Sunday, December 30, 2007

Do You Discern the Lord's Body?


By Father H.N. Thompson

Do you discern the Lord's Body? In other words, do you believe in the Real Objective Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacra­ment?

There have been and there still are Christians who do not believe in this necessary truth. Some of the Chris­tians at Corinth in St. Paul's time did not. I do not mean that they denied it in words, although they may even have done that, since some of them said that there was no resur­rection. But if they did not deny it in words, they denied it in their actions by coming to the Holy Sacrament in a state of sin.

This is what St. Paul says of such a person: he "eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself, if he discern not the body" (I Cor. xi. 29, R. V.). St. Paul does not mean by "discerning" seeing, because no one can see the Lord's Body in the Holy Sacrament with his outward eyes.

He means that any one who comes to Holy Communion in unrepented sin does not distinguish the Lord's Body from common food. He treats It with no more reverence than he would ordinary food. He ignores It, or disbelieves in It. And by so doing — by his irreverent eating and drink­ing — he draws down a judgment on himself.

Notice how naturally the Apostle speaks of "the Lord's Body." No one could speak so who did not believe in the Real Objective Presence. If it were not a Sacrament at all, but only bread and wine taken to remind us that our Lord died on Calvary, how could any one be "guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord," no matter how unworthy he came? But if the Holy Sacrament is (as it is) the Body and Blood of Christ given to us under the form of bread and wine, then a man who comes to it without repentance and faith and charity may be said to "crucify the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame."

There is another passage in the same Epistle which has to do with this subject. In I Cor. x. 16, St. Paul asks: "The Cup of Blessing which we bless, is it not the com­munion of the Blood of Christ? The Bread which we break, is it not the communion of the Body of Christ?" "The communion," that is to say, the partaking. The Apostle lays stress on the consecration, because it is that which makes the Sacrament. Thus, he does not say "the Cup which we drink," or "the Bread which we eat," but "the Cup which we bless" "the Bread which we break." The Apostle appeals to a well-known truth. He asks a question—but he is sure what the answer must be.
Then there is our Lord's wonderful discourse in the 6th chapter of St. John. He had just before fed the multi­tudes by blessing a few loaves and fishes, and thus multi­plying them. The people followed Him, and our Lord told them that He had some better Bread to give them. This was "the true Bread from Heaven" (verse 32). Then He said, "I am the Bread of Life" (verse 35). Later on He said again, "The Bread that I will give is My Flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (verse 51). But at this the Jews murmured. They said, "How can this Man give His Flesh to eat?" (verse 52). The Lord did not explain how. The time had not come for it. There would be an explanation given later, but in the meantime they must be content to take it on His Word.

The disciples waited, and just about a year after the answer came. In an upper room in Jerusalem the Lord again solemnly took bread into His hands. The Apostles looked on in awe and wonder, remembering, perhaps, the miracle which followed when He did this once before.

Then He blessed the bread and said, "Take, eat, this is My Body." He blessed a cup of wine and said, "This is My Blood. Do this in remembrance of Me." And now the difficulty was solved. Now they knew how they could eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. It was by joining in the holy rite which He had just instituted and commanded them to continue.

So, then the Real Objective Presence of our Lord in the Holy Sacrament is a doctrine which the Church teaches and the Bible proves. The Church has believed it from the beginning. The holy Church throughout all the world believes it still. We are taught that when the priest con­secrates the bread and wine, they become in some wonder­ful way the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is present, not only in His Divinity, but in His Humanity also. The Lord is not present everywhere as man. He is present as man, visibly and naturally, at the right hand of God in Heaven, and also invisibly and super-naturally in the Holy Sacrament. Our Lord's presence is what is called Objective. That is, it does not depend upon our faith or our feelings. It depends upon the consecration by the priest. We may even disbelieve it; but that does not alter the fact. A great theologian, Dr. J. B. Mozley, says that in the early Church "the Lord's Body and Blood was regarded as a reality external to the mind even as the bread and wine was." The doctrine of the early Church is our doctrine today.

All who receive the Holy Sacrament receive the Body and Blood of Christ. But only those who approach worthily receive the benefits of the Sacrament. The wicked are in no wise partakers of Christ, i. e., they do not receive so as to benefit by it.

Now let us consider some of the objections which are made to this doctrine. It is said that our Lord was speak­ing figuratively. That He said "This is My Body" in the same sense that He said "I am the Door." But we must notice, first of all, that the cases are not parallel. Our Lord did not take a door into His hands and say, "This is My Body." If He had, of course, we should believe Him..

