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E.J. Bicknell on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

Here is Bicknell on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  It's long, but it's worth the read:



The Real Presence.  On this view we hold that we receive through the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ, because in answer to the prayers of His Church and in fulfillment of His own promise, He has brought the elements into a mysterious union with Himself.  He has, as it were, taken them up into the fullness of His ascended life and made them the vehicle of imparting that life to His members.  Thus He is in a real sense present not only in the devout communicant but in the consecrated elements.  Of the manner of this union we affirm nothing.  The Presence is spiritual, not material.

 This, in some form, is the teaching of the Roman and Eastern Churches, of Luther, of the Fathers and early liturgies, and has always been held by many within the Church of England.  It would appear to be the most consistent with Scripture and the tradition of the Church, and also to be a safeguard of certain great Christian principles.

 (i) Let us turn first to Scripture.  An enormous amount of labour has been wasted in attempting to get back to the actual words spoken by Christ and to interpret the meaning of “is” in “This is my body” and “This is my blood”.  In Aramaic the word “is” might, or might not be definitely expressed.  The important point is that S. Paul understood these words to contain a promise of a divine gift.  He bases on them the solemn warning “Wherefore (ώστε) whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).  If the existence of the gift is made conditional upon the faith of the individual communicant, as receptionists teach, the unworthy recipient can hardly be said to be “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord”.  If the presence of Christ is to be sought only in the heart of the faithful recipient, there can have been no presence for him to profane.  As being unworthy he has drawn near only to bread and wine.  Further, if the words mean only “This represents my body”, we have only a parable, not a promise: they contain no pledge of any sacramental gift.  The words are not really parallel to such allegorical statements as “I am the bread” or “the door”.  These last couple together an idea and a concrete reality.  But the words of institution couple together two concrete realities of the external world.  Again, in 1 Cor 10:16 S. Paul connects the “communion of the body” and “the blood” not with reception but with consecration.  He speaks of “The cup which we bless” and “the bread which we break”, “we” being the minister as the organ of the assembled Church.

 (ii) Again, if we turn to the Church as the interpreter of Scripture, the main stream of Christian teaching is quite clear.  We find a singular absence of theological controversy about the Eucharist, but the general line of thought may be exemplified by these words of Irenaeus, “The bread which is of the earth receiving the invocation of God is no longer common bread but Eucharist, made up of two things, an earthly and a heavenly?” [Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. iv. 18, § 5.]  No doubt certain individuals or schools of thought exhibit a tendency to lay a one-sided emphasis on particular aspects of the truth, as, for instance, to dwell on the Eucharist as imparting the gift of bodily immortality, but such teaching did not express the mind of the Church as a whole and was corrected by the corporate consciousness.  The early liturgies all attest a belief in the Real Presence.  There is a marked difference between the treatment that was accorded to the water in Baptism and the elements in the Eucharist.  No special care was taken of the water.  Indeed, baptism was often administered in streams.  But the consecrated elements were by a natural instinct always treated with the utmost reverence. [Cp. Gore, Body of Christ, p. 76 and note 5.]  In Baptism there are no words that in any way are the counterpart of the words of institution.*

 [*It is worth noting that when the Fathers speak of the bread and wine as “signs” or “symbols” of the body and blood of Christ, they do not in any way imply a merely receptionist view.  To us a “symbol” at once suggests that the reality symbolized is absent.  To them a “symbol” was rather “the evidence to the senses of a divine reality actually present”.  “The really heavenly element lay either in or behind the visible form without investing itself with it” (Gore, p. 89, quoting Harnack).  The Fathers do indeed avoid any such language as would speak of Christ as present in or under the bread and wine.  They rather speak of the bread and wine as “types” or “symbols” of spiritual realities invisible to the eye of sense, but most truly present.  S. Cyril of Jerusalem, for instance, writes: “Under the sign (εν τύπω) of bread is given thee the body, under the sign of wine is given thee the blood.” (Cat. xxii. 3.)]

 (iii) The Sacraments are an extension of the Incarnation, in so far as through them the Incarnate Lord still offers His own saving grace to men.  But the Incarnation was an event discerned by faith but in no way produced by faith.  When Christ walked on this earth, those who discerned the divine in Him, discerned what was really there.  Their faith enabled them to see and grasp the truth.  It was quite possible for men to be blind to His divinity and to miss the blessings that He brought within their reach through lack of faith, but that does not prove their unreality.  In other words, faith is a capacity for intuition or apprehension.  It can recognize and respond, but not create.  It can rest upon and surrender itself to what already exists, but it calls nothing into being.  So with the gift promised in the Holy Eucharist.  It is contrary to all analogy to make the existence of the gift in any sense dependent on faith.  Rather the gift is there, objectively: those who approach with faith discern and appropriate it, those who have not faith are, as it were, blind to the gift, and fail to claim it. [Cp. the words of Thorndyke, “The eating and drinking of it” (i.e. the Lord’s Body and Blood) “in the sacrament, presupposes the being of it in the sacrament ... unless a man can spiritually eat the flesh and blood of Christ in and by the sacrament, which is not in the sacrament when he eats and drinks it, but by his eating and drinking of it comes to be there.”]

