Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Not valid

About con-communicating Masses

A non-communicating Mass is when a priest goes through the motions of celebrating, but with no Intention to offer the sacrament to any laity present. It is their role, to watch and pray, and so to assist. Several months ago I wrote a critique of Fr. Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes blog, in which he endorsed silent celebration and apparently, by a logical extension, non-communicating Masses (do not misunderstand; I like Fr. Hunwicke's work on a number of subjects, including what he has written for us in Touchstone. But, we have rather big differences). His reason was that the Eucharist is primarily a sacrifice. About that he said:

"But the centrality of Sacrifice, in the last resort, is more important than the worship or reception of the Sacramental Christ. I hesitate to blunder carelessly and over-simplistically around in so great a mystery; it is certainly true that both ....and is more important than either ... or. But, to be simple and crude, the Eucharist is firstly a sacrifice; only when we have said this do we go on to say that it is (we can't get away from the terminology of our Jewish roots here) a communion sacrifice. "

About that, I said, "How exactly did Fr. Hunwicke come up with this list of priorites? Is there a scriptural and theological justification for teaching such a list of priorities in this matter?" The question was hypothetical.

Here, as on other topics, we run into a problem with the kind of Anglo-Papalism that even the Papists no longer practice. In 1955 Pope Pius XII radically altered the Rite on Good Friday called "The Mass of the Pre-Sanctified," in which priests alone ate the Reserve Sacrament consecrated the night before. Since 1955, the Roman Catholic Church has practiced giving Reserve Sacrament to all communicants who are present, bringing them back into conformity with the Eastern Orthodox and others who allow the sacrament to be received, but not celebrated, on that day. Under Pope John XXIII, non-communicating Masses were abolished. Nonetheless, ever eager to be fossils of Medieval abuses, certain Anglicans march to the beat of a different drummer, claiming, by so doing, to be followers of Universal consensus; universal, just not with East or West.

Clearly, the Eucharist is a sacrifice, in fact, the sacrifice, in which God responds to the worship of His Church, and Christ gives Himself to us mysteriously through creatures of bread and wine as his Body and Blood, the food and drink of eternal life (John 6). It is in Christ's giving of Himself that our offering of these elements, along with "our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving," and of "our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice," can be called the sacrifice of the Church. Somehow, we are taken to the cross where Christ, "who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world," acted once as both priest and victim, and so gives Himself in the Eucharistic feast. It is the sacrifice of the Church because it was once offered by the Great High Priest and Lamb of God in His Body on the tree. And, the Christ who gives Himself to us as "we show forth the Lord's death" is the Risen Christ, the priest who "ever lives to make intercession for us."

Therefore, the ordained man who stands at the altar stands there in the Person of Christ Himself, speaking His words, doing His acts, and does so as part of the Church. But, the sacrifice is not his sacrifice; the priest offers the sacrifice of the Church, not his own, but the people's. It is also not merely his sacrifice, because Christ, in responding to the faith of His Church, gives Himself as the food and drink of eternal life. This is the emphasis of both John chapter 6 and of the descriptions of the Institution of this sacrament in the Synoptic Gospels and in I Corinthians chapter 11. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the meaning of these passages of Scripture all join as Christ and His Church together make it a true sacrifice and sacrament by the Holy Spirit and the command of the Father. This is why I like the words found in the Missal that say, "pray brethren that this my sacrifice and yours..." The words, "and yours" make the line quite acceptable by any true standard.

To say, as Fr. Hunwicke has said, that the Eucharist is first a sacrifice, and that this sacrifice "is more important than the worship or reception of the Sacramental Christ," makes no sense whatsoever. Without the Intention to offer the sacrament to the members of the Church who are present and willing to receive, and without the worship of the Church, no sacrifice has been offered. The motions have been carried out by a priest acting alone, not by the Church. And, if the Intention to let the people receive the sacramental Christ is not there, the whole exercise is invalid. It does not matter if the priest's orders are valid, in this instance; his actions are not a sacrament, but are "absolutely null and utterly void." Possibly they are a sacrilege.

