Project Canterbury

The Doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Dislocation of the Canon:

The Presidential Address Delivered by Viscount Halifax at the Fifty-seventh Anniversary of the English Church Union on Tuesday the 20th of June, 1916.

London: Offices of the English Church Union, 1916.

The President’s Address.

The past year has brought anxiety and sorrow to us all. Death has been busy amongst us. We have to lament many friends, Members of this Union, many who in the war have given their lives for their country.

Amongst personal friends of our own who have been called to their rest during the past year, how can I help recalling to your memory names such as those of the Rev. R. C. Kirkpatrick, so long associated with the Church of St. Augustine, Kilburn; of the Rev. Father Maxwell, Superior of the Community of St. John the Evangelist, Cowley; and of Sir Theodore Hope, so long a member of our Council. They are names dear to us—names we shall never forget as we feel sure they will never forget us; but amongst all the friends we mourn, there is one who is more especially in our thoughts to-day, one whom we laid in his grave only last week, one whose loss to the Union and to his friends is, as we count loss, indeed irreparable—our very dear friend and helper, W. J. Birkbeck. His very sudden and unexpected death on his return from Russia a fortnight ago is a sorrow to us all, a sorrow such as few other deaths could have caused. There is not a Member of this Union who has not reason to regret his loss. How great a sorrow it is to his more intimate friends, those who knew him the best can. appreciate the most. The place he filled was in all ways a place peculiar to himself, a place which no one else can in the least fill. His knowledge was as varied as it was extensive. He was an accomplished theologian, whose opinion was always to be depended upon, an admirable historian whose knowledge was as wide as it was varied. He was as conversant with Eastern theology, and Eastern ways of thinking, as he was with the theology and thought of the West. He had the most extensive and complete knowledge of Russian history, Russian ecclesiastical affairs and feeling, and Russian politics. I suppose there was no man in England who knew Russia in all ways so well as he did. He was intimate with all the leading men in Russia from the Czar downwards. He was trusted and beloved in Russia as much [3/4] as he was trusted and loved in England; and he has done more to quicken those sympathies between England and Russia which may mean so much for the world in the sphere of politics, still more in the sphere of religion, and, I will add, in the history of Christendom at large, than any man living. We owe it to him that the beautiful Russian “Contakion for the Departed” is now so constantly sung in our cathedrals and churches. In all these matters we have lost one to whom the deepest debt of gratitude is owing in the past, and from whom, more than any other, great things might have been expected in the future. It is indeed an irreparable loss, and, to myself—if one may mention a personal matter—a loss for which nothing can make up. He was the truest and best of friends. I have known him with an ever increasing intimacy since the year 1877. There was no one on whose advice I more depended, no one whose opinion I more valued, no one more certain to speak the exact truth, and to say when he thought a fault had been made, or a mistake had to be corrected. Much else might be said of him. He was an accomplished musician: his knowledge of Plainsong and all Church music was remarkable. Only the Sunday before he died, the day following his return from Russia, after having made his Communion in the morning, he was playing at the High Mass in his own church. He had the happiness of spending the rest of the beautiful day that it was with his wife and children, and then in the night, or quite early the following morning, he was seized with the violent illness which took him from us on the following Friday.

It was a death which completed a life spent from his earliest years in God’s services.

May God grant him His peace, may light perpetual shine upon him, and as we remember him now and ever in our prayers, let us also remember, That being dead, he yet speaketh.


There are two matters to which I wish to draw your attention to-day, one of which relates to the doctrinal teaching of the Church of England, the other which raises a question of discipline, involving the nature and extent of the obligation imposed upon the clergy to “use in the ministration of the Sacraments the form prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer and none other.” The doctrinal teaching is that of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; the question of discipline, how far, having regard to the obligation accepted by the clergy, a transposition of some of the parts of our existing Liturgy, or even the use of the Liturgy as set forth in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI., are methods open to any individual priest for bringing home more effectually to the minds of his people the teaching of the Church of England.

