Project Canterbury

The Middle Way
Suggestions for a Practicable Ceremonial

By the Reverend Latta Griswold, M.A.

Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1928.

Chapter V. The Holy Communion

I. General Observations

WHATEVER be the unofficial custom of nomenclature, in advertising the Holy Communion by notices in church, on bulletins, and in the press, the phraseology of the Prayer Book should be employed; though it is desirable to dispel by instruction and conversation any misapprehension amongst people that the Holy Communion is not the Mass.

In the following suggestions there is in mind both the early and late Eucharist, and it is assumed that the late Eucharist will always be choral or partly choral. Distinctions between the two will be noted from time to time, and the expressions early and late, though anything but euphonious, will be used. It will also be assumed that at least one server will assist. (The term server, it may be said incidentally, will be found more innocuous than acolyte.) In most cases the incumbent is without assistant clergy, and there is no intention of suggesting ceremonial for a Solemn High Mass. in the few parishes where that is normally possible, either the Roman or the English ceremonial has been usually adopted, and the directions for such a service are accessible to any who feel the need of them. It is quite possible however, and it is quite as dignified a service, to have a Solemn Eucharist, with three ministers, in line with the ceremonial that is generally acceptable to most Church people.

The effort will be made to pass over the obvious and universal; and if considerable space now and then is devoted to matters of relative unimportance, it is because they are less familiar.

Every parish should have a well-trained altar society or guild. And standing directions for its members, printed or typewritten, should be posted in a convenient place (preferably on a small bulletin board) in the sacristy. If the incumbent is particular (and he should be) he will prepare his own type written kalendar and post it from month to month in the sacristy, noting hours and character of services, day to be observed, colours, names of servers, and the like. The Church Calendar is the best compilation of the sort published, but the personally prepared kalendar will be still more serviceable.

Descriptions of the altar linen, furniture, and accessories are so familiar that they may be passed over here.

The priest and server should be in the sacristy at least ten minutes before the service. The server should light the candles, place the altar book on the right side of the altar, and see that everything is in readiness. The service should begin invariably at precisely the minute advertised. Nothing is more discouraging to regular attendants, who must often arrange their business or household schedule at some inconvenience, than to wait two or three or five or ten minutes for an unpunctual priest to put in his appearance.

The priest should dispense with extra books on the altar, and learn by heart the portions of the rite he must say facing the people. The use of cards for the Canon, Last Gospel, and the like, is unnecessary; cards containing Secreta and other matter not in our Liturgy are unauthorized. The Anglican Liturgy is a Catholic rite, and the interpolation of portions of the Latin Mass, whether or no we may person ally like them, does not make it more Catholic. The priest should not consume much time for his private devotions during a celebration. It may be edifying to him to do so, but it is not to the congregation. An early celebration should not ordinarily last over half-an-hour; a late Eucharist, except when there is a very large number of Communions, can be kept under an hour and a half.

There is no rule about the number of candles to be lighted, except an old English canon that requires that at least one candle shall be lighted during the offices and Mass. If there are two candles only on the altar, they should be lighted for Matins, Evensong, and Eucharist; if six, all six should be lighted for these services. Other candles are optional and a matter of taste, such as lighting two extra candles for the Eucharist, which at other times stand on the credence table, or tall standards on the sanctuary floor, or candles in the riddle posts. It is quite improper to use more candles for Evensong than for Matins and Eucharist. If the clergy would but explain to the people that candles are lighted during worship simply because they are beautiful and ornamental, that the number of them is merely a matter of taste, and that they symbolize nothing more occult than that Christ is the light of the world, objection to them would be more quickly and generally dispelled.

2. The Service

At an early Eucharist the server precedes the priest into the chancel, and stands aside to let the celebrant enter the sanctuary first. The priest carries the sacred vessels, properly veiled, and proceeds at once to spread the corporal, leaning the burse against the retable or the reredos to the left of the cross. Both bow as they approach the altar and throughout the service when they have occasion to pass before it. When there is a choir and processional hymn, the sacred vessels are placed upon the altar before the service begins. A processional hymn in effect takes the place of an Introit, and to sing an Introit at this point in our Liturgy is superfluous, as well as unauthorized.

