Project Canterbury


THE following paper is reprinted from the English Church Review for July, 1917, by kind permission of the Editor. It was composed as a review of Dr. Darwell Stone's book, The Reserved Sacrament. The Appendix has been specially written for this reprint.

Dr. Darwell Stone on Reservation.


READERS of Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles will remember that in it the heroine is represented as sprung from an ancient family, originally of the proudest Norman lineage, which, whilst preserving its unbroken continuity of descent from father to son, has gradually sunk in the social scale, until it has reached the peasant level, the lordly name of D'Urberville being meanwhile corrupted into the vulgar and commonplace designation of Durbeyfield. At the beginning of the book we are introduced to Mr. Durbeyfield, the present head of the family, who is, so far as material and intellectual riches are concerned, nothing but an ignorant clodhopper; and yet, if he only knew it, one who could boast of an ancestry not inferior to that of the Howards or the Percys. The develppment of Hardy's plot does not concern us here: we will ask permission to construct an imaginary situation on the basis of the story as we have told it up to this point.

Suppose, then, that the family of Mr. Durbeyfield, the agricultural labourer, conceive the idea of reviving their forgotten glories, and taking their place amongst the nobility of England; suppose that by some freak of the law they become possessed of their ancestral residence and estates, and wealth sufficient to maintain them in aristocratic luxury and state; but suppose also that they have no mentor at their side to instruct them in the ways of the haut monde, and that they have to discover or rediscover all its manners, customs, etiquette, tricks of speech and behaviour, ideas, and mentality for themselves.

It is clear that at first they will make many mistakes, and will have to learn by means of many painful experiences. The total fact of "good breeding and social position," which they wish to re-acquire, will for a long time be seen by them out of focus, with its proper proportions distorted. No doubt at first they will be inclined to attach exaggerated importance to correctness, or what they suppose to be correctness, in dress and the like; and even this they will probably get wrong at first. If they are in earnest, however, they will study carefully the ways of any gentlefolks with whom they can come into contact. Each member of the family will notice some particular detail, which he will no doubt impart to the rest; and so the family stock of knowledge, as to what constitutes refined behaviour and culture, will increase day by day. And side by side with their increasing knowledge of correct tailoring, cuisine, heraldry, and grammar, they will, we may hope, .acquire in the same gradual manner a grasp of the deeper and more ethical elements which make up the spiritual whole represented by "the grand old name of gentleman," the loftiness and integrity of character, the bravery, generosity, and sense of public duty, without which "the rank is but the guinea stamp," but to which, if there is anything in heredity at all, their noble lineage must have predisposed them. It will take a long time, perhaps two or three generations, before the habits of the peasant are completely sloughed off, and the D'Urbervilles, as they will no doubt rename themselves, can move with ease and without self-consciousness in brilliant salons and in marble halls; and it will not be surprising if some of the most important things are the last to be learnt. But the time will come when they will be in possession of a complete conspectus of what is implied in "nobility," and will see each detail in its true proportion, precisely because the system will have grown into them, and have become part of themselves.


We hope that this parable (the details of which are not meant to be pressed too closely) will appear not too brutal an allegory of the progress of the Catholic Revival in the English Church during the nineteenth century. The English Church can boast an illustrious hierarchical lineage, descended through apostles and martyrs from the Blood Royal of Christ himself: by birth and heredity she belongs to the great Catholic family of Churches which have preserved the faith and practice of undivided Christendom. But during the last three centuries she had largely forgotten who and what she was. She was, as she still unfortunately is, cut off from direct intercourse and communion with her Catholic sisters of Western and Eastern Christendom; her doctrinal deposit had been cut down and pared away by the negations of Zürich and Geneva; her discipline had ceased to function normally, through the suppression of her diocesan synods and the State gagging of her Convocations; her devotion had been bound in the chains of a chilling frost, through the disuse of the sacrament of penance, the practical loss of belief in the Communion of Saints, and the fact that the august mystery of the Eucharist was hardly anywhere celebrated more often than four times a year. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, we are told, no more than six communicants presented themselves at the altar of St. Paul's Cathedral one Easter Day; and in the Prayer-books of that period it is quite common to find those parts of the Communion Service which follow the Prayer for the Church Militant printed in very small type, obviously on the assumption that the part of the service containing the actual consecration was one of the "Occasional Offices" which are very rarely used, like the Forms for "Prayer at Sea" and for the "Baptism of those of Riper Years." The Bishops of the English Church were, at best, amiable scholars, who were more interested in the critical emendation of the text of Pindar than in the practical exposition of the Gospel, at worst, arrogant and self-seeking pluralists; her priests, bywords for sloth and tithe-grabbing rapacity; her churches, bare barns, locked from Sunday to Sunday, and redolent only of mildewed hassocks and damp flagstones. Her Catholic self-consciousness was all but extinguished, and she had almost come to regard herself as a purely human institution, the creature of the State, with no supernatural credentials, message, or life.


