From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914
Christian and Catholic
THE gospel system is analogous to the processes of God in the natural world. In nature we see how God bestows His gifts. He loves to give them while He hides His hand. Love indeed must manifest itself, but true power loves hiddenness. "Verily," says the prophet, "Thou art a God that hideth Thyself, O God of Israel the Saviour." So, hiding Himself in nature, He bestows His gifts through multiform instrumentalities. Thus life and strength come to us through ordained means. God sustains our natural life through sacraments of the natural order. So it is in the order of grace.
Our prayer-book employs two terms to describe them. It speaks of the "Sacraments" and of the "Holy Mysteries." They denote the same things under different aspects. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It is also a mystery by which the grace of God is given unto us.
They are conveniently arranged in two classes. First, there are those sacraments whose "matter and form" were ordained by Christ and are of universal application. These are Baptism and the Holy Communion. They are necessary for salvation where they may be had, and they have relation to the eternal existence and welfare of the Church. In the other class are to be found Confirmation, Penitence, Unction, Orders, Matrimony. They are not necessary for all men, and have relation to the temporal life of the Church. She needs them in her militant state and in her battle with. sin.
The first in order of these is holy baptism. We shall understand Christian baptism better if we analyze the four kinds of baptism found in the New Testament.
There is first in order the baptism administered by John the Baptist. This, though often confused with it, was not Christian baptism. It is proven not to have been such by two conclusive reasons. It was not given in the name of the Blessed Trinity, as Christian baptism must be, for the simple reason that the name of the Blessed Trinity had not been revealed to S. John Baptist. It had not connected with it any sanctifying gift of the Holy Ghost, for the "Spirit was not yet given." S. John was the last and greatest prophet of the old dispensation, and his baptism was like a Jewish ordinance. It was a mere outward sign, but had no inward spiritual gift. In other words, it was not a gospel sacrament. The Apostles also baptized in like manner before Pentecost, but it was only a continuation of John's preparatory work. The manner, therefore, in which S. John baptized, whether with more or less water, would be no guide for Christian usage. And not being Christian baptism, when the baptized disciples became Christians they had, as we read in the nineteenth chapter of the Acts, to receive the Christian sacrament.
The next baptism is that of Jesus Christ by S. John. Why did He who was sinless come to a baptism of repentance? Because having taken flesh of the Blessed Virgin, He had thus identified Himself with our race and became, as the second Adam, its new representative head. As such He took upon Himself the duty of making a reparation to God for its transgressions. He thus begins, in His official capacity, His life-long act of penitence. There was another reason for Christ's action. He was to make reparation to God and work out man's deliverance by the fulfilment of His office as the Anointed One, or Messiah. He was solemnly consecrated to be the Christ at His baptism. The heavens were opened and the voice of the Eternal Father was heard: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," and the Holy Ghost, who from the first moment of His conception had been given without measure to Him, now was also given for His special work and office, and He was anointed with the Holy Ghost.
The next baptism we read of is the baptism by Jesus Christ Himself. During His visible or public life, Jesus, we read, did not baptize. But John the Baptist had foretold that He who came after him should baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. This Christ did when He had ascended. Then He baptized the Church; the outward sign being tongues of fire and a mighty wind, the inward gift being the Holy Spirit. The whole mystical body was now baptized and the Spirit of the Lord filled the temple.
The fourth baptism is Christian baptism. This was first administered by the Apostles to the converts on the day of Pentecost. This was with water and in the name of the Blessed Trinity.
Its subjects are both adults and infants. The condition for adults is faith and repentance. Infants are baptized because our Lord said "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not," and showed that unconscious infancy was capable of receiving a blessing, by taking them up in His arms and blessing them. Faith and repentance are not required of infants, for not having sinned they have no sins of which to repent. And not having raised their wills against God there is no necessity for their taking them down by an act of submission or faith. Thus the passive condition of the infant is the normal one for receiving the baptismal gift. By repentance and faith the adult puts himself in the condition of a little child. We thus become like little children, and fulfil the condition necessary to enter the kingdom.
By its action baptism bestows a gift which can most easily be remembered by reference to its effects in regard to our past, present, and future.