Again, the Incarnation was God’s gift to His people as a whole.  Some availed themselves of it, others did not.  So the Holy Eucharist, like all the blessings bestowed through Christ, is primarily a gift not to the individual Christian but to the whole body of Christ.  The individual as a member of the body is bidden to claim and appropriate his share of it.  This truth is of the highest value as emphasizing the corporate nature of all true Christianity.  We may compare the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The fire first appeared as one and then as “tongues parting asunder” [Not “cloven” as A.V., an impossible sense for the present participle.] (Acts 2:3).  The receptionist view weakens the social aspect of the Eucharist by making it a number of separate donations to individuals.  The doctrine of the Real Presence vindicates the unity of life which is to be realized in brotherhood.

The opposition to any such phrase as “real presence” is due in the main to the fear that it means presence in space and involves materialistic ideas.  Let us admit that the primary idea of the Eucharist is that of Christ active rather than of Christ present, of Christ as bestowing a gift rather than of the gift bestowed.  But it still remains true that our imaginations are unable to conceive of Christ as active unless He is in some sense present and of the gift as bestowed unless it is there to be bestowed.  No doubt Christ is present always and everywhere, behind all the processes of nature and human life.  But that was not inconsistent with a presence in a new way and for a new act of divine grace in the Incarnation.  Again, Christ promised to be with His Church “all the days” (Mt 28:20), yet He could say, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).  That promise does not imply a previous absence, but rather a presence in a special way and for a special purpose.  So, too, in the Holy Communion Christ acts in fulfillment of a special promise and vouchsafes to His Church a special presence of Himself.  Christ is still Man.  He did not lay aside His human nature at the Ascension.  Nor yet was His body then removed to an infinitely distant part of the universe, rather it was raised above the limitations of space altogether.  It became the perfect self-expression of spirit.  Heaven is a manner of life, not a place.  So in His Heavenly life Christ still possesses all the capacities of perfect manhood.  He can still render His humanity active at will and act through it in our world of space and time.  Only the Lutherans have ever pictured Christ’s manhood as, so to say, automatically and unconditionally omnipresent.  It is nearer to truth to assert that Christ can act through it at will, and make it a present power in the world wheresoever He is pleased to do so.

Now in the Holy Communion He gives us His Body and Blood.  Here, if anywhere, He acts through His glorified humanity.  We must try therefore to conceive of Him as present not only as God but as Man, present by an act of will to bestow upon us the gift of His own Manhood.  This act, or this presence – in whichever way we view it, is no fresh humiliation.  It is in no way on a level with the submission to the limitations of our present world made at the Incarnation.  Rather it is on a level with the ascended life: it is Christ’s very heavenly presence itself. [The early liturgies use language both about the Body and Blood of Christ as being present at our earthly altars and of our oblations of bread and wine as being carried up to the heavenly altar and there united with His Body and Blood.  (Cp. Gore, op. cit. pp. 84–85, and Fr. Benson, Letters, vol. i. p. 273.)]  There is no opposition between a “real” and a “spiritual” presence.  The most “real” things are not those that belong to the material world.  A “spiritual” presence is presence in the manner of a Spirit, a manner outside our earthly experience, but not therefore imaginary or unreal, any more than Heaven is unreal.

The manner of this Presence and its relation to the outward elements we cannot define, except in so far as we reject certain attempts of our imagination to picture it.  Thus, it involves in no sense a movement in space.*  Nor is it in any sense comparable to the chemical changes to be viewed in our laboratories.  It is rather analogous to the spiritual changes that take place in ourselves.  If we say that Christ is present “in” the sacrament, we use “in” metaphorically, as when we say that Christ abides in the Christian and the Christian in Christ.  Wherever we study the relation between spirit and matter, whether between God and the world, or our souls and our bodies or here, our reason and our imagination are always baffled.  We can only speak in symbolical language borrowed from space.  It is a real source of strength to the Church of England that she refuses to speculate on the question or to make the acceptance of human speculations a condition of membership.**†

[*Cp. the words of Cardinal Newman (Via Media, vol. ii. p. 220): “If place is excluded from the idea of the Sacramental Presence, therefore division or distance from heaven is excluded also, for distance implies a measurable interval and such there cannot be except between places.  Moreover, if the idea of distance is excluded, therefore is the idea of motion.  Our Lord then neither descends from heaven upon our altars, nor moves when carried in procession.  The visible species change their position, but He does not move.  He is in the Holy Eucharist after the manner of a spirit.  We do not know how; we have no parallel to the ‘how’ in our experience.  We can only say that He is present, not according to the natural manner of bodies, but sacramentally.  His Presence is substantial, spirit-wise, sacramental; an absolute mystery, not against reason, however, but against imagination, and must be received by faith.”]

