Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Prayer of Humble Access defended

This post is the result of genuine provocation. One of the comments that followed Fr. Kirby's erudite article about the use of Missal and Prayer Book, ruffled my feathers. They were not ruffled by the writer of the comment, but rather by what he described:

I've often thought that the continuing Churches (at least in the UK) 'talk' a lot about the BCP and but rarely use it. You always see it mentioned on websites but of the three continuing Churches I've been to in the UK none of them use the 1662 or 1928 (UK) BCP for Mass - it's all been English Missal. One Priest told me that he'd reluctantly printed the Prayer of Humble Access for devotional use in the Mass booklets but refused to say it himself. Personally, I find this disappointing.

Well, at least this priest is good enough to let the prayer appear in print, even if he feels compelled to denounce it as, no doubt, "too Protestant." Inasmuch as the content of the Prayer of Humble Access was drawn largely from prayers said by the priest in older Latin Missals, prayers of the same kind as "Lord Jesus Christ...regard not my sins, but the Faith of thy Church..." the burden of proof weighs heavily on anyone who thinks its content to be an innovation of the 16th century.

To some degree this seems like a problem more intense in England than in other countries. The Anglo-Catholics in that country have reason to feel that their Book of Common Prayer (1662) is not quite as rich in its Eucharistic expression as it ought to be. The same comment closed with these words: "Knowing the American BCP, I can't think why you'd want to use anything else." Indeed, the Eucharistic celebration from the Missal in the United States is, in practice, simply an embellishment of the Book of Common Prayer 1928 edition. Nonetheless, I cannot understand why some of the English Anglo-Catholics inflict the Novus Ordo on their congregations, as if selecting an inferior liturgy is the solution; and for that matter, one with all the charm we might well imagine from a revision of Shakespeare produced by a committee. In such a nightmare, "Even a dog is obeyed in office" (King Lear) is replaced with, "The barking dog gets his way." How much more serious the real life problem of replacing "And with they spirit" (Et cum spritu tuo) with, "And also with you." If the English Anglo-Catholics want a richer liturgical expression, they need not abandon the Book of Common Prayer tradition altogether, especially not in favor of something about as uplifting as the financial page of the Times of London.

That is, unless the idea is to reject Anglicanism itself in favor of a Roman brand of Christianity that does not "out-Catholic," but merely "out-Romans," Rome. I fear such to be the case even in the thinking of a man as learned and accomplished as Fr. John Hunwicke, whose theories on the most important aspect of the Mass I have criticized. Just as many converts to the Orthodox Church have deluded themselves into thinking that they have found a way to cut themselves off from all stain of their western ancestry, I fear such Anglo-Catholics are self-loathing Anglicans, due no doubt to the failure of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. The solution, however, is to Continue with us, not to cultivate Roman affectations. And, as my Orthodox brother, David Bentley Hart, has observed about the converts to the Orthodox Church, that they labor so industriously to reject anything western that they end up rejecting the actual teaching of Orthodoxy, these self-loathing Anglicans finish their endeavors by rejecting what is truly Catholic by the standard of Scripture and Antiquity. As we have observed many times, Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est, is replaced with the Doctrinal Development theory Newman espoused. "The Faith once delivered to the saints" is not good enough for them, so they embrace innovations, some of which Rome itself discarded in recent decades, having learned from us.

For the Prayer of Humble Access to be treated with either contempt or embarrassment by any Anglican is, however, a new low in theological illiteracy. Perhaps this prayer is considered to be lacking in decorum, like celebrating the Masse 1 in a surplice-the unforgivable sin for which any priest is, no doubt, condemned to everlasting Hell (that, and failure to wear black socks). That is, maybe the UK cleric mentioned in the comment is embarrassed by the Prayer of Humble Access the same way I would be embarrassed by my crazy Uncle Ernest, but simply because it is not in the Tridentine Mass rather than for its content. However, to defend the prayer, it must be looked at for its theological meaning, which is very deep and truly Catholic. Therefore, we will assume that the embarrassment this cleric has expressed (which makes me embarrassed for him), has to do with his own want of theological understanding rather than a matter of his own bad taste.

Let us analyze the Prayer of Humble Access and see the richness of the theology contained therein.

