Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anglican Belief and Practice: An overview and summary

(A Joint Affirmation of the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America October 4, 2001.)

I. Introduction
Both the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America recognize the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion as one of their formularies. This was also true for both sides of the Evangelical/Catholic debate within nineteenth-century Anglicanism. The following is an articulation of the comprehension of Anglican belief and practice beyond and/or supplemental to the Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal; it addresses the primary topics of Church, doctrine, sacraments, ministry, and worship.
II. The Church
It is recognized that the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal establish the limits of Anglican faith and practice. When the Articles of Religion were issued in their final form, Article XX was added to address Puritan objections to the Book of Common Prayer. Articles XIX and XX give a terse description of the Church and then establish the fallibility of "particular churches," the authority of "The Church," and the Church’s responsibility towards Holy Scripture. Furthermore, neither the Catechism appended to the Confirmation rite in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer nor its successors contain instruction on the nature of the Church other than the language contained in the Apostles’ Creed.[1]
Little information exists in Anglican formularies upon which to construct a thorough doctrine of the Church. To attempt such a task is controversial because the opening words of Article XIX have been and remain subject to a variety of interpretations. Within Anglicanism, there have emerged two approaches to the Church, neither of which has at any time dominated the theology of classical Anglicanism.
Church of England formularies enacted during the Reformation period said little about the Church outside its local expression. This fact probably reflects the historical period in which they were written; for what the post-Reformation churches would become was then unknown. The most that could be said was that the English Church on the one hand rejected Anabaptist claims that there was no such thing as the "visible" Church on earth, while, on the other, rejecting the Roman Catholic notion of ecclesial infallibility. The Church also rejected Puritan claims that it had no authority to perpetuate rites and ceremonies inherited from the past or created in the future. The Church, as a constituted body, affirmed its authority as "a witness and keeper of Holy Writ."
The opening words of Article XIX in affirming a visible church evoke Old Testament concepts of the congregation of Israel. There are historic as well as theological ingredients in such a definition as it emerged in the last years of the reign of Edward VI, described by Cranmer and the reforming party as the "new Josiah." The statement, "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men..." may be interpreted parochially, denominationally or as a description of the Church "militant here on earth."
Many reformers[2] affirmed and granted primary force to what would later become known as "the doctrines of grace," variations on Continental Reformed theology as it appeared in various forms, while granting that the structure, ministry, sacraments, rites, and ceremonies of the Church were "godly." From this beginning arose the Evangelical tradition within Anglicanism, a tradition that, by its very name, stressed soteriology above ecclesiology.
Towards the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, those theologians formed by the Book of Common Prayer began to create a more extensive doctrine of the Church, its ministry and its sacraments. Richard Hooker's The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity best exemplified their approach. While not abandoning earlier emphases, those who followed Hooker sought to establish a distinct identity for Anglican Christians.
Many assertions of Anglican identity were put forth during the years when the Church of England was proscribed (1646-1660); they identify the tradition taken up by the Caroline end of the Anglican ecclesiological spectrum[3]:
To believe the Catholic to believe that there is a society of Christians dispersed into all quarters of the world, who are united under Christ their Head, formalized and moved by His Spirit, matriculated by Baptism, nourished by Word and Supper of the Lord, ruled and continued under Bishops and Pastors lawfully called to these offices, who succeed those upon whom the Holy Ghost came down, and have the power of the keys committed to them, for administration of doctrine and discipline, and who are bound to preach the Word, to pray with and intercede for people, to administer the Sacraments, to ordain ministers... [4]
It is not stipulated that the themes of either tradition are absent from the other; their interpenetration informed the Reformation, continued through the Interregnum, Glorious Revolution, the founding of the Protestant Episcopal Church and many years thereafter. Possessed of a common Church polity, ministry, liturgical use, assent to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and an acknowledged latitude in matters indifferent, both the Evangelical and Catholic traditions of Anglicanism witness to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the Creeds.
It is therefore affirmed that the Church is a "royal priesthood."[5] Through Baptism, all Christians are configured into the priesthood of Christ, and participate in the common priesthood of the faithful. Grounded in this common priesthood are the various spiritual gifts and ministries conferred by Christ on the faithful for the edification of the whole Body of Christ, the household of God. This ordering, built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, is of the esse, or being, of the Church, the Body of Christ.[6] Furthermore, this ordering assumed its definitive pattern during the apostolic period, presumably by apostolic design, in the three offices of ministry: bishop, presbyter, and deacon. The maintenance of this ancient and desirable pattern is of the plene esse, or full being, of the Church. In Anglican churches, this ancient threefold pattern is maintained in the succession of the historic episcopate as inherited and received from the Church of England and "locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church," which administration is affirmed to be for the bene esse, or well-being, of the Church.[7] Finally, while maintaining a charitable recognition of those jurisdictions which have, either by design or accident, failed to maintain the apostolic threefold pattern by way of the historic succession of the episcopal office, Anglicans consistently recognize as licit within their own jurisdictions only episcopal ordination.
