50. The Acts frequently show Christians at prayer, either individually (Ac 9:40; 10:9, etc.) or together (4:24-30; , etc.), in the Temple (2:46; 3:1), in houses (2:46), and even in prison (). Sometimes prayer is accompanied by fasting (13:3; ). In the New Testament, prayer formulas are usually hymnic: the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55), the Benedictus (1:68-79), the Nunc dimittis (2:29-32) and numerous passages in the Book of Revelation. They are moulded in biblical language. In the Pauline corpus, hymns are Christological, 199 reflecting the Church’s liturgy. Like the prayer of Jesus, Christian prayer utilises the Jewish ber
But taking up the criticism expressed in the Prophets and Psalms, 204 it denies all efficacy to animal sacrifices for the purification of conscience and for the establishment of a deep relationship with God
h (“Blessed be God. ”). 200 In a Hellenistic milieu it was more charismatic (1 Co 14:2,16-18). Prayer is the work of the Spirit of God. 201 Certain things are possible only through prayer (Mk 9:29).
The “Lord’s Supper” (1 Co ) occupies a prominent place in the traditions. 202 Its form resembles the liturgy of Jewish festal meals: ber
h over the bread at the beginning, over the wine at the end. From the tradition underlying 1 Co -25 and the Synoptic narratives, the two blessings were brought closer in such a way that the meal was placed, not in between, but either before or after. This rite is a memorial of Christ’s passion (1 Co -25); it creates fellowship (koin(o-)nia: 1 Co ) between the risen Christ and his disciples. Baptism, a profession of faith, 203 offers pardon for sin, unites with Christ’s paschal mystery (Rm 6:3-5) and gives entry into the community of believers (1 Co ).
The liturgical calendar remained that of the Jews (except for the Pauline Christian communities that came from paganism: Ga 4:10; Col 2:16), but the sabbath began to be replaced by the first day of the week (Ac 20:7; 1 Co 16:2) called the “day of the Lord” or the “Lord’s day” (Rv 1:10), that is, the day of the risen Lord. Christians continued, at first, to frequent the Temple functions (Ac 3:1), which provided the point of departure for the Christian liturgy of the hours.
The Letter to the Hebrews recognised a certain ritual validity for the ancient sacrificial cult (Heb 9:13), as a prefiguration of Christ’s offering (9:18-23). 205 The only fully efficacious sacrifice is the personal and existential offering of Christ making him the perfect High Priest, “mediator of the new covenant”. 206 In virtue of this offering, Christians can approach God (Heb -22) through grace and by living a life of self-giving (-16). The apostle Paul already spoke in this manner (Rm 12:1-2).
51. The Jerusalem Temple. During the lifetimes of Jesus and Paul the Temple still existed as a material and liturgical reality. Like all Jews, Jesus went there on pilgrimage; he taught there. 207 He performed a prophetic act there by expelling the merchants (Mt -13 and par.)
The New Testament reveals traits of the early Church’s liturgical prayer
The edifice retained its symbolic role as the privileged divine abode, which represented on earth the dwelling place of God in heaven. In Mt 21:3 Jesus quotes a prophetic word where God himself calls it “my house” (Is 56:7); in Jn 2:16 Jesus calls it “my Father’s house”. But some texts relativise this symbolism and pave the way for transcending it. 208 As Jeremiah had done, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple (Mt 24:2 and par.) and announced, instead, its replacement by a new sanctuary, to be built in three days. 209 After his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples will understand that the new Temple was his risen body (Jn 2:22). Paul tells believers that they are members of this body (1 Co ) and the “temple of God” (3:16-17) or “of the Spirit” (6:19). The First Letter of Peter tells them that united with Christ, the “living stone”, they form together a “spiritual house” (1 P 2:4-5).