In respect of our past, it heals the wounds of inherited or original sin, and remits all our actual sins. "I believe in one baptism for the remission of sins." This gift of God is bestowed upon us for the merits of Christ by the operation of the Holy Ghost.
A marked scriptural instance is to be found in the case of S. Paul. On his way to Damascus our Lord appeared to him. The brightness of our Lord's glorified body caused his blindness, but the Lord's words illuminated his soul. With agonized earnestness Saul cried out, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" He was then and there a truly converted man. It is a crucial question for sectarians whether his sins were forgiven at the time of his conversion. Their theological system requires an affirmative answer. But in Holy Scripture we read it was not so. For, three days after, Ananias, the prophet of the Lord, comes to him and says, "Brother Saul, arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins." His sins not being washed away by his conversion, but as Scripture states by his subsequent baptism. Conversion is the turning of man to God. Remission of sin in baptism is the gift of God to man.
As related to the present time; by baptism we are born again, or "born from above." This implies two things, our being begotten anew by heavenly power, and our being born out of a natural region of darkness into one of light. We are begotten anew by the Holy Spirit, which, blowing where it listeth, works the soul's conversion; and also in baptism (the Holy Spirit accomplishing that whereunto it is sent), we receive a new nature by our incorporation into Christ. "For as many of you as were baptized unto Christ did put on Christ."
We discern here a distinction between our relation to God by nature and that formed by baptism. By the act of creation we are God's creatures; by baptism we are the sons of God as members of Christ. Thus baptism is not like the coronation of a king to which it is sometimes compared, for the king is one by right of his descent before he is crowned. Baptism, however, is not an acknowledgment of what we previously were, but an instrument by which we are made members of Christ and so children of God.
Next as to the future. Having been, by baptism, born into the kingdom of light, a prospect is opened before us of attaining to the further light of the beatific vision of God. We are made children of the light. We are incorporated into this new kingdom as living stones of a living temple. And so we are not merely born into and immersed in it, but it is also in us. The incipient virtues of faith, hope, and charity are imparted by baptism. These gifts received may be neglected and lie dormant, but as we respond, more and more clear becomes the heavenly vision, and we receive strength to attain it.
The effect of the loss of baptism is painfully seen in America, in the increased power of evil spirits, and the ease with which Satan deludes persons with false religions, and by teachers who come in their own name.
The baptismal faith is decisively expressed in our baptismal offices. None can be found more full of Scriptural and Catholic tradition. We utter it in the words of our Church's hymnal in praise and devotion:
"Arise and be baptized,
And wash thy sins away;
Thy league with God be solemnized,
Thy faith avouched to-day.
No more thine own, but Christ's;
With all the saints of old,
Apostles, seers, evangelists,
And martyr throngs enrolled."
The second gospel mystery is confirmation. It has three designations in Holy Scripture. It belongs to the general Apostolic ministrations of laying on of hands, which is spoken of as one of the principles of the doctrine of Christ.
It is also referred to as an anointing or unction. "Ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye know all things. And the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, abide therein."
Again, it is known as the seal of the Lord. "Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ (by baptism) and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."
It is administered by a bishop in the West, or by a priest with chrism, consecrated by a bishop, in the East.
In the Anglican Church it is by laying on of the bishop's hand, who in doing so in Scotland and in other places makes with his thumb the sign of the cross on the forehead of the confirmed. It is to be desired, for conformity with the symbolism of Holy Scripture, that this should be with chrism. Does it lie within the jus liturgicum of the bishop to do so?
An interesting question has been of late much investigated by Anglican theologians, concerning the difference between the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation.
Baptism is the sacrament of our new birth in Christ. We are brought under the converting influence of the Holy Spirit before baptism, and as a preparation for it. In baptism, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, we are made members of Christ and of His mystical body. Being thus united to the humanity of Christ in whom the Spirit dwells, we are in Him made, indirectly, partakers of the Holy Spirit. Being made living stones of the Spiritual Temple which is filled with the Holy Spirit, we are immersed in it, and the Spirit is in us. We receive in baptism both sanctifying grace and the Holy Spirit. Sanctifying grace, which is necessary for our justification, the Holy Spirit, who unites us to Christ. If we did not receive the Holy Spirit then confirmation would be a sacrament necessary to salvation. We pray in the baptismal office, "Give Thy Holy Spirit to this infant," and what we pray for, that we believe we receive.