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy...

Anyone who seeks a religion that is affirming of his life style and choices, or even of himself, cannot appreciate our service of Holy Communion at all. Neither can he appreciate our Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Throughout all our public prayers we confess that we are sinners, and supplicate to be forgiven. Often, it takes even more of God's grace for the religious person to know he is a sinner than it does for a notorious backslider or completely unchurched man who is suddenly converted. Too often, the religious man can be like the Pharisee in the parable, and actually think the same way. "God, I thank Thee I am not as other men are." (Luke 18:11) What C.S. Lewis once wrote rings true:

But are we really to believe that on each of us there lies something which if not taken off us, will in fact break us? It is very difficult. No man has any natural knowledge of his own inner state and I think that at the beginning we probably find it much easier to understand and believe this about other people than about ourselves. 2

In addition, that expression, "We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under thy table," is from the Gospel of Matthew.

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. (Matt. 15:22-28)

Although we are no longer Gentiles, but children of the Covenant baptized into Christ, we do not forget that we are here by grace rather than merit. In terms that John the Baptist would approve, we say these words to remind ourselves "that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." (Matt. 3:9) Only by his mercy do we come into his presence, never by any righteousness of our own.

I hope the English cleric in question does not consider the realistic appraisal of our sinful state to be "too Protestant" for him; if so, he does not stand alongside the great saints of the Church, East and West. If so, he distances himself from St.Paul who wrote, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." (I Tim. 1:15) Nor does he stand alongside any of the true believers in the Communion of the Church of Rome today; he distances himself from Pope Benedict XVI, who knows himself to stand only by God's mercy and grace. If this is "too Protestant" for the English priest, so is all Christianity throughout all time.

...Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

The words "so to eat...and to drink" have everything to do with why we, as Anglicans, call the Mass "Holy Communion." The Anglican emphasis on receiving the Sacrament must not be thought of in terms of the worn out charge of Cranmer's apparent "Receptionism," which later was repeated by Richard Hooker. As we have seen already in posts on this blog, what these men wrote was not a rejection of the Real Presence, but rather the view that it is immaterial when and how the elements are fully consecrated; when they are received, having been consecrated at the altar,3 they are the Body and Blood of Christ. This adds to the guilt of those who receive them in an unworthy manner; but for those who receive them with "hearty repentance and true faith" they are eternal life and health.

Here I quote from my sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity written in 2007.

"But, this other part they [contemporary Episcopalians] cut out, '…that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood…' [this] offends the modern mind, because the modern mind cannot comprehend- as well I understand and sympathize- how the body could be sinful...The general resurrection of the dead on the last day will destroy that last enemy to be destroyed, death. So says the Bible, as we find in St. Paul’s first letter to those in Corinth...The Law of Moses teaches us that if a man so much as touched the dead body of any person, he was unclean and had to bring his sin offering to be cleansed...

"The body, as it is now, is affected by sin because it will die, and death itself is unclean. Death is not natural at all in the philosophical and theological sense. Death is the consequence of sin, not a good and natural part of God’s creation, but the last enemy of God and man that will be destroyed at Christ’s coming. So, how do we understand those words from our Prayer of Humble Access? '…that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood…' We must think about what we are about to do. After the sermon you will confess that you are a sinner like everybody else. The General Confession is the opposite of the proud Pharisee’s prayer. He thanked God that he was not like other men, like the sinners; that is because he deceived himself. But we will confess the very opposite: We will confess the truth, seeking to be cleansed by God through the Absolution (if we come with 'hearty repentance and true faith'), and so will approach, will draw near to take into ourselves the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember his words:

"Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever (John 6: 54-58).”

"By eating this bread and drinking this cup our sinful bodies are made clean by his body, and our souls are washed through his most precious blood of the New Covenant. Springing from his Incarnation, from the Word made flesh, is this sacrament by which we feed on Christ, the Bread of Life, the food of eternal life"

This Sacrament that is "generally necessary to salvation," as taught in our Catechism, gives us this food and drink, His Body and Blood to cleanse us from our mortal uncleanness; so when saying these words, we ought to look to his coming again on the Last Day when we rise pure from the defilement of sin and death.