There are several reasons why I am anxious to bring forward this subject to-day. First, I desire to do so on account of its intrinsic importance and in view of the fact that next year, being the fiftieth year since you did me the honour—and it is the honour of my life—to elect me as your President, I may not have another opportunity of addressing you from this Chair. Secondly, because the matter has a very direct bearing in one important particular on the character of the religious teaching given in England, as that religious teaching is being brought home to us by the war, and what I have to say in regard to it suggests a definite way in which in so far as that teaching is proved to have been deficient, it may be improved. Thirdly, because the matter is one which is attracting much public attention, has been indirectly the subject of various Episcopal utterances, has been dealt with by a Committee of Convocation which has made certain definite recommendations on the subject, and has elicited a discussion in the Upper House of Canterbury, to which I shall have occasion to refer in greater detail presently. A careful consideration of the subject and, if possible, the adoption of a common line of conduct in regard to it is obviously the duty of the Union under such circumstances, a duty which in my case is enforced by the belief that the most effectual defence of all we are bound to defend is the clear and definite statement of truth, [5/6] together with the exhibition of that truth enshrined in the practice by which it is symbolized and enforced. In other words, the consolidation of our position is the best defence. We have to take the initiative, and not wait to be attacked. A forward movement, if seriously considered, rightly begun, and successfully accomplished, improves the whole position of the Church; mere defence, though it may repel the attack for the moment, leaves the position where it was. At the present time, to judge by what is being said on all sides, there is no-one who does not admit how much in practice the teaching of the Church of England falls short of what it ought to be. The National Mission, of which we are hearing so much, is avowedly due to, and an indication of, this failure. The failure is admitted, and all must be anxious to remedy it. In regard to ourselves, additional reasons exist which must increase the desire for such a forward movement. Most of what we have been fighting for during the last fifty years has been practically won. No one now ventures to appeal to the Privy Council or to Parliament as determining the law of the Church. Hardly anyone pretends that the ancient vestments, the use of which was continued under the First Prayer Book of Edward VI., are not prescribed by the Ornaments Rubric. We want to carry our work on to its legitimate and necessary conclusion. A cause that does not progress goes back. Our younger men, and, I will add, some older ones, have seen visions. Nearly all have set ideals before themselves which they are determined to realize. They are sick and weary of the compromises that are so largely responsible for our present troubles. They desire to see the Church assert itself and be true to its own principles. They are convinced that it is only by being true to those principles, in holding them, firmly and in asserting them courageously, that it can do its duty to the masses of the country. It is a stern, uncompromising teaching of the truth, whether the world likes it or not, that is the great need of the present day. Plans for social improvement, schemes for the inculcation of morality, are not religion. “Religion,” to quote an admirable sermon recently preached in Grosvenor Chapel, “is not merely a kind of background for the manly virtues. The inculcation of the moral virtues, however important, is not its primary end. There was no need for God to become Man to teach us that we ought to control our passions. Pagan philosophers at Rome and Athens taught that, three hundred years before Jesus Christ was born. The purpose of Christ’s birth and agony and rising again was not just that He might leave us a pattern of character, or a set of rules to help us to be good; [6/7] it was that we might win a new and wonderful kind of Life—the Life of the Incarnate God Himself—a Life which, from the moment of Pentecost, has animated and inspired the Catholic Church through all the ages, and which, in her Sacraments, the least and meanest of her children is free to share.” [By the Rev. C. S. Gillett, “Religion in Public Schools.”]

And for this we want teaching. “We want the Creeds explained and the great doctrines of the Faith which the Creeds express set forth clearly and without compromise. The Catholic Faith is rooted and grounded in the Person of Christ; and it was to meet attacks made upon the Person of Christ that the Church put together the formulae which guard the truth. People say, ‘Let us avoid points of controversy.’ Why, the whole Faith is a point of controversy. The men who lived with our Lord were tortured and killed because they took one side in it and not the other. They died because they would not make their Creed a little easier.”

And next, we want the Sacraments. Is it untrue to say that in the normal religious instruction given in our schools, elementary, public, and other, the Sacraments have hardly a place at all? Is it an exaggeration, if we consider the general religious attitude of our countrymen, to say that the common impression concerning the Sacraments “is almost anything except the true one, almost anything except that they are the Divine means whereby we receive God’s Life into our own? And yet without the Sacraments and the worship that centres round them, without the offering of the Holy Sacrifice, without the communion of the Precious Body and Blood, without the application to the individual soul of the pardon Christ won for all sinners—without all these, how can that sense of nearness to Christ, which is the very meaning of religion, be strengthened or even kept alive? For it is through the Sacraments that the Incarnation is for us to-day, not just a far-off miracle, hidden in the mist of ages, but a living truth eternally valid and significant. It is because of the Sacraments that Christ, though born amongst a far-off Eastern people, is still ‘Emanuel’: God with us—not merely ‘God with them.’”

And then we want clear and definite instruction about the Church. “Our countrymen have to be taught to know and love its glorious history, to realize that its clergy are ordained for a certain definite and special purpose, to proclaim the Gospel, to uphold the Faith, to minister to the dying, to absolve penitent sinners, to offer the Holy Sacrifice for quick and dead, to give Christian people the Body and Blood of Christ. They have to be taught how to worship, how to repent, how to pray. They want the Sacraments that will bring Christ close to them, something that will enable them to draw continually upon His strength. They want absolution and communion.”