In all fairness, Fr. Hunwicke was more concerned with silent celebrations than with non-communicating Masses, but in his reasoning he extends the silent celebration to its logical extreme:

"Look at it diachronically: most Christians in most Chrisian centuries have attended Mass without communicating. S Pius X's great campaign for Frequent Communion does not need to be denigrated but it is not simpliciter the whole Christian tradition."

Sadly, the logic for silent celebration leads him to the conclusion that the people do not need frequent communion (restored first by Archbishop Cranmer, Pope Pius X catching on much later). After all, silent celebration, or as our Articles call it, "dumb massings," is simply another way of making the priest into a celebrant who acts alone, who cannot say in any meaningful way that enjoins real participation from the people, "my sacrifice and yours." They need not join in with worship, they need not receive the Food and Drink of eternal life. "Drink ye all..." (that is, "drink this all of you...") was something Jesus did not really mean, apparently.

Even Rome has cleansed itself of their "Romish" doctrine in this matter, and did so about half a century ago. Why are some Anglo-Papalists intent on living in the fifteenth century? It is one thing to try to be more catholic than the Pope (whoever the Pope may be at any given time), but must Anglicans try to be be more Roman than the Bishop of Rome?

False choice

Once again we must thank St. John Chrysostom for having invented the idea of a via media in doctrine, even though he did not call it by that name. In his Six Little Books on the Priesthood, he warned the eager postulants that if, in preaching, they attacked a doctrinal error, to be careful not to appear to endorse the opposite error. Recently, in a critique of Pope Pius XII for transforming the "Mass of the Pre-Sanctified" in its intention, by allowing the people to communicate, the modern problem of removing the idea of sacrifice altogether was targeted, and wrongly so by implying that it was relevant in the given context.

It is quite a valid criticism of modern Roman Catholic clergy, as well as of Episcopal and other Communion (i.e. Canterbury) Anglicans, that they have plumbed the depths of banality as well as error, by turning the whole emphasis of the Eucharist into a warm and fuzzy community meal, a sort of Sunday morning party before brunch. Contemporary Episcopalians have what they call "open communion," in which everybody present, baptized or not, penitent or willfully notorious, Christian, Hindu, Atheist or even Islamic terrorist, is invited to take what they call communion. It has become "eat, drink and be merry," not "take, eat, this is My Body." It has become, "for tomorrow we must die," instead of "whosoever eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life."

Yes, the idea of turning Holy Communion into a nice community meal is an abomination, a sacrilege, and a blasphemy. And, in case you have not noticed, I am against it. Removing an imbalanced approach to the idea of sacrifice, however, does not lead to this, the opposite extreme, at least not if we observe the warning of John Chrysostom. If we think we must come down on one side or the other, in this or any other matter of error and opposite error, inevitably, we must choose error. Again, turn not to the right hand or to the left; stay on the via media of doctrine. Turning either to the right hand or the left is a false choice. We need make no choice in changing direction; for we must not change direction at all.

Valid

The Eucharist is the sacrifice of the Church as the people worship in true faith, and as Christ responds by giving us the grace of the sacrament. Practices that do not conform to this, even if they are very old by our standards, are not valid, even if the priest has valid orders. Either we Intend to "do this" or we intend something much lower.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anathema Sit

ARB+

Colin Chattan said...

