OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
ON TUESDAY, JUNE 27TH, 1916
THE SOCIETY OF
SS. PETER & PAUL
WE have been bidden to walk about Sion, to go round about her, to tell (or count) the towers thereof.
We make answer and reply we have done so for many generations, we still do so to our great pleasure and profit.
The Life of Jesus is not a Jewish fable or a Hebrew legend: all religions, however diverse, consent and allow that it has inspired deeds than which none are greater; that its welcome for poets and painters has never failed; that their songs and skill have raised in the world the standard of human perfection.
It is left to the Christian to speak once more, to speak for himself--to say Emmanuel--that is, God with us:
The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.
The question arises: How? Where?
In the fifty years and more of happy toil and turmoil now past--we have seen how Worship has been steadily recovering its atmosphere: it is now expressed in different terms; it is more dignified--more consistent with its origin, more obedient to the rule of the Catholic Church.
It has been a period of Reformation and Restoration spent, with more or less success, in witness to the truth that the Holy Eucharist is to us, above all things and before all things, our chiefest delight.
There is a pause among us--what are we expecting? for what are we now waiting?
Is it that we are on the eve of another great act of Reformation--the greatest--the very greatest of all?
When the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament is spoken of, all obedient devout people make enquiry and ask: But what authority is there for it? what did they do in the early Church?
It is a very proper question.
For the youngest, then, and least informed--Justin Martyr, who lived, perhaps, between the years 114 and 165, does say that the Holy Eucharist was reserved: he says so in his Apologia.
From that time the evidence is constant and increases in volume: it would be laborious but interesting to follow this body of evidence--it would, however, repeat itself and very little would be gained.
There is the further evidence of all those beautiful vessels of gold and silver, in which the Holy Sacrament reposed; to be found, unhappily, not in our churches but in the museums of our chief towns: the jewels they contain, the beautiful forms and fine engraving of artist and craftsman, are a record of skill and piety.
This appeal to ancient Christian life is excellent, but it is not everything: it certainly is not without a hindrance, for it creates in some minds a feeling that to find the Church you must go back to the past and search for it. Whereas in truth the Church knows no age: its divine origin and existence exclude the idea of youth and of old age--it is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever.
Authority exists neither more nor less to-day than it did yesterday.
If the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament were in general use, developed by devotion, and regulated by authority; it is a serious matter that it should have fallen into disuse.
The one great Truth, the one above all others to distinguish Catholic theology from Protestant teaching is, of course, the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Our services now proclaim the fact: it is generally allowed: we adore, we worship Christ present in the Holy Eucharist.
It is necessary at this point to review the chief features expressed in the Mass.
The Priest exercising his intention in the saying, offers It as a supreme act of Worship--it is the chief, the great act; after that he prays, praying with a power beyond his own, with the assistance of the Holy Ghost, he consecrates--the bread becoming the Body of Christ; the wine becoming the Blood of Christ: of necessity the Priest receives Communion--after that, as desirable, the people then receive Communion.
These features represent the Holy Mysteries when formally and fully expressed--but It overflows Its limitation--the act complete and finished still lingers--a part may be detached: Communion may still be provided for, separate and apart from the formal and fully expressed offering--it is done in accordance with both ancient and modern use.
Now let us go one step further, and say that a full and perfect Communion may be attained under one species--this point is the key of much which follows, and solves several difficulties.
St Cyprian tells us that a full Communion may be attained under one species: there is, too, the custom of the Eastern Church of communicating infants at the time of Baptism, with the Sacred Blood: there is also the assurance among ourselves that a full and complete Communion may be attained under one kind if from infirmity a sick person should be prevented from receiving both the Body and the Blood.
That being so, it is easily seen how conducive it is to reverence and the avoidance of many difficulties and possible irreverence; that when reservation is made it should be made in one kind only.
There is that phrase to be found in our Prayer-book "a fair linen cloth"; it is familiar to us, and how well we remember seeing it in our early days on Sundays called Sacrament Sundays before the Catholic revival had restored our services: it is still to be found in many other churches--when after Communion has been given to the people this fair linen cloth is used to cover the Blessed Sacrament.