The first effort of this drugged and narcotized Church to recover its vitality and freedom was the first Oxford Movement, the Evangelical Revival of the latter part of the eighteenth century, which, as its name of "Methodist" reminds us, was, at its beginning, an attempt to realize afresh the meaning of the Incarnation and the Atonement through revival of Church life and a methodical observance of Church rules. But the combined timidity and hostility of the Episcopate of that day succeeded in repressing the tumultuous outbursts of renewed Catholic life within the Church, and in extruding those who could no longer be content with lifeless and conventional services: so that the main result of the first attempt of the Church's stifled energies to assert themselves was to add another, and a much greater, schism to those already existing. The second attempt, embodied in the second Oxford Movement, the Catholic Revival, as we call it, was more successful, largely because most of those who were responsible for its inception had made up their minds from the start that they would not under any circumstances be driven out by official hostility from the Communion to whose' interests they had given their lives; and so the Catholic Revival has grown and prospered, until it has coloured large tracts of the Anglican Communion, taking complete possession of some of its dioceses abroad, powerfully leavening some of those at home, and raising the general standard of faith and practice even in quarters most hostile to its doctrinal ideals.

This time her dormant Catholic instincts have successfully reasserted themselves, and the English Church is learning once more, by slow degrees and with many a tumble, to walk in long-forgotten paths, and to behave as a member of the great Catholic aristocracy should.


If there has been any appropriateness in our parable of the D'Urbervilles, the dispassionate student of history, looking back over the course of the Catholic Revival, will not be surprised to find that its earlier stages were marked by a certain disproportion of view as to what constituted "Catholicism," and a certain amateurishness of method in its practical representation. Nor would it be fair, on that account, to bring against one who came to such conclusions as these the charge of superciliousness or contempt for his spiritual ancestors. Every great religious movement begins as a vague inarticulate nisus or striving after an object not clearly envisaged or comprehended; it is only by degrees that it "finds itself" intellectually; and, until this comes about, it is inevitable that a certain number of mistakes and false starts should be made. Thus it is no disparagement to the men who fought and suffered for such things as vestments and wafers, for the conventional "Six Points" of Catholic ceremonial, if we urge that, from the wider knowledge of early Catholicism, and the greater familiarity with working, present-day Catholicism that we of this generation possess, we can now discern Four Points of Catholic practice which are of infinitely greater importance than the old Six Points, desirable and edifying though these were and are. By these Four Points I mean:

(1) The Mass as the principal service of the Lord's Day;

(2) Perpetual Reservation of the most Blessed Sacrament in parish churches;

(3) The recognition of the Sacrament of Penance as the normal means of the forgiveness of post-baptismal sins; and

(4) The teaching and practice of the Invocation of Saints.

To take only one of these points, no instructed English Catholic would now deny that it is far better that the Mass should be the principal service of every Sunday, even though celebrated in a surplice and with ordinary bread, than that there should be vestments and wafers at 8 a.m., and sung Matins at n. No one is likely to deny that Reservation without incense is infinitely better than clouds of incense and no Reservation. A Catholic church can get on very well, if necessary, without processions, but not without Confessions; red cassocks and multitudinous tapers are not essential to a Catholic atmosphere, but Mary and the Saints are.


Despite many discouraging circumstances, on every hand we see faint but unmistakable presages of the approaching triumph of these Four cardinal "Points." In many cathedrals and parish churches of the official type, a "Choral Eucharist" is now sung every Sunday as a, or even as the, principal service of Sunday morning; the citadel of "High Matins" is beginning to rock, and a little more battering will no doubt bring it down in ruins. Prayers for the dead appear amongst the "Forms of Prayer" issued by authority, and even the Invocation of Saints is hardly challenged. Many Bishops and dignitaries both practise and preach Sacramental Confession; and the "optional" theory of its use finds few supporters, save amongst those who do not practise it at all. And it is a significant fact, that in the recent debates of the Southern Convocation relative to Reservation, the point at issue was not whether the Blessed Sacrament should be reserved at all, but merely as to the conditions under which It should be kept.