A good argument, Fr. Hart, which I find for the most part compelling. But what about cases (not unknown in the Continuum) of small, isolated parishes where there may often be occasions, e.g. on feast days during the week, when the priest has no one to communicate but himself? Is he still obliged to forswear Holy Communion until such time as he can find someone to share it? Surely on such occasions (and only on such occasions) he can proceed to celebrate the eucharist on the understanding that there are at least two gathered together - himself and the Lord, and that the celebrant is participating not just as a priest but as a humble member of the Lord's Body - to whose full grace he is entitled? On the same principle (well, up to a point since a sacrament is not involved) I have no hesitation in saying the office by myself when I can find no one else to join me, even though it is obviously designed for corporate worship. I do not believe that I am then engaged in a barren, solipsistic act but rather, by God's loving grace, participating in the divine body of Christ which is limited by neither space nor time - nor human isolation. But nothing that I've suggested here discords with your fundamental argument that the eucharist is meant to be received, not just gazed upon. So too, I believe, provided that that fundamental principle is not forgotten, great spiritual benefit can be derived from eucharistic devotion, as in the "Ecce, Agnus Dei," and in Benediction.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hunwicke wrote and Fr Hart does not seem to agree:

""Look at it diachronically: most Christians in most Chrisian centuries have attended Mass without communicating."

Is the Vincentian Canon relevant here?

LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Is the Vincentian Canon relevant here?

If Antiquity is chiefly Scripture, in a Church that recognized and heard the Master's voice, the relevant question is, what doctrinal basis does Fr. Hunwicke have for, as it appears, suggesting that we ought to regard non-communicating as a norm? "Take, eat...drink ye all of this..." "Whosoever eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood..."

Ignorance seems to be the basis of non-communicating masses of people throughout western Europe. That hardly amounts to a doctrinal basis for anything. But, Anglo-Papalist sentiment needs no reason. Neither does insanity.

Sean W. Reed said...

Father Hart -

The problem with your argument is you suppose bad intent on the part of the priest. If the intent of the priest is to not allow the people to commune that is bad, but that is not the only set of circumstances which can result in a non-communicating mass.

We have had a non-communicating mass at the Anglican Breviary Gathering for the past four years.

The circumstances are these. We have the Mass of the Day each morning. All those attending the Gathering, assist at that Mass and make their communions.

On the afternoon of day two, we have a requiem mass for the repose of the souls of those listed in the front of the Breviary, including Father Frank Gavin. That is the second Mass for the group, and usually the third Mass of the day in the parish Church. (and yes, with multiple priests)

Those attending, have already made their communions that morning, and none have ever come forward - we have already received that day.

To have the intent of having a Mass in which people are prevented or discouraged from receiving would be a bad thing indeed, but the simple statement that a non-communicating Mass is invalid does not hold water, as there are circumstances in which communicants can quite rightly, and fitly, assist at a particular Mass and not receive.

The efficacy of the Mass is not dependent upon having communicants in addition to the priest.

Should priests prohibit or discourage communicants at a Mass - absolutely not. Is every Mass with no communicants beside the priest invalid - absolutely not.


Faithfully,

Sean W. Reed

John A. Hollister said...

Perhaps I was misinformed, but what I was taught was that for the ancient Jews, as for the pagan peoples surrounding them, the normal form of sacrifice was the offering of an animal, the blessing of that animal, its slaughter, the burning of a token portion thereof (frequently the offal) on the altar, and making a meal of the rest by the worshippers and the priests of that altar, which they understood to be communion not only with each other but with the god to whom the sacrifice had been offered.

If this be true, then the communion was an essential element of the complete sacrifice. On that basis, Fr. Hunwicke would appear to be heading in the wrong direction.

The clergy I know, if they find themselves with absolutely no congregation at a previously-schedules service, go ahead and celebrate the Antecommunion, stop at that point, and enter that service in the Parish Register.

Nor do the Choir Offices afford us much guidance in this matter, because, although channels of grace ex opere operantis, they are essentially non-Sacramental in nature (here is where we could run into some ambiguity regarding the word "sacramental", which is why I capitalized it).

John A. Hollister+

Canon Tallis said...