And, moreover, whenever our Lord used figurative language, as He did sometimes, there was always some­thing said to show that it was figurative. When He said, "I am the Door," He spoke of men entering it through Him (St. John x. 9).

Besides, the Jews were used to figurative language much more than we are, yet they felt that "eating His Flesh" was not meant figuratively, and so they turned away from Him. Now, would our Lord have permitted so many disciples to go away from Him under a misapprehension, especially when it might have been corrected so easily?

Our Lord had only to say, "Stop; you are making a mistake. When I say that you must eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, I only mean that you must believe in Me and imitate Me. I do not mean what you think I mean."

This would have been so easy. It occurs to our minds at once. And are we to believe that the Lord did not see how the case stood, or that He did not care or did not know how to meet it? No; the Jews did not go away be­cause they did not understand what was intended, but because they understood and would not believe.

Again, some people say, "I believe in a Spiritual Pres­ence, not a Real Presence." Well, but why not in both? There is no opposition between the words. Our own spirits are real, are they not? "God is a Spirit"; is He not real? What meaning do such people put on the word "spiritual"? Do they think it means imaginary? Our Lord's Body after He rose from the dead was a spiritual body, but it was none the less real and objective. So with His Body in the Eucharist.
A presence of Christ merely in the faithful receiver is no presence in the Sacrament at all. It does not in the least explain the words, "This is My Body." Christ is present in the faithful soul in this sense at all times, and not merely at Holy Communion. Then, some people have said, "Our Lord's discourse in St. John vi. cannot refer to the Holy Communion because it had not been instituted then." But to say this is to forget that our Lord is able to look into the future, and that "He Himself knew what He would do." Besides, in the very next chapter (vii. 39) we read these words: "But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive. For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified."

Now, if our Lord could speak of the Holy Ghost before He was sent down on the Church, He could speak of the Holy Sacrament before it was instituted. But the Prayer-Book decides the matter for us by quoting verse 56 in the Prayer of Humble Access, and also appoints this chapter to be read at Morning Prayer on Maundy Thursday, in com­memoration of the institution of the Holy Eucharist.

Then some say, "The doctrine of the Real Presence contradicts our senses. I only see bread and wine, and therefore there cannot be anything else." Well, in that case every Sacrament must "contradict your senses" because you cannot see the "inward spiritual grace" of it. And you must not believe that you have any soul because you cannot see it. And, of course, you must hold that the earth stands still, and the sun goes round, because your senses tell you so.

The Holy Communion is not a miracle to convert unbe­lievers, but a means of grace for the faithful Christian. We believe in the Real Presence because the Church teaches it to us, and because it is the plain meaning of our Lord's words.

The Church requires us to kneel when we receive the Holy Communion. But kneeling is the posture of wor­ship. The Puritans objected to it on this very ground. On their own principles they were right in objecting. If Holy Communion is only bread and wine received in remem­brance of Christ, it is unmeaning to kneel. The Church, however, directs us to kneel. And, therefore, by this action in every Church the doctrine of the Real Presence of our Lord in this Eucharist and the adoration of Him there present, is preached by the people at the altar, even where the clergyman may not, unhappily, preach it from the pulpit.

It is, no doubt, an "astounding doctrine," as people say. But so is the Incarnation of our Lord. Are you quite sure that you believe in the Incarnation? Every one who does not believe in the Real Presence should ask him­self this question very seriously. The wonderfulness of it is no difficulty to a Christian. As he believes that the Lord at His first miracle made water into wine, so he believes on the Lord's own Word that in the Holy Communion the same Lord makes bread and wine into His Body and Blood. He rests his faith on the Word of Him Who is the Truth.

The Great Catholic Creeds

Dear N.,

There are relatively few good resource books on the origin and content of the Creeds, but I highly recommend The Early Christian Creeds by JND Kelly, which is still in print. Confessedly, it is a very technical book but it provides a wealth of information on the theology, history and use of the Creeds. The three Great Catholic Creeds are:

1. The Apostles' Creed: lost in the mists of Apostolic antiquity, this Creed, which is traditionally divided into 12 articles for the Twelve Apostles (each Apostle supposedly contributing one line to the Symbol of Faith), is in fact divided into three clauses for the Blessed Trinity, one for the Father, another for the Son, and a third for the Holy Ghost. It is the ancient Creed of the Latin Church, the Old Roman Symbol circa AD 150, used at the administration of Holy Baptism, each clause being recited by the priest and candidate at each of the three immersions into the Name of the Trinity in the sacramental action of Baptism. The Apostles' Creed is still used at Baptism in the Anglican Church and in a truncated form in the Roman Rite. We also still use it in the Divine Office, at both Mattins and Evensong. The Orthodox Church no longer uses this most ancient of all Creeds.

2. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed: the principal Creed of the Eastern Churches, used both at Baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist, this Creed, shared by all orthodox Catholic Christians, is actually the product of two Ecumenical Councils, Nicea I (AD 325) and Constantinople I (AD 381). Called 'C' in technical study, this Creed builds upon the original Creed of Nicea and serves as the eminent orthodox anti-Arian Creed of the fourth century, establishing the full deity and consubstantiality of the Son with the Father by using the term
homoousios, 'of one substance' with the Father. It also proclaims the full deity and divinity of the Holy Ghost. All Apostolic Churches use this Creed at the celebration of the Mass. Like the Apostles' Creed, it is Trinitarian in structure, with three clauses for each Person of the Blessed Trinity.

3. The Athanasian Creed: named in honour of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria and intending to encapsulate and summarise his theology, this Creed is actually a product of fifth century patristic contemplation and liturgical worship and has no direct relationship to the Church Father whose name it bears. It is much closer to the Western theology of Saint Augustine than to that of the Greek Alexandrian tradition represented by the saintly Pope of Alexandria. The Church of England still authorises its use at Morning Prayer 13 times in the Christian Year. The Roman Communion still possesses this Creed but rarely uses it in any form of public liturgy. The Eastern Churches officially recognise it but do not use it liturgically. Unlike the two previous Creeds, the Athanasian does not possess a Trinitarian structure, three clauses with each assigned to one of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Rather, it is divided into two sections: the first is a long excursus on the meaning of the substantial or essential unity of the Godhead shared equally by the Hypostases of the Trinity, and the second is an expanded form of the clause on God the Son found in the Apostles' Creed with a deeper explanation of the metaphysics of the Incarnation. Most famously, it condemns to hell-fire those who fail to keep the 'Catholic Faith' whole and entire.

On the Blessed Sacrament

Dear N.,

Thank you for your wonderful query on the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Although Anglicans formally reject the imposition of the Aristotelian metaphysical categories of accident and substance required by the doctrine of transubstantiation, we do affirm to the Real Objective Presence to be a Holy Mystery - truer and more real than our own reality, but beyond the capacity of human beings to understand or explain it. Anglicans assertively believe that in the Prayer of Consecration, by virtue of the very Words of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, the priest, through his sacramental authority, causes the bread and wine to be converted and transformed into the living Body and Blood of Christ, the total Person of Our Lord, God and Man. Our Lord remains under the form of bread and wine in the Holy Mysteries, and under every particle of the Blessed Sacrament, so long as the outward signs of consecrated bread and wine exist. The Real Presence is supernatural, metaphysical, objective, abiding and mystical, utterly mysterious and inscrutable. As Anglicans, we do not venture to define the indefinable or to dogmatise this Mystery of mysteries, and hence we refuse to invoke the categorisation demanded by transubstantiation, a man-made theory imposed on a miracle. And yet Our Lord is there - in the Elements - not merely in a sign, symbol or figure, but in His humanity and divinity, Body and Blood, to nourish His people with His own self, His own Person, His own life.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Happy and Holy Christ-Mass!

Congratulations and blessings to Brandon Holder Jones, my identical twin brother, who, by the Imposition of Hands and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, received the Sacred Order of Deacons on the Ember Saturday in Advent, 22 December 2007, at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Charlotte, North Carolina. The ordaining prelate was His Excellency, the Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. Please pray for Brandon as he begins his new ministry. It so happens that the date of his Diaconal Ordination coincides with the anniversary of my First Holy Mass, offered on the Fourth Sunday in Advent 1996.

Let us pray fervently for a deeper co-operation and understanding between the Catholic Church of the Anglican Rite and the Catholic Church of Rome. Ut unum sint.

And to who all who read this simple weblog: may Our Lord Jesus Christ, the true God born of the immaculate Virgin, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless and keep you and all you love during this most wonderful time of the year.

A blessed and holy Christ-Mass to you all!


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Advice to a New Penitent: Sacramental Confession

It is always one of the greatest privileges and blessings of the Sacred Priesthood to assist a faithful Anglican who is new to the Sacrament of Penance in the preparation for one's first reception of the grace of that most wonderful Sacrament. The act itself is very simple, direct and easy.