It is on this last subject, perhaps, more than on all others that English Catholics need to clear their ideas and define their policy. And for this purpose the book which lies before us (Dr. Darwell Stone's The Reserved Sacrament) seems likely to be of the greatest use. Within a brief compass it gives us a sketch of the history of the practice of reserving the consecrated gifts for the purpose of communicating those absent from the Eucharistic Service, from the days of Justin Martyr downwards, with a catena of the principal proof-passages from the Fathers cited both in the original and in an English translation. Dr. Stone possesses in full measure that scrupulous honesty and caution so characteristic of the best English scholarship, which is almost nervously afraid of going further than the evidence warrants, and would rather understate than overstate its case. No doubt he would, in his own mind, recognize the principle that a catena of Patristic quotations merely proves the minimum of what primitive Catholics must be supposed to have believed on any point, and not the maximum; for instance, the quotations which he has given us prove, at least, that Reservation for Communion was the custom of the Primitive Church, and do not at all prove that the Sacrament, thus reserved for Communion, was not, incidentally, used as a focus for extra-liturgical devotion as well; but he has, with great wisdom, remembered that the argumentum e silentio, though formally inconclusive, has a great attraction for the opponents of change, and refrained from laying any great stress on the one surviving passage which might be taken as narrating a devotional "visit" to the Reserved Sacrament in the fourth century A.D. (the story of Gorgonia, St. Greg. Naz., Orat., vii. 18). If we may take the liberty of crossing Dr. Stone's "t's" and dotting his "i's," it would seem that the following conclusions may be drawn from the facts which he has collected in these pages:

1. Reservation, for purposes of Communion, is, in the strictest sense of the words, a primitive, Catholic, and ecumenical practice: if there are any such things as those " laudable practices of the whole Catholic Church " to which the Preface of the Prayer-book alludes, it is one of them.

2. As facilitating the speedy and convenient administration of the Holy Sacrament to persons who otherwise would not be able to receive It, Reservation has the most direct and immediate bearing on the work of saving souls, to a far greater extent than any points of mere ceremonial, however edifying these may be. Those, therefore, who are endeavouring to reconstruct Catholic life in the parish churches of England, should move, first and foremost, for Reservation, long before they trouble about processions or incense. The tabernacle is the first ornament that should appear in the restored church (of course, when the faithful are ready for it); the thurible and the processional cross can wait.

3. Let us get rid, once for all, of the phrase, "Reservation for the Sick and Dying." If the practice of the Primitive Church has any authority for us at all, Reservation is not merely for the sick and dying: it is, just as much, for the hale who, for one reason or another, cannot get to Mass. In the Early Church, the Reserved Sacrament was taken to the faithful who could not attend Mass because they were confined by Roman persecutors in prisons or stone-quarries: and, even apart from persecution, the lay-folk were permitted to keep the Blessed Sacrament in their own houses, and communicate themselves from It. And in the modern Church, there are many persons who wish to be frequent or daily communicants, but cannot attend Mass because they have to be at work at the times when it is being said. There is no reason why such people should be deprived of their daily Bread, even though they cannot assist at the daily Sacrifice. The use, then, of the Reserved Sacrament for the Communion, out of Mass-time, of the hale who, for some good reason, cannot spare the time for being present at a whole Mass, but can just drop into church for five minutes, is as much a "laudable practice of the whole Catholic Church" as Its use for the Communion of the sick, and possesses the same authority.

4. Inasmuch as Reservation is one of the few practical customs which really can claim the august title of "Ecumenical," and inasmuch as the provincial canon which directs all parish priests in England to reserve the Lord's Body in their churches has never been repealed, it would seem that the right, or rather the duty, to reserve is an essential part of the cure of souls, and is implicitly conferred by the Bishop when he institutes a man to a benefice. It follows that a parish priest is under no obligation to ask special permission from the Bishop before beginning the practice of Reservation, any more than he would be obliged to ask special permission before beginning to hear confessions. Both rights (the right to reserve and the right to absolve) are integral parts of the pastoral office, conferred by canonical institution: and the Bishop who, after instituting a man, then claims to bestow or withhold either of these rights, is simply acting ultra vires. This, however, only applies to Reservation by the parish priest, in the parish church; there can be no doubt that Reservation in private oratories or in the churches of religious orders does, according to Catholic custom, require the Bishop's consent.


We have not the slightest idea how far Dr. Stone would agree with conclusions 2, 3, and 4, as we have formulated them, and we desire carefully to guard ourselves against appearing to attribute to him any other opinions than those explicitly expressed in his book: we can only declare our own conviction that any fair-minded person, who will read and weigh the Patristic quotations which he has given us, without parti pris, will naturally and inevitably come to these conclusions. If the Church of England really is part of the Catholic Church, it is bound, sooner or later, to snap the bonds of red tape in which officialism would like to confine it, and to behave in regard to the Reserved Eucharist as simply and naturally as the rest of the Catholic Church does.


