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From Age to Age You Gather a People: A Historical, Liturgical and Theological Investigation of the Act of Gathering for Liturgical Celebrations

Since the earliest years of the Church, Christians have gathered in community to celebrate their Christ experience. This is attested in scripture and early Christian sources as well as in liturgical sources and in records of liturgical practices. The gathering of the faithful is the inmost reality and foundation of the Church. The liturgy is performed and accomplished through actions, signs and symbols, not only through prayers. The act of coming together, which is the primordial act of the liturgy, is itself a theological act, and the gathered assembly is not merely a condition for the liturgical celebration.It is an essential part of it. Over time, however, the act of gathering has not been accorded the theological significance it deserves, even when its importance is culturally and cultually so evident. It is important to recover the richness of the idea of liturgical gathering. The principle claim of the study is that the act of gathering has played a far more significant role in the history of the Church than has been generally recognized. By examining evidence from a range of sources – semantic, biblical, historical and liturgical – we can better understand the role of the act of gathering and find ways to make it more widely known and appreciated today. It is our hypothesis that on the basis of the competence we have acquired from this liturgical and theological in-depth study, we come up with a profound theology of the act of gathering.

The dissertation consists of five chapters. Chapter one offers semantic, etymological and conceptual analyses of the notions of ekklèsia, leitourgia and synaxis to explore the theology of Christian gathering. It argues that the Church, liturgy and Eucharistic celebrations are interlinked by the thread of the coming together of the Christian faithful. Chapter two examines passages from the New Testament that refer to the theme of gathering, as many of the liturgical prayers are based are based on scriptural texts, which are well-grasped in the larger context of the Christian assembly. Chapter three considers several  sources of the early centuries of Christianity as well as the theological reflections of the patristic tradition that emphasize the significance of Christian gathering in the life of early Christian communities. Chapter four investigates the theme of gathering in medieval liturgical sources and practices and considers a shift of emphasis in the communal dimension of the gathered assembly by examining two key texts of the period: the Sacramentarium Veronense, the earliest Roman sacramentary, and the Ordo Romanus Primus, the earliest Roman ordo. In the final part of the chapter, we analyse certain liturgical customs and practices that influenced the theology of gathering in the medieval period. Finally, in chapter five, recognizing that liturgical prayers are a genuine source for theology, we explore how the liturgical prayers of two rites attest to the theme of gathering. We explore the prayers of the order of the Mass in the Roman and Syro-Malabar rites in order to understand the richness of Christian gathering and the theology of the gathered community.

Date:1 Oct 2009 →  27 Oct 2016
Keywords:Systematic Theology, Systematic Theology Liturgical Ecclesiology
Disciplines:Theology and religious studies
Project type:PhD project