Confirmation is a sacrament of the gifts of the Spirit. It does not merely increase the gifts received in baptism. Even if one were made full of the Holy Spirit at baptism, this would not preclude him from receiving new and distinct gifts, for the activities of the Spirit are not governed by the laws of material mechanics. So gifts, different in kind, are bestowed by confirmation. Born anew in baptism and made a child of God, in confirmation we are ordained and receive our first degree of priesthood and kingship. All the laity are made kings and priests unto God. In confirmation we receive also our mission to work for Christ in the world, and grace for its fulfilment.
The laity, in all their church work, go out "as sent" by the Lord. Receiving sanctifying grace for our justification in baptism, we receive in confirmation the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost for our advancement and perfection in the spiritual life. These are the spirit of wisdom, which makes us seek after God; of understanding, which teaches us the Catholic faith; of counsel, which enables us to choose the path of duty; of ghostly strength, which enables us to perform our Christian obligations; of knowledge, which instructs us in the will of God as it pertains to ourselves; of true Godliness, which inspires us to live holy lives; of holy fear, which preserves us in reverence and the worship of God.
In confirmation we are also sealed and receive a character. In the old dispensation we read that "seals" were given by God as tokens of spiritual citizenship; but in the Christian state we receive not tokens or empty signs, we do not receive "seals" only, but by the power of the Spirit we are sealed. The distinction between the two is like unto the giving a person a ring to wear as a token of friendship, or the impressing of the ring engraved with its arms upon the wax. Confirmation imprints an ineffaceable character on the soul. This character is impressed, not on the essence of the soul, but on its intellectual and effective powers. The child of grace becomes in a degree a priest and king, and an armed soldier in the army of Christ. Thus we sing in our confirmation hymn:
"O Christ, who didst at Pentecost
Send down from heaven the Holy Ghost;
And at Samaria baptize
Those whom Thou didst evangelize;
And then on Thy baptized confer
The best of gifts, the Comforter
By Apostolic hands and prayer;
Be with us now, as Thou wert there.
"Thus consecrated, Lord, to Thee,
May each a living temple be.
Enrich that temple's holy shrine
With sevenfold gifts of grace divine;
With wisdom, light, and knowledge bless,
Strength, counsel, fear, and godliness."
The third gospel mystery is known in Eastern and Western Christendom as the sacrament of penitence. It is the sacrament of restoration. It restores to the soul the spiritual life lost or injured by sin. Like all other mysteries it may be considered in regard to its matter and form. The three acts of penitence, which may be regarded as the matter, are contrition, confession, and satisfaction or amendment. The absolution of the priest is the form. Together these signify and effect the sinner's reconciliation with God; his spiritual resurrection and restoration in grace.
Contrition demands first a knowledge of God's love to us in Christ, and a knowledge of ourselves. This latter can only be obtained by self-examination and prayer. We must ask God to show us ourselves and Himself. We must, if we have never done so, review our life in its different parts and relationships, and see what we have done or left undone. We must examine ourselves in the light of God's commandments, the seven deadly sins, the precepts of the Gospel, the duties of our station, our privileged weaknesses and faults. We must try to see ourselves in the light of God's justice, holiness, and of His love, for, out of His love, who could bear so ghastly a sight?
Contrition combines sorrow for having offended God with a fear and hatred of sin, and a sincere determination not to offend again. It is either perfect or imperfect. It is called perfect when the dominating motive is the love of God, or imperfect when controlled by lesser religious motives, such as the fear of hell or the loss of heaven. But mere natural motives, such as the results of sin, the loss of honor, the confusion of exposure, the obstacles our faults oppose to worldly success, these do not deserve the name of contrition. For contrition must be an act of the heart and will, and be inspired by motives based on religion. There must also be with our sorrow a fear and hatred of sin; a fear, because our nature is so composite, our hearts are so self-deceiving, temptation is so subtle, our falls have been so many. Because also we grow in the love of God just in proportion as we grow in the hatred of sin; because this hatred develops the strength of will, enabling us to contend successfully with this deadly enemy.
