Thursday, November 27, 2008

Transubstantiation and the Black rubric

a. Council of Trent, Session 13
CHAPTER IV.
On Transubstantiation.

And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.

b. Article XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.

THE Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves, one to another, but rather it is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

c. The "Black Rubric"

"Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord's Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one."

d. From God is near Us, (2003, San Fransisco, Ignatius Press) by Pope Benedict XVI, (published initially under the name Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.

*****

Internet theology suffers from two defects: 1) Knee-jerk reaction and 2) Nominalism. Not that the internet is the cause of these problems, inasmuch as it is merely one very fast method of communication that displays the general working of human reason in both its glory and ugliness, its strength and its feebleness. Everyone knows that the Earth is flat; or, at least everyone knew this until it was proved otherwise; but even then, everyone knew that the sun, moon and stars orbited the earth until that irksome troublemaker Copernicus came along, and demonstrated otherwise, as if we really needed to know about the Solar System. Well, he can't spoil this one: Everyone knows the clear dividing line between Protestants and Catholics, especially when it comes to all this stuff about the Eucharist and Christ's Real Presence. And, as everybody knows, there is certainly no mystery about the sacrament. It either is or it ain't. Knee-jerk reaction and Nominalism aren't dead yet. What could be more obvious than the fact that all of the above quotations cannot be reconciled? It is every bit as obvious as the fact that the Earth is flat as a pancake.

For centuries our Roman Catholic brethren have charged that Anglicans, by denying transubstantiation, have rejected any concept of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament. Adding to their voice has been the inferiority complex of some Anglo-Catholics who assume that this charge is true, since, like the flatness of the Earth, it is so damned obvious. There it is in black and red, especially in the "Black Rubric." This fact is safe and secure unless some theological Copernicus should happen to come along. Unfortunately, for knee-jerk Nominalists everywhere, that Copernicus has come along, thinking like an Anglican, reasoning like a Prayer-Book Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI has weighed in.

Using our heads

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy...mind." It is simply astounding that so many people insist on throwing around words without stopping to consider the basic problem of communication. Words require definition, especially in a science. And, that is exactly what theology is, in fact "the Queen of the sciences." It does no good to use a weighty word like "transubstantiation" without pausing to make sure we have a definition that is both acceptable and commonly known to all parties. Such has not been the case with this word. Furthermore, the definition given in the Council of Trent is not helpful at all, since it begs the philosophical craftsmanship that Rome's best minds have tackled only in modern times, especially Joseph Ratzinger who penned the homily from which the above quotation is taken. From the 16th century until the late 20th century, "transubstantiation" was a Nominalist buzz-word, and a superficial bone of contention.

When Anglicans rejected "transubstantiation" they were quite right. They were not rejecting the Real presence of Christ in the sacrament at all, especially inasmuch as they affirmed it clearly in the Holy Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer: "Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood..." Not symbols, not memorials, not metaphors; like St. Paul writing to the Corinthians, they simply affirmed the truth that the bread and wine were in fact the Body and Blood of Christ. In the words of Queen Elizabeth I: "'Twas God the word that spake it, He took the Bread and brake it; And what the word did make it, That I believe and take it."

So, why do I say the Anglicans were right? The answer to how the Anglicans were able to reject "transubstantiation" and yet not reject, as we mean the expression today, the Real Presence is in that very "Black Rubric" that far too many Anglo-Catholics find embarrassing. For heaven's sake-if they would only think about it, they would be glad that the offending passage clears them of the Roman-Polemicist charge. For, it demonstrates that the entire problem was simply one of definition.

Many times I have pointed out that when the Anglicans of past generations rejected "transubstantiation" it was not the same doctrine that modern Roman Catholics believe, and not the same doctrine that Pope Benedict XVI carefully laid out (as a corrective, I might add, in case any of his own people were still thinking along the early Medieval lines he so strongly denounced). They were rejecting, as Pope Benedict does, a "crude material understanding" by which the bread becomes flesh and the wine becomes blood physically, or materially. They were rejecting, as Pope Benedict felt compelled in modern times to teach his own people to reject, a definition of "transubstantiation" by which the conversion of "the whole substance" means that the appearance of bread and wine conceals the physical reality of Christ's flesh and blood. They were sure that what the Council of Trent was teaching actually did amount to cannibalism, an eating of human flesh and and drinking of human blood, which thing they saw as an abomination and superstition that overthrew the nature of a sacrament.