Kissing the altar, the Gospel book, the cruets, etc., making the sign of the cross over various objects in the course of the service, belong to the Roman ceremonial, and there is no need for us to adopt them. They constitute the "fussy" ceremonial that most people find distasteful.

Having arranged the vessels, the priest turns about, goes to the foot of the altar steps, and says inaudibly or silently his private preparation. If this includes the Lord's Prayer, that need not be said again at the beginning of the service itself. The priest then goes to the right side of the altar and begins the service. The server kneels on the left side. An easy rule for the server to remember is that he is always on the side opposite the altar book.

The Ten Commandments are probably the least commendable feature of our Liturgy. The revised Prayer Book orders them to be said once a month. That should suffice. The shorter form is preferable, and the responses should be said and not sung. The Ten Commandments or the Summary of the Law are said from the center facing the people, hands joined.

After the Summary of the Law, the Kyrie is said or sung by the congregation and choir. Saying The Lord be with you, the priest turns about for The Collect. It is an old custom to vary the number of Collects, and to do so gives a note of variety to our rite that it lacks. If this custom is adopted (in some in stances the rubrics require it) only the Collect of the Day should be said on Red Letter feasts, on Palm Sunday, and during the Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun octaves. Two Collects should be said on Sundays with in octaves, or when another feast is commemorated; at all other times three. Suitable additional Collects are the one provided in the office itself at this place, the Collects for Christmas, Annunciation, and the Sixteenth and Twenty-fourth Sundays after Trinity.

The Epistle and Gospel should be said facing the people, and if there is an assistant minister, he should read the Epistle. If there are two assistants, the other should read the Gospel. The Epistle is read from the chancel floor or the lower step of the altar, the Gospel from the altar footpace. The rubric for announcing Epistle and Gospel should be exactly followed. It is incorrect to say "The Epistle for such or such a Sunday," etc. The Roman ceremonial of elaborate signings of the book, bringing the Gospel to the celebrant to be blessed if read by another minister, lighting additional candles, and the like, do not tend to make the reading of the Gospel impressive or edifying to most of our people.

Between the Epistle and Gospel the singing of a Gradual hymn is now authorized, and it is a beautiful feature of the service. Two or three verses are sufficient, and Hymn 388 is particularly appropriate. During the singing of the hymn the server should move the book to the opposite side of the altar. If an assistant reads the Epistle, the celebrant stands facing the altar at the time. If another minister reads the Gospel, the celebrant should face the reader. If the minister who reads the Gospel will make the announcement and stand facing the altar until the Glory be to thee has been said, he will avoid a needless turning about. The Praise be to thee should be said or sung after the Gospel.

The Nicene Creed is said, all facing the altar. At the beginning the celebrant extends his hands, and slowly brings them together before his breast. He should bow at the Sacred Name and bow profoundly at the words "And was incarnate . . . and was made man." The custom of kneeling at the Incarnatus is certainly reverent and beauti ful, but not unless all in the congregation willingly do it. The sign of the cross is made at the end. Many bow at the words is worshipped and glorified.

At an early Eucharist the celebrant goes on at once to the Offertory. At a late celebration he should at this point turn about and announce the hymn before the sermon. Having said his prayer in the sanctuary, he should go to the pulpit during the next to the last verse. If he wears eucharistic vestments, he should go into the sacristy and re move the chasuble and maniple. It is far better to do this in most churches than with the assistance of a server to remove them in the sanctuary. There is no objection to preaching in a chasuble, except that it is a cumbrous vestment. Having made the Invocation, he gives the Notices. If the Rector is not the preacher, he would give the notices from the customary place in the chancel at the announcement of the hymn. If the Creed is sung, a hymn is not necessary, and the preacher would go to the pulpit toward the end of the Creed.

