604 Jarvis St. Toronto
Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2016
There are some obvious misprints, also there is an omission on page 9. After the paragraph beginning “Here are two modern Anglican forms” and before “Wherefore” should appear this heading The American Prayer, used since 1789. (The Scottish one is almost the same.)
On page 30 after The South African Prayer ending “ . . . . everlasting salvation” and before the paragraph beginning “Wherefore, having in remembrance etc.” should appear the title The Prayer in the United Church Book of Common Order, (page 80).
Proposed Canadian Revision
presented to General Synod in 1955
IT IS very meet, right, and our bounden, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Everlasting God, (the Creator and Preserver of all things, through Jesus Christ our Lord.)
THEREFORE, with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee and saying:
HOLY, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord most high.
(Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.)
BLESSING and glory and thanksgiving [3/4] be unto thee Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to take our nature upon him and to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption; who made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us, to continue, a perpetual memorial of that his precious death until his coming again.
HEAR us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and grant that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood; who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took Bread; and, when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat: this is my Body which is given for you; Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper he took the Cup; and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for [4/5] many for the remission of sins; Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.
WHEREFORE, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, in union with all thy holy Church, we thy humble servants remember before thee the precious death, the mighty resurrection, and the glorious ascension of thy beloved Son; And looking for his coming in glory, we present unto thy divine Majesty this holy Bread of eternal life and this Cup of everlasting salvation; And we entirely desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully, to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole church may obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of his passion. And we pray that by the power of thy Holy Spirit, all we who are partakers of this holy Communion may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction; through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.
 Blessing and Glory and
In the proposed revision of the Prayer Book which received general approval at the General Synod in Edmonton in September, 1955, the Prayer of Consecration is revised. This is the most important prayer in the Communion and in the whole Book.
In the earliest liturgies and accounts of the Eucharist which have come down to us there seems to have been but one prayer in the Communion Service proper. Prayers for the faithful people were offered in the ante-communion, but in the Eucharist itself there was one Great Prayer which contained all that was to be said. This prayer seems always in the early times to have had the form of a thanksgiving. Our Lord blessed Bread and Cup when he “gave thanks”. It is not to be wondered at that the Church followed His example. The old Hebrew method of calling down a blessing from God was to give thanks over what was to be blessed by blessing God for his good gifts.
The early forms of this great Prayer which have come down to us and also all the historic liturgies from every part [6/7] of Christendom have certain features in common.
They begin “It is very meet, right, etc., that we should give thanks.” Then they go on to give thanks for God’s mighty works in creation and in the redemption of mankind by the gift of his dear Son. They speak of that dear Son’s unique offering of himself for us upon the cross and they recite the account of his institution of the holy sacrament which he commanded us to continue. Then they go on to say that because of this command we do remember him before the Father in all his redeeming work, his death, resurrection and ascension and this we do by taking, blessing and receiving the broken Bread and the Cup of blessing which we offer to him praying that by the operation of his Holy Spirit all who partake may receive the grace of a good communion. This prayer is offered “through Jesus Christ, by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end.” To which the people make answer “Amen,” so making the thanksgiving their own, and bearing witness to the priestly nature of the whole [7/8] Church and Body of Christ the great High Priest.
Other elements came into the Prayer in some places and in later times but what is given above would seem to be the primitive form. Later on other prayers came into the Service for instance, when the bread and wine were brought with the other offerings to the Holy Table a prayer for their presentation was said. This was often a silent prayer, perhaps at first the celebrant’s private prayer. Intercessions for the offerers and for the whole Christian Church tended to gather round this later prayer. At first there were no prayers after the reception of communion, but later on most Churches provided some form of thanksgiving for spiritual food or prayers for the perseverance of those about to go back to their daily duties. And good deal later came prayers of confession, penitence and humble access before receiving communion. All these later prayers took some element already present in the Great Prayer and expanded it and made it more explicit. This involved a certain amount of redundancy, and still does so. This is not bad, for our minds being apt to wander, and being slow [8/9] on the uptake it is as well that there be some repetition of important matters. If, however, repetitions were to be removed for our later Liturgies, then this should be done by removing them from the later prayers, not from the Great Prayer of Consecration.