Father Hart, since I had a very bad experience with a non-communicating mass in my twenties-the first curate could hardly wait for the rector to depart for his consecration as bishop of Springfield before he staged a high mass at which he was the only communicate - I could not more agree with what you have written. But if I agreed heartily with the post, I did so with ever greater glee to your riposte to Father Wells.

Is it not in the very work in which St Vincent formulates his canon that he proceeds to define Holy Scripture itself as the greater and most important part of Antiquity and Tradition? Surely centuries of error in either doctrine, discipline and worship do not by time alone make anything contrary to our Lord's teaching right - or Catholic.

My own answer to Colin Chattan is that the priest finding himself alone says the office and prays the eucharist to the point that he can receive the reserved sacrament. One of the greatest corruptions in the Western Church was the idea that a priest should or even must celebrate every day to the point that the very corporate nature of the Eucharist was obscured and all but vanished.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sean Reed wrote:

The problem with your argument is you suppose bad intent on the part of the priest.

Really?

Those attending, have already made their communions that morning, and none have ever come forward - we have already received that day...To have the intent of having a Mass in which people are prevented or discouraged from receiving would be a bad thing indeed, but the simple statement that a non-communicating Mass is invalid does not hold water, as there are circumstances in which communicants can quite rightly, and fitly, assist at a particular Mass and not receive.

Yes, like when I was an organist at the second service-it's just not relevant.

The efficacy of the Mass is not dependent upon having communicants in addition to the priest.

But, it is dependent on the Church as it is gathered. Consider the exact wording.

Shaughn said...

Colin Chattan,

You wrote about at least two being gathered - the celebrant and the Lord. The stronger argument there (I think) is the eternal presence of the Church Triumphant. Who knows how many folks are there, at every moment, standing with every Christian here in the Church Militant?

Canon Hollister,

Quite right, re: sacrifices. It was also one of the few cases poorer folks would have to eat meat, which has all manner of fun implications for the Eucharist. It was also true, however, that in the Jewish Temple, sacrifices frequently became a source of food only for the priests. Cf. Exodus 29:33 - "They themselves shall eat the food by which atonement is made, to ordain and consecrate them, but no one else shall eat of them, because they are holy."

Fr. Hart,

It's quite possible that those celebrating a "non-communicating Mass," as you say, are simply interpreting the "all of you" as "the disciples," who are eventually those in Apostolic Succession, rather than a more universal "all of you."

I think it's a poor interpretation, for what it's worth, and misses the key difference between Christ's sacrifice for us and your average temple sacrifice.

wnpaul said...

Can I, as a non-Anglican, ask a clarification question?

Is there indeed, in the Anglican formularies, a prohibition against receiving the Eucharist more than once in a day?

Apart from that I would like to point out that Fr. Hart, in the very first sentence of his post, defines a non-communicating Mass as one where "a priest goes through the motions of celebrating, but with no Intention to offer the sacrament to any laity present."

The requiem Mass mentioned by Sean Reed does not qualify under that definition, because the lack of communicants is incidental, not intentional.

For the same reason the situation mentioned by Colin Chattan also does not qualify as a non-communicating Mass under the definition of that first sentence.

It may seem crude to some, but an analogy would be the act of marital lovemaking: while it could be argued that contraceptive devices are contrary to the intention of that act, not every instance of lovemaking that does not result in a pregnancy is thereby defective.

In marriage, what counts is the openness toward the blessing of children; in the Eucharist what counts is the openness towards the whole church participating in the worship, the sacrifice, and the communion.

William Tighe said...

Those whom this topic interests might wish to ponder, and engage with, the late E. L. Mascall's strong defence, and even encouragement, of "private Masses" in his book *Corpus Christi: Essays on the Church and the Eucharist.* in the 1965 second edition, which I own, it is in ch. 10, "Private Masses."

William Tighe said...

