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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Therefore with Angels and Archangels . . .

This is the eschatological aspect, the representation of the eternal liturgy of heaven, the ‘Marriage of the Lamb,’ to put it in the language of the Apocalypse. What the Middle Ages called the ‘heavenly court’ and what St. Dionysius the Areopogite described as ‘the order of powers and authorities’ gather around the Throne of the Lamb. In icons and mosaics of the first century the archangels are often depicted wearing the dalmatic, the outer garment with wide sleeves that is worn by the deacon (and nowadays also by the subdeacon). As its name indicates, this garment comes from Dalmatia, where the late Roman emperor Diocletian held his magnificent court. The dalmatic was worn by high court officials. Diocletian’s role in church history is not only that of a bloody persecutor of Christians, but also that of a ‘Byzantine before his time,’ who led the Roman empire to that form in which the great Constantine could exercise his providential activity.

”The court ceremonial of an (often questionable) omnipotent ruler is turned into the image of the glorification of the cosmos. Significantly, it is the lowest of the three higher clerical grades that is chosen to express the eschatological and eternal aspect of the liturgy. During the Offertory the subdeacon stands at the foot of the altar until [the consecration] has been accomplished: he holds up the paten, hidden beneath the humeral veil. The paten conceals his face, and his hands are concealed beneath the veil. At this point he is like the angels of the Apocalypse, whose bodies are completely hidden under their wings. Today the paten he holds is empty, but in the first century it contained a host consecrated at an earlier Mass. Thus the subdeacon became a living tabernacle. St. Paul’s dictum, ‘You are temples of the Holy Spirit’ became an eloquent image in the unmoving figure, lost behind heavy folds, exhibiting the eucharistic Christ and at the same time concealing him from sight.

”A reform worthy of the name could simply have restored this ancient and highly meaningful subdeacon’s office and function. But even in the mere hint we have in the elevation of the veiled, empty paten, someone who knows can have an intimation of this other reality that unfolds simultaneously into the present Mass. Today’s Holy Mass is intimately connected with all Masses celebrated before or after it. The unity of this link is a sign of the ONE sacrifice of Golgotha and the ONE timeless liturgy of the Creator and his creatures.
— Martin Mosebach, "The Heresy of Formlessness," 107—108.