[**Cp. the lines attributed to Queen Elizabeth:

His was the Word that spake it:

He took the bread and brake it:

And what that Word did make it,

I do believe and take it.

Indifferent poetry, but admirable theology.]

(c) The Roman doctrine of “Transubstantiation”, condemned in our Article, is an attempt to define the relation of the gift to the elements in the Eucharist.  As a formal definition it has its roots far back in Church history.  Just as Monophysitism was the culmination of a tendency to exalt our Lord’s divinity at the expense of His humanity and to reduce the latter to a mere semblance, so we find a tendency among certain early writers to exalt the divine gift in the Eucharist in such a way as to minimize or even explain away the reality of the bread and wine after consecration.  This appears first in the East: in the West it was kept in check by the influence of S. Augustine, who unmistakably believed in the permanence and reality of the elements. [In the East it became common from the fourth century onwards to speak of the bread and wine as being “changed into” the Body and Blood.  This “conversion” language appears in S. Ambrose, but did not come into general use in the West until much later.]  A new stage began with the treatise of Paschasius Radbert composed in 831.  He taught beyond all doubt a doctrine of “transubstantiation”.  By consecration the natural substance of the elements is annihilated: there is on the altar “nihil aliud quam corpus et sanguis Domini”.  Only the appearance of bread and wine remains to test faith and afford a screen to the awful realities.  This teaching was opposed at the time, especially by Ratramnus, a monk of Corbey, but the controversy died down for some two centuries.  Then it was rekindled by the teaching of Berengar, Archdeacon of Angers, who attacked the crude popular language about the Eucharistic presence.  He himself held the doctrine of an objective but spiritual presence in the elements.  In 1059 Berengar was forced to recant, and the decree which was forced upon him at Rome in the presence of the Pope is sufficient evidence of the dangerously materialistic view taken by the Church as a whole at that time.  He was made to assert that “The bread and wine after consecration are not only a sacrament but also the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and are sensibly not only in sacrament but in truth touched and broken by the hands of the priests and bruised by the teeth of the faithful.”  Berengar’s opponents asserted even that the body and blood of Christ were physically eaten with the mouth.

 But his protest had not been in vain.  The gross and superstitious teaching was at once defended and refined by the teaching of the Schoolmen.  They took advantage of the current philosophical distinction between substance and accidents [Berengar had known of this distinction and had combated in advance any use of it for this purpose.  He held that “accidents” could not exist apart from the “substance” in which they inhered.  That was also Wycliffe’s argument.] to formulate a theological statement of transubstantiation.  The philosophy of the day held that our senses can only perceive the qualities or “accidents” of things.  Beneath these qualities or “accidents” there is an underlying reality, the thing itself, to which was given the technical name of “substance”.  For instance, bread possesses certain “accidents” of which our senses inform us, hardness, colour, taste, smell, etc.  But these are not the bread itself.  Behind them is the “substance” of bread in which they cohere.  This “substance” is beyond the range of all our senses, touch included.  So the Schoolmen laid down that through consecration the “substance” of the bread and wine was by the almighty power of God changed into the “substance” of the body and blood of Christ.  No change can be detected by the senses.  The “accidents” of the bread and wine remain in order to veil the divine gift.

 No doubt this philosophical speculation does not necessarily involve a materialistic view of the sacrament.  “Substance”, as so used, is intangible.  But it could do nothing to correct the debasing influence of popular superstition, and there can be no denying that the ordinary view of transubstantiation in the Middle Ages was absolutely carnal and materialistic, as, indeed, it is in popular Romanism today.  The actual word “transubstantiation” is first found in use in the eleventh century.  It received official sanction at the Lateran Council in 1215.  It is employed however in a less definite sense than in Tridentine theology.  Despite the obvious misunderstandings and abuses that attached to it, it was retained and reasserted at the Council of Trent,* and has remained as an article of faith in the Roman Church.

 [*E.g. “If anyone shall say that in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains together with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and shall deny that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood, the appearance only of the bread and wine remaining, which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most fittingly calls Transubstantiation, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Session xiii. Canon 2).]

 Our Article rejects the doctrine on four grounds:

      (1) Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord cannot be proved by Holy Writ: Scripture knows nothing of any philosophical distinction between “substance” and “accidents”.  The words of institution may reasonably be interpreted as the promise of a divine gift, but they throw no light whatever on the manner in which that gift is related to the outward sign.  Roman controversialists have indeed admitted that transubstantiation cannot be proved from Scripture.  It is at best one explanation of Scripture.