Now this fair linen cloth, what is it? Why is it? Is there any account to be given of its history?
There it is, treat it as you would a fossil--true, it has no written history, but look at it again and ask whether it does not carry its own history with it, written in characters of its own.
Protestant theology can render no reason for it--from this point of view, it is hardly useful: and, supposing the Holy Eucharist to express no mystery, this fair linen cloth would be misleading rather than instructive.
A Catholic is prepared to read into the use of this fair linen cloth the lesson of reverence for a profound mystery.
Now, then, I would venture to ask, is this indeed the Dominicum of most ancient time, now known as the fair linen cloth?
We are tempted to ask the Priest using it--Are you about to send the Holy Eucharist to someone not present at the altar in accordance with ancient use--is not this the Dominicum or fair linen cloth which you should use?
It would indeed be a happiness to say a word of congratulation to Protestant denominations and others, for having preserved among far-reaching changes and losses one of the most interesting and ancient articles of Christian worship.
But this only as a passing remark.
What I would say to you is this:
The Dominicum or fair linen cloth was the general and common covering used when the Sacrament was conveyed from the altar to a distance, but can anyone learned in early Christian life give any account or description of vessels to convey the Sacred Blood to be used with the Dominicum? It is suggested that there is no evidence of general common use: so may we now say, conditions being what they are, Communion is fully attained and reverence secured by Communion under one kind only.
Long custom and experience sanction the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in one kind: we do well to respect a practice quite sound from a theological point of view, and sanctioned by those who have long dealt with this responsibility.
Reservation has a very definite and exact relation to the celebration of the Holy Mysteries; in no way does it occupy the same ground, still less does one exclude the other.
Of late the Blessed Sacrament has been reserved--yes--that is so: and so far, so good: but under restrictions which are irksome and cannot be obeyed.
We would restore the Blessed Sacrament to those churches where the clergy and congregations by devotion and instruction have been prepared for It.
Do not let the phrase "Reservation for the Sick and Dying" run current amongst us; there is some trace of unreality about it.
Permission has been granted for the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for the Sick and Dying and generally with the injunction that "It is not to be used for adoration."
The phrase is a most unhappy one: we wonder it should ever have come into existence: it requires very little attention to see what a conflict of first principles can be expressed in a few words: it is, moreover, repulsive; it can never have been thought out.
A general statement will be a sufficient reply. The Presence of Jesus Christ demands our adoration and our worship.
The search-light of public opinion is bearing intensely on the religion of England: they ask, have the English any religion--if so--what is it?
We must endeavour to see ourselves as others see us.
To Mahomedans and Eastern people religion, in some form, comes absolutely first. These foreign people read our books--and knowing them, and much more of our way of living--remark: "If you were like your Christ, we should become Christian."
They ask: What love or reverence do you show for your Saints and holy men, whom you say your Lord and Master delights to honour?
They ask: Your holy places, where are they? Your Bethlehem--your Nazareth--your Gethsemane--your church of the Holy Wisdom--now a mosque--have you no love of holy men and of holy places--you had these men in high repute, and holy places and things in great reverence once--where are they now?
Let religions be what they may, there is something which we all hold in common, and that is the Presence of God: in that supreme idea all contradictions are reconciled--all imperfections are atoned--all limitations are relaxed--in his Presence one great deep calls to another.
Holiness is, as it were, the atmosphere of God, the medium in which life and things are permitted to exist and worship.
The best phase of Mahomedan life (and that, of course, confronts us) is to be found at Cairo, where the most learned of this religion are represented. We can quite well imagine an intellectual saying: You had your Saints, your holy places, your holy things once; above all, on your own showing, the Divine Presence on the altars--where is it now?
For ourselves--have we exchanged our religion? There is our revealed religion, it is first and supreme: have we lost heart over it, and exchanged it for a natural religion?
It is permitted to see in Nature the footsteps of his glory; of him, who made heaven and earth, and all things visible and invisible--there he is; immanent yet transcendent: but you cannot exchange your revealed religion for the simpler facts of natural religion.
