Friday, November 21, 2008

Ordination of the Reverend 'Father-in-Law'

Here is a photograph of the Altar party at the ordination to the Sacred Priesthood of Father Richard Baskwill, 5 April 2003. From left to right are: Michael Minshall, your blogger, Carroll Browne, Bishop Grundorf, Timothy Browne, the Ordinand, Father Richard Bakley, Christopher Browne, and George Fischer. The picture shows the simple sanctuary of Saint Alban's Church, Joppa, Maryland before its glorious restoration and beautification.

All in the family again...

The first priestly blessing of Father Richard Baskwill, my wife's father, on 5 April 2003, his ordination day. Lucille Andrew receives her blessing as a very proud and delighted son-in-law looks on...

All in the family...

A couple of pictures of your blogger on the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, May 2001, when he was Rector of Saint Alban's Anglican Church, Joppa Maryland. Next to him is Father Brandon Jones, who at that time was Brother Robert Jones, OP. Father Brad was a Dominican Friar from June 2000 until December 2003; today he is a Diocesan priest of the Roman Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Brad+ is, of course, my identical twin brother. We're getting together for Thanksgiving... my what a conversation we always have!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Catechism on the Sacrament of Holy Confirmation

What is the Sacrament of Holy Confirmation? Did Our Lord institute it?

The Sacrament of Confirmation is the Sacrament of Christian maturity, the Sacrament which properly completes Baptism, making us full members of Christ's Church. It conveys to the baptised Christian the Seal of the Holy Ghost, the fulness of the Holy Spirit in His Sevenfold Gift: wisdom, understanding, counsel, spiritual strength, knowledge, true godliness, holy fear (reverence) (see Isaiah 11.2-3 and BCP 296-299). This Sevenfold Gift enables us to know and believe the true Faith, and strengthens our souls and wills to resist temptation and lead lives of virtue and holiness. Confirmation, as the Seal of the Spirit, enables us to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It makes us full members, full participants, in the Royal Priestly Body of Christ, the Church; anointed with holy chrism (blessed oil) we are thus Anointed Ones, 'little Christs' in the Anointed One Himself, the Christ, Jesus— enabled fully to share in the Perfect Sacrifice of Christ, which is the Holy Eucharist (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem). This Sacrament equips us with the fulness of the Spirit's Gifts in order to strengthen us to serve Christ faithfully as soldiers of Christ in the Militia Christi. We are therefore empowered by Confirmation bravely and boldly to proclaim the Faith of Christ Crucified and to live according to the Catholic Religion. The term 'Confirmation' means 'strengthening' from the Latin word confirmare, 'to strengthen.' The Holy Ghost is the Comforter, the Strengthener (Saint John 16). This Sacrament of Strengthening communicates to us the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost so that we may authentically live adult Christian lives of holiness, consecration, and commitment to the Gospel.

It is administered by the bishop, who lays his hands upon the candidate and invokes the Holy Ghost to come and strengthen the person with His Gift. Confirmation is an extension, a continuation, of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit. It is a baptised Christian's 'personal Pentecost;' the same Messianic Spirit who descended upon Our Lord and the Apostles now descends upon the baptised person sacramentally, ensuring by promise the gift of Himself. The Sacrament of Confirmation is of Apostolic origin, administered by the holy Apostles according to the commandment and desire of Jesus Christ. Although Our Lord did not directly institute this Sacrament, He intended the Holy Ghost to be communicated to baptized Christians at the hands of the Apostles and their successors, the bishops of the historic episcopate in Apostolic Succession.

Confirmation has always been practiced in the Church from the beginning and must be received in order for baptismal grace to be completed and perfected in the Christian soul: 'Now when the Apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for He had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptised in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit' (Acts 8.14-16). '...the Spirit was given through the Apostles' hands...' (Acts 8.18). 'Then they were baptised in the Name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came on them' (Acts 9.1-2). 'The doctrine of baptisms, and of the laying on of hands' (Hebrews 6.1-2) was essential to the primitive Church. In the ancient and undivided Church, the three Sacraments of Christian Initiation, that is, the three mysteries which together brought a person into the full life and communion of the Church - Baptism, Confirmation, first Holy Communion - were administered together as one rite, one act of entrance into the Church.
Over the course of time, in the Western Church, Confirmation, the completion of Baptism, was separated from Baptism as the regular ordinary minister of Baptism became the parish priest: in the West, Confirmation retained its link with the bishop in Apostolic Succession as its true and rightful minister, in order that all baptised Christians should have sacramental contact with the bishop and receive the 'touch of Apostolic Succession,' a direct grace given by Christ through the Apostles. Confirmation, as the Seal of the Spirit, is, for many Christians, the once-in-a-lifetime gift from God received directly and only from the bishop as the Successor of the Apostles, the High-Priest of the Church, and the chief Shepherd of the flock of Christ.
The Anglican Church restricts the administration of Confirmation to the bishop alone; in the Roman and Eastern Churches, a priest may confirm with the anointing of chrism which is blessed by a bishop. Anglicans seek to preserve the most biblical, ancient and venerable tradition, that of episcopal Confirmation. In our Province, a bishop may confirm the candidate not only with the laying-on-of-hands, the original and apostolic matter or physical act in the Sacrament, but also with the anointing of chrism, scented oil blessed by the bishop. For this reason, Confirmation is also called 'Chrismation,' or Anointing, especially in the Churches of the East; it is the same Sacrament by whatever name.
Like Baptism, remember that Confirmation conveys an indelible spiritual mark on the soul, a sacramental character, which lasts for ever and can never be repeated. Just as a person can receive the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins and regeneration in order to be born again only once, so a baptised Christian can only receive the fulness of the Holy Spirit once for eternity. Confirmation gives us a unique and special quality in that it makes us sharers in the Royal Priesthood of Christ, and it unites and conforms us to Christ the Anointed One in a unique way never to be removed, erased or repeated. It puts us into a relationship with Christ the Priest, and with the Holy Ghost, the Strengthener, which can never be re-established once achieved. We are confirmed only once.
Although we renew our baptismal vows in the liturgy of Confirmation in the Book of Common Prayer, such reaffirmation is technically not a part of the actual Sacrament of Confirmation. Yes, we should re-profess the vows which we made at our Baptism, or which were made for us as children, making them our own again, and we should reaffirm our faith in Jesus Christ, again renouncing the world, the flesh and the devil: Confirmation is the most crucial period in a Christian's life in which this may be done. So, the Prayer Book provides for this to be done. It is an excellent idea, and, for most of us baptised as children, it is fundamental to our personal experience of professing and living the Christian Faith.
But even so, the Sacrament does not directly depend on this very good and edifying practice; it is not necessary for the Sacrament to be valid. Confirmation is the 'key and door to the Altar,' making us eligible to receive the Most Blessed Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Communion. Only those who have received this Sacrament, or who desire to receive it, may receive the Blessed Sacrament— this is because we are made full members of the Church only by Confirmation, full sharers in the Priesthood of the Body, and thus sharers in its One Sacrifice, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Father Newman, Conscience and Holy Communion

Well, I give up - at the last count there are on Google 689 internet articles regarding Father Newman's bulletin statement and more are added by the second. Listing them all here would require a most strenuous if not superhuman effort. Articles have been published from the Chicago Tribune to the Telegraph and Guardian. I do not think anyone, especially Father Newman, ever expected the amount of media attention his small Sunday bulletin snippet has received. Readers are encouraged to scan the internet for the multiplicity of videos and written articles now available. I shall note here only three new items...