III. Doctrine
Preface The surest way for the Church to test the truth of her teaching is by the study of Holy Scripture. Such study ought to be conducted within the tradition of the Church and with the use of right reason.[8] As no man save Christ is perfect, the Church on earth will always need these things as she seeks to discern God’s revelation and to do his will.
The relationship among Scripture, reason, and tradition as sources of authority has long vexed Anglicans. This vexation is twofold: first, touching the relative weights given to each source when authority is sought; and secondly, the nature of each source itself.
Scripture Holy Scripture as found in both the Old and New Testaments is the word of God written and "containeth all things necessary to salvation."[9] Scripture given by God is, therefore, supreme in its authority to declare God’s will. Similarly, the Church may not teach anything as necessary for salvation that cannot be proven out of Scripture; nor has the Church any authority to reject or alter any of Scripture’s teaching on faith or morality. Likewise, no revelation in Scripture concerning God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost or his plan for human redemption is susceptible to change by any human agency. There are, however, rites and ceremonies that are in themselves indifferent, which need not require biblical sanction but which should not contradict the clear meaning of Scripture.
Tradition Just as Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation and the promise that the Holy Spirit will lead the Church into all truth, it is axiomatic that the faith once delivered to the saints has been believed and practiced at all times, in all places and by all in the Church.[10] It does not follow from these principles that the Church on earth may never err, as if it were infallible, but rather, that it is indefectible, and that in it is found a universal consensus in faith and practice through time and across the earth.
This consensus constitutes what St. Paul calls tradition.[11] In substance, the tradition of the Church is none other than the rule of faith as discerned in Scripture. In practice, tradition also refers to the teaching of the faith through time. In neither sense of the word does tradition indicate a source of authority separate from or parallel to Holy Scripture. Nor does it indicate a source of authority equal to that of Scripture. Rather, Scripture provides the standard for tradition.
Tradition thus has a derivative authority for Christians, and only then when tradition is understood aright. What Jesus calls the "traditions" of men are practices of human devising, which cannot bind Christian conscience and can often separate man from grace.[12] What St. Paul calls tradition, the apostolic teaching and the process of preaching and receiving it, constitutes tradition as a source of authority. Understood in this way, tradition is not mere human custom. Taken materially, it is the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church over time. Taken formally, it is the evidence of this presence as found, for example, in the three historic Creeds,[13] the first four undisputed Ecumenical Councils, the Fathers of the early Church, the range of Anglican divines, the historic Books of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. The process of discerning tradition in this latter sense involves bringing this evidence before the bar of Scripture, where it is cleared and kept, convicted and discarded or corrected. Those traditions that reach back to Christ himself or to his Apostles brook no change. Because tradition has corporate and historical dimensions to it, it is of higher authority than reason (which may be regarded as a faculty of the individual Christian). Similarly, tradition is a faculty of the whole Church, as beliefs, practices, modes of spirituality, and theological insights are given special honor and reverence by the wider Church or particular churches.
Reason As to fallen man, original sin has not entirely obliterated the image of God in him, and yet he is "very far gone from original righteousness."[14] As St. Paul makes clear, man in a state of sin has enough reason left him to be held accountable for his actions, albeit not enough reason to avail him of any salutary power on his own behalf.[15]
As to redeemed man, reason is a necessary component in the Church’s belief, teaching, reflection, prayer, practice, and preaching. It ought never to be equated with personal or even corporate experience. By redeemed reason, the Church on earth and its members understand the teachings of Scripture, proclaim the faith, and participate in the tradition of the Church.
Affirmation It is therefore affirmed that since Scripture is complete in itself, it is the highest authority in the Church. Tradition, as the life of God in the Church over time, is often obscured in fact by error and in perception by historical prejudice and individual shortcomings. Its authority is derivative from and subordinate to Scripture. Reason, either as the faculty of a community or an individual, is subordinate to tradition because the honest reflection of a few people in dialogue ought to be subordinate to the life of the whole Church, which holds what has been believed and done in all places, at all times, and by all Christians.