It must be observed, however, that these considerations all have reference to what we may call the fact of Reservation, and have no necessary bearing upon its mode. The Holy Sacrament can be kept reverently in the parish church, and used both for the Communion of the sick and for the Communion of the hale out of Mass-time, even though the actual aumbry or tabernacle in which it is reserved may be situated in a locked chapel, or screened off from public view by a solid iconostasis after the Eastern manner. But, in Western Christendom, it is usual, and has been for many centuries, for the tabernacle, Sacrament-house, or hanging pyx, in which the Sacrament is kept to be clearly visible from the body of the church: and for six or seven hundred years the faithful, in the West, have been accustomed to treat the Sacrament so reserved as a focus for private devotion, and to pray before the tabernacle to the God-Man mysteriously and sacramentally present there. Moreover, this tendency to pay devotion to the Reserved Sacrament at times other than those at which It is being used for actual Communion, has expressed itself in certain quasi-liturgical practices or services, those known as Exposition and Benediction, which have become exceedingly popular with the masses of Western Catholics. And the precise question which has been for some time agitating ecclesiastical circles, is, whether this Western extra-liturgical cultus of the Reserved Sacrament should be permitted amongst ourselves or not.


Here, again, to judge from the correspondence in the Church papers on this subject, there seems need for a great clarification of ideas, both amongst the assailants and the defenders of the cultus: and again, the clear, scholarly, and dispassionate statement of historical fact which Dr. Stone gives us should do much towards bringing this desirable consummation about. Before, however, proceeding to indicate the way in which Dr. Stone handles this aspect of the problem, we will beg leave to state the logic of the matter, as it appears to us, in brief compass.

And, first of all, let us return for a few moments, with a purpose that will presently become clear, to our parable of the D'Urbervilles. Suppose, then, that our friends, having recovered their fortune and a good deal of knowledge as to the essential nature of noblesse, are considering the question of installing a telephone in their ancestral castle. Some members of the family, probably the majority, urge that the telephone is of great practical convenience, and that .it is almost universal in the stately homes of England. On the other hand, there are some who contend as follows: "Our claim to be considered members of the aristocracy is based upon the appeal to history, to the early history, that is, of our family, when our rank was universally acknowledged even by those families which now are disinclined to open their doors to us. Now, there is no authority whatever for telephones in the 'first six centuries' of our family's existence; and, as the whole object of this family revival is simply to reproduce the times of Sir Tancred and Sir Odo d'Urberville, it follows that a modern development like the telephone is 'disloyal' to our particular social position." Substantially the same contention is put forward by another small party, with the exception, however, that, instead of appealing to the "first six centuries," they have (relying upon an obscure entry in the family Bible) taken the "second year" of the late lamented Queen Anne as the standard of propriety in social theory and practice, a standard which equally rules out telephones and other modern devices. And both of the latter parties appeal, in support of their contention, to the fact that telephones are not by any means, though very common in England, universal in great houses, and cannot therefore be essential to the life of the haut monde; and they point out, with some heat, that the country seats of Lithuania and the Bukovina are entirely innocent of any such inventions.

It is not unreasonable to suppose that the pro-telephone party (if we may so describe them) would reply somewhat as follows: "We entirely deny your assumption that the goal of our family revival is to reproduce the first six or any other centuries of the past. We do not want to get back to what we were in the days of Sir Tancred: we want to get forward to what we should have been if the D'Urbervilles of the eighteenth century had not drunk and gambled away our patrimony. We quite admit that the telephone is not essential to cultivated life, but it is a very great convenience, and you yourselves do not assert that there is anything intrinsically immoral about it. In any case, if you cannot overcome your archæological objections to it, your course seems obvious, don't use it; but there is no reason why you should wish to prevent people who do find it a convenience from using it."


We hope that this continuation of our parable will indicate the true logic of this particular controversy, as to the permissibility of "extra-liturgical devotions" in connection with the reserved Eucharist. The cultus in question cannot claim ecumenical authority, because it is (more or less) unknown to the East; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong. The millions of Latin Christendom are passionately attached to it: it can therefore claim the auctoritas of rather more than half of Christendom. Moreover, if there has been any truth in our analogy with the imaginary story of the D'Urbervilles, it is a development which has a primâ facie claim for adoption by Anglican Christians. Let us be permitted to elaborate this point for a few moments.


If the Catholic Movement in the English Church can give any explanation of its existence, any statement of its ultimate aims at all, that explanation cannot be merely the expression of a desire to evoke some long-dead century from the limbo of the past. The past cannot really be revived, however much its revival may be desired: we can no more recover the precise tone and quality of primitive or mediaeval Church life than we can revive the mastodon, or think ourselves back into the cosmology of the Stone Age. If the Catholic Movement permits itself to be described as a mere "revival" of medievalism, analogous to that pathetic fiasco the Eglinton Tournament, or even as a "revival" of the first four or six centuries, it is sure to be left on one side by the strenuous realism of a scientific and clear-sighted age, such as the twentieth century, in England after the War, is bound to be. It must therefore be conceived of, not as a return to the past, but as a resumption of arrested development. It is not an attempt to get back to what we were before the Reformation; it is an attempt to get forward to what we should have been if the Reformation (in its more destructive aspects) had not happened.

