Saturday, September 12, 2009

A fine paper on Eucharisric Theology

Although I cannot endorse the new Anglican Church in North America, the following paper is simply excellent. It should be read for its educational value. I am sorry that our Continuing Church movement has lost so fine a scholar. It is here posted in its entirety, posted with permission of the author.-Fr. Hart


by Rev. Victor E. Novak

There is a great deal of confusion among Anglicans today regarding the Anglican teaching on the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Some believe in the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation or something very similar; while others are almost Zwinglian, holding a view that differs little from the Baptists, Methodists or Presbyterians. There is a lot of talk today about “Real Presence,” “Receptionism” and “Calvinism,” without much understanding of what these terms really mean. Many who think they are orthodox Anglicans are unfamiliar with their own Anglican formularies: the historic Book of Common Prayer and its Ordinal and Catechism, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and the two books of Homilies, and what they teach.

On July 29, 2007, I was received as a priest into the Reformed Episcopal Church. Previous to my reception, I had been a priest in the Anglican Province of Christ the King where I served as Ecumenical Officer and editor of The Province, the official publication of the APCK, as well as a pastor. I was a classical Anglican while serving in the Anglican Province of Christ the King, and I believe, teach and confess the same classical Anglicanism in the Reformed Episcopal Church. I joined the Reformed Episcopal Church because it is neither high nor low church today, but is a classical Anglican Church, and is perhaps the only truly classical Anglican jurisdiction in North America. The REC not only professes belief in the historic Anglican formularies, but studies, uses and teaches them as well. After the Reformed Episcopal Church became a founding jurisdiction of the newly gathered Anglican Church in North America, I found myself having discussions with Anglican colleagues outside of the REC regarding ACNA, and whether or not continuing Anglicans should work with it or remain outside. Many of these colleagues knew me while I was Ecumenical Officer of the APCK, and were genuinely interested in ACNA, but some seemed somewhat puzzled that my parish and I had entered the Reformed Episcopal Church. A few have even said to me, “But the REC doesnʼt believe in the Real Presence.” Comments like that have led me to write this paper in an effort to clear the air.


In the Declaration of Principles of the Reformed Episcopal Church, adopted on December 2, 1873, the same day that the Thirty-nine Articles were reaffirmed without alteration, under “erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to Godʼs Word”, the REC condemns the notion “That the Presence of Christ in the Lordʼs Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine.” It is from this principle that some of my colleagues have assumed that “the REC doesnʼt believe in the Real Presence.” However, nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth is that this Principle does not address either the medieval, scholastic doctrine of Transubstantiation or the Biblical and patristic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, but something altogether different. Transubstantiation is already rejected in Article XXVIII of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion: “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 occasion to many superstitions.”

The Reformed Episcopal Church does not condemn “the Presence of Christ in the Lordʼs Supper,” - rather it affirms it. What it does condemn is the teaching “That the Presence of Christ in the Lordʼs Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine.” It is not the doctrine of the “Real Presence” that is being condemned, but an error that is centuries old and goes back at least as far as John of Paris (d. 1306), and perhaps as far as the disciples of Berengarius of Tours at the end of the eleventh century. It had already been officially condemned by Rome, and by both the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in the 16th century; and had become popularized again in the 19th century. In fact, the Vatican condemned a Roman Catholic theologian, Bayma, in 1875, for teaching it; and some High Church Anglicans caused serious controversy in the United Kingdom and the United States by teaching what sounded very much like it in an effort to profess something close to Transubstantiation without technically violating Article XXVIII. Theologians call this error “Impanation.”

Impanation is a theological term used for the teaching that the Body and Blood of Christ are mingled with the elements of bread and wine in the Eucharist. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about Impanation: “An heretical doctrine according to which Christ in the Eucharist through His human body substantially united with the substances of bread and wine, and thus really present as God, made bread: Deus panis factus...The doctrine of impanation agrees with the doctrine of consubstantiation [a term rejected by Lutherans] as it was taught by Luther, in these two essential points: it denies on the one hand the Transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and on the other professes nevertheless the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Yet the doctrines differ essentially in so far as Luther asserted that the Body of Christ penetrated the unchanged substance of the bread but denied a hypostatic union. Orthodox Lutheranism expressed this so-called sacramental union between the Body of Christ and the substance of bread in the well known formula: The Body of Christ is ʻin, with and under the breadʼ - in, cum et sub pane...”

The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910 says, “The doctrine of also against reason, since a hypostatic union between the Word of God Incarnate, or the God-man Christ, and the dead substances of bread and wine is inconceivable” (Vol. 7, p. 695). Impanation has been condemned by Rome, the Lutheran Church in the Formula of Concord, and by the Reformed Episcopal Church in its Declaration of Principles, but all three of these Churches believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.