Contrition also demands a holy determination to amend. The marks of such a sincere resolve are, fidelity in prayer, vigilance against our spiritual enemies, watchful correspondence with the interior warnings of the Spirit, a rigorous avoiding of the occasions of sin. We must learn, as S. Augustine said, to take the little ones, the first temptations, and dash them against the rock that is Christ.
Confession is the next step in the soul's restoration. It has its source in our moral nature that demands it. Its duty has been revealed in the Old and New Testament. It must be made to God, against whom we have sinned. As Christians it must be made to Him in the person of Jesus Christ, for to Him all judgment has been committed. In His great love He has left those who represent Him, and who can communicate to us His pardoning grace. They can say in His name, son, daughter, thy sins be forgiven thee, go in peace.
The form of this sacrament is the priest's word of absolution. As possessed of this power the gospel ministry is called the ministry of reconciliation. This power of absolution our Lord gave to His Church when He breathed on the Apostles and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." When our Lord spoke these words most probably others besides the Apostles were present. There was reason for this. Forgiveness of sins has reference both to sin in its relation to God and in its relation to the Church's discipline and to those whom we have injured. It requires therefore both a personal forgiveness, an ecclesiastical pardon as well as divine forgiveness. To the Christian priesthood was given the power of dispensing the two latter.
It may well be noticed that our Lord gave to the Apostles their manifold powers at different times.
They were authorized at one time to preach, at another to administer discipline, at another to heal the sick, so also to ordain, to baptize, to offer the Holy Eucharist. Each power of the priesthood was given separately. So here we must conclude that a special power to absolve the penitent was given to the Apostles.
Christ, in this mystery of love, comes as the Good Shepherd seeking His wandering sheep. He comes to gather it up, trembling and with bleeding feet, and take it in His arms and bear it back to the fold. No sinner is so vile but the Sacred Heart is open to him; no sins are so black that the precious blood cannot cleanse. The reason given why frequent communions often do not advance the soul more, is that persons venture into the King's presence uncleansed and un-absolved. In the Eucharist Jesus summons us to the banquet of His love, which is a foretaste of heaven, but we must go having on the clean wedding garment. We go otherwise at our peril. He has provided most freely for our reception of one. The tribunal of penitence is the covenanted seat of mercy. It is the way of rehabilitation: "Take away his filthy garments and give him a change of raiment."
"Weary of earth and laden with my sin,
I look at heaven and long to enter in;
But there no evil thing may find a home;
And yet I hear a voice that bids me 'Come.'
"The while I fain would tread the heavenly way,
Evil is ever with me day by day;
Yet on mine ears the gracious tidings fall,
'Repent, confess, thou shalt be loosed from all.'"
The next mystery is that of holy unction. As penitence is concerned with the healing of the soul, unction is concerned primarily with the healing of the body. Our blessed Lord redeemed our whole nature, body and soul, and it was but fitting that He should provide sacramentally for the needs of each.
The body is the tabernacle of the soul, the house which it inhabits. It is the garden in which the soul dwells. It is intrusted to man as the fair garden of Eden was to Adam. We are placed in it to take care of it, to rule over it, and keep it in subjection. It is to be our servant, not our master. By the discipline thus imposed our souls are trained in Christian knighthood. Our bodies being the temples of the Holy Ghost, we stand guard over His honor who trusts Himself to our care. We are to stand on guard, like the cherubim at the gates of Paradise, whose eyes were like a flame, and whose hand held a blazing sword. But the body is not only to be kept under the sceptre of the will. It must be cared for in its weakness, disorder, and pain. "A merciful man," said S. Francis, speaking of the body, "must be merciful to his beast." The body and its soul must, however, temporarily, at least, cease to be companions. We all have to pass through the dark valley and bear its sorrow.
But He who knows our necessities has provided for us with a mother's care a sacrament testifying to His protection, conveying its own restorative aid, and blessing the means used for our body's recovery. So we read that, having received authority from Jesus Christ, they "anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." They provided for the continuance of this blessing. "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up."