The process of receiving the Sacrament of Penance is very straightforward. To quite Saint John Chrysostom:

1. 'Contrition in the heart'. We should, in quiet and without distraction, pray over our sins and recall what are our particular sins, using the Commandments as the standard against which we must judge ourselves. We should allot as much time as we need to do this in the 'prayer closet' of our souls. Having formed an understanding of our sins using such a method, we should then from the heart repent of our sins and ask for the merciful and loving forgiveness of Our Saviour. We should sorrow from our hearts for having offended God's love. This is contrition, genuine sorrow for and hatred of our sins and genuine repentance with a desire to amend our lives according to God's will and commandments. From a desire of love for God we should seek His forgiveness and mercy, for He is our loving and merciful Father, who through Jesus Christ frees us from the power and destructiveness of our own personal sins. Contrition is the state of soul we should bring to Confession and only takes places in our hearts and souls after making a good self-examination. No fasting or other devotional practices are required before coming to Sacramental Confession, although certainly a one-hour fast beforehand with special prayers is always beneficial to the soul! Pray to the Holy Ghost to illuminate your heart, mind, soul and conscience to show you your true self and the true nature and horror of your sins. Ask the Holy Ghost to penetrate deep inside the soul to show you even those sins that you are not aware of committing, and to show you those areas of your life, of which you may not even be consciously aware, that need restoration and healing. Penance is not about judgement or condemnation, as some mistakenly think, but is all about forgiveness, healing, freedom and a new life in the mercy of God.

2. 'Confession with the lips'. We then move to the actual Sacrament of Penance. The Confession is not made to the priest, but to God Himself in the presence of the one ordained and commissioned by Christ to forgive sins in His Name, the sacramental representative of Christ, the priest. The rite itself is very simple. I shall have a booklet for you with the entire rite laid out in its entirety and I shall be happy to give you as much time as you need to look over the rite before we begin. The penitent comes to the Altar, the great symbol of Christ, and kneels at the Altar rail. The priest is seated within the sanctuary at the rail to greet the penitent. In the Anglican Rite, Confessions are usually heard at the sanctuary before the Altar of Christ, which perfectly symbolises the One to Whom the confession is made and from Whom the grace of Absolution is received. The penitent begins the service with a request for a blessing, and the priest blesses the penitent. The penitent then confesses his sins verbally using a brief prayer found in the rite of Confession: he articulates in the hearing of the priest (auricular - 'in the ear') all those particular sins he wishes to confess and then concludes by asking the priest for advice, counsel and Absolution. The priest then offers words of advice and counsel as he thinks necessary, and asks the penitent to perform a penance, which is usually a prayer or other devotional act meant to signify the penitent's contrition and desire for forgiveness, a token of love for God and a gesture and demonstration of one's willingness to life a new better amended life. After the penitent accepts the penance, the priest gives Absolution, the sacramental forgiveness of sins in which Christ Himself loosens the penitent from sin and infuses him with the grace of the Holy Spirit. After the Absolution a final prayer and blessing are said by the priest and the penitent is free to leave or remain in church to offer his penance. Absolution is the sacramental guarantee that our sins are forgiven - sacramental grace washes the soul in the Precious Blood of Christ and ensures by a covenantal promise of Christ that all the sins one has ever committed are forgiven once and for all. The penitent leaves the Confession free from all sin, mortal and venial, and is empowered with new profound supernatural grace to live a life of holiness pleasing to God. The grace of Absolution exposes and heals the deepest recesses of the soul, pouring the balm of divine love on all the wounds of human nature, and not only forgives sins but actually increases grace and sanctity for a more intimate union with God. For this reason, the Church Fathers call Penance a 'second baptism', 'the second plank after shipwreck' that restores all baptismal grace and gives the penitent a new life and communion with God. It is Christ Who is the only priest and celebrant of the Sacrament, and He absolves the penitent with own Absolution of divine reconciliation and love, won the Cross of Calvary. It is He Who forgives and restores to the life of grace.

3. 'Amendment in the life'. After receiving the supernal unparalleled gift of Absolution, we should seek to live lives of more intense holiness and love for God. We should resolve never to commit sin again, especially those besetting sins which we so easily lapse into. We should seek to live a better and holier life. We should develop a consistent and regular rule of life, of regular daily prayer and discipline, and we should have frequent recourse both to Sacramental Confession and spiritual direction. We should more eagerly frequent all of the Sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist, with greater devotion, preparation and zeal. If Absolution is the healing medicine that cures the disease of sin in the soul, spiritual direction and frequent Confession are the preventative medicines which keep our souls healthy and in a state of grace.

The aforementioned are considerations of the personal and particular nature of sins and their forgiveness: additionally, we should also consider the corporate and ecclesial nature of sins and their impact upon ourselves and upon the whole Body of Christ, the Church. The Sacrament of Penance restores us to fellowship with God after serious sin, and also restores us to full communion with the Mystical Body of Christ, of which we are once again living members through repentance and Absolution. Sin has not only personal consequences, but also a communal and relational significance as well. When we separate ourselves from God through sin we concomitantly sever our communion with the Church as well. In Penance, we account, not only for our sins committed against God, but our sins, which by their very character violate our communion with the Church, committed against the Body of which we are each a integral and living part. 'And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular' (I Corinthians 12.26-27).