First a video from CNN via WSPA.

Second, a video and article from Fox Carolina.

And third, this thought-provoking essay from Robert Royal of The Catholic Thing...

Monday, 17 November 2008

De-forming Consciences

By Robert Royal

“Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of full communion with Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.”

Who wrote these words? You might guess Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Benedict XVI, on several occasions, not only about voting for pro-abortion politicians, but about those politicians themselves, if they claim to be Catholics. In fact, the words were written by Fr. J. H. Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and inserted into the parish bulletin last Sunday. Fr. Newman was merely expressing the widespread, longstanding, and clear moral understanding of the Church. No good deed, as we know, goes unpunished. Fr. Newman did so good a deed that he’s been rebuked, not only by the usual media suspects, but by the Charleston diocesan administrator.

I have known Scott Newman since his freshman year at Princeton and would personally vouch for his every word. The managing editor of the magazine I ran back then identified him as a promising new student within days of his arrival on campus. He wrote some unusually mature and perceptive articles. I was not wholly surprised when he later decided to become a Catholic, and I was honored to be his sponsor. Scott subsequently worked in the Caribbean under Bishop Sean O’Malley, before going to Rome, where he became president of his seminary class – also not much of surprise.

He’s not only smart, holy, gifted in working with people, but humble. When the controversy arose, he received 5000 emails, “Most of the people who wrote seem to regard me as either a mighty champion of reform or an evil tool of the devil, and I am naturally hesitant to accept either title. In truth, I am but a useless servant of the Lord Jesus trying, despite my frailty, to be a faithful witness to Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He also pointed out that he had not named any particular candidates in the original statement or, as was misreported by the Associated Press, “denied” anyone Communion.

A shrewd man, Fr. Newman put things in writing. After the bulletin appeared, The Greenville News asked him: “Are you saying that you’ll administer a no-communion policy unless Obama voters partake in penance?” He wrote in reply:

I cannot and will not refuse Holy Communion to anyone because of his or her political opinions or choices, even as I continue to teach what the Church teaches about the necessity of being in full, visible communion with the Church before receiving the sacraments. Only those who believe what the Catholic Church teaches and who seek to live according to that teaching should even be interested in receiving the sacraments of the Church, and on the question of the intrinsic and grave evil of abortion, there is and can be no doubt about what the Church teaches.

That “cannot” reflects Fr. Newman’s proper recognition of the Church’s teaching and his overall reply should have put an end to the matter.

The Catholic Thing has noticed how the national media have taken it upon themselves to reinterpret or ignore hard facts this election season – and now beyond. The AP story was an outrage, by simple journalistic standards, and the fact that the “priest denies Obama voters Communion” story was picked up by ABC and other outlets shows how uncritical our media have become. (Recall, in recent weeks, two young bloggers – Eitan Gorlin and Daniel Mirvish -- created a fictional adviser to the McCain campaign, Martin Eisenstadt, and fabricated a story, widely picked up by sympathetic media, that Sarah Palin did not know Africa was a continent.) But the Newman story was not more of an outrage than several dozen others about religion and politics over past months.

What was truly unusual about Fr. Newman’s case was that his own diocese, trying to clarify the situation, has actually furthered confused American Catholic laity, precisely on the crucial matter of conscience. The administrator of the Charleston Diocese, Monsignor Martin T. Loughlin, wrongly construed the case from faulty news reports and publicly repudiated Fr. Newman. He quoted from The Catechism of the Catholic Church that we have the right to act freely in conscience. True enough. But he then went on to say: “Christ gives us freedom to explore our own conscience and to make our own decisions while adhering to the law of God and the teachings of the faith. Therefore, if a person has formed his or her conscience well, he or she should not be denied Communion, nor be told to go to confession before receiving Communion.”

Technically true, but saying this in an America where everyone already has an inflated sense of his right to his or her own opinion – without a very strong warning that a well-formed conscience means serious prayer and study that will take the average American Catholic a good distance from our popular ethos – translates in public as the Biden-Pelosi school of theology, a Catholic Church accepting of the notion of the sovereign self and, in consequence, moral relativism. Like it or not, that’s how our fellow citizens understand such statements. In other words, they’ve now had their consciences further de-formed.

Fr. Newman’s parishioners came to Mass in large numbers this weekend and applauded so long when he began his homily that they only quieted down when he turned and knelt to the Blessed Sacrament. If you want to know what properly formed consciences are like and what they do, that’s the real story – which you won’t hear about from the AP or ABC.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His latest book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

President-Elect Obama and Catholic Faith and Discipline

Father Jay Scott Newman, my first cousin and pastor of Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Greenville, South Carolina, has caused quite a stir in the mainstream media with his recent message published on the Saint Mary's website. News coverage has thus far extended to, just as a sample, WYFF, WIS, WRDW, The Charleston City Paper, Greenvilleonline, Lifenews, and Free Republic. Interviews with local and national television are on the way...

UPDATE: USAToday, WSPA (with video), Fox News, AP Google, Yahoo!, AP, Drudge Report.

Dear Friends in Christ,

We the People have spoken, and the 44th President of the United States will be Barack Hussein Obama. This election ends a political process that started two years ago and which has revealed deep and bitter divisions within the United States and also within the Catholic Church in the United States. This division is sometimes called a “Culture War,” by which is meant a heated clash between two radically different and incompatible conceptions of how we should order our common life together, the public life that constitutes civil society. And the chief battleground in this culture war for the past 30 years has been abortion, which one side regards as a murderous abomination that cries out to Heaven for vengeance and the other side regards as a fundamental human right that must be protected in laws enforced by the authority of the state. Between these two visions of the use of lethal violence against the unborn there can be no negotiation or conciliation, and now our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president. We must also take note of the fact that this election was effectively decided by the votes of self-described (but not practicing) Catholics, the majority of whom cast their ballots for President-elect Obama.

In response to this, I am obliged by my duty as your shepherd to make two observations:

1. Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.

2. Barack Obama, although we must always and everywhere disagree with him over abortion, has been duly elected the next President of the United States, and after he takes the Oath of Office next January 20th, he will hold legitimate authority in this nation. For this reason, we are obliged by Scriptural precept to pray for him and to cooperate with him whenever conscience does not bind us otherwise. Let us hope and pray that the responsibilities of the presidency and the grace of God will awaken in the conscience of this extraordinarily gifted man an awareness that the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good. In the time of President Obama’s service to our country, let us pray for him in the words of a prayer found in the Roman Missal:

God our Father, all earthly powers must serve you. Help our President-elect, Barack Obama, to fulfill his responsibilities worthily and well. By honoring and striving to please you at all times, may he secure peace and freedom for the people entrusted to him. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.