The occasion of its official promulgation by S. James is not given, but we may well surmise it. There were many after Pentecost who were possessed of special gifts, among them that of healing. The ill and the sick person's friends would naturally seek out those who possessed, or who were supposed to possess, this special gift. It was probably to check a tendency not unaccompanied with spiritual dangers both to the persons interested and to the Church's good order that S. James gave his directions. The sick were not to seek out those accounted possessed of miraculous powers, but to send for the elders or priests. So far as the care of the body was concerned no specially gifted person was necessary. Let the faithful trust themselves to the prayers of the ordained priesthood. The ordained elder was a righteous man whom God would hear just as He did His prophet Elijah. The order taken by the Apostles was to do away with the excitement of miracle or faith healing, and substitute a regular method promulgated by the Church.
There was also a further reason. The priest could deal with the soul as a faith-healing or miracle-working layman could not. If the body was to be cured, the first and most important thing for its recovery was to bring the soul into harmony with God. So the sick was to make his confession, and prayer was to be made over him, and then he was to be anointed. The peace and healing of the soul would aid in the healing of the body.
S. James uses the plural form; "Call," he says, "for the elders of the Church." Not as excluding the ministrations of a single priest, but as teaching us the efficacy that comes from united prayer.
The anointing is not to be used when illness is but trifling, or merely when the person is in extremis, but when any illness is serious we may resort to it, and it may be repeated.
The "matter" of this mystery is the anointing of the sick person. The "form" is the prayer. By the anointing God is recognized as the giver of health. A blessing is invoked on the means used for recovery, and through this instrumentality also, if God so wills, restorative aid is given. For the comfort of our souls, grace is also bestowed to meet the trials and temptations of illness. Moreover, the soul, when passing, is fortified for its final passage.
Thus by unction a blessing comes for the healing of our bodies; and our souls are calmed, gladdened, refreshed, and fortified by a special gift of grace.
"In death's dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spread'st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And oh, what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth."
The two next mysteries are holy orders and marriage. Holy order is for the generation and preservation of the priesthood. Marriage was ordained for that of the race. Holy order is indispensable to the existence of the Church, marriage to that of society. By holy order a spiritual paternity is established between priest and people; by marriage a natural one between parent and children. Order is for the ruling over the house of God; marriage gives headship to the Christian family. Order provides for the Church's spiritual needs; marriage for the support of the family's natural wants. Holy order secures to the Church good government; marriage is for the preservation in society of good morals.
We have already spoken sufficiently of holy orders. Let us now consider marriage.
It has existed under three conditions of human society: in man's state of innocence, when fallen or apart from Christ, and under the Christian dispensation. Each has its own separate law of union. We will here speak of it only in its last condition.
Christian marriage is the union of a baptized man and woman. Baptism is therefore an absolute necessity, for it lies at the foundation of this as of all other sacraments. The parties must be baptized into Christ and made members of Christ in order to be united together "in the Lord."
They must also be of legal age, not devoid of reason, with no canonical impediment existing by reason of affinity or consanguinity; must be free in their action, and not under grave fear or constraint, and neither must have a partner by a former marriage living.
The "matter" of the sacrament is the two baptized persons who purpose, and are capable, by canonical law, of making a free and mutual choice. The "form" is the words by which, in the presence of the priest, they take one another to be man and wife, and together receive as one the blessing of the priest. In this way they are united in matrimony and receive an increase of sanctifying grace, and also the special grace needed for the fulfilment of their mutual duties. It is a grace given to enable them to live in love and peace together "until death do us part."
To this, however, it has been objected that it makes marriage rest, as it did under the Roman civil law, on contract, and if by mutual consent the estate is created, by mutual consent, as in Roman times, it might be dissolved. But the consent of the parties here is not like that to an ordinary civil contract, which is merely an agreement to do or not to do a certain thing. It is a contract which executes itself. By their mutual agreement the wills and hearts of the two parties meet and are thereby joined together. Marriage, indeed, implies the union both of body and soul, but the soul is the dominant factor, and thus the parties before leaving the church are what the priest pronounces them to be, man and wife.
The Church, however, does not recognize the character of indissolubility as attached to the union until it has been wholly consummated.
This union being a sacramental one cannot be dissolved by civil courts. But though the bond cannot thus be broken, a separation may be granted.