Our proposed revision of the Great Prayer in the revised Book has brought it more obviously into line with the primitive form. It is now linked to the first part of the thanksgiving which begins: “It is meet, right, and our bounded duty that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks.” This is done by removing the Prayer of Humble Access to a better place, immediately before receiving Communion, and by prefixing to the Prayer of Consecration the words “Blessing and glory and thanksgiving be unto thee,” which follows upon the Sanctus or Benedictus, and makes it clear that we are following our Lord’s example who “gave thanks”. Then the Prayer goes on as at present, after the insertion of a reference to our Lord taking our nature upon him, to recite before the Father the all-sufficient sacrifice offered by his Son. Next, we make mention of how our Lord did institution the perpetual [9/10] of his precious death, and commanded us to continue the same until his coming again. (Jesus started it. We keep up what he started.) This leads us to pray that God will ratify what we do, so that we may be partakers of the Body and Blood of His Son. Next we recite what the Lord did and said when he instituted the Sacrament. This is our warrant for what we do, and shows the intention with which we take, bless and receive the Bread and the Cup. Then as a corporate act of the whole Church, we remember before God His beloved Son, his Cross, Resurrection and Ascension. That act of remembrance we make by taking, blessing and receiving this holy Bread of eternal life, and this Cup of everlasting salvation. We must go on doing this until His coming again. Accordingly we present these holy tokens to the divine Majesty, and pray Him to receive this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving on behalf of His whole Church, and to grant, by the power of the Holy Sprit, that all who partake of this holy Communion may be filled with grace and blessing. All this we do through Jesus Christ the great High-priest [10/11] “by whom and with whom, etc.” all glory is given to the Father.
It will be seen that while using largely the familiar words of our present Prayer Book, the Prayer has been brought back into line with the Consecration Prayers of the oldest liturgies with their strong element of worship and thanksgiving.
The Bread of Life and Cup of
This is a study of the proposed revision of the Prayer of Consecration in the Draft Book which was presented to General Synod in Edmonton in September, 1955. It is more especially an examination of the phrase in that proposed Prayer “and looking for his coming again in glory, we present unto thy Divine Majesty this holy Bread of eternal life, and this Cup of everlasting salvation.”
The Holy Communion is a means of grace from God. The consecrated Bread and Cup are the tokens of that grace and also the effectual means whereby the faithful receive that grace. The proposed version of the Catechism says “Grace is God’s free and living gift of [11/12] himself to us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The Holy Communion is also an act of worship to God. It is the Church’s central act of worship. Of what nature is this act of worship. Holy Communion is an act of thanksgiving, a thank offering. Holy Communion is an act of remembrance “in remembrance of me.” Holy Communion is an act of obedience “Do this,” a duty and service. What is this holy action? Take Bread and Cup. Give thanks over (bless) Bread and Cup. Receive that broken Bread and that Cup of blessing, the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. This holy Bread of eternal life and this Cup of everlasting salvation we present as tokens of our thanksgiving, remembrance, and obedience. “Blessing and glory and thanksgiving.”
An act of Thanksgiving
We are permitted by God to provide the material gifts needed for this holy action. They are the elements of bread and wine which are the fruit of our labours and the labours of our brethren, token offerings to God of our daily life and work of all the members of Christ’s [12/13] Body the Church. As we give them to him we thank him for all his gifts so freely bestowed on us of which the Bread and Cup are tokens.