Father Newman

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anglican Catholicism and the Papal Primacy

The exercise of the petrine ministry of the papal see in Rome will serve in the great Church of the future as a workable central focus for the reunification of the one communion of the catholic Church - this is the current conviction of many in the Anglican world. Unlike many other Churches of the reformation, the Anglican Church has never abandoned a possible role for the Roman primacy, so long as the ministry of the Bishop of Rome is rightly understood, interpreted, and implemented. The ministry of the Bishop of Rome should not be an obstacle, but rather should function as a possible instrument of ultimate Christian unity. Orthodox Anglicanism today acknowledges that the ministry of the papacy is evolving rapidly and could someday be received by the Anglican Church as means tending toward the reconciliation of all Churches. A de facto recognition of the historic papal ministry already exists within the Anglican Communion, which has consistently maintained throughout her history that the Roman Pontiff possesses a station of primus inter pares, ‘first amongst equals,’ a primacy of honour and reverence, though not of jurisdiction or personal infallibility.

In his truly ground-breaking Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II calls for the reunion of the Church based on the reception of the papal office as a petrine ministry of service and unity. The Pope highlights those areas in which further consensus of faith needs to be achieved. Orthodox Anglicans already share an advanced level of agreement with the Church of Rome regarding these common aspects of catholic truth:

1) Sacred Scripture as the highest authority in matters of faith, and Sacred Tradition as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word of God (see Articles of Religion 6, 20, and 34);

2) The Eucharist as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence, and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Articles 28, 29, 30, and 31, 1928 American BCP pp 73-84, especially 80-82, the Anglican Catechism, and the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal 189, 204, 197, 199-200, etc.);

3) Ordination as a Sacrament to the threefold ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate (see the Anglican Ordinal, especially the Preface thereof, the Second BCP Office of Instruction, and Articles 23 and 36);

4) the Magisterium of the Church entrusted to the Episcopate, understood as a responsibility and authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the faith (again see the Anglican rite for the consecration of Bishops and Articles 20, 23, and 34);

5) the Virgin Mary as Mother of God and Icon of the Church, the spiritual Mother who intercedes for Christ's disciples and all humanity (see BCP 96, 231, and 235, Article 2, and the 1940 Hymnal 117, 599, etc.).

His Holiness’ description of the role and ministry of the papacy in Ut Unum Sint is refreshingly open to a new and more conciliar hermeneutic, and therefore well fits the traditional Anglican matrix concerning the ministries of primacy and conciliarity/collegiality/sobornost. Anglicans are conciliarists at heart who regard as the Church’s esse the principle of conciliar episcopal government.

Although Anglicans are not prepared, based on historical reasons, to affirm of the origin of the papal system what John Paul II does -- ‘the (Roman) Church is conscious that she has preserved the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome, whom God established as her perpetual and visible principle of unity’ -- nevertheless the Anglican Tradition stands ready to accept the historic primacy of the Bishop of Rome as it was exercised in the Undivided Church. The Pope beautifully states that ‘this designation, servus servorum Dei, is the best possible safeguard against the risk of separating power and in particular the primacy from ministry.’ The Pope asks for forgiveness for the abuse of the papal prerogative of primacy in the course of Church history while affirming the papal office as the ‘guarantor of unity.’ After tracing the New Testament roots of the claim made by the Roman Popes to be the Successors of Peter and Paul at Rome, John Paul contends that the papacy is a ministry of the mercy of God which serves the Church as a whole, functioning to keep oversight over the College of Bishops so that the common good and order of the whole Church may be preserved. John Paul’s interpretation of papal infallibility is very carefully, cautiously worded: ‘He can also - under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council - declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith.’ The Bishop of Rome reasserts that the Pope must only act in communion with his brother Bishops and is one member, albeit a very crucial member, of the communion of Bishops as a College. Pope John Paul takes herculean steps to accommodate other church traditions in the enterprise of discussion, offering to examine the input contributions of other Churches regarding the papal office. ‘Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on the subject...?’ Finally, at the end of the Encyclical, the Pope re-formulates the sine qua non of Church communion for the Roman jurisdiction: ‘The (Roman) Church both in her praxis and in her solemn documents holds that the communion of the particular Churches with the Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome is - in God’s plan - as essential requisite for full and visible communion.’

Relatedly, and surprisingly to most uninformed observers, the Anglican Tradition has historically taken a rather hopeful view of the Papacy, even in spite of the breach with the papal communion which occurred at the beginning of the English Reformation in 1534 during the reign of the infamous King Henry VIII. The Ecclesia Anglicana, separated from Rome and yet retaining the essential catholic character of the Church, has never lost sight of the need for a biblical, patristic, historical, and episcopal primacy based in the Roman Patriarchate of the West. They are Daughter and Mother. The 1908 Lambeth Conference of Bishops declared on behalf of the entire Anglican Church: ‘there can be no fulfilment of the divine purpose in any scheme of Reunion which does not ultimately include the great Latin Church of the West.’ ‘Catholicism without the Pope is a maimed Catholicism; not, indeed, maimed as a body would be without a head, but maimed as the House of Commons would be without a speaker’ (Bishop KD Mackenzie). With these words uttered at the 1933 Oxford Movement Centenary Congress, an Anglican prelate best summarises the traditional Anglican approach to the role and function of the papacy, a position still maintained today.

These concepts are enfleshed more fully and remarkably by the renown Anglo-Catholic theologian Father Francis J. Hall. Note how his prophecies first spoken in 1923 are being fulfilled in many respects today: ‘Turning to the papal claim, we should distinguish between the ancient and modern elements in it. It is the Vatican position, gradually developed through centuries and finally defined in 1870, that constitutes the main barrier to reunion on the Roman side. Moreover, the removal of this barrier does not necessarily require a formal repudiation of the Vatican Council, and we ought not to require Rome’s humiliation as the price of reunion. It will suffice if Rome outgrows the objectionable elements of Vaticanism and reinterprets its terms by action that will securely establish Catholic liberties. Whether we accept or reject the claim that Christ formally instituted a permanent Papal primacy committed to the Roman See, we have to face the evidence of Christian history that such primacy has been a providential instrument of divine ordering. Moreover, when the Church is reunited, some visible centre of unity and of ecumenical business, such as the Papal See affords, will be needed for efficiency and for safeguarding Catholic unity. We can grant this, and the probability that a permanent governmental primacy over the entire Church militant has been divinely committed to the Roman See. What then interferes with submission to that See (by Anglicans)? Simply this, that the providential primacy of Rome has been enlarged by claims which subject the Church to an unprimitive and unrestrained autocracy - one which has no divine warrant, and which displaces instead of safeguarding truly Catholic government... But these accretions do not inhere in Papal primacy itself, which can survive and function after their removal. The removal is certainly needed, for they have gradually converted Papal government into an autocracy fatal to Catholic liberties. Such a reformation will surely come in time, for Christ has not forsaken his Church. And I believe that the process of outgrowing Vaticanism, a necessary antecedent of this reformation, has already begun.’

Father Hall continues to describe the ‘Papal See in the United Church’ along lines which could be interpreted as amazingly similar to Ut Unum Sint:

‘Can we describe in advance the position which the Roman See will occupy in the reunited Church? We cannot in detail, and to advocate particular arrangements with regard to the matter is hopelessly premature. Nonetheless, it seems clear that certain requirements ought to be met, and that when their nature has once been generally recognised, they can be met satisfactorily.