POSTSCRIPT

Old Mascall books must be experiencing a "growth surge." I just checked Abebooks.com, Alibris.com and Amazon.com for his *Corpus Christi* and was surprised to discover how few and how generally costly copies are. There is a copy of the first edition (1953) at Amazon.com for $6.00 (plus $3.99 postage) from the UK, but the rest are all above $20.00 exclusive of postage costs -- and the only copy of the expanded second edition, on Abebooks.com from a North Carolina bookseller, goes for $59.95.

William Tighe said...

CORRECTION:

The copy on offer through Amazon.com for $6.00 is a copy of the 1965 second edition. I would urge anyone interested in it to "grab" it before I weaken and buy it myself -- despite already owning a copy!

Anonymous said...

"Antiquity is chiefly Scripture, in a Church that recognized and heard the Master's voice...."

Right. So we are right back to "Scriptura sola" in the sense the Reformers taught that doctrine (as quite distinct from Baptistic Protestantism which changed Scriptura sola into Scriptura SOLO--a very different notion).

But not to nibble around the edges of a good article by bringing up a peripheral issue, I totally and heartily agree with Fr Hart's major contention. He is not presupposing a "bad intention" (a mean-spirited objection!) but the lack of intention. If a priest does not intend to give the Lord's body and blood to His people, being present, plainly he does not intend to to what the Lord commanded. Invalid rite, pure and simple.

As for Colin Chattan's picture of the priest in isolation, well, maybe, a case can be made for those in Patmos like situations. I have read stories of Lutheran pastors in Nazi prison camps. But the question which must be raised, in all charity, is exactly why is the priest isolated? Unless he is in dire circumstances, is there no Gospel to preach, no souls to win, no converts to make, no congregation to build? A priest is primarily a herald of the Cross, not a sacramental machine or magician. His priesthood is for the edification of the Body, not for his own private devotions.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Sean: praying for the souls of the faithful departed within the daily community Mass is a sound Catholic/Biblical practice. But a second special "Requiem" is a liturgical redundancy based on philosophical nominalism and erroneous notions of merit.

My Dominican friends used to tell me of the days when they had (every day!) a Solemn Mass at which nobody communicated save the celebrant, a low Mass at which they were allowed to partake, and yet a third "meditation mass" as background to personal devotions. Such ridiculous games give point to the EO rule of one Liturgy per day in a given church.
God does not find this amusing.
LKW

John A. Hollister said...

Sean Reed wrote, regarding the annual Anglican Breviary Gathering: "We have the Mass of the Day each morning. All those attending the Gathering, assist at that Mass and make their communions.

"On the afternoon of day two, we have a requiem mass for the repose of the souls of those listed in the front of the Breviary, including Father Frank Gavin. That is the second Mass for the group, and usually the third Mass of the day in the parish Church (and yes, with multiple priests)."

The Anglican tradition is that, aside from very peculiar circumstances that are specially licensed by the cognizant Bishop, no Mass is celebrated unless there are at least three persons present who will communicate with the celebrant. Thus the Rubrics from the 1662 BCP:

"And there shall be no celebration of the Lord's Supper, except there be a convenient number to communicate with the Priest, according to his discretion.

"And if there be not above twenty persons in the Parish of discretion to receive the Communion; yet there shall be no communion, except four (or three at the least) communicate with the Priest."

The Canadian BCP of 1962 is even less stringent: "There shall be no Celebration of the Lord's Supper, except there be at least one person present to communicate with the Priest."

In light of this history, perhaps it would make more sense for this particular group, on the second day of its annual meeting, to leave the Mass of the Day to the second, Parish celebration and, at its own particular celebration, make that the desired Requiem.

Leaving questions of validity per se completely out of the discussion, it still presents a slightly bizarre and perhaps even unseemly appearance to have a community gathered for its re-presentation of the Sacrifice where no members of that community partake thereof.

John A. Hollister+
"untawle"

Sean W. Reed said...

Father Hollister wrote:

"...Leaving questions of validity per se completely out of the discussion, it still presents a slightly bizarre and perhaps even unseemly appearance to have a community gathered for its re-presentation of the Sacrifice where no members of that community partake thereof."