The unfaithfulness of a partner does not annul the bond. The text in S. Matthew xix. which apparently favors the opposite view is too corrupt or uncertain to allow us to base an argument upon it.1 If Christ's words are correctly given the matter still remains in doubt, as they were seemingly addressed to the Jews and had respect to marriage in their case only. Even if applicable to Christian marriage only separation, not remarriage, is allowed. In those passages where our Lord speaks to the Apostles, and clearly in relation to the Christian state, no provision is made for any dissolution of the bond. The great underlying reason is that Christian marriage is to be a witness of the indissoluble union between Christ and His Church.
The hardness and suffering thereby entailed on the innocent party is to be met by reliance on Christ's promise, "My grace is sufficient for thee." For marriage is not to be considered merely in relation to our earthly state, but to our eternal reward. God calls His servants to suffer in various ways, all of us in some way. And when our sufferings are borne for Him the soul increases in sanctity and secures an increment of future bliss.
There are three kinds of Christian marriage. That of the laity, of the priesthood, and that of those consecrated to the celibate life as religious.
The first is to bear its witness unto the indissolubility of the union between Christ and His bride. The second, if we construe Scripture strictly, allows of but one marriage to the bishop or priest. As the high priest under the old dispensation was allowed to marry but once, and that a virgin, S. Paul makes the same ideal the standard of the Christian clergy. By conformity to this rule they bear witness to the oneness of the Church as the bride of Christ.
The mystical marriage of those consecrated in religion to our Lord is also a true special union of the soul to Him, and, more powerfully than words can tell, bears witness to the world of the all sufficiency of the love and grace of the Bridegroom.
Of the latter Dr. Pusey has said: "Blessed, thrice blessed they whom Christ alone sufficeth, the one aim of whose being is to live to Him and for Him. He is their light, their love, their holy joy; to Him they ever approach with trustfulness; Him they consult in all things, on Him they wait; Him they love, and desiring nothing from Him but His love, desire no love but only His. 'I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine.'"
Of the former estate he says: "What is the pattern and measure and model of the mutual love of the husband and the wife? What but the love of Christ Himself, and of His redeemed Church for Him, its Head?"
"Love, then, with a tender, forbearing love, as Christ is tender and compassionate with us; beholding us as what, by His grace, we shall one day be; cherishing one another, encouraging one another, helping one the other along the narrow road which leadeth unto Him; denying each self for the other, as Christ loved our souls more than Himself. This love shall grow with years, as the love of Christ, which is the beauty of the soul, grows and is enlarged in each. This love shall not decay, much less die. For souls which are united in Christ shall not be separated from Christ; they shall live on still-, one in the one love of Christ."
"Lord, who at Cana's wedding feast
Didst as a guest appear,
Thou dearer far than earthly guest,
Vouchsafe Thy presence here;
For holy Thou indeed dost prove
The marriage vow to be,
Proclaiming it a type of love
Between the Church and Thee.
The holiest vow that man can make,
The golden thread in life,
The bond that none may dare to break,
That bindeth man and wife."
The Holy Eucharist is the greatest of all mysteries. It is the most grand and worthy of honor of all the sacraments; for while they convey grace, in the Eucharist we have Jesus Christ Himself, the author of grace. It is an ever-living witness of the incarnation, sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord. It is the consummation of religion on earth, as it affords us the most intimate and perpetual communication with Jesus Christ. It is the essence of Christianity, as being the sacrifice, in union with which the Christian makes that of Calvary applicable to himself. It is the possession of the Church on earth of Jesus Christ's real but veiled presence, as she waits adoringly for His unveiling in the state of glory.
We may for devotional and practical purposes consider the mystery under three heads:
First, as a witness. The sacraments are witnesses to the faith. The Blessed Sacrament bears witness to the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the oneness of the Church in Him. By the necessary recitation of the words of institution, "This is my body," witness is thereby borne to the fact that Christ had a body like our own. Moreover, it is of faith that He assumed it, never to put it off. So age after age the priest repeats these words at the altar, which, if Christ had ceased to have a body, would not be true. Also by the consecration of the two elements the mystery tells us that the blood was separated from the body by a sacrificial death. "This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you." The mystery declares yet further that He who died rose in that body, for otherwise the words of the institution would be unreal. It moreover declares as well as effects the unity of the Church. We feed on Him, the living bread, and are made one loaf in Him.