Anglicanism rejected transubstantiation for three reasons: 1). it “cannot be proven by Holy Writ,” 2). it “overthroweth the nature of a sacrament,” and 3). it “hath given occasion to many superstitions.” Transubstantiation clearly is not provable by Holy Writ, and “is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture.” It is really a medieval, scholastic explanation without Scriptural or patristic support; and no impartial student of history can doubt that it “hath given occasion to many superstitions.”

How does it overthrow the nature of a sacrament? A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. A sacrament consists of both the outward sign and the thing signified. In transubstantiation the outward sign is eliminated because the whole substance of the bread and wine are said to be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Only the accidents, the appearance of the bread and wine, remain. This overthrows the nature of a sacrament. Zwingli erred in that he separated the sign, the consecrated Bread and Wine, from what it signified, the Body and Blood of Christ; while transubstantiation made the same mistake in the theologically opposite direction. It can be said that Zwingli taught the “real absence” of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion. According to Zwingli, communicants receive only bread and wine as a memorial of Christʼs sacrifice.

Transubstantiation teaches that communicants receive only the Body and Blood of Christ as the whole substance of the Bread and Wine have been transubstantiated into the Body and blood of Christ, leaving only the appearance, the accidents, of Bread and Wine. But Anglicanism has always taught with the Scriptures and the Fathers that the Sacrament of Holy Communion consists of both the outward and visible sign, the consecrated Bread and Wine, and the inward and spiritual grace, the Body and Blood of Christ, as the Catechism makes clear.

In the Catechism of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer we read:

What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?

I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.

How many parts are there in a Sacrament?

Two; the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.

Why was the Sacrament of the Lordʼs Supper ordained?

For the continual remembrance of the death of Christ, and of the benefits we receive thereby.

What is the outward part or sign of the Lordʼs Supper?

Bread and Wine which the Lord commanded to be received.

What is the inward part, or thing signified?

The Body and Blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lordʼs Supper.

What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?

The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the Bread and Wine.

If our bodies are strengthened and refreshed by the Bread and Wine, the substance of the Bread and Wine must remain. This is classical Anglican Sacramental Theology. The Holy Scriptures teach that communicants receive the Body and Blood of Christ and Bread and Wine in the Sacrament (I Cor. 10:16; & 11:23-29), and so does Anglican theology.

The Body and Blood of Christ is not mingled with the Bread and Wine and there is no hypostatic union (Impanation), but are Really and Truly Present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and the Sacrament of Holy Communion, like all Sacraments, consists of both an outward and visible sign, the Bread and Wine, and an inward spiritual grace - the thing signified - the Body and Blood of Christ. Article XXVIII says, “the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.” The kneeling rubric at the end of the Eucharistic liturgy in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer makes it clear that Anglican theology rejects the scholastic notion that the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The rubric says, “the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances...” And should anyone doubt the Catholicity of the 1662 Prayer Book, let me remind the reader that it was adopted after the Restoration and the final defeat of puritanism in England, is the product of the triumph of Caroline divinity, and marks the completion of the English Reformation that was begun in 1534.

No less an Anglican authority than the great Rev. Francis J. Hall, D.D., writes, “The assertion, that the consecrated elements have become the body and blood of Christ, is so frequently made by the ancients that it may be reckoned as a patristic commonplace. But...they perhaps represent nothing more than rhetorical emphasis upon the doctrine that the elements become the body and blood of Christ... There may be set against such language a number of clear assertions that the bread and wine continue in their proper nature after they have become the body and blood of Christ; and this appears to have been the ordinary patristic view.

“But the middle ages saw a widespread shifting of emphasis from the mystery of identification to that of conversion... In the West this development terminated in the scholastic doctrine of transubstantiation” (Dogmatic Theology, Vol. IX, originally published 1921, pp. 129-130).

Hall continues, “If the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ, can they rightly be said to retain their former nature and still be bread and wine?...the ancients clearly took for granted an affirmative answer; and with a few exceptions they held, without being conscious of inconsistency, the doctrine that the consecrated elements are and have become the body and blood of Christ without ceasing to be real bread and wine. There were giants in those days, and we are not justified in explaining their position as either careless or stupid. They were, however, more alive to the supernatural aspects of the mystery than are the majority of those who deny that such things can be...We are taught that the divine logos became flesh; but that in becoming what He was not, He remained what He was, truly divine, is also taught in Scripture, and constitutes a stereotyped formula of catholic theology” (ibid, Hall, pp. 134-135).

