It is no wonder that this fateful development which profaned the Mass produced the great reaction of the Reformation. It was tragic that this powerful reform movement lacked esoteric knowledge of the mysteries of Christianity and was thus bound to fall short of the mark. The reformers saw the commercialization of the Mass but in their opposition went too far and ‘threw the baby out with the bath water.’ They understood that the Catholic priest pretended ‘to repeat the event of Golgotha on the altar’ (that is spiritually). They could only think of Christ’s deed as a historic fact, but without any knowledge of the continuation of the mystic stream released by the original historic event. Thus they could not see how the deed of Golgotha comes to new life every time the Eucharist is celebrated. They were bound to think it a sacrilegious presumption to put this sacramental action alongside Christ’s unique and all-sufficient deed. They could not see the mystical relationship between that deed and the altar. Finally, when they saw the growing commercialization of the Mass for the departed they rejected the Mass in its entirety as sacrilegious and idolatrous.
The reformers tried to get back to the original sources of Christianity, but they knew no other source than the Bible, which they approached without any esoteric understanding. They did not become aware that the sacramental stream of Christianity is older than the New Testament and developed independently of it. Thus they necessarily fell short when they tried to build up a communion service exactly along the lines of the scriptures. The result was, that the Protestant service consisted chiefly of that which was the first part of the Eucharist (the public service) with scripture reading, hymns, prayer and sermon, to which now and then is added the Communion, the fourth part; leaving out the Offertory and Transubstantiation. In this way the wonderful structure of the Christian Mystery was destroyed.
8. The Act of Consecration of Man
The Act of Consecration of Man, as it is celebrated in The Christian Community can be looked upon as a sort of ‘reincarnated’ Mass, newborn in our modern age. The supersensory pattern and archetype which had hovered above the evolution of the Eucharist through the centuries manifests itself again with new evidence. In the Act of Consecration of Man the four main parts are articulated with full clarity. It cannot be the ideal to copy exactly the ceremonies of the first Christian centuries. This would deny the immanent meaning of the progress of time. Attempts to copy golden ages of the past usually lead to caricatures. We have to be Christians of the twentieth century. Of course this does not mean that we have to indulge in the materialistic errors and excesses of this century. The twentieth century, like every other epoch, has not only its special shadow, but it also has a divine possibility of its own.
The Act of Consecration of Man speaks through modern language. It contains formulations of thoughts which were not yet possible in the liturgical dictionary of the early Church. For instance, it speaks in quite a new manner about the mysteries of the course of the year. The number of liturgical colours is considerably enlarged. The course of the year, spiritually experienced, is something which can bring us into contact with the living Christ wielding in the sphere of the etheric life forces. This new great insight, that the earth is a living organism (an insight which we owe to Anthroposophy, together with other esoteric wisdom) found its way into these modern liturgical texts. They speak in a new way of sun, stars, rainbow, clouds, air, and of the breath of the earth.
9. Gospel and Offertory
The first main part, the Gospel reading, is now based upon a new understanding of the scripture.
The second main part, the Offertory, is conceived on the basis of a new understanding of the meaning of sacrifice. The objection is heard: ‘How can we offer anything to God when everything belongs to him in any case?’ It is true that everything belonged to him originally. Our souls were also at one time with God, and belonged to no one else. But God himself gave the privilege of freedom and independence to man. It is not our merit and doing that our self can exist as an independent being. It is God’s highest gift that he sets us free as individualities, but this highest privilege involves of necessity highest risk and danger. The highest mountains have the deepest abysses. We can make the wrong use of our independence and thus cut ourselves off from our divine origin. This did happen to a certain extent. Man is in the habit of taking it for granted that his ‘self and the faculties of thinking, feeling and willing are his own absolute property. Man will not find his salvation without acknowledging that his ‘self with its faculties is entrusted to him by God. He is expected to unite his gift of freedom with the divine aims voluntarily. Is there then anything that a man can give to almighty God? The answer is yes; but how can this be possible? As far as our human freedom is concerned it is a result of God limiting his own omnipotence in our favour. To each individuality he gave a share in his own creative privilege of freedom and he expects us to make the right use of it. It is not a dogma but a fact of everyday experience that my ‘self,’ poisoned as it is by egotism, does not belong to God. Although the ‘self originated in God it has taken on such qualities that it has alienated itself from its original owner. The religious act of offering therefore means that I try to place my ‘self ‘ with its faculties at his disposal. The more I try to do this, the more I become aware how difficult it is. Yet as we seek to offer our inner activities to the Christ week by week, we can experience some progress. This is the inner path along which we are led in the Offertory of the Act of Consecration.