[8] What, in regard to all these things, is the cry that is heard on all sides? “Why were we never told? Why were we never taught at home? Why were we never helped at school? And there is no answer but one, an answer which should cut us to the quick—the answer that in our teaching the Church’s Faith has been made so vague, so unheroic, that in the end it has not been taught at all.”

People say that though our sailors and our soldiers are changed men, we at home are hardly changed at all. Is this true? Are we, with whom the future rests, we who love the Church, we to whom the Sacraments mean so much, are we going to try to improve things or to let them drift? That, and nothing short of that, is the question.

People say things cannot be done. They can be done if there is the will, and it is to that will I desire to appeal in regard to the two matters upon which I wish to speak to-day.

To emphasize the first point, the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice: “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” “Then said I, lo, I come, to do Thy Will, O God.” That Body, which was the instrument of the expiation made for the sins of the whole world upon Calvary, He has left us as the instrument by which we may plead that expiation in the Sacrament of the Altar. “Why was the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ordained?” “For the continual remembrance of the Sacrifice of the Death of Christ.” Where is this sacrificial remembrance before God and man of the death of Christ made? where and when is the priesthood after the order of Melchisedek, who offered bread and wine, exercised? Where, except at the Altar? When, except in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the One Service of our Lord’s appointment? By whom is it exercised? By Christ Himself Who, by the mouth of His priest, repeats at every Mass what He did at the last Supper, and offers His Body broken and His Blood poured out, sacrament ally identified with the bread and wine, in memory of the expiation made once for all by the offering of that same Body and Blood in actual death, upon the Altar of the Cross.

That is the teaching of the Catholic Church, that is the teaching of the Church of England as to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and, I ask, what proportion is there amongst us who so look on the Holy Eucharist? Do people hasten to church that they may themselves kneel before the Cross and offer to God that one acceptable sacrifice offered by their Head on their behalf? Is it not rather that most, even of the devout, go to Mass in order to meet our Lord, to worship Him and delight themselves in possessing Him as their own? And yet, blessed beyond [8/9] words as that possession is, and constituting as it does the support and happiness of our lives, has not this aspect of the Eucharist to do with Its relation to us rather than Its relation to God? It is the Cross which has won for us all that constitutes the joy and support of our life in the use of the Sacraments, and it does so because it is the Cross which creates and establishes a new relation between us and God. Surely it is this aspect of the Holy Eucharist—its Godward aspect—that requires emphasizing. It is its relation to the Cross that wants insisting upon. Can anyone truthfully assert that the religion which generally prevails amongst us is in the least adequate on this subject? It is not a question of doctrine, but of the expression of doctrine. Where there is a valid Consecration there, in all its reality, must be the Sacrifice; and it is this fact, in the interests of the truth the Church of England is pledged to teach, which needs drawing out. It is the offering of the Body and Blood of Christ by death on Calvary that constitutes, the Sacrifice of the Cross. It is the offering of that Body and Blood, identified by Christ Himself with the sacramental forms of bread and wine, that constitutes the Sacrifice of the Altar, and it is for the continual showing forth of Christ’s death, till He come, and for obtaining for ourselves and those for whom we pray, all the benefits of His Passion that the Holy Sacrifice is offered. How many feel when they are assisting at Mass that they are kneeling at our Lord’s feet, beneath His Cross? That here is the offering which pleads for the whole world, for the sins of all, living and departed, the one offering of infinite worth we can make to “Our Father,” the one offering which enables us to say with a sure confidence : “Look on the Face of Thy Son, and only look on us as found in Him.” Look on us who plead for the living and the dead that one Sacrifice offered by Him for all the sins of the world, past, present, and to come, that Offering by which Christ our Lord set Himself apart as the Victim for our salvation on the night of His Passion, that Offering completed on Calvary which is, offered in all the plenitude of its power and efficacy wherever there is a priest to make the oblation of Christ’s Body and Blood, and which has constituted the one great and abiding Sacrifice of the Christian Church since the Day of Pentecost. When this is not realized, no wonder that the altars of the Church are deserted. “I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.” How, if there is no consciousness of that lifting up, no horror of the sins that necessitated so great an expiation, no sense of the need of the application of that expiation to ourselves, no perception that here and now the Lamb as it had been slain on Calvary is the one Offering that satisfies human needs and the cry of human souls? Surely, [9/10] if there is any lack here, this is the point which most demands attention; surely here is the supreme object towards which all oar efforts at improvement should be directed.

The whole subject is one which can only be imperfectly dealt with on an occasion like the present, but there are two or three observations in regard to it to which I should like to draw your attention.

