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Reservation and Adoration:
A Historical and Devotional Inquiry

Shirley Carter Hughson
Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross

The Holy Cross Press
West Park, New York


transcribed by Dr Elizabeth G Mellilo
AD 2000

Chapter VIII
The Post-Reformation Practice

So much for the period covered by the century between the accession of Elizabeth and the Restoration in 1660. Immediately after the latter event we come to the Prayer Book of 1662, which date has generally been regarded as the end of the Reformation period.

The Book of 1661 made no reference to Reservation, but from this time one, with the possible exception of the twenty-seven years until the Revolution of 1688, no one questions that Reservation was regularly practised in wide and important positions of the Anglican Church.

Even during this twenty-seven years, the practice was not forgotten, but was kept in view, and again and again recommended as right and lawful by the very men who had prepared the Prayer Book of 1661. Herbert Thorndike, one of the most prominent of the revisers, and a man of great learning, writing in 1670 or 1672, states simply, and in no controversial context, "that the Church is to endeavour the celebrating of it [the Eucharist] so frequently that it may be reserved to the next Communion." This, he adds, "the practice of the Church attests to the utmost."(1) Does he mean the practice of the Anglican Church in his own time? There can be scarcely any doubt that Thorndike considered Archbishop Peckham's law to be in force in his day.

Bishop Sparrow, also one of the revisers of 1661, and successively Bishop of Exeter and Norwich, in A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer, which was written in 1657 during the dark days of the Commonwealth, and reissued by him with studious emendations, in 1668, 1676, and 1684, follows Thorndike in recommending Reservation, with at all suggesting that it was a controverted subject.

In every edition of his work, he repeats the statement that the later Prayer Book omits full directions regarding Communion of the sick. It "therefore seems to me," he says, "to refer us to former directions in times past." He then proceeds to give the direction from the Book of 1549 as that which he supposed to be followed by the clergy of his time.(2)

The Rationale was not a technical or obscure book. For a half-century it was the great popular devotional commentary on the Prayer Book. Is it conceivable that one of the revisers of 1661 could have thus persisted in giving this direction had Reservation not been regarded as sanctioned by the Church's law? And still more inconceivable is it that he would have been allowed to do so unrebuked by his brother Bishops, had he misrepresented the mind of the Church.

The last edition of the Rationale issued by Bishop Sparrow was in 1684. He died four years later in 1688, the year of the rise of the Non-Jurors. According to Bishop Forbes at this time Reservation became the common practice of the Scottish Church. "The practice of reserving the Blessed Sacrament for the sick," he says, writing in 1867, "has obtained in the Scottish Church by an unwritten tradition since the days of the Non-Jurors," - i.e., about 1688(3).

But it was not only by "an unwritten tradition" that the Scottish Church practised this primitive custom. In 1718, the Non-Jurors' Office for Holy Communion not only directed Reservation for the sick in a formal rubric, but went further and revived the primitive custom, providing Communion with the Reserved Sacrament for "any persons who through sickness, or any other urgent cause," needed to communicate outside the time of the celebration of the Liturgy(4). Walker, in his life of the Scottish Bishop, Jolly who died in 1837 at a great age, narrates that it was this prelate's practice to reserve in order to make his own private Communion on those Sundays and feasts when he could not celebrate.(5)

We must keep in mind that the "unwritten tradition" was the sole ground on which the Sacrament was universally reserved, both East and West, for the first seven centuries; and is that on which we could, if necessary, base our right today.

But the Scottish Church is not through with her witness as yet, for at the last revision of her Liturgy, (1911), the duty of reserving was formally set forth in the following rubric, the terms of which testify very exactly to both her tradition and her present practice. "According to long existing custom in the Scottish Church the Presbyter may reserve so much of the consecrated Gifts as may be required for the Communion of the Sick, and others who could not be present at the Celebration in Church."

Such is the present law of the Scottish Church. It will be recalled that the Church of England Liturgy is also authorised in Scotland, and its use prevails side by side with that of the Scottish Liturgy. It contains, of course, both the rubric regarding the immediate consumption of the remaining Sacrament, and the Office for celebrating in the sick man's house. No one in Scotland sees any contradiction.

This law also exists in Scotland along with the Thirty-Nine Articles, the twenty-eighth of which declares that "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved." This is often quoted as forbidding Reservation. The Scottish Church, however, subscribes to this Article, and yet declares Reservation to be the "long existing custom" of the Church of Scotland.

Such is the record of the history of Reserving the Sacrament in the Post-Reformation Scottish Church, the Church from which we in America first received Holy Orders. The conclusion is obvious. Unless we are using two contradictory systems of logic, it is impossible to say that Reservation in America is wrong, if it be right in Scotland.

1. Works, Volume V, page 578 - Anglo-Catholic Library.
2. Rationale (Oxford, 1840), pp. 279,280
3. Forbes, Exposition of the XXXIX Articles, 5th Edition, page 571
4. Dowden, Annotated Scottish Communion Office, page 321
5. Ibid., page 328

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