Notice should always be given of holy days and fast days and of celebrations of the Holy Communion. The revised Prayer Book has arranged for the printing of the Exhortations directly after the office, and requires one of them to be said only on the First Sundays in Advent and Lent and on Trinity Sunday. This seems quite as often as any one need desire. The Bidding Prayer may be used before sermons. Probably it is wiser, for the service is long enough, to reserve the Bidding Prayer as the rubric suggests for Special Occasions.

At a late Eucharist, if the celebrant has preached the sermon, though it is not according to the rubric, he will find it more convenient to say the Offertory sentence from the pulpit, particularly if he is to go into the sacristy to resume chasuble and maniple. Otherwise he returns to the altar, says the sentence there, announces the hymn if there be one. In this case it is. convenient if the choir sing a Gloria after the Ascription.

The celebrant returns to the altar while the alms are being taken, removes the silk veil that covers the vessels, folds it, places purificator within the folds. Then he goes to the south end with the paten, and the server brings the ciborium containing the bread. The celebrant takes sufficient for the communion. Wafer bread is by far the most convenient to use, and a large priest's wafer is convenient for the fracture. Having re placed the paten on the corporal, the priest returns to the south end with chalice, and the server brings to him the cruets (or flagons) containing wine and water, with the handles held toward the priest. The priest pours sufficient wine, and a relatively much smaller amount of water. He then places the paten on the chalice and covers the paten with the pall or with the folded chalice veil. Then he goes to the south end to which, if it be the custom, the server has brought the lavabo bowl. The priest washes and dries his fingers. Then he returns to the center, offers the Elements by lifting the vessels a short distance above the altar. Then, receiving the alms-basins from the server, who has taken them from the wardens, the priest offers the alms in similar manner. The alms-basins should not be removed from the altar by the server until immediately after the Prayer for the Church.

The celebrant then turns to the people and says, extending his hands, Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's Church. As he faces the altar, he joins his hands for this prayer. If no alms have been taken, he omits the words alms and. Slight pauses may be made at the appropriate words for private commemoration of the sick and afflicted. A longer pause should be made after the words for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear, for silent commemoration of the saints. [From time to time it is desirable to instruct the people about the ceremonial and the ritual.]

The priest turns to the congregation, hands joined, to say the Invitation. Even if much of the service is sung or intoned, the Invitation, Confession, Absolution, and Comfortable Words should always be said. The priest kneels to lead the congregation in the General Confession, and stands again for the Absolution. It is proper to make the sign of the cross over the people while pronouncing this absolution. He joins hands again for the Comfortable Words. They are most effective when said quietly and with out especial emphasis. He extends his hands as he says or sings Lift up your hearts, and turns to the altar after the versicle Let us give thanks, etc.

He says or sings The Preface (and if there be one, The Proper Preface) and the Sanctus with joined hands. He should bow during the Sanctus. If the Blessed be he that cometh, etc., be not authorized in his diocese, the incumbent may well seek the permission of the Bishop for its use. It is too beautiful a feature of the Liturgy to be omitted. [I am unable to perceive any doctrinal significance in the Benedictus qui venit or to understand the objections sometimes urged against its use.]

From the Sursum Corda through the Benedictus qui venit the service is particularly effective sung, except of course at early celebrations. There is an old custom, sometimes found acceptable, for the congregation to rise and remain standing throughout this portion of the service. It has the advantage of breaking the long period of kneeling, it is reverent, appropriate, and traditional. [There is no way to discover whether or not the practice commends itself except by experiment. My own congregation, after trying it, decided that they preferred to kneel. In a neighboring parish it is the custom, however, and is greatly valued.]

