Project Canterbury

The Church's Worship

Address to the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament
At the Annual Conference
Holy Cross Church, Jersey City, N.J. June 18, 1903

By the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton, D.D.
Bishop of Fond du Lac, Superior-General of C.B.S.

No place: no publisher, [1903]

Reverend and dear Brethren of the Confraternity:

PEACE and grace be with you all. Met together in His Name and for His glory, may His Holy Spirit guide you in all your deliberations and make you of one mind and heart in His House, whose House builded together in the spirit you are.

It is a cause of regret that we cannot be with you in your meeting to-day on this great festival, but we shall join with you in a solemn celebration of the Holy Mysteries at our Cathedral.

Where you are assembled we know they will be celebrated with all reverence and devotion and the seemly dignity that belongs to our inherited Catholic liturgy.

It belongs to your special calling as Priests of the Confraternity, and it is your high privilege, to restore in these lax days the decent order which the reformers preserved for us in the Book of Common Prayer, but which had been obscured by Puritan opposition [3/4] and neglect.

Churchmen had become so accustomed to a Sunday service that relegated the Holy Eucharist to a subordinate position, and when celebrated so shorn of its traditional ceremonial that they hardly believed such was the mind of the reformed Church. The night was so long, and it was so long a time of darkness, "as if another night had fallen on the back of midnight," that men mistook the darkness for day. The Episcopal Church, it was said in the middle of the last century, has attained a stereotyped form of worship that cannot be altered. How slowly, how very slowly, the Church has been awakening to the light, you somewhat know. Through what trials and perils has she not passed! The waves at times seemed to engulf the ship. Timid and disheartened shipmen, "under color as though they would have cast anchors," were tempted to flee out of her. But God had spoken to the Anglican Church through His Saints, saying "Fear not." Through them the Church was called to a lightening of the ship by casting over her worldliness. A St. John the Baptist call to repentance and confession stirred the Church; the clergy began to recover the almost lost ideal of a priestly life. In the laity was aroused a missionary spirit, a life of deeper spirituality and more entire consecration. But the work has been a slow one, and is only beginning to be accomplished. Here in America, how imperfectly the doctrine of the Incarnation and its extension through the Sacraments is understood. As yet, the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist is [4/5] apprehended by comparatively few, and the Holy Sacrifice yet waits for restoration as the supreme act of our Sunday service. How have Christ's messengers been obliged to speak to dull ears and prejudiced minds and callous hearts. The Pharisee, self-satisfied with his Protestant inherited traditions, and the Sadduccee, with his Rationalism, have not only rejected but sought to suppress the revival of Catholic truth and worship. Yet we have much to be thankful for. Like Paul in the shipwreck, we learned to take Bread and break it, and give thanks to God and be of good cheer. Every good cause must have its trials and its martyrs. Thank God its heroes and saints have not been wanting to the Catholic movement. It has slowly come to be better understood that the Church of God exists for a double purpose. It exists for the ingathering of souls into Christ, and so for their deliverance from the power of sin, and their salvation. It exists also for the purpose of glorifying God by offering to Him a Holy worship. "The Church is not primarily an education or philanthropic society, though both of these she must be, but a society which exists to worship God." She is a living, spiritual organism, in which the High Priest dwells, and of which Christ, the High Priest of humanity, is the Head, and through which redeemed creation offers up itself in self-renouncing oblation to the Most High God. "The Catholic Church is thus God's new creation; called into being and sanctified by the new inbreathing of the Spirit of Life, for the purpose of [5/6] offering to God that in which the old creation failed, he free will offering of filial love."

You are well familiar with all the objections that ignorance and prejudice and party spirit hurl against you.

Men look upon your altars, adorned with lights and fragrant with incense, on the vestments of the priests, on the order and reverence of the ceremonial, and are wont to say it is a renewal of Judaism. "Did not Christ do away with all this form and ceremony, when He came preaching in His carpenter's dress and with naught but the canopy of heaven for His Temple, and wayside stone or rocking boat for His pulpit?" God, we know, gave His sanction to a service that was liturgical, ritualistic, ceremonial, choral, when He established the ancient order, and our Lord placed the seal of His sanction on it by His presence in the Temple. Moreover, He gave order for its continuance when He took S. John up into Heaven, where he beheld the glory and splendor of that heavenly worship, where God is worshipped in spirit and in truth.