A) On the one hand, what is true in Papal claims will have to be acknowledged, and a primacy will have to be accepted which will be sufficiently effective to preserve the Church’s visible unity.
B) On the other hand, Papal authority will have to be brought within such constitutionally safeguarded limits as will adequately protect Catholic liberties from autocratic interference.

The Catholic liberties referred to should include the unhampered local election of Bishops and Metropolitans, and such national and provincial autonomy everywhere as is consistent with Catholic unity and with the preservation of the ancient Catholic Faith and Order; the freedom and supreme legislative authority of ecumenical Councils, and their right to determine the orthodoxy and binding force of Papal definitions and decretals.’ Fr Hall’s standpoint is inherently that still accepted by Anglicanism in the 21st century.

The Anglican Catholic position regarding the papacy today generally perceives the Roman Pope as a visible and primary spokesman for the entire Catholic world, a representative and focused voice commissioned to articulate Catholic Tradition on behalf of the whole collegial episcopate, which consequently transmits and faithfully guards the apostolic deposit of faith. The Pope is thus envisioned, not a super-Bishop who rules over the Church or imposes ecclesial discipline and teaching from outside, but as the First or Chief Bishop of Christendom, who as one select member of the collegial episcopal ministry, from within the Body of Christ, is charged to speak for the Church with the support and consensus of the entire catholic episcopate. According to this view, the Pope does not establish or create Tradition, but is endowed with the charism of the Holy Spirit by virtue of his episcopal consecration faithfully to hand-on that and that only which he has received from the ancient Undivided Church. And as the chief representative of the Apostolic College, his presence and role are indispensable. The Roman Pope therefore can give full expression and articulation to the common mind of the Church, the consensus fidelium of the People of God manifested through the collegial episcopate. Every visible body requires a visible representative, a focal point for unity and collegiality. The Pope potentially possesses such a relationship to the episcopate, and to the Church Catholic as an organic whole. The Pope is a mouthpiece, a ‘PR man,’ of the apostolic Communion of Churches. Hence the Pope is no more sacramentally or jurisdictionally ‘Vicar of Christ’ than any other catholic and apostolic Bishop; but he is, is a unique sense, a ‘Vicar of the Church,’ the Prime Bishop of universal Christendom. Such is the Anglican, and ancient Catholic, perspective.

Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical, calls the whole Church of Christ to re-assimilate the petrine ministry of the papal office as a source and centre for genuine communion, for real Christian unity. This invitation is one which Catholic Anglicans could, given the right conditions, happily embrace. The Anglican model corresponds perfectly with the teaching of Pope John Paul II on the Roman primacy: ‘ Full communion needs to be visibly expressed in a ministry in which all the Bishops recognise that they are united in Christ and all the faithful find confirmation for their faith. The first part of the Acts of the Apostles presents Peter as the one who speaks in the name of the apostolic group and who serves the unity of the community - all the while respecting the authority of James, the head of the Church in Jerusalem. This function of Peter must continue in the Church so that under her sole Head, who is Jesus Christ, she may be visibly present in the world as the communion of all his disciples. Do not many of those involved in ecumenism today feel a need for such a ministry? A ministry which presides in truth and love so that the ship will not be buffeted by the storms and will one day reach its haven.’

Indeed, the Anglican Tradition, as an ecumenical partner, officially realises the need for this ministry, this newly-re-evaluated papacy. The answer, for Anglicans, of the vexing problem or difficulty of papal primacy is resolved by what Bishop Frank Weston of Zanzibar termed in the 1920’s a Constitutional Papacy: ‘The ideal Bishop is the Father of his flock, accessible to all, a constitutional governor having a seat in a constitutional General Council, under a constitutional Pope.’ (Anglo-Catholic Congress 1920). ‘Reunion with Rome must wait for the growth of a broader and more enlightened policy within her which will be prepared to modify the present claims of the Papacy, and to demand for the Pope no more than that which the rest of the Church should most willingly concede, the first position of honour and primacy among Bishops. To say that Rome will never so change is to ignore the lessons of history, and to deny that the Spirit of God is guiding the destinies of His Church. (Fr GD Rosenthal, 1927).

The definitive Anglican response to Ut Unum Sint emerges in the 1999 Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission Agreed Statement on Authority, The Gift of Authority - Authority in the Church III. In this document, the Anglican representatives announce they are ‘open to and desire a recovery and re-reception under certain clear conditions of the exercise of universal primacy by the Bishop of Rome.’ The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is declared to be ‘a gift to be received by all the Churches.’ The Roman Pope is affirmed to have ‘a specific ministry concerning the discernment of truth.’ Typical of the Anglican reserve concerning the claim of papal infallibility, the ARCIC statement describes infallibility of the Pope in these words: ‘this form of authoritative teaching has no stronger guarantee from the Holy Spirit than have the solemn definitions of the Ecumenical Councils.’ The Pope’s primacy should ‘help to uphold the legitimate diversity of traditions... unity does not curtail diversity, and diversity does not endanger but enhances unity.’ Anglicans on the ARC Commission profess that the universal primacy of the Pope ‘will be an effective sign for all Christians as to how this gift of God (papal primacy) builds up that unity for which Christ prayed.’ The latest instalment of Anglican-Roman dialogue goes so far as to suggest that the Anglican Church could receive the papal primacy before the two Churches are able to achieve full communion. Although this incredibly optimistic and encouraging stand does not represent the totality of Anglicanism, it does clearly reflect the increasing momentum in which official Anglicanism is seeking to receive and utilise the papal office. However, it must be said unambiguously that the 1870 dogma of the First Vatican Council which enshrines papal infallibility and the universal jurisdiction of the Pope poses an incredibly high hurdle for the Anglican Tradition, a body which emphasises an ecclesiology of koinonia and episcopal collegiality developed in the Church of the patristic age. Most Anglicans will never be able to accept as dogma a teaching which, to their minds, deliberately contravenes the Canon of Saint Vincent of Lerins, that that which is Catholic is that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. With the Old Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Eastern Churches, Traditional Anglicans find the 1870 dogma an almost insuperable barrier to the restoration of full communion with the Bishop of Rome. If the dogma of papal infallibility could be effectively re-interpreted or simply evolved into a even more profound comprehension of ecclesiastical indefectibility, in which the Pope is understood to be within the infallible construct of the Undivided Church, the bearer of a Holy Tradition which in turn receives the universal consent of the Catholic antiquity of the ages, and is not dependent on the personal or official ex cathedra proclamation of the Pope, then perhaps the quagmire the 1870 dogma presents would simply be overcome by being by-passed or made moot through organic development. Could the papacy simply move beyond the 1870 categories to a more holistic vision?

