Project Canterbury

The Prayer Book: Our Hope and Meaning

By Randall Thomas Davidson

London: Hodder and Stoughton, [1928]

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010


A Plea for Understanding

IN a few days' time the Prayer Book Measure will again be before Parliament.

I want to write something about it, different in character and shape from the official utterances and speeches which it has fallen to me to make with terrible frequency during the last two years or more. On an Archbishop's part those speeches were essential and obligatory. This Letter (for so I shall call it) is not, but I want to write it, and I venture to hope that it may be read by some people who have the religious well-being of England at heart, but who find the ecclesiastical discussions either irritating or puzzling or intolerably dull. I do not want the Letter to be a mere advocate's plea for the [7/8] acceptance of the Revised Book. I hope the Book will be accepted, and I shall presently say why. But in my position as Archbishop I do honestly try to look with fairness upon the whole field, or the whole flock, and never to belittle the arguments or forget the legitimate contention of those who think that its acceptance would be a mistake. It is in what I believe to be the true interest of the whole Church that I issue this plea for the right understanding of the situation--of the call that it makes to us and of the duties which it involves.

Now and then I sit down quietly in my armchair and after recalling the conversations of the previous day or two, or the newspaper correspondence of the hour, I ask, in thought, "What on earth is the British public really making of all this to-do about the Prayer Book?" Then I think over the vehement and often opposite views of different groups of rough and ready critics: "How you ecclesiastics do wrangle! I wish you would preach the Gospel and let these strifes alone!" Or, from another quarter, "This [8/9] bandying about of sacred things in the daily Press and in violent leaflets is most painful and irreverent. It does untold mischief!" Or, again, "What a bewildering maze of wordy talk about mere trifles--talk largely incomprehensible to many of us!" Or, again, "You clergy forget the ingrained Protestantism of England and how we uprooted and discarded archaic and mediaeval ways and words four hundred years ago. We dare say you mean no mischief, but we cannot help seeing in some of your suggestions what looks to us like the thin end of the wedge." Then comes something equally trenchant on the other side, and so I might easily run on, for the voices are many. If it has startled most of us to find how rife in utterance they are, it has also cheered us too to see how widely the interest in the subject is just now permeating English homes.

What I am really anxious about is that our endeavours in introducing the new Prayer Book should, in the midst of the comment and criticism, be fairly understood.

[10] I should greatly like to persuade some of you who read this Letter to put yourselves in the position of those--myself among the number--on whom in regard to this bit of English history some responsibility for leadership and action has been laid. Why is it that we have set our hands to the task of revising the Prayer Book, and what, as a matter of fact, is the real nature and difficulty of that task? These are the two points on which I ask you once more to give me a fair hearing. Further discussion in Parliament is imminent. I have no other wish than that every man will vote according to his conscientious convictions, provided he has sufficiently considered what our endeavour is, and what are the conditions under which any attempt of the sort has to be carried through. I do not think that those preliminary thoughts have always been adequately weighed, and this Letter is a plea for such consideration.

Why we need a Revised Book

I ask first: Why do we need a revised Prayer Book? Simply because in a hundred ways [10/11] people's outlook upon life to-day is different from that of English people three hundred, two hundred or even one hundred years ago. Science has opened new doors and avenues of knowledge which our great-grandfathers never dreamed of, and has taught us to make those forces serve our will. We look at the world's life in quite a different way. The notion of a continuous process going on in a world of immeasurable antiquity which is always in the making, with life everywhere on the move, familiar and elementary as the thought is nowadays, was unconceived in the popular mind in the days, say, of good Queen Anne. Since then we have learned to think not simply of the British Islands in the North Sea but of a world-wide Empire or Commonwealth. Every day now we are considering what is wrought or implied by such an endeavour as the League of Nations. We have grown accustomed to the new complexities of industrial life in England and the problems which it involves, and to a whirl of conditions unknown in former days.