“The Eucharistic sacrament is said to consist of two parts; but the phrase ought not to be taken as meaning that the inward res is separate or separable from the outward elements. A distinction of aspects and relations is involved, rather than a demarkation between mutually discrete substances. The sacrament is one and indivisible, although substantially representative of two worlds. From the standpoint of this world, it is natural bread and wine to which an extraordinary thing has happened, insusceptible of verification by our senses. From the standpoint of the spiritual world, the self-same thing is the body and blood of Christ, marvelously accommodated to, and identified with, the forms and figures of bread and wine” (ibid, Hall, p. 136).

In his classic work, A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, E. J. Bicknell, D.D., writes, “The Real Presence. On this view we hold that we receive through the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ, because in answer to the prayers of His Church and in fulfillment of His own promise, He has brought the elements into a mysterious union with Himself. He has, at it were, taken them up into the fulness of His ascended life and made them the vehicle of imparting that life to His members. Thus He is in a real sense present not only in the devout communicant but in the consecrated elements. Of the manner of this union we affirm nothing. The Presence is spiritual, not material.

“This in some form, is the teaching of the Roman and Eastern Churches, of Luther, of the Fathers and early liturgies... It would appear to be the most consistent with Scripture and the tradition of the Church, and also to be a safeguard of certain great Christian principles” (p. 492, first published 1919, quoted from the 1936 edition). Bicknell continues, “Again, if we turn to the Church as the interpreter of Scripture, the main stream of Christian teaching is quite clear. We find a singular absence of theological controversy about the Eucharist, but the general line of thought may be exemplified by these words of Irenaeus, ʻThe bread which is of the earth receiving the invocation of God is no longer common bread but Eucharist, made up of two things, an earthly and a heavenlyʼ” (Bicknell, ibid, p. 493).

The Protestant Reformation of which classical Anglicanism is an heir, was a movement to reform the Church and to return it to its primitive Catholic faith and practice. Dr. Martin Luther described the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament “in, with and under” the consecrated Bread and Wine as a “Sacramental union” (Latin: unio sacramentalis). John Calvin, who did not believe in the “real absence” of Christ like Zwingli or in Receptionism like Bullinger, said the Body and Blood of Christ was “conjoined” with the Bread and Wine in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

In his 1528, Confession Concerning Christʼs Supper, Martin Luther said, “Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, ʻThis is my body,ʼ even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word ʻthisʼ indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a ʻsacramental union,ʼ because Christʼs body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament.”

According to the Formula of Concord, the Consecration brings about this sacramental union whenever the Eucharist is celebrated. “Thus it is not our word or speaking but the command and ordinance of Christ that, from the beginning of the first Communion until the end of the world, make the bread the body and the wine the blood that are daily distributed through our ministry and office. Again, [Luther says] ʻHere, too, if I were to to say over all the bread there is, “This is the body of Christ,” nothing would happen, but when we follow his institution and command in the Lordʼs Supper and say, “This is my body,” then it is his body; not because of our speaking or of our efficacious word, but because of his command in which he has told us so to speak and to do and has attached his own command and deed to our speaking.ʼ”

In his mature doctrinal view, John Calvin also believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Because few contemporary Anglicans are really familiar with John Calvin or have studied his works, most Anglicans are completely unaware that much of what is called “Calvinist” sacramental theology by them is, in fact, Zwingliʼs sacramental theology rather than Calvinʼs. Indeed, much of what is called “Reformed” or “Calvinist” theology today really comes from Calvinʼs successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, and from the Synod of Dort and the Westminister Assembly later still. The truth is that the mature John Calvin did not teach the “real absence” of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion like Zwingli, or Receptionism like Bullinger. Leanne Van Dyk, Academic Dean and Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, writes, “He [Calvin] engaged in vigorous conversation with both Lutheran and Reformed leaders over the Lordʼs Supper, and in these polemical exchanges he developed his mature doctrine. There is discernible development in Calvinʼs understanding of the Lordʼs Supper from early to late in his ministry. One Calvin scholar [Thomas J. Davis] summarizes, ʻWe will see Calvin move from denying the Eucharist as an instrument of grace to affirming it as such. We will see Calvin develop a notion of substantial partaking of the true body and blood of Christ over his career; an emphasis that is practically absent, even denied, in his earliest teachingʼ” (The Lordʼs Supper, Five Views, edited by Gordon T. Smith, c. 2008, Intervarsity Press, pp. 74-75).