Owing to a variety of reasons, into which it is too long to enter, I cannot help thinking that there has been a tendency amongst us to lay too great a stress upon the relation of the Eucharist to our Lord’s present action in Heaven in proportion to that which is laid upon the relation of the Eucharist to the last Supper and the Cross. One result of this has been that it has increased the difficulty of bringing the Evangelicals into line with ourselves; it has made them suspicious that we are teaching something inconsistent with the fact that the Sacrifice of the Cross is the one, full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, expiation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, past, present, and to come, whilst, in regard to ourselves, again for reasons into which it is too long to enter, that stress has had a tendency to confuse and obscure the apprehension of the reality and nature of the sacrifice offered in the Eucharist, and this again, in its turn, has led to the disposition, to which I have already alluded, to attend Holy Communion chiefly with the object of worshipping and receiving our Lord rather than with the object of pleading before God the continual remembrance of “the sacrifice of the death of Christ.” The result has been that the object of the Mass as a constant reminder in the eyes of God and man of the Atonement made on the Cross—the central fact of Christianity—has been obscured, if not lost sight of, with the result, as I think, that not merely in regard to the Mass, but in regard to the doctrine of the Atonement generally, the stress laid upon the doctrine of the Incarnation and its extension to us as, e.g., in the Eucharist, has been out of proportion to the stress laid upon the doctrine of the Atonement, and for this I think the dislocation of the Canon in the Book of Common Prayer is partly, if not greatly, responsible. Of course I know that there is no real opposition between the matters of which I am speaking: they are to be reconciled at once if we bear in mind, when speaking of them, their relation to Time or to Eternity; but, for all that, I think there is truth in what I am saying, and in this connection I cannot help observing (you will have noticed that the matter has more than once come up indirectly in letters which have appeared in the Press about the War), how significant it is that all that is involved in the words “ransom,” “redemption from the power of Satan,” in relation to the Cross should to so [10/11] great an extent be forgotten, and that the notion of a power usurped by Satan over the world in consequence of the Fall, of death as Satan’s handiwork, of the deliverance from death and the bondage of it by. the Death of Christ on the Cross, and the power of innocence to expiate by suffering for. the sins of the guilty, of which the Cross is the supreme example, should have so largely disappeared. The fact can hardly be disputed, and yet, as Father Stanton, of St. Alban’s, used to say: “The moment you get away from the Precious Blood you have evacuated Christianity of all its mystery and all its power.”

Considerations such as these, in addition to, and almost more than all liturgical reasons, have long made me feel how greatly the dislocation of our Canon was to be deplored, and that to help in remedying this dislocation was one of the things I should most wish to attempt before I die. You will say perhaps, “Why, then, have you always opposed any Revision of the Prayer Book? “I think I could give you very good reasons why the two positions are not incompatible, but though I have opposed a Revision of the Prayer Book under present circumstances, with the consequent discussion of the contents of the Prayer Book in Parliament, I have always said that if there were any Revision the Canon was the first thing that ought to be dealt with, and I have been unfeignedly glad, when the notion of an appendix to the Prayer Book has been suggested, because, while it left the Prayer Book with its present authority intact, such an appendix would have given a quasi sanction for much that one would like to see done, e.g., this very matter of the Canon of which I am speaking. You will, however, remember what occurred in regard to this in Convocation last summer. The Bishop of London, though in favour of the change himself, opposed any such action in regard to the Canon as the suggested appendix to the Prayer Book proposed, on the ground that it would “displease both the extreme parties,” such persons, for example, as ourselves on the one side and the Evangelicals on the other. There was some truth in this statement, but not sufficient, I think, to justify the Bishop’s action. The Bishop of. Oxford, in regard to ourselves, went a great deal further than the Bishop of London. In connection with statements as to “Transubstantiation and changes dominant in the Western Church in the thirteenth century,” of which I “am unable to see the relevance—Transubstantiation has nothing to do with the fact of the Real Presence, being merely a philosophic explanation of the mode of that Presence, and has, therefore, no bearing on the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice—together with a theory of “Sacrifice associated with the name of St. Augustine,” which, according to the Bishop, [11/12] makes it impossible “to regard a non-communicant as having any other than an extremely external and remote relation to the Sacrifice,” the Bishop goes on to say: “Make no mistake about it, if you do this “(that is, remedy the dislocation of the Canon) “you are not doing a thing that would please the extreme Churches. You will find you are doing something they will resist.”

I dispute the accuracy of that statement, and I have been making it my business ever since last July to ascertain how far that statement was true, what, as far as my friends were concerned, was really the fact, and what it was possible to do with their general goodwill and assent in the direction indicated.