Our Lord Jesus is still the true celebrant at his Supper. He uses the lips and hands of his earthly minister the priest to bless and break the Bread and to bless the Cup and to deliver the same to his people. But He is the real celebrant present as the Master at his own Table. It is He who takes the Bread and the Cup and consecrates them to be the Sacrament. That means that they are “no longer common Bread but eucharist, consisting of two things an earthly and a heavenly” (Irenaeus, Ad. Haer. iv, xviii, 5). Our catechism teaches us what the outward and inward part of the sacrament is. These gifts of bread and wine are tokens of our daily duties done to “show forth God’s praise not only with our lips but in our lives by giving up ourselves to his service.” But our duties are always done imperfectly. We are unprofitable servants. But these gifts of bread and wine are graciously hallowed and blessed by our dear Lord himself by his acceptance of them for this holy use. They no longer represent only [13/14] our imperfect service, but also his perfect work shown forth in his life and death, resurrection and ascension, a work carried out in his own flesh and blood. So we dare to present them to the divine Majesty for this holy use in union with all his whole Church and through our Lord Jesus, and by the wounded hands of our Lord Jesus who takes them and blesses them, and along with our Lord Jesus who commands us to continue what He instituted until his coming again. Accordingly in union with all his Holy Church and “looking for his coming again in glory, we present unto thy Divine Majesty this holy Bread of eternal life and this Cup of everlasting salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty.”
This act of worship, the Holy Communion is more than mental gratitude, it is a thankoffering, an act of thanksgiving not only of each individual, but a corporate act of the whole Church in union with the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. It consists of the taking, blessing and receiving of this holy [14/15] Bread and Cup of salvation, and is not complete apart from reception. Therefore we say “we present . . . this holy Bread of eternal life and Cup of everlasting salvation” and go on at once to speak of the same as “this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving”, and to pray for the benefits of a good communion.
An Act of Remembrance
“We remember before Thee”
This act of worship, the Holy Communion, is also an act of remembrance. It is not only the mental recollection of our Lord by each individual but the corporate memory of the Body of Christ, the whole Church, Head and members. It is a corporate act of remembrance performed by the whole Body headed by our Lord “who did institute, and . . . command us to continue” this action of taking and blessing and receiving the broken Bread and Cup of blessing. It is an act of remembrance of Him “remembrance of me,” not only of his death, but of Him in all His redeeming work: His incarnation and birth, His holy life, His institution of this sacrament, His all-sufficient sacrifice and death once for all upon the Cross, His [15/16] resurrection and ascension, and His heavenly intercession and sending to us the Holy Spirit. “Do this in remembrance of me”, for my anamnesis,” may be paraphrased, “Do this to recall me, to bring me back again.” He is present at His table, the Master at His own feast, the real celebrant of the sacrament, the great High Priest. When we “do this” He is present in all His redeeming activity so that what was done once for all long ago, perfect and finished, is made present and available for us who come after. We can put out the hand of faith at any time, and moment by moment at all times, and appropriate the blessings wrought for us by His redemption. This “Sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death” Art. 28, is a “certain sure witness” of God’s goodness not only in the mighty work wrought upon the Cross once for all long ago, but His goodness in making that work available to us here and now. The blessings which we can appropriate are “the remission of sins and all other benefits of his passion”. The Sacrament is a pledge to assure us that our Lord gave himself for us. “My Body given for you,” “My Blood . . . shed for you and for [16/17] many for the remission of sins.” He is both the gift and the giver, the victim and the offerer, the Lamb and the Priest. He gave Himself to the Father on our behalf. So we pleaded all that He did and is still doing for us as we “remember before the Father, the precious death, the mighty resurrection and the glorious ascension of his beloved Son; and looking for His coming again in glory, present unto the divine Majesty this holy Bread of eternal life and Cup of everlasting salvation.” The broken Bread of eternal life and Cup of blessing are the tokens of His redemptive work. They are tokens, not of our invention, but of His institution. We present them as such. We go on to complete this act of remembrance by receiving them as effectual means of grace by which we may appropriate and ever find within ourselves the fruit of his redemption. By presenting these holy gifts to God we show that this sacrament is an act of worship as well as a means of grace.