Now, suppose for a moment that the complicated upheavals of Western Christendom in the sixteenth century had not been mishandled by the authorities both in England and at Rome. Suppose that Popes and Tudor kings had been actuated by the spirit of reasonableness: that what we call the "Reformation" and the "counter-Reformation" had been fused into one movement: that English Bishops had been present at the Council of Trent: that side by side with the sweeping away of mediaeval abuses reasonable liberty had been allowed to local and National Churches in such questions as that of a vernacular rite and the like: that the rank growth of the "indulgence" system had been cut down to its primitive root, the commutation of over-severe penance: that the position of the Papacy had been settled upon more or less "Gallican" lines, with a primacy, not a sovereignty, over the Church, strictly subordinate to the authority of General Councils: and that the old, free, joyous elasticity of the united, pre-Tridentine Western Church, with continual intercourse and easy exchange of religious ideas between these islands and the Continent, had survived into succeeding centuries, instead of stiffening into an insular, self-sufficient Anglicanism on the one side, and a militaristic, over-Italianized seminarism on the other. Is there any reason to suppose that such a reformed, yet united, Western Church would have suppressed its Corpus Christi processions, melted down its monstrances, and secluded its hanging pyxes in locked chapels? There is nothing whatever in the hypothetical reforms which we have sketched out above to necessitate such a ruthless interference with the instincts of popular piety; these reforms are all concerned with ecclesiastical discipline and polity, not with devotion. The overwhelming presumption is that Exposition would have continued to be practised; that Benediction, or some similar rite, would have grown out of it as naturally in such a reformed Western Church as it has grown in the existing Continental Churches.

It would seem, then, that unless very good reason can be adduced to the contrary, the providing of extra-liturgical sacramental devotions, for those who appreciate them, is a part of that English Catholic ideal which is implied in the conception of resuming arrested development, of getting forward to what we should have been had not our devotional life been frozen by the Hanoverian era. The onus probandi lies upon those who would forbid these devotions, not upon those who would satisfy the popular demand for them. Nobody wishes to compel any man to attend Benediction if he is not spiritually helped by it; but such a person is under a special obligation, imposed by Christian charity, not to act the part of a mere "dog in the manger," and not to endeavour to force his own tastes upon those who are helped by Benediction, without producing the best and most convincing reasons for his action.


What, then, are the reasons commonly adduced by those who wish to repress the growth of these devotions amongst ourselves? They appear to be three in number, and may be summarized as follows:

I. We have no guarantee that these subsidiary devotions were included within our Lord's intention when he instituted the Blessed Eucharist.

2. They are "Roman."

3. They tend to make people lose sight of the fact of our Lord's abiding presence in his mystical Body, the Church.

It is worth noticing that no one of these arguments, taken individually, nor all three of them taken together, can be said to amount to a definite charge of heresy: the opponents of "extra-liturgical devotions" do not feel themselves able to go as far as that; and, indeed, such a charge would be plainly absurd, because, although the Catholic Church (on the Anglican definition of it) has never given ecumenical sanction to the practice of Exposition, it has certainly never condemned or forbidden it. These arguments have all reference to spiritual or ecclesiastical expediency; even if they could be permanently sustained, the worst epithets that could be justifiably applied to Benediction would be "theologically unsafe," "precarious," "speculative," or "uncertain"; and it would seem to be the height of pedantry to persist in this language, in view of the spiritual experience, gained through these devotions, of millions of God's poor, of every race, language, and colour, in every land and clime. For specific replies to the first two of these objections, written in that spirit of gentleness, charity, and restraint which bears with it so much more impressiveness than the most incisive dialectic, we must refer our readers to Dr. Stone's book, pp. 91 ff.; but we may venture to add to what he says there the following considerations:

I. What the full intentions of our Blessed Lord were, when he instituted the Sacrament of his love, it would be presumptuous for mortal man to say. Nevertheless, if he was omniscient God, he must have foreseen that these subsidiary developments would as a matter of fact arise; and the only question is, whether he approved, and approves of them now, or not. Is it not a sufficient answer to this question, if we reply that he has chosen to bless millions of people through "extra-liturgical devotions," to teach them the Divine art of prayer, to develop in them the sacred thirst for Sacramental Communion, to make his Presence intensely, almost sensibly, felt by them? If a particular prayer-method is admittedly neither intrinsically heretical nor intrinsically immoral, the question of its conformity to our Lord's intentions can only be judged by its practical fruits. If he chooses to bless people through "field-preaching," or extemporaneous prayer, or Exposition of the Sacrament, causa finita est.

2. "These devotions are 'Roman'" (therefore, apparently, they are to be eschewed). What is the suppressed major premise of this syllogism? Is it "all things which are peculiar to Rome, as against the Eastern Church, are to be eschewed"? But this would prove far too much: too much, at any rate, for those professing to be loyal to the present Prayer-book. At this rate the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed, Baptism by affusion, the practice of postponing Confirmation and first Communion until "years of discretion," the recitation of the Apostles' and Athanasian Creed, would have to be swept away: they are all historically just as "Roman" as Benediction. Are those who impugn "extra-liturgical devotions" on the ground of their Roman provenance prepared to organize an agitation for the abolition of the Filioque on the same ground?