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin writes [T]he Lordʼs Table should have been spread at least once a week for the Assembly of Christians,... All, like hungry men, should flock to such a bounteous repast.” And what is that “bounteous repast”? In his 1540, Short Treatise on the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, Calvin writes, "It is a spiritual mystery which can neither be seen by the eye nor comprehended by the human understanding. It is therefore figured to us by visible signs, according as our weakness requires, in such manner, nevertheless, that it is not a bare figure but is combined with the reality and substance. It is with good reason then that the bread is called the body, since it not only represents it but also presents it to us. Hence we indeed infer that the name of the body of Jesus Christ is transferred to the bread, inasmuch as it is the sacrament and figure of it. But we likewise add, that the sacraments of the Lord should not and cannot be at all separated from their reality and substance. To distinguish, in order to guard against confounding them, is not only good and reasonable, but altogether necessary; but to divide them, so as to make them exist without the other, is absurd.”

In the same treatise Calvin continues, “We must confess, then, that if the representation which God gave us in the Supper is true, the internal substance of the sacrament is conjoined with the visible signs; and as the bread is distributed to us by the hand, so the body of Christ is communicated to us in order that we may be partakers of it. Though there should be nothing more, we have good cause to be satisfied, when we understand that Jesus Christ gives us in the supper the proper substance of his body and blood, in order that we may possess it fully, and possessing it have part in all blessings.”

Calvin signed the Augsburg Confession in 1539, and “Luther himself appreciated his theology even on his jealously guarded theory of the Sacrament of the Holy Supper” (A History of the Reformation, by Thomas M. Lindsay, D.D., LL.D.; Charles Scribnerʼs Sons; 1914; p. 112). There was, of course, disagreements among the great Reformers regarding the Eucharist, but the disagreements were primarily over how the bread and the wine became the Body and Blood of Christ. Luther emphasized ubiquity; Calvin, basing his views on the sanctus in the liturgy and the so-called “ascending epiclesis” at the end of the canon in the Roman Rite, believed that we were caught up into heaven with Christ in the Eucharistic Liturgy. Others believed that the consecration was effected by the power of the Holy Ghost descending on the elements; or by the authority and power of Christʼs Words and command in the Words of Institution. All of these theories are helpful but not fully provable by Scripture, and should not divide Christians.

Regarding the Anglican view, Bicknell has written, “Of the manner of this union we [Anglicans] affirm nothing.” Had the leaders of the Reformation from across Europe been able to freely meet in synod to discuss these issues, as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had hoped, unity and a unified teaching may have resulted, but because of the political turmoil and Roman Catholic persecution of the time, no such synod could be held. Unfortunately, as Anglican bishop Michael Marshall has said, while Luther won the battle against Zwingli at Marburg, Zwingliism went on to win the war. The Rev. John R. Stephenson, Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catherines, Ontario, laments, “As painful though it is to concede this point, beginning in the seventeenth century, Luther increasingly lost the war for the real presence even in the Communion named after him” (ibid, The Lordʼs Supper, Five Views, p. 46).

Today, the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches do not hold Calvinist views regarding the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Like the Baptists, Methodists and other modern evangelicals, they have become completely Zwinglian in their approach, and believe that the Lordʼs Supper is a mere memorial of Christʼs sacrificial death. As Anglicans we must be careful not to describe these Zwinglian views as “Calvinism,” which thy are not. Professor Van Dyk writes, “There is little doubt that the approach to the Lordʼs Supper expressed by Ulrich Zwingli was taken up in large part by the subsequent Reformed tradition. Many generations of Reformed believers have assumed that the Lordʼs Supper is a memorial act, a way to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, an encouragement to gratitude and service” (ibid, The Lordʼs Supper, Five Views, p. 72).

In the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Anglican theology rejects both the errors of Transubstantiation and Zwinglian mere memorialism. Zwingliʼs ideas are rejected in Article XXV, “Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian menʼs profession, but rather they be certain sure witness, and effectual signs of grace. And Article XXVIII says, “The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign but rather it is a Sacrament...a partaking of the Body of Christ.” The Articles of Religion also reject the notion of “Receptionism.” Like “Calvinism” which is often confused with Zwingliism, Receptionism is often misunderstood. The doctrine of Receptionism comes not from John Calvin, but from Heinrich Bullinger. Bullinger was Zwingliʼs successor in Zurich, and served there for forty-four years, from 1531 to 1575. Bullingerʼs sacramental views matured over time, leaving behind Zwingliʼs teaching, but stopping short of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. For Bullinger, like his predecessor Ulrich Zwingli, the sacramental signs, the bread and the wine, are not connected to the thing signified, the Body and Blood of Christ. Heinrich Bullinger taught a sort of parallelism. The sacramental signs are not merely signs, but rather are analogies of Godʼs gracious actions. They do not confer grace. The sacramental action and the divine action are separate, but parallel. As the believer receives the bread and wine with his mouth, he receives Christ in his heart by faith. This view is called “Receptionism”, and it is rejected in the Thirty-nine Articles. Article XXVIII teaches: “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper.”