If you believe the merit and efficacy of the mass is infinite and is not dependent upon how many commune, but rather upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being offered for four ends: Thanksgiving, Adoration, Petition, and Atonement, it is not an issue.

I have always marveled at the "classic Anglican" innovation about requiring people to be present.

Can anyone here actually say they honestly think God is more pleased for them to stop after the Antecommunion than for them to finish the Mass having begun with the expecation of others being in attendance (announced in advance etc?)


LKW wrote:

"...Sean: praying for the souls of the faithful departed within the daily community Mass is a sound Catholic/Biblical practice. But a second special "Requiem" is a liturgical redundancy based on philosophical nominalism and erroneous notions of merit..."

That is your opinion. In your "classic anglican" sense you may be right. The terms of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church are you manifestly wrong.


SWR

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sean Reed wrote:

If you believe the merit and efficacy of the mass is infinite and is not dependent upon how many commune, but rather upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being offered for four ends: Thanksgiving, Adoration, Petition, and Atonement, it is not an issue.

Four ends. Let's see:

1 & 2.Thanksgiving, Adoration.
Good, if you mean that we give thanks to and worship God, and in a different sense, when devotions are aided by the presence of Reserve Sacrament.

2. Petition.
Ever heard of a thing called prayer?

4. Atonement.
Really? Ever read the Epistle to the Hebrews?

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Heb. 9:24-28

The Eucharistic Sacrifice is joined to this one offering, the only atonement. But "sacrifices of Masses" with the double plural, making each celebration an "atonement" is just plain wrong, and very bad theology. I assume you cannot mean such a thing as that.

I have always marveled at the "classic Anglican" innovation about requiring people to be present.

Once again, our return to the practice of Antiquity is deemed an "innovation." Typical RC mistake.

[By] The terms of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church are you manifestly wrong.

Ask us if we care.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Shaugn wrote:

It was also true, however, that in the Jewish Temple, sacrifices frequently became a source of food only for the priests.

So did the people who brought the offerings, but only after the priests share was removed. Read the early chapters of I Samuel about how the sons of Eli abused their position in this regard. The main offering that applies, however, by New Testament commentary, is the Passover. The people all ate the Passover Lamb.

It's quite possible that those celebrating a "non-communicating Mass," as you say, are simply interpreting the "all of you" as "the disciples," who are eventually those in Apostolic Succession, rather than a more universal "all of you. I think it's a poor interpretation, for what it's worth...

And, impossible to reconcile with the rest of the New Testament, especially I Cor. 11.

Anonymous said...

"[In] The terms of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church are you manifestly wrong."

Would you care to cite a paragraph from CCC or from Denzinger's Enchiridion Symbolorum? Or are you speaking Ex cathedra?

LKW

Anonymous said...

For any who might accept Sean Reed's presentation of RC doctrine as either correct or well-informed, I would simply point out that modern RC liturgical scholarship has tended to discourage the mediaeval notion that "more Masses are better than just a few," or if one is good, two is better.

It was not from any Anglican author that I learned that the multiplication of Masses (with numerous side-altars, chantry chapels, etc) was a result of Nominalism. If Mr Reed will read such scholars as Jungmann, Tavard, Bouyer, etc, he will recognize the point as rooted in the best RC thought of the last century.

Sound RC liturgics has re-asserted the importance of the Community Mass even if this has to be achieved with the questionable practice of concelebration.

It would be good if the "Former Anglicans" would get on the other side of the Tiber ASAP. As things stand right now, they seem to live in a world somewhere between Fr Feeney and Bp Williamson, a world practically all RC's are anxious to repudiate and are hardly eager to see replenished.

Perhaps our learned RC participants might give us some insight into the status of non-communicating Masses in the mainstream RC Church today. I suspect it is largely considered an Anglo-Catholic eccentricity.