When I have pointed this out, Roman Catholic Polemicists have reacted instead of responding. "That's not what we ever believed." This answer is not at all useful, since the issue here is one of perception. Furthermore, then Archbishop, later Cardinal, Ratzinger-now the Pope-saw a need to teach this clearly to his own people:

Jesus is not there like a piece of meat, not in the realm of what can be measured and quantified...How should we relate to reality? What is "real"?...Concerning the Eucharist it is said to us: The substance is transformed, that is to say, the fundamental basis of its being...Whenever the Body of Christ, that is, the risen and bodily Christ, comes, he is greater than the bread, other, not of the same order. The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens...The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.

Maybe this is what the Council of Trent meant, using unfortunate wording that lent itself to misunderstanding. Then again, considering the period, maybe not. Nonetheless, it is the fault of Rome, not of Canterbury, that this confusion was allowed to go unchecked until modern times. A few simple words could have clarified everything much sooner. Yet, even as late as my own childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, those words had not come.

Thinking philosophically

Pope Benedict gets to a very important issue, namely the nature of reality. Even a term as strong as "a conversion...of the whole substance" needed never to have caused such division and confusion, inasmuch as a spiritual reality is every bit as real as a physical one. "The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner." In every way, these words are compatible with the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, and the definition that has finally been given in our day of the word "transubstantiation." Even the "Black Rubric" is perfectly compatible with this. "For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances...and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one." Or, as the Pope put it, "The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different."

Latreia

The real problem with the "Black Rubric" is not that it is wrong, but that it is no longer relevant, and no longer guards against any genuine danger of the mind slipping into idolatry, inasmuch as the old confusion has cleared away. This brings us to but one matter that requires clarification. The Anglican caution about adoration of the sacrament is not referring to veneration, but to worship, that specific worship (latreia, λατρεία) due only to God himself. Here it may be argued that if we believe in the Real Presence of Christ, then our adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is directed to God the Son, not to the physical elements. However, that kind of reasoning takes us to a different category than what the "Black Rubric" actually addressed. The sort of adoration it warned against would be quite wrong. For, it warned against adoration of a "Corporal Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood." Such a corporal presence is not what the Church teaches, rendering such adoration misplaced. Not to be irreverent, but if we placed the sacramental body and blood of Christ under a microscope, we would see wheat and the blood of grapes. Neither could we find in them the DNA of Jesus of Nazareth; and yet He is in those elements, and is present in very truth, as real as reality can be, Present as the food and drink of eternal life. And, this is what Anglicans have always called "the nature of a sacrament."

So, it is past the time to throw away knee-jerk reaction and Nominalism, to follow the example of Pope Benedict XVI, and to both think and communicate with clarity. It may be less fun than a barn-yard scrap or a two-fisted saloon brawl, such as internet theology often is. But, that is simply the pain of growing up.

31 comments:

Canon Tallis said...

Another wonderful post. The only thing you missed were those not so wonderful medieval stories of persons receiving the sacrament only to find a finger, an ear or a toe in their mouths. I am sure they were all fictional and had the intention of teaching the reality of the receiving of Christ's flesh in the sacrament, but they were precisely the sort of idea against which the Anglican reformers rebelled.

They, of course, were not representative of the teaching of the Church, but of the type of common superstitition which grows up around a theological argument badly understood, an attempt to make it real to very uneducated people but which eventually had a backwash among those who should have known better. One would have thought they would have disappeared with the end of the medieval period but I heard them from Romans who should have known better when I was a child. It has made me wonder if we ever completely grow out of mistakes.

Sandra McColl said...

Where does the Black Rubric say that the Bread and Wine have become 'profoundly different'? Why doesn't the Black Rubric say specifically Who really is being adored? Why does it say that the kneeling posture is for the purpose of 'humble and grateful acknowledgement of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers'? Somehow, I think Fr Wells may be able to give the answer, because I've seen him give it before.

Fr Hart, please stop doing intellectual gymnastics in order to try to convince us that Anglicanism in its official acts and pronouncements has never got anything wrong until the 1970s. The Church of England hath also erred. The Oxford Movement was necessary.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

This is not mental gymnastics; it is a clear look at the actual words in their historical context. The errors of Rome created Protestantism, which was an attempt to restore true Catholic Faith.

Why doesn't the Black Rubric say specifically Who really is being adored?

That was the problem. They weren't at all convinced that Christ was being adored. Eucharistic adoration is good and fine as long as it focuses on Christ himself. Living in that era, knowing the mind of the people of their own time, they did not think this was happening.

Queen Elizabeth had this 1552 rubric removed from the Book of Common Prayer upon restoring the use of prayers and worship in the English language. The bishops refused to put it back, and it seems to have been slipped in at the last moment without proper authority-but there it is.

The point is, however, it simply does not mean what modern readers are inclined to isogete into it. It is not about what the sacrament is, but only about what it is not; as for what it is, I already quoted that simple line from the Prayer of Humble Access, and add to it these words from the delivery of the sacrament to the people: "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee...The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee..."