The Holy communion then is an act of worship to Almighty God. It is an act of remembrance consisting of the taking of the Bread and Cup, the blessing of them and the receiving of them. [17/18] It is only because Jesus also takes (accepts), blesses and gives that the act has any value or acceptability with God. He says: “This is My Body which is given for you; My Blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.”
An Act of Obedience
“Commanded us to continue”
The Holy Communion is an act of worship for it is an act of obedience. Our whole duty of living a life of obedience to God comes to a head and is translated into an act of corporate worship in this holy Sacrament. We “do this” in obedience to his dying command. So it becomes a token of all our obedience to Him, just as at the last Supper, it was a token of all our Lord’s obedience to the Father, His obedience even unto death. Hours before his actual death He spoke these words “This is my Body which is given for you.” He spoke of it as though already given, for in will and in intention He gave Himself then and there while He was still a free man. He did not wait until disobedient brethren seized Him and nailed Him to the Tree. By His [18/19] words and actions at the holy Table He dedicated His Body and Blood to that mighty work, to be that all-sufficient sacrifice of Himself which He was to make next day upon the Cross. He could still have left the Upper Room, and made His way back safely to Galilee when He said these sacrificial words of dedication and consecration: “This is my Body which is given for you,” “This is my Blood which is shed.” He speaks of it as though already done, for He gave Himself of His own free will before ever the Cross was laid upon Him. He is a true priest, a true offerer and His offering is Himself which He freely gives for the life, “the eternal life,” of the world. His act of obedience on the cross makes up to His Father for all the disobedience and neglect of his other children, yours and mine. He satisfies the loving heart of the Father who longs to see perfection of obedience in His children. He makes “full satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” Here is a beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased. He is obedient even though it means death at the hands of the disobedient brethren. In union with our Lord and all his Church “we present unto the divine Majesty this [19/20] holy Bread of eternal life and this Cup of everlasting salvation” the tokens of His obedience and of ours. The act of obedience must be completed by the reception of communion. “Bread” and “Cup” speak of food to be received. The presentation of the holy gifts shows that this sacrament is an action of worship as well as a means of grace.
Two warnings have been voiced by devout scholars concerning this form of words. It is right that they be voiced lest these words be misinterpreted. The fear was expressed that these words were ambiguous and might be interpreted in the late mediaeval fashion as implying:
(a) A supposed reimmolation our Lord in the Sacrament.
(b) A vain effort to add something to His all-sufficient sacrifice.
(c) A vain effort to give God something to win His forgiveness,
and secondly that the form is unscriptural.
The forms of words “we present unto thy divine Majesty this holy Bread of [20/21] eternal life and Cup of everlasting salvation” is much more than ambiguous. It is, to invent a word, “multiguous.” I believe that with continuous use we shall find in these words a more and more satisfying expression fo the many facets of our love and gratitude to God. The prayers of the primitive liturgies are not illogical, but they are better than logical, they are imaginative and suggestive like the Psalms. They are acts of devotion not legal instruments that must carry a complex of saving clauses. But this particular form of words could never contain the meaning feared by those who warn us. In the first place the words themselves contain no suggestion of a new immolation, of an addition to the all-sufficient sacrifice of the cross or of placating God with some other offering. Again they are further safeguarded by that glorious phrase which precedes them “who made there (on the cross) by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” Then again these words “we present . . . this holy Bread, etc.,” are followed at once by words which define the meaning of our action. “And we [21/22] entirely desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.” And then we go on again to plead the once offered sacrifice of our Lord which is shown forth by this holy Bread and Cup of salvation which we receive, for we say “humbly beseeching thee to grant that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ and through faith in his blood we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of his passion.”