Four conferences of representative clergy of different shades of opinion and of all ages have been held at Hickleton since last July; from twelve to fifteen clergy have been present on each occasion. Others who could not attend have been written to, and it is the result of these conferences, and what might develop out of them, that I want to bring before your consideration to-day. To do this, however, with any completeness I must make a digression.

At present, as I think you are aware, it is a very general custom, in order to remedy the dislocation of the Canon, for many of the clergy—I should put their number at some two thousand, though I believe I might safely put it at three thousand—to treat the prayer for the Church Militant as the “Orate Fratres,” to say the first part of the Latin Canon (silently of course) before the Prayer of Consecration in the Prayer Book, and to complete the Prayer of Consecration with the rest of the Latin Canon, ending with the Lord’s Prayer. The Ablutions would then be taken in what I am sure is their historical position, i.e., after the Communion, after which would be said in its proper place the Prayer of Thanksgiving, “Almighty and ever-living God, we most heartily thank Thee,” &c., or, sometimes, though less frequently and quite improperly, the Prayer of Oblation in the Prayer Book, beginning, “O Lord and heavenly Father, we Thy humble servants,” &c., a practice which is surely indefensible, since it is in fact repeating what has already been said in the Latin form, and using as a prayer of thanksgiving what is in reality a part of the Canon. Such a practice could only be justified by the assertion that what is a portion of the Canon, though out of its place, is only a post-communion collect, which is not only contrary to the fact, but is also to do a great injustice to the Ecclesia Anglicana. It follows then that if the ablutions are taken in the proper place, and where they must have been taken by all priests who were willing to use the first Liturgy of Edward VI., i.e., the great mass of the then English clergy, the Prayer of Oblation, unless it is [12/13] said immediately after the consecration as in Edward’s First Book, can never be said at all, which is to put entirely on one side an important feature of the English Liturgy, and, moreover, to neglect the use of what is valuable for teaching the Faith and maintaining a right belief in the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Further, to say Mass in the way above described, however agreeable to the priest himself, does nothing for the Ecclesia Anglicana at large, and little for the teaching of the people. It must also necessarily, to a large extent at least, be said secretly, and though there is nothing more disagreeable and disturbing than to hear the Mass shouted out, as one hears in some places, nothing annoys and distracts people more than interminable pauses in the Service, and not knowing what is being said or done by the priest.

In this connection let me also add that if our people are to say “Amen” at the end of the Canon, according to St. Paul’s injunction, they ought to be able to identify themselves with and take their proper share with the priest in the form of words, i.e., the Canon, by which the offering is made on their behalf, in the same way as the priest himself in the execution of his office acts as the representative of our Lord Jesus Christ Who Himself in the Sacrifice offered on the Cross, as in the Sacrifice offered at the Last Supper and in the Mass, acts on behalf of the members of His Church, of which He is both the Representative and the Head.

I now go back to what passed at the conferences at Hickleton. We have been allowed for a great many years to use the Liturgy of the First Book of Edward VI. in our chapels; it has also sometimes, not infrequently indeed on week days, been said in the Parish Church. At these conferences clergy were present who had previously insisted that they never could say Mass in any other way than that which I have just described. After hearing the Liturgy of the First Book sung as we sing it, and after themselves celebrating in accordance with it, all, or nearly all, and some of those who had at first been most opposed to the idea of any such change, entirely altered their minds, and said that they would be glad to follow the use of the First Prayer Book, or something analogous to it. In other words, that if it were rightly possible to use the Liturgy in Edward VI.’s book as we use it, or to obtain tacit acquiescence for such a transposition of the prayers in the Communion Office of the present Prayer Book—as practically comes to much the same thing—they would be prepared to say the whole Mass as set out in Edward’s First Book, or to use the prayers in the present Prayer Book transposed as in the First Book, instead of using portions of the Canon taken from the unreformed Latin Service. There are [13/14] many besides those who were at Hickleton who I know would be very glad to do the same thing, but who hesitate to do so on their own authority in view of what they feel is due to the requirements of ecclesiastical order, and the scruples they would have in making such a change on their own responsibility.

I cannot conclude this portion of my subject better than by quoting the Bishop of Oxford, who, speaking recently on this subject, said, “There was a great mistake made at the Reformation in the way of leaving out of sight the whole ancient structure of the Liturgy. We went to the very verge of destroying the continuity of our Liturgy because of overmuch reaction from error. Ever since we had had grave cause to regret it. What was wanted was to bring certain features of the Service much more into accord with the ancient Liturgies. It was a reasonable reform .... which, on liturgical and theological principles, was rightly demanded.” Mr. Keble says exactly the same thing.