      (2) It is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture.  That is to say, Scripture speaks of the Bread after consecration as still bread (1 Cor 11:26 and 28).  We may add that the Canon of the Roman Mass does the same, since it goes back to an age that knew nothing of transubstantiation.

      (3) It overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament.  In the words of the Catechism a sacrament has two parts: “the outward visible sign,” here bread and wine, and the “inward spiritual grace”, the body and blood of Christ.  But if, as on the Roman view, the substance of the bread and wine is annihilated, the reality of the outward sign is destroyed, i.e. the nature of the sacrament is overthrown as lacking one of its two parts.

      (4) It hath given occasion to many superstitions.  As Dr. Gore has truly said, “The atmosphere in which the doctrine of transubstantiation grows into a dogma is calculated to send a shiver through one’s intellectual and moral being.”  Paschasius Radbert drives home his teaching by recounting a series of miracles in which drops of blood flowed from the consecrated Host as the form of the infant Christ appeared.  A similar miracle was opportunely registered in order to forward the institution of the Festival of Corpus Christi in 1264.  The gross imagination of mediaeval theologians did not shrink from discussing the precise relation of the reception of the Lord’s Body to the processes of physical digestion.  In answer to the objections of opponents, miracles were lavishly postulated.  It was supposed that the more contradictions that were offered to reason, the greater was the opportunity given for the meritorious exercise of faith.

As against the popular idea of transubstantiation as held and taught in the Roman Church both in the Middle Ages and today, these objections are conclusive.  Attempts, however, are made by educated Romanists to escape them.  They point to the fact that the Canon of the Mass calls the Host after the recital of the words of institution “bread”, as S. Paul does, and therefore claim that the Roman Church still in some sense recognizes it as bread.  Again, they argue that the “accidents” that remain are real and therefore constitute a true outward visible sign.  Further, as we all should admit, the fact that anything has given rise to superstition is not conclusive against it.  The Bible itself has given rise to many superstitions, but that is no reason for abolishing it or denying its value.

In this way it is possible to get a refined doctrine that is not open to the charge of materialism.  But although it may be held in this form by subtle and educated minds, we must repeat it is not the ordinary teaching of popular Romanism.  Further, it practically explains away the mediaeval doctrine altogether.  “Thus the modern Roman theologians allow to the consecrated bread and wine all the reality which anyone believes any bread and wine to possess, or, in other words, explain away transubstantiation, till it remains a verbal incumbrance due to an inopportune intrusion into Church doctrine of a temporary phase of metaphysics.” [Gore. op. cit. p. 120.]  Further, in however refined a form it is held it is open to very grave objections.

 (1) It not only attempts to define what Scripture leaves mysterious, but binds men down to one particular form of philosophy.  At best it is a pious opinion.  We should not wish to condemn those who choose to hold it or to expel them from the unity of the Church.  But the Church has no authority to add to the divine revelation a mere philosophical opinion.

 (2) It “detracts from the kingdom of nature in order to magnify the kingdom of grace”.  On the Roman view the natural is destroyed to make room for the supernatural: the bread and wine are not really consecrated to be the vehicle of divine blessings, they are annihilated.  Such a view as this is at bottom akin to Gnosticism, not Christianity.  Christianity has always taught that the material attains to its highest end in becoming the means and expression of the spiritual.  The supernatural completes and perfects the natural.  In the Incarnation our Lord’s manhood was not absorbed or destroyed by His divinity.  Rather He alone was perfect man. In the controversies about the Incarnation the Fathers use the analogy of the Eucharist in order to prove this.  According to the Roman doctrine the analogy of the Eucharist would prove just the opposite.  “Transubstantiation” is in its whole conception essentially unspiritual.  It treats our Lord’s ascended and glorified Humanity as on a level with the things of earth which must needs make room for its coming.*†

 [*Some mention must be made of the unhappy doctrine maintained by Roman theologians of repute that the presence of Christ bestowed in the Eucharist is withdrawn as soon as the elements begin to be digested.  By a second miracle transubstantiation is reversed.  The “substance” of Christ’s Body is withdrawn.  The “substance” of the bread is replaced.  So the coming of Christ is only a temporary visit, for about a quarter of an hour, not a permanent deepening of that union with Christ that only sin can weaken or destroy.  This flatly contradicts the true Christian teaching as given by S. Augustine, “What you see in the Sacrament passes away, but the invisible thing signified does not pass away but remains.”  Christ abides in us and we in Him.]

 § 4.  The third paragraph affirms the great truth that safeguards and is the complement of the doctrine of the “Real Presence”.  “The body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.  And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.”

Just as Christ’s body and blood are present without being made subject to space and movement, so when we eat and drink them they are not made subject to any physical process.  We can no more eat and drink them physically than we can eat bread and butter by faith.  Each food, the natural nourishment and the spiritual nourishment, has its own means of reception.  If, by faithful reception of the body and blood of the Lord, “the body and soul” of the communicant are “preserved unto everlasting life” such reception can be “only after an heavenly and spiritual manner”. [For the meaning attached to this Article by its author, Bishop Guest of Rochester, see above.  His statements are quoted in full in Stone, vol. ii., pp. 210 ff.]