The Church of England hath also erred.

Individuals have erred about the sacrament itself, but the Church of England did not err- that is until modern times with the ever so slight opening to contraception (1930).

Canon Tallis said...

But what Sandra is thinking about is not the Oxform Movement, but the Ritualist and Ceremonial revival which followed it by a number of years. The Tracts ended with the reaction to the publication of Tract XC. It was the Cambridge Camden Society which initiated the second phrase of the Church revival which resulted in the revival of vestments and ceremonial in the first attempts to obey the Ornaments Rubric. I remember reading of the first public celebration of the Eucharist in which the historic vestments were worn and all of the rubrics of the books of 1559 and 1662 literally obeyed. No one thought they would ever again see anything like it. You think of the clerics like Thomas Alexander Lacey whose bishop refused to ordain him priest because he would not promise to never wear "vestments," and you realize the sacrifice that a whole generation of extremely bright and totally dedicated clergy made in their attempt to carry the teachings of the Tracts and of the great Caroline theologians from the colleges and universities into the ordinary parish churches of England, Scotland and Wales. One must remember that it was Keble who edited the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology which laid the theological justification for what was later spread to the parishes by men who were only too aware that Victoria would oppose the elevation of any of them to so much as a deanery much less a bishopric.

Sandra McColl said...

Canon Tallis, m'dear, I said nothing about vestments. What about the sermon about HC that got Pusey into so much trouble?

Fr Hart: at least I've got you to admit that there is, if not an elephant in the room or a skeleton in the closet, at least possums in the roof. They don't need defending. (They need exterminating--they make a helluva racket during Evensong and pee on people in the pews.) The plain meaning of the words lacks somewhat where, in place of an explanation as to what something isn't, there is no satisfactory explanation as to what it is. I'll hazard a guess that what may have meant a counter to transubstantiation in 1552 meant, and was intended by those who caused its insertion, blatant receptionism in 1662.

welshmann said...

Fr. Hart:

I come from a Baptist background, and I spun my wheels on this subject for about 20 years. I wondered how the Scriptures could be so plainly Zwinglian, and yet privately my growing desire to know and understand the historic church made me wonder how the great Christians of the first five centuries could have been so completely given over to bread-and-wine idolatry. I really just couldn't see past it, and yet I couldn't walk away from it.

I haven't mastered the subject by any means, but several years of reading and stumbling about, and several helpful high-church folks along the way (real Calvinists, Anglicans, Lutherans, and even a couple of Romans and Greeks) helped me to finally embrace the catholic teaching on this subject.

Of course, the key to my understanding and acceptance lay in plain sight in the pages of Scripture. In the NT, I saw people prostrate themselves before the natural feet of the Lord Jesus and adore Him as Lord and God. I didn't see what this had to do with the Lord's Supper--you're all probably laughing now, or rolling your eyes. Eventually, I began to think seriously about what was being described in those passages. Were these folks worshipping the carbon atoms that made up the Lord’s natural flesh? Of course not. Still, they did prostrate themselves before a created object, the Lord’s natural human person. They didn’t worship the Lord’s flesh as such; they worshipped He Who became flesh for our salvation.

Any Zwinglian who accuses Catholics of bread idolatry should keep in mind that the unbelievers will accuse all Christians of flesh idolatry. If we can truly worship the Lord in His flesh without committing flesh idolatry, we can likewise worship Him in His Sacrament without bread idolatry.

Yours in Christ,

welshmann

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sandra:

The plain meaning of the words lacks somewhat where, in place of an explanation as to what something isn't, there is no satisfactory explanation as to what it is.

What the sacrament is, is stated in the parts I quoted from the service itself (Prayer of Humble Access, and words spoken by the priests at the altar rail). This one little paragraph after the rubrics was placed outside of the actual liturgy, but the service itself was followed by everyone in its entirety. It was there to clarify a negation, after an entire liturgy recited an affirmation. Why don't the words from the Service satisfy you?

About Receptionism, it is a myth. Never was any such doctrine received by the Church of England. Critics always charge that this was somehow taught, but you won't find it in any formulary. Instead you will find this in our formularies, in the Homilies: "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)...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..."

But, along those lines, let us revisit your words once again: "...there is no satisfactory explanation as to what it is." In the most literal sense, outside of your own context, that is true. What exactly, to the satisfaction of the human mind, is the sacrament? Suffice to say, Queen Elizabeth said about as much as anyone can, concerning the what of this sacrament. This is why the Orthodox call the sacraments by their Biblical Greek name-the Mysteries. St. Paul says that marriage is the mystery (μυστήριον, mystērion) of Christ and the Church, a line that tells us we can't even really grasp the full meaning of a thing we think so earthly as marriage. How much less the sacrament of the altar? What the Anglicans rebelled against was an attempt to remove the mystery from the Mystery, which the Council of Trent appeared, in their eyes, to have attempted.

