Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Laymen's Guide to the Thirty-nine Articles

 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 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 o 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 rise to many superstitions.

The Body of the Lord 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 is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

De Coena Domini

Coena Domini non est tantum signum mutae benevolentiae Christianorum inter sese, verum potius est sacramentum nostrae per mortem Christi redemptionis. Atque ideo rite digne et cum fide sumentibus, panis quem frangimus est communicatio corporis Christi: similiter poculum benedictionis est communicatio sanguinis Christi.Panis et vini transubstantiatio in Eucharistia ex sacris literis probari non potest, sed apertis Scripturae verbis adversatur, sacramenti naturam evertit, et multarum superstitionum dedit occasionem.
Corpus Christi datur, acciptur, et manducatur in Coena, tantum coelestis et spirituali ratione. Medium autem quo corpus Christi accipitur et manducatur in Coena, fides est.
Sacramentum Eucharistiae ex institutione Christi non servabatur, circumferebatur, elevabatur, nec adorabatur.

Archbishop Peter Robinson
The twenty-eighth Article is the first of four dealing with the Sacrament of the Altar which points to the significance of the subject, and the centrality of the Eucharist to the Christian Life. The other two - 29 - 'On the wicked,' 30 - 'Of both kinds' and 31 - Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the cross' complete the treatment of the subject in the Articles of Religion, and will be dealt with in turn. Just reading through the 28th Article, it is very clear that the framers - Cranmer and his advisors originally, then Parker and Convocation in 1562/3 - were looking for both a Consensus and a positive statement on the nature of the Sacrament. In particular, they were trying to sidestep the brewing dispute between the Swiss Reformed and the Lutherans over the nature of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, and in this they had a measure of common ground with John Calvin, and Martin Bucer, who were both trying to avoid the rigidities of both Wittenberg and Zurich. In its moderate tone, it is at one with the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Scots Confession of 1560. However, Article 28 is a little bit looser in that it permits not only receptionism, but also some sort of 'spiritual real presence' of which the "virtualism" of Johnson of Cranbrook and the later Non-Jurors is the main representative in Classical Anglicanism

So let us start by looking at what the Article condemns. Specifically, it rejects the doctrine of Transubstantiation, as overthrowing the nature of the Sacrament by denying the reality of the outward sign after the consecration, it being replaced with another substance which leaves only the accidental signs, not the substance of Bread and Wine. Mere memorialism is a 'fail' in much the same way except that in this case it is the spiritual grace, rather than the outward sign which is denied. However, having ruled out these two extremes the 28th Article then goes on to take a middle way which insists on Christ's presence in the Supper without defining whether it lies in the celebration, or in some change of significance in the elements. However, it does seem to give first preference to the Receptionist doctrines that were current in the 1560s in the attempt to reconcile Lutheran and Zwinglian views on the Eucharist.

This sort of 'true Presence' theology derives in large part from Cranmer's controversy with Stephen Gardner in 1550-1551. This was a lively little pamphlet war which was later consolidated into Cranmer's book 'On the Lord's Supper.' Gardner's contribution is largely uninteresting in that it is a vigorous defence of the traditional doctrine of transubstantiation, except for the point that he regarded the 1549 BCP Mass as being valid and upholding the doctrine of transubstantiation. This was a point that greatly riled Cranmer, whose theology had already assumed its mature position under the influence of Ridley c.1545. Cranmer's contribution is far more constructive in that it is quite obvious that Cranmer is trying to formulate a position which takes account of all the major Biblical texts concerning the Eucharist, namely the institution narratives from the Synoptic Gospels, and 1 Corinthian 10 and 11. However, like the magisterial reformers, he misses the Eucharist references in John 6, or spiritualizes them, thus missing one of the major Evangelical keys to understanding the Eucharist. The position Cranmer finally adopts is reminiscent of Ratramnus of Corbie, a ninth century Frankish monk who denied any change in the elements whilst affirming a true spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Ratramnus had been rediscovered by Nicholas Ridley (1500-1555) c.1545, and Ratramus, and an anonymous Anglo-Saxon text were to be determinative in forming Cranmer's final position on the Eucharist. It should also be noted that Ratramnus' writing 'On Predestination,' in which he argues for Predestination to life against the double predestination of Gottschalk, anticipate the position taken in Article 17. Anyhow, in the final analysis the key to understanding Cranmer's doctrine of the 'true presence' are St Paul's words in I Corinthians 10:16-17
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? For we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

This text maintains both the reality of the bread and wine, and also the reality of Christ presence as we sacramentally participate in his Body and Blood. St Paul's words also make it clear that the Eucharist is a sign of unity between the believer and his Saviour, and between believers. This idea of the Eucharist being a sign of unity also occurs in St John's Gospel, especially in John 6:48-61, and in the writings of St Ignatius of Antioch and in the Didache. All of these elements are honoured in Cranmer's book. In his mature thinking, Cranmer's doctrine of the Eucharist resembles that of Martin Bucer, or Peter Martyr. It is also fair to mention that it bares a remarkable resemblance to the Receptionism of Calvin's Institutes.

