Writing in 1982, James Jordan gets to the heart of the difference between a catholic, Biblical approach to the sacraments and what the rest of “evangelicalism” has become:
…the sacraments are seen the same way: men are to make a decision, then be admitted to baptism (the Baptist view) or to the Eucharist (the Lutheran and Calvinistic view). The Bible, however, indicates that faith is presuppositional. The child is to be taught to believe from the beginning. It is not his initial decision which evidences his faith, but rather his perseverance to the end. He participates in the sacrament, in both its forms, from the beginning. The sacrament of God’s grace is not something he must attain by making a decision, walking an aisle, memorizing a catechism, or going through a rite of confirmation; but rather the sacrament of eating dinner with Jesus at His House is the presupposition of the child’s growth in grace.
Megan McLaughlin traces the development of prayer for the dead in stages as follows (all the quotes are from her book):
1. Christians replace pagan funeral rites with the Eucharist. “…the central rite of the church – the celebration of the eucharist – was also associated with the funerals of Christians from at least the second century on. What part it played in those funerals is less clear…the practice of offering the eucharist for the dead after they were laid to rest is well attested. It seems to be related to pre-Christian customs, common throughout the Mediterranean region, which called for sacrifices at the tomb of a dead person on set days after the burial. The Christian communities substituted eucharistic sacrifices for these traditional ones at an early date.”
2. The main functions of the liturgy were clericalized and the laity retreated from the liturgy after Constantine. “…the laity began to lose their active role in the services of the ecclesia from the fourth century on. They retained some liturgical functions, but as time passed their presence was no longer necessary for the performance of the liturgy. Gradually, then, liturgical prayer became an activity that the clerical orders performed on behalf of the Christian community, rather than in concert with the order of the laity.” Continue reading “Prayer for the Dead”