Despite the teachings of Scripture and of Article XXVIII, Receptionism historically has had influence among Anglicans. This is for three reasons. First, many have mistakenly believed that Richard Hooker, one of Anglicanism's greatest theologians, believed in it. Second, because Anglicanism teaches that the Body and Blood of Christ are received “only after an heavenly and spiritual manner” (Article XXVIII). And finally, because of a misunderstanding of Article XXIX, Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lordʼs Supper. Richard Hooker is sometimes described as a Receptionist because he wrote in his famous Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, “The real presence of Christ is not therefore to be sought for in the Sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the Sacrament.” But Hooker was only echoing the important point made in Article XXV, “The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon,...but we should duly use them.” The sacraments are not an end in themselves to be lifted up, carried about, and gazed upon, but a means to an end: the union of the believer with Christ, that as the Apostle Peter says, we may be partakers of the divine nature. Elsewhere, Hooker makes it very clear that he sees the sacraments as means, or vehicles, of grace. Hooker writes, “This bread hath in it more than the substance which our eyes behold”; and “The power of the ministry of blessing visible elements...maketh them invisible grace.” Likewise, some have misunderstood the words “only after an heavenly and spiritual manner” (Article XXVIII) regarding how the Body and Blood of Christ are received in Communion. “Spiritual” does not mean symbolic or representative; but rather not in a materialistic, carnal, corporeal way. This language is taken from John 6:63, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” The spiritual is anything but figurative.

Spiritual things are as real, or more so, than physical or material things. In the Catechism of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer the question is asked, “What is the inward part, or thing signified [in the Sacrament of Holy Communion]?” And answered, “The Body and Blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lordʼs Supper.” Where it says “spiritually taken and received” in the 1928 Prayer Book, it says “The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily [truly] and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lordʼs Supper” in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. “Spiritually taken and received” and “verily [truly] taken and received” mean the same thing. It should also be noted that the words “taken and received” echo Article XXVIII, “The Body of Christ is “given [by the priest], taken [by the communicant], and eaten [by the communicant]”, thus ruling out Bullingerʼs Receptionism.

Finally, some Anglicans have been influenced historically by Receptionism because of a misunderstanding of Article XXIX, Of the Wicked which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lordʼs Supper. Receptionism teaches that unbelievers receive only bread and wine, but not its parallel, the Body and Blood of Christ, which are only received into the heart by faith; and that Christ is present at the Table rather than on the Table. But that is not what the Article is teaching. Bicknell writes, “This Article does not in any way deny the ʻreal presence,ʼ it only rules out any carnal view of it. To give an illustration: when our Lord was on earth He possessed healing power quite independently of the faith of men: but only those who possessed faith could get into touch with it. Many touched His garments, but only the woman who had faith was healed (Mk. 5:30). The healing power was there: the touch of faith did not create it, but faith as it were, opened the channel to the appropriate blessing. So in the Eucharist, Christ in all His saving power is present. The wicked are only capable of receiving the visible and material signs of His presence. But those who approach with faith can receive the inward grace and become partakers of Christ by feeding on His Body and Blood” (ibid, Bicknell, p. 503).

Unfortunately, in the middle to late 19th century, many Anglicans were driven toward Receptionism in reaction to the excesses of the so-called Ritualists that had grown out of, and separated from, the Oxford Movement led by Pusey and Keble, and had increasingly adopted Roman ceremonial, doctrine and devotions. But the Tractarians of the Oxford Movement were loyal churchmen devoted to the Catholic faith according to the Anglican tradition. They were classical Anglicans. Regarding the Eucharist, they held to classical Anglican theology as found in the Book of Common Prayer. The Rev. Francis J. Hall writes, “Even the Tractarians of Oxford, while seeking to take our Lordʼs words literally, usually contended themselves with the affirmation of a real presence of the body and blood of Christ in, with and under the consecrated bread and wine” (ibid, Hall, p. 112).

The influence of Receptionism seems to be a thing of the past in Anglicanism as there are no well known theologians or schools of thought within the Church that teach it today. The same cannot be said of Transubstantiation and Impanation. Those under the influence of Tridentine Roman Catholicism still hold to these unscriptural teachings or to something like them, despite the fact that Rome has been moving in the direction of Anglican Sacramental Theology in recent years. In his book, God Is Near Us (Ignatius Press, 2003), in his chapter entitled “The Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament”, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) writes, “Whenever the Body of Christ, that is the risen and bodily Christ, comes, he is greater than the bread, other, not of the same order. The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens...The Lord takes possession of the bread and wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.”