However, the 28th Article is not so tightly worded as to limit our understanding to Cranmer's true presence, or Calvin's Receptionism. It is quite clear that in the early part of Elizabeth's reign its language was acceptable to "Lutherans" such as Edmund Gheast (Bishop of Oxford, then Salisbury) who affirmed a Eucharistic doctrine resembling the hypostatic theories of Luther, rather than the Consubstantiation of Lutheran Scholasticism. Their belief that Christ was present 'in, with and through' (to borrow the classic Lutheran formulation) the Bread and Wine was not incompatible with Article 28, but it did lead to the temporary suppression of Article 29 from 1563 to 1571. It also seems to have given birth to the localized theories of the Eucharistic presence that were to crop up from time to time among the English Arminians, the Non-Jurors, and the Old High Churchmen before becoming commonplace among Anglo-Catholics in the third-quarter of the 19th century. However, from 1560 to at least 1860 the dominant doctrine of the Eucharistic presence in Anglicanism was a strong form of Receptionism which saw Christ's presence as being in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, not specifically in the elements. This also explains why reservation for the sick disappeared during this period, being replaced with an abbreviated Eucharist celebrated in the home of the sick person. However, in the Scottish Episcopal Church, where virtualism was prevalent, reservation for the sole purpose of communicating the sick and housebound remained reasonably common.

But what about those other theories? After the initial hiccup with Lutherans such as Gheast, the main revival to Receptionism was not, as is still occasionally claimed, the Memorialism of Benjamin Hoadley, but the Virtualism of the Scottish Episcopalians, the English Non-Jurors, and their sympathizers within the Established Church. The classic exposition of this position is Johnson of Cranbrook's early eighteenth century manual on the Eucharist "The Unbloody Sacrifice." Johnson contended that the consecration of the elements changes their significance not their physical state, so that whilst they remain bread and wine, they become, "in virtue, power and effect" the Body and Blood of Christ. In short, Johnson affirms a spiritual presence in the elements by which the bread and wine become in their spiritual benefits the thing signified. However, he also affirms that the presence is discerned by faith. This localisation of the presence in the elements seems to have been uncontroversial from 1720, until the Low Church counterattack against the Tractarians in the 1850s.

One thing that has to be made absolutely clear is that between 1770 and 1845 the Eucharist was not a source of controversy between Evangelicals and High Churchmen. Evangelicals accepted receptionism as the doctrine of the Church of England, as did a majority of High Churchmen. Virtualism had a following amongst a minority of High Churchmen, but on the whole comparitively little of a controversial nature was written about the Eucharist between 1740 and 1840. The controversy only erupted in the aftermath of John Henry Newman's Tract XC, which was published in 1841. The original centre of attack in 1841/2 was not so much Newman's theology, but his methodology, which resurrected the logic chopping of Dr Samuel Clark, the early 18th century Arian, whose theories had been masterfully countered by Daniel Waterland (1683-1740.) The strongest exception was taken by Henry Phillpotts, (1778-1869) a strong High Churchman, and an ultra-Tory appointed to Exeter by the Duke of Wellington. Phillpotts was strongly anti-Calvinist, and had given discrete support to the Tractarians, but he was having none of Newman's Romanizing. Whilst Phillpotts' Charge against Tract XC is the most vehement and readable of the reposts to Tract XC, it was not the only one, as all but one of the mainly Old High Church bishops slammed Tract XC.

The direct attack on the 'real presence' came with the Forbes and Dennison Cases in the 1850s. The case against Alexander Penrose Forbes was the simpler of the two mainly because it took place in Scotland where the Canonical procedures were simpler. In a charge delivered to the Diocese of Brechin he used language that suggested that he held a doctrine very close to transubstantiation. This drew a protest addressed to the House of Bishops, and as a result charges were brought against him by Fr. Henderson of Arbroath. Terrot, the Primus, tried to reconcile the two sides, but eventually the matter went to trial, and the case was heard by the remaining six Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church. To all intents and purposes, they convicted him of nothing worse than intemperate language with Forbes doctrine surviving uncensured. The Dennison Case was far broader in scope in that it attempted to get a condemnation of all forms of the doctrine of the Real Presence which localized the presence of Christ in the elements. Had it been successful, it would have made Receptionism the official doctrine of the Church, but it was eventually dismissed on a technicality leaving the doctrinal position exactly where it had been before. We also need to consider that given our greater familiarity with the Eucharistic orientation of the Fourth Gospel, and of the teaching of the Sub-Apostolic and Ante-Nicene Fathers, we probably need to broaden our view to include objective theories of the Real Presence that do not commit us to Aristotlean physics or any view that might 'overthrow the nature of a sacrament.' Therefore one may safely conclude that the Twenty-eighth of Thirty-nine Articles vouchsafe a considerable latitude as to the way in which we understand the nature of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, asking only that we reject the extremes of Transubstantiation and Memorialism.