The recovery of an authentic understanding of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as a communion, or koinonia of local particular Churches possessing Apostolic Succession in the historic collegial episcopate, would enable Anglicanism to accept the Bishop of Rome’s primacy as a primacy of communio, a headship and leadership grounded in the integral unity, catholicity and legitimacy of all local churches as both equal and one. To quote Saint Cyprian of Carthage, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome can and should be a ‘primacy of love and honour,’ just as Saint Irenaeus of Lyons venerates the Church of Rome as the one which ‘presides in love.’ The Bishop of Rome’s primacy could, ultimately, be received by the Anglican Church, and, God willing, by all the Churches of Christ, along these lines in the fullness of time. This response has elucidated an explication of Ut Unum Sint from a specifically Anglican perspective, and yet sees the answers which lie herein as a tool by which the reunification of the complete oikumene, the Christian world, should be accomplished. Ut Unum Sint is the future direction which all Christians should seek to embody and practice. A constitutional, collegial, conciliar papacy must be the wave of the future if the Church on earth is ever again to attain to full visible sacramental eucharistic communion. The seating of Anglican Bishops with their brother Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Old Catholic, Assyrian, and Scandinavian Lutheran Bishops, in short, with all Bishops of apostolic succession in apostolic local Churches, in the general council of the Church catholic, must be the supreme goal toward which all Christians must pray and work and for which the papal office must begin to be the catalyst and not the obstacle. In this manner, the papacy would be received by all Churches as the uniting leadership of the elder Brother Bishop, the Father-in-God for and with all Fathers-in-God in the apostolic episcopate. All protestant churches, God willing, may someday take on the historic episcopate and thus the catholic sacramental system, moving them toward a communion of communions in which the Bishop of Rome would be the primate of love and honour as well as of authority and conciliar jurisdiction. Scriptures, Creeds, Dominical Sacraments, and Apostolic Ministry of the Lambeth Quadrilateral.... plus papal primacy? With God all things are possible.

Penance and Repentance

Generally, Catholic Tradition uses the two terms penance and repentance interchangeably, but they do in fact have slightly different meanings, although it should be articulated that in practice the two realities ought not to be divorced from each other.

1. Penance refers to the Sacrament of Confession and to the offering of the penitent to God as a sign and symbol of repentance. We offer to God a penance, a sign or token of our love for God, of our sorrow for having offended His love through sin, and of our desire to amend our lives and turn from sin, according to the assignment of the priest in the internal forum of sacramental Confession. More generally, Christians should live lives not only of repentance, turning from sin and seeking to live holier and better, but penance, offering sacrifices and mortifications to God in order to achieve union with the Crucified Lord. Penance indicates a willingness to offer all the natural and inevitable sufferings and difficulties of our mortal lives in union with Jesus Christ so that we may be more deeply conformed to the Life and Sacrifice of the Saviour. We are called to 'offer it up,' thereby making our lives and sacrifices a sacramental representation of the Lord Jesus in the world, and allowing ourselves to participate personally and actively in the work of Christ's Redemption for all mankind: 'Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church' (Colossians 1.24). No longer must human beings endure evil in vain. In Christ, our Penance makes our experience of evil redemptive and even salvific, for ourselves and others. In Penance, natural suffering is totally transformed into supernatural communion with the Incarnate. Penance signifies our amendment of life and our will to transform and be transformed in the spiritual life, by sacrificing something of ourselves to Christ, thus being joined to Him more deeply and profoundly in the Cross of Calvary. 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 2.5-11). The Lord Jesus calls us to conform our wills to His will of perfect love and obedience to the Father. A life of penance is a life of continual conversion and sanctification.

2. Repentance means 'to change the mind.' Metanoia, the Greek New Testament word, literally means to change one's mind, to turn one's heart to God. 'Contrition in the heart, confession on the lips, and amendment in the life' is the meaning of repentance. An Australian priest once described repentance as 'hanging a U,' making a purposeful U-turn away from sin and self and towards God. There can be no genuine penance, or self-emptying, self-oblation in humility, in union with Our Lord's perfect kenosis and self-offering, without genuine repentance, the deliberate forsaking of sin and the committed desire to obey God's holy will and commandments. We are called to repent and believe the Good News - 'repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Repentance is itself an ongoing process of abandoning evil and finding renewal and restoration to communion with God by His grace; real repentance should happen at every moment of lives, and is essential for growing and advancing in grace and in holiness. 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me' (Galatians 2.20).

As you can see, the two realities are distinguished, but only intellectually in truth, and should be held together in the Christian life. The two together make a formidable weapon against the world, the flesh and the devil, and should constitute the heart of one's approach to God.


The processing clergy assembled before the Synod High Mass for the 40th Synod of the Diocese of the Eastern United States, held in June 2008 at Saint Paul's Church, Crownsville, Maryland.

Many thanks to Father Kevin Sweeney for the photograph!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Catechism on the Sacrament of Holy Orders

The Consecration of Archbishop Matthew Parker at Lambeth Palace, 17 December 1559

What is the Sacrament of Holy Orders? Did Our Lord institute it? What is its function?

The Sacrament of Holy Orders, or the Apostolic Ministry, is the Sacrament by which particular men, called and chosen of God, are admitted to the Sacred Ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. There is actually only one Sacrament of Orders, in three levels or degrees: the fullness of the Apostolic Ministry resides in the office of the Bishop, the Episcopate (from the word episkopos, meaning 'overseer,' or 'governor').

The Bishop is the successor of the Holy Apostles, a latter-day Apostle, who possesses the full power and authority and commission of the Ministry which Christ Himself gave to the Apostles as His representatives on earth. The Bishop is the source of all sacramental grace, the Fountain of the Sacraments, the centre and source of unity in the Church. 'Without the Bishop, there is no Church.' 'Without the Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, the name of 'Church' is not given.' 'Wherever the Bishop is, there is Jesus Christ; just as where the congregation is, there is the Catholic Church.' (Saint Ignatius of Antioch). The Bishop is the 'High Priest' of the Church, the chief priest and pastor of his people, the defender and teacher of the Catholic Faith, who holds his ministry in a direct line of succession from the Apostles. The Bishop is the proper minister of all Sacraments, the chief Shepherd of the local Church.

In fact, the Catholic Church is present in its fullness wherever there is a Bishop at his Altar, celebrating the Eucharist, with his people in the Diocese gathered around him. Only a Bishop may administer Confirmation, which is the Sacrament of the Seal of the Holy Spirit for baptised Christians, and Ordination - for only the Bishop can extend his ministry as an Apostle and share it with others in the Priesthood and Diaconate. Bishops share their ministry, which is the One Priesthood of Christ, the sacerdotium, with Priests or presbyters ('elders') in the Priesthood or Presbyetrate.

Priests, ordained by Bishops, may celebrate the Holy Mass or Eucharist, absolve sinners in Penance, baptise, preach, anoint the sick, witness marriages, teach, instruct, bury the dead, and bless in God's Name. Priests derive their authority and commission to celebrate the Sacraments and preach the Word of God from the Bishop, whose ministry they share as co-workers.

Deacons, ordained by Bishops, do not possess the Priesthood, but serve the Bishop as assistant ministers. Deacons read the Gospel at Mass, preach, and administer the Chalice at Holy Communion. They cannot offer Mass, not being Priests. Deacons may baptise in the absence of a Priest and may administer the consecrated Eucharist to the sick.

All three offices comprise the Sacrament of Orders: these three function together in the Church.

Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted this Sacrament at the Last Supper and reiterated its commission on the first Easter evening: 'Do this remembrance of Me' (1 Corinthians 11. 23-32). 'Receive the Holy Ghost. Whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whosoever sins you retain, they are retained' (Saint John 20). Our Lord instituted a Sacrament by which He would continue His own very Ministry, His work of redemption, in the Church He founded, until the end of time. The threefold Apostolic Ministry is of Christ's institution and creation, and is necessary for the life and continuance of the Catholic Church. Without this Sacrament, there could be no other Sacraments, save Baptism and Matrimony. Christ gave authority to His Apostles and their co-workers to administer the Sacraments and proclaim the Gospel. Our Lord continues to authorise men as His Apostles and Apostolic co-workers through the Sacrament of Orders. Men who are ordained to His Sacred Ministry function by a Sacrament in the name and person of Christ, in persona Christi. They are 'another Christ,' alter Christus, actually 'standing in Our Lord's place' at the Altar and in all the Sacraments. They are the ambassadors of the Lord who speak in Christ's stead, sacramentally representing Jesus as living Icons of Christ. They are the Image of Christ the Bridegroom to the Bride, the Church, showing forth the male incarnate Christ to His Spouse, our Holy Mother.

Only a baptised, confirmed man may be ordained to the Apostolic Ministry, because this Sacrament is an Image or Icon of the Incarnation, manifesting and revealing the truth that God the Son became Man in the Incarnation from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Holy Tradition for 2,000 years, in accordance with Holy Scripture, has consistently held that only men may be admitted to the Sacrament of Orders, because maleness is part of the physical element of the Sacrament, the matter and subject. Our Lord ordained male Apostles to represent Him sacramentally, and they in turn ordained men to this Ministry by His institution. It is Christ's will for His Church, His divine plan. Bishops, Priests, and Deacons continue the very work of Jesus Christ in the Church; they are organs of Christ in His Church; they are living instruments of Christ. Ordination is an unrepeatable Sacrament which confers an indelible character, an unerasable mark on the soul: once ordained, forever ordained. The ordained can never lose the ontological character of Ordination, even if he ceases to function sacramentally as a minister of the Church.

The outward and visible sign of Ordination is the Laying-on-of-hands by a Bishop in Apostolic Succession upon a baptised, confirmed man, with the invocation of the Holy Ghost for the gift of the Order being conveyed. The inward and spiritual grace of Ordination is the 'Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of the Ministry,' the gift of the Holy Spirit which unites the man in body and soul to Christ, making Him a sacramental Image of the Lord, giving the man grace to fulfil the Ministry to which he has been ordained. The Sacrament of Orders is the extension of Christ's Ministry and presence through history, in the Church, until the end of time. It is Christ continuing His Priesthood amongst us. The Sacrament of Orders exists to govern, teach, and sanctify the People of God, the Church.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Catechism on the Sacrament of Holy Unction

What is the Sacrament of Unction? Did Our Lord institute it? What does it do?

Unction is a Sacrament instituted by Our Lord indirectly, through the practice and teaching of the Apostles, for the ministering to the physical and spiritual illnesses of the faithful; it is a Sacrament of grace, conveying the life and presence of God to ill persons to strengthen them in their suffering and unite them more deeply to the Crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Holy Scripture records the practice of the Sacrament of Unction from New Testament times: 'Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters (priests) of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven' (Saint James 5.14-15). Our Lord, in truth, actually anticipated the practice of this Sacrament by giving power to His Apostles (and their successors in the Apostolic Ministry) to administer healing to the sick by means of anointing them with oil: 'So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them' (Saint Mark 6.13). The Book of Common Prayer form of Unction is found on page 320.

At the very heart of the principle of Sacraments, that the outward and physical are the vehicle, or instrument, of the inward and spiritual, man himself is a 'sacrament,' body and soul. The body is the outward and visible instrument of the inward and spiritual, the soul and mind. The two elements are absolutely inseparable. Man is both body and soul, a composite being, and must have both to be fully and truly human. Sickness affects in a negative fashion not only the body, but the soul as well. Physical illness can result from spiritual distress or difficulty. Body and soul are one, very closely united, and are interrelated, the one to the other. One affects the other. And so, Our Lord provides in His Church and by His priests a channel of grace by which physical suffering and sickness may be made holy, consecrated to God, and through which illness is made to unite us to Jesus Christ the Crucified. Unction first and foremost ministers to the soul— bringing the grace of the Holy Spirit to the soul for the forgiveness of sins, for spiritual strength and comfort during illness, for the deepening of faith, hope, and love during the time of trial, for the healing and sanctifying of the soul - which is undoubtedly affected by illness.

The Sacrament gives a special grace for Christians who are suffering from illness; it is not magic— but like all Sacraments requires personal faith from the recipient in order for the Sacrament truly to bear fruit. Unction may be administered to someone who is either mentally or physically ill, and may be repeated for the same sickness if a person's condition temporarily improves and then worsens again. Every separate illness merits the use of this Sacrament. Only bishops and priests may administer this Sacrament, as Saint James clearly teaches. A priest should administer Unction using holy oil blessed by a bishop for this purpose. If a Christian is seriously ill, in body or mind, the priest should be called in order to pray for the person and administer this Sacrament. If a person is near death, and is known to be dying, he or family members should certainly call the priest for the Last Rites, the administration of last Unction for spiritual preparation for death, the administration of the Sacrament of Penance, last Absolution, and the administration of last Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Our Lord known as Viaticum, 'way-bread' or 'food for the journey'-- the pilgrim's Food on the way to Heaven.

The special grace of this Sacrament consists of: the union of the sick person with the Passion and Suffering of Christ, for his personal welfare and for the blessing of the whole Church; strength, peace, and grace to bear patiently the suffering of illness, to endure the pain and hurt in a Christ-like manner; physical healing, if and only if it is according to the Will of God for the sake of the salvation of the individual person's soul; preparation for death and rest in Paradise. The outward and visible sign is the anointing of a baptised Christian who is ill, by a priest, with oil blessed by a bishop. Typically, the oil is applied to the forehead, and sometimes to the hands or specific place of pain. The prayer is one for blessing and spiritual healing from God (see page 320). The inward and spiritual grace is divine power, peace, strength and forgiveness of all sins. All Christians should avail themselves of this Sacrament when needed; it is the Church's truest ministry to the sick and dying.

On Eucharistic Adoration

Briefly to echo earlier posts on this subject:

All Catholic Christians, Anglican Catholics, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Polish National Catholics, Assyrians, orthodox Swedish Lutherans, and Nordic Catholics, adore Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, under the form of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament, for Our Lord is present under the sacramental signs of the Eucharist really, truly and objectively. He is indeed the Object of our worship when we adore the Mysteries. The Real Presence abides permanently under the Elements of the Eucharist upon consecration, and remains present so long as the sacred species exist. Therefore, Eucharistic adoration is an essential and indisputable aspect of belief in the Real Presence.

This fact is different from the phenomenon of extra-liturgical devotion to the Most Holy, whose legitimacy and permissibility is an entirely separate question altogether. The Eastern Rites of the Church have never known extra-liturgical devotions, such as Exposition and Benediction, but they have always offered divine worship to the Eucharistic Lord in the context of the celebration of the Liturgy. In the first millennium, all Rites of the Church, Eastern and Western, offered worship to Our Lord in the Holy Sacrament contextually in the Liturgy, long before our familiar devotional expressions, such as the Elevations and genuflections to the Sacrament, took shape in the Western Rite. We need always to distinguish the fact of Eucharistic adoration itself, in the Mass, from the later developments of devotion which evolved in the medieval period. That all Apostolic Christians have always adored Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is simply an incontestable fact of Christian history. The later developments of praxis may certainly be debated or even brought into scrutiny, but the fundamental fact remains - and proceeds directly from the Church's unfailing and uninterrupted belief in the Real Presence.

