Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Body and Blood of Christ

Immediately after the first Pentecost, the disciples of the Lord Jesus ‘continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers’ (Acts of the Apostles 2.42); from that day to this, the Church of Christ has never ceased to follow the teaching of the Apostles and to break bread in the divine Communion of our fraternal charity every Sunday. This action is what we now call the Holy Communion, or the Eucharist. The pattern we use for the celebration of the Eucharist is a part of Apostolic Tradition, and conforms to apostolic practice, the common source of all orthodox liturgical rites, including the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. This Apostolic Tradition of the Eucharist forms the core of our worship, and therefore, of our doctrine and saving faith. At the heart of the Gospel are found the Holy Mysteries of the Altar. The Blessed Sacrament is the quintessence of the Christian Religion. Holy Communion is the Gospel!

The Holy Communion is the supreme act of thanksgiving of the New Testament. It is the commemoration of all that God the Son did for us, beginning with His action on the eve of His Passion and Death at the Last Supper. The Prayer of Consecration, or Canon, possesses the account of the Institution of the Eucharist - it recapitulates the Words of Our Lord: THIS IS MY BODY, THIS IS MY BLOOD. We obey the command to ‘do this in remembrance of me,’ as we offer the anamnesis, the re-presentation, of Christ. We commemorate His blessed Passion and precious Death, His mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension, until His coming again. The Eucharist is the ultimate sacramental manifestation of everything that Jesus Christ has done, is doing, and will do for us men and for our salvation. It was given by Our Lord Himself – the Lord’s Own Service on the Lord’s Day.

This commemoration is not merely an intellectual or cognitive act. Christ commands: ‘do this in remembrance of me.’ What did he do? He took bread and wine, representing the sacrifice which He was about to make of His own Body and Blood on the Cross, and offered them to God the Father. He declared them to be His own Body and Blood, and so they became. In obedience to Christ’s command, we do the same, ‘with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee.’ We offer the Holy Gifts to God. The Eucharist is the supreme offering of the Church, the Church’s Sacrifice, in which the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine are offered to the Father, making-present Christ’s all-acceptable and perfect Sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Although it is the priest who elevates the host and chalice before God, it is the people, the Church as a whole, who give thanks to God in this action and by it are united to the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

The Eucharist is also an ongoing Pentecost, a continual disclosure of the Trinitarian Godhead, a prolonged Incarnation of the Word through the Spirit. In the epiclesis, or Invocation of the Word and Holy Spirit of the Father upon the forms of bread and wine, material things are opened to the Holy Spirit and made vehicles of divine life. The Holy Ghost comes to seal and accomplish the Mystery. The bread and wine offered by the Church become the Body and Blood offered by Christ on the Cross through the operation of the Holy Ghost: ‘for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you’ (Saint John 16.14). It is the Holy Ghost Who actualises the Words of Christ from the Last Supper until now.

The bread truly becomes the Body of Christ; the wine truly becomes the Blood of Christ. The Church’s Sacrifice is consumed by the heavenly Fire and made the offering of Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who hovered over the face of the waters in Creation (Genesis 1.2), who overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Annunciation causing the Eternal Word to be conceived in her spotless womb (Saint Luke 1.35), and who descended on the Church at Pentecost (Acts of the Apostles 2) now makes present Christ’s Sacrifice in the Church’s Liturgy. The Word and Holy Spirit make the congregation the Body of Christ by the offering and receiving of the Body of Christ. Communion with mere bread and wine would be ineffectual were the Gifts not transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ by the Holy Ghost. As we pray for the Holy Ghost to descend upon the offered gifts, we pray, too, that we may be transformed. The Church asks the Holy Ghost to change the bread and wine so that we may be ‘partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood,’ filled with His grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Christ, that he may dwell in us, and we in him – thus, united to one another in the communion of the Holy Spirit, we become the Church, just like the earliest Christians at the first Pentecost.