The fact is that this argument rests upon a confusion between what is essentially Roman or Papalistic, and what is accidentally Roman or Western. "Indulgences" clearly belong to the category of what is essentially Papal: they necessarily presuppose the whole Roman Catholic conception of the Papacy in its entirety, and it is logically absurd for any one who is not in communion with Rome to believe in the present system of indulgences, or to imagine that he can gain them. But the practices mentioned above have no necessary logical connection with Papalism at all; they are not fundamentally based upon the authority of the Pope, in the way in which indulgences are. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that a sudden ecclesiastical revolution destroyed the present Papal autocracy, and that the Roman Communion was reconstituted as a federation of autonomous local Churches, preserving the Catholic Faith, minus Papalism. Indulgences would, of course, come to an end at once, because there would be no Pope to grant them. But there would be no reason why the liberated Churches should proceed to excise the Filioque from their version of the Nicene Symbol, or to revive the practice of communicating infants: no more would there be any logical compulsion upon them to take down the monstrance from over the high altar of the Sacré Cur at Montmartre, or to draw a thick curtain across the grille of the Blessed Sacrament chapel at Westminster Cathedral. The abolition of the Popedom, if such a thing be thinkable, would no more necessarily involve the abolition of Benediction than the fall of Tsardom in Russia has involved the suppression of icons.

A practical proof of this is afforded by certain events which took place comparatively recently in Russian Poland. Some ten or fifteen years ago, a certain number of Roman Catholic priests and lay-folk threw off the jurisdiction of the Pope, and constituted themselves into an autonomous branch of the "Old Catholic" Communion. They are generally known as the "Mariaviten," and their cathedral church is at Plock, on the Vistula. So far were they from supposing that the repudiation of Papalism necessarily involved the abandonment of "extra-liturgical devotions" to the Reserved Sacrament, that, on becoming independent, they proceeded to institute perpetual Exposition in all their churches! which still continues, or, at any rate, continued until the beginning of the War. The Mariavite Church is, therefore, a living witness to the possibility of combining a frankly non-Roman, or indeed anti-Roman, orthodox Catholicism, with ardent devotion to the Reserved Sacrament and its extra-liturgical cultus; and a standing proof that such cultus is neither Papal in theory nor exclusively Roman in practice.

3. The third argument is not dealt with by Dr. Stone, and this is perhaps the only notable omission in his book. It is permissible, however, to observe that the only positive evidence in support of this contention (viz. that devotion to our Lord in the Reserved Sacrament tends to destroy the sense of him as perpetually present in his Church and in the believer's heart through faith) consists of some expressions in Roman Catholic books of devotion, and in Roman Catholic hymns, such as Faber's lines:

"Ah! when wilt thou always
Make our hearts thy home?
We must wait for heaven,
Then the day will come."

Such expressions as these might, no doubt, be interpreted as implying that our Lord does not always "make our hearts his home" now, that, on the contrary, he only visits them occasionally, when we receive Communion; and, if this was the idea in the minds of their authors, it would no doubt be the case that such people, in their rapturous contemplation of one of the modes in which our Lord vouchsafes his adorable Presence to our souls, the objective, sacramental, or Eucharistic mode, were at least tending to forget the other, the subjective, interior, and mystical mode. It would not, indeed, be difficult to counter these quotations with others from Roman Catholic sources, in which the second, the mystical, mode of our Saviour's Presence with his faithful disciples is fully recognized. But the quotation from Faber, and, if our memory serves us aright, most of the others adduced in this connection, refer to Communion, not "visits" or devotions to the Reserved Sacrament. If, then, any argument can be justly based upon them, it ought to be directed against Communion, or against the whole sacramental principle, not against the particular (and admittedly subsidiary) expressions of it which we call "extra-liturgical devotions." As a matter of fact, the Zwinglian, both in ancient and in modern times, has not been slow to develop this precise argument against the whole conception of the Real Presence in Holy Communion: viz. that the belief in it obscures, or is inconsistent with, the belief in his Real Presence through faith in the heart of the Christian; that the idea of a Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist implies a Real Absence of him elsewhere.

If, then, it is permissible to found an argument upon these and similar quotations at all, such an argument would prove too much; for it would be ultimately destructive, not merely of "extra-liturgical devotions," but of the whole sacramental principle.


To sum up. The following is the briefest possible summary of the conclusions to which we have been led, or in which we have been confirmed by the perusal of Dr. Stone's book:

1. Reservation, for the purposes of Communion, is an ecumenical custom, an essential part of Catholic Church life, and one of the things which English Catholics can claim to have, not by way of favour, but as a right.