Postscript: The Articles of Religion The purpose of the Articles of Religion was to distinguish the teachings of the Church of England from the doctrinal and practical aberrations associated with Rome on the one hand and from Protestant sectarianism on the other. Yet the Articles are unique among Reformed confessions, owing to the deliberate policies of the Edwardian and Elizabethan regimes to accommodate within the Church of England a broad spectrum of doctrinal opinion, limited only by creedal orthodoxy and informed by a constant appeal to prove all things by God’s Word written. This balance between received orthodoxy and Scriptural adjudication safeguards the Anglican tradition from the tyranny of "strict subscriptionism" that plagues so many confessional traditions within Protestantism. As a result, the Articles of the Religion are by nature broadly catholic and therefore characteristic of the Anglican approach to faith and practice.
The Articles of Religion are generally normative (both descriptively and prescriptively) for understanding the historic teaching and positions of the Church of England and the faith and practice of her derivative provinces and jurisdictions. Since, however, the Articles were drafted for a sixteenth-century national situation, it is understood that they are to be read and interpreted in the context of their age. Contemporary application of the Articles must therefore take into account how their historical context may differ from contemporary contexts. The continuing relevance of the Articles is related to their original purpose, namely, to distinguish the right faith and practice of the greater Anglican tradition from the aberrations in faith and practice associated with all extremes of the Reformation divide.
IV. Sacraments
Preface In the words of the Prayer Book Catechism, sacraments, properly understood, are "outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive this grace, and a pledge to assure us thereof."[16] Our Lord instituted two sacraments as "generally necessary unto salvation": Baptism and the Eucharist.[17] In the early Middle Ages the Western Church adopted a numerical system of identifying incarnational signs of grace, thereby amplifying rites rooted in baptism and enlivened by the Eucharist commonly employed in the daily lives of believers. This system became a focus of controversy during the Reformation. Most Anglicans, however, while not strictly defining these later rites as sacraments, have acknowledged that they, in conjunction with faith, function as conduits of God’s grace. As such, they are included in Prayer Book rites and ceremonies which ministers are obliged to use in public worship.
Baptism It is through baptism by water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost that an individual dies to sin and rises to new life in Christ.[18] Through this rebirth, or regeneration, baptism washes away original sin and opens the door to God’s grace.[19] At baptism, a person is grafted into the Church, the Body of Christ, and becomes a branch of the Vine. Furthermore, in Baptism a visible confirmation is given of God’s forgiveness of the individual’s sins, and one’s adoption as a son of God and an heir of salvation.[20]
Eucharist Scripture clearly teaches what has traditionally been called the Doctrine of the Real Presence.[21] In short, Jesus Christ is really, truly, and uniquely present in the Eucharistic celebration in which the dominical elements of bread and wine serve as focus. Our Lord’s Presence is also to be celebrated in the life of the whole Church militant and triumphant of which the Eucharistic community is the local manifestation. Anglicans have been loath to go beyond this basic definition, except to reject as dogmatic the theory of transubstantiation and to stress the role of the Holy Ghost in the celebration of the sacrament.[22] In the words of John Cosin, "as to the manner of the presence of the Body and Blood of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, not search into the manner of it with perplexing inquiries; but, after the example of the primitive and purest Church of Christ, we leave it to the power and wisdom of Our Lord..."[23]
Affirmation It is therefore affirmed that Christ directly instituted only two sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist, for use in the Church, by means of which his people partake of the mystery of the Incarnation. These two sacraments are rightly considered "generally necessary for salvation." Furthermore, the Church orders her life sacramentally in services, rites, and signs that are rooted in the baptismal and eucharistic mysteries. The Church through these ministrations is the instrument and channel of God’s grace. For this reason, it is permissible within Anglicanism to refer to the rites and ceremonies of confirmation, penance, matrimony, ordination, and unction as "minor or lesser sacraments."
It is also affirmed that the sacrament of Baptism effects a new birth into the life of Christ and his Body the Church, and is thus rightly called "regeneration." According to our Lord’s command and institution, Baptism is the necessary sacrament of Christian discipleship, and thus ordinarily necessary for salvation. The grace conferred in Baptism, when received rightly, includes the remission of both original sin and all personal sins (when applicable) through one’s union with Christ in the Paschal mystery, the adoptive sonship of the Father and membership in Christ and his Body. Through Baptism, a person is incorporated into the Church and becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. Baptism configures a person to Christ and makes him a sharer in his priesthood, consecrating the baptized person for Christian service and worship. Hence, the character of Baptism is rightly said to be indelible and the Sacrament not repeatable.
It is also affirmed that the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, was instituted by Christ to be a true partaking of his Body and Blood, a sacrament of our spiritual nourishment and growth in him, and a pledge of our communion with him and with each other as members of his mystical body. There is but one sacrifice for sin--the "one oblation of [Christ] once offered" upon the Cross. This one offering is the perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Thus, the Eucharist cannot be said to be a propitiatory sacrifice to the God the Father. Finally, the medieval doctrine of transubstantiation, as stated in Article XXVIII, "cannot be proved by Holy Writ"; nor can any dogmatic definition comprehend the mystery of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The mystery of the Real Presence can only be affirmed by faith.
V. Ministry
The Episcopacy