When we say the Prayer of Humble Access, let us say it boldly and in strong voice for all the world to hear. It is good, solid, Biblical and quite Vincentian. It expresses our sure and certain hope of the resurrection on the Last Day, the Divine promise that comes to us through the salvation Christ purchased for us on the cross when he gave his life, poured out his soul unto death, and thus took away the sins of the world; so that, at his rising, he could overcome death, and at his coming again destroy it forever. I am not ashamed to say these words, but grateful that I may pray them and mean them.

1. And remember, whereas the term "Holy Communion" is from the Bible and is rich in theological meaning, the word "Mass" means, to translate it freely, nothing more significant than "time to leave." Middle English masse, from Old English mæsse, from Vulgar Latin messa, from Late Latin missa, from Latin, feminine past participle of mittere, -to send away, dismiss. But the term "Holy Communion" is from I Cor. 10:16. I insist, there is no comparison. For Heaven's sake, call it the service of Holy Communion-we are Anglicans after all.

2. Miserable offenders from God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, C. S. Lewis, Walter Hooper (Editor), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Reprint edition (October 1994; original copyright 1970 by the Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis).

3. The actual issue is settled in the rubrics themselves, commanding reverent treatment of whatever "remain of that which was consecrated."


Sandra McColl said...

"When we say the Prayer of Humble Access, let us say it boldly and in strong voice for all to hear."

I trust 'we' in this sentence is your brother priests. After all, the 1662 rubric reads: 'Then shall the Priest, kneeling down at the Lord's Table, say in the name of all them that shall receive the Communion this Prayer following.' And, yes, you should say it loudly enough for all in whose name it is said to hear.

Fr. D. said...

Just a note: as I understand it and have observed first hand, the "official" Church of England Anglo Catholics do mostly use the Novus Ordo Roman Missal. However those within the ACC mostly use the English Missal. Circa 1890? It has been re-printed in both the Peoples' and Altar editions.
Somewhat understandable given the jumbled and ambiguous order for Holy Communion in the 1662 BCP.
Fr. D.

poetreader said...

Wonderful exposition of one of the finest prayers of the Anglican tradition!

Actually, Sandra, I'm very thankful for the local custom in my parish that encourages the Congregation to join with the priest in saying the prayer, and find myself a bit annoyed by the insistence that this is wrong. I knew one bishop who would interrupt the service to turn and declare, "THIS IS MY PART!" if the people joined in. I also know a priest who tends to omit the Humble Access for fear people might join in saying it. Frankly, I find both attitudes to be rather unliturgical.

However, it is very clear that Cranmer's intent was that it be the people's prayer, not merely the priest's. The 1662 makes this very clear indeed, in using the same wording for both General Confession and Humble Access, instructing the priest or one of the ministers to say these prayers "...in the name of all those that are minded to receive..." or "in the name of all them that shall receive...". The expectation at first was that not everyone would have a Prayer Book (they were, and, besides, not all could read) and would not therefore know the text. After centuries of use, most of us do know the text by heart, and Prayer Books are readily available. I value the chance to say these words for myself.


Alice C. Linsley said...

The Prayer of Humble Access is one of the brightet gems in the BCP. It is the glowing equivalent of the Orthodox prayer before reception of the elements which speaks of the thief crucified beside Jesus, who seeking mercy, was promised that he would enter Paradise that very day.

This is yet another example of how Anglican obsession with things Roman, either pro or con, leads to loss of objectivity and strange thinking.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Clarification: In the Episcopal Church in America, back when it was still really the Episcopal Church (1958 to be exact), the General Convention voted to allow congregations to join in if the rector and people were so minded (as well as the Thanksgiving at the end). This was established lawfully long before the modern problems set in. This is not the custom at St. Benedict's; but, I would not mind if it were.

However, when the celebrant alone speaks outloud it is still the people's prayer.

Rather than focusing on this rubrical point, I hope most of the comments that follow will be about the prayer itself and what it means, and any related liturgical and theological thoughts.

RSC+ said...

Fr. Hart,

If you want a fun project, trace where the Prayer of Humble Access is in the various liturgies. In the 1928 BCP, for example, it's plopped down at the end of the various Eucharistic Prayers -- after the Institution, after the Epiclesis. We have no doubt that when "our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood," we are dealing with elements that have changed somehow in their status, their very being.