Where is the manifestation of his Presence to be found? you may still go forth with a St Francis and call on all Nature to worship: you may wander on mountain and hill, by river and brook, and find him there--you may say your Benedicite again and again; O ye sun and moon, O ye clouds, O ye seas and floods, bless ye the Lord, praise him and magnify him for ever--but it is music of ancient days, when the sons of God shouted for joy; before sin was: there is discord in it now, pain and sorrow trouble me, I look for a new heaven and a new earth wherein there is Tightness.
Brave Nature, full of her own anguish, groaning and travailing in pain, forgets herself, rises as it were beyond herself--still doing her best: in her old age she sings the song of her childhood; as though the earth knew nothing but the goodness of the Lord.
But tell me why it is: when in the days of the Incarnation, when Peace has been proclaimed and the one Great Sacrifice offered, after the Promise has been vouchsafed when he said I am with you always: why is it, when I leave Nature and the Temple under the dome of the sky, and betake myself to the House of the Incarnation--call it Domus Columbae if you will--to the altar, to the place where the Mysteries of Redemption are proclaimed; after all that has been done, I find no further token of His Presence?
Under the most favourable circumstances I may perhaps find the figure of the crucified, a memorial of his Death, but nothing to say that he is alive for evermore.
It is no other than being out in the open--and I am waiting for him to speak peace to my soul.
Whither has the tide been carrying us these fifty years and more--are we now on the eve of another and still greater movement?
Since the Tractarian movement restoration and reformation have gone on, building again the waste places of Israel; the greatest act of all still remains to be done.
Think of the Christian life--how it is by the work of the Holy Spirit that we have been made the children of God, and that we are led by the Spirit of God.
What is Christian life? You shall first say what it is not. It is not historical record--mere history: how wonderful it is that history is always failing to record the facts of humanity fully.
History is written--then re-written, and after that revised, then left to the whim of the age; to the use of the politician to use as he will: it would, as it were, proclaim its own inefficiency to deal with humanity: if you ask for an account of the Christian Life, it is from beginning to end a revelation, first of all of Jesus Christ, and then of the conversion and sanctification of each human soul; it is a perpetual revelation and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.
When is religion at its best? not in making records of history, but in revealing the Will of God.
We are therefore prepared for progress in spiritual things.
So, then, from the celebration of the Holy Mysteries the devotion of the Reserved Sacrament, as an expression of perpetual Worship Prayer and thanksgiving, has revealed Itself; and Christian people did rejoice in it, until the standard of desolation standing where it ought not was raised in our midst.
We propose no novelty--we will be reverent--and try no experiment--what we will do, is to go on where we left off--our Fathers left the Sacrament on our altars--who has taken it away? and why has it been removed?
And for the present position, could anything be more satisfactory? who could have thought that these past years, embracing a life-time, should have seen the change which has taken place?
Go where you will, in any part of England you will seldom find that you are not within walking distance of a Priest ready to hear your confession and give you Communion.
There is no church anywhere which has not felt and has also responded in some degree to the Catholic Movement--some more, some less.
There are parishes with frequent, some with daily, Eucharist--to these parishes a very special privilege is offered by the present position.
I do say that in such parishes as these the Blessed Sacrament should be permanently reserved: it may be theirs to restore the Holy Sacrament to their altar: and there are the devout laity to support them, as they always will.
Restore the Blessed Sacrament to our altars; there let It speak for Itself; and for the present raise no question about additional services.
It is not, just now, a question of what extra services may or may not be used; that is a question which will settle itself in time.
The Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament is ours by right: how shall we proceed?
Let us adopt the course we followed when much simpler matters were wavering--the use of the surplice in the pulpit--the use of vestments, lights, and incense: it was enough for the clergy and their congregations to know that by the rule of the Catholic Church they ought to be in use: introduced they were--there they are--there they stay.
Would that all this progress had come from the Diocese--it was not to be, it was left to individual Priests and parishes.
They said then it was riotous and rebellious: it was not so.
The barbarous people after the shipwreck shewed us no little kindness:--Well, no--knowing the ways of an ill-informed Protestant mob, I cannot very well say they did. They said, no doubt, "no doubt, vengeance will never suffer these outlaws to live": after they had looked a great while and nothing happened to hurt anyone, they changed their minds and said it was quite all right. That is how we stand to-day.