The Tudor and Stuart insistence that the episcopacy be retained in the reformed Church of England meant that initially Anglicanism had bishops but no common understanding of who they were or what they were supposed to do. The specifically broad language of the 1550 Ordinal made it clear that bishops had been a part of Church order since the Apostles' time, and with the Ordinal's incorporation into the English Constitution, bishops became a permanent feature of Anglicanism. Anglican understanding of the episcopacy, then, clustered not around theories of bishops but rather around the fact of bishops and how to account for them.
During the religious debates of the seventeenth century, those who supported the continuation of the English episcopacy came to be largely divided into two camps: those who considered bishops to be of the being (esse) of the Church and those who considered bishops to be for the well-being (bene esse) of the Church. Theologians of the former view took great pride in the Church of England's structural and visible continuity with the Church of the New Testament through the ages. Those espousing the latter rejoiced when English bishops invited Continental Protestant scholars and preachers to England. The esse view emphasized the bishop’s place in the structure of the Church; the bene esse view pointed up the bishop’s functions within the Church's mission. In either view, bishops served as the index of the Church's health.
Jurisdiction, however, remained unique to bishops as an order. Not only did this jurisdiction apply to clergy but to laity as well. Just as bishops ordained deacons and presbyters, so, too, did they confirm lay people. The new emphasis given to the practice of confirmation by bishops after the Reformation brought bishops within sight and hearing of their flocks on a regular basis. The intention of continuing episcopal confirmation was to emphasize that bishops not only should order the ordained ministry but have an essential role in ordering the whole visible Church. Furthermore, episcopal confirmation, when administered after a program of parochial instruction, demonstrated the presbyterate and episcopate working together to the edification of Christ’s flock.
Along this spectrum of views on episcopal status, a new consensus emerged as to the role of bishops. Specifically, "the office of publick preaching, or of ministering the Sacraments in the congregation" did not admit of individual pretensions to authority.[24] In this vague phrasing, no mention is made of bishops. The Ordinal, however, makes clear that bishops possess this authority, by which other ministers and their functions are ordered. The same order makes much of the bishop’s newly emphasized role as a teacher of the faith. Three out of the eight questions addressed to bishops-elect in the Ordinal have to do with diligence and orthodoxy in teaching.
The episcopate is a witness to the visible nature of the Church on earth, which is composed of all the baptized and has a mission to preach to all within earshot: the godly, the unregenerate, the fallen and the indifferent. As an element of Anglican polity, the episcopate has shown that Anglicanism believes that the Church is not to be viewed as a self-selected coterie of the godly but as the company of all faithful people.
The Presbyterate or Priesthood:Unlike both Roman Catholics and the Continental Reformers, Anglicanism has avoided excessively defining the presbyterate or priesthood.[25] As with the episcopacy and the diaconate, the Anglican presbyterate was simply carried on from the pre-Reformation English Church. Indeed, in daily life, there was very little change in the duties of a priest during the Reformation.
Anglicanism did reject certain medieval errors as well as stress in the Ordinal several basic functions of the reformed Catholic priesthood. First of all, Anglicanism rejected the notion that the priest’s liturgical function is to offer a propitiatory sacrifice anew at each Mass. Secondly, Anglicanism rejected any concept of presbyteral dignity based on such notions of propitiatory sacrifice.
At the same time, Anglicanism has consistently pointed up the pastoral and teaching roles of a parish priest. It was for this reason that Anglican clergy historically have been among the best educated anywhere in the Church. Ideally, a parish priest would care for and instruct all people who lived within his parish. The Anglican presbyterate has also retained the privilege of, among other things, performing baptisms, blessing marriages, and administering the Eucharist. A priest’s authority to preach, to administer the sacraments, and to care for souls comes from the bishop.
The DiaconateAnglicanism has had little to say about the diaconate other than what is found in the Ordinal. Indeed, for much of its history, Anglicanism has viewed the diaconate as little more than a step (often exceedingly brief) towards the priesthood. Another problem in understanding the roles of the diaconate is that many of its original functions, such as financial and administrative ones, eventually came under the care of the laity. Despite this shift of some duties in the life of the Church, Anglicanism retained a Catholic understanding of the episcopally ordered diaconate, thereby rejecting any tendency to make the diaconate a lay office.
