Sabbatical Day Nine and Ten – Notes
I have travelled along a road of rich discovery, where great mind stretching and deep heart warming truths of the Lord and his work in this world combine with practical application for church life. I have found Cranmer’s communion service was written for the revival of personal faith in Christ and for the creation of loving, united church families in superstitious, disordered, immoral pre-Reformation England.
When I set out, my aim was to help new Christians grasp what the words in the communion service mean. This is because we have seen people come to faith in Christ but then drift away from church, or not want to be baptised, partly because our worship experience is not as good as the nearby big network churches and partly because Anglican liturgy is very dense and the sacraments make little sense. In my studies, however, I have discovered hidden treasures of God’s will and seen new practical applications for the sacraments to church life. These are my most striking discoveries after a week and a half of reading.
Calvin’s doctrine of the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, is far more pneumatologically, Christologically and ecclesiastically nuanced and, therefore, much richer than most current evangelical and charismatic practices, my own included.
Calvin’s doctrine of Holy Communion has parallels with Trinitarian theology and orthodox Christology: Calvin’s doctrine is dependent on a full understanding of scripture and various interrelated doctrines (in this case, Christology, ecclesiology and pneumatology); the doctrine of the sacraments, as with all Calvin’s work, is ruthlessly logical, yet it is incomprehensible to finite human minds, as Calvin himself admits, and it is, therefore, mysterious.
A European post-Enlightenment rationalism may explain the reluctance of Western churches to entertain the notion of mystery, that true believers are united, really and substantially, with the body of Christ in the heavenly realms, and so with one another as one body, when sharing communion.
A widely accepted understanding of the function of the sacraments would move the focus and dependence of contemporary congregations away from the quality of the church meeting, oratory gifting or personality of the preacher. Our churches exist in a fickle consumer culture and depend largely on great worship experiences, gifted oration or even the attractive personality of the preacher for survival. When it is widely acknowledged that it God himself who speaks and it is He who works in the sacrament, then less attractive personalities, less gifted orators and less professional worship leaders (weak, cracked and broken clay jars) may be used mightily by God through the preaching of His word and the sign and seal of the Lord’s Supper. This should not encourage the appointment of ungodly men, nor sloppiness or laziness in preaching and presiding at communion, as Cranmer himself insisted that prayerful, charismatic (born again) and faithful ministers are necessary to communicate the urgency and immediacy of what God is doing in the communion service. It does mean that the church is less dependent on the ability of man and becomes more dependent on the power of God in the gospel through word and sacrament.
Cranmer’s chief aim when applying Calvin’s theology of the sacraments to church life was twofold: First, to produce a revivalistic change in the heart and life of people, that they would turn from sin and trust in Christ. Second, to create a loving, united, church family.
Cranmer’s opening rubric (see below) suggests a very different social context to our contemporary culture. Cranmer begins the communion service with an instruction to the curate to act appropriately toward those are are “an open and notorious evil liver, or have done any wrong to his neighbours by word or deed, so that the Congregation be hereby offended”. Cranmer’s world was not the refined, complex, multi-levelled society of post-Enlightenment, post-Christian, middle-class England, but rather the local parish of pre-Reformation, superstitious, disordered and immoral England. His aim was for all local members of a parish to be converted to Christ and to live together as one body. As England is showing signs of returning to a more superstitious age as well as the fragmentation of community and an increase in notorious evil-doing, some of which is now called good by our culture, the need for a better grasp of the work of God in the sacraments seems, to me, urgent.
The mystical union of Christ and his church through the sign and seal of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper has two significant applications to congregational life: the perseverance of the saints and the ex-communication of the notorious evil liver.
Regular communication is a means and sign of perseverance of the saints. Without receiving communion, when freely available, the believer cuts himself off from Christ as Cranmer writes “Wherefore, most dearly beloved in Christ, take ye good heed, lest ye, withdrawing yourselves from this holy Supper, provoke God’s indignation against you. It is an easy matter for a man to say, I will not communicate, because I am otherwise hindered with worldly business.” (BCP exhortation 2). The real and substantial union of believer with Christ, through the sacrament, when it is freely offered and available, is necessary for the perseverance of the saints. Giving up on communion is the same as giving up on Christ, because it is the pre-eminent act of faith in Christ and obedience to Christ, “Take! Eat! In remembrance of me.”
