The central and most important prayer of our Prayer Book is the one found on pages 80 and 81, called the Prayer of Consecration. The more technical and ancient name for this prayer is the “Canon,” a Greek word meaning rule or norm. This prayer not only consecrates bread and wine for the Lord’s Supper, but is also a normative statement of our church’s teaching concerning the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Near the beginning of this all-important prayer we find the words: by his one oblation of himself once offered.” These words are placed in parentheses, but surely not to suggest that they are optional or unimportant but to emphasize their critical importance. These words are there to give point to the following language, “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.” Had it not been “once for all,” the sacrifice of Calvary would have been less than perfect and insufficient for our salvation.
This language has been part of our Anglican liturgy since the original Prayer Book of 1549. It is interesting that Archbishop borrowed all this from the Roman Catholic Archbishop Herman of Cologne.
The intent was to refute two serious errors of the late Middle Ages. One was the grotesque notion that at every celebration of the Mass, our Lord and Saviour is re-sacrificed or even re-crucified. The other error was the curious idea that every mass has only a finite value as a meritorious act. Therefore if one mass is good, two would be better, and 1,000 would be better still. This was the basis for masses with a special intention and for mass stipends. We must be quick to say that such was never the dogmatic teaching of the pre-Reformation Church nor of the Roman Church at the Reformation or now.
Authentic Biblical teaching exposes this popular belief as radically wrong. St. John tells us that at His death, our Lord uttered the cry of victory, “It is finished,” with a Greek word which was a book-keeper’s term meaning “paid in full.” His death was decisive, final and unrepeatable.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, in a passage we read on Good Friday, contrasts the sacrifice made by Jesus, the Great high Priest, with the sacrifices made over and over, morning and night, every day of the year, by the priests of the Old testament. Hebrews uses a very emphatic word, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” The word which Hebrews hammers home is EPHAPAX, once for all,
We treasure our prayer book for its clear Biblical, Reformed and truly catholic teaching. Our Saviour made one unique and perfect sacrifice for us, which we can never repeat, to which we can add nothing, on which we may confidently rely for our salvation. LKW