The Prayer of Consecration is said solemnly and rather slowly, and the Words of Institution in a lower tone than the rest of the prayer, but distinctly. The hands should be partially extended at about the height of the shoulders when not otherwise used, and brought together at the end of the prayer. The manual acts are performed as directed, and when the bread is broken it should be held high enough for the fracture to be seen. It is desirable to elevate the paten after the Words of Institution, make a deep reverence; and similarly the chalice afterwards. It is traditional to sign the sacred Elements at the words in the Invocation, bless and sanctify. At the conclusion of the Invocation the chalice should be covered with pall and the paten with one end of the corporal. It is appropriate to pause at the words thy whole Church for a brief silent commemoration of the faithful departed; at the words all other benefits for the offering of the special intention; and at the words all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion for silent commemoration of those to whom the Sacrament is to be taken, if there are such.

The Lord's Prayer is said with extended hands, the people joining after the words Our Father.

The celebrant kneels to say The Prayer of Humble Access, following which a hymn may be sung. Of all hymns the Agnus Dei is the most suitable, and it is the traditional hymn to be used at this point of the service.

The priest should make his communion, administering to himself standing and uttering the words of administration silently; kneeling for brief thanksgiving after the ad ministration of each Element. He may well administer to assistants while the hymn is being sung. The choir and the people then come forward to the altar in such order as local circumstances and custom suggest. The priest should learn to administer rapidly but without the appearance of being in a hurry. It is unreasonable to suppose that the entire sentence of administration should be uttered to each communicant. A convenient method is to administer to two during the first half of the sentence for the delivery of the consecrated Bread, and to say the last half in a slightly louder tone at the end of the rail for the benefit of all. The people should be instructed to consume the Sacred Element immediately after it is placed upon the open palm of the right hand, which is supported by the left. In administering the Cup the priest should instruct the people always to take hold of it and guide it to their lips. It is not necessary for them to take it out of the priest's hands. It prolongs the service interminably where there is a large communion and it increases the danger of spilling the contents, particularly when the cup is full. The rubric is ambiguous, and the celebrant can usually, with a little tact, avoid delivering the cup into the hands of the people and removing his own. Where the communicant in effect demands it, as is very rarely the case, the priest should instantly acquiesce. The use of two cups by one priest, administering simultaneously to two persons, is most undignified. The wiping of the cup with a purificator after each person has put his lips to it or at the end of the rail is a weak gesture of concession to unreasonable prejudice. It is distinctly irreverent to have a purificator drenched with the consecrated Wine; and the alleged hygienic value is purely imaginary. If the use of the common cup is a source of infection (and that we may doubt) the rapid wiping of the rim of the cup with a cloth does not diminish the danger in the least. In the case of known infectious illness, such as tuberculosis, the incumbent might well ask the permission of the Bishop to administer by intinction. It is most distracting to have a hymn sung at communion time; soft playing of the organ is not in appropriate. If there is any part of the service at which skilful and tactful "holy alacrity" is to be desired of a priest it is during the administration of the communion to the people.

Fasting communion should be encouraged for practical as well as spiritual reasons. But this requires tact and patience. It can only be done by example and by persuasive instruction. In view of our history and the practice of the majority of our people for centuries it seems scarcely open to argument that no priest has the right to insist upon it. If the spiritual ideal and the long experience of the Church are from time to time explained to the people, and particularly to confirmation classes, if opportunity is frequently given for early communions at hours convenient to the people, the custom will slowly but surely spread.

The communion finished, the priest covers the vessels with the linen veil, and says, with hands extended, the Thanksgiving. He proceeds immediately with the Gloria in excelsis, or the hymn in its place, keeping the same position. The position of the Gloria in excelsis is a peculiarity of the Anglican Liturgy that seems to many extremely unfortunate. The climax of the service has been reached, at a late Eucharist the people wish now to get away as soon as possible, and the singing of the Gloria in excelsis, particularly to an elaborate setting, is in the nature of an anti climax. It is more effective, even at choral services, to have it said. It is desirable frequently to replace it with a hymn. O saving victim (No. 331) is appropriate as a substitute for the Gloria in excelsis on Sundays in Advent and Lent and on all ferias. For all the saints who from their labours rest, Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest is admirable and sufficient on saints' days.