In short, I have no satisfactory explanation for the Mystery of Christ's Body and Blood, and how I partake of him by receiving it. I just know he is really and truly present for me.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Welshman wrote:

I wondered how the Scriptures could be so plainly Zwinglian...

Wow. Thank God you replaced your Zwinglian blindfold with good Catholic glasses.

It amazes me that the same people who insist on a literal 24/7 for creation (which is obviously not meant to be read as literal), insist on a metaphorical reading of the Last Supper.

They didn’t worship the Lord’s flesh as such; they worshiped He Who became flesh for our salvation.

Exactly. This is why the Black Rubric is, at best, irrelevant except for the kind of clarification historians need to make. It explains what "transubstantiation" was taken to mean in those days, and retains value only for this alone. Otherwise, it is useless, and should be stricken out (as it was in America all along).

Any Zwinglian who accuses Catholics of bread idolatry should keep in mind that the unbelievers will accuse all Christians of flesh idolatry. If we can truly worship the Lord in His flesh without committing flesh idolatry, we can likewise worship Him in His Sacrament without bread idolatry.

The problem with Zwingli and those who think like him (or Calvin too, for that matter), is that they may profess belief in the Incarnation; but they step away from it in practice. They believe in it, but they do not like it. They seem to think that God ought to have remained pure from the corruption of a material body.

welshmann said...

Fr. Hart:

I know in my own case, the prepositions created a lot of trouble. I can say that we worship the Lord "in" His flesh, which is true; but at the same time, it's a misleading statement. "In" brings up a mental image of His flesh as a kind of container for His nebulous spirit, like a vapor in a jar. Which suggests that the spirit is the important part, and the jar is just the packaging, to be ignored or discarded. The fine-spun arguments about "with and in" versus "with, in, and under" etc., are endless and ultimately pointless except for those few who really understand the jargon. We just don't have any "natural" experience of the Real Presence that would make it possible for us to easily reduce it to a set of propositional statements---apart from those statements which are revealed, of course.

Again, Scripture comes to the rescue. The Scripture can say "Jesus walked from Jerusalem to Jericho", and the passage seems straightforward enough. In reality, it is full of Incarnational and therefore sacramental meaning. We don't say, and Scripture doesn't say, "The natural organism which acts as the earthly vehicle for the boundless, eternal Spirit which is the Son of God walked from Jerusalem to Jericho". In fact, the fine distinction between personal identity and the natural body only comes up when Christians are arguing about the Lord's Supper. In the real world, we would say "Jesus walked from Jerusalem to Jericho" because in a very real, concrete, everyday sense, the Lord's natural body "is" the Lord.

I got another hint when Scripture says the Word "became" flesh--though of course, that's a verb, not a preposition. Typically, we use the word "become" to suggest that a thing was one thing, but is now something else. But the Son of God didn't "change" into flesh; He took on flesh without ceasing to be the Eternal One. So in His case, "became" means that He took flesh onto Himself, and therefore "into" Himself.

It's not that I suddenly decoded the prepositions; it's just that I began to see that Scripture itself is using the words of natural experience to describe things that are not ultimately reduceable to natural categories. And yet Scripture does so without apology or overmuch commentary.

One more comment, and I admit I cannot resist it. Catholic wisdom notwithstanding, to this day, I admit that it is not especially obvious to me that the Words of Institution were meant to be taken literally. Don't get me wrong; in light of the previous discussion, I am not at the last slipping back into my old ways. It's just that the Institution, taken alone, to me still looks pretty Zwinglian. What ultimatley sold me was the Book of Hebrews. If our Lord really had to suffer in His natural flesh as our Sacrifice, and we have to eat that Sacrifice, I realized that I couldn't "spiritualize" the Sacrament without spiritualizing the Sacrifice as well. So if the one had to be "real", then the other had to be real as well.

welshmann

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

There seem to be a some historical misconceptions in the discussion so far.

1. Copernicus did not have to convince people the Earth was not flat. It had long been accepted (as in for many centuries!), including in the Church, that it was spherical. It was geocentricism (Earth at the centre of the universe) he undermined.

2. The Black Rubric in its 1552 version of the BCP (apparently unapproved by Convocation) denied the "real and essential presence". It was omitted in 1559 completely and did not come back till 1662. But then the words "real and essential" were deliberately replaced by "corporal". Given this change, and the bench of bishops responsible for it, it is unlikely that it was intended to "lower" Eucharistic doctrine, quite the contrary. And Aquinas in explaining Transubstantiation specifically denies the Presence is according to a corporal or local mode! So, the rubric need not even contradict Thomist transubstantiation.

