+L’s Little Liturgical Lesson: The SURSUM CORDA

The three children admitted to first Communion stand at the altar during the Eucharistic prayer

The SURSUM CORDA – a bit of Latin shorthand for the dialogue that starts of the great Prayer of Thanksgiving that is the highpoint of the Eucharist.

  • This conversation between the celebrant and the congregation has been part of worship from the earliest records we have of Communion services – and that’s the third century!
  • In the Byzantine Rite of the Eastern tradition, just before the Sursum Corda the deacon calls out to the congregation:Let us stand well. Let us stand in awe. Let us be attentive…..’  All designed to keep the congregation on their toes. Something magnificent is about to take place!
  • Sursum Corda is Latin for ‘lift up your hearts’ or literally ‘hearts lifted’ which gives a clue as to the direction we are travelling in life and what we are attempting to do when we worship – go heavenwards, though sometimes getting lift off is not so easy….The journey from self centredness to God centredness is quite a pilgrimage, and is really a work of the Spirit in us, but it’s what worship is all about.
  • In some early rites the invitation is to ‘Lift up your minds’ and in one, ‘Lift up your ears!’. Just a reminder that in the Christian tradition ‘heart’ really means your whole self.
  • Then the priest invites the congregation to ‘Give thanks to the Lord our God’ – but for what primarily is it right to give him thanks and praise? The prayer that follows gives the clue!
  • Note that after the dialogue the priest stops speaking to the congregation and is then directing his prayers to the Father. He or she may be facing the congregation, but is praying to the Lord.

More of that next week!

+LINDSAY URWIN