And here I touch upon the second point I want to discuss: What it may be possible to do in regard to this matter, what, having regard to existing ecclesiastical obligations, can be done now, and at once, to remedy that dislocation of the Canon which, for so many reasons, is so much to be deplored. Is there anything we can do, and if so, on what principles can such action be justified? Or, is there nothing we can do, and are we to wait for ever for all the reforms that are of real importance for the good of the Church, the teaching of the Faith and the welfare of our people? For example, are we to be content with general exhortations as to the duty of observing Sunday and never to promote its observance by insisting on the only intelligible rule that does anything to secure the manner in which it ought to be observed?

There are two things which it seems to me might be done. The place of the Prayer of Oblation, together with the Lord’s Prayer, might be transferred from its present position after the Communion and said immediately after the Consecration. Such a transference might be held to be irregular, but inasmuch as it would only involve saying two prayers in the Communion Office instead of one, and a slight change in the position of the Lord’s Prayer, none could think it disloyal to that Ecclesia Anglicana we all love and desire to serve. Such a practice already prevails in many churches and might be followed in a great many more. Or, which I believe would be the better course in every way, and the course more likely to commend itself to ecclesiastical authority, we might revert to the use of the Communion Office in the First Book of Edward VI., in which the dislocation of the Canon finds no place, in which the Gloria in Excelsis and the communion of [14/15] the people are maintained in their original positions, and which resembles in its arrangement more nearly than our present Prayer Book the Scotch and American uses.

I speak with some knowledge on this subject, for the “Lord’s Supper, commonly called the Mass,” as printed in the First Book of Edward VI., as I have said, has long been used in our chapels in Yorkshire, with the consent of ecclesiastical authority, and I know how much more teaching the arrangement of that Liturgy is than the way in which the same prayers are arranged in the Prayer Book. It is also, not infrequently, said on weekdays in church, and I ask myself whether such use might not be extended in other places. The difficulty, of course, is how to reconcile such action with strict ecclesiastical principles. On this point opinions may differ, but I would submit the following observations on the subject as worthy of consideration.

First, as to the Liturgy of the First Prayer Book in itself. Its arrangement is much more in accordance with the ancient and present Use of the Western Church, a fact which should surely make it welcome to us all, while it has behind it the weight of an Anglican tradition largely dissociated from the German and Swiss influences which affected the Second Prayer Book, and therefore, indirectly, the existing Book of Common Prayer. Some of the greatest and most accredited divines of the later Church of England—Bishop Wilson, of Sodor and Man, for example, clarum et venerabile nomen—have left it on record how much they desired such a change. Bishop Cosin, one of the Revisers of 1662, would, we know, have liked to proceed in the same direction (it is recorded that he used the Prayer of Oblation in the way suggested), and there is no liturgical scholar who would not welcome such a change in itself as an improvement in the arrangement of our own existing liturgy. We know that it was due to the influence of German and Foreign Reformers that the Liturgy in the First Prayer Book was given up in the last few months of Edward VI.’s reign, and the Second Prayer Book of Edward VI. substituted for it, the Second Act of Uniformity declaring that “the First Prayer Book was a very godly order in the mother tongue, ‘agreeable to the Word of God and the primitive Church’; and that such doubts as had been raised in the use and exercise thereof proceeded rather from the ‘curiosity of the minister and mistakers, than of any other worthy cause.’ “Whether the Second Prayer Book was ever generally used is extremely doubtful; what is certain is that it had no ecclesiastical authority, that it received no such authority when it, rather than the First Book, was restored on Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, through the influence of reformers who during Mary’s reign had again been thrown [15/16] into the arms of German and Swiss divines, and that it was only in 1662 that our present Prayer Book, which is Elizabeth’s Prayer Book with certain important alterations, together with the revival of the ornaments and vestments prescribed by and used under the First Book, obtained ecclesiastical sanction.