In the 1552 BCP (gag), it falls just after the Sanctus et Benedictus. Well, really it's the Sanctus sine Benedictione, but nevermind that. The point is, it's there before the Institution, and there just flat out isn't an invocation of the Word and Holy Spirit. In such an arrangement, I think, we are never meant to think that any change whatsoever--not in status and certainly not in material--has taken place here.

This is, incidentally, where the prayer lies in the 1662 BCP. No wonder they think it's too Protestant. It's in a position where the effect of its words has been purposefully diminished. There's been no Institution. There's been no Invocation. There's been no Word and Holy Spirit. It's still bread, and it's still wine, and for all we know, based on the structure of the liturgy, that's all it's ever going to be.

Our 1928 BCP, by placing the Prayer of Humble Access after the Eucharistic Prayers, acknowledges that a change has taken place.

We in America, consequently, have a very different understanding of what this prayer does than they do. Or so I think.

(And to think--I learned the importance of this wandering prayer from a TEC Bishop. How sheepish he looked when I asked him where it was in Rite I, where it has been, frankly, censored!)

My .02, anyway. Peace.


Oh, incidentally, I was speaking with the rector of one of the few remaining '28 BCP parishes in the Diocese of Georgia, for whom I have a great deal of respect, and he said to me, "By the way, if you ever find yourself in a parish that doesn't say the Prayer of Humble Access and the Thanksgiving with the celebrant, don't start. It diminishes the importance of everything else the congregation says together -- The Confession, the Lord's Prayer, the Sanctus, the Gloria in Excelsis." Sounds like quite reasonable logic to me.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I have made a "poetic" addition to the last paragraph: "For all the world to hear..." That is, this is what we pray and believe.

Canon Tallis said...

I believe that the origin of the Prayer of Humble Access was the Mozarabic Liturgy. That would make it quite ancient indeed and very Catholic. I have used it both in the position it is in 1662 and in our American book and have no trouble with it in either place.

On the other hand, it is not quite true to say that in the United States a missal service "is, in practice, simply an embellishment of the Book of Common Prayer 1928 edition." In many, if not most, places this is quite true, but I have known too many places where any resemblance to the form of the prayer book service does not exist.

As for the use of the Novus Ordo in England, this is simply a logical extension of the mentality of the English Church Union and the SSPP about liturgy in general. Roman was ok and "catholic," but anything English and Anglican is nothing but 'prot.' And I think that you, Father Hart, are exactly right that its roots lie in English and Anglican self loathing. Unfortunately, too many American Anglicans have taken on themselves a great deal of the same Anglican self-loathing and want nothing to do with anything that truly smacks of antiquity but which does not have the more recent blessing of the Roman See.

In the meantime Benedict XVI is seeking a Roman equivalent of Tudor and Elizabethan English for their next version of a vernacular liturgy. Indeed with his frequent choice of vestments and the way he has cleaned up the Sistine Chapel make him look and sound like someone attempting to win the approval of the Alcuin Club and the Anglican Society. Indeed, he - if no other - has learned from us.

+DM said...

If I may just clarify the use of liturgies in the ACC's Diocese of the United Kingdom.
The general structure of the Mass is the same whether the English Missal or the Anglican Missal are used (most if not all of our congregations have and use both here). I have celebrated the Eucharist, and been present at celebrations at which the, American 1928 Canon, the 1549 Canon and the Gregorian Canon have been used.
Although those who use the English Missal tend to only use the Gregorian Canon when doing so. This Sunday (Whitsunday) I shall be using, in my Church in Canterbury, the 1549 Canon to celebrate the Book of Common Prayer's Anniversary.
The 1662 and the 1928 (English) Books of Common Prayer are not authorised in the ACC.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The 1662 and the 1928 (English) Books of Common Prayer are not authorised in the ACC..
He means English as in England-the Church of England's 1928 was very controversial.

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Hart wrote, about a previous comment that the 1662 and the English "Proposed" Book of Common Prayer of 1928 are not used in ACC congregations in England: "He means English as in England -- the Church of England's 1928 was very controversial."