On the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, orthodox Anglicanism celebrates the ancient feast of the Blessed Sacrament known as Corpus Christi, the Festival of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Western Church instituted this feast in AD 1264 in order to provide us with a specific day in the liturgical year on which we may, with unique concentration and attention, offer to God our thanksgiving for the gift of one of the central tenets of the Catholic Faith, the Objective Presence of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the form of bread and wine – the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Saint Thomas Aquinas, that greatest of medieval theologians, the Angelic Doctor, wrote the collects, prayers and hymns for this beautiful celebration. As our English Catechism succinctly describes this wondrous gift of the Real Presence: ‘The Body and Blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper.’ On this feast, the Church bids us follow the admonition of Saint Augustine of Hippo: ‘It was in His flesh that Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat for our salvation. No one, however, eats of this flesh without having first adored it, and not only do we not sin in thus adoring it, but we would sin if we did not do so.’

Our beloved Saviour is the Eucharistic Lord – under the veils of bread and wine is contained, really, truly and objectively, after priestly consecration, the One Divine Person of Jesus Christ, very God and very Man, in the totality of His divinity and humanity, the Incarnate Redeemer of mankind. The instruction of Saint Augustine to the newly-baptised on Easter reverberates and echoes the truth proclaimed on our Feast of the Body of Christ: ‘For you must know what it is you have received, what it is you are about to receive, what it is you should receive every day. This Bread you see on the Altar, consecrated by the word of God, is Christ’s Body. This Chalice, or rather, what the Chalice holds, is Christ’s Blood. By them, Christ the Lord wishes to bestow on us His Body and Blood, which He shed for you unto the remission of sins. If you have received them worthily, you are what you have received. For the Apostle says, “for we, being many, are one bread, one body; all that partake of the one bread.” So did he explain the Mystery of the Lord’s Table. Great indeed are the Holy Mysteries and very great. And when you have received, and have eaten, and have consumed the Body of Christ, is the Body of Christ then consumed? Is the Church of Christ consumed? Are the members of Christ consumed? Far from it! Here they are made clean: there they are crowned. What is here made known to us will remain forever, though it seems to pass away…’ In the Eucharist, the Body of Christ is truly presented and given so that in adoring and receiving the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ. The Eucharist makes the Church. The Incarnate Body of Christ becomes the Eucharistic Body of Christ to make us the Mystical Body of Christ. Let us render thanks to God for the inestimable gift of the Eucharist!

In the month of June, dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament in such a sublime way, our portion of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Holy Catholic Church in the Diocese of the Eastern United States, gathers for her annual Diocesan Synod in Oviedo, Florida from Wednesday 9th June to Friday 11th June; please pray for the successful and fruitful deliberations of this most important assembly, especially as it elects our next Bishop Suffragan. We look forward to giving you a full report on the activities and decisions of this year’s Diocesan Synod upon its completion.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Anglican Mission in the Americas withdraws from full membership in the Anglican Church of North America

The AMIA, the largest constituent body once comprising the new Anglican Church in North America, has relegated itself to 'Ministry Partner' status.

Could this action signal the beginning of the disintegration of ACNA, thus repeating the disunion of the post-1976 Continuing Churches?

The AMIA reinvented its purported ordination of women to the priesthood for the United States on 15th May 2010 in Plano, Texas.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Father Emmett H. Dobbs, Junior - RIP

Of your Christian charity, pray for the repose of the priestly soul of the Reverend Father Emmett H. Dobbs, Junior, who entered eternal life on Sunday 16th May 2010, the Sunday after Ascension Day. Father Dobbs, ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on Lady Day 2006, was a beloved friend and a thoroughly-committed Anglican Catholic.

Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

ACNA and Women's 'Ordination'

'Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.'

The latest news report from VirtueOnline... which concludes with these words: 'The ordination of women to the priesthood will continue to simmer just beneath the surface of the new North American Anglican province and unless, in time, it is not fully resolved, it will erupt, bringing about its downfall.'