But almost equally remarkable is the change [11/12] which has come about during these centuries in the general thought and outlook of the Church itself. We stand firm, thank God, in the old paths, and we hold unshakably to the old verities, but we see them from a new angle and, so to speak, in a different setting. We are more instinctively and humbly conscious of the vastness of the unknown--perhaps the unknowable--as compared with the little range of our limited vision. The creative work of God, the process of His Revelation in Holy Scripture and in life, or, on a smaller field, the nature and range of our Missionary obligations, or all that we mean at present by the "World Call," or by the range of enterprise within the Anglican Communion--these are phrases which indicate the Church's change, a change recognised not by one group of Churchmen or another, but by us all. If we think about these things we must pray about them, and those who go at present to Church have been accustomed to join in such prayers in the ordinary services in nearly every parish church for years past. But please remember that [12/13] such prayers have been absolutely without legal sanction, and that those who insist on obedience to the rules of 1662 would find themselves strangely impoverished if that obedience were faithfully rendered.

We simply cannot adhere strictly to the rules of 1662, but we want the liberty of departing from them to be a liberty which is authorised and regulated, lest in some direction or another, the liberty become licence and abuse. We hear legitimate complaints about "lawlessness," and most of the critics are ready to adduce something which a lawless priest does and which they themselves actively dislike. But how is a Bishop to forbid this if at the same time he is to tolerate or encourage other things which everybody wants but which, on a strict interpretation, are no less lawless.

No one who has followed me thus far will, I think, hesitate to say that the old Prayer Book needed revision. The wonderful thing is that it has proved so adequate as it has.

That old Book was gloriously fashioned for us, [13/14] out of things new and old, a few centuries ago. The shaping of it into the form in which we have known and loved it was a process which went on for more than a hundred years, from the reign of Edward VI to the reign of Charles II. Since then there has been no change in it, so that we have been and are using for our world-wide requirements to-day a Book which took final shape in 1662, when the population of England and Wales from Carlisle to Dover and Penzance was about five millions--less, that is, than the present population of London alone. Everyone in those days went to church or chapel. A very large proportion were illiterate. It was a tiny nation in what was practically for them a tiny world, and the conditions differed utterly from those of the British Empire to-day, with a home population in England and Wales of nearly thirty-eight millions and a whole federation of Commonwealths overseas. Let no one think that we are belittling the old Prayer Book. It is, beyond question, the most beautiful and valuable liturgical compilation in the world and the [14/15] service it has rendered both in thought and language to the English-speaking race is beyond all estimate. Some of the harmfulness of the present controversy finds compensation in the evident fact that thousands of people have been led to a truer appreciation of the beauty and value of a familiar possession which has, like a half-worked vein of ore, been largely unexplored by its owners.

With this old Book we are not in any respect doing away. Not only will it be printed and available wherever the Minister wishes to retain it or wherever the Parochial Church Council and Bishop desire its retention, but we are keeping it as the very backbone of our new structure and incorporating it in our larger volume. It remains also as a standard of doctrine. None the less, incomparably valuable as the old Book is, we want for the twentieth century something more. Our new knowledge, our modern sympathies, our fresh responsibilities in the world, need, as certainly as did the old, the blessing and guidance of Our Father who is in Heaven. And we must [15/16] thoughtfully ask for it. God does not change, but our convictions and aspirations rightly do, and our prayers must be enriched accordingly.

What revising the Prayer Book has involved

Now the second question: What is the real nature and difficulty of our task in revising the Prayer Book?

Ask yourself: Supposing you had yourself to set about the task, what process would you follow? Do not make the problem which we Bishops, Clergy and Laity have had to face a simpler one than it really is.

