Monday, June 02, 2014


by Fr. Laurence Wells

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  


RC Cola said...

One was the grotesque notion that at every celebration of the Mass, our Lord and Saviour is re-sacrificed or even re-crucified

I was about to say something about this, when I decided to stop myself and read further. Then I saw this...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.

So I'm not sure if it's worth saying what I was originally going to say. I was going to comment that the official RCC word on the matter, but it seems now like I'd just be pedantic. So...why bother?

It may be fair to say that at one time RCC overemphasized the sacrificial nature of the Mass, at the expense of the Lord's Supper nature. But I often worry that the Reformation makes a similar error from the other end of the spectrum, in which the Lord's Supper is overemphasized and the sacrifice ignored.

I can be criticized for this--and perhaps I will be--but it seems to me that without the sacrifice of the Lamb, one cannot have a Pascal Feast. And that without feasting on the Body and Blood of Christ, there's little sense in the sacrifice. The sacrifice is finished by consuming the meat.
The Mass must be at once the sacrifice on Calvary and the Last Supper. I don't know how these can be separated and put into binary opposition as they have been. (Not here by Fr. Wells, but elsewhere by others.)

Thank you, Fr. Wells, for pulling me out of my mundane duties and making me think about the higher things again.

RC Cola

Anonymous said...

I have read - and to some extent, reread - E.L. Mascall's Corpus Christi, and probably should, again.

Before I do, I'll ask, with the Feast of Corpus Christi (for those who can receive it, so to put it) approaching, are Hosts employed in processions and Solemn Bendiction, always (or customarily = 'if at all possible'), eventually comsumed?

And has anyone any other 'recommended reading' on the history of the articulation of the perception that at the historically last 'Last Supper', Our Lord "gave Himself in either kind,/His precious flesh, His precious blood,/ In love’s own fullness thus designed / Of the whole man to be the Food", as Neale's translation of 'Verbum supernum prodiens' puts it - that is, before His Passion, Death, Burial, and Resurrection?


Canon Tallis said...

A little late, but better than never in answer to the Semi-Hookerian, the word would be "Yes!" Not that I personally do that sort of thing, but I attended Anglo-Catholic (verging on Anglo-papalist) parishes rasing my children because the others neglected the pattern of prayer book worship and was frequently master of ceremonies and sub-deacon.