The essential character of the diaconate, however, is still that of service. According to the Ordinal, the deacon serves the bishop by assisting a priest in his liturgical, pastoral, and didactic work within a parish. In practical terms, deacons have traditionally aided the parish priest in administering Holy Communion, reading lessons, catechizing youth and adults, taking communion to the sick and home-bound, caring for the poor and widows and, when the priest is absent, administering Baptism and preaching. Historically, deacons have had the privilege, when present, of reading the Gospel during the Eucharist.
AffirmationIt is thus affirmed that the bishop is the visible head of a particular church or portion of a church (e.g., a diocese) entrusted to him at his consecration; this headship makes him the ordinary president at all sacramental ministrations therein, and confers upon him the sole prerogative to ordain and confirm. Vested in the order of the episcopate is the faculty, by right of succession, to exercise singularly the spiritual authority that resides collectively in the Church within such canonical, provincial, or diocesan bounds as may apply in any given case.
It is also affirmed that presbyters are fellow overseers and elders with bishops, though theirs is an authority given by delegation and not by right of succession. Vested in the order of the presbyterate is the faculty to exercise collegially with the bishop spiritual authority in the Church within such canonical, provincial or diocesan bounds that may apply in any given case. Presbyters are entrusted at their ordination with the spiritual faculty to remit and retain sins through the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Church. Finally, in Anglican parlance, "presbyter" and "priest" are equivalent and are to be carefully distinguished from terms referring to the Old Testament sacrificial priesthood (e.g., Gr. hieros).
It is also affirmed that the order of deacon is a distinct ministry directly instituted by the Apostles in the early days of the Church for the service of charity.[26] For this reason, the deacon retains a special relationship of submission and obedience to the bishop, who alone lays hands on him in ordination. According to the Ordinal, the spiritual graces conferred at the ordination of a deacon are the confirmation and strengthening of the charisms, or spiritual gifts, previously exhibited in a person’s life, along with the authority to use these gifts representatively in the image of Christ the servant.
VI. Worship
PrefaceIn the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647), "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." In worship, we come together not so much to gain a blessing from God as to perform a service in offering "ourselves, our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto the Lord."[27] From the start of the Reformation, Anglicans have believed that worship ought to be liturgical in a language understood by the people, ought to profess the Christian faith, and ought to be (as St. Paul stipulates) reverent and orderly.[28]
LiturgyAnglicans have consistently rejected ex tempore prayer as the primary form of worship. In Scripture, one finds the use of prescribed forms of prayer.[29] Further, the tradition of set forms of liturgical prayers go back to Apostolic times and enjoy the support of the Universal Church.[30] Anglicans have also tried to continue the original English Prayer Book’s purpose of being a common Prayer Book for all people. Finally, a liturgy, by its very nature, is corporate, and thus best fitted to the Biblical understanding of the corporate nature of the Church.
A Profession of FaithThe liturgy ought to conform to the axiom, lex orandi lex credendi:[31] properly, rites and ceremonies ought to express the historic faith of the universal Church through the open reading of Scripture, the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and theologically sound composition of prayers and hymns. As the Book of Common Prayer has historically been central to Anglican self-identity, it ought also to express the fullness of classical Anglican faith and devotion.
Reverence and Orderliness
In worship, a congregation comes before God with praise and thanksgiving but mindful of its own unworthiness and sinfulness. The reverence of worship is a necessary antidote to human egocentrism. Reverent and orderly worship also enables the community to understand that it is bound together by the Holy Ghost in love for God rather than by the shared opinions of individual people. Reverent worship draws the congregation out of the secular and into the sacred. In this way, both the individual and the community are constantly reminded of the spiritual, corporate, historical and mystical aspects of the Body of Christ.
AffirmationIt is therefore affirmed that worship involves man’s highest duty, to honor God. In worship, man is enabled by God to offer him what he cannot offer of his own ability, namely, right praise. Worship is both the duty of mankind and a way towards the end of his salvation. This eternal dimension to worship is reflected in its corporate, historical and mystical aspects, in which individual worshippers and congregations are linked to the worship of the heavenly hosts and Christians of all races, cultures and historical periods. Since the worship of the Church is one activity carried on in various contexts, it demands due order and seemliness in its environment and execution. For the same reason, the Church ought to take care that the forms by which it worships in specific circumstances--rites and ceremonies--bear a visibly organic relationship to those forms established and used by the wider Church.