We should be careful to remember that Saint John of Damascus, when referring to the veneration of matter in his classic description, illustrates the orthodox practice of the veneration of icons and other sacred images. Saint Damascene and the Second Council of Nicea go to great lengths to emphasise that the Holy Eucharist is not an image or icon of the Body and Blood of Christ, to be venerated in like fashion as an icon - for this was the apologetic argumentation of the iconoclasts - but rather the Blessed Sacrament is the True Body and True Blood of the Saviour, to be adored with the divine worship of latria. And thus the Church Catholic has always offered adoration to Our Divine Lord present under the form of bread and wine in the Holy Mysteries. To say we worship Christ in the Blessed Sacrament but do not worship the Blessed Sacrament is a distinction without a difference, for the Lord Jesus is ontologically and objectively, always and abidingly, present in the consecrated Elements of the Eucharist. The Lord's Presence in the Eucharistic Elements is unique and adorable.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Catechism on the Blessed Sacrament

From my seminary days...


By what names is this Sacrament called? What is it?

The Blessed Sacrament, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the form of Bread and Wine, is also known as the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Communion, the Mass, the Holy Mysteries, the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice, the Lord's Supper, the Lord's own Service... and all these titles refer to the same Act of worship in the Church and the same Sacrament: the Sacrament instituted by Our Lord on the night in which He was betrayed, when he took bread and consecrated it to be His Body, and wine and consecrated it to be His Blood. Our Lord instituted the Eucharist to be celebrated 'in remembrance of Him,' to make-present the effects of His Life-giving Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. The Eucharist is the Christian Passover, the Memorial or Making-Present of the Sacrifice of the Cross of Calvary— Our Lord's One Perfect Sacrifice for us. See 1 Corinthians 11.23ff. The Eucharist, which means 'thanksgiving,' is the most important Sacrament of all, the heart and centre of the Christian Life and the supreme, ultimate Act of Worship in the Catholic Church, because it is the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself, the divine Service which He Himself instituted to be celebrated in remembrance of Him.

The Eucharist is different from all other Sacraments, in that all other Sacraments convey or communicate the grace or life of Christ to those who receive them— but in the Blessed Sacrament, we do not simply receive grace but Christ Himself. Jesus Christ is the Blessed Sacrament, for It is His Most Blessed Body and Blood, present really, truly, and objectively (that is, apart from our faith, in reality present), under the form and elements of Bread and Wine. The Eucharist is the Lord Jesus, Body, Blood, soul, and divinity, True God and True Man, the whole and entire Christ, present in a heavenly, supernatural, glorified manner, truly present in the Sacrament. Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in His glorified Body and Blood, the Resurrection-Body, which is beyond space and time, eternal, and given to us as heavenly food and drink, as spiritual nourishment for our souls and bodies, to unite us, as men, with Himself in His own incarnate human life.

This of course (again!) is a total Mystery, beyond our understanding. But, even though we cannot understand Our Lord's Presence in the Eucharist, it is nevertheless true because it is promised by Our Lord. Anglican Catholics, unlike other Catholics in other branches of the Church, do not attempt to describe or define these Holy Mysteries in terms of human reason or philosophy. With the ancient and undivided Church, Anglicans simply accept the truth of the Real Presence, that Our Lord's Body and Blood are present and given in the Eucharist, without trying to define or explain the 'manner' or 'way' of the Presence. We can never in this life understand how Our Lord transforms Bread and Wine into His Body and Blood in the Mass, but we must believe the truth that He does, and celebrate and receive this Sacrament faithfully.

Various theories have been suggested which may explain the mode of Christ's Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament: Anglicans do not officially accept any of them, though they may be believed as pious opinion. The most controversial and best known theory is called transubstantiation, (which means 'change of substance') the official view of the Roman Church, which teaches that the substance (or inner reality) of the Bread and Wine is converted into Christ's Body and Blood while the outward 'accidents' or physical effects or appearances of bread and wine remain. No Anglicans must believe any particular theory of the manner of Christ's Presence, but all Anglicans are committed to the article of the Faith that the Body and Blood of Our Lord are present in the Eucharist under the veil of the elements.

Anglican Catholics do believe that the elements of bread and wine, by means of consecration, are 'changed' in some way— they become Something that they were not before the Prayer of Consecration. It is not a material change. What were Bread and Wine, are, by Christ's Words and the power of the Holy Ghost, now Christ's glorified Flesh and Blood, the same Body and Blood incarnate and born of the Virgin May, crucified on Calvary, and risen from the dead, the whole and complete Christ made-present - Christ being the One Sacrifice and now given to us to unite us to Himself, literally. The best example of Anglican teaching concerning this truth is the beautiful Prayer of Humble Access (BCP p.82), which unambiguously and clearly teaches the Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and that the Real Presence is given so that we may have 'organic,' physical and spiritual union with Jesus Christ. In short, the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, is Christ, making-present His One Sacrifice in His Church and uniting His People, His Body, with Himself, by joining them to His One Sacrifice and feeding them with Himself, the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of Life. Christ, the Head of the Body, makes Himself one with His Body the Church, pleading the whole Body, Head and members together, to the Father in His Sacrifice. The Holy Mysteries are both a Sacrament and a Sacrifice, the Holy Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Altar.

Why is the Holy Eucharist the Sacrament of the Altar?

Because it has an outward sign, a Thing signified and a benefit or virtue. The outward and visible Sign of the Sacrament is Bread and Wine, taken and consecrated according to Christ's command by His Bishop or Priest in Apostolic Succession, using His own Words and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, in the Prayer of Consecration (BCP p. 80). The Thing signified is the Body and Blood of Christ, given, taken, and eaten, after an heavenly, mystical, mysterious, supernatural manner. The benefit? The Blessed Sacrament is given to us to refresh and strengthen our bodies and souls, to renew and make complete our union with Jesus Christ, that 'He may dwell in us and we in Him,' as we become One Body and One Blood with the Lord. Our Lord, present in the Sacrament, feeds us with His own Incarnate Life, truly joining His Person (God-made-Man) to our persons, uniting His Manhood to our manhood, making us, by our common humanity, to share in the Divine Life of God the Son, to be 'partakers of the Divine Nature.' The Eucharist, as Sacrament, conveys to us the Incarnation itself, making us share in the God Who became Man by receiving His life-giving Flesh and Blood.

The Blessed Sacrament makes us one with Christ and His Sacrifice; it is the 'continuation’ or 'extension' of the Incarnation, applying to us as men the effects and benefits of Christ the God-Man and His Sacrifice on the Cross. The Incarnation and the Eucharist are one, being the One Lord Christ; the Incarnation is given to us in the Eucharist, that Christ may make all His members One Body and One Blood, One Life, in Him. We receive all the benefits of Calvary in the Mass, as we are actually made to be present with and in His one true Offering on the Cross, pleaded for eternity in Heaven; in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ truly re­-presents Himself, Crucified and Risen, the One Sacrifice, to the Father, as He does forever in Heaven. The Eucharist is the earthly pleading, time and time again, of the Eternal Sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9, 10).