Ex-communication of a “notorious evil liver” is the first concern for Cranmer in his liturgy of communion, not the last resort for a church which has failed in all ways to disciple a notorious offender. Quick and effective church discipline is possible when ex-communication equates in our understanding to being cut off from Christ, really and substantially, risking eternity apart from him. To be reunited with Christ, the “notorious evil liver” must repent, make restitution and be reconciled to neighbour before being re-admitted to communion. Cranmer would expect the church to regularly and quickly ex-communicate anyone who is “an open and notorious evil liver, or have done any wrong to his neighbours by word or deed, so that the Congregation be hereby offended” in order to bring the offender to lively faith and to restore the loving, united church family.
The minister had significant authority with respect to the notorious evil liver to “call him, and advertise him, that in any wise he presume not to come to the Lord’s Table, until he hath openly declared himself to have truly repented and amended his former naughty life.” The authority to act this way, needs to be understood in light of Cranmer’s two aims: to restore the unrepentant to lively faith and Christian life and develop a loving, united church family.
The induction of a single vicar with the authority to ex-communicate creates the potential for two problems. First, the abuse of power or administration of injustice by the vicar. Second, when one of the parties “ betwixt whom … malice and hatred … reign; not suffering them to be partakers of the Lord’s Table, until he know them to be reconciled” is the vicar himself, who is excommunicated? Should the vicar be ex-communicated? And, if so, who presides at communion? Both these practical problems should be overcome by the appointment of two biblically literate church wardens or elders. A plurality of elders is biblically mandated, so that abuses of power and cases of injustice, against anyone in church, including the vicar, are avoided. In the latter case, if the vicar “be content to forgive from the bottom of his heart all that the other hath trespassed against him, and to make amends for that he himself hath offended”, according to Cranmer, then this should be made known by the wardens to the congregation and the offending party ex-communicated.
Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest
Analysis of the genuine revivalistic elements in the three principle liturgies of the BCP 1662
Thesis: Cranmer’s chief aim was to bring about personal conversion and acceptance of Christ by hearers of the liturgy making a decision for Christ. Cranmer also attached special importance to the gathering of the faithful into a loving fellowship. Revivalistic mentality places a high emphasis on mission and proclaims loyalty to Holy scripture as a force convicting men of their sins, repeatedly emphasising repentance, rebirth, sanctification and bearing witness.
Cranmer’s first concern is for all communicants to be genuinely repentant for sins committed against the community of the church and for those who are in dispute to be reconciled. The minister must first consider if anyone should be ex-communicated. He is to give time and space for the notorious evil liver to reflect, examine his life and repent, make restitution and be reconciled with individuals and with the whole church community. This is the opening exhortation in the BCP prayer book service:
And if any of those be an open and notorious evil liver, or have done any wrong to his neighbours by word or deed, so that the Congregation be hereby offended; the Curate, having knowledge there- of, shall call him, and advertise him, that in any wise he presume not to come to the Lord’s Table, until he hath openly declared himself to have truly repented and amended his former naughty life, that the Congregation may thereby be satisfied, which before were offended; and that he hath recompensed the parties, to whom he hath done wrong; or at least declare himself to be in full purpose so to do, as soon as he conveniently may.
The same order shall the Curate use with those, betwixt whom he perceiveth malice and hatred to reign; not suffering them to be partakers of the Lord’s Table, until he know them to be reconciled. And if one of the Parties, so at variance, be content to forgive from the bottom of his heart all that the other hath trespassed against him, and to make amends for that he himself hath offended; and the other Party will not be persuaded to a godly unity, but remain still in his frowardness and malice: the Minister in that case ought to admit the penitent person to the holy Communion, and not him that is obstinate. Provided that every Minister so repelling any, as is specified in this, or the next precedent paragraph of this Rubrick, shall be obliged to give an account of the same to the Ordinary within fourteen days after at the farthest. And the Ordinary shall proceed against the offending Person according to the Canon.
