IN the Liturgy it is called The Communion, and well it were that the piety of the people were such as to make it alwayes a Communion. The Church as appears by her pathetical Exhortation before the Communion, and the Rubrick after it, labours to bring men oftner to communicate than she usually obtains. Private and solitary Communions of the Priest alone she allows not; and therefore when other cannot be had she appoints only so much of the Service, as relates not of necessity to a present Communion, and that to be said at the Holy Table; and upon good reason, the Church thereby keeping, as it were, her ground, visibly minding us of what she desires and labours towards, our more frequent access to that holy Table, and in the mean while that part of the Service which she uses may perhaps more fitly be called the Second Service than the Communion. And so it is often called, though not in the Rubr. of the Liturgy, yet in divers Fast books and the like set out by Authority. If any should think that it cannot properly be called the Second Service, because the Morning Service and Litany go before it, which we prove in the following discourse to be two distinct Services, whereby this should seem to be the Third rather than the Second Service, it is Answered, that sometimes the Communion Service is used upon such dayes as the Litany is not; and then it may without question be called the Second Service: nay, even then when the Litany and all is used, the Communion Service may be very fitly called the Second Service: For though in strictness of speech the Litany is a service distinct, as is shewn; yet in our usual acception of the word Service, namely for a compleat Service with all the several parts of it, Psalms, Readings, Creeds, Thanksgivings, and Prayers, so the Litany is not a Service, nor so esteemed, but called The Litany, or Supplications; and lookt upon sometimes, when other Offices follow, as a kind of Preparative (though a distinct form) to them, as to The Communion, Commination, &c. And therefore it was a custome in some Churches, that a Bell was tolled, while the Litany was saying, to give notice to the people, that the Communion Service was now coming on. This Service consists of Four parts, The first reaches to the Offertory, called anciently Missa Catechumenorum, the service of the Catechumens: The second is the Offertory, which reaches to the Consecration. The third begins at the Consecration, and ends at the Angelical Hymn, Glory be to God on high. The last is the Post-Communion, or Thanksgiving, which with us is nothing but that holy Hymn.
Part. 1. We begin the first part as the Church was wont to begin her Services, with the LORDS PRAYER, concerning which, see the Morning Service.
After this follows an excellent prayer to God to cleanse our hearts by his holy inspiration.
Then follow the COMMANDMENTS, with a Kyrie, or Lord have mercy upon us, after every one of them. Which though I cannot say it was ancient, yet surely cannot be denied to be very useful and pious. And if there be any that think this might be spared, as being fitter for poor Publicans than Saints; let them turn to the Parable of the Publican and Pharisee going up to the Temple to pray, S. Luke 18. and there they shall receive an answer.
Then follows the COLLECT for the day, with another for the King, which the Priest is to say standing, &c. Of this posture enough hath been said in the Morning Service. Though there hath been a Prayer for the King in the Morning Service, and another in the Litany; Yet the Church here appoints one again, that she may strictly observe S. Pauls rule, 1 Tim. 2. who directs that in all our publick prayers for all Men, an especial prayer should be made for the King. Now the Morning Service, Litany and this Communion-Service are three distinct Services, and therefore have each of them such an especial prayer.
That they are three distinct Services will appear. For they are to be performed at distinct places, and times. The Morning Service is to be said at the beginning of the day, as appears in the third Collect for Grace. PrwioV, sayes, S. Chrys. which is translated, S. Matth. 27. 2. in the Morning: and S. John 18. 28. Early. In S. Mark 13. 35. it is translated, The dawning of the day. The place for it is the accustomed place in the Chancel or Church, saies the Rubr. before Morning prayer, or where the Ordinary shall appoint it.
The Litany is also a distinct Service, for it is no part of the Morning Service, as you may see Rubr. after Athanas. Creed.
Here ends the Morn. and Even. Service. Then follows the Litany. Nor is it any part of the Com. Service, for that begins with Our Father, and the Collect, Almighty God, &c. and is to be said after the Litany. The time and place for this, is not appointed in the Rubr. but it is supposed to be known by practice. For in the Commination, the 51. Psal. is appointed to be said, where they are accustomed to say the Litany, and that was in the Church. Eliz. Inj. 18. before the Chancel door.
Bishop Andrews notes upon the Liturgy: It being a penitential Office, is there appointed, in imitation of Gods command, to the Priests in their penitential Service, Ioel 2 17. Let the Priests weep between the Porch and the Altar.
The time of this, is a little before the time of the Com. Service, Inj. 18. Eliz.