 (a) This truth is further explained by Article XXIX, “Of the wicked which do not eat the body of Christ in the use of the Lord’s Supper.”  The phrase “eat the body” clearly refers to the spiritual eating spoken of in Article XXVIII.  “The wicked and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as S. Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; yet in nowise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.”  The wicked and the faithful alike receive the elements that have been brought into union with the body and blood of Christ.  Neither wicked nor faithful carnally and visibly press with their teeth more than the bread and wine.  But only the faithful receive the body and blood of Christ, since only they possess that faith which is the indispensable means of receiving them.  This Article does not in any way deny the “real presence”, it only rules out any carnal view of it.  To give an illustration: when our Lord was on earth He possessed healing power quite independently of the faith of men: but only those who possessed faith could get into touch with it.  Many touched His garments, but only the woman who had faith was healed (Mk 5:30 ff.).  The healing power was there: the touch of faith did not create it, but faith, as it were, opened the channel to appropriate the blessing.  So in the Eucharist, Christ in all His saving power is present.  The wicked are only capable of receiving the visible and material signs of His presence.  But those who approach with faith can receive the inward grace and become partakers of Christ by feeding on His Body and Blood.  Attempts have, indeed, been made to distinguish between “eating the body of Christ” and “partaking of Christ”.  It has been claimed that the wicked do the former to their soul’s peril, but cannot do the latter.  No such distinction, however, can be drawn, and Scripture seems to know of no feeding upon Christ that is not unto life (cp. Jn 6:53 ff.).  The wicked only receive the outward “sign or sacrament” that has entered into the closest relation with the divine gift.  The gift itself is withheld or withdrawn, we know not how. [It is universally agreed that the unworthy communicant does not enter into that union with Christ which is the ultimate end of receiving the sacrament.  It might, however, be held that S. Paul’s reference to those who are “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” and “eat and drink judgment” to themselves (1 Cor 11:27, 29) suggests that the unworthy receive a divine gift, but for judgment and not salvation.]

 (b) The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped.  This last section of the Article is carefully worded.  It is based on a sound and intelligible principle.  The Holy Communion was given to us by Christ for a definite purpose.  We can only be secure of its blessings so long as we respect the limits of that purpose.  The faithful Christian is assured that in receiving the Holy Eucharist he is brought face to face with Christ.  The Lord’s presence is guaranteed by the Lord’s promise.  But it is a spiritual presence: and a spiritual presence, however real, is not necessarily controlled by the same laws as an earthly presence.  The appearances of our Lord after His Resurrection during the great forty days did not obey the same laws as those that limit and govern our present earthly humanity.  Though He condescended to use material means, He was not subject to them.  So we must not presume to argue about our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist as if it were in any way an earthly presence.  We are sure that He is present to bestow His body and blood.  We cannot be certain that that Presence abides when we use the consecrated bread and wine for a new and entirely different purpose, a purpose not ordained by Christ, but prompted by the fallible logic of human devotion.  If our Lord could at will enter or withdraw Himself from the Upper Room, so at will He comes to fulfill His promise in the Eucharist and at will He can depart when that promise has been fulfilled.  We cannot, as it were, bind Him to earth by our treatment of the elements.  Such thoughts lie behind the very cautious statements of the Article.  The practices mentioned are not condemned as sinful.  No anathema is levelled at those who retain them.  All that is asserted is that they are precarious, as going outside the ordinance of Christ. [Cp. the similar statement of Article XXV: “The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about.”]  The Church of England, therefore, was perfectly justified in abolishing them.  At best they are practices enjoined by a part of the Catholic Church.

