Following my essay about both Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Pope Benedict XVI on transubstantiation, I was surprised by how many comments made a point about Cranmer not being the sole representative of Anglicanism. I wonder why that seems necessary, inasmuch as everyone ought to know that no one individual is the spokesman for Anglicanism. A church tradition that states, as its self-understanding, the intention to conform to "the most ancient Catholic doctors and bishops" cannot have any one person, or any one generation, as its chief representative.
However, we do have fathers who are specific to our portion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and we need not apologize for quoting them and learning their works. Did they always succeed at reaching their goal of espousing the best and most true Catholic faith? As individuals, not always; as a body, yes. If we did not believe that the united witness of Anglican orthodoxy is worth the effort and risk it takes to Continue, we would have scattered to the four winds long ago. Instead, we have been growing throughout several nations.
When it comes to the subject of English Reformers and early Anglican Divines, one of my main reasons for writing so much has been to assist modern Anglicans in our Continuing Church, especially Anglo-Catholics, in regaining appreciation for their own fathers and their own patrimony. I am tired of hearing Anglican clergy speak of their own patrimony as heretical, expressing embarrassment for what they identify as "Protestant," demonstrating vast ignorance, seeking the approval of Rome (which will not happen), and all the while defeating their own efforts to grow congregations of any size and stability. Enough already!
Of course we don't want to be stuck in the sixteenth century. But, we can't blot it out either; and, if we really understood it we would not feel the urge to do so. I am not ashamed of Thomas Cranmer, but my English blood is ashamed of Queen Mary for murdering him, and doing so in the most cruel fashion of burning him at the stake mainly for writing a "Defense of the True and Catholick Doctrine of the sacrament" in his book on the Lord's Supper (I would be ashamed of Bloody Mary, well named, even if I thought his book had been heresy, since such punishments cannot be practiced in the name of Christ without blasphemy added to cruelty and murder).
And, what was in the book? It was written to address the issues of his own day and age, not the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, not the best philosophical considerations of post Einstein physics, but the pastoral needs of the English people in that time. As I pointed out, his criticism of transubstantiation was the general teaching in that generation that the bread and wine cease to be present, and merely appear to be present; that this very kind of thinking creates a philosophical quandary that leads to a denial of the true doctrine of the Incarnation and undermines the Gospel eyewitnesses of the resurrection.
Efforts to make the book someone else's work through Cranmer seem endless. Some have insisted it was really the thinking of Calvin, others of Bucer, others even of Zwingli. I suggest we see the book as the work of the man who wrote it, and let him speak for himself as he bases his doctrine on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church (which is what the Reformers generally did, being Catholic scholars). But, Zwingli? Cranmer writes so much against the kind of transubstantiation teaching that went on in his day that he gave little space for positive statements; but, when saying what the sacrament is, his words, in that same book, were that Christ Himself is "sacramentally present" in the bread and wine.
The Homily "Of worthy receiving of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ" clearly denounces the doctrine of Zwingli (as it was and usually is understood), as do other important Anglican works throughout the early generations. Hooker also rules it out as error, rejecting Zwingli by name. Article XXVIII says "The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner." Heavenly and spiritual is not the same as Zwingli's "symbolism." It is meant to be distinct from the physical idea of eating and drinking Christ's flesh and blood according to what transubstantiation generally was understood to mean, saying that it is spiritual and heavenly rather than carnal.
In the time that he wrote, Cranmer was among the first to set the stage for the early Anglican emphasis on sacramental grace. I have addressed the historical reasons for this in many past essays, that the people generally did not receive the sacrament, but instead thought that their role was merely to gaze upon it. To understand all the early Anglican teaching on this subject, we must keep in mind that historical context, and therefore the need to correct the error of that time.
Therefore, whether in Cranmer's book, the Homily, the Thirty-Nine Articles or Hooker, we must think of Christ's Presence in terms of the grace of the sacrament, and how His Presence imparts that grace. Everything else to do with his Presence in the sacrament was either of much less importance in the early Anglican emphasis (as the times made necessary and pressing), or was corrected as the kind of transubstantiation that leads to horrifying stories about bloody body parts, or seeing people swallow Christ as an infant (quite distressing in terms of Christology as well as mental health concerns).
Until we understand the Presence of Christ in terms of the grace imparted by faithful receiving of the sacrament, in the early Anglican mind, nothing else about his Presence in the sacrament can be learned. May it be adored? May it enhance devotions? Frankly, they never actually addressed those questions in the terms that they present themselves to our generation, because they had to restore the idea of this sacrament as "generally necessary to salvation," and the Presence of Christ in terms of communion, partaking or fellowship.
This is where a new breed of Anglo-Catholics, especially, need to forget everything they ever heard or read about Anglicanism by Roman Catholic polemicists, and listen to me instead (doesn't that sound conceited? Listen anyway).
Everything you see in the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Homily, etc., that involves the idea of partaking of Christ or not partaking of Christ, is not about the objective Real Presence in the sacrament, and certainly not a rejection of the same. Even Cranmer's and Hooker's famous lines about seeking the presence of Christ in the worthy receiver of the sacrament, is not about the objective holiness of the sacramental matter, and Christ's Presence in it, and is not a rejection of His presence in "a heavenly and spiritual manner." It is about the effect of that presence as grace for the believer, or about the judgment on the unworthy receiver who is not a "partaker of Christ."
What does it mean to be or not be a "partaker of Christ"? Does this phrase overturn their frank rejection of Zwingli's Memorialism? Does it contradict this from the Homily (also quoted by Cranmer in his book)?
"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.)."
No, it does not contradict it.
To be a partaker of Christ has everything to do with the words of St. Paul in I Corinthians 10:16:
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
This has been stated here before in my essays, but I will state it again. The English Reformers and Anglican Divines were scholars of the Biblical languages, in fact as good as any if not the best. They used the word "partake" to mean the same thing as "communion" and as "fellowship." All three of these words were intended by them to serve as a translation of the same Greek word, for all three are used to translate it in English New Testaments, including the King James (Authorized) Version, and including the above quotation from St. Paul. That Greek word is κοινωνία (koinōnia).
Therefore, we may see Article XXIX for what it really means.
"In no wise are they partakers of Christ" means, simply, they receive no saving effects by eating and drinking (the use of the word "sign" means that what they have eaten and drunk is visible to the eyes, but pointing to something greater than the eyes may see. It does not not imply that the "sign" is devoid of Christ's "sacramental presence," to use Cranmer's phrase). The wicked are not, by eating and drinking, partaking of, nor in communion with, nor having fellowship with, Jesus Christ our Lord. And, how could they be, having no faith? Furthermore, it has been the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church, in all of its generations, that we may perceive Christ for who He is, including who He is in the sacrament, only by faith. Why, when Anglicans say it, should this ancient Catholic doctrine be taken to mean something sinister?
Instead of hiding from what your fathers taught, consider its meaning in the language of their times and in light of their times. Go ahead and accept it, learn from it, and come forward within the outworking of Anglican history right through the best from the Oxford Movement. Take it all as of one piece. There is no need to fear the doctrines of your fathers, and no need to fear any alleged deficiency in their sacramental Intention.
And, of course, that is the real point.