The Communion-Service is to be some good distance after the Morn. Service, Rubr. 1. before the Communion-Service, So many as intend to be partakers of the holy Communion, shall signifie their names to the Curate, over night, or before Morning prayer, or immediately after, which does necessarily require a good space of time to do it in. The usual hour for the solemnity of this Service, was anciently, and so should be, Nine of the clock, Morning. C. Aurel. 3. c. 11. This is the Canonical hour De Consecr. dist. 1. c. Et Hos. Thence probably call'd, the holy hour, Decret. dist. 44. c. fin. In case of necessity it might be said earlier or later, Durant, de Ritibus; but this was the usual and Canonical hour for it. One reason which is given for it is, because at this hour began our Saviours Passion, S. Mark 15. 25. the Jewes then crying out Crucifie, &c. At this hour therefore is the Com. Service (part of which is a commemoration of Christs Passion) performed. Another reason given is, because this hour the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles, Acts 2. 15. Lastly, because it is the most convenient hour for all to meet, and dispatch this with other offices before Noon. For, 'till the Service was ended, Men were perswaded to be fasting; and therefore it was thought fit to end all the Service, before Noon, that people might be free to eat. Durant. l. 2. c. 7. Why this Service is called the Second, see pag. 207, 208.
The place for this Service is the Altar or Communion Table, Rubr. before the Com. And so it was always in Primitive times, which is a thing so plain as it needs no proof.
After this, the Priest reads the Epistle and Gospel for the day. Concerning the antiquity of which, and the reason of their choice, hath been said already: nothing here remains to be shewn, but the antiquity and piety of those Rites, which were used both by us and the ancient Church, about the reading of the Gospel. As
First, when the GOSPEL is named, the Clergy and the people present, say or sing, Glory be to thee O Lord. So it is in S. Chrys. Liturg. Glorifying God that hath sent to them also the word of salvation. As it is in the Acts of the Apost. 11. 18. When they heard these things they glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
2. While the Gospel is reading, all that are present stand Grat. de Consr. dist. 1. c. 68. And Zozomen in his Hist. l. 7. c. 19. tells us it was a new fashion in Alexandria, than the Bishop did not rise up when the Gospel was read: [Quod apud alios usquam fieri, neque comperi neque audivi; Which, says he, I never observed nor heard amongst any others whatsoever:] The reason was this. Anciently, whensoever the holy Lessons were read, the people stood, to express their reverence to the holy word. Aug. l. hom. 50. hom. 26. Nehem. 8. 5.
But because this was counted too great a burden, it was thought fit to shew our reverence, especially at the reading of the Gospel, which historically declares somewhat which our Saviour spake, did, or suffered in his own person: By this gesture, shewing a reverend regard to the Son of God, above other messengers, although speaking as from God. And against Arrians, Jews, Infidels, who derogate from the honour of our LORD, such ceremonies are most profitable. As judicious Mr. Hooker notes.
3. After the Gospel is ended, the use was to praise God, saying, Thanks be to God for this Gospel. So was it of old ordained, Tolet. Conc. 4. c. 11. that the Lands or Praises should be said, not after the Epistle, but immediately after the Gospel, for the glory of Christ, which is preached in the Gospel.
In some places the fashion was, then to kiss the book. And surely this book, by reason of the rich contents of it; deserves a better regard than too often it findes. It should in this respect be used so, as others may see we prefer it before all other books.
Next is the NICENE CREED; so called, because it was for the most part framed at the great Council of Nice. But because the great Council of Constantinople added the latter part, and brought it to the frame which we now use, therefore is it called also the Constantinopolitan Creed. This Creed began to be used in Churches at the Communion Service immediately after the Gospel, in the year of our Lord 339.
Afterward it was established in the Churches of Spain and France, after the custome of the Eastern Church, Conc. Tolet. 3. c. 2. and continued down to our times.
The Reason why this Creed follows immediately after the Epistle and Gospel, is the same that was given for the APOSTLES CREED following next after the Lessons at Morning and Evening prayer. To which the Canon of Toledo last cited, hath added Another Reason of the saying it here before the people draw neer to the holy Communion: namely, [That the breasts of those that approach to those dreadful mysteries may be purified with a true and right faith.]
A third reason is given by Dionys. Eccl. Hierar. c. 3. par. 2. & 3. It will not be amiss to set down some passages of his at large, because they will both give us a third reason of using the Creed in this place, and discover to us, as I conceive, much of the ancient beautiful order of the Communion-Service.