Despite the fact that the Prayer Book has provided us with a needlessly long and not too happily-expressed post-communion in the Thanksgiving, there are several advantages in using a Collect before the Blessing, although the rubric does not require this. Such a prayer gives opportunity to reiterate the note of the day commemorated (to which there has been no reference since the Gospel except when there happens to be a Proper Preface), or it serves to point the moral of the sermon, if it be carefully chosen in advance with this in view. In an appendix will be found an analysis of the Collects of the Book of Common Prayer which may be found useful in making such a selection.

The Blessing should be said facing the people. It is pointless to say part of it facing the altar. The right hand should be raised, and the sign of the cross may be made over the congregation. The celebrant should be careful not to stand with his back to the Blessed Sacrament.

Our Prayer Book, though it says nothing about the Ablutions, by directing the consumption of what remains of the consecrated Bread and Wine immediately after the Blessing, in effect prohibits the Ablutions being made before this time. It is proper to make the Ablutions in the sanctuary, and desirable to do so, if it can be accomplished without too much fuss and ceremony. If a priest feels it necessary to cleanse the chalice by an elaborate use of his tongue, he should by all means postpone this unedifying gesture till he is in the sacristy. Usually the server brings cruets of wine and water to the priest at the south end of the altar, and pours into the chalice first a little wine, then a little wine and water, and finally a little water; the priest, having quietly flushed the chalice, consumes the contents with his back to the congregation. Water may be poured onto the paten, and over the priest's fingers if desired, then poured into the chalice and consumed. While the Ablutions are taking place it is desirable at a late Eucharist that the Nunc dimittis, the Seven-fold Amen, or some short canticle of the sort be sung by the choir. The priest then revests the vessels, and if it be his custom, goes to the north end and reads the Last Gospel. At a late Eucharist the crucifer take his place with cross at the entrance to the sanctuary and the recessional hymn begins. The moving of the book by the server back to the south side of the altar after the Last Gospel should be the signal for the procession out of the chancel to begin. At an early celebration the priest, pre ceded by server, reverences the altar and goes quietly into the sacristy. And the server immediately extinguishes the lights.

The Last Gospel, though not authorized by our Liturgy, is a beautiful devotion after the Eucharist, and is widely used. At early Eucharists it is particularly effective if read aloud, with the proper responses, in a quiet tone of voice. Since the service is over, the reading of a passage of the Gospel to the congregation is obviously so innocent, as well as so edifying a custom, that it scarcely re quires the authorization of the Bishop. The Last Gospel ordinarily is that for Christmas Day, but on Christmas Day that for the Epiphany is used, and on Palm Sunday that for the First Sunday in Advent. On Sundays within the octaves of great feasts it is traditional to use the Gospel of the Feast for the Last Gospel.

When there is a recessional hymn the celebrant, instead of following the choir, may go at once to the sacristy. He would say a customary prayer with server and choir.

In churches where there are daily or frequent week-day celebrations the paucity of our kalendar in holy days is painfully evident. The repetition, as would often happen, of the service of the Sunday is monotonous and less instructive than if it be varied by the observance of minor holy days, such as the Black Letter Days of the English Book. Incumbents should seek the authorization of the Bishop for the observance of such minor holy days. Perhaps the best altar book to use in this connection is The Divine Liturgy, edited by Dr. Percy Dearmer from old English sources. Most other publications with which the writer is familiar are derived from the Roman Missal, and provide services for days that most churches would not care to observe, such as the Feast of the Sacred Heart; and the Collects frequently request the suffrages of the saints. While we may wish that the Anglican Church should authorize again the custom of invoking the saints for their prayers, since she has pointedly refrained from doing this for three hundred years, it seems but proper loyalty to the mind of our Church not to use such in vocations in public worship.

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