2. This cannot, strictly speaking, be said of "extra-liturgical devotions" paid to the Sacrament, so reserved. Nevertheless,

3. Such devotions have been and are of the greatest spiritual value to millions of people, and their adoption seems suggested by the general trend of English Church history.

4. The arguments adduced against them seem to be either fallacious or inconclusive.

5. It is, therefore, much to be desired that those who feel no need of these "extra-liturgical" helps to prayer and devotion, should be willing, in the spirit of fraternal charity, to abstain from putting obstacles in the way of those who do desire them.


It is a commonplace, but none the less true, to say that the strength of the Anglican Church lies amongst the upper and educated classes, and that this is due to its traditions of intellectual power, scholarship, and sound learning; whilst its hold over the toiling masses is negligible or non-existent, because it has never developed, except in a few isolated places, and in the persons of a few heroic priests, the warm, emotional, popular side of religion which attracts and holds the poor. At present the collarless and shoeless stratum of humanity is conspicuously absent from our staid cathedral services, and would probably be turned out by the vergers if it got in. With the Church of Rome, the opposite is the case; the strength of that Church lies among the masses; the waifs of humanity, the tramp, the beggar, and the barefooted child feel themselves quite at home in the warm, friendly atmosphere of Latin Catholicism, with its multitude of powerful emotional agencies, all irresistibly conspiring to draw humble and simple souls in lowly adoration to the feet of the Crucified. ." The poor have the Gospel preached to them." But the weakness of the Church of Rome lies in its hold upon the " intellectuals "; the ostrich-like attitude towards modern thought, scientific knowledge, and historical criticism apparently adopted by its central authorities, the frame of mind symbolized by the Inquisition and the Index, the obstinate clinging to relics of doubtful authenticity, trivial miracles, and practices (connected with particular shrines and sacred images), which savour rather of pre-Christian Mediterranean fetichism than of the Gospel: these and such-like things have alienated no inconsiderable proportion of the educated classes of France and Italy from the Church, and are a source of secret shame to many of those who still remain devoted Catholics. We need not now discuss the question, which is better: religion which holds the "intellectuals," or a great many of them, and has lost the poor; or a religion which attracts the poor, and tends to repel the "intellectuals"? All that we would say now, and we would say it with all the force at our command, is, Can any reason in the nature of things be discovered why there should not be a type of Catholicism which appeals to both? We believe that there is no reason, and that it is the illimitably splendid destiny of the Anglican Church to work out such a type, retaining all its scholarship, and its appeal to the cultivated lay mind, but developing, in addition, the power of swaying vast masses of men with a single tide of emotion, of firing whole country-sides with passionate devotion to Christ our Redeemer, and to his most Sacred Heart. Call it a visionary dream if you will, but think of the compelling, overwhelming effect of "Jesu, Lover of my soul," rolling, as with one giant voice, from five thousand throats through the spacious glooms of St. Paul's Cathedral, before the Blessed Sacrament, enthroned above the high altar in a blaze of tapers!

Only let us put away timidity, and archaeology, and wizened, shrunken, dried-up versions of the infinitely rich, various, and vital fact of Catholicism; and our eyes may see our country once more "Merry England" and the "Island of the Saints" before we die.


Is it too much to ask the opponents of Benediction to consider, as dispassionately and unprejudicedly as though the problem were coming under their notice for the first time, these two questions, viz.:

(1) What, as a matter of fact, is Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament?

(2) What harm does it do anybody?

--and to read what follows?

(i) "Benediction" means, of course, blessing. To bless the people in God's name is one of the normal functions of priesthood. To this day the Kohanim, the "Cohens" or priests of Israel, though they have lost all other priestly powers, and have been practically superseded by the Rabbis as leaders of the Jewish Church, are still summoned to the front of the synagogue to chant the Aaronic benediction (Num. vi. 23) facing the people. No Rabbi, Levite, or layman has dared to usurp this function. And in the Church of the New Dispensation, the Christian priest is perpetually being called upon to pronounce blessings of various kinds: in the Prayer Book, the celebrant is directed to "let the people depart with this blessing" at the end of the Communion Service, to pronounce a benediction over the newly married couple, and so on.

Now what is the rationale of these liturgical or ceremonial "blessings"? Of course, at every moment Almighty God is "blessing" us himself in the fullest sense of the word--that is, he is continuously willing our highest good, and continuously taking measures, in the course of his omnipresent Providence, to bring it about. And it would seem that the significance of the "blessing" imparted by God's ministers, whether tinder the Old or the New Dispensation, consists precisely in this--that the benedictory formula or action, spoke or performed by a human being, as it were focuses the infinite and eternal benevolence of God towards his creatures into a single point both of time and space. It both symbolizes the Divine grace and helpfulness which invisibly encompass us, and, to a certain extent, conveys to the soul of the recipient what it symbolizes. Not that the blessing of a priest or a bishop is a Sacrament, or a necessary means of grace: but it is more than a mere empty form: if we may use the language of technical theology, it imparts grace, mainly perhaps ex opere operantis, in so far as the recipient of the blessing is moved thereby to a more vivid realization of the Divine love, but also in some measure ex opere operato, in virtue of the spiritual power with which Christ has vouchsafed to endue his Church.