3. Nevertheless, the Black Rubric easily misleads and is overly negative, and it cannot be realistically maintained that the "popularly taught" or "common" view through much of Anglican history interpreted the formularies in the Catholic way and affirmed the Real Presence. Sandra surely has a point there. There is no point idealising the "lived experience" of old Anglicanism, even if we can point to Catholic principles and statements from the beginning in the official standards etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure why Sandra has referenced me in this discussion.
I have made myself tedious here repeatedly on two subjects: justification fide sola and Biblical inerrancy. But on sacramental theology generally and the Eucharistic Presence especially, I cannot distinguish my views from those of Fr Hart.

As for the Black Rubric, it is important to remember that there were two forms of it. The 1552 BCP introduced it (there is a dispute about how it got in to start with) with a fulmination against any "real and essential" presence. it disappeared in the Elizabethan Prayer book of 1559, but re-surfaced in 1662 with an important change in wording. This version denied any "corporal" presence. The refinement can be construed as evidence that a "real and essential" presence was actually being acknowledged, even if somewhat grudgingly.

Yes, it's another good post and what I appreciated most was the wonderful quotation from B-16. Now there is another book I need to read ("God Is Near Us"). I suspect John Calvin and John Williamson Nevin would have concurred with that quote; Nevin assuredly, Calvin when he was having a good day.

Sandra, I am both flattered and intrigued by your reference to me.
Pray eludicate!

LKW

Sandra McColl said...

Why don't the words from the Service satisfy me? I never said they didn't, although, like you, I'm probably inclined to put in a few more words and a few more gestures than 1662 provides, and to put some of them in a different order. The absence, however, of a direct explanation of the meaning of the words from the Service in the Black Rubric (even if that explanation is that it's mysterious), means that it is deficient, and I don't see why you are going so far out of your way to defend a paragraph which is, I imagine, found in no Prayer Book that you have ever habitually used.

And I bet you weren't raised on Holy Communion made out of little cubes of white sliced bread from the supermarket that looked like little number one Cuisenaire rods. Although I imagine you have heard of the Rev'd Mr Enraght, who was put in prison for using wafers.

With you, I accept that there is a consistent tradition within Anglicanism of believing that the consecrated elements really are the Body and Blood of Christ in a mysterious way which any reasonable person is happy to accept as a mystery. With you, I believe that the teaching I have just referred to is genuine Anglican teaching and any deviation from it isn't. Where I differ is where I observe that there appears to have been over time too little enforcement (in a gentle way) of correct doctrine, so that the likes of Pusey could get themselves into trouble by teaching it. Receptionism might be a myth in your world, but in mine it was a harsh reality that I had to outgrow.

From my limited (I admit) understanding of Church history, I believe that the Lutherans had the concept of 'Real Presence' in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Black Rubric would've been a lot better for the inclusion of such a concept, or an Anglican version of it.

I don't think we're all that far apart, as I witness in most of our recent controversies from the fact that you rarely confront me head on, but seem instead to fire obliquely at some tangent.

And why are we kneeling in humble acknowledgement of the benefits of Christ given to all worthy Receivers, or for avoiding the profanation and disorder such as occurs in the modern RC McDonald's takeaway queue? And why no adoration just because the presence isn't Corporal? Why not explicitly say that there is a mysterious presence, and that's what's being adored?

Canon Tallis: You say the Tracts ended with the reaction to Tract XC. Why did Tract XC cause such a stink? Was it not because the Newmanesque reading of the Articles, analogous to Fr Hart's reading of the Black Rubric, was not what had come to be widely accepted in the C of E at that time?

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that proper Anglican doctrine is about as widespread among Anglicans as are the theological opinions of Georg Ratzinger's little brother (who doesn't reject Trent, but merely gives it a reading different from the one that had taken hold of popular piety) among Romans.

Canon Tallis said...

Father K,

As to the shape of the world, would it not have been much easier to have quoted the psalm, "He made the round world so sure that it cannot be moved. . . ?" Those who accuse Christians and Jews of a flat earth theory have clearly no knowledge of Scripture.

The Parsoun said...