(i) Joint action

I repeat that I am not in this Letter so much asking approval for the Book as bespeaking a fair hearing for those who have had to handle the matter. Look, then, next at this point: Any revision of the Prayer Book has necessarily to be produced by us together, or, as we put it, constitutionally. That means, in accordance with our Church of England system, that it had first to be considered and hammered out by the [16/17] Convocations, i.e. the Bishops of England in North and South, and the representative clergy of England in North and South--four distinct bodies. And by the time this process was completed a new body, the National Church Assembly, had come into being, and the law required that the proposals of Convocation should be there rediscussed and reapproved. I confess that in face of our multitudinous discussions I have sometimes wished myself at Lambeth in old days, the days of Cranmer or Coverdale or Parker or Cosin. At the thought of a small group of experts under this roof putting the old Prayer Books into fresh shape in a few months, or even a few weeks, a sense of envy is apt to rise unbidden. Nowadays forty-three Bishops sit day by day at Lambeth for weeks on end to deal with the handiwork of a House of Clergy numbering three hundred and twenty and a House of Laity numbering three hundred and fifty, and every suggestion has to be weighed and counter-weighed. I am not condemning the procedure. I believe it on the whole to be best, but no [17/18] sane man will call it easy. For you will realise how this corporate action involves at every session the need of "team work," the need of adjusting our individual tastes and preferences to those of other people with whom we are working. And, however laborious this be, it is all to the good, for we have to produce a Prayer Book which is not (like some corresponding books elsewhere) compiled simply for the use of the clergy or the Religious Orders, but is to be everybody's book. "It is to be a book of 'common' prayer, not only as between past and present, but as between all the varieties and types of soul which form the household of faith. . . . It is meant for average human beings . . . differing much in capacity and outlook, and following many paths to God."

When you think of the number of people who have had to take part in compiling this new Book, you will feel it to be remarkable that practically everybody throughout the Church is agreed in approving the greater number of the changes which it suggests. But it is not really [18/19] wonderful, for we are meeting real requirements. Morning and Evening Prayer have a new flexibility. As I have already said, we have been accustomed to such flexibility, but without a shred of legal sanction. The parish priest has taken the liberty because his people chafe against the hide-bound rules of 1662; but now, in place of what are called "Vicar's vagaries," we arrange for chosen varieties of use devised with the utmost care. Then, as regards the Psalms, careful provision is made for the use of suitable Psalms for Sunday worship, and power is given to omit from congregational use a few passages which have been a stumbling-block to many. Even more important is the enlarged range of intercession into which the clergy may now lead the people. Not only have many new prayers been added for this purpose, but guarded provision is even made for extempore and informal leadership. Or, again, we introduce a long-desired liberty and variety in the use of the Litany, especially when it is combined with other Services. What is commonly called [19/20] "the Athanasian Creed" appears in a new translation, and the obligation to use it is relaxed. More markedly still, we have in what we call our Occasional Offices readjusted and strengthened the prayers and counsels belonging to those human crises--Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Childbirth, Sickness, Death--when the thoughts of ordinary people are awakened and alert to what lies deepest, and crave some new warmth and sincerity. These last-named improvements will bring a new meaning into great incidents in borne-life, as we find, for example, that the place of both father and mother therein is recognised and provided for much more amply than before. All this, mark you, had to be thought out and striven for, and we have gained what we have gained by means of mutual agreement and concession.

I have thus reminded you of some of the conditions under which the Prayer Book has had to be produced. Let me remind you of another condition.

(ii) Reconciliation of Various Opinions

[21] As we got into shape the Book which has been occupying the attention of that complex, or even cumbrous, body of counsellors, we had to ask ourselves: What range of sympathies is the new Book to cover? What range of possible users must we provide for? And here we came at once to a troublesome fence.

I find no real difficulty myself in understanding the unqualified desire of my keenly Protestant brother to ensure that the Church of England shall be untainted with doctrines or usages which retain, as he thinks, some trace of what he describes as "the beggarly elements" of mediaeval superstition from which the Reformed Church of England shook herself free. Nor, on the other hand, do I fail to understand the contention of an equally devout brother who, as a convinced Anglo-Catholic, presses upon me the danger of forgetting how carefully the Church of England has abstained from severing herself from what was wholesome and helpful in the Church system of [21/22] the Middle Ages. The Reformation, he says, freed us from Roman shackles and Roman abuses, but kept safe for us the best and soundest elements of the devotional life of pre-Reformation days. Each side is eloquent and earnest, but the gains and losses are depicted, on right and left respectively, with a more lurid brush than I could use. There are, and always have been, widely different groups of thinkers within the Church, differing in thought, in devotion, and in usage.