Surely nothing could be better safeguarded from misinterpretation. Will it be misinterpreted? Perhaps it will. Our dear Lord took a big risk when he said: “This is my Body which is given for you, Do this in remembrance of me.” Those holy words will also be misinterpreted by a few. Many passages of Scripture are misinterpreted.
What about the other fear that these words are unscriptural in this position. It is true that there is no one certain text of the New Testament which shows that these very words were used in blessing the Bread and Cup in the Lord’s Supper. The same is true of a number of other practices of the Church. There is no clear text to show that infants [22/23] were baptized, or that prayer was said that the water might be sanctified to the washing away of sin, or that the Holy Spirit was invoked that those who received the sacrament might receive the grace of a good communion. The Puritans objected to the surplice, the sign of the cross in baptism, and the ring in marriage because these lesser matters were not mentioned in the New Testament. But these greater and lesser practices have been retained by the church because they are not forbidden in the New Testament, neither are they repugnant to the same. Dr. J. H. Srawley, late chancellor of Lincoln, says in his book, “The Early History of the Liturgy,” pages 15, 16:
“St. Paul refers to the practice at Corinth of bringing provisions for the holy meal. . . . This practice survived . . . and attached itself to the conception of the Eucharist as a ‘thankoffering’ or ‘oblation of gifts’ which appears in the accounts of Clement, Justin and Irenaeus.” “The transference by Apostolic writers to the Christian life and its duties of the sacrificial language of the Old Testament created a new Christian terminology, in which sacrificial terms were freely applied to the [23/24] spiritual acts of worship of believers. Thus St. Paul speaks of himself as ‘the minister’ (or ‘ministering priest’ leitourgon) of Jesus Christ, doing the sacrificial work (hierourgounta) of the Gentiles, that the offering (phosphora) of the Gentiles may be acceptable (euprosdektos) sanctified in the Holy Spirit (hegiasmene en pneumati hagio)”. “St. Peter speaks of Christians forming ‘a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood (hierateuma) to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ In Hebrews reference is made to the Christian altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve tabernacles. The readers are bidden to offer up a sacrifice of praise (thusian aineseos) through Jesus Christ continually.” . . . “Such language supplied Christian devotion with a means of expression its own highest conceptions when engaged in public worship, and helped to create a liturgical phraseology, which in time became stereotyped and found a permanent place in the written liturgies of the Church.” He goes on to point out that the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Revelation played a large part in guiding [24/25] Christian devotion in connection with the Eucharist.
Words of like meaning with “present . . . this holy Bread, etc.” are found at this point in all the earliest liturgies which have come down to us. Some are very early, for instance that of Hippolytus. There would seem little likelihood that so soon corruption could have set in or words repugnant to the teaching of the holy Apostles have been adopted by the persecuted Church. Then when we find that all the historic liturgies, many of them used in places far distance from one another contain some such form of words at this point, then it is hard to believe that they are repugnant to holy Scripture when rightly interpreted. Moreover, references by early writers such as Clement, Justin and Irenaeus make it almost certain that some such words must have been in use in the liturgies with which they celebrated the Holy Communion.
Must we put into these words all the meanings I have suggested above? No, not necessarily. The words are open to these meanings, but not open to meanings that we are trying to supplement our Lord’s sacrifice once offered. What they say is very simple: “Heavenly [25/26] Father, we thank thee for giving thy Son to make an all-sufficient sacrifice of himself once for all for us, and because he commanded us to perform this holy action of taking, breaking and blessing and receiving the Bread saying, ‘This is my Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me,’ and taking and blessing the Cup and saying, ‘This is my Blood of the New Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this as oft as ye shall drink it in remembrance of me,’ therefore we remember him and his redeeming work before thee. And while we wait his coming we present this holy Bread and Cup consecrated for this holy use in obedience to him as our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, pleading his merits and death for ourselves and all our brethren, and pray that by the operation of the Holy Spirit all who partake of this holy communion may receive grace and benediction, all of which we do through Jesus Christ our Lord to thy glory.”