The priest is the instrument of our reconciliation with the Church, or restoration of fellowship, because he is not only in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ the Head of the Church, he is also in persona ecclesiae, in the person of the Church, the Man of the Church, the Church's ordained and official representative - his sacramental acts are not done in his own name and person, but in the name of the Catholic Church with the Church's authority and commission. Thus the Sacrament of Confession serves to reconcile us with the visible and sacramental communion which is Jesus Christ's Body, the prolongation and extension in time and space of His own Life. Holy Mother Church draws us back to her bosom and restores us to all her graces and Sacraments through the ecclesiastical musterion of Penance. Confession is the double cure for sin, sin against our Redeemer and sin against His Bride and Body...

A Reading List for Anglicans: 'Favourite Fifty'

A few books randomly selected for the interested reader...

The Catholic Religion by Vernon Staley
The Christian Faith by CB Moss
An Introduction to the 39 Articles of the Church of England by EJ Bicknell
Anglicanism edited by More and Cross
The Apostolic Ministry edited by KE Kirk
The King’s Highway by George D Carleton
A History of the Church in England by JRH Moorman
The Shape of the Liturgy by Dom Gregory Dix
Eucharist by Louis Bouyer
The Early Liturgy by Joseph Jungmann
The Elements of the Spiritual Life by FP Harton
Theological Outlines by Francis J Hall
Dogmatic Theology (in 10 volumes) by Francis J Hall
The Gospel and the Catholic Church by Michael Ramsey
Faith and Practice by Frank E Wilson
Ye Are The Body by Bonnell Spencer, OHC
The Vision Glorious by Geoffrey Rowell
The Faith of the Early Fathers (in 3 volumes) edited by William A Jurgens
Merrily on High by Colin Stephenson
The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary by Massey H Shepherd
The Christian Priest Today by Michael Ramsey
Ministerial Priesthood by RC Moberly
Liturgy and Worship edited by WK Lowther Clarke and Charles Harris
Corpus Christi by EL Mascall
Christ, the Christian, and the Church by EL Mascall
Anglicanism by Stephen Neill
Answer Me This by CB Moss
Doctrines of the Creed by Oliver C Quick
Christian Proficiency by Martin Thornton
English Spirituality by Marin Thornton
A History of the American Episcopal Church by William Wilson Manross
The Early Church by Henry Chadwick
The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition by Jaroslav Pelikan
Early Christian Doctrines by JND Kelly
Early Christian Creeds by JND Kelly
Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice by Mark Haverland
The First Seven Ecumenical Councils by Leo Donald Davis
The Study of Liturgy edited by C Jones, G Wainwright, and E Yarnold
The Anglican Spiritual Tradition by JRH Moorman
The Reformation by Owen Chadwick
The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy

Women's 'Ordination' and the Church of Nigeria - CANA

The Convocation of Anglicans in North America intends to continue the purported ordination of women to the Diaconate, a move approved by the Church of Nigeria, and now also intends to introduce the purported ordination of women to the Priesthood...

From Bishop Martyn Minns:

Another arena where we have both opportunities and challenges has to do with the question of women’s ordination. From the inception of CANA we have made it very clear that we are committed to the full participation of women in the life and leadership of the church. We recognize that among biblically faithful members of the Anglican Communion there are differing theological positions as to whether women should serve in ordained ministry. There are, as have been described, TWO INTEGRITIES: those who believe that women should NOT be ordained at all and those who do believe that women can serve in ordained ministry– although within the latter group there are differing understandings as to whether this includes priesthood and extends to congregational oversight and serving as bishops.

Ordination is not only a response to God’s call on an individual but it is also an action of the church. At this time the Church of Nigeria, to which we owe canonical obedience, has no provision for the ordination of women although there has been acceptance of women in the order of deacons. At their most recent gathering the Church of Nigeria’s General Synod tabled discussion about ordination of women to a future date. Archbishop Peter Akinola has stated that while he supports this action he recognizes that there needs to be freedom for CANA to take a different direction because of its North American context. In light of this commitment to embrace both integrities we have received applications from congregations and female clergy with the expectation that women clergy will be licensed to continue their ministry. In anticipation of this Council I appointed a task force under the leadership of Archdeacon Adedokun Adewunmi and the Rev’d Bill Haley to prepare recommendations as to next steps.