I recognize that this comment is a bit tangential, but given the differing allegiances of the brothers Hart, wouldn't it be interesting to read a panel discussion of the theology of Eucharistic Presence from the three?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Welshman:

I believe you would enjoy a good reading of E.L. Mascall's Whatever Happened to the Human Mind?, which is all about the Council of Chalcedon,and its conitnued relevance. Let's take something that is more dramatic than the Lord's wlking the earth, that is, his suffering on the cross. The Church wrestled with how God, who is impassible, could have suffered. The answer is, the same Person who is fully God and fully man suffered, Jesus Christ. The Person (ὑπόστασις) who suffered was God the Son. So too, his walking from one town to another. It is full of Incarnational meaning, as St. Athanasius observed, while he walked the earh as a man he still filled the heavens as God.

Sandra:

I am not defending the Black Rubric. I am making use of it for the one and only thing it is any good for. It useful to a student of theology, which includes the history of theology, to prove yet once again that what Anglicans rejected was not transubstantiation as any rational modern mind would define it; they rejected instead the same crude material teaching that the current Pope himself has refuted. The danger of the word transubstantiation is how modern polemicists use it to distort our own Articles.

Sandra McColl said...

Why use the Black Rubric? Why not use the sorts of materials Pusey quoted from the Anglican Divines, which were a lot less capable of erroneous interpretation.

Transubstantiation is, as I understand it, an unfortunate term not only because of the errors of popular piety, but because it is a name given to an attempt to explain an ineffable mystery using Aristotelian physics. Otherwise, the Anglican formularies would, and should, have said, 'Yes, we believe in transubstantiation, but this is what we mean by it: . . . .' They didn't. In the meantime, plenty of errors crept into Anglican popular piety by way of overcorrection, and were themselves left uncorrected. There were bishops who used to come to my parish church in my childhood who I am sure believed that Christ was really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, even when It was not worthily consumed, and I reckon they knew just how far into crypto-Calvinism, or whatever it was, we had descended--and I never heard them trying to do anything about it.

Mark said...

As a Traditionalist Roman Catholic, I must admit that I followed your discussion with great interest. What struck me the most is a tangential issue - what I perceive as hypersensitivity to idolatry. In my opinion, Welshmann's wonderful comments went to the heart of the matter:

"If we can truly worship the Lord in His flesh without committing flesh idolatry, we can likewise worship Him in His Sacrament without bread idolatry"

From a purely psychological point of view, can we say that an inherited hypersensitivity to idolatry, lurking in the subconscious mind, may predispose one to view "transubstantiation" in a more or less predetermined way?

Sandra McColl said...

Fr Wells: I thought you referred to the BR and even receptionism in an earlier combox. Perhaps I've misascribed. Never mind, I'm happy to make anybody feel good about himself once in a while.

Fr Kirby: At last! I thought I was being hung out to dry here.

Canon Tallis: Round, while not inconsistent with 'spherical', encompasses more than it (I wait to stand corrected if the Hebrew definitely means only 'spherical'). Mind you, I find nothing in Scripture that requires the earth to be flat, either. Strange, however, that the 'world is only 6000 years old crowd' have never come out and expressed surprise when space exploration vessels have gone a very long way, visited the moon and the planets, and still not bumped into the firmament.

To be honest, I wasn't aware of the 1552 version of the BR. Nevertheless, although the 1662 version is an improvement (although I imagine with some reason it was by way of a compromise between those who still believed the 1552 version and those who didn't), I think the best that can really be said for it is that it is 'not inconsistent' with a Catholic interpretation, and I'm entirely in agreement with what Fr Kirby has to say, since it's not inconsistent with a 1552-ish interpretation either. Still, we've now got to face the little skeleton of 1552 in our closet: it's clear that at that time official Anglican formularies admitted, even if only for a short time, exactly the kind of sacramental theology that I have been bleating about and that Fr Kirby, dear man, appears to agree has really existed.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Mark wrote:

From a purely psychological point of view, can we say that an inherited hypersensitivity to idolatry, lurking in the subconscious mind, may predispose one to view "transubstantiation" in a more or less predetermined way?

We can say anything we please, but that does not make it correct. The problem with how the Anglicans interpreted "transubstantiation" is that they were probably right. At least, evidence indicates that Rome was teaching a very carnal definition of the Mystery; or,if not, that they made no effort to be understood. And that even upon learning what their words were taken to mean. After all, all those horrible little stories about people realizing they had been chewing on an ear (or that the host, when taken out of the mouth, had become flesh, materially, and was bleeding) were the work of well-meaning nuns thinking they were teaching orthodox Roman Catholic theology to children. This was still going on in the 1960s; no wonder Roman Catholic priests, rolling their eyes, complain about "nun theology."

Sandra:

No one has ever denied that a very "low" interpretation of the sacrament has existed. Rather, I have made the point that such an interpretation actually contradicts the plain meaning of what is said the Holy Communion service itself, and that it obviously contradicts at least one major formulary. But, every church body, including the Big Two, have their share of deviant doctors. And, frankly, Australia always has had more than its share of "snake belly low" teachers.