It is not for me, nor have I any wish, to belittle those sanctions. I will only point out that the Prayer Book of which the Prayer Book of 1662 was the revival, had no ecclesiastical sanction, that the ecclesiastical history of England from the accession of Elizabeth until well on into James I.’s reign was largely, if not wholly, a chaos (we know that the whole influence of the Episcopate during that time was employed in the endeavour to coerce the Puritans into some sort of order, an effort that made anything like a general return to Catholic practice difficult), and that the Puritan regime under which the clergy were banished and the Prayer Book suppressed during the time of the Commonwealth was the destruction of such Catholic tradition as was beginning again to assert itself. The result was that under Charles II. the Bishops who were called upon to undertake the Revision of 1662 found themselves hopelessly hampered by the history of the past, by the then state of things; in fact, by the whole course of events and the consequences of what had been done in the times preceding them. We know indeed, as a matter of fact, that they were by no means at liberty—in view of the then state of the country—to do all that they desired. It is difficult therefore, I think, when we consider the history of our present Prayer Book, to dissociate it from the consequences inseparable from the circumstances of its birth, or to think that, in view of them, it can be invested with that plenitude of ecclesiastical authority some are inclined and might wish to attach to it. In any case, we can hardly doubt who are likely to be generally considered the more loyal to English traditions, those who desire to do what they can for the improvement of the English Liturgy, and to use that Liturgy in its integrity as it left the hands of the first English Reformers—a Liturgy which was used by Bishop Gardiner, Bishop Bonner, and others, who, under Henry VIII., had rejected the Papal Supremacy though faithful to Catholic tradition, or those who on the one side ignore all Catholic tradition in their manner of saying Mass, or, on the other, prefer to supplement the present Prayer Book by reciting large portions of the Latin Canon. It is quite one thing to say the whole of the Latin Mass, and quite another to say different bits of two separate Liturgies dovetailed into one another. In the latter case all that is taken from the Latin Canon has, of course, to be said secretly, a practice which does not conduce to the intelligent [16/17] participation in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice by the laity, which can afford no instruction on those points on which they are sorely in need of instruction, and which is also at variance with the teaching and the avowed desire of all the best liturgical scholars, whether of our own or the Roman Communion.

In any event, it appears to me there can be no question which practice is the more in accordance with English tradition, more consonant with that pietas for the Ecclesia Anglicana which, if I were a Frenchman or a Spaniard, I should wish to see recognized in relation to the Church of France or the Church of Spain, or more likely to win the people of England back to the Faith. I am fortified in that conviction—if such a book as Canon Liddon’s “Priest to the Altar,” or the practice of such a devout Anglican as Dean Randall, of Chichester, are quoted against me—by the certainty that if it had entered into the head of either Dr. Liddon or Dean Randall that the course I am now suggesting had been at all possible, they would have much preferred it to what may have been their practice, and have welcomed it gladly. The Confessor of Margaret of Richmond, the mother of Henry VII., Bishop Fox of Winchester, is reported to have said that he had “longed for a reformation of the Church as Simeon had longed for the Messiah.” Dr. Liddon, and no one knew him better than I did, would, I am very sure, have welcomed such a chance as I am discussing for improving our own English Liturgy with heartfelt joy and the deepest thankfulness.

Are we not also entitled to consider the history of the past. How has all that we have won been gained? Has it been by the intervention of ecclesiastical authority in the first instance, or by that authority accepting what has been done by others after it had gradually approved itself to the mind of the Church? How, in our own day, has the eastward position, the use of the Agnus and the Benedictus, the use of the vestments prescribed by the Ornaments Rubric—how have all these and many other similar things been secured? Has it been by the action of ecclesiastical authority or by the action of individual clergy? Has it not been by a restoration often in apparent disobedience to ecclesiastical authority? Why, if various exhortations and other portions of the Prayer Book may be rightly left out, may not certain transpositions of the prayers in the Prayer Book be rightly adopted? Why may not what is in reality the First Edition of our existing Liturgy, the form of the “Lord’s Supper “or “the Mass,” as given in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI., be adopted in its entirety? Would not such an adoption be in all respects better than the transposition of certain parts of the present Liturgy, and better again than the absolutely unliturgical attempt to roll [17/18] two Liturgies into one? Everyone knows that if the words of the Rubrics are to be pressed, as the Bishop of Oxford would apparently press them, the daily Eucharist in many churches would have to be given up. The supposed rule of three communicants, which it is the fashion in certain quarters to utilize for the purpose of insisting upon communicants at every Mass, may be good or bad, the only certain thing about it is that, for the purpose for which it is cited, it can claim no kind of sanction from the Prayer Book itself. It is a rule which, so far as the Prayer Book is concerned, would only apply if in the parish to be dealt with there were only twenty people in the whole parish capable of communicating, a reductio ad absurdum which speaks for itself, and shows the entirely arbitrary character of the rule it is sought to establish by a. reference to it.

The truth is that our history does not lend itself to any such rigorous theories or exercises of authority; the facts do not admit of it. We have to do the best we can, that which will conduce most to bring the English people back to the Faith of Christ, that which will best remedy evils admitted by all; and while we have to insist on certain broad principles, inseparable from the maintenance of Catholic discipline in its essential features, we have to be generous in our application of them, and to be largely guided by results, what is for the real interest of the Church even if it be irregular, and what we have reason to believe will best work out for the good of souls and the religious needs of the country.

To sum up: We want no Revision of the Prayer Book which would, directly or indirectly, subject the Prayer Book to discussion in Parliament, but we do want such tacit and. informal acquiescence for things acknowledged to be good in themselves as may make their realization possible in the present, and prepare the way for a formal sanction of them in the future when they have justified themselves to the religious sense of the Church at large and been shown by experience to be such changes as are really demanded by the religious needs of our people.