In the opposite extreme there are some Anglican neo-evangelicals, late of the Episcopal Church, that have been heavily influenced by contemporary “evangelicalism” and the church growth movement, and who hold to a memorialism hardly distinguishable from that of Zwingli and of todays Baptists and Assemblies of God. God raised up Anglicanism for a purpose, has used it powerfully, and has preserved it through a generation of heresy and apostasy. Anglicanism is the one branch of the historic Church that is both thoroughly Evangelical and fully Catholic. Anglicanism confesses, as our forefathers use to say, “Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order.”

Anglicanism is not three parallel but increasingly divergent “streams” - Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic - flowing from the same original source; but a Church that is thoroughly Evangelical, fully Catholic and called to minister in the power of Pentecost. Anglicanism has so much to offer to the wider Church and to a lost and hurting world. It is to this classical and confessional Anglicanism that we must return if we are to be what God has called us to be; and to do what He has called us to do - raise up authentic disciples of Christ; reform, restore and renew the Anglican Communion; and effectively advance the work of the Great Commission.

C. 2009, by Rev. Victor E. Novak (used with permission)

The Reverend Victor E. Novak is a priest of the Diocese of Mid-America of the Reformed Episcopal Church, a jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America, and the rector of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Omaha, Nebraska.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Richard Hooker on Communion of Christ's Body and Blood

The fruit of the Eucharist is the participation of the body and blood of Christ. There is no sentence of Holy Scripture which saith that we cannot by this sacrament be made partakers of his body and blood except they be first contained in the sacrament, or the sacrament converted into them. “This is my body,” and “this is my blood,” being words of promise, sith we all agree that by the sacrament Christ doth really and truly in us perform his promise, why do we vainly trouble ourselves with so fierce contentions whether by consubstantiation, or else by transubstantiation the sacrament itself be first possessed with Christ, or no? A thing which no way can either further or hinder us howsoever it stand, because our participation of Christ in this sacrament dependeth on the co-operation of his omnipotent power which maketh it his body and blood to us, whether with change or without alteration of the element such as they imagine we need not greatly to care nor inquire. Book V.67.6

Anyone who has diligently studied Anglicanism from its own sources, is well aware that the whole idea of being a Protestant was to be a true Catholic. These things do not contradict each other, and indeed, according to the Anglican paradigm, only such a Protestant is practicing the Catholic Faith, and believing that doctrine that has been, from the earliest times, Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. Richard Hooker, a perfect example of the Catholic Protestant (or Protestant Catholic) in the Church of England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and one of the finest theologians and scholars of the period, expressed the Anglican mind with clarity. His writing would not satisfy any modern day "Reasserter," and equally, would not satisfy any Anglo-Papalist. On the subject of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, he refused to be painted into a corner by any of the continental European parties of western Christendom.

The emphasis for him was the saving effect of the sacrament as a participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. In Book V of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, he approaches the subject of sacraments, specifically Baptism and the Lord's Supper (the two "generally necessary to salvation" as the Anglican Catechism says), by first clarifying that the most important fact about these sacraments is that they impart grace.

For we all admire and honour the holy Sacraments, not respecting so much the service which we do unto God in receiving them, as the dignity of that sacred and secret gift which we thereby receive from God. 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. V.50.3

Before going directly into the subject of these two saving sacraments, he begins by laying the proper foundation. He devotes the next several chapters to the Incarnation (which of necessity requires that much be said about the Trinity). This is the necessary foundation, for as the Church is an extension of the Incarnation, these sacraments flow directly from the Hypostatic Union, and from Christ's death for us on the cross, and his resurrection. Without the risen Christ who is fully God and fully man, one Person who is Uncreated having taken the created nature of man into his eternal Being, who has overcome sin and death, and continues to live forever in both natures, the sacraments could have no real effect. Some have called the Incarnation "the Anglican heresy," perhaps with tongue in cheek, suggesting that it is possible to over-emphasize this doctrine to the neglect of others; to which we say, that is impossible.

By the time he comes back to writing directly about the sacraments, in chapter 57, he has laid the foundation by teaching that our salvation requires a participation in Christ himself.

It greatly offendeth, that some, when they labour to shew the use of the holy Sacraments, assign unto them no end but only to teach the mind, by other senses, that which the Word doth teach by hearing. V.57.1

This is therefore the necessity of sacraments. That saving grace which Christ originally is or hath for the general good of his whole Church, by sacraments he severally deriveth into every member thereof. Sacraments serve as the instruments of God to that end and purpose, moral instruments, the use whereof is in our hands, the effect in his; for the use we have his express commandment, for the effect his conditional promise: so that without our obedience to the one, there is of the other no apparent assurance, as contrariwise where the signs and sacraments of his grace are not either through contempt unreceived, or received with contempt, we are not to doubt but that they really give what they promise, and are what they signify. 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 or signify. V.57.5

This emphasis on the working of these two sacraments that are "generally necessary to salvation" occupied the minds of the Church of England's teachers. That they impart grace, and are not empty signs, was an argument they had to make against Puritans and against Zwinglians. That the purpose of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood was not that it be "be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them." (Article XXV), had less to do with any fear of idolatry than with a failure to receive the same, and with that reception to be given the grace imparted. The Article makes this clear in what immediately follows: "...but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith." This came about from correcting a medieval abuse, namely, that many people did not, before the Enlgish Reformation, take and eat, but merely gazed on the elevated sacrament during the Latin Mass.