The Bishop or Priest standing at the Altar, begins the melody of Psalms, all the degrees of Ecclesiasticks singing with him. This Psalmody is used, as in almost all Priestly Offices, so in this, to prepare and dispose our souls by holy affections, to the celebration of the holy mysteries following; and by the consent and singing together of divine Psalms, to work in us an unanimous consent and concord one towards another. Then is read by some of the Ministers, first a Lesson out of the Old Testament, then one out of the New, in their order, (for the reasons before mentioned in the discourse of Lessons at Morning Service:) After this the Catechumens, the possessed, and the penitents are dismist, and they only allowed to stay, who are deem'd worthy to receive the holy Sacrament: which being done, some of the under Ministers keep the door of the Church, that no Infidel or unworthy person may intrude into these sacred Mysteries. Then the Ministers and devout people (reverently beholding the holy signs, not yet consecrated, but blest and offered up to God on a by-standing Table, called the Table of Proposition trapeza proqesewV) Praise and bless the Father of Lights, (from whom, as all good gifts, so this great blessing of the Communion does come) with the Catholick hymn of praise, which some call the Creed; others more divinely, The Pontifical Thanksgiving, as containing in it all the spiritual gifts which flow from Heaven upon us, the whole mystery of our salvation; when this hymn of praise is finished, the Deacons with the Priest, set the holy Bread and Cup of Blessing upon the Altar; after which, the Priest or Bishop saies the most sacred, that is, the Lords Prayer, gives the Blessing to the people; then they (in token of perfect charity, a most necessary vertue at this time of offering at the Altar, S. Mat. 5. 23.) salute each other. After which, the names of holy Men that have lived and died in the faith of Chirst are read out of the Diptychs, and their memories celebrated, to perswade others to a diligent imitation of their vertues, and a stedfast expectation of their heavenly rewards. This commemoration of the Saints, presently upon the setting of the holy signs upon the Altar, is not without some mystery; to shew the inseparable sacred union of the Saints with Christ, who is represented by those sacred signs. These things being rightly performed, the Bishop or Priest, that is to Consecrate, washes his hands, a most decent Ceremony, signifying, that those that are to do these holy Offices should have a special care of purity. I will wash mine hands in innocency, O Lord, and so will I compass thine Altar, Psal. 26. 6. After he hath magnified these divine gifts, and God that gave them, then he consecrates the holy Mysteries: and having uncovered them, reverently shews them to the people, inviting them to the receiving of them. Himself, and the Priests and Deacons receive first, then the people receive in both kinds; and having all received, they end the Service with a Thanksgiving, which was Psal. 34.
After the Epistle and Gospel and the confession of that Faith which is taught in holy Writ, follows THE SERMON. Amb. ep. 33. ad Marcel. Leo. 1. Ser. 2. de Pascha, which usually was an exposition of some part of the Epistle or Gospel, or proper Lesson for the day, as we may see in S. Augustine in his Serm. de Temp. according to the pattern in Nehem. 8. 8. They read in the book, in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused the people to understand the reading. And the Preacher was in his Exposition appointed to observe the Catholick interpretation of the old Doctors of the Church; as we may see in the 19. Can. of the sixth Council of Constantinople held in Trull. The Canon is this.
Let the Governors of Churches every Sunday at the least, teach their Clergy and people the Oracles of piety and true Religion; collecting out of Divine Scripture, the sentences and Doctrines of truth, not transgressing the ancient bounds and traditions of the holy Fathers. And if any doubt or controversie arise about Scripture, let them follow that interpretation, which the Lights of the Church and the Doctors have left in their writings. By which they shall more deserve commendation, than by making private interpretations, which if they adhere to, they are in danger to fall from the truth.
To this agrees the Canon made in Queen Elizabeths time. Anno Dom. 1571. The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine.
These Golden Canons had they been duly observed, would have been a great preservative of Truth and the Churches peace.
The Sermon was not above an hour long. Cyril. Catech. 13.
Before the Sermon no prayer is appointed but the Lords Prayer, the petitions being first consigned upon the people, by the Preacher or Minister, who is appointed to bid the prayers, as it is in Edw. 6. and Queen Eliz. Injunctions; that is, to tell the people beforehand, what they are at that time especially to pray for in the Lords Prayer; which in the 55. Can. of the Constit. Anno Dom. 1603. is called, moving the people to joyn with the Preacher in praying the Lords Prayer. Of old, nothing was said before the Sermon, but Gemina Salutatio, the double Salutation, Clem. Const. l. 8. c. 5. Optat. l. 7. The Bishop or Priest never begins to speak to the people; but first in the Name of God he salutes the people and the salutation is doubled, that is, the Preacher says, The Lord be with you, and the people answer, And with thy Spirit. Much after this manner was the Jews practice, Neh. 8. 4. & 6. Ezra the Scribe stood upon a Pulpit of wood, &c. and opened the book in the sight of all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up, and Ezra blessed the Lord the great God, and all the people answered Amen, Amen, and worshipped. Verse 8. Then Ezra read in the Book, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. So we see, that both amongst Jews and Christians of old, the Preacher before his Sermon used only a short Salutation, or Blessing; to which the people having answered, the Sermon began. And though the Church of England uses not the very same form, yet in this she follows the ancient practice, prescribing only the short prayer of our Lord: and indeed what need any more? For whatsoever we can desire, is abundantly prayed for before in the Liturgy, and needs not be prayed over again immediately. And therefore there being no need of such a solemn prayer, the Church hath appointed none, but only the Lords Prayer: and no other being appointed, no other should be used by the Preacher. For, as hath been shewn, Pag. 1. No prayers should be used publickly, but those that are prescribed; lest through ignorance or carelesness, any thing contrary to the faith should be uttered before God. How necessary such restraint of private mens prayers in publick is, and how good that reason is for such restraint, a little experience of licentious times will abundantly shew. The pulpit is no security from errors. Men may as well speak blasphemy or vanity before the Sermon, as in it. Is it not reason then that the Church should take care what she can, to prevent this danger, by restraining that liberty, which is so likely to run men into it? Suppose some Preachers should be so careful, as not to vent any thing unsavory, yet the Church cannot be secured of all, and therefore must not allow a general liberty. Nay, suppose the Church could be assured of all Preachers care in this particular, that their prayers should be for matter sound and good; yet how should it be reasonable for the Church to allow any private person or Preacher to offer up to God a prayer in the name of the Congregation, as their joynt desire, to which, they never before consented themselves, nor their Governors for them. A Preacher may pray for his Auditory by himself, though they know it not, nor consented to it before hand; but it is not imaginable how he should offer it up in their name, or call it their prayer to God, as sometimes the use hath been, which neither they themselves, nor their Governours, whom Christ hath impowred to make prayer for them, have consented to, or acknowledged for theirs: no more than any man can call that the Petition of a Town, which he shall present in their names, though they never before consented to it, or so much as saw it before it was presented.