The Eucharist is the means by which Jesus Christ makes us one with Him, in our bodies and souls— it is real communion with Christ by receiving His Real Body and Blood, the Real Presence. 'Is not the Bread which we break a PARTICIPATION in the Body of Christ?... is not the Cup which we bless a PARTICIPATION in the Blood of Christ?' (1 Corinthians 10). We literally participate or partake in Christ through feeding on His Body and Blood under the forms of the Eucharistic elements. The Blessed Sacrament is not a symbol or figure, but a Sacrament, a concealed Reality causing us, by our reception of the Holy Gifts, to live in Christ.

Why is the Holy Eucharist the Sacrifice of the Altar?

The Eucharist is a Sacrifice because, as noted above, it is the Commemoration, the Memorial, or the making-present, of the One Perfect and Eternal Sacrifice which Our Lord offered once-for-all on the Cross and pleads for eternity in Heaven before God the Father. Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection are together a once-for-all, complete, all-sufficient Act, the perfect offering of the perfect Sacrifice of God-made-man in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. Our Lord instituted the Eucharist to be the means by which we can receive and share in this one complete and finished Sacrifice. In the Christian Church, there is truly only One Priest and One Victim who was offered— Jesus Christ, Who is our great high Priest. Our Lord is the One Priest of the New Testament, having an eternal and unchanging Priesthood, that is, the Priesthood of our One Sacrifice, God incarnate, who in Himself re-united God and man, offering His Incarnate Life in order destroy death and restore mankind to the divine communion.

Our Lord instituted the Eucharist on the night before He was betrayed, and handed it to the Apostles who would offer it according to the authority given to them (they were consecrated by Christ to be participants or sharers in the One Priesthood of Christ through the Sacrament of Orders) in order to make it possible for the Church, redeemed by Him, to have access to the One Sacrifice of the Cross. The Eucharist is not a symbolic or figurative offering, nor a simple meal remembering in the sense of the past a dead Christ of long ago: the Mass is literally a 'making-present', an ANAMNESIS, of Christ's One Offering. The word used by Our Lord for remembrance, in Greek ANAMNESIS, actually means, 'to make present before God and man,' to 'bring back from the past to the present.' Our Lord, when He instituted the Mass, actually said, 'Do this to make Me present again.' And exactly this happens when the Priest, ordained in the succession of the Apostles who were given the power to offer this Mystery, consecrates the Bread and Wine during the Canon, the official prayer of consecration, of the Mass.

In the Eucharist, Our Lord comes to us and, under the form of Bread and Wine, re-presents, makes present, pleads, manifests before God and man alike, His Passion and Death upon the Cross and His Resurrection from the Dead - which are eternal in their effects — in such a way that we are actually united to Christ, in our prayers and intentions, in ourselves, as He, with us, carries His Offering into Heaven before the Father.

Saint Paul teaches us that the Eucharist 'shows forth' the Death of Christ, truly exhibiting for us and for our salvation the Cross of Calvary, enabling us to experience and share in that Cross. The Eucharist and the Cross are one and the same Sacrifice. In the Holy Communion, Christ offers Himself as our Great High Priest, our heavenly and eternal Priest and Victim, making-present on earth the One Sacrifice He eternally pleads for us before the Father in Heaven. This Sacrifice makes it possible for us to be perfectly joined to the Cross of Calvary and the Third-Day Resurrection, and to claim the Sacrifice of Christ for our very own, receiving as we do all the fruit, the benefits of what Jesus did for us in dying for us and rising from the dead: forgiveness of sins, union with the Lord, and life eternal.

Jesus is not 're-crucified' or 'sacrificed again' in the Mass— the one, complete, unique offering of Our Lord on Calvary is mystically, mysteriously made present, without any repetition or renewal. The Eucharist is, for all these reasons, the greatest of all Mysteries, the 'Holy Mysteries.' Thus, the Eucharist is the supreme Act of Worship in the Church, the Lord's own Service, by which we avail ourselves of Christ our Sacrifice. The Mass is the heart of all worship, the most important Christian liturgy, and the Act around which all Church teaching and practice is focused— for in it Christ Himself is the One who offers worship and is offered as our perfect offering of worship. 'All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.' The Eucharist is a propitiatory Sacrifice (meaning the Sacrifice which takes away sins) and is offered for the living and the dead in Christ; it benefits those for whom it is offered, and therefore we can offer the Mass for special intentions or purposes, and for people both alive on earth or departed in Christ. This is because it is nothing other than Christ, the eternal Offerer and Offering, present and active for His People, through the Holy Spirit.

What is required of those who come to the Holy Communion?

'To examine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins, steadfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men.' We must approach Christ's Body and Blood only with sincere Faith, Hope, Love, and repentance, confessing our sins, amending our lives from sin, and seeking love, peace, unity with all men. To approach the Blessed Sacrament knowingly and deliberately in a state of sin is a grievous blasphemy, an affront to God; only in a real state of repentance and after serious self-examination of our lives should we approach Our Lord in Holy Communion.'Whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord' (1 Cor. 11.27). If one is conscious of having a committed a serious sin against God, one should seek a Priest, receive the Sacrament of Penance (Confession), and be assured of the promise of forgiveness through Absolution. This Sacrament of Penance or Confession, which we will discuss later, assures us that we are in a state of grace, and that we can therefore receive the Holy Communion properly and reverently, as Our Lord will us to do.

We must always approach Our Lord's Body and Blood, 'in love and charity with our neighbours, and intending to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in His holy ways.' All communicants, those who receive the Eucharist, must absolutely be baptised. In the Holy Catholic Church, only those who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, and are thus full members of the Church, should receive Holy Communion. 'None shall be admitted to the Holy Communion, until such time as he be Confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be Confirmed' (BCP p.299).

When do the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ in the Mass? In what way is Christ present in the Eucharist?

Important points: In the Prayer of Consecration, the Canon of the Mass (BCP p.80), Anglicans affirm, with the ancient and undivided Church, that the Bread and Wine are consecrated by the Priest, who represents Christ at the Altar as His 'living icon', through the recitation of the entire Consecration Prayer: there is really no such event as a 'moment or spot of consecration.' In other words, at the beginning of the Canon, the elements are simply Bread and Wine; at the end of the Canon, the elements have been transformed in the Body and Blood of Christ. At a minimum, the Words of Christ, the Oblation (offering of the gifts to God), and the Invocation of the Holy Ghost are absolutely necessary, according to the rubric of the Prayer Book. Only a male Priest or Bishop of the Church Catholic in Apostolic Succession, ordained in the line of the Apostles who were given the authority to celebrate the Eucharist, can validly or truly offer the Holy Eucharist, causing it to convey the Gift promised. Our Lord is present fully and entirely under both forms of Bread and Wine: we receive Our Lord whole and entire and total under each separate sacred kind. Therefore, one can receive the Eucharist in the form of Bread only or Wine only and receive the whole Christ. This doctrine is called concomitance, 'with-one-ness.' Wherever Jesus Christ, who is God, is present, he must be worshipped as God. Because He is truly present in the Eucharist, we, as faithful Christians, should adore, offer divine worship to, the Blessed Sacrament.

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

The Comprovincial Newsletter for May 2024 -