Hooker writes:

This was it that some did exceedingly fear, lest Zwinglius and Œcolampadius would bring to pass, that men should account of this sacrament but only as of a shadow, destitute, empty and void of Christ. V.67.2

The whole idea of Real Presence was not, in his mind, about describing what the sacrament is in terms of how it becomes the Body and Blood of Christ; but rather about emphasizing what it does. By taking and eating, by drinking the cup, a true believer with a healed and sound conscience is participating in the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

With apparent disdain for foolish debates about Divine mysteries, that come from reasoning that presumes to exceed what has been revealed, Hooker dismisses not the theories themselves as much as defense of the theories.

If we doubt what those admirable words may import, let him be our teacher for the meaning of Christ to whom Christ was himself a schoolmaster, let our Lord’s Apostle be his interpreter, content we ourselves with his explication, My body, the communion of my body, My blood, the communion of my blood. Is there any thing more expedite, clear, and easy, than that as Christ is termed our life because through him we obtain life, so the parts of this sacrament are his body and blood for that they are so to us who receiving them receive that by them which they are termed? The bread and cup are his body and blood because they are causes instrumental upon the receipt whereof the participation of his body and blood ensueth. For that which produceth any certain effect is not vainly nor improperly said to be that very effect whereunto it tendeth. Every cause is in the effect which groweth from it. Our souls and bodies quickened to eternal life are effects the cause whereof is the Person of Christ, his body and his blood are the true wellspring out of which this life floweth. So that his body and blood are in that very subject whereunto they minister life not only by effect or operation, even as the influence of the heavens is in plants, beasts, men, and in every thing which they quicken, but also by a far more divine and mystical kind of union, which maketh us one with him even as he and the Father are one. 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. V.67.5,6

The context of this passage does not allow us to charge Hooker with denying the Real Presence. Indeed, he has made it abundantly clear that Christ is present in all his saving power, giving us grace as we receive and thus participate. Hooker simply refuses to honor the speculations of ecclesiastical academics that had created disputes and erected schools of thought. At first glance he almost appears to be setting up another theory, one that assigns a time when the sacrament is fully consecrated, that is, upon being eaten and drunk (as the Lord's words, so quoted, might seem to indicate). But, this is not the case. Hooker rejects the idea that we can be sure of the moment in which the consecration has fully happened, and the idea that we could ever know how. To try to know more than what has been revealed is to try to remove the Holy Communion from the list of divine mysteries. The overall context of these chapters cleary teaches, as a chief point, that what matters most, and that upon which all Catholic believers agree, is that by properly taking the sacrament we receive the grace for which it was instituted, the purpose for which God gave it to the Church. We have in that our communion of the Lord's own Body and Blood. We participate in the risen and living Christ, and we are saved from sin and death.

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 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 6:53-58

Hooker draws from the Scriptures and from the ancient Fathers of the Church, to make the case that he puts forth nothing more than what has been ever Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.

These things considered, how should that mind which loving truth and seeking comfort out of holy mysteries hath not perhaps the leisure, perhaps not the wit nor capacity to tread out so endless mazes, as the intricate disputes of this cause have led men into, how should a virtuously disposed mind better resolve with itself than thus? “Variety of judgments and opinions argueth obscurity in those things whereabout they differ. But that which all parts receive for truth, that which every one having sifted is by no one denied or doubted of, must needs be matter of infallible certainty." V.67.12

Hooker believes we can afford to admit that we are ignorant about some things, especially the works of God.