This Form of bidding Prayers is very ancient: we may see the like in S. Chrys. and other Liturgies which they called prosfwnhseiV, Allocutions, in which the Deacon speaks to the people from point to point, directing them what to pray for (as hath been said before.) This is all the difference betwixt them and this; that in them the people were to answer to every point severally, Lord have mercy, &c. In this, they are taught to sum up all the Petitions in the Lords Prayer, and to pray for them all together.
This was the practice in King Edw. the Sixth's time, as appears by Bishop Latymer, Iewel, and others in those daies, whose Forms of Bidding Prayers, before Sermon, are to be seen in their writings.
If there be no Sermon, there shall follow one of the Homilies set forth. So was it of old appointed Conc. Vas. c. 4. [If the Parish Priest be sick, or cannot preach, let the homilies of the holy Fathers be read by the Deacon.
Part 2. The OFFERTORY followes, which are certain sentences out of holy Scripture, which are sung or said while the people offered. Durant.
Offerings or Oblations are an high part of Gods service and worship, taught by the light of nature and right reason: which bids us to honour God with our substance, as well as with our bodies and souls: to give a part of our goods to God as an homage or acknowledgement of his Dominion over us, and that all that we have comes from God; 1 Chron. 29. 14. Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort; for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee? To bring presents to him that ought to be feared, Psal. 76. 11. This duty of offerings was practised by the Fathers before the Law, with a gracious acceptation. Witness Abel, Gen. 4. 4. Commanded in the Law, Exod. 25. 2. Speak to the children of Israel that they bring me an offering. So Deut. 16. 16. Confirmed by our Saviour in the Gospel, S. Matth. 5. 23. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the Altar, and there remembrest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. If any man conceives that this offering here mentioned was a Jewish perishing rite, not a duty of the Gospel to continue; let him consider,
First, that there is the same reason for this duty under the Gospel, as there was under or before the Law, God being Lord of us and ours as well as of them; and therefore to be acknowledged for such by us, as well as by them.
Secondly, that all the rest of our Saviours Sermon upon the Mount was Gospel, and concerning duties obliging us Christians: and it is not likely that our Saviour should intermix one only Judaical rite amongst them.
Thirdly, that our Saviour before all these precepts mentioned in this his Sermon, whereof this of oblations is one, prefaces this severe sanction, S. Matth. 5. 19. Whosoever shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; which could not be truly said concerning the breach of a Jewish outworn rite.
4. That our Saviour hath carefully taught us there, the due manner of the performance of this duty of oblations, like as he did concerning alms and prayers, and no man can shew that ever he did any where else; nor is it probable that he should here carefully direct us, how to do that which was presently to be left, and was already out of force, as this was, supposing it to be a Jewish rite. We may then, I conceive, suppose it for a truth, that oblations are here commanded by our Saviour.
Add to this, that offerings were highly commended by the Gospel, in the Wise men that offered Gold, Frankincense and Myrrhe, S. Matth. 2. 11. and that they were practised by the Fathers in the Christian Church. So saies Epiphan. haer. 80. Irenaeus l. 4. c. 34. [By a gift to the King, his honour and our affection is shewn; therefore our Lord willing us to offer with all simplicity and innocency, preached, saying, When thou bringest thy gift to the altar, &c. We must therefore offer of our goods to God, according as Moses commanded, Thou shalt not appear before the Lord empty. There are offerings under the Gospel, as well as under the Law: the kind of offerings is the same: Here is all the difference, they were offered then by servants, now by sons.] S. Hier. ep. ad Heliodor. The axe is laid to the root of the tree, if I bring not my gift to the Altar: nor can I plead poverty, since the poor widow hath cast in two mites,] We should do well to think of this.