 (i) Reservation purely for the communion of the sick or absent is thoroughly primitive and natural.  It is in full accord with the spirit of Scripture and the revealed purpose of Christ and was the custom of the primitive Church.  Justin Martyr tells us that a portion “is sent to them that are absent, by the deacons”.  In an age of persecution, and when perhaps the majority of Christians were slaves, members were often unavoidably prevented from being present.  So, too, the Communion was sent to Christians in prison.  Again, we read of Christians taking away the consecrated elements in order to communicate themselves at home during the week or carrying them with them when on a journey.  Tertullian speaks of a Christian woman at home “secretly, before all food” tasting the Lord’s Body. [“Ante omnem cibum” must surely mean “before all food”, not “before every meal”, though great names can be cited to support the latter translation.  There is no evidence for communicating ordinarily more than once a day.]  So, too, as late as the time of S. Basil the monks in the desert, where there was no priest, communicated themselves with the reserved sacrament.  In times of persecution such a practice of private communion was necessary.  But it was liable to abuse, and from the fourth century onward the Church took steps to suppress it. [Was the sacrament always or ever reserved in both kinds?  Probably, as a rule, only the Bread was reserved, but at the time of receiving a fragment was placed in a cup of wine, which was thus regarded as consecrated.  This certainly was the usage in some places.  (See Wordsworth, Holy Communion, p. 266 and the references to reservation in Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy.)]  We hear also of the Eucharist being sent as a sign of fellowship to distant churches.  This custom was familiar to Irenaeus.  In the East it was forbidden by the Council of Laodicea in 365, but lasted on longer in the West.  Such practices did not commend themselves to the mature judgment of the Church.  The practice of reservation continued, but under due restrictions in church.  The canon law required that it should be kept under lock and key.  According to the first Prayer-Book of Edward VI the sick might be communicated with the reserved sacrament on the same day as a celebration in church.  In the second Prayer-Book this permission was withdrawn: there was a very real danger of conveying the sacrament away and using it for superstitious purposes. [Cp. the last rubric at the end of the Communion Office of 1549.]  In 1662 the present rubric was added enjoining the consumption in church of all the consecrated elements at the close of the service.  The primary object of this was to forbid not reservation but the irreverent carrying of the elements out of church for ordinary consumption, which the Puritans were quite capable of doing.  But indirectly the rubric forbids all reservation, and even the primitive custom of taking away their portion to the sick.  This is a real loss, since every communion of the sick involves a separate private celebration.  Happily many bishops have allowed reservation for this purpose under proper conditions – a great relief in crowded parishes, especially as all sickrooms are not adapted for private celebrations.

 The Article is aimed at reservation when practised not only for purposes of communion, but in order to provide a localized object of worship.  This is a comparatively modern and entirely distinct practice.  It is a use of the sacrament that diverges widely from the declared intention of Christ.  It arose in the dark ages and received a great impulse through the assertion of Transubstantiation.  The Pyx, or receptacle, at or above the altar containing the reserved sacrament, came increasingly to take a prominent place in the eyes of worshippers.  In 1264 the festival of Corpus Christi was instituted and the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for worship.  So the central act of the modern Roman service of Benediction is the blessing of the congregation by the priest with the consecrated Host.

(ii) Carrying about the Host in procession is only an extension of the same practice.  Such a procession came soon to be one of the chief ceremonies of Corpus Christi, though it appealed too largely to the popular taste to be confined to that day.

 (iii) The lifting up or elevation of the Host after consecration in order to be adored by the people was first introduced about A.D. 1100 and is on a level with the previous practices.  This elevation must not be confused with the manual acts during the prayer of consecration, when the priest solemnly reproduces the action of Christ at the Last Supper and take’s up the bread and the cup.  Nor yet again has this elevation any connection with that usually found in oriental liturgies, where, after the Lord’s Prayer and before the Fraction, the priest lifts up the elements with the words “holy things for holy men”, as a preliminary to communion.  Elevation for adoration was supposed to signalize the actual moment of consecration.  It was expressly forbidden in the first Prayer-Book of Edward VI. [In the silent Canon of the mediaeval Mass the Elevation did at least direct the attention of the people to what was being done at the altar.  But it gave rise to the unfortunate consequence that for the people the main motive of eucharistic worship became the desire to see the Host.  The Reformers rightly regarded this as a perverted piety.]

 (iv) If Christ is present in the Eucharist, most certainly He is then as always to be adored.  But this, as we have seen, is quite different from adoration of the Blessed Sacrament divorced from Eucharistic worship.  We have no ground for believing that He gave us the Eucharist in order to dwell among us today by an abiding external presence as during His earthly life or to afford a visible object of adoration.  Nor, again, are we justified in that absolute identification of our Lord with the outward sign that is implied in modern Roman devotions.

 Finally, let us gladly admit that in these practices as allowed by the Church of Rome today we do find the expression of very deep and real devotion to our Lord.  But we maintain that that devotion is purchased at a great cost.

Since there is a vigorous movement to introduce not only individual, but corporate devotions before the reserved Sacrament, including Benediction, into the Church of England, we will develop more fully the objections to such practices felt by many who believe wholeheartedly in the Real Presence in the Sacrament and are in full sympathy with the general Catholic position.  These innovations are defended on two main grounds, first that they are a natural development of Reservation for the sick and have behind them the authority of the Western Church, and secondly that experience both on the Continent and in England shows that they promote devotion and win many to Christ.