We do not always feel our obligations to the Parish as we ought--no doubt it has its small miseries of gossip and jealousies; but, without doubt, humanly speaking the Catholic Reformation would have perished at its birth at Oxford on the completion of the Tractarian Movement, if it had not been that the Parish forms the first line of defence.
Once more in our success--not in our failure--we turn to the Parish; let all those parishes, where the Catholic Faith in its fulness has been taught and accepted by the congregations, unite in one general common movement and restore the Holy Sacrament to the altar.
Let it be a general movement: has not the time quite passed away for individual efforts? can we not prove our obedience to a common cause and forget our personal fancies?
Will not the confraternity which has engaged the confidence of churchmen for fifty-four years and has still the support of many of the best informed students of Catholic life and practice, accept the suggestion that their council should undertake the responsibility of organizing a general movement to restore the Blessed Sacrament to our altars; controlling individual action and giving information and advice to those who ask for it?
The Anglican clergyman is, of all other people, quite himself, abundant, endued with many virtues: withal original--and in a matter Catholic he may be trusted to do it as it was never done before.
Let there be no misunderstanding about any legal question which may or may not arise.
Our minds at the mention of the law turn at once to those proceedings with which we are familiar: if, for instance, we want a Faculty to insert a memorial window or to re-pew a church, the spirit of the court is all itself; but if it has to give authority for a second altar or a figure of Christ with the Blessed Virgin and St John-Nothing more fatuous and exasperating than the utterances on these occasions can be conceived--
It is worse than the Visitation of an archdeacon which the clergy are called upon to undergo--pay their procurations whatever that may be, or be pronounced contumacious. Our legal courts do not command our respect.
If we appeal to them to improve the divine service, to do something to promote devotion and zeal, to erect a figure of Christ, a Rood Beam with its Saints--there is the usual strife of words, legal technicalities, refinements, contradictions too, for what is allowed in one part of England is forbidden in another. As we know our ecclesiastical courts to-day, they are useless for all purposes of religion: perhaps, they, too, may be reformed and some day be of use.
But let there be no misunderstanding. There is the Canon Law of the Church--it seems throughout to take for granted the custom of reserving the Blessed Sacrament: to Canon Law we are bound, we yield it filial obedience--we are protected by it. There is no obstruction to the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the Canon Law of the church--its tendency is to protect and regulate it, not to forbid it.
We have shown much love of the altar, but we have not spoilt it: it is still the altar; it is the place of Sacrifice: we have built it of our best, no material has been too costly for covering and hangings.
We have made it the centre of all things--brilliant with light: we have not spoilt it; it is the place of Sacrifice--the Priest claims it as such; he says, To what purpose is my Priesthood without the place of Sacrifice?
The Priest claims the altar for sacrifice--it is also true that sometimes the altar claims the Priest for a sacrifice--he too is called to endure pain and suffering --it is beautiful either way.
A word, or rather many words, are needed to express the thanks of churchmen to many clergy and laity for all they have taught us of the Christian Life and Faith: first at Oxford, and not only there but all over the country, students have spent their time in all departments of Theology, Canon Law, church history and the like.
In our chronicles we find the names of mighty men, men of renown, famous in the congregation--what earnest students they were.
Where will you find brighter and finer examples of piety and learning?
What of it, if from the newness of the position, the crowd of subjects to be learned, the brilliancy of the light--what of it, if what they saw at first was confused--what of it, if men were as trees which walked? had they lived till now, the sense of proportion would have gained upon them; truths would have adjusted themselves in perspective, and strongly expressed, overstated individual opinions would have been harmonized with Catholic Faith and Practice.
What they said was exact and learned--it was the music of a well-tuned cymbal: it is no disparagement of their work or of their memory to add that it required the assistance of the loud cymbals, so that the Praises of the Lord might be heard in the land.
These leaders of ours have passed away: we too are fast passing away--for the moment we find ourselves under conditions which are different and greatly improved: we are surrounded by the crowd of young clergy--curates they are and others: they are neither quiet in the land nor few in number: if we are aged and wellnigh useless, do not be impatient with us or think us wanting in sympathy: a time comes for us all, and is now upon us, to review our mistakes, our misjudgments; and painful it is: it is a burden and agony to us. Our consolation is that "instead of thy Fathers thou shalt have children whom thou mayest make Princes in all lands," and so do we give place to them, the coming generation of clergy, so do we wish them God speed and every good success. There is much for children to learn: and that pleasure of their fathers without which they would be strangers and not sons.