I am a firm and convinced supporter of the deliberate comprehensiveness of the Church of England. For half a century I have made it a subject of thought and prayer, and in these later years I have used opportunity of action. The more carefully that I read the history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, along the hundred years during which the Reformation was in progress and the Church of England was taking its distinctive shape, the deeper has become my sympathy with the wisest of the reformers. They were bent on consolidating the central opinion of the Church of England, in freedom alike from [22/23] Rome and from Geneva. But that was not all. To consolidate the central cohort was comparatively easy. But how were they to deal with those who stood on the margins? One set of men wanted to keep all the medievalism which could anyhow be made compatible with loyalty to the reformed Church; the opposite set was eager to purge the Church wholly from all that could savour of medieval error. The problem for the reforming leaders was therefore how to retain as many on either wing as could, when their faith and principles were made clear, be rightly furnished with a standing-place within the Church of England. No one who has traced the course pursued by Cranmer and Hooker, and those who followed them, will doubt the wisdom and effectiveness of their endeavour.

The problem which those men had to grapple with is with us still. In providing a new Prayer Book we have perforce had to keep in our purview the vigorous Anglo-Catholic, the staunch Protestant, and the anxious inquirers whose liberalism is equally foreign to both these sections. [24] We could not include every vagary of opinion. But so far as I could wield any influence I have for long years striven to secure a reasonable standing-place for as many as possible of those who conscientiously sought it. I believe that to be our duty both to God and to our brethren, and any revised Prayer Book which ignored this duty would be, to my mind, pitiably inadequate.

Am I wrong in thinking that it is just because people ignore this requirement that they misconstrue our endeavour in the revised Book to meet bravely at one or two critical points the convictions and desires of a group whose opinions, though those of a minority, can yet fairly claim to fall within the wide ambit of the Church of England?

Especially with regard to
(a) The Holy Communion

It is of course in connexion with the Service of Holy Communion that irregularity and indiscipline have been most apparent in the conduct of public worship. This irregularity often proceeds not so much from defiance of the principles of the [24/25] Church of England, as from the overflowing by a deeply religious spirit of banks built three hundred years ago under wholly different conditions. But obviously the fact that irregularity and indiscipline are found especially here rendered it out of the question that in our Revision we should have left the whole field of this Service untouched.

We have endeavoured to meet the demands of the religious spirit to which I have just referred with real regard both to the essential boundaries and to the comprehensiveness of our Church, Catholic and Reformed. We have left the present Service unaltered and have laid it down that no priest shall be required, unless he so desire, to use any other. We have, however, provided an Alternative Form of Service which those who wish for it can use under proper safeguards. This other Service, according to the standard set by the Church of England for all her Services, is, I am firmly convinced, "agreeable to the Word of God and the primitive Church." It is like the old Order, but enlarges and enriches it. It is not, to use the Reformation phrase, [25/26] "new-fangled," but based on well-tried precedent both modern and ancient. Its chief change is a change not of substance but of form, in the Prayer of Consecration. This Prayer, in addition to what is in the old Prayer, contains a commemoration of Our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, an invocation of the Holy Spirit, and a solemn oblation of their own souls and bodies by the worshippers as a living sacrifice to God. The Service involves no change of doctrine. In the new Service, as in the old, to such as "rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and, likewise, the cup of blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ." Let us be quite clear. The real Presence of Christ is, as before, in the entire Sacrament, and not simply in any part of it alone. There is no "trans-substantiation," either taught or implied. The Romish doctrine is in simple fact more definitely excluded than before.

In this Letter I am not dwelling upon controversial details, important as some of them are, [26/27] but the allegation is widely current that in the Alternative Order of Holy Communion the Prayer of Consecration is inconsistent with true Reformation principles. This I emphatically deny. I have studied carefully our proposed Consecration Prayer, I have compared it with the corresponding Prayer of 1549, I have weighed the qualifications and safeguards which we propose to add to the words taken from that Prayer, I have reflected upon what men like Cranmer and Ridley said about the Prayer as it stood in 1549, and I say quite distinctly that, in my deliberate judgment, there is nothing in the Prayer as we now propose it which is contrary to Reformation principles and to sound Anglican doctrine. In my view it looks not towards but away from the doctrine of Transubstantiation. [See appended note, page 42.]