Well, the "Proposed Book" was sufficiently controversial among non-Anglicans in Parliament that Parliament refused to pass the act that would have authorized its use in the C of E. However, the English Bishops authorized it nevertheless.

Also, it is the basis for both the South African BCP of 1954 and the Church of India's BCP of 1963, both of which are authorized for use in the ACC.

John A. Hollister+

Sandra McColl said...

The 1928 book contains some improvements, in the form of reintroductions of the Benedictus qui venit and Agnus Dei into HC and explicit prayers for the departed (which, I believe, is one of the things that most offended Parliament). It also, however, while leaving the 1662 version untouched, some namby pamby 'alternatives': a Solemnization of Matrimony in which the bride does not promise obedience, and a pacifist Alternative Morning/Evening Prayer in which 'Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O God' becomes 'Because there is none other that ruleth the world, but only thou, O God'. In my experience, however, I have never encountered Alternative Morning/Evening Prayer.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

When it comes to the American BCP, I would favor using the 1896 edition. The 1928 edition was already weak and compromised. The Venite should not exist as a replacement for the 95th Psalm. The Venite was created to make the Morning Prayer a lot "nicer" than what is in the last few verses of the 95th Psalm. Also some of the readings are clipped, including the Epistle for Easter. The ideal American BCP is an older edition; in 1928 they were already getting a little, as Sandra says, "namby-pamby."

Fr William Bauer said...

The Prayer of Humble Access was derived from the Order of Communion (1548), was used in 1549 and has appeared in each (except one brief one) revision of the BCP since then. The prayer flies in the face of Romanist or Continental Protestant statements that the Mass in the CofE had changed its intent in the real consecration of bread and wine.
A person who is not in favor if this prayer is foolish.

Fr. D. said...

"the General Convention voted to allow congregations to join in if the rector and people were so minded"

I realize that this does not directly relate to this thread, however, a tripartate "General Convention" should never have been allowed to "vote" as to whether the people may or may not join the priest in reciting that prayer or any other for that matter! All like matters are to be decided in the College of Bishops with advice from the House of Clergy. Congregationalism is the devil's playground!
Fr. D.

poetreader said...

I think that's more or less right, but needs some fine tuning.

1. In the Episcopal Church, which was the Anglican presence in the US until the recent unpleasantnesses, General Convention is the authority designated (with full consent of the House of Bishops) to make Prayer Book revisions, and therefore to interpret rubrics. Whether this was ideal or not, it was the proper procedure, according to written standards.

2. "Congregationalism" isn't the issue. This was a decision made to be effective in the whole jurisdiction. A true Congregationalist abhors such a notion. Arguably one could say that is is more 'democratic' than a truly Catholic polity really permits. Also arguably, one could say that it is closer to a Presbyterian polity than to an episcopal.

That said, it does appear that the bishop and the college of bishops should bear the major liturgocal responsibility (though wisdom would require that they consider the thinking of both clergy and laity in the process of making decisions).


Fr. Robert Hart said...

The General Convention in 1958 is where the House of Bishops alone voted on the matter (because it was liturgical).

The prayer comes from the "secret prayers" of the priest, but the words fit perfectly the whole idea of "...my sacrifice and yours..." Bishop McClean, Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States, ACC, has the people join in at his home parish in Maryland. Liturgical practices, as along as they are lawful, I am content to leave to the bishop of each diocese.

The rule for someone visiting a church is simple: Don't jump in speaking out loud unless you hear the congregation doing so. That is, of course, unless one is visiting to be the celebrant. In that case, simply accept the custom of the parish, or you will have made an issue out of something for no useful reason, which itself is disruptive of the liturgy.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

A fact which is important for Continuers in the liturgical question being discussed, whether the prayer is to be audibly recited by the priest or the whole congregation, is that the 1962 Canadian BCP is most naturally interpreted to direct the latter, the 1928 American to direct the former. And both BCPs are made the standard in the Affirmation of St Louis.

And Alice is right, the prayer of humble access is very similar in basic intent and concept to an EO liturgical prayer directed to be said by all before communicating.

Let us not forget that according to EO thinking the whole congregation's triple-Amen at the end of the Consecration completes the Consecration, so that even that part of the liturgy Westerners conceive as most specific to the presider is in fact considered really shared with and finally actualised by the congregation. Much more, then, is the prayer we are discussing not excluded by any Catholic doctrine from being a shared prayer.