Though oblations be acceptable at any time, yet at sometimes they have been thought more necessary, as
First, when the Church is in want, Ex. 35. 4, &c.
Secondly, when we have received some signal and eminent blessing from God. Psal. 76. When David had recounted the great mercy of God in breaking the bow and the shield of the Churches enemies, at the 11. verse, he presses this duty, Bring presents to him that ought to be feared.
Thirdly, at our high and solemn Festivals, Deut. 16. 16. Three times in the year shall they appear before me, and they shall not appear empty; Especially when we receive the holy Communion. Theodoret Hist. l. 5. c. 17. tells us, that it was the ancient custome, before the receiving of the holy Sacrament, to come into the Quire and offer at the holy Table. And surely it becomes not us to be empty-handed, when God comes to us full-handed, as in that Sacrament he does.
Next to the OFFERTORY is that excellent PRAYER for the CHVRCHMILITANT, wherein we pray for the Catholick and Apostolick Church; For all Christian Kings, Princes & Governors, for the whole Clergy and people, for all in adversity, Such a prayer hath S. Chr. in his Liturg, a little before the Consecration.
After which follow some wholsom Exhortations to those that are coming to the holy Communion, seriously exhorting the unprepared to forbear. So was the custome of old in the Greek Church. The Priest admonishes all that are coming to that holy Sacrament, driving away the unworthy, but inviting the prepared, and that with a loud voice, and hands lifted up, standing aloft, where he may be seen and heard of all. Chrys. in Heb. hom. 9. in Ethic.
Those that after these exhortations stay to receive, the Church supposing prepared, invites, to draw near; and after their humble confession the Priest or Bishop absolves and comforts them with some choice sentences taken out of holy Scripture. After which the Priest saies, Lift up your hearts. For certainly at that hour when we are to receive the most dreadful Sacrament, it is necessary to lift up our hearts to God, and not to have them groveling upon the earth: for this purpose the Priest exhorts all, to leave all cares of this life and domestick thoughts, and to have our hearts and minds in heaven upon the lover of mankind. The people then answer, We lift them up unto the Lord, assenting to the Priests admonition. And it behoves us all to say it seriously: For as we ought alwayes to have our minds in heaven, so especially at that hour we should more earnestly endeavour it.
The Priest goes on, Let us give thanks to our Lord God, and many thanks we ought to render him, that calls and invites such unworthy sinners as we be, to so high grace and favour, as to eat the Flesh and drink the Bloud of the Son of God.
The people answer, It is meet and right so to do. For when we give thanks to God, we do a work that is just, and of right due to so much bounty.
Then follow for great daies some proper Prefaces, containing the pecullar matter or subject of our thanks that day, which are to be said seven daies after, Rubr. ibidem. except Whitsunday Preface, which is to be said but six daies after; because Trinity Sunday is the seventh day after, which hath a peculiar Preface. By this it appears that the Church intends to prorogue and continue these high Feasts several daies, even eight daies together, if another great Feast comes not within the time, which requires a peculiar Service. But when we say that the Church would have these high Feasts continued so long, it is not so to be understood, as if she required an equal observance of those several daies, for some of those daies she commands by her Canons and Rubricks. Some she seems only to commend to us to be observed; some are of a higher festivity, some of less. The first and the last, namely, the Octave of the first, are usually the chief daies for solemn Assemblies; yet every of those daies should be spent in more than ordinary meditation of the blessings of the time, and thanksgiving for them: according to that which the Lord commanded to the Jews concerning the Feast of Tabernacles, Lev. 23. 36. Upon every one of the daies of that Feast an offering was to be made, but the first and last were the solemn Convocations.
The reason of the Churches proroguing and lengthning, out these high Feasts, for several days, is plain. The subject matter of these Feasts, as namely, Christs Birth, Resurrection, Ascension, the sending of the holy Ghost, is of so high a nature, so nearly concerning our salvation, that one day is too little to meditate of them, and praise God for them as we ought; a bodily deliverance may justly require a day of thanksgiving and joy; but the deliverance of the soul, by the blessings commemorated on those times, deserve a much longer Feast. It were injurious to good Christian souls to have their joy and thankfulness for such mercies confined to a day, therefore holy Church upon the times when these unspeakable blessings were wrought for us, by her most seasonable commands and counsels here invites us, to fill our hearts with joy and thankfulness, and let them overflow eight daies together.
See above, of the Continuation of great Solemnities, pag. 128. 174. 180. and of the service of Octaves. p. 178.
But two Quaeries here may be fit to be satisfied.