There is nothing wrong in having an alternative use. It is familiar in Scotland. I am myself quite clear that we have therein and thereby a very real gain, and my Scottish experience bids me believe in its increasing usefulness. [27/28] Were I a parish priest after the authorisation of the New Book I should hope to make regular use in the parish church of both Forms of the Communion Service.

and (b) Reservation

That, however, which most disquiets a great body of our critics is the sanction given for some form of Reservation. It is round this that controversy rages. But here, also, I want to ask you, bearing in mind what I have said, to try to look at the matter with me in a larger, calmer way.

The Holy Communion is the family Service. It is the gathering of the Christian society at God's board. It symbolises and advances Christian fellowship. But it often happens that members of the family who desire to share the fellowship of the Eucharist are prevented by sickness. In most cases such persons will no doubt welcome the receiving of the Communion at a separate and private celebration in their own home. But there are other cases in which the [28/29] sick person himself wishes to be brought into a rather closer relation with the Communion of the people in Church by receiving the Bread and Wine which have been consecrated in the face of the congregation, and so becoming a partaker in the public and common Service thus, as it were, extended to his sick-room. This is a reason commendable in itself for the reservation of the consecrated Bread and Wine at the open Communion, and a reason not infrequently forgotten in the stress laid on the inconvenience to the priest who, as things stand, is often obliged to celebrate several times on the same day.

If it be asked: Why do you need Reservation now when you have done without it for centuries? the answer is found in the steadily growing desire for very frequent reception of the Holy Communion as contrasted with what was customary fifty years ago. In numberless parishes very many people are in the habit of communicating not merely on every Sunday but on frequent weekdays as well, and when such persons are sick we must either leave them [29/30] without a help which they have learned to value or we must make extended arrangements of a workable kind.

I recall to you that whether with regard to this Reservation question or any other I am not trying in this Letter to force on you my personal opinion as to what is either practically expedient or doctrinally wholesome. Opinions on such questions as these will vary widely, and the variety is quite legitimate. For example, I see dangers as well as advantages in the usage which has now become widespread of very much more frequent reception of Holy Communion than used to be enjoined. But change of circumstances and conditions, especially since the Great War, has led many of us, without any change whatever of doctrinal belief, to alter some of our earlier opinions about rules and usages. Nearly thirty years have passed since I heard Archbishop Temple, with whom I was at the time in closest confidence, deliver publicly at Lambeth what he described as his "Opinion" on Reservation. I may of course be mistaken, but, while [30/31] I am in full accord with some of the things which Archbishop Temple then said, my personal belief is clear that if he were writing on the subject now he would, with characteristic decisiveness, qualify considerably some parts of the "Opinion" which he then expressed. I have no authority to say so, and my opinion must be taken for what it is worth.

Most fully do I admit the existence of dangers in connexion with Reservation. And it is therefore our deliberate policy not only to discourage but, as far as it is in our power, to prevent any use of the Consecrated Elements except for the Communion of the Sick, and any forms of prayer, Devotions, Adoration, Benediction, Exposition, which make the consecrated Bread and Wine outside their liturgical use the focus of worship. We say in our Rubrics as clearly as it can be said that:

The consecrated Bread and Wine set apart under either of the two preceding Rubrics shall be reserved only for the Communion of the Sick, shall be administered in both kinds, and shall [31/32] be used for no other purpose whatever. There shall be no service or ceremony in connexion with the Sacrament so reserved, nor shall it be exposed or removed except in order to be received in Communion, or otherwise reverently consumed.

It is our intention to secure that with the help of public opinion in the Church, and the cooperation of the clergy and laity as a whole, that Rubric shall be obeyed.

The Rubric applies of course to Reservation of any kind. Somebody may say, "I am content to recognise the need for Reservation in the case of known sick people to whom Communion is to be given forthwith, but I object to its extension to what is called a 'continuous' use." I would ask the objector to read carefully in its present form the Rubric providing for such use. He will see that it meets the very anxieties which disquiet him.

If the Bishop is satisfied that in connexion with hospitals, or in time of common sickness, or in the special circumstances of any [32/33] particular parish, the provisions of the preceding Rubric are not sufficient, and that there is need of further provision in order that sick and dying persons may not lack the benefit of the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, he may to that end give his licence to the Priest, to reserve at the open Communion so much of the consecrated Bread and Wine as is needed for the purpose. Whenever such licence is granted or refused, the Minister or the people as represented in the Parochial Church Council, may refer the question to the Archbishop and Bishops of the Province.