The members of the task force included advocates of widely differing perspectives. They are working on a number of possible ways in which we can move forward as a united community while recognizing both integrities. I have asked that they be available to discuss their deliberations with members of this Council. They acknowledge that while they have not yet come to one mind as to a recommended direction they have made enormous progress in the time that they have worked together. In light of this I propose the following:

• We will keep our promise to honor both integrities within CANA and fulfill our commitment to the full participation of women, in the life and leadership of the church. We will seek to do so in such a manner that both those who are unable to support the ordination of women and those who embrace it will know that their position has been honored.

• We will continue to accept applications from qualified congregations and female clergy with the expectation that women clergy will be licensed to continue their ministry within CANA. We will request permission of the Church of Nigeria to ordain appropriately qualified women candidates to the diaconate within CANA as soon as possible.

• We will continue to look to a task force to continue work on this issue. We will expect them to develop a unified recommendation regarding ways in which we maintain our commitment to both integrities and at the same time provide the necessary theological framework pastoral procedures and canonical provision for the ordination of qualified women to the presbyterate within CANA. (!) I am fully aware that this is a topic of concern for many clergy and congregations throughout CANA and one that produces intense reactions. It is therefore my prayer that we will take these next steps looking for the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth and guard our common life and witness.

Emphasis and italics added.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Does The Anglican Church Teach Confession?


A Reply By Twenty Five Of Her Bishops And Doctors

ABOUT forty years ago the Rev. E. B. Pusey, one of the profoundest scholars of his day, made a study of Reformation and post-Reformation Anglican authorities to prove their position on the above question. The following statements are taken from Dr. Pusey's preface to Gaume's "Manual for Confessors."

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Reformer: "Let him that is a sinner go to one of them [priests of the church], let him acknowledge and confess his sin, and pray him that, according to God's command­ment, he will give him Absolution."

Bishop Ridley, Bishop of London and Reformer, says of Confession to a priest: "I ever thought it might do much good to Christ's congregation."

Bishop Latimer, Bishop of Worcester and Reformer: "To speak of right and true Confession, I would to God it were kept in England; for it is a good thing."

Thomas Becon, an early Reformer of Puritan ten­dencies, says: "Why auricular Confession should be con­demned and exiled from the bounds of Christendom, I see no cause; but that it should be approved, retained, main­tained, and used, I find causes many, yea, and these right urgent and necessary."

William Turner, Dean of Wells Cathedral, a puritanizing Reformer, says: "We do not utterly forsake auric­ular or ear Confession." "Let the Bishops," he adds, "ap­point learned men to hear Confessions, and not blockheads, and then the people shall come to the priests by heaps and swarms."

Bishop Cosin, of Durham, in his "Collection of Private Devotions," lays down as one of the Precepts of the Church to communicate at stated times, and adds: "For better preparation thereunto, as occasion is, to disburthen and quiet our consciences of those sins that may grieve us, or scruples that may trouble us, to a learned and discreet priest, and from him to receive advice and the benefit of Abso­lution."

Bishop Overall (one of the Compilers of the Prayer-Book and authors of the Church Catechism), says of mortal sin: "We require Confession of it to a priest, who may give him, upon his true contrition and repentance the bene­fit of Absolution." Also in his Visitation Articles in 1619 he required his clergy to warn anyone with a troubled conscience to "open his grief" that "he may receive the benefit of Absolution."

The same requirement was made by Cosin in 1627: by Bishop Andrewes of Winchester in 1629: by Bishop Montague of Norwich in 1638: by Bishop Lindsell of Peterborough in 1633; by Bishop Dee of Peterborough in 1636: by Bishop Duppa of Chichester in 1638: by Bishop Juxon of London in 1640: by Bishop Wrenn of Norwich in 1662: by Bishop Fuller of Lincoln in 1668: by Bishop Gunning of Ely in 1679: and by Archdeacons Kent, and Pory, in 1631 and 1662.

Bishop Andrewes, of Winchester: In his MS. Notes on the Prayer-Book Exhortation, he says: "It is most ex­pedient that this be read to induce the people that they be­think themselves of the sovereign benefit of Absolution by this penitent Confession."

Bishop Sparrow of Norwich: "He that would be sure of pardon, let him seek out a priest and make his humble Confession to him."

Bishop Montague of Norwich: "Private Confession unto a priest is a very ancient practice in the Church, of excellent use and practice, being discreetly handled. We refuse it to none, if men require it, if need be to have it. We urge it and persuade it in extremes. We require it in case of perplexity."

Archbishop Ussher on being accused of being op­posed to Confession, treated the charge as a calumny, and quoted the Prayer-Book, "whereby," he said, "it appeareth that the exhortation of the people to confess their sins unto their ghostly fathers maketh no such wall of separation betwixt the ancient doctors and us."