The opening prayer speaks of God as he who sees into all hearts and who knows all “secret” sins. The appeal is to the innermost core or heart of man.
Proclamation of the Ten Commandments
The standard and boundaries of the Ten Commandments set a target for the sanctification of the community. All members ascent to keeping the law, asking God to write it on their hearts.
The collect for the sovereign links the commandments to the rule of the government, under God, and the people under the government, which executes earthly justice, according to God’s law.
Revivalistic elements (highlighted in red) in the prayer for the church militant.
Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and Curates; that they may both by their life and doctrine set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy sacraments: And to all thy people give thy heavenly grace; and especially to this Congregation here present; that, with meek heart and due reverence, they may hear, and receive thy holy Word; truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.
Exhortations before communion
First exhortation focuses on being properly repentant before coming to communion. (Calvin’s theology of communion is highlighted in blue.)
I purpose, through God’s assistance, to administer to all such as shall be religiously and devoutly disposed the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; to be by them received in remembrance of his meritorious Cross and Passion, whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are made partakers of the kingdom of heaven. Wherefore it is our duty to render most humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God our heavenly Father, for that he hath given his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament. Which being so divine and comfortable a thing to them who receive it worthily, and so dangerous to them that will presume to receive it unworthily; my duty is to exhort you in the mean season to consider the dignity of that holy mystery, and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof; and so to search and examine your own consciences, and that not lightly, and after the manner of dissemblers with God: but so that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table.
The way and means thereto is; First, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God’s commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God, but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other; and being likewise ready to forgive others that have offended you, as you would have forgiveness of your offences at God’s hand; for otherwise the receiving of the holy Communion doth nothing else but increase your damnation. Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer, or be in malice, or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that holy Table; lest, after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul.
And because it is requisite, that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God’s mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Minister of God’s Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God’s holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.
The second exhortation focuses on persuading the reluctant to receive communion.
I intend, by God’s grace, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper: unto which, in God’s behalf, I bid you all that are here present; and beseech you, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, that ye will not refuse to come thereto, being so lovingly called and bidden by God himself. Ye know how grievous and unkind a thing it is, when a man hath prepared a rich feast, decked his table with all kind of provision, so that there lacketh nothing but the guests to sit down; and yet they who are called (without any cause) most unthankfully refuse to come. Which of you in such a case would not be moved? Who would not think a great injury and wrong done unto him? Wherefore, most dearly beloved in Christ, take ye good heed, lest ye, withdrawing yourselves from this holy Supper, provoke God’s indignation against you. It is an easy matter for a man to say, I will not communicate, because I am otherwise hindered with worldly business. But such excuses are not so easily accepted and allowed before God. If any man say, I am a grievous sinner, and therefore am afraid to come: wherefore then do ye not repent and amend? When God calleth you, are ye not ashamed to say ye will not come? When ye should return to God, will ye excuse yourselves, and say ye are not ready? Consider earnestly with yourselves how little such feigned excuses will avail before God. They that refused the feast in the Gospel, because they had bought a farm, or would try their yokes of oxen, or because they were married, were not so excused, but counted unworthy of the heavenly feast. I, for my part, shall be ready; and, according to mine Office, I bid you in the Name of God, I call you in Christ’s behalf, I exhort you, as ye love your own salvation, that ye will be partakers of this holy Communion. And as the Son of God did vouchsafe to yield up his soul by death upon the Cross for your salvation; so it is your duty to receive the Communion, in remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, as he himself hath commanded: which if ye shall neglect to do, consider with yourselves how great injury ye do unto God, and how sore punishment hangeth over your heads for the same; when ye wilfully abstain from the Lord’s Table, and separate from your brethren, who come to feed on the banquet of that most heavenly food. These things if ye earnestly consider, ye will by God’s grace return to a better mind: for the obtaining whereof we shall not cease to make our humble petitions unto Almighty God our heavenly Father.