LKW

Священник села said...

Since 1955, the Roman Catholic Church has practiced giving Reserve Sacrament to all communicants who are present, bringing them back into conformity with the Eastern Orthodox and others who allow the sacrament to be received, but not celebrated, on that day.

Just for the sake of accuracy, in an important discussion, the Eastern Orthodox do not celebrate the Eucharistic Liturgy on weekdays in Lent - with the exception of the Annunciation - but instead allow for Communion to be received after Vespers on these weekdays in a service called the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (= Lenten Vespers plus Communion), these Holy Gifts having been sanctified at the previous Divine Liturgy (normally Sunday). Although there is precedent for Communion from the Presanctified Gifts on every Lenten weekday, the practice is fairly established in parishes of serving the Presanctified Liturgy only on Wednesdays and / or Fridays.

In Holy Week the Presanctified many be celebrated on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday the Liturgy of St Basil the Great is celebrated, as on Holy Saturday. But Holy Friday is without either a Liturgy or a Presanctified Liturgy.

AA in M

Jack Miller said...

Just a thought/question regarding the first sentence of Fr. Hart's closing paragraph,

"The Eucharist is the sacrifice of the Church as the people worship in true faith, and as Christ responds by giving us the grace of the sacrament."

To me this seems to be in reverse. Shouldn't it be more like...

The Eucharist is the sacramental grace given through the consecrated bread and wine offered to repentant believer's as they come in faith and gratitude. As they eat, they receive the sacramental grace of Christ's body and blood. The Church as the people then responds with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, laud, and praise?

Thus the Eucharist is in the first about what Christ has done on our behalf and freely given to us unworthy sinners who bring nothing but believing hearts and open hands. This seems to be the meaning of the order in the 1662 BCP, and I don't know that the 1928 order meant to change that... or did it?

Fr. Hart's sentence might be taken to imply that Christ's giving of the sacramental grace is somehow a response to or dependent upon some merit of sacrificial worshipful on our part. I'm not trying to be picky nor suggest that's his intention; only that it is ambiguous to my reading.

Am I reading too much into this (or not enough)? If so, my apology as there is enough "taking issue" without it happening unnecessarily. I'm only trying to be clear in my own thinking.

William Tighe said...

Jack Miller's eucharistic theology is good Lutheran theology, but neither Catholic, nor Orthodox nor Patristic.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Wm. Tighe wrote:

Jack Miller's eucharistic theology is good Lutheran theology, but neither Catholic, nor Orthodox nor Patristic.

We could debate that entire subject endlessly, I am sure.

Jack Miller:

If your difficulty with my words has to do with my placing the human actions of liturgy first in sequence, I have a reason. The sacraments are predictable, which is why we have faith concerning them. In other words, when we employ rightly Form, Matter and Intention in accord with these Biblical Mysteries, we may be sure that God will fulfill His promise.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

William Tighe wrote:

Those whom this topic interests might wish to ponder, and engage with, the late E. L. Mascall's strong defence, and even encouragement, of "private Masses" in his book *Corpus Christi...

Actually, private Masses are a completely different subject from non-communicating Masses. However, I cannot defend them except under very special circumstances, in which case the priest is the only member of the Church present anyway.

Shaughn said...

Fr. Hart wrote,

"Actually, private Masses are a completely different subject from non-communicating Masses. However, I cannot defend them except under very special circumstances, in which case the priest is the only member of the Church present anyway."

But this isn't so, really. The Church Triumphant is always present, and so a private mass isn't, in my mind, actually a possible event.

RC Cola said...

In answer to Fr. Wells' question about the status of non-communicating masses in the RCC, I've never seen one...not from a single priest throughout the entire spectrum, no matter how you measure or label them. I've just never in the thousands of masses attended or served seen a non-communicating mass.

Having said that, I think it's a stretch to call a non-communicating mass invalid, but I would call the practice unsound.