Bishop Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Conner and Down:"Confession to a priest . . . is of so great use and benefit to all that are heavy laden with their sins, that they who carelessly and causelessly neglect it, are neither lovers of the peace of consciences, nor are careful for the advan­tage of their souls."

Dr. Crakanthorp was one of the strongest and most famous of Anglican controversialists. He says: "As to auricular Confession being abrogated among us, thou [his Roman opponent] dealest artfully and deceitfully. Private Confession, whereby any disburdens to the bosom, or, if thou willest, the ear of the priest . . , our Church both teaches and approves."

Bishop Berkeley, after whom the Berkeley Divinity School is named, in 1741 says of Confession: "It may be had in our Communion by any who please to have it; and, I admit it, may be very usefully practiced."

To Dr. Pusey's list we may add the name of Dr. Winnington Ingram, the present Bishop of London (1920), well known and beloved in America. While inveighing against the ideal of compulsory Penance, as do we all, he says: "Those who say that auricular Confession is not allowed in the Church of England, say so simply in the teeth of the direct statement of the Prayer-Book." (Church Times, March 24th, 1911.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cardinal Kasper: Liberal Canterbury Ally?

From the Catholic Herald in the United Kingdom:

'One of the Vatican’s most senior cardinals has dismissed the idea that a breakaway group of Anglicans might be received into the Catholic Church en masse – despite Benedict XVI’s personal support for such a move. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, told The Catholic Herald: “It’s not our policy to bring that many Anglicans to Rome." Cardinal Kasper, as president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, is likely to be cautious about any arrangement that might upset the official leaders of the other Christian churches – notably the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The cardinal said on Monday: “We are on good terms with the Archbishop of Canterbury and as much as we can we are helping him to keep the Anglican community together.” When asked whether he felt encouraged by the TAC’s request, the cardinal replied: “It’s not our policy to bring that many Anglicans to Rome and I am not sure there are so many as you are speaking about.”'

It appears the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity continues to frustrate the efforts of orthodox Anglo-Catholics who seek full communion with the Papal See because of the intimate ties that liberal curial office aggressively maintains with the See of Canterbury. Leaving aside the possibly-exaggerated membership claims and serious canonical problems posed by the Traditional Anglican Communion, this disappointing episode only serves to prove once again what I have been saying for years: Rome, through its official infrastructure, is talking to the wrong people, and has clearly committed itself to an apparent irreformable ecumenical relationship with an increasingly heretical Anglican Communion establishment based at Lambeth Palace. Can the Roman Communion ever deal squarely with Catholic Anglicans, even with those who simply want a meaningful dialogue rather than organic union?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Archaeologism or Liturgical Modernism

Comments on liturgy made by some priests today reflect their origin and the generation to which they belong and in which they were liturgically and theologically trained. Such clergymen may be called 'survivors' of that most tumultuous period of the 1960's and 1970's in which centuries of organic liturgical development were overturned in an instant and new liturgical forms and practices were introduced (it would appear) for the sake of novelty, 'doing a new thing.' But the phenomenon is not that simple - the irony is that in the effort to reclaim what is supposed to be an ‘ancient and authentic Christianity,’ wholly novel forms of worship were promulgated in place of Tradition. The new is instead called the old, really old. Many celebrants today are a product of their time, a time in which Cardinal Annibale Bugnini of the Roman Communion, a modernist to the hilt, sought to eradicate in the Latin Rite the theological and liturgical heritage received through centuries of natural organic development. The trial liturgies of the Roman Communion, which gave birth to the Novus Ordo Missae of 1970, bled into the Episcopal Church beginning in the 1950's and eventually led to the first American experimental laboratory test in 1967 called The Liturgy of the Lord's Supper . If I were a betting man, I would wager that many of the most influential 'liturgically-hip' priests today were in seminary or graduate school at the very moment or just after the new-fangled liturgies were introduced, and they most likely embraced them with a youthful enthusiasm. At a minimum, it is safe to assert that a majority of priests have since been trained by priests who themselves imbibed the 'Spirit of Vatican II' at the time. Times they are a-changin': Generation X priests, Anglican and Roman alike, and their protégés, the millennials, have a very different more traditional perspective, but that is a topic for another reflection.

What Bugnini and his ilk did in the Roman Church led, through modern liturgical revision, to the wholesale abandonment of Common Prayer in the Anglican Communion and the jettisoning of traditional worship forms in the protestant bodies. The vision was one contemporary liturgy for one pan-protestant and pan-ecumenical church which could potentially unite Romanist and Anglican with Methodist and Presbyterian. The Consultation on Church Union (COCU) was the ecumenical body which embodied and inculcated in organisation what was expressed in liturgy with the Novus Ordo and the new Anglican liturgies.