First, why eight dayes are allowed to those high Feasts, rather than another number?
For which the reasons given are divers; one is from the example which Almighty God sets us, commanding his people the Jews, to keep their great Feasts some of them seven daies, and one, namely, the Feast of Tabernacles, eight daies, Lev. 23. If the Jews were to keep their Feasts so long by a daily Burnt-offering (which were but as types of the Christians great Feasts) the Christians ought by no means to come short of them, but offer up to God as long, daily, hearty thanksgivings, presenting our selves souls and bodies, a reasonable, holy and lively Sacrifice unto him. Other reasons, for an Octave to great Feasts, are given, which are mystical. The Octave or eighth day, signifies Eternity, for our whole life is but the repetition or revolution of seven dayes. Then comes the eighth day of Eternity, to which, by Gods mercy we shall be brought, if we continue the seven daies of our life in the due and constant service and worship of God; or else, which is much the same in sense; the eighth day is a returning to the first, it is the first day of the week begun again, signifying, that if we constantly serve God the seven days of our life, we shall return to the first happy estate that we were created in.
The Second Quaere is, how the Prefaces appointed for these eight daies can be properly used upon each of them: for example, how can we say eight days together, Thou didst give thine only Son to be born this day for us? as it is in the Preface.
To which the Answer may be, That the Church does not use the word Day, for a natural day of 24. hours, or an ordinary artificial day, reckoning from Sun to Sun; but in the usual acception of it in holy Scripture, where by the word Day, is signified the whole time designed to one and the same purpose, though it lasts several natural days. Thus all the time that God appoints to the reclaiming of sinners by merciful chastisements or threatnings is called, The day of their visitation, Luke 19. 42, 44. So all the time allotted us for the working out of our salvation, though it be our whole life long, is called a day, Work while it is day, the night comes when no man can work; and most directly to our purpose speaks S. Paul, Heb. 3. 13. Exhort one another daily, while it is called to day, or this day, that is, while you live here in this world. In like manner all that time which is appointed by the Church, for the thankful commemoration of the same grand blessing, for the solemnity of one and the same Feast, is as properly called a day, and all that time it may be said daily, to day, as well as all our life S. Paul saies is called Hodie, this day.
After which follows the thrice holy and triumphant song, as it was called of old [Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnifie thy glorious name, evermore praising thee and saying, holy, holy, holy, &c.] Here we do, as it were, invite the heavenly host to help bear a part in our thanks to make them full. O praise the Lord with me, and let us magnifie his name together. And in this hymn we hold communion with the Church triumphant.
Which sweet hymn, in all Communions is appointed to be said; and though it should be said night and day, yet could it never breed a loathing. Conc. Vasen. c. 6. All that is in our Service from these words, Lift up your hearts, to the end of the Communion-service, is, with very little difference to be seen in S. Chrys. Liturg. and in S. Cyrils Catech. mystag. 5.
Part. 3. Next is the CONSECRATION. So you shall find in Chrysost. and Cyril last cited. Which Consecration consists chiefly in rehearsing the words of our Saviours institution, This is my body, and this is my blood, when the Bread and Wine is present upon the Communioncable. Can. Anglie. 21. S. Chrys. Ser. 2. in 2. ad Tim. The holy Sacrament of the Lords Supper, which the Priest now makes, is the same that Christ gave to his Apostles. This is nothing less than that. For this is not sanctified by men, but by him that sanctified that: for as the words which God our Saviour spake are the same, which the Priest now uses, so is the Sacrament the same. Again, Ser. de Iuda, lat. Ed. tom. 3. Christ is present at the Sacrament now, that first instituted it. He consecrates this also: It is not man that makes the body and blood of Christ by consecrating the holy Elements, but Christ that was crucified for us. The words are pronounced by the mouth of the Priest, but the Elements are consecrated by the power and grace of God, THIS IS, saith he, MY BODY: By this word the bread and wine are consecrated.]
Before these words [THIS IS MY BODY] the bread and wine are common food fit only to nourish the body; but since our Lord hath said, Do this, as oft as you do it in remembrance of me, This is my body, this is my blood: as often as by these words and in this faith they are consecrated, the holy bread and blessed cup are profitable to the salvation of the whole man: Cyprian de coena Dom. The same saies S. Ambr. l. 4. de Sacram. c. 4. & 5. S. Aug. ser. 28. de verb. Dei. And others.
After the Consecration, the Priest first receives himself. So is it ordain'd Conc. Tolet. 12. 5. Wherein it is decreed that, The Priest shall receive whensoever he offers up the Sacrifice. For since the Apostle hath said, Are not they which eat of the Sacrifice, partakers of the Altar? 1 Cor. 10. it is certain, that they who sacrifice and eat not, are guilty of the Lords Sacrament.]