Also, private masses are not necessarily the priest alone; they are simply ones not scheduled for the public. This is one way priests have been able to say the 1962 Mass without getting into trouble. Only a few people who are interested know that Fr. X offers the TLM on Tuesday mornings at 8 and they assemble at a side altar for a surreptitious low mass. They all communicate because Fr. X was also secretly in the confessional at 7:30 even though the bishop told him not to put too much emphasis on sin because it makes people feel bad. I used to enjoy serving these private masses. There were no codewords or secret handshakes, but the idea of having to sneak around to have a Mass that was perfectly acceptable for hundreds of years gave us a very James Bond-ish feeling, minus the hot chicks...and guns...and gambling...and...well, I guess it wasn't very James Bond-ish after all.

Jack Miller said...

Fr. Hart wrote:

"... when we employ rightly Form, Matter and Intention in accord with these Biblical Mysteries, we may be sure that God will fulfill His promise."

Yes, that helps clarify the intention of your sentence, and I would agree entirely with the above. Thanks for wading through my written thoughts/question and "hearing" my question.

Mr. Tighe wrote:

"Jack Miller's eucharistic theology is good Lutheran theology, but neither Catholic, nor Orthodox nor Patristic."

Although my post was not an attempt to give any close to a comprehensive understanding, as an Anglican who embraces the English reformation of the medieval church innovations, I would be content to hang my hat (among other writings) on Cranmer's Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine and Article XXVIII-Of The Lord's Supper, the main doctrinal teaching for which he was martyred by the Roman Catholic Church.

"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."

Me: It is a supernatural mystery that we partake of and participate in.

To quote my favorite Anglo-Catholic teacher, Fr. Hart:
"No one can fully and adequately explain "Real Presence" in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, thus making it a perfect fit for one of the "mysteries" or the term sacrament."

Anonymous said...

Dr Tighe: After noting your response to Jack Miller, I re-read his comment carefully. What do you find in it that would be objectionable to Athanasius, Irenaeus, or any any orthodox writer of the early centuries?

I am not a Lutheran nor do I play one on TV, but Jack is right in pointing out that the Divine initiative is as important in Eucharistic theology as it is anywhere else.

LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

We could say that the Divine Initiative was Christ both establishing the sacrament, and commanding "do this..."

Anonymous said...

"the Divine Initiative was Christ both establishing the sacrament, and commanding "do this..."

Quite right. Where I wish to split a hair is in the expression "Christ responds..." We would surely agree:
1. Christ established the sacrament,
2. Christ Himself is the "great high priest" who continues to offer His body and blood as our spiritual food,
3. The Church in her anamnesis pleads for the benefits of His sacrifice, and
4. Offers praise and thanksgiving as she receives her heavenly food.

But as I said, I am only splitting a hair. And I still do not grasp why Jack Miller's statement (with a slightly different nuance) is un-Patristic.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

"Responds" to each specific celebration of the sacrament. We may have certain faith that when we act in obedience with right Form, Matter and Intention, he does not ignore us. He fulfills his promise.

Jack Miller said...

More Fr. Hart on the Lord's Supper:

Fr. Robert Hart said...

By the time we get to the Communion of Christ's Body and Blood we have been baptized, and (if taken rightly) have been absolved of our sins. By the time we get to the truth of the sacrament, we have believed in the Incarnation, His death for our sins and his rising for our justification. So, having opportunity, we are taking the sacrament within the whole context of our faith and his finished work, with the guarantee of what is to come.

But, as to how it works-it is enough to know that those who have no such faith receive none of the benefits even if they eat and drink, but only add sin to sin and further the judgment on themselves. How it is, for believers, a means of grace remains a mysterious article of faith


Amen.

Jack Miller said...

I am not a Lutheran nor do I play one on TV, but Jack is right in pointing out that the Divine initiative is as important in Eucharistic theology as it is anywhere else.

Thank you Fr. Wells. That is my point.