About 1552, we have two possibilities: That 1662 simply did a better job of saying what was intended by the words ""real and essential," by replacing them with "Corporal Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood?" (Of course, in that case, we can and should object to such a careless use of the word "real.") If not, then it is obvious that they corrected any notion that could be misconstrued as denial of the Real Presence, meaning that if they had gone overboard in 1552 (which was removed altogether in Queen E's day-the second secession), the Church of England corrected itself.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sandra wrote:

Why use the Black Rubric?

Because that it what the polemicists do on their websites, thinking it "proves" that Anglicanism rejected the Real Presence. Therefore, I wanted to take the Bull ---- by the horns.

Canon Tallis said...

Since 1552 was entirely the work of the Royal Council and never had the approval of the Convocations, it can not be said that it carried the approval of the Church. In like manner the "low" teaching of certain churchmen always contradicted what the Church taught officially which is the point which Father Hart and a number of Anglicans have been making since the accession of Elizabeth I. I always tell my parish that they should judge what I tell them in the sermon by what doctrine they find in the Book of Common Prayer. Since the state will no longer allow us to burn heretics (something I always thought was a bad idea anyway) we have to rely upon what is in the Church's official documents for what it has taught and teaches.

The same standard is one we can use with the Roman Church whose missal and office books have never taught the grosser version of transubstantiation. Because the ignorant and misguided did, can we really hold Rome responsible for it? Not unless we are willing and asking to be treated in the same way and I don't they either we or they want to go there.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The only point where I disagree with Canon Tallis in his above comment is on a simple matter of historical fact, and I think he will quickly relent (and probably say, "oops").

Since the state will no longer allow us to burn heretics...

Now, dear Canon, you know perfectly well it was always the State that burned heretics (a practice that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno tried to revive in 1993, as I recall). The Church merely tried them.

Relevant to this thread, some were burned over the whole "transubstantiation" matter. Conservative as I am by inclination, some things have changed for the better. Burning each other was never really a good way to advance ecumenism.

Sandra McColl said...

"And, frankly, Australia always has had more than its share of "snake belly low" teachers."

Actually, I think that Anglicanism in the USA (which always contained a very small minority of Anglicans) was more the exception, along with the Piskies in Scotland, who always had a higher doctrine of the Church and sacraments because they had deliberately chosen not to be Prezzie. There was plenty of snake belly lowness going on in the C of E when I was in England. People tend to form assumptions about Australia very quickly. Australia is not Sydney, even though Sydney has all the money and has planted outpost.

There is a third alternative between 1552 and 1662: that is, that there was a party that wanted 1552 back and one that didn't, and a compromise was reached that was not inconsistent with what both parties wanted it to mean. Perhaps it's my legal background, but I see that happening all the time. It's also, I think, an interpretation perfectly consistent with the maintenance of the denial of adoration. And I don't think the plain words in the liturgy contradict the receptionist interpretation, either, if that's where you're starting from. Fortunately, although I started from it, I left it long ago.

Mark said...

Dear Father Hart:

Thank you for your reply on my “tangential issue”. But more on the subject now: many of the disciples of Christ, after hearing Him state:

“For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him”,

experienced a crisis in their souls, and in a knee jerk reaction acted on it:

“After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him”.

In my mind, the only reason they left Him, was that they understood this new saying as abhorrent to their sensibilities.

What makes me pause here, is what Christ didn’t do upon seeing their reaction – He did not correct their understanding of His words. They were not called back to hear Him explain that they misunderstood, that this will be a heavenly and spiritual body, and not something else that is unacceptable to them. Why let them go, to walk no more with Him?

Canon Tallis said...

But my dear Father Hart, of course I knew, just as I am sure that everywhere here did as well, - this not being anywhere near a collection of dummies - but now you have spoiled the joke. The point? Consider where we draw the boundaries of the Church. In the days when heretics were tortured and burned, were not the folks to whom the clergy handed over the condemned also members of the Church? Did they not also have a responsibility be as true to the faith as any other? Were they then, even as now, as obligated as any deacon, priest or bishop to "choose life" rather than make themselves the instruments of death?

We Anglicans should all know that Elizabeth I hated above all things to sign death warrants even for those whose guilt was confessed and evident to all. Many whom others count as martyrs during her reign were neither tried nor convicted for reasons of religious dissent, but for treason against the state and the common order. It may be true that their faith drove them to it, but as you pointed out earlier the earliest Church prayed for Nero and were commanded by St Paul to "honor the king."