After he hath received, he is to deliver it to the people in their hands. So was it in Cyrils time, Cat. mystag. 5. and Let every one be careful to keep it, for whosoever carelesly loses any part of it, had better lose a part of himself, saies he, And Whosoever wilfully throws it away, shall be for ever excluded from the Communion, Conc. Tolet. 11. c. 11.
It is to be given to the people KNEELING. for a sin it is not to adore when we receive this Sacrament, Avg. in Psal. 98. And the old custome was to receive it after the manner of Adoration, Cyril. ibidem.
When the Priest hath said at the delivery of the Sacrament, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul into everlasting life.
The Communicant is to answer, AMEN. Cyril, Myst. 5. By this Amen professing his faith of the presence of Christs Body and Blood in that Sacrament.
The people were of old called out of the Body of the Church into the Chancel, even up to the Rails of the Holy Table, there to receive it of the Priest, Niceph. l. 18. c. 45. So Clement Const. l. 2. c. 57. these be his words in English,
Afterwards let the Sacrifice be made, all the people standing and praying secretly; and after the Oblation let every Order apart receive the Body and precious Bloud of the Lord, coming up in their Order with fear and reverence as to the Body of a King.
Where you see they were to come up to the Sacrament, and to, or near the Railes of the Holy Table, saies S. Chrys. Liturgy. For after the Priest and Deacons have received, the Deacon goes to the door of the Rails, proV ton quran tou agiou qhmatoV, and lifting up the holy Cup, shews it to the people, saying, In the faith and fear of God proselqete, come hither, or as our Liturgy saies, draw near, the people Answer, Amen, Amen, Amen, Blessed be he that comes in the Name of the Lord, and so come and receive in both kinds.
Every Parishioner shall communicate at the least three times in the year, whereof Easter to be one. Rubr. last after the Communion.
In the Primitive Church, while Christians continued in their strength of Faith and Devotion, they did communicate every day. This custome continued in Africa till S. Cyprians time, Orat. Dom. We daily receive the Eucharist, for to be our food of salvation. And after him till S. Augustines time Ep. 23. ad Bonifac. Insomuch as these words in our Lords Prayer, Give us this day our daily bread, they interpreted of the Eucharist, as being daily to be celebrated. But afterward when charity grew cold and devotion faint, the custome grew faint withal; and within a small time began to be left by little and little; and some upon one pretence, and some upon another, would communicate but once a week. In the East-Church they grew to a worse custome betimes, which in after Ages came into the Latin Churches too. They fell from every day to Sundaies and Holy daies only, and from thence to once a year, and no oftner. S. Ambr. is cited for the proof of this, De Sacram. l. 4. c. 4. But this wicked custome of receiving the Eucharist but once a year, was but of some Greeks in the East, saies S. Ambrose there; which cannot properly be understood of any but the Diocess (as it was anciently called) or Patriarchate of Antioch. For though the Eastern Empire, whereof Constantinople was the Metropolis, contained many Provinces, yet the Eastern Church, or Greeks in the East, were properly those of Antioch, Theodor. Hist. l. 5. c. 9. And possibly some of these might be so supine, as hath been observed; but of the Greeks in general, no such careless custome can be affirmed: for S. Chrysost. tells us that in his time, in every meeting or congregation of the Church, the healthful mysteries of the Eucharist are celebrated, Hom. 26. in Matth. In regard of this neglect, after-Councels did, as the Church of England, make Canons, that if men could be got to receive it no oftner, yet they should be forc'd to receive it, at least three times in the year; Christmas, Easter and Whitsontide. Nor was he to be reckoned amongst good Catholick Christians, that did not receive at those feasts, Conc. Agat. c. 18. [Eliber. c. 81. as they are cited by Gratian. de Conscr. dis. 2.] Three times a year at the least they were to receive, whereof Easter to be one; and good reason: For when Christ our Passeover was Sacrificed for us, then, of all times, let us keep a Feast with this holy banquet, 1 Cor. 5. 7. These Canons were made for the Laity, but for those of the Clergy that lived in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, (where there were enough of themselves, to make a sufficient company to receive the Sacrament) they were bound to receive much oftner, every day, Edw. 6. Liturg. every Sunday at the least, Rubr. 4. after the Communion. Thus we see holy Church her care to bring all her Children; Clergy and Laity, to the heavenly banquet of the body and blood of Christ; she invites all to a frequent and due receiving of this holy Sacrament in most passionate and kind manner, in that most excellent exhortation, next after the prayer for the Catholick Church militant here on earth. An exhortation, fit to be read weekly by the Priest, and seriously considered daily by all the people. In which holy Church one while exhorts us by the mercies and bowels of Christ, to come to this holy feast; another while terrifies us by the indignation of God against those that despise his so great love, and refuse to come, she sends her Ministers, as the man in the Gospel S. Luke 14. to tell them all things are ready, and to bid them in the Name of God, to call them in Christ's behalf, to exhort them as they love their own salvation, to come to this holy Supper; and those, that, notwithstanding all this bidding, shall go about to make excuses, because they had bought a Farm, or would try their yoke of Oxen, or because they were married, holy Church by her Canons and Laws endeavours to compel to come in at least three times in the year. And it were to be wished that all those that despise the Churches passionate exhortations, and contemn her wholsome Canons and commands in this particular, would seriously at last, think of that dreadful sentence of our Lord, upon those that still refuse so great mercy, I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden, shall taste of my Supper. S. Luke 14. 24. None of those that are thus bidden by Christ and his Church to his holy Supper, the holy Communion, and shall refuse to come, shall ever taste of his great Supper hereafter, or eat and drink with him at his Table in his Kingdom S. Luke c. 22. 29.