It is to be hoped that churchmen of all schools of thought can with a good conscience use this simple form of words as the verbal expression of [26/27] what we should say to God as we go on to receive this holy Sacrament.
A reviewer in the Living Church*, [* The Living Church is printed in Milwaukee, U.S.A.] August 21, 1955, says of the Canadian revision of the Prayer of Consecration, “Commonly accepted results of liturgical scholarship are seen in a number of places.” “The clearest examples are in the Office of Holy Communion.” Speaking of the Prayer of Consecration he says, “The result is a prayer neatly related to its context, well rounded out in its shape and conclusion, longer and fuller than the overly brief one of 1662, but less verbose and drawn out than that of the present American Prayer Book.”
Quotations from early Christian
Justin Martyr, Dial. 41 (about A.D. 150): “The Bread of the Eucharist is offered as a memorial of the passion.” He refers also to Malachi 1:11 “And in every place incense shall be offered unto my Name and a pure offering, for my Name shall be great among the [27/28] nations.” He sees this fulfilled in the Eucharist.
Irenaeus, Ad. Haer. lv. 29.5; 31.1, 4, speaks of the Eucharist as “the new oblation of the new covenant” and “pure sacrifice” and also refers to Mal. 1: 11. The earlies liturgy which has come down to us and which represents the rite as celebrated in Rome soon after A.D. 200 has these words after the account of the institution “Wherefore, in remembrance of his death and resurrection we offer to thee the Bread and the Cup giving thanks to thee that thou has counted us worthy to stand before thee and to render priestly service unto thee. And we pray thee to send thy Holy Spirit upon the oblation of Holy Church; do thou gather into one and grant to all thy saints who partake that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit, for the strengthening of faith in truth, that we may praise and glorify thee through Jesus etc.”
The Liturgy of Serapion in Egypt has words to the same effect. The earliest Latin Prayer of Consecration that we possess is that of St. Ambrose in Milan. It is the parent rite of the one brought by St. Augustine to England and which afterwards was revised into the rite of Sarum. Here is the part following the [28/29] words of institution from De Sacramentis (iv.) about A.D. 387: “Wherefore in remembrance of his most glorious passion and resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven, we present unto thee this unspotted and reasonable offering and one without any shedding of blood, even this holy Bread and Cup of everlasting life.”
The great Liturgy of St. Chrysostom used for over a thousand years in the eastern Orthodox Churches has these words after the words of institution: “Wherefore in remembrance of his saving command, and of all that was done for us, the Cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at thy right hand, the second glorious coming again: We offer unto thee this reasonable service without any shedding of blood.”
Here are two modern Anglican forms of words used at this point just after the words of institution.
“Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, we, thy humble servants do celebrate and make here before thy Majesty, with these holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make.”
 The South African Prayer
“Having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, we do render unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same; and, looking for his coming again with power and great glory, we offer here unto thy divine Majesty this holy Bread of eternal life and this Cup of everlasting salvation.”
“Wherefore, having in remembrance his precious death and passion, his glorious resurrection and ascension, and pleading his eternal sacrifice, we thy servants do set forth this memorial which he hath willed us to make, giving thee thanks that thou hast counted us worthy to stand before thee, etc.”
This may be followed by a Prayer (on page 87): “O most merciful God behold this our offering and have regard to the sacrifice offered once for all upon the Cross.”
There is less need of fear of mediaeval corruptions now than there was some years ago. The great Anglican scholars have taught us to look behind the middle ages to the primitive Church for liturgical knowledge. Frere, Gavin, Srawley, Dix have done this. Even in the Roman [30/31] Church there is the same tendency among the best scholars which has led to a Liturgical Movement of reform both of interpretation and of the rites themselves all along the line of going back to primitive liturgies and getting away from late mediaeval interpretations.