Postscript: Liturgical Revision
The Preface of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer clearly advocates the necessity and utility of liturgical revision.[32] Anglicans have never opposed liturgical reform as demonstrated by the production of the various historic Prayer Books (1549-1928). The Preface, however, also clearly states that such revisions and alterations ought to be made, "yet so as that the main body and essential parts of the same (as well in the chiefest materials, as in the frame and order thereof) have still been continued and unshaken." In short, liturgical revision should be a slow, evolutionary process that, far from attempting to lead the Church into new truth or to posit new revelation, states the Faith of the Church past and present. Further, the Preface in no way envisages drastic changes to the idiom by which the faith is witnessed to or worship offered.
[1] At least in the Episcopal Church in the United States no attempt was made to define the Church until new "Offices of Instruction" were officially approved and inserted in the Prayer Book of 1928. [2] Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Later Reformation in England, 1547-1603, London: Palgrave, 2001 [3] The term "Caroline" denotes those Churchmen during the reign of Charles I who held to a high view of the episcopacy and the Eucharist, retained medieval ceremonial, and considered themselves to be the direct heirs of Richard Hooker. [4] William Nicholson, A Plain but Full Exposition of the Catechism of the Church of England, London: 1655 [5] 1 Peter 2.1-10. [6] Ephesians 2.20-2.1. [7] Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, 1886, 1888. [8] Hooker, Richard Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Cf. Augustine, "Epistula 143" and De Genesi ad litteram, x. [9] Articles of Religion, VI, hereinafter cited by Article in the 1801 version. [10] Vincent of Lerins, A Commonitory, cap. II. [11] II Thessalonians 2.15; 3.6; I Corinthians 11.2; cp. Jude 1.3. [12] Matthew 5; Mark 7. [13] Apostle’s, Athanasian, and Nicene. [14] Article IX. [15] Romans 1.18-20. [16] Book of Common Prayer (1662), p. 300; Book of Common Prayer (1928), p. 292; Also, Ecclesiastical Polity, Book V, Chapter 1, sections 2-3: "For we take not Baptism nor the Eucharist for bare resemblances or memorials of things absent, neither for naked signs and testimonies assuring us of grace received before; but (as they are indeed and in verity) for means effectual whereby God when we take the sacraments delivereth into our hands that grace available unto eternal life, which grace the sacraments represent and signify..." [17] Article XXV; see also the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. [18] Matthew 28.19; Romans 6.3-4. [19] Article XXVII; Lancelot Andrewes, Whitsun Sermon 5, city: publisher, date, p. 191. [20] Article XXVII. [21] Matthew 26.26-29; Mark 14.22-25; Luke 22.17-20; John 6.48-58; I Corinthians 11.23-32. [22] For example, Lancelot Andrewes, Responsio ad Apologiam Cardinalis Bellarmini: "At the coming of the almighty power of the Word, the nature is changed so that what before was the mere element now becomes a Divine Sacrament, the substance nevertheless remaining what is was before..."; see also Article XXVIII. [23] Author, Historia Transubstantiatonis Papalis, cap. 1. [24] Article XXIII. [25] Although in Greek, the terms "priest" and "elder" are two different words, in English both "priest" and "presbyter" are interchangeable. This fact is reflected in the use of both terms in the text. [26] Cf. Acts 6 [27] Book of Common Prayer (1928), p. 81, based on Romans 12.1. [28] I Corinthians 14.40. [29] For example, the Psalter, synagogue worship, and the Lord’s Prayer. [30] "And, besides that the prescribing a form in general is more edifying, than to leave everyone to do what seems good in his own eyes, we have concurrent testimony, experience, and practice of the Universal Church; for we never read or heard of any Church in the world, from the Apostles’ days to ours, but what took this course." William Beveridge, A Sermon on the Excellency and Usefulness of Common Prayer. [31]Prosper of Aquitaine, in chapter eight of Official Pronouncement of the Apostolic See on Divine Grace and Free Will, wrote, "ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi [so that the law of praying may establish a law of believing]." See Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology, ch. 7, "Lex Orandi," for a review of the tag lex orandi, lex credendi and the relationship between the Church's role as a custodian of God's word to man in the Bible and a keeper man's words to God in liturgy. [32] "The Particular Forms of Divine Worship, and the Rites and Ceremonies appointed to be used therein, beings things in their own nature indifferent, and alterable, and so acknowledged; it is but reasonable that upon weighty and important considerations, according to the various exigency of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein, as to those that are in place of Authority should, from time to time, seem either necessary or expedient."