What I have been suggesting has practically received a. large amount of assent, some of an important character, and I believe the more it is considered the more it will obtain the general support of the Members of the Union. I am not urging any collective or immediate action—the circumstances of each parish and of each incumbent differ widely; but I should like to see such a line of conduct as I have tried to indicate and suggest taken up and adopted as the general policy of the Union, as an end for which it might work, and as-an object to put before those who are considering a forward movement in the interests of the Church. If in any case it [18/19] can be adopted, in whole or in part, with the goodwill of all concerned, let it be adopted. None, I am quite sure, who do adopt it will regret their endeavour, and in this connection I would ask one other question. Why should it be supposed that the authorities of the Church would think such action as I am suggesting disloyal, and insist that because its adoption may be irregular therefore it is to be condemned? I do not believe they would do anything of the sort. If rigid rules are to be applied, why are they not to be applied all round? Why are the Bishops themselves not to observe them? How can they justify their disregard of the Ornaments Rubric and their use in Divine Service of their ordinary habit, such as they wear in the House of Lords or in Convocation? Everyone who knows anything about the state of the Church of England at the present time, knows that any rigid application of some, even of the plainest, rules is out of the question. The inference is obvious. A regard for what the needs of the Church require, rather than a rigid and altogether impracticable observance of rules, made for an entirely different purpose, must determine our conduct. Our faith and practice do not depend upon Rubrics or on a rigid interpretation of Rubrics. They are based upon something much deeper and more fundamental—the general teaching and laudable customs of the Catholic Church, of which Rubrics are necessarily and avowedly only an imperfect and incomplete exposition.

To conclude in the words of the last paragraph of the Report, which has a most direct bearing on the subject. Have we not good reason to say that “the general experience of the last two years has more than justified the action of the Union during the fifty-seven years of its existence? That action has been to insist that the only true conception of the Church is the Catholic conception, and that all other conceptions of Christianity when put to the test in any supreme crisis fail. That conception is making its way in unexpected places. It is difficult to withstand its influence. Those in authority are not only beginning to see this, but openly to say that the work of the Church of England, as the result of this awakening, must be conducted more in accordance with the obligations incumbent on it as a part of the whole Catholic Church.” We see evidence of this in the determination to make the Eucharist once more the Service of general obligation on Sunday, a rule indispensable, if there is to be a clear and intelligible principle as to the observance of the Lord’s Day, and in the perception that prayer for the Faithful Departed and the offering of the Christian Sacrifice on their behalf is not only demanded by all that is deepest in human nature, but is an integral part of Christian duty.

[20] Other questions will have to be faced, though less directly included in the special object of the Union. Among them the social reconstruction which must inevitably follow on the close of the war. That reconstruction can only be safely attempted and brought to a satisfactory conclusion in so far as it is based on Christian principles and founds itself on those fundamental duties inculcated by the Gospel and which have ever been insisted on by the Catholic Church.

In the words of a striking pamphlet entitled At the Back of the War, by the Rev. T. J. Hardy, “Once again the Catholic Faith in the Son of God stands confronted with ideas as destructive of Christian principles as they are of Christian morality. The truth is not something that has to be sought for and discovered; the essence of the Christian position is that the truth has been revealed. What will be wanted first and foremost after the war will be a Church that stands for something, not for everything; a Church which fears the Judgment to come more than the loss of its reputation for comprehensiveness. We do not want a religion of man, but a religion of men inspired and led by the Son of God. It is the Faith of the Son of God which we need to have clearly enunciated and tenaciously held. An objective Faith, re-centred on the verities of the Creed. This is the Church that will be wanted after the war, and the only Church that will have any chance, the Church that was wanted when Pagan civilization was crumbling to pieces, the Church that is founded on the Apostles of Jesus Christ—Jesus Christ Himself being the Head Corner Stone. The encounter has come; on which side shall we stand?”

Let us then work, as we have never worked before, for the welfare of the Church, for all that may bring the Faith of the Church home to our people, and for the “peace of Jerusalem.” Think what a united Christendom would do for all Christian endeavour, how unspeakably all such endeavour is impeded by our unhappy divisions. Think what a united Christendom might do for the glory of God, for the happiness of the human race, for the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. Let us put away our selfishness, our worldliness, our miserable contentment with just the few things which seem to touch ourselves. Let us realize our brotherhood with all men, and pray as we have never done before for the reunion in one visible fold of all who call themselves Christians and profess to be followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, a reunion the need of which was surely never more urgently demonstrated nor more imperatively demanded than it is by all the troubles and necessities of the present time.

Project Canterbury