So, too, how often we hear it said that Catholic worship is based upon heathen rites, and has borrowed from Paganism its ideas of priesthood, and sacrifice, and, in part, its ceremonial. Suppose this were true, what then? God has taught us through all nations. He has given us through Rome the ideas of social order and law, and Greece is the first storehouse of philosophy, as the Hebrew race is of religion. Humanity is one. God speaks to [6/7] us through it. The instinct that led the heathen world to worship by priesthood and sacrifice was a true instinct. And as Christianity gathered up into itself the LOGOS of Greek thought and the order of Rome, together with revelations made through Hebrew prophet and seer, it made them all of use in the service of Christ.

Sometimes we hear the old political ecclesiastical parties striking to arouse party passion, just as the Pharisees did of old. It is said we are going back to Mediaevalism. This is practically to accuse us of insanity. The hands of the clock of time cannot be turned backwards. No sane person thinks to revive the past. We cannot bring back mediaeval or primitive times if we would. To bring back the primitive worship we should be obliged to have its environment. But as the truth has been the same throughout all the centuries since Christ, so, while the Church has been drawn in her devotions to various aspects of her Lord and new expressions of her love, have the principles of Divine worship been the same. Separated as the East and West have been for near a thousand years, separated as the heretical bodies of the early centuries have been from one another, they all alike have retained priesthood and alter and sacrifice, with a common ceremonial of lights and incense, and priestly vestments and ordered liturgy, and lowly prostrations and the oft-repeated sacred sign.

But--and here we meet the most formidable and deep-rooted objection--it is said we are copying Rome. No matter what the Bible says, or how the [7/8] primitive Church worshipped God, lights and incense and vestments are Popish. "It is the Mass in masquerade." It is very curious to notice that the more unreasonable an objection is, the more obstinately it retains its hold on certain minds. This latter reminds us of an insane person who had an abnormal persuasion that he had glass legs; and the more he looked at them the more vehemently he declared that they were nothing but glass. Of course the Roman ceremonial and our own, as our Liturgies have largely the same Western origin, must be somewhat alike. Such attendants as lights, incense, and vestments are common to the whole Church of Christ, and no true portion of Christ's Church is without them. But we do not borrow or copy from Rome when we use that which by virtue of our Apostolic descent and Catholic inheritance is our own. We best protest by being Catholic. So in our Hymnal (442) we praise and pray:

"Head of Thy Church beneath,
The Catholic, the True,
On all her members breath,
Her broken frame renew!"

Then we have what may be called the newspaper argument. All this ceremonial and ritual is unmanly. It is foreign. It is contrary to the spirit of the age. This does not appear to be true when we look at the growth of secret societies, with their ornate and elaborate ritual. But were it so, is the Church, chameleon-like, to change its color with the [8/9] world's passing phases, or is it to be like the immovable rock against which the waves of the sea vent their strength in vain? Is the Church to crouch before the world and do its bidding, or bear a St. John Baptist witness against it? The world is bound to hate us. The greater the world's opposition, the surer sign the Church is doing its duty. As we come to the last days, the more the Church and the world must separate. The despised living witnesses, the Word and the Sacraments, over which the world has rejoiced as dead, will rise up and their power shall bring on the Second Coming and the world's overthrow.

The last commonplace argument is: You are undoing the work of the Reformation. For myself, and I believe I can speak for all of you, we hold the Reformation was a necessity, and the principles of Church reform which the Reformers avowed, correct. We are not indeed bound by their private or individual theological opinions, any more than Americans are bound by all the political utterances of the founders of our country. As Americans, we are bound by our own written Constitution, and as Catholic Churchmen, by our Prayer Book. As Americans we know our Constitution is to be interpreted by the principles of our inherited common law, and as Churchmen we hold our Prayer Book is to be interpreted by the Traditions of the Catholic Church. The Priesthood, the Scriptures, the [9/10] Councils, the Sacraments, these are four great anchors that securely hold the ship:

"Four great anchors--tried sheet anchors,
Each one in itself a host,
Those infrangible Evangels
Welded by the Holy Ghost."

We have dwelt, brethren, upon a topic which is a commonplace with you. But you may find this address useful to read to your people. It is not so much newness of thought they need, but the reiteration of the old truths which have been held from the beginning. What our Church people require, as late events have shown, is a better grasp of the fundamentals of the Faith. Of these, just now, that of first importance is the right principal of Christian worship and the honour due to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Let the belief in the Real Objective Presence of Christ come to be the common belief of clergy and laity, and the Church will increase in spiritual strength in a way she has not yet known. God grant it, and less all who are laboring for the increase of His Kingdom.

Commending you all to His love and care, and praying for your increase in all gifts and graces, and asking your remembrance in return where such is of most avail, even the altars of our Blessed Lord.

We are yours ever in the Catholic Faith,

Superior-General C.B.S.

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