Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Sursum corda" and holy fear

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

In a series of recent posts we took a rather detailed look at Abbot Vonier's masterful text, "A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist."  We now turn to "The Bible and Liturgy" by Fr. Jean Danielou SJ, which examines the same subject but from a very different standpoint.   Abbot Vonier's treatment of the Eucharist depended heavily upon the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas.   Fr. Danielou's book, on the other hand, was published in 1951, when many in the Church were seeking fresh, non-Thomistic perspectives on familiar topics.  Rather than look to St. Thomas for guidance, Fr. Danielou instead combs through teachings of the Fathers of the Church which touch upon liturgy.  Here is Fr. Danielou on "Sursum Corda":

"[T]he great anaphora spoken over the bread and wine . . . . is introduced by the ancient formulae that our liturgy still retains.  Cyril (of Jerusalem) comments on them as follows; "the priest then cries: Sursum corda.   Yes, truly at this moment, filled with holy fear (phrikodestaton) we must hold our hearts raised on high to God and turned no longer toward the earth and earthly things.

"Cyril rightly emphasizes the symbolism of the Sursum corda.   It is the expression of the holy fear (phrike) with which the hearts of the faithful should be filled at the moment when "the awe-inspiring liturgy" is to be accomplished.  Holy fear is the feeling which takes possession of man's heart when the living God manifests His presence.  It is also the disposition of the angels in the heavenly liturgy:   "They adore, they glorify, with fear they sing continuously mysterious hymns of praise." (St. John Chrystostom, On the Incomprehensible)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.

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