There is no old-time expression, occurring in the Holy Gospel, more fascinating and instructive than the one: it came to pass: it is truly delightful in its depth and simplicity.
"It" first reveals a power below the surface; there "it" remained (whatever that "it" may be) silent and dormant--until its appointed time; then in the throes of life that "it" arose, meeting difficulties--overcoming them--passing by them, knowing no rest till the end was attained--and so "it came to pass."
Do not press me again closely; and demand a detailed account, a fuller explanation, why the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, when, and how, it came about: I tell you frankly I have no explanation to give you-- all that I am now prepared to say is--"that it came to pass"--the wind bloweth where it listeth, we hear the sound thereof but cannot tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth--the genesis of this devotion is the result of spiritual agencies: now it is something which is.
Will you worry over the last words of a bitter controversy, the turmoil of sectarian interests, and legal technicalities? they will bring you no blessing.
It is far better to be simple, and to recognise the fact that the Blessed Sacrament, apart from the normal and full representation of the Holy Mysteries, did form the centre and rallying point of Worship and Prayer for the greater part of our Christian History.
Just a few last words, and in conclusion: Reservation for the Sick and Dying has certainly been recognised as a necessity--for that we are most thankful; but once more why should the Sick and Dying have this exclusive privilege?
The august Presence of Jesus Christ is for all his children--are we not, all, the Lord's people?
The last faint gasp of a dying man is not a sufficient tribute of thanksgiving--is that all we can give?
What are we to think of St John's account of heaven and of the service held there? of the altar throne-- of the ten thousand times ten thousand--of the new song--of the one great Reality Itself standing there-- the Lamb as It had been slain?
Just so, it is the picture of heaven, an account of what goes on there: the model on which an altar is built--see that thou make all things according to the pattern showed thee on the Mount.
There they are in heaven, already here on earth, a great cloud of witnesses, of Saints and angels, assembled in their numbers with Jesus in the midst; there they are, to give a welcome and assistance to the penitent, frail and trembling, standing afar off smiting his breast and moaning: it was by my fault, by my fault, by my greatest fault.
There they are in heaven, and already here in earth, in their numbers with Jesus in their midst, to comfort men, weary and worn--but faithful still.
There they are in heaven, and already here in earth, in their numbers with Jesus in their midst, to lighten the darkness of those in doubt and despair.
Life is full of dark passages and narrow ways; but there in the Holy Sacrament rests the token of the Love of Jesus. Here It remains ready to reveal Itself and Its attendant multitude--for the moment, alone solitary and in silence; until you have learnt to see and to hear.
Alone: because there is naught else: are there things? they must pass away--are there interests? they must be absorbed. Reality will at last recover itself from the confusion of a troubled life; God and the soul will alone remain. Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.
Solitary: because of Gethsemane, because of those prayers which Jesus alone may pray; prayers known only to Jesus and to the Father--did he not go yonder to pray? his friends and companions, willing but weak, sit and wait.
Solitary: because the passing of friends has left the soul to its great solitude--solitary because ambition has died down and has left the soul to its greater solitude. Solitude must be sanctified, or it is perilous; and yet he is waiting to be gracious to thee in thy solitude.
In silence: because it is for you to speak to Jesus and tell him your heart's desire--in silence, because I shall best hear him if he should speak peace to my soul.
NOTE ST CYPRIAN: DE LAPSIS XXV. (A.D. 200-258)
Some parents of a wet nurse ---- left a little daughter to the care the infant was subjected to some ceremonial of idol worship------the mother recovered the possession of the child------unawares------when we were sacrificing the mother brought the infant in with her.
When the solemnities were finished, the Deacon began to offer the Cup to those present------the child, instinct of the divine majesty, (still under heathen influence) turned away and refused the Cup. The Deacon still persisted ------ against her efforts ------ forced on her some of the Sacrament of the Cup.