Friday, July 11, 2008

A full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction

Article XXXI. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.

The Offering of Christ once made in that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

From The Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Masse, in the first Book of Common Prayer, 1549:

O God heavenly father, which of thy tender mercie diddest geve thine only sonne Jesu Christ to suffre death upon the crosse for our redempcion, who made there (by his one oblacion once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifyce, oblacion, and satysfaccyon, for the sinnes of the whole worlde, and did institute, and in his holy Gospell commaund us, to celebrate a perpetuall memory of that his precious death, untyll his comming again: Heare us (O merciful father) we besech thee; and with thy holy spirite and worde, vouchsafe to blSmCross.GIF (76 bytes)esse and sancSmCross.GIF (76 bytes)tifie these thy gyftes, and creatures of bread and wyne, that they maie be unto us the bodye and bloude of thy moste derely beloved sonne Jesus Christe. Who in the same nyght that he was betrayed: tooke breade, and when he had blessed, and geven thankes: he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saiyng: Take, eate, this is my bodye which is geven for you, do this in remembraunce of me.
Likewyse after supper he toke the cuppe, and when he had geven thankes, he gave it to them, saiyng: drynk ye all of this, for this is my bloude of the newe Testament, whyche is shed for you and for many, for remission of synnes: do this as oft as you shall drinke it, in remembraunce of me.