Sandra McColl said...

I don't care what other folk do as long as I don't have to . . .

Unknown said...

The English Anglo-Catholics are uncomfortable with the Prayer of Humble Access because a) it was composed entirely by Thomas Cranmer (one of their bete noirs), and b) reflects certain elements of Reformed theology (e.g., the word "righteousness"). Additionally, the idea that reception of Holy Communion provides forgiveness of sins probably seems abhorrent to many old-line Roman Catholics (and possibly their Anglo-Papalist sympathizers?), for whom sacramental Confession was absolutely essential before reception of Holy Communion in the Mass. In this paradigm, because of the requirement for sacramental Confession prior to Mass, there simply is no (mortal) sin present in the communicant to be "washed through his most precious blood," nor a sinful body to be "made clean by his body." Moreover, many modern Anglican liturgists (such as Massey Shepherd) view Cranmer's poetic license with the separate functions of Christ's body and blood (corresponding, respectively, to body and soul) as mistakenly adhering to a bizarre medieval theory about the separate functions of the consecrated bread and the wine. Hence their removal of this phrase from revised liturgies such as the 1979 American BCP.

The 1549 BCP's placement of this prayer and the confession, absolution, and comfortable words just before the reception of HC is probably the best theologically. I also think Cranmer's version of the prayer in 1549 is superior theologically, if not poetically: "Graunte us therefore (gracious lorde) so to eate the fleshe of thy dere sonne Jesus Christ, and to drynke his bloud in these holy Misteries, that we may continually dwell in hym, and he in us, that our synfull bodyes make bee made cleane by his body, and our soules washed through hys most precious bloud. Amen."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Of course, for reasons I have given above, I am certain that the cleansing of our sinful bodies by his body will be realized when we rise from the dead. Then our bodies will not be sinful, and literally will become tahor, that is clean (the Bible does not use the word kosher, but rather, tahor).

Unknown said...

While some have drawn a comparison between the Prayer of Humble Access and the Eastern Orthodox equivalent in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, as an Anglican I have to admit that the latter is a much richer expression of various Biblical truths and matters than Cranmer's Prayer of Humble Access (perhaps reflecting the difference between the Eastern and Western Church traditions as much as anything else). Here's the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom in his liturgy:

"I believe, O Lord, and I confess that thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who didst come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. And I believe that this is truly thine own immaculate Body, and that this is truly thine own precious Blood. Wherefore I pray thee, have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance; and make me worthy to partake without condemnation of thine immaculate Mysteries, unto remission of my sins and unto life everlasting. Amen. Of thy Mystic Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of thy Mystery to thine enemies, neither will I give thee a kiss as did Judas; but like the thief will I confess thee: Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom. Not unto judgement nor unto condemnation be my partaking of thy Holy Mysteries, O Lord, but unto the healing of soul and body."

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

The English Anglo-Catholics are uncomfortable with the Prayer of Humble Access because a) it was composed entirely by Thomas Cranmer (one of their bete noirs), and b) reflects certain elements of Reformed theology (e.g., the word "righteousness")."Not trusting in our own righteousness" is not a concept exclusive to the Reformed tradition, but common to the whole Catholic tradition. No Church teaches we are to trust in a justification sourced in ourselves, or to base our "worthiness" to receive the Body of God the Son on what would have to be a perfect internal purity, if not for grace. Not the RCC and its Tridentine formulation, not the EOC, not anybody.

As for "Cranmer's poetic license", it is manifestly just what stjohns says it is, poetic licence, not an attempt to limit the benefits of the Body to our bodies or the Blood to the soul. Compare Proverbs 10.1: "A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother." Does this mean that Mum will not be happy if her son is wise or that Dad will have no sorrow if his son is foolish. I think not. The language of liturgy is, like poetry, crafted to communicate truth with a rhythm that is pleasing to the ear and memorable.

Anonymous said...

I am a very low church anglican, a United Methodist clergy, and I have always used The Prayer of Humble Access". I now find out that my coleagues refer to it as that "worm" prayer and will not use it. I am glad to find this defense of this great prayer!