The Rubric is so drawn as to make clear that it is simply the extension, in exceptional cases of a particular kind, of the usage which the preceding Rubric sanctions, and that it applies only in the special circumstances of a particular parish. Evidence seems to show the existence of such exceptional cases for which exceptional provision must be made.

My purpose is to explain why on the principle [33/34] of comprehension we must in honest fairness make room for those who maintain--and quietly and deliberately they do maintain--the genuineness of the need for some form of Reservation for the Sick, the legitimacy of their desire, and the possibility of reasonably satisfying it. Of course in this, as in other things, we must have clearly defined limitations. The field is not to be unfenced. But, given the clear limitations which we have enacted, anyone who shares my view as to the nature and limits of the comprehensiveness of our Church will agree that we could not in fairness rule out the whole proposal.

The Unity of the Church beneath present controversy

Let me say two or three things in conclusion. First, I do press upon thoughtful people that they should not exaggerate the range or the importance of the present controversy. If anyone judged simply, as I am afraid many do, from newspaper paragraphs and letters or from the multiplied tracts and the appeals in leaflet form, one might suppose that the Church of [34/35] England is being rent in twain upon the questions now at issue.

Be it well remembered that no changes in the Prayer Books of former days took place without a vehement minority or rather two vehement minorities, one on either side, making themselves heard. Had there been in 1662 the newspaper facilities and the cheap printing which we now enjoy, exactly the same appearance would have been created which enthusiasm or temper or timidity would fain create to-day. But the Church--and with its then new Book--survived the strain.

Unanimity in such a matter is unattainable. We can but do our best and, after all, the number of those who are thus contending is, I had almost said, trifling as compared with the mass of central opinion which has advocated in every one of the Church assemblies the adoption of the Measure now proposed. I go so far as to say that such opposition, when it is reasonable, is of real value as steadying the eagerness of the advocates of the new Measure. These advocates might easily lose their balance were the critics silent.

[36] But as a plain matter of fact (and I speak from personal knowledge day by day), the Church is at present--witness its activities at home and oversea--more closely united in vigorous work for God than it has perhaps ever been before, and the testimony from overseas in favour of our Revised Book is overwhelming. Beware, therefore, of a disproportionate estimate of the weight belonging to the honest pugilists who oppose the Church's vote.

Mistrust of the Bishops

And another warning. To read some of the literature of attack one would suppose that the Bishops were engaged in concerted machinations against the true character of the Church of England. They are supposed to have sinister, or at least concealed purposes, which the ingenious critic has found out. If in regard to Prayer for the King we tried to avoid a needless reiteration, we were held to be anxious to evade an obvious duty. I venture to repel, even warmly, insinuations and suspicions of that kind, [36/37] but in doing so I am anxious to remember how small after all is the number of those from whom these strange suspicions come. I claim for the Bishops no infallibility of judgment, either in administration, or in word and act during these long-drawn discussions. Like other people we have made our mistakes, and yet I am convinced that the English people as a whole still believe the Bishops to be doing their best for the true well-being of the Church.

Controversial Methods

There is one request that I should like to make of those who try to read the passing controversial literature with which some of us are daily flooded. It is this. When you have read a florid report recounting some extravagant Service or some indefensible speech, and your indignation is naturally inflamed, consider for a moment what is, to a thoughtful reader, the argumentative value of the narrative or quotation. Almost every one of these examples of excess is as contrary to the new Book as to the old. For [37/38] example, a list is being habitually paraded of certain ritual excesses or vagaries condemned by the Royal Commission. But the new Book gives no whit more sanction to those extravagances than does our old Prayer Book. To set them out afresh in big type may conceivably be serviceable for some purpose, but not surely as an argument against the Book of 1928. So, too, take care, even when the grim word "Transubstantiation" is thrust into the forefront of controversy, to keep your balance. We are accused of teaching Transubstantiation and we rightly and resolutely repudiate the charge. But in denouncing it or fleeing from it, many people are apt to go so far that they leave behind them the true Sacramental Doctrine of the Church of England as taught in the Prayer Book and Catechism.