It is Article 31 which deals with false teaching about the Eucharistic sacrifice. It first of all states positively the glorious truth that the Offering of Christ once made is that perfect propitiation for the sins of the whole world and that there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. This is the great Catholic truth which must always be safeguarded. False teaching concerning the Eucharist was rife in the Church at the time of the Reformation when the Articles were written and has been rife in some places since. The Eucharist was interpreted as a new sacrifice in which as the article says, “it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain and guilt.” Each Mass was considered as having a value of its own, something additional which was offered, so that two Masses were worth [31/32] twice as much as one. This made it clear that the Mass was looked upon as another sacrifice over and above that of the Cross. The Article accordingly condemns “the sacrifices of Masses,” note the plural. It does not condemn the true eucharistic sacrifice. “We present unto thy divine Majesty this holy Bread of eternal life, and this Cup of everlasting salvation.” Do these words sound like a new, an additional offering of Christ by the priest for the quick and the dead to obtain remission of pain and guilt? Do they sound like an offering over and above that of the Cross to satisfy sin? No, they contain no hint of any such idea. They do imply that the Eucharist is an act of worship. They do imply that sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving which the Christian Church has always offered by means of the Holy Bread of life and Cup of everlasting salvation which, in obedience to our Lord’s command, and in union with Him and His offering of Himself for us once on the Cross we take, bless, and receive. They are the tokens and material means of our great Christian act of worship, and the tokens and means of our spiritual nourishment with the Body and Blood of Christ. It is right that we should present them and [32/33] all that we do in obeying our Lord’s command to his Father as our act of worship.
Article 31 was composed at a time when the evils of the traffic in masses, especially for the dead, was part of the experience of most churchmen. It seemed necessary to speak very strongly against this false teaching about the nature of the Holy Communion. The teaching of the Article is therefore negative on the subject. In 1897 the Pope condemned Anglican Orders, and declared them null and void. In doing so he misrepresented Anglican teaching on the eucharistic sacrifice. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York made a dignified reply to the Pope, in which they made it clear that we do have a true and primitive doctrine of the eucharistic sacrifice. Here are some of their words.
“We truly teach the doctrine of the eucharistic sacrifice, and do not believe it to be ‘a nude commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross.’ “In the liturgy which we use in celebrating the Holy Eucharist . . . first we offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, then next we plead and represent before the Father the Sacrifice of the Cross, and by it we confidently entreat the remission [32/33] of sins and all the other benefits of the Lord’s passion for all the whole Church. And lastly we offer the sacrifice of ourselves to the Creator of all things, which we have already signified by the oblation of his creatures. This whole action, in which the people has necessarily to take its part with the priest, we are accustomed to call the Eucharistic Sacrifice.” A little later in their reply the Archbishops go on to show that the modern Roman Catholic Church sometimes misinterprets her own Great Prayer of Consecration. They give a scholarly commentary on that very ancient prayer, and show that rightly understood it implies the same primitive teaching on the eucharistic sacrifice as that of the Anglican communion. Among other things they say “It is an offering to his Majesty of his own gifts and boons . . . which are called the holy Bread of eternal life and Cup of everlasting salvation.” Finally they bring their masterly commentary on this holy Sacrament to a conclusion with these words: “The sacrifice of the eternal Priest and the sacrifice of the Church are in some way certainly one.” That is the great positive truth which makes impossible any idea of a fresh immolation of Christ in the Eucharist, or of any supplement [34/35] or addition to His all sufficient sacrifice. There are the two sides to the coin. Every sacrifice needs a ceremonial accompaniment to show that it is a sacrifice and to show the meaning and intention of the sacrifice. When our Lord died on the Cross there was not at that moment any possibility of an accompanying ceremony to show that this was far more than a judicial murder. But our Lord had already provided the accompanying ceremony in those last moments of his freedom before his arrest, when in the upper room at the holy Table he had taken the Bread and Cup and said those mysterious words “This is my Body which is given for you” “My Blood of the new Covenant shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.” These words and actions showed that he gave Himself freely for us, His death was a true sacrifice He spoke his Blood as though already shed. He expressed the intention for which His sacrifice “for the remission of sins”. This is the ceremonial accompaniment, the taking, blessing, breaking and receiving the Bread, the Body of the Lord. The taking, blessing and receiving of the Cup, his precious Blood. The Cross is once for all. It never can be repeated, for it needs no repetition, [35/36] but the ceremonial accompaniment of the Lord’s Supper. He commands us to continue until He comes in glory. This ceremonial accompaniment is the Church’s sacrifice of thanksgiving, remembrance and obedience. It is the accompanying ceremony to His once offered sacrifice, and it becomes the ceremonial accompaniment of our sacrifice of ourselves in union with Him. The Church and the body of Christ heaves itself up to the Father followings its Head, it is rather that the Head lifts us up and presents us to the Father, and we are accepted in the Beloved. The sacrifice of the Church and of the Cross are in some way certainly one. Therefore “Looking for His coming again in glory we present” this Holy Bread of eternal life and cup of everlasting salvation.