The final paragraph deserves a brief treatment of its own. The closing words "The sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's Ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped" as a statement of historical fact more than anything else, agrees with the assertion in the first paragraph of the Article that Communion is the main function of the sacrament. At the time it was probably intended to forbid elevations during the Canon of the Mass and processions of the Blessed Sacrament as these had become the focus of some quite superstitious popular piety. Four hundred and fifty years on, it has to be regarded as an open question as to whether ceremonies such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament are acceptable Anglican practices, especially as most of the superstitions associated with late mediaeval Eucharistic piety are long since forgotten except by scholars of the period. I would therefore suggest that, like all such open questions of ecclesiastical discipline, the final judgement as to whether such ceremonies are licit must be left to the competent ecclesiastical authority, and not become a focus for activist liturgics.

Fr. Robert Hart
Article XXVIII defends a high view of the sacrament of Holy Communion, and also rejects Transubstantiation. In doing so it is consistent with the Anglican mind in rejecting man made extremes. It is also written so as to keep the doctrine of the sacrament within the boundaries of scripture, and to base our understanding of it on what has been revealed, and therefore recorded in scripture.

In Anglicanism, as we have seen, emphasis was placed on the sacrament as instituted to be received. It is meant to be taken and eaten, and drunk. Christ’s presence in the sacrament is taught as receiving grace, or deserving judgment for partaking unworthily, as St. Paul warned (I Corinthians 11:17-34). It is therefore no “bare sign” as in memorialism. The Anglican emphasis is on receiving Christ Himself in faithful partaking of the sacrament; and apart from partaking of the sacrament, the English Reformers saw no reason for its institution anywhere in scripture. “The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.” This is a simple recognition of fact, the boundaries of revelation as it is written. What Christ ordained is found in the words, "Do this in remembrance of me," namely "Take eat...Drink ye all of this..."

Nowhere is the purpose of sacraments more clearly stated than by Richard Hooker in the Book V, of his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. “When sacraments are said to be visible signs of invisible grace, we thereby conceive how grace is indeed the very end for which these heavenly mysteries were instituted, and besides sundry other properties observed in them, the matter whereof they consist is such as signifieth, figureth and representeth their end.”1 He continues by saying, “…it seemeth requisite that we first consider how God is in Christ, then how Christ is in us, and how the sacraments do serve to make us partakers of Christ.”2

Hooker then continues to write about the sacraments by grounding them theologically in the Incarnation: Chapter 51 has as its title: “That God is in Christ by the Personal Incarnation of the Son who is very God.” Consistent with the Athanasian Formula (“God became man that man may be deified”), he takes the combined subject of the Incarnation and the sacraments to a great height: “… God hath deified our nature, though not by turning it into himself, yet by making it his own inseparable habitation…For man is in both an associate of Deity.”3 Is it any wonder that Hooker’s writing eventually takes us to where he says, “The real presence of Christ’s most blessed body and blood is not therefore to be sought for in the sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the sacrament.”4

Before someone objects too strongly, mistaking this for too low a view of the sacramental elements themselves, it is actually a very high view of the sacrament indeed, rooting the sacrament in Christ’s own Incarnation, and then describing our salvation as becoming “partakers of the divine nature”5 though grace. This clearly echoes the words of II Peter 1:4. It is no small matter that in that verse the word for “partakers” is a form of the word koinōnia,6 which word is translated both as “fellowship” and as “communion” (most notably in I Corinthians 10:16). Hooker is talking not about the elements as such, but about the end result of faithful receiving; that is, he is speaking of where Christ’s real presence is to be “sought for.”  

