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
The Cosin Rubric of 1661
We shall, of course, be questioned concerning the rubric at the end of the Communion Office, providing that "If any of the consecrated Bread and Wine remain after the Communion, it shall not be carried out of the Church; but the Minister and other communicants shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same."
Protestants of later times tell us this was inserted for forbid Reservation. It would be of value to ascertain if this interpretation of the rubric was ever heard of until, under the influence of the Oxford revival, Reservation began to be practised. In short, was it an afterthought suggested by the desire to find an argument against those who were bringing back the ancient custom?
In my own study of the subject, I have been unable to find any mention of it until very recently. Perhaps those who hold to this interpretation may be able to furnish us with authorities.
In the meantime, the authority of those who were responsible for placing the rubric in the Book of 1661 is against the new interpretation. The man who prepared it, - Bishop Cosin of Durham, - gives us the history of its insertion, and makes no mention of Reservation, but declares that it was designed to prevent irreverent clergy from taking the consecrated Bread and Wine away from the Church for sacrilegious use on their own dinner tables. Further, Thorndike and Sparrow, as we have seen, two of the commission of revisers who put this rubric into the Prayer-Book of 1661, writing some years later, speak of Reservation as entirely legal.
When the question of Reservation was first raised in the latter half of the nineteenth century, many of the Church authorities, men of moderate views, dealt with it apparently without it occurring to them that this rubric bore on the subject. Scudamore, in his Notitia Eucharistica, a work of enormous learning and research, mentions one English Bishop of that time who himself was accustomed to reserve not infrequently; and also the Bishop of Ripon, who in the cholera epidemic in the fifties, declared that he did not feel justified in forbidding Reservation.(1) He evidently felt no trouble about the rubric. Scudamore himself does not interpret the rubric as forbidding Reservation.
This would seem to show the error of the Protestant interpretation. It is made all the more patent, however, by the fact that this direction did not originate with Bishop Cosin. The mediaeval authorities repeatedly set forth like directions at a time when there was no possible question as to the obligation to reserve the Sacrament. William Lyndwood, for example, afterwards Bishop of Saint David's, in his Provinciale, published in 1420, gives substantially the same direction as of force in his time: "And if any of the hosts remain, they shall be received and consumed by the priest and his ministers."
Further evidence of what this rubric meant is found in the Scottish Communion Office of 1637 where it was inserted by Archbishop Laud and Bishop Wren, and continued there into the period in which Bishop Forbes tells us the clergy were accustomed "by an unwritten tradition" to reserve the Blessed Sacrament for the sick. Bishop Dowden of Edinburgh says that the very Non-Jurors who revived Reservation in Scotland, used this Office for fifty years.(2) They apparently never suspected that this rubric could operate to forbid Reservation. The Non-Jurors' Office of 1718 also contained this rubric along with one directing Reservation.
If it is true that a direction such as given by this rubric did not forbid Reservation in the pre-Reformation Church, nor in the Scottish Church, it could not then forbid it in England; nor can it forbid it in America. This is the judgement of that learned and conservative work The History of the Book of Common Prayer, by Proctor and Frere. It says without qualification: "The rubric was not intended to touch upon the question of Reservation of the Sacrament for the Communion of the sick."(3)
Some opponents of Reservation claim that the presence of an Office for a Celebration in the sick man's house with its rubrics, automatically does away with Reservation for the sick, and even with the practice of carrying the Sacrament to them directly from the altar immediately after the service.
When we consider the practice of the Church, we find that in almost every age, the custom of reserving and that of celebrating for the sick stood side by side, and no one interpreted them as contrary to each other.
Although it was unusual in patristic times to celebrate in a private house, and later there were repeated canons against it, many exceptions were allowed. An English canon of the time of Aelfric (AD 957) allows it "in case of necessity or if a man be sick," - practically the present Anglican rule. In the post-Reformation English Church, the Book of 1549, provided for Reservation, while at the same time the Church authorised celebrations of the Eucharist in the sick man's house. This latter book has never been superseded, and during the first generation after its promulgation, with such men as Parker, Jewel, and Grindal in power, there is no suggestion that they thought the two provisions contradictory. As we have seen, two of the Prayer-Book revisers of 1661 - Thorndike and Sparrow - bear direct testimony in their subsequent writings to the propriety of Reservation, with no suggestion that the provision for a private Celebration affected the matter.
1. i. Page 878
2. ii. Dowden, Annotated Scottish Communion Office, page 40
3. iii. Page 502
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