Truer words have never been written. What orthodox Continuing Anglicans have most feared concerning the sacramental and structural ambiguity of the Anglican Church in North America is already beginning to transpire. The heresy of the purported ordination of women already threatens to divide a jurisdiction which was only officially organised in December 2008. The errors which sundered the Lambeth Anglican Communion are being replicated in ACNA - potentially (and inevitably?) with the same result. Let us pray for those who seek to proclaim and preserve the Catholic Faith in that situation.

Whitsunday: The Fulfilled Promise

In Traditional Anglicanism, the great Feast of the Holy Ghost, Pentecost, is usually referred to by its ancient moniker Whitsunday, so named because on this day, in celebration of the gift of that birth from above conveyed by the Holy Spirit in the font of Baptism, candidates would receive the laver of regeneration attired in white clothing. ‘White Sunday’ refers to the mystery of Baptism, conferred on the feast of the Descent of God the Holy Ghost on the Holy Catholic Church, and to the purity of the souls and the very clothing of the bodies of those who are born again of water and the Spirit (St John 3.5). The ancient festival of Pentecost originates in the Old Testament. It was celebrated by the ancient Israelites to commemorate the giving of the Old Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. In that celebration, God made a solemn covenant with His chosen people while a thanksgiving feast for the new harvest (Exodus 23.16) and the first-fruits of the earth (Numbers 28.26) was rendered to the Lord.

The old feast of Pentecost (‘fifty’) was solemnised at the culmination of seven weeks, on the fiftieth day after Passover. The Old Testament calls it the Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16.9-10). Like all of the other feasts of the Old Covenant, Pentecost is fulfilled in Our Lord Jesus Christ: on the day of the revelation of the Mosaic Law, fifty days after the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Ghost descended on the Blessed Mother of the Lord, the Apostles and the disciples of the New Covenant in accordance with and in fulfilment of the promise of Our Divine Lord (St John 14.26). The descent of the Holy Ghost brings to perfection the achievement of the New Covenant which God thereby established with the New Israel of God – the Catholic and Apostolic Church. On the new Pentecost, Whitsunday, the New Law of Grace, the love, life and power of the Holy Spirit, replaces the old statutes and ordinances of the law of Sinai (Jeremiah 31.31-34, Acts of the Apostles 2.1-11). The Holy Ghost constitutes the new chosen People of God, the new and spiritual Israel (Galatians 6.11-18), the royal, priestly, prophetic Body of Christ, the new Temple of God’s elect and consecrated family (I St Peter 2.4-10).

The mystery of Whitsunday unveils for us the truth that the Three Persons of the Undivided Trinity differ from one another in their manifestation to the Church, although all Three always act as one in relation to us. The Father does all things through the Son in the Holy Ghost. The Son is the One through whom we know the Father and through whom the Holy Ghost is sent. The Spirit, the Life-Giver, proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son, and in us, the sons in the Son.

On Pentecost, as the Holy Ghost descends on the earliest Church, we behold the revelation of the Trinity in His fulness. The Holy Ghost culminates God’s self-revelation; the Third Person of the Trinity is the final fulfilment of Christ’s promise, as God is revealed as Love, as Trinity. Now, because of this pentecostal Day, we know the true and living only God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity. The sanctifying grace of the Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father through the Son, discloses to us that which we could not know except by divine revelation: the Holy Trinity, Three Persons in One Substance, undivided in essence and yet distinct in Persons. The central dogmatic truth of the orthodox Christian Faith is finally revealed, finally given by God. ‘When we say God, we mean Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ (Saint Gregory Nazianzus). As the Trinity was revealed to our bodily senses at Our Lord’s Baptism, when the Son stood in the Jordan River as the Father spoke and the Spirit in the form of a dove descended, so now on Pentecost, the grace of the Holy Ghost descends on us, who were redeemed by the Son, enlightening our whole being and causing us to participate in the divine life of the Father. At Pentecost, we become Trinitarian; we become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (II St Peter 1.4); we are made capable of becoming by grace what God is by nature. Now we have the capacity to see God, to enter His Kingdom, to life in His Life. We are swept up into the divine Love of the One Who is Three, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In the descent of the Holy Spirit upon us, we realise in ourselves the promise and prophecy of all Scripture: ‘The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men may become the sons of God.’