Now, a ceremonial benediction almost necessarily requires to be expressed by some external action or gesture on the part of him who ministers it: and it is natural that the hands should be the instrument employed. In the Bible, patriarchs, and prophets, and our Lord himself impart blessings by laying their hands on the heads of the recipients. Where the recipient is, not an individual, but a crowd, it is natural that the bestower of the benediction should stretch out his hands over the crowd, or (within the Christian Church) should make the sign of the cross with his hand over it. It is only a further development that the minister of the blessing should hold some symbolic object in his hand whilst he blesses the people, that he should, as the saying is, "bless the people with" the object in question. [1] So, in the Eastern Church, a bishop blesses his flock "with" the triple candle which typifies the Holy Trinity; in the Western Church, the officiant sometimes blesses "with" the relic of a Saint, in order to symbolize the fact that the whole Church Triumphant co-operates with Almighty God, its King and Father, in wishing well to the Church Militant here in earth. And, both in East and West, it has seemed natural to Christians that, in order to stir up in our hearts thankfulness for the ineffable privilege of Sacramental union with Jesus Christ, and to stimulate us to special adoration of him, a blessing should occasionally be given "with" the vessel--chalice, ciborium, or monstrance--containing the Eucharistic Gifts. In the East, this blessing is only given at the close of the Liturgy: the priest, as he carries the Holy Things from the Altar to the Prothesis, to be consumed there, pauses before the "Royal gates" of the Iconostasis, and blesses the people with the Sacrament. In the West, this blessing generally takes place apart from Mass, and in the form of a separate service, which, however, is often appended to Vespers, a sermon, Litanies, etc. But the essential action is the same in both cases.

That is all that "Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament" means. There is no idea that "Benediction" is an eighth Sacrament, or a substitute for Communion: any instructed Catholic would laugh such ideas to scorn. Anglican clergymen are perpetually bestowing Benedictions, only "with" their own bare and empty hands: the significance of the rite would not be essentially altered, if the hand that bestowed the Benediction after Evensong, instead of being empty, held the ciborium or the monstrance: it would merely mean that a deeper and more awful solemnity had been added to the action, and that the thoughts of the worshippers, whilst welcoming the Love of God thus symbolized before them, had been specially directed to the Love of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, which he feels in his Sacred Humanity, and expresses in the Eucharistic mysteries. The author of this treatise has just returned home after singing a Choir Office, at the close of which he gave Benediction--with his own right hand: the significance of the action would not have been fundamentally altered, though its impressiveness would have been heightened a hundredfold, if he had been able to give it with the monstrance.

(2) If, then, "Benediction" is a purely symbolic service, I think that I am not being over-confident in asserting that its opponents will find it extraordinarily difficult to frame a plain and straightforward reply to my second question: "What harm does 'Benediction' do to anybody?"--unless, indeed, they have come to feel that the reply may consist of the simple word "None." Let me put the question in this way. I am writing on a week-day afternoon: if the regular list of services has been adhered to, I imagine that Benediction (with the ciborium) has just been given at Westminster Cathedral. About sixty or seventy people have snatched a few moments, in the middle of the afternoon, to come apart from the roar, the dust, and the traffic of London, into the cool, dark, spacious quietude of the Cathedral: a few lights are lit on the altar: after a hymn and a prayer or two, a priest has taken out of the Tabernacle the veiled ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament, made with It, in silence, a great sign of the Cross above the heads of the kneeling worshippers, and immediately replaced It in the tabernacle. That is all that has happened: it has only lasted a minute or two. But the men and women who have been present at it would tell you, if you asked them, that they have been heartened and refreshed, have been taken, for a few brief seconds, out of the sordid turmoil of the city, and set down at Heaven's gate; and can you prove that they have not been? Can you show that they have been morally, mentally, or physically damaged by the very simple symbolic action at which they have assisted? If not, why grudge the same refreshment to those of your Anglican fellow-Christians who feel the same need, and appreciate the same help?

In omnibus glorificetur Deus.

[1] The pure human naturalness of this instinct is shown by the fact that, in his great mystical opera, Wagner makes Parsifal bless--or give Benediction to--the knights of Monsalvat with the Holy Grail (Parsifal, Act III, stage direction: Amfortas und Gurnemanz huldigen knieend Parsifal, welcher den Gral segnend über die anbetende Ritterschaft schwingt.)

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