DEARLY beloved in the Lord, ye that mind to come to the holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, must consider how Saint Paul exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves, before they presume to eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us;) so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord’s Body; we kindle God’s wrath against us; we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death. Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries. And above all things ye must give most humble and hearty thanks to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for the redemption of the world by the death and passion of our Saviour Christ, both God and man; who did humble himself, even to the death upon the Cross, for us miserable sinners, who lay in darkness and the shadow of death; that he might make us the children of God, and exalt us to everlasting life. And to the end that we should alway remember the exceeding great love of our Master and only Saviour Jesus Christ, thus dying for us, and the innumerable benefits which by his precious blood-shedding he hath obtained to us; he hath instituted and ordained holy mysteries, as pledges of his love, and for a continual remembrance of his death, to our great and endless comfort. To him therefore, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, let us give (as we are most bounden) continual thanks; submitting ourselves wholly to his holy will and pleasure, and studying to serve him in true holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. Amen.
Confession and Absolution
Gospel revivalism in the shape of the confession.
Creator of all things
Judge of all men
Bewail – manifold sins and wickedness
Provoked wrath and indignation
Heavy burden – conscience seared
Plea for mercy
Restoration and new life, following the commandments of God
“Hearty repentance and true faith.” – change of heart required for forgiveness
Words of administration
THE Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life: Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.
THE Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life: Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.
Duplex gracia – double grace – body of Christ given and faith as a gift of God.
Prayer of thanksgiving
Romans 12 – in view of God’s mercy we offer our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice. Revivalistic response.
This service is a liturgical echo of the theology of Martyr, Bucer and Hooper.
Leuenberger ends with a discourse on the Tractarian, Oxford Movement, and the effects which the key doctrines of this movement (Apostolic succession, the tradition of Rome and the efficacy of the sacraments) had on Anglican Liturgy and practice. Anglo Catholicism, says Leuenberger, is not revivalistic as it makes no appeal to the individual for a decision or personal sanctification and cannot, therefore, create the loving, united church family which Cranmer aimed for in his services. Communicants are not challenged in Anglo-Catholic liturgy to amend behaviour in accordance with the law of God. It is, therefore, a liturgical difference which divides the Church of England, as theologies are expressed in liturgy.
The Prayer Book Catechism
by Jim Rushton
A Model For 2010 Discipleship Training?
63 years ago, in a working class community, I was made to learn the Prayer Book Catechism as a seven year old in my Primary School! How times have changed in six decades! If the BCP is opened at all today probably the Catechism is one of the least visited sections. It was Cranmer’s standard form of training for baptised children, (which meant virtually every child!), and also for any adult who desired to be baptised and confirmed.
Cranmer’s catechism, which was learned by rote by all baptised children before they could be confirmed. Cranmer distinguishes between outward signs and inward grace. The outward sign of the Lord’s Supper is bread and wine. The inward grace is the body and blood of Christ, received by faith, for the strengthening and refreshing of our souls.
BCP Catechism 1662 – section 5 on the sacraments
HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Question. What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?
Answer. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.
Question. How many parts are there in a Sacrament?
Answer. Two: the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.
Question. What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism?
Answer. Water: wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Question. What is the inward and spiritual grace?
Answer. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.
Question. What is required of persons to be baptized?
Answer. Repentance, whereby they forsake sin: and faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promises of God, made to them in that Sacrament.
Question. Why then are infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform them?
Answer. Because they promise them both by their sureties: which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.
Question. Why was the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ordained?
Answer. For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby.
Question. What is the outward part or sign of the Lord’s Supper?
Answer. Bread and Wine, which the Lord hath commanded to be received.
Question. What is the inward part, or thing signified?
Answer. The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.
Question. What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?
Answer. The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the Bread and Wine.
Question. What is required of them who come to the Lord’s Supper?
Answer. To examine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins, stedfastly 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.