 In reply we protest that these practices are not so much practices of the Catholic Church as of the Counter-Reformation.  They have no authority in Scripture or primitive custom.  Even the learned Roman Catholic, Father Thurston admits that “In all the Christian literature of the first thousand years, no one has apparently yet found a single clear and definite statement that any person visited a church in order to pray before the Body of Christ which was kept upon the altar.” [Note in Bridgett, A History of the Holy Eucharist in Great Britain, p. 170.  On the case of Gorgonia (Gregory of Nazianzum, Orat. viii. 18), which Father Thurston regards as irrelevant, see C.Q.R., April, 1918, p. 119 ff.]  So, too, the Orthodox Churches of the East reserve the Sacrament, usually on the Altar, with a lamp burning before it.  Not only does the intervention of the Screen and the Holy Doors shut it out from any possibility of adoration by the people, but even those who enter the Sanctuary make no sign of reverence as they pass before it.  No one can deny the belief of the Eastern Churches in the Real Presence, but here, as so often, they preserve ancient tradition.  Only in the West has the cult of the reserved Sacrament been developed.  The beginnings of this are to be found in the Middle Ages, but the full growth was accelerated by reaction against the minimizing views of Protestant reformers in lands which did not accept the Reformation.  Thus these practices are relatively a late development, at least in the form in which we are asked to accept them today, and the authority behind them is not that of the Catholic Church but of the Roman Church since the Reformation.

 This is not in itself a ground of condemnation.  They may be healthy and legitimate developments, a fresh adaptation of old forms of worship to meet new demands and circumstances.  We must examine them in the light of reason and of the fruits that they produce.

 Theologically it is hard to find a satisfactory defence.  We hold that the Christian religion has a twofold foundation, Christian experience and historic fact.  Both are necessary.  Each reinforces the other.  In order that experience may be kept Christian, it needs constantly to be tested by the New Testament.  In support of the doctrine of the Eucharist, we can appeal not only to Christian experience throughout the ages and to the intrinsic moral and spiritual value of its symbolism, but also to the mind and promise of Christ as revealed in the historical facts of its institution.  The sense of His presence and of the new life that He imparts is no mere product of collective imagination.  It is guaranteed by His actual word and act.  But there is nothing in His institution or in the outward signs to suggest in any way that He gave us the Eucharist in order that through the consecrated elements He might dwell among us today by an abiding external presence comparable to His presence during His life on earth.  “The Presence is given under a form which indicates that it is to be received.”  Any other use is not only unauthorized and goes beyond the declared purpose of Christ, but is in danger of obscuring that purpose by suggesting that “the value of the Sacrament is intended to reside in itself”. [W. Temple, Christus Veritas, p. 241.]  No doubt certain critics hold that the Eucharist was not instituted by Christ Himself, but by the Christian Church, in imitation of mystery cults, though under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  On this view it is quite possible to argue that the Church may be equally inspired to adapt it to new uses, and the appeal to historic fact falls to the ground.  Benediction may be defended, as it is by certain Modernists, as a piece of edifying symbolism, but no more.  This is perfectly consistent Modernism, but will hardly commend itself to most advocates of these practices.  It is precisely because we uphold both the importance of historic facts and also the objective nature of the Eucharistic Presence, that we hesitate to support these developments.  In the Church of Rome they are defended by an appeal to the infallible authority of the Church.  This is a dangerous argument for Anglicans, since the same authority pronounces that their orders are no orders and their sacraments are no sacraments.  Judged by the principles for which the Church of England stands, the theology of these practices is precarious.

Attention must be called to another theological danger.  While it is plain that they do not necessarily presuppose transubstantiation, yet as a matter of history their development was largely due to the promulgation of that doctrine, and the arguments commonly used by Roman Catholics to urge their value are bound up with transubstantiation.  The practice of visits to the Tabernacle is advocated on the ground that the Presence granted to the recipient in communion is withdrawn at a certain stage of the digestion of the elements.  Thus a writer in the Month can say, “Of course to have Him in our hearts in Holy Communion is more in itself than to have Him near to us in the tabernacle.  But we have Him in Holy Communion only for a few minutes at a time, and in proportion as we believe this and take it to heart is our desire to seek His Presence in the tabernacle again and again.”  Such theology is a denial of the truth that the sacred Humanity of Christ dwells in all true believers.  It is a practical contradiction of the teaching of S. John’s Gospel that union with the ascended Christ through the Holy Spirit maintained and deepened through the Sacraments is a better substitute for the relationship that the disciples enjoyed during His earthly ministry.

Again the Eucharist has many aspects.  It embraces in one glorious complexity the many-sided richness of Christian grace and truth.  It is the meal of God’s family, the means of fellowship both with Christ and with one another through Him, the Christian sacrifice, the commemoration of His redeeming victory on the Cross and so on.  It includes both the feeding of our souls and our self-oblation to the Father through Him.  The extra-liturgical use of the Sacrament tends to abstract and isolate one element, the Presence of Christ, and to destroy the proportion of truth so as to suggest a local and material Presence.  The whole conditions suggest a Presence on a level with the visible and material order.  “The Prisoner of the Tabernacle” is a phrase that sums up this tendency and is hard to reconcile with S. Paul’s vision of a Christ who fills all things.  The inevitable result of this emphasis is that a church where the Sacrament is not reserved is regarded as an “empty” church, a place where prayer is less effective and God further off.  All services, not only Mattins, but Evensong, which do not bear on the use of the Sacrament are to be depreciated.  The divine omnipresence is in danger of being forgotten.  It is one thing to regard the sacraments as the means by which One who is always present, becomes present in a unique and supremely characteristic manner for a special purpose.  It is quite another thing to limit His effective presence to the Sacramental presence.  There is a danger of encouraging a view of God which is less than Christian, and of ignoring His active presence in the universe.  We must always remember that the most fundamental question of all religion is our idea of God.