For orthodox Anglicans, the feast of Whitsunday holds particular importance in that the first Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England was promulgated on Pentecost, 9th June 1549, in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI. From this Liturgy, the first of its kind in the English language, derive all the orthodox Books of Common Prayer of the Anglican Tradition. This incomparable vernacular Liturgy, which brought about a truly pentecostal renewal in the spiritual, theological and prayer life of the English Church, remains for ever the highest standard of orthopraxy, doctrinal truth, beauty, dignity, reverence and sublimity to which all subsequent Anglican Liturgies since have aspired. For Catholic Anglicans, the Book of Common Prayer continues to serve as the foremost repository and compendium of Holy and Apostolic Tradition, which is the living memory of the Church, the Life of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding the Spirit-possessed Body of Christ into all truth (St John 16.13-14, II Thessalonians 2.15). The Prayer Book is our teaching office, our magisterium. At Saint Barnabas, we shall commemorate the 461st anniversary of the issue of our mother Liturgy with a celebration of the Holy Communion on the Vigil of Pentecost, Saturday 22nd May, at 8pm. We shall use this venerable Liturgy of the 1549 English Prayer Book. Please join us!

COME, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart
Thy blessed unction from above,
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
The dulness of our blinded sight.
Anoint and cheer our soiled face
With the abundance of thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home;
Where thou art guide, no ill can come.
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And thee, of both, to be but One;
That, through the ages all along,
This may be our endless song:
Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Anglican and Catholic Faith in a Nutshell

'The cardinal points of faith which formed the doctrinal backbone of the English Church Union were the Holy and Undivided Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Descent into Hell, the Resurrection, Ascension, and the second coming of Christ to judge the world, the Procession of the Holy Spirit, Baptismal regeneration, the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, the Real Presence of Christ under the form of bread and wine, the memorial sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist, frequent Holy Communion, the pardon and absolution of sin in private confession, the Communion of Saints, the resurrection of the body, the salvation of the good and the condemnation of the bad, everlasting life, Apostolic Succession, the reality and sacrificial nature of the priesthood, the power of the Keys, the inspiration of Holy Scripture and for its interpretation, recourse and appeal to the testimony of the early and undivided Church, respect for and the implementation of Church discipline, and Canon Law.'

From Defend and Maintain: A History of the Church Union 1859-2009 by Philip Corbett and William Davage

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Polish National Catholic Orders

Does any theologian or historian know precisely in what year the See of Rome formally and officially recognised the validity of Holy Orders conferred in the Polish National Catholic Church? Where may such documentation be found?

Over the past year, leading up to and after the promulgation of Anglicanorum Coetibus by the Roman Communion, there has been much internet discussion about the role Old Catholic Infusion may or may not play in the absolute or conditional ordination of former Anglican clergy who convert to the Latin Church. Recently I heard an anecdotal story given in a lecture in which it was claimed that Rome only recognised the validity of PNCC Orders after Anglicans who petitioned Rome for corporate reunion were initially told to have their Orders regularised by the PNCC, and yet at the time PNCC Orders were not yet officially recognised by Rome: it was asserted that three months after the dialogue between Vatican officials and Anglicans, the Roman Church declared PNCC Orders valid, ostensibly to achieve, in part, the facilitation of the regularisation of Anglican Orders and reunion with Rome. I cannot verify the accuracy of this story, and thus far I have been unable to locate more precise details or information.

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

The Comprovincial Newsletter for May 2024 -