No real Christian can compartmentalize his life and we, as Anglicans, should be more aware and accepting of this than any. I cannot blame the state, secular or otherwise, when I do something which God and his law have forbidden. We know that there are many who believe otherwise, who act otherwise. But I think that we here all know better which is why the assault to which you referred was so horrible and reprehensible. Given the constitution of our country, we as citizens were and remain responsible until those who ordered it are brought before the bar of justice.

And this again is what makes so horrible the act of making the head of state a man who approves of infanticide and considers a child, any child, a punishment.

The Parsoun said...

"...Father Hart and a number of Anglicans have been making since the accession of Elizabeth I."

Looks pretty good for his age.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Someone posted a very long comment of over 2,600 words. It appears to be an article by one Dwight Longenecker. Considering the work put into it, I plan after Sunday to give it its own post as a dissenting opinion. However, it will run along with my own comments. It should provoke even more useful and educational discussion, and so it will be worth it, and I thank the commenter.

Sandra McColl wrote:

And I don't think the plain words in the liturgy contradict the receptionist interpretation, either, if that's where you're starting from.

If the Bible can be subjected to isogetical interpretation that actually denies what it plainly says, why not liturgy that is drawn from it? Nonetheless, the Holy Communion service, after the Words of Institution, speaks of the Body and Blood of Christ in words so direct and simple, that any such interpretation is forced and awkward.

Canon Tallis:

I did get the joke, and rather than destroying it, I meant to build on it, and suddenly took a late night mental detour. As you point out, however, we need to remember that once Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, the criminal charge that produced so many martyrs for Rome was treason, not heresy. Before they come down so hard on the Queen of England, they ought to consider how much the pope was equally to blame for the unhappy and impossible position these sincere people were placed in.

Mark wrote:

What makes me pause here, is what Christ didn’t do upon seeing their reaction – He did not correct their understanding of His words. They were not called back to hear Him explain that they misunderstood, that this will be a heavenly and spiritual body, and not something else that is unacceptable to them. Why let them go, to walk no more with Him?

Those who abandoned Christ at that moment actually walked away from the Lord himself, putting physical distance between him and them. This is not the same as sincere Christians trying to be faithful to him while they give honest and deep thought to a theological puzzle. The disciples who remained had the right attitude of faith to the Lord himself, and later, on the night in which he was betrayed, learned the meaning of his words. The difference between two such different groups of people is a very wide gulf.

Mark said...

Dear Father Hart:

Thank you for your interpretation of the Bible passages I quoted. I wanted to know how an Anglican would understand them, and now I know.

Anonymous said...

No one has commented on the remarkable fact that for once Fr Kirby and I have posted (less than 30 minutes apart) comments with an unusual degree of concurrence. I would add that there is at least a third form of the BR in Prayer Book history, found in the 1959 Canadian Prayer Book. It deletes the words, "For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one." This is replaced by some language borrowed from Article XXVIII. I have read somewhere that Fr Roland Palmer had something to do with this recension.

I am glad that our American Prayer Book, from 1789 through 1928, has never retained the BR. Nothing good has ever come of it. I appreciate, however, Fr Hart's argument that at this point, one of the worst in Anglican theology, our doctrine did not totally step outside Catholic tradition.
LKW

Bruce said...

Fr. Hart wrote: "It amazes me that the same people who insist on a literal 24/7 for creation (which is obviously not meant to be read as literal), insist on a metaphorical reading of the Last Supper."

I've had the same basic thought. Plus, the historic Church as identified by the creeds never confessed a 24/7 creation or a 6000year old earth as a necessary part of the faith.

I know this is irrelevant to the post, but don't Christians who insist on Genesis literalism put their children's faith at risk? The kids grow up and realize that either it's not true, or pretty much all of modern physical science needs to be overturned. Yet, these same people teach or allow their children to be taught physics and chemistry.

poetreader said...

There's another serious danger. If one insists on treating the Bible like an engineering textbook, one makes it impossible to find God as He is. If He and His works can be described in such simplistic and mechanistic terms, God Himself is imprisoned in a tiny box no larger than the human mind. I see a book on my shelf with an appropriate title: JB Phillips "Your God Is Too Small". The poetry and symbolic writing in Scripture is at least as important as the clear in-your-face teaching, perhaps more so. The concept is not irrelevant to this discussion at all. The main problem with "transubstantiation" as it has been taught stems from the philosophical background from which the word comes, and represents an attempt to describe "how" the bread we see can be, in truth, His Body. I don't think that is a productive endeavor at all, as such reality lies beyond the capacity of mortal minds, in the realm of Mystery. Like the "how" of Creation, it is best simply left alone in that realm. I have no interest at all in a religion I can completely understand. A God I could grasp in that way would appear singularly inadequate to answer the questions that must be answered.

ed