Whereas therefore there are but three expositions made of ‘this is my body,’ the first, ‘this is in itself before participation really and truly the natural substance of my body by reason of the coexistence which my omnipotent body hath with the sanctified element of bread,’ which is the Lutherans’ interpretation; the second, ‘this is itself and before participation the very true and natural substance of my body, by force of that Deity which with the words of consecration abolisheth the substance of bread and substituteth in the place thereof my Body,’1 which is the popish construction; the last, ‘this hallowed food, through concurrence of divine power, is in verity and truth, unto faithful receivers, instrumentally a cause of that mystical participation, whereby as I make myself wholly theirs, so I give them in hand an actual possession of all such saving grace as my sacrificed body can yield, and as their souls do presently need, this is to them and in them my body:’ of these three rehearsed interpretations the last hath in it nothing but what the rest do all approve and acknowledge to be most true, nothing but that which the words of Christ are on all sides confessed to enforce, nothing but that which the Church of God hath always thought necessary, nothing but that which alone is sufficient for every Christian man to believe concerning the use and force of this sacrament, finally nothing but that wherewith the writings of all antiquity are consonant and all Christian confessions agreeable. And as truth in what kind soever is by no kind of truth gainsayed, so the mind which resteth itself on this is never troubled with those perplexities which the other do both find, by means of so great contradiction between their opinions and true principles of reason grounded upon experience, nature and sense. Which albeit with boisterous courage and breath they seem oftentimes to blow away, yet whoso observeth how again they labour and sweat by subtlety of wit to make some show of agreement between their peculiar conceits and the general edicts of nature, must needs percieve they struggle with that which they cannot fully master. Besides sith of that which is proper to themselves their discourses are hungry and unpleasant, full of tedious and irksome labour, heartless and hitherto without fruit, on the other side read we them or hear we others be they of our own or of ancienter times, to what part soever they be thought to incline touching that whereof there is controversy, yet in this where they all speak but one thing their discourses are heavenly, their words sweet as the honeycomb, their tongues melodiously tuned instruments, their sentences mere consolation and joy, are we not hereby almost even with voice from heaven, admonished which we may safeliest cleave unto? V.67.12

What Hooker writes about these debates should remind us of St. Paul writing to Timothy these words: "Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do." (I Tim. 1:4) Hooker's concern, stating a defense of the position of his Church, was that emphasis should be placed on receiving the grace of the sacrament, not on a quasi-scientific definition of how God works.

Where God himself doth speak those things which either for height and sublimity of matter, or else for secresy of performance we are not able to reach unto, as we may be ignorant without danger, so it can be no disgrace to confess we are ignorant. Such as love piety will as much as in them lieth know all things that God commandeth, but especially the duties of service which they owe to God. As for his dark and hidden works, they prefer as becometh them in such cases simplicity of faith before that knowledge, which curiously sifting what it should adore, and disputing too boldly of that which the wit of man cannot search, chilleth for the most part all warmth of zeal, and bringeth soundness of belief many times into great hazard. Let it therefore be sufficient for me presenting myself at the Lord’s table to know what there I receive from him, without searching or inquiring of the manner how Christ performeth his promise; let disputes and questions, enemies to piety, abatements of true devotion, and hitherto in this cause but over patiently heard, let them take their rest; let curious and sharpwitted men beat their heads about what questions themselves will, the very letter of the word of Christ giveth plain security that these mysteries do as nails fasten us to his very Cross, that by them we draw out, as touching efficacy, force, and virtue, even the blood of his gored side, in the wounds of our Redeemer we there dip our tongues, we are dyed red both within and without, our hunger is satisfied and our thirst for ever quenched; they are things wonderful which he feeleth, great which he seeth and unheard of which he uttereth, whose soul is possessed of this Paschal Lamb and made joyful in the strength of this new wine, this bread hath in it more than the substance which our eyes behold, this cup hallowed with solemn benediction availeth to the endless life and welfare both of soul and body, in that it serveth as well for a medicine to heal our infirmities and purge our sins as for a sacrifice of thanksgiving; with touching it sanctifieth, it enlighteneth with belief, it truly conformeth us unto the image of Jesus Christ; what these elements are in themselves it skilleth not, it is enough that to me which take them they are the body and blood of Christ, his promise in witness hereof sufficeth, his word he knoweth which way to accomplish; why should any cogitation possess the mind of a faithful communicant but this, O my God thou art true, O my Soul thou art happy!” V.67.12 (emphasis in italics, mine)

Queen Elizabeth I sums up the prevailing Anglican belief in her little "poem."

Christ was the word that spake it.
He took the bread and break it;
And what his words did make it
That I believe and take it.

This refusal to presume upon a divine mystery is the Anglican position, even though few today in the official Canterbury Communion seem aware of it. Rightly understood, it should not discourage orderly Eucharistic Devotions, unless mere gazing begin to be treated as equal to actually taking and eating, and drinking. But, always remember, the greatest Eucharistic devotion, and the one consistent with the purpose of our Lord in instituting the sacrament, is to receive it in a worthy manner, and so receive the food and drink of eternal life by participating in the life of the Risen Christ, fully God and fully man.

1.Which is why Article XXV rightly says that the doctrine of Transubstantiation (as then defined, or at least as then commonly understood) "overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament." Instead of a sign that effects what it signfies, we have a complete change of physical reality that is merely disguised; no, longer a sign that effects.