If any of the Bread and Wine remain, the Curate shall have it to his own use. [Rubr. 5. after the Communion Service.] That is, if it were not consecrated: for if it be consecrated, it is all to be spent with fear and reverence by the Communicants, in the Church Gratian de Consecr. dist. 2. c. 23. Tribus Concil. Constant. Resp. ad Qu. 5. Monachon. apud Balsam. Theophil. Alexand. cap. 7.
Part 4. After all have received, we say the LORDS PRAYER according to ancient Custome, Ambr. l. 5. de Sacram. c. 4. The people are to repeat every Petition after the Priest. Rubr. If the Church did ever devise a thing fit and convenient, what more than this; That when together we have all received those heavenly Mysteries, wherein Christ imparts himself to us, and gives visible testification of our blessed Communion with him, we should in hatred of all Heresies, Factions, and Schisms declaredly approve our selves united as Brethren in one, by offering up with all our hearts and tongues that most effectual prayer, Our Father, &c. In which we profess our selves Sons of the same Father, and in which we pray for Gods pardon no otherwise than as we forgive them that trespass, &c. For which cause Communicants have ever used it, and we at that time do shew we use, yea every syllable of it, as Communicants, saying it together with one consent and voice.
This done, the Priest offers up the Sacrifice of the holy Eucharist, or the Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for the whole Church, as in all old Liturgies it is appointed, and together with that is offered up that most acceptable Sacrifice of our selves, souls and bodies devoted to Gods service. Of which see Rom. 12. and S. Aug. de Civit. Dei, l. 10. c. 6.
Then we say or sing the Angelical Hymn, GLORY BE TO GOD ON HIGH, &c. wherein the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy does admirably imitate the Heavenly, singing this at the Sacrament of his Body which the Angels did at the Birth of his Body.
And good reason there is to sing this for Christs being made One with us in the Sacrament, as for his being made One of us at his Birth. And if ever we be fit to sing this Angels song, it is then, when we draw nearest to the estate of Angels, namely, at the receiving of the Sacrament. After the receiving of the holy Sacrament, we sing an Hymn in imitation of our Saviour; who after his Supper sung an Hymn, to teach us to do the like. Chrys. Hom. 83. S. Matth. And when can a Psalm or Hymn of thanksgiving be more seasonable and necessary, than after we have received this heavenly nourishment? Is it possible to hear these words, This is my Body, take and eat it; Drink ye all of this, This is my Blood: and not be filled, as with a kind of fearful admiration, so with a sea of joy and comfort for the Heaven which they see in themselves? Can any man receive this Cup of Salvation, and not praise and bless God with his utmost strength of soul and body? The Ancients did express their joy at this time in the highest manner that they could. Some were so ravished with joy, that they immediately offered themselves to martyrdom, impatient of being longer absent from their so gracious Lord, unable to keep themselves from expressing their love to Christ, by dying for him; the highest expression of love. All men then counted it a sin, to sully the day of their receiving the Eucharist with any sorrow or fasting, these days they called daies of mirth, daies of remission, daies of Immunity, solemn days, Festival daies.
This Angelical Hymn was made of old by Ecclesiastical Doctors, and who refuses it, let him be excommunicated, Conc. Tolet. 4. c. 4.
The Hymn being ended we depart with a BLESSING, Goar. in Euch. pag. 154. tells us, That of old, when the Communion Service was ended, and the Deacon had dismist the people, they would not for all that depart till they had the Blessing; by this Stay, saying in effect the same to the Priest, that Jacob did to the Angel. We will not let thee go unless thou blessest us. The Priest therefore departing from them, as our Saviour from his Disciples, with a Blessing; but first he comes down from the Altar, by this descending shewing his condescension to the people in affection as well as in Body; and standing behind the Pulpit (Retro Ambonem, whence the Blessing was called euch epi qambwnoV) in the midst of the people, in this also imitating our Saviour, S. John 20. 9. who there gave the Blessing or peace of God standing in the midst, by the place shewing how equally he stood affected to all, how he would have his Blessings spread upon all.