A Book for the Twentieth Century

In view of the continuous barrage of attack upon a Book which has received the support of the Church it is not surprising that many people [38/39] should have lost heart from sheer weariness and dislike of this kind of controversy. No one can dislike it more than I do, and I think I may claim to have striven persistently to bring it to an end. I will frankly acknowledge that if the Church's Measure were now to be again rejected by Parliament, the prospect of confusion and of the spread of lawlessness looms large and ugly. But even so, at a time when our Church's life presents so many elements of abounding hope, we are not going to lose heart, and, so far as I am concerned, no effort in the cause of peace and orderliness will, I hope, be lacking. I cannot easily believe that the vehemence of a small minority, made up by the strange companionship of extremists on either side, will be able to thwart the wishes of the whole central body of Church opinion. That opinion, as we have seen, has not been lightly reached. There are many difficulties, and we have been weighing and counter-weighing them for years. Few of us, if any, would wholeheartedly adopt every portion of the proposed Book as expressing exactly what [39/40] we should ourselves wish to say. The same surely is true of the old Prayer Book, which some of us love all the more because of the criticisms and comments, sometimes even the protests and buffets, which it has weathered in many generations of English life. But, speaking largely, we have, as I firmly believe, obtained by the labour of these years a Book such as will serve in the Church of the twentieth century the highest needs of varied groups of worshippers, both of the old learning, or the old sympathies, and the new. I have necessarily had the whole matter as my constant concern for years past and, with full knowledge of the facts and difficulties, I believe that the Book, if duly authorised for the use of those who desire it, will prove to be a rallying point for a rich and splendid unity in our Church. It will help the Church itself to become a worthier rallying point for all the forces which work for goodness and for truth. That hope and expectation are widespread. I have evidence thereof every day. God grant that the hopes be not thwarted or hampered now, for they form in [40/41] part the very basis of our resolve to throw the Church's forces afresh into every effort for the Glory of God and for the uplift and bettering of our common life.

I am an old man, and we are told that old men dream dreams. My dreams for the world I shall soon be leaving are rich in hope. I can descry among the sometimes bewildering channels of thought to which I referred at the outset many facts and many tendencies which reinforce my faith. The confused and tumbled questionings of average people are not hostile to the old Faith wherein we stand, though it is looked at from different angles and in a good many novel ways. My heartfelt prayer is that ere I say my nunc dimittis I may somehow--and not least by our new Book--be helpful to the younger folk whose pathway gleams with promise.

Whitsuntide, 1928.


The words of the Invocation in the Consecration Prayer in our proposed Alternative Communion Service, on which so much attention has been focused, are:

"Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech Thee, and with Thy Holy and Life-giving Spirit vouchsafe to bless and sanctify both us and these Thy gifts of Bread and Wine, that they may be unto us the Body and Blood of Thy Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, to the end that we, receiving the same, may be strengthened and refreshed both in body and soul."--(Italics mine.)

In the first Prayer Book of Edward VI, 1549, the corresponding words ran:

"Hear us, O merciful Father, we beseech Thee, and with Thy Holy Spirit and Word vouchsafe to bless and sanctify these Thy [42/43] gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that they may be unto us the Body and Blood of Thy most dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ."

Clearly this last form of words lacks the safeguards which are provided in the form which we propose, and yet Cranmer, so it seems, is able to justify the phrases of 1549:

"And therefore, in the book of the holy communion, we do not pray absolutely that the bread and wine may be made the body and blood of Christ, but that unto us in that holy mystery they may be so; that is to say, that we may so worthily receive the same, that we may be partakers of Christ's body and blood that therewith in spirit and in truth we may be spiritually nourished."

"Works, On the Lord's Supper."
P.S., p. 79.

Some people contend that what our Reformers said before the Revised Book of 1552 was published differs greatly from what they thought and said after that date. For myself, I find [43/44] no evidence to justify this suggestion of any large or far-reaching change of mind, and my knowledge of Cranmer's writings convinces me that at no time in his life would he have found any difficulty in the words which are now proposed.

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