Note on the Thanksgiving after
The Revisers were anxious that the Prayer of Consecration should not be overly long. There is a certain lag and anticlimax in the American and Scottish prayers. In the Canadian revision the climax of the Prayer of Consecration is still our Lord’s own words of institution. The amount of material in the thanksgiving [36/37] which goes before and which begins “It is very meet, right etc.”, is somewhat greater than that which follows the words of institution. So the prayer not only has an artistic shape but avoids an anticlimax. Had all the material in the Prayer of Oblation “O Lord and heavenly Father” been inserted in the Prayer of Consecration this balance would have been upset.
Then again, devout persons have been accustomed to the four hundred year old usage of offering themselves their souls and bodies to God after they had been assured of their place in the mystical Body and of their union with our Lord by having received communion. Many such devout persons were keen that we did not upset this devotional sequence. Again the scholar Dr. Gregory Dix in his very learned and illuminating work “The Shape of the Liturgy” pages 666 and 731 deprecated the introduction of self-oblation in these particular words into the Prayer of Consecration. He considered it Pelagian. Many of us would disagree with this extreme statement. We might however agree that it is better to confine the Prayer of Consecration to mighty acts which God does in Christ. But self-oblation should find a place in the rite. Some have suggested [37/38] that the offertory is the place for this. We have introduced an offertory sentence along this line “that ye present your bodies etc.” Rom. 12. The thought at the offertory is perhaps more the offering of our life and labours. The offering of our selves our souls and bodies goes deeper. Why not retain it in the postcommunion section? Next we looked at the Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion, “Almighty and everliving God.” This is one of the least satisfactory prayers in the Liturgy. The material is all good but the prayer is much too involved and brings in too many ideas. It hardly needs to be said that this sacrament assures us of God’s favour and goodness towards us. The “that we are heirs through hope etc.” introduces another idea, good in itself but making the prayer too complicated. There is also that antique and not very euphonious word “vouchsafe”. The main subject of the prayer is the mystical Body of Christ and our place and duty in the same. We therefore simplified the prayer as follows.
“Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee that thou dost graciously feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son [38/39] our Saviour Jesus Christ, assuring us thereby that we are living members of His mystical body, which is the blessed company of all faithful people: And we most humbly beseech thee so to assist us with thy grace, that we may ever continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou has prepared for us to walk in.”
Then we saw that this was a most suitable place for self-oblation. Assured of our place in the mystical body, we pray for grace to do the works of the body and then we offer ourselves our souls and bodies to carry out these good works.
“And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto thee; And although we be unworthy, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; through Jesus Christ etc.”
So strengthened with the Bread of life we dedicate ourselves to God’s service and go back to our daily duties to be hands and feet, legs and hearts for Him with which He will carry on His work of mercy in the world.
“Let them depart with the blessing”