Hebrews 9:24-28:

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.

It was assumed by the Roman Magisterium, in 1896, that the Church of England had rejected Eucharistic Sacrifice, on the basis of Article XXXI, quoted above in its entirety. But, is the meaning of the phrase "sacrifices of Masses" the same as Eucharistic Sacrifice? Note the plurality of that phrase in the Article. Was it an attempt to reject the Tradition of the Church, or to correct the popular mis-perception of the common man in that time and place?

The average layman needed to be taught two things about the Supper of the Lord. First, the specific sacramental act of the Church in each individual Mass was not, itself, an isolated sacrifice on behalf of the living and of the dead. In the "nun theology" of that time and place, each Mass was viewed just this way: And, so it seemed good for Christ to be offered quite often, over and over again, in as many sacrifices as the priests could reasonably perform.

What needed to be taught, in order to correct this popular error, was best summarized in those words that remind us of the Epistle to the Hebrews: "All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; 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..." Christ was once offered, and his offering is sufficient. No other sacrifice for sin can be made.

It was this essential truth of the Gospel that motivated the English Reformers to write the Article, and to give us so clear a teaching within the service of Holy Communion. This was the reason for their emphasis on his once for all sacrifice. In no way did this emphasis repudiate Eucharistic Sacrifice. Instead it helped to clarify the true meaning of Eucharistic Sacrifice, in terms that are true to the Tradition of the Holy Catholic Church, in perfect accord with the Scripture. The Anglican emphasis was not a mistake, not an error, and not a rejection of Catholic Faith.

There is one Sacrifice, and every Eucharist is mystically joined to that one event, that offering by Christ of himself as "priest and victim, in the Eucharistic feast." There is one Supper of the Lord, and every Eucharist is the same supper that Christ held in the night in which he was betrayed. When the Church gathers for this highest and most important time of worship, we are taken to the same table with Christ and his apostles, and we are also taken to the cross at Calvary.

"And although we be unworthy (through our manyfolde synnes) to offre unto thee any Sacryfice: Yet we beseche thee to accepte thys our bounden duetie and service..." If we are unworthy to offer a sacrifice, how can we nonetheless offer it? By asking the Lord, of his mercy, the request as it follows: "not waiyng our merites, but pardonyng our offences, through Christe our Lorde..."

Writing in 1624, speaking for the Anglican position, a Church of England priest named William Bedell wrote about Eucharistic Sacrifice:

"[If by it you mean] a memory and representation of the true Sacrifice and holy immolation made on the altar of the cross...we do offer the sacrifice for the quick and the dead, by which all their sins are meritoriously expiated, and desiring that by the same, we and all the Church may obtain remission of sins, and all other benefits of Christ's Passion."

The Eucharistic sacrifice is the complete sacrifice. It takes us to Calvary. It is our bounden duty and service, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and of ourselves as living sacrifices (following Romans 12:1,2); as the English Mass also says: "And here wee offre and present unto thee (O Lorde) oure selfe, oure soules, and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee..." Nothing is omitted, nothing neglected, in this highest act of Christian worship.

The second thing they wanted to teach is that the people were supposed to receive the sacrament. For this reason they came up with yet another name for this ancient service, one taken directly from St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians: Holy Communion. It was not enough to "hear the Mass" of a priest. This offering of the whole Church (led by a priest) made the sacrament available so that each Christian could feed on the bread of life. "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."(John 6:54, 55) And, about this we have
already written.

Once again, we see that the English Reformers did not attack the Catholic Faith. They defended it, and they restored it.

(Posted also on the Continuum.)