us in saving Exodus to the Promised Land of the Kingdom.
One of the most important elements of this argument is what one might describe as the “cultic” background to the Eucharist. Pitre’s argument points to the connection the Passover had to the life of the Temple, and the fundamentally liturgical and priestly character it had.
The significance of ideas connected with the Bread of the Presence kept in the Jerusalem sanctuary also points to notions of God’s sacred presence celebrated in the Temple. This formed a crucial part of the way in which those who worshipped there knew that in that “Show Bread” they saw nothing less than the very face of God. Modern misconceptions of the Eucharist as a simple fellowship meal give way to a deeper understanding of the Mass as a participation in the presence of God and the worship of heaven.
The most intriguing theory propounded by Pitre is the notion that the Passover at the time of Jesus involved the sharing of four cups of wine: one was associated with the opening of the Passover meal; the second was the cup of proclamation which accompanied the telling of the Exodus story; the third was the cup of blessing which accompanied the meal; and the fourth was the cup of praise which finished the meal and was shared after the singing of psalmody.
Pitre argues from a close reading of Luke’s passion narrative that Jesus shared the first three and that the cup he describes as his Blood is the third cup of blessing. It is notable, however, that he does not drink from the fourth. In other words, he leaves the Passover unfinished. Jesus states he will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom comes. In Pitre’s reading of the gospels, the Passover is only completed by the Cross, which may be why John’s gospel describes Christ drinking from the hyssop offered to him as he dies.
I thoroughly recommend Pitre’s book as a fascinating way of opening up a number of questions to do with the Eucharist. As many pointed out in our Zoom seminar, Pitre’s book is not without its problems. Its polemic and rhetorical character is rarely helpful, and he leaves a number of questions and themes unaddressed. However, he does succeed in revealing with greater clarity what will have been the normative way of understanding Christ’s gift of the Mass for Jewish and early Christian ears in the first centuries of the church’s life.
Our next seminar will take place on Tuesday 15th November 2022 (7.00-8.00 pm) and will be led by Fr Steve Rice, who will join us from North Carolina. It will be entitled, “Christ and the Aliens: what would be the theological consequence of discovering life exists beyond our world?”
We will address the fascinating question of what difference it would make to Christian theology to discover we are not the only life forms in the universe.
This is not a new topic and many ancient writers have pondered the question. Fr Steve will draw on theologians such as Vorilong, Baronius, and Sinistrari to tease open the intriguing questions this poses for our account of what it means to be human in the light of the Gospel.
Our Zoom online theology seminars seem to be going from strength to strength and to be popular with a wide range of people. They take place once every two months and we aim to make discussion as approachable and inclusive as possible. I want to thank everyone who participates in them. It is really fascinating to hear people’s questions and perspectives, and to be able to discuss our faith together. I do hope as many as are able will join us for our next seminar on 15th November.
All parishioners of All Saints’ are invited to the book launch of Fr Peter’s recently published academic monograph on the Transfiguration entitled, “Patristic Perspectives on the Transfiguration: Interpreting Vision.”
The launch will take place on Monday 31st October at 7.30 pm at All Saints’ Church. It will follow First Evensong and Benediction of All Saints’ Day, which will take place at 6.30 pm and will include a drinks party.
The monograph is essentially the fruit of Fr Peter’s doctoral thesis. He explored how visionary elements in Luke’s Gospel had a particular influence on early interpretation of the Transfiguration, by examining the rich hermeneutical traditions that emerged – particularly in the Latin West – as the Transfiguration was first depicted visually in art.
If you want to know more about this topic, Fr Peter will draw on a lot of this material at our autumn study day on Thursday 20th October.
Change to Mass times
Please note, as previously announced, that from this Monday (3rd October) onwards, the evening Mass each day, Monday to Saturday, will move to 6.30 pm. This includes High Masses on feast days.
Parish Visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea
There are still places left for next week’s parish tour of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. This will take place on Saturday 8th October and begin at the Royal Hospital at 10.45 am.
We will be given a tour by one of the Pensioners who visited All Saints’ for the Assumption, and will then be shown the chapel by the Chaplain, Fr Steven Brookes. Our visit will finish with a drink in the Pensioners’ club. Once our tour is over, those who wish to can have lunch together at a local restaurant.
We can only take a maximum of 20 people, so please be in touch with the parish office by email to book your place.
Autumn Study Day
Seeing God: Theologies of the Transfiguration
This year’s autumn study day on Thursday 20th October (10.00 am – 3.00 pm) aims to build on the success of our focus last year on Ravenna. Join us for a series of three lectures given through the day by the Revd Dr Peter Anthony and Dr Gregory Tucker, all focusing on the Transfiguration and ways in which we can interpret and live out its mystery in the world today.
Fr Peter Anthony will begin with an exposition of the biblical Transfiguration narratives and will later speak the history of depiction of the Transfiguration. Dr Gregory Tucker, a Research Fellow at Regensburg University, will explore the Transfiguration in the light of Eastern Orthodox liturgical traditions.
Walsingham Pilgrimages 2023
The following visits to Walsingham are now available to book through our parish office over the next 12 months.
Walsingham Silent Retreat
Friday 2nd December-Sunday 4th December 2022
Cost: £182 (including full board plus mini-coach from Kings Lynn – retreatants need to book their own train ticket to Kings Lynn).
Retreat leader: Rt Revd Roger Jupp, Vicar of St Lawrence, Long Eaton.
This retreat will be silent from after supper on Friday night to the Parish Mass on Sunday morning.
National Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
Monday 29th May 2023
This is a day pilgrimage to Walsingham which takes place on the last Bank Holiday in May each year. We travel together in a coach from Margaret Street, setting off first thing, and return late in the evening of the same day. The pilgrimage includes a large outdoor Mass in the Abbey grounds of Walsingham, with sermon and procession in the afternoon. The cost is usually around £20. Details will be announced closer to the time.
Annual parish weekend pilgrimage to Walsingham
Friday 21st July to Monday 24th July 2023
Cost: £270 Friday to Monday; or £190 Friday to Sunday evening (including full board plus mini-coach from Kings Lynn – pilgrims need to book their own train ticket to Kings Lynn).
A weekend pilgrimage away involving: Pilgrimage Mass at the Shrine Church; evening processions; sacraments of healing; sprinkling at the holy well and finishing with procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.
We are aware that including Monday in the time we are away might not be convenient for those who work. We have decided therefore, to offer two deals: one for those who wish to come home on Sunday night and one for those who want to come back on Monday.
Join us on one of our pilgrimages to Walsingham over the coming year!
News from the Friends of All Saints’
The newly re-established Friends of All Saints’, Margaret Street, continues to expand. Over its first nine months it has now grown to 164 Friends. 64 of those Friends are in the category of “Benefactor,” generously contributing £120 a year to All Saints’.
The purpose of the Friends is to help a wider community to stay in touch with us and to support the life and mission of All Saints’ by prayer, companionship and giving. Friends, in their turn, can draw strength from the church’s daily round of sacraments and prayer and in knowing they have a spiritual home at the heart of London.
We would make a particular appeal to our online worshippers and ask that if you are not already a member of the Friends, to please join. It helps us keep in touch better with you and know where our online worshippers are located.If you would like to join the Friends of All Saints’, please do so here, where information is available about levels of giving and how the Scheme works.
The flowers are given by Francis Davis for Stephen, a much missed youngest brother and devoted friend of All Saints.
We are looking for volunteers to help with the flowers in church and the Courtyard Garden. If you have a particular talent for flower arranging or gardening and would like to help from time to time or on a regular basis, please contact Shawn on
Links for Sunday