But thus much we must be sure to hold, that in the Supper of the Lord, there is no vaine Ceremonie, no bare signe, no vntrue figure of a thing absent (Matthew 26.26): But (as the Scripture saith) the Table of the Lord, the Bread and Cup of the Lord, the memorie of Christ, the Annuntiation of his death, yea the Communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in a marueilous incorporation, which by the operation of the holy Ghost (the very bond of our coniunction with Christ) is through faith wrought in the soules of the faithfull, whereby not onely their soules liue to eternall life, but they surely trust to win their bodies a resurrection to immortalitie (1 Corinthians 10.16-17). The true vnderstanding of this fruition and vnion, which is betwixt the body & the head betwixt the true beleeuers and Christ, the ancient Catholike Fathers, both perceiuing themselues, and commending to their people, were not afraid to call this Supper, some of them, the salue of immortalitie and soueraigne preseruatiue against death: other, a deificall Communion: other, the sweet dainties of our Sauiour, the pledge of eternall health, the defence of Faith, the hope of the Resurrection: other, the food of immortalitie, the healthfull grace, and the conseruatorie to euerlasting life (Irenaeus, Bk. 4, Chap. 34; Ignatius, Epis. ad Ephes.; Dionysius?; Origen, Optat. Cyp. de Cana Domini; Athanasius, De Pec. in Spir. Sanct.). All which sayings both of the holy Scripture and godly men, truely attributed to this celestiall banket and feast, if we would often call to minde, O how would they inflame our hearts to desire the participation of these mysteries, and oftentimes to couet after this bread, continually to thirste for this food?
The hope of the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day, receiving immortality by feeding on Christ, not only who died, but who rose again and everlives to make intercession for us, is the great benefit of eating and drinking salvation by this sacrament (not the memorial of the dead, but the reminder of the living).
This requires faith, since "without faith it is imposible to please Him." (Hebrews 11:6) It has proved easy for our critics to misread Anglican formularies, and come to very wrong opinions about our faith. When the English Reformers wrote "Of the wicked which do not eat the body of Christ, in the use of the Lord's Supper" (Artilce XXIX), they did not attack the reality of the sacrament, or deny that the Lord is truly present. Rather, they took a look at the great gulf fixed between those who presume upon God's grace by eating and drinking damnation to themselves (I Corinthians 11:29), and those who take the food and drink of eternal life. The distinction is made because of faith in the presence of Christ in the sacrament, not to deny that Reality; just as Paul's words of warning were based on that Reality (Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.-I Cor. 11:27-29).
The Lord promised salvation to those who recieve him in the sacrament: ""Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." Yet, Paul warns the unbelieving and unrepentant that receiving the same sacrament brings God's judgment on them. We know that God's revelation in Holy Scripture cannot contradict itself. So, the homily says:
Whereas by the aduice of the Councell of Nicene, we ought to lift vp our mindes by fayth, and leauing these inferiour and earthly things, there seeke it, where the sunne of righteousnesse euer shineth (Council of Nicene, Concilium). Take then this lesson (O thou that art desirous of this Table) of Emissenus a godly Father, that when thou goest vp to the reuerend Communion, to be satisfied with spirituall meates, thou looke vp with fayth vpon the holy body and blood of thy GOD, thou maruayle with reuerence, thou touch it with the minde, thou receiue it with the hand of thy heart, and thou take it fully with thy inward man (Eusebius Emissenus, Serm. de Euchar.).
For the vnbeleeuers and faithlesse, cannot feed vpon that precious body: whereas the faythfull haue their life, their abiding in him, their vnion, and as it were their incorporation with him. Wherefore let vs prooue and trie our selues vnfaynedly, without flattering our selues, whether we bee plants of the fruitfull Oliue, liuing branches of the true vine, members indeed of Christs mysticall body, whether GOD hath purified our hearts by fayth, to the sincere acknowledging of his Gospel, and imbracing of his mercies in Christ Iesus, so that at this his table we receiue not only the outward Sacrament, but the spirituall thing also: not the figure, but the trueth: not the shadow only, but the body: not to death, but to life: not to destruction, but to saluation: which GOD grant vs to doe through the merits of our Lord and Sauiour, to whom bee all honour and glory for euer, Amen.
In this time we are assailed by opposing errors, and need to to stay on the Via Media, turning neither to the right hand or to the left. Those of the "Reasserter" camp treat the sacrament as less than "the holy body and blood of thy God." They reject the Anglican Catechism that declares this sacrament, along with baptism, to be "generally necessary to salvation." Meanwhile, at least one prominent Anglo-Papalist has written to suggest that we return to late medieval practice, with silent celebration (called in the Homilies, "dumb massing"), and non-commuinicating Masses.
The Anglican emphasis on Reception has been rejected in both of these extremes. Some have distorted that emphasis by inventing a doctrine, called "Receptionism" by some, in which the Body and Blood of Christ are real only by some invisible effect on the heart, rather than as objectively real by his word. But, that was not what the Anglican emphasis was ever about. It is about the purpose of the sacrament as designed by God's goodness and mercy. Worthy and frequent reception is practical, for it forces us to live a holy life and truly and earnestly to repent of our sins. The sacrament is charismatic, and the power of the sacrament springs from the Incarnation of the Word, is tied to his death and sacrifice, and quickened by his resurrection in order to be the food and drink of eternal life.
With our mouths and by faith, we eat and drink our Salvation, that is, Jesus.