In my previous post on this topic I addressed how, in our post-Christian context, the Office can serve to renew the catechumenate and foster discipleship. In this one I want to point out how this can relate to the issue — rather obsessively pushed by some in TEC in recent times — of Communion Regardless of Faith and Baptism. I use this phrase because it gets beyond the spin we get talking only of “Open Communion.” Open Communion appears to mean not simply “pastoral” generosity in not “policing the table” — to use the phrase — but hostility to the very idea that discipleship is an essential part of life in Christ, a life we receive primarily in the Eucharist.
Part of the reason that this has become an issue, it seems to me, is because we don’t want to appear “inhospitable” to guests who visit a parish. We are told that this is “Christ’s table, not the Church’s table” and “Christ was inclusive” or whatever. It’s not my intention to comment substantively on “when” people ought to share in the Eucharist. There are many resources available on that and the bishops of TEC were rather strong in their rejection of the current mood and stood by the tradition on this. (Though I ought to point to the helpful resources of Fr. Matthew Gunter, especially here and here) Rather I wanted to suggest that a parish or mission that utilized the Daily Office as a tool for evangelism in some capacity can escape the pressure toward an uncritical “hospitality” because it is not necessary for participation in the Office to be a baptized Christian.
The Office, to be sure, arose from within the Church, being passed on from Judaism, and serves the spiritual needs of the Church. I don’t believe I’m talking about a functionalist reduction of the Office to a mere tool to get more bodies in the Church. At the same time, as TEC prays the Office, it is participating in the prayer of Jesus, it is incorporated into his life, and evangelism is nothing less than exposure to Christ’s life, and a call to share in it. (cf. Rowan Williams in multiple places, including here and here and here) Prayer, then, and mission, are intertwined and ought not to be separated. Prayer is a fitting and appropriate way share the Gospel, yet one which “preserves the symbolic integrity” of the Eucharist, operating as it does in a different field than the celebration of the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day.