As for the rest, except in rejecting the extremes of Zwingli’s reputed “Bare Sign,” and Transubstantiation, Hooker goes on in Book V to emphasize the importance of receiving Christ Himself by means of the sacrament through faith, not on some need to figure out and describe exactly how He is present. In the course of that Hooker says, “…that Christ assisting this heavenly banquet with his personal and true presence doth by his own divine power add to the natural substance thereof supernatural efficacy, which addition to the nature of those consecrated elements changeth them and maketh them that unto us which otherwise they could not be; that to us they are thereby made such instruments as mystically yet truly, invisibly yet really work our communion or fellowship with the person of Jesus Christ as well in that he is man as God, our participation also in the fruit, grace and efficacy of his body and blood, whereupon there ensueth a kind of transubstantiation in us, a true change both of soul and body, an alteration from death to life.”7

(It is worth noting the repeated use of the words “communion,” fellowship” and “participation” in light of what we have already seen concerning the word koinōnia. Hooker appears to be thinking of all those meanings.)

In line with the Article, where it says, “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,” we find in Hooker the rejection of a physical change of the elements. Hooker says: “In a word it appeareth not that of all the ancient fathers of the Church any one did ever conceive or imagine other than only a mystical participation of Christ’s both body and blood in the sacrament, neither are their speeches concerning the change of the elements themselves into the body and blood of Christ such, that a man can thereby in conscience assure himself it was their meaning to persuade the world either of a corporal consubstantiation of Christ with those sanctified and blessed elements before we receive them, or of like transubstantiation of them into the body and blood of Christ.”8

Contrasted against centuries of what seems to be an obsession by many with describing the sacrament mechanically, Anglicans early on lifted up their eyes to the heights. The meaning and purpose of the sacrament has everything to do with what it is, with what the elements become for us. The emphasis is on grace.

The words of Christ that we call “the words of institution” do not begin with “This is my body…This is my blood.” Rather, they begin with, “Take eat…Drink ye all of this (or “Drink this all of you”).” This point seems obvious, but it seems also to need highlighting. Of what value is the Lord’s Supper “reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped,” compared to, or in absence of, the grace received by partaking of the sacrament with genuine faith? It may be argued that the Article does not forbid reservation or lifting up of the sacrament, or carrying it about. Indeed, reserving it primarily to be received by those to whom it must indeed be carried, is perfectly consistent with the theology taught in the Article, and also by Hooker in Book V. But, what is positively stated in Anglican teaching is the value of receiving the sacrament “rightly, worthily, and with faith.” That is why the Book of Common Prayer added an additional name to the service itself, “The Holy Communion.”

1.      The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book V, 50.3
2.      ibid
3.      Book V 54.5
4.      Book V 67.6
5.      II Peter 1:4
6.      Specifically in this verse, koinonos.
7.      Book V 67.11
8.      ibid


Derril said...

Thank you many times to the authors of this series on the Articles of Religion.

Based on my twenty-five years in the ACC and as a life-long Anglican, it seems there are two related issues of great importance to Continuing Anglicans today.

1. The necessity of our people being urged to make personal preparations before receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord. In this regard, in my youth I was urged to use a pamphlet titled "Preparation for Holy Communion and Thanksgiving After Communion" originally published by Parish Press.

2. This issue of open Communion. Certainly this has not been a part of classical Anglicanism and to the best of my knowledge is not condoned in the Continuing Churches. But it has been part of the Episcopal Church for a few decades and, accordingly, affects church bodies like the recently formed ACNA. It seems to me this is an important issue with respect to relations between us and ACNA - along with other well-known issues.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to echo Demi's many thanks!

As possibly useful, I note:

Available at the Internet Archive are:

John Johnson's Theological Wotks (Oxford:Parker, 1847), including The Unbloody Sacrifice;

Moule's 1895 edition of Ridley's Btirf Declatation of the Lord's Supper (including an abridged translation of Retramnus);

editions of Ridley's Works, etc.;

both an original 1550 edition and Todd's 1825 edition of Cranmer's Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament;

Cox's 1844 editions of Writings and Disputations of Thomas Cranmer relative to the Sacrament;

editions of Cranmer's Works, etc. (I have not as yet looked for the other authors/works mentioned by Archbishop Peter Robinson).

In the background to Demi's second point is the Kikuyu controversy of exactly a century ago, and its aftermath, with more recent Canon law as to what openness there is on what terms in the Church of England: perhaps a expository post on all this would be helpful!

St. Thomas Aquinas in treating Transubstantiation is clearly concerned with avoiding dangers of idolatry; Luther, in the Babylonian Captivity argues it is easy to worry too much about dangers of idolatry; the Consensus Tigurinus and the Heidelberg Catechism are very concerned with such dangers, and do not seem obviously moderate in the dismissive way in which they implicitly condemn Luther as thoroughly as (explicitly) 'Rome'.

Perhaps you could someday post on the matter of idolatry and the Eucharist (not least with reference to the last paragraph of Article 28)?

Another subject I would gladly learn more about in this context is the history and teaching respecting 'spiritual Communion'.