When we pass on to the fruits of these practices in life and devotion, from the nature of the case the evidence is less clear.  It cannot be denied that many find these forms of worship attractive, though their attraction seems to be limited to certain temperaments, and they repel many, where they are not enforced and where all criticism is not forbidden by the iron discipline of the Church of Rome.  Even though piety is stirred and the love of Christ deepened, as indeed we should expect from any forms of devotion that led men to contemplate Him, this does not prove that they are the best way.  History shows that the degradation of religion has often been the fruit of the surrender to the popular desire for forms of worship that roused the maximum of emotion with the minimum of moral and spiritual, not to say intellectual effort.  When we turn to the wider results of Counter-Reformation piety, while we gladly find much to admire, we do not believe that the very limited type of Christianity that is produced represents the highest Christian ideal.  One important and objective piece of evidence is the quality of the devotional literature that the cult has inspired.  If we take away those forms that are in origin Eucharistic, it is strangely sentimental and childish.  The worship of God demands all our faculties, reason included, and where reason is ignored poverty of worship must in the long run result.  The whole devotional atmosphere of modern Romanism is too often alien from that of the New Testament.  Not only do these innovations in worship tend as it were to swallow up and depreciate the recitation of the divine office until the whole of Christianity seems to centre round the Blessed Sacrament, but reason and conscience are starved.  Just as theology, if it is to remain alive and human, must keep in the closest touch with devotion and practical Christian effort, so devotion if it is not to become one-sided and relaxed, must not be divorced from the activity of the mind and the moral sense.*

[*The following considerations, among others, would probably now be urged by those who take a different view of extra-liturgical devotions from that maintained in the text.  (1) In the later Middle Ages the desire to see the Host at the elevation and the extra-liturgical use of the sacrament became dominating elements in popular eucharistic piety and tended to displace completely the participation of the people in the whole eucharistic action, especially since the reception of Holy Communion was very infrequent.  This represented a fundamental perversion of eucharistic doctrine and practice, and fully explains the strictures of the Reformers on any use of the sacrament outside the liturgy and their positive desire to insist on the participation of the people in the whole rite, to emphasize the reception of communion as integral to it, and to encourage more frequent reception.  In the situation then existing these measures were salutary and necessary.  (2) At the present day in the Church of England the question of extra-liturgical devotions arises in a context very different from that of mediaeval times.  In quarters where the desire for such devotions exists, frequent communion is usual and is not, according to the evidence available, endangered where these devotions are practised.  (3) If reservation be conceded, the devotional use of the reserved sacrament is not mainly, and certainly not exclusively, a doctrinal issue.  “The real question is, is the devotional use of the reserved sacrament a good and desirable kind of prayer?”  Can it be so ordered as to promote a right total eucharistic practice and not to disturb its true balance?  Much will depend not only on the whole context of teaching and practice in a particular parish in which the sacrament is used devotionally outside the liturgy, but also on the character of the prayers and hymns used in the special service.  If these are restricted to what is sound and healthy, it is unlikely that this form of devotion to our Lord can produce undesirable effects or lead to distorted views.]

A distinct question is that of church discipline.  Even if we grant that the extra-liturgical use of the Sacrament is desirable, it cannot be said that it is essential.  It falls within the power of the local church to regulate it.  All who by their own free choice are admitted to minister in the Church of England promise on oath to use only the services of the Book of Common Prayer or such as are ordained by lawful authority.  By Catholic custom the use of the reserved Sacrament falls under the control of the Bishop.  To hold Exposition or Benediction in defiance of the Bishop of the Diocese is an Anglican peculiarity for which there is nothing to be said from the standpoint of Catholic order.  It is indeed often argued that the parish priest has the inherent right to reserve for the sick in virtue of ancient canon law which has never been repealed.  Even this however is disputable in face not only of the long desuetude of the custom, but of the independent legislation in another sense, through the deliberate provision in the Prayer-Book of the office for private communion.  Even here if we are to have reservation, it should be by the authority of the episcopate.† [Provision for reservation under severe restrictions was made in Proposed Prayer-Book of 1928 (cp. the Book as proposed in 1927).  A parish priest who wishes to reserve continuously for the purpose of communion does not now in general find that episcopal assent is withheld.]

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