This revolution, a deliberate rebellion against Tradition, has always been promoted under the guise of ad fontes, 'returning to ancient and patristic sources,' 'going back to the original liturgies of the pre-Nicene period.' All these folks seem to hold that Constantine corrupted and perverted the original supposedly-pristine Eucharistic liturgies ostensibly used before AD 325. It's funny how they hold views in common with militant protestantism. A significant number of priests today appear to maintain an ideology known as 'archaeologism' or archaism or antiquarianism, which, in the name of early Christianity, can be said selectively to by-pass 2,000 years of collective Christian life and experience and worship guided by the Holy Ghost in the corporate communion of the Body of Christ, Holy Tradition, and seeks to restore a perceived purism that certainly exists on paper in academic journals and in the books of archaeologist scholars but is far harder to verify objectively in the historical record. Although Rome officially condemns this view of history, in practice it succumbed to it at the Second Vatican Council and in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Liturgy, which does precisely what the 1979 ECUSA rite does: both displace time-tested ancient liturgical forms for test-tube liturgies which are in turn based on speculative reconstructions of liturgies which are asserted to have existed and have been used 1700 years ago. The problem with this rather attractive notion that we can efficiently circumvent the intervening millennium and a half of development and evolution and resurrect an extinguished yet purer way of worship is that the earliest Christian matrix is not quite so easy to ascertain or dissect as some might think (or have been led to think).

Grave difficulties and questions arise when begin to peel back the layers of Christian antiquity. We have no irrefutable knowledge of the actual living use of many liturgies at the time conjectured for their use, and we cannot prove conclusively that many of them were ever used by unquestioningly orthodox Christian communities in their Eucharistic assemblies. Some of these 'original' liturgies were in fact heretical and employed by groups now condemned as heretical, such as Arians. I feel confident that conscientious scholars will admit the problems involved here. In the name of 'recovering' the original Christian liturgies, liturgical modernism, to oversimplify the term, has purposely sought to uproot any continuity or organic connexion with the liturgies of the past ages, which intrinsically bind us to the Communion of Saints through their hallowed use lost in the mist of centuries. Genuine worship unites us moderns to the Holy Catholic Church of history, of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, of every age, generation and clime. Only Tradition does this. A radical rupture with the sanctified past has been imposed on the Churches in the name of authenticity.

These new liturgies are a novum, a novelty created de novo, as a new thing, many with no real clear historically-discernible precedents. We can lay at the feet of Dom Gregory Dix and his Shape of the Liturgy the blame for a surprising amount of this - he was the first popular exponent and architect of what would become liturgical modernism. His works are fascinating and at times extremely helpful, but they are certainly fallible and contain many historical errors and guesses.

I say all of this merely to express my opinion that many priests today were formed as Christians and as priests in the most chaotic and complex time in Christianity since the Reformation, and their attitudes to the traditional Mass reflect their training and their background. I suspect their antipathy to the classical BCP in Anglicanism or the extraordinary Latin Rite in Romanism is a result of culture - they have reaped the whirlwind. Critique of Archbishop Cranmer's Anglican Rite is certainly fair (for example, the Gloria in Excelsis does historically belong up front at the beginning of the Mass as in the 1549 English BCP but was moved by Cranmer in the 1552 BCP to serve as a climactic thanksgiving after Holy Communion – an untraditional but brilliant liturgical shift meant to emphasise the centrality of receiving Holy Communion in the Mass rather than focussing on the Consecration) but one surely protests too much when one states, for instance, that the 1979 rite is somehow more historically accurate or more well-ordered theologically than the Anglican Mass we inherited from the ancient Roman and Sarum Rites through the redaction and editorship of Thomas Cranmer, a liturgical and literary genius. The 1979 rite is an alternative service book with a totally twentieth century provenance - and it is not 'common prayer' in any meaningful sense. Modern liturgical revision has, for world Anglicanism at least, shattered the reality of Common Prayer.

We should be mindful of the fact that the whole Anglican world is in a state of irreversible meltdown and many of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion still use the Cranmerian liturgy: the 1662 English Book is the official liturgy of organisations to which a lot of liturgical modernists now belong. It is possible that we may see more and more 1662 liturgy in the USA as foreign prelates bring it with them in their missionary efforts. Maybe Common Prayer will re-emerge someday. In the interim, it will be necessary in future for all Anglicans charitably to tolerate differences of style, liturgy, rite and worship, including, yes, Tradition.

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

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