The sacrament is a communion. By the words of institution and the power of the Holy Spirit the elements become the body and blood of Christ. Man's names designate, God's naming makes that He names. It is not made in the natural order, or governed by any natural laws. By the Spirit's power the elements become what the Word declares them to be, Christ's body and blood.
The Anglican Church has declared this as her faith and embodied it in her catechism. In it she declares that in the Blessed Sacrament there is an outward part or sign, and there is an inward part or thing signified, and thirdly there are the benefits which partakers receive.
First, there is a sign.
At the time of the Reformation there was a so-called Romish theory that the elements existed in appearance only. Our theologians met this error by saying, that by denying the existence of the sign, the integrity of the sacrament was fatally impaired, for a sacrament consists both of an inward thing and an outward sign. On the other hand, some within the Church have mistaken the Church's meaning, and taught that the inward part was something which only signified Christ. In this way they have fallen into the opposite error of making two signs. The outward sign being one, and the inward part being only in some way another sign,--something signifying Christ and not being the real body and blood of our Lord.
There are three opinions held respecting this mystery. Two belong to the Protestant category. The Zwinglian makes the sacrament merely a memorial of an absent Lord; the Calvinistic view is that along with the reception of the elements Christ's body and blood are communicated to the faithful and elect receiver. The Catholic belief as stated in the catechism is that there is a sign and a thing, and that the thing signified is the body and blood of Christ.
A more intelligent apprehension of the mystery of Christ's presence can be attained by considering three points.
First, the whole transaction takes place not in the natural order of things, but in the spiritual body of Christ. It is therefore governed by no natural laws of matter and space, and can be comprehended by no analogies drawn from natural life.
Secondly, by the consecration, acting through His representatives, Christ gathers up the elements into Himself, and they become His body and blood. No local movement on the part of Christ is required to effect this. The elements become what His almighty word declares them to be, and receiving them with faith we partake of Him.
Thirdly, an act of adoration is due Him from the common law of courtesy which demands that every act of condescension on the part of a superior must be acknowledged by a reciprocal act of reverence, and in case the superior is God, of adoration. We do not adore the elements considered apart by themselves, but our act of adoration has, for its terminus ad quern, His divine personality, to whom alone adoration is due.
The third aspect of the mystery is, that it is a sacrifice. Slowly the Anglican Church has recovered its grasp on this great truth. The Eucharistic sacrifice has a double relation. One to the act of our Lord's blood shedding finished on Calvary, and one to the presentation of that blood, which has passed through death to the Eternal Father.
On Calvary the offering was made in behalf and in reconciliation of the human race. On the altar it is re-presented, pleaded, and appropriated by the Church for the needs of her individual members.
It is, however, an imperfect apprehension of the truth to regard the sacrifice of the altar as a presentation by the priest of Christ's death, apart from the co-operation of the people. The deeper and fuller view is that the Church offers up herself as a living sacrifice to God. She does this in union with Christ, her head, with whom she identifies herself, by partaking of the sacrifice of the altar.
Most glorious would it be if on every altar on Sundays and holy days, and more frequently still, the holy sacrifice was offered. The earnestly minded have it in their power to make the Anglican Church what they desire. But it is not by mere agitation, or legislation, or change of relationship to the State, or in any like ways, will they attain their end. It is God and God only who can bring about the desired result, and the most potent of all agencies which move Him is the devout offering of the holy sacrifice.
"Thou, who at thy first Eucharist didst pray,
That all Thy Church might be forever one,
Grant us at every Eucharist to say
With longing heart and soul, 'Thy will be done.'
Oh, may we all one Bread, one Body be,
Through this blest Sacrament of Unity.
"We pray Thee, too, for wanderers from Thy fold;
Oh, bring them back, good Shepherd of the sheep,
Back to the faith which saints believed of old,
Back to the Church which still that faith doth keep;
Soon may we all one Bread, one Body be,
Through this blest Sacrament of Unity."