Project Canterbury

Life of the Reverend James de Koven, D. D.,
Sometime Warden of Racine College.

by William C. Pope, M.A.

New York: James Pott & Company, 1899.

V. Eucharistic Adoration.

THE Catholic Church, as the outgrowth of the Jewish, observes three chief festivals, corresponding to the three great Jewish feasts. The feast of Tabernacles was kept after the manner of its successor Christmas, with great joy, and adorning with great branches of evergreens. Why was it not rather kept as a fast, inasmuch as it commemorated the forty years, in which God was grieved with the Children of Israel, and caused them to wander in the great and terrible wilderness? It was because during those forty years the whole nation of Israel dwelt in the Presence of God, in the glory-cloud. Israel's chief blessing in its prime was God's Presence in the Holy of holies of the Temple. The same blessing was continued to Catholic Church, with the difference, that as Christians are more spiritually minded than hews, they are to walk by faith, not by sight, and the Divine Presence is invisible, and sacramental. The Lord pledged His Presence to those gathered together in His Name. The assembly to which He referred is not any haphazard meeting of a few good people, as the context shows. Matthew xviii. 17 speaks of the church in its corporate capacity, verse eighteen speaks of the Absolution, verse nineteen of Common Prayer, verse twenty of the Presence. It is vouchsafed to the assembly of the faithful, summoned by the authority of a priest of apostolic line, for the highest act of Christian worship, such as is spoken of in the Acts and Epistles. When two or three are gathered together to Break Bread, there is Christ in the midst of them.

Bishop Andrews lays it down as an axiom: "Christ Himself, the substance of the Sacrament, in and with the Sacrament, out and without the Sacrament, is, wherever He is, to be adored." Such was the faith of the primitive church. Thus St. Ambrose: "The flesh of Christ, which now too, we in mysteries, adore, and which the Apostles adore in the Lord Jesus." St. Gregory of Nazianzen says of his sister: "She falls in faith before the altar, and calls upon Him who is honored thereupon." "What is the Altar," says Optalus, "but the throne of the Body and Christ?" "When thou receivest the Bread," says St. Cyril," cross thy right over thy left and make it a throne to receive thy King." "Here too," says St. Chrysostom," will the Lord's Body lie; not wrapped in swaddling clothes, as then, but encircled all around by the Holy Ghost." He tells of a vision of an old man who saw "a multitude of Angels clothed in white robes, and encircling the Altar, and bowing down, as one might see soldiers standing in the presence of the king, and (adds Chrysostom) I believe it."

This doctrine of the Presence was that which de Koven preached. It was received as the doctrine of marriage first promulgated in the Garden of Eden was received, when reannounced by the Saviour to His disciples; as the Gospel was heard by the Jews, trained in rabbinical learning.

In a sermon preached in 1861 in Berkley Chapel, he says: "There is Christ present, not visible to the eye, not to be appreciated by the senses, not in any carnal or material fashion, but truly, really there, Priest and Sacrifice, ready to forgive, ready to pardon, ready to help. To come to the Holy Communion beloved, in faith and penitence is to come to Christ. It is to kneel as His feet, to have His hand laid upon you, to be sprinkled with His Blood, to be fed with Himself. Oh! did we believe this, could we turn away from it so readily, could we come to it so carelessly, could we desire it so seldom, could we esteem it so lightly?"

From 1868 to the end of his life Dr. de Koven was a deputy to the General Convention. In 1871 he made what has been called his great speech, in opposition to a proposed canon forbidding certain outward observances. In 1874 he made another speech against a canon on ritual, which canon was passed after being amended, and omitted at the last revision of the canons.

In the course of this speech he said, "It will be remembered in this House that at the last General Convention, under peculiar circumstances, I stated a phrase which I hardly need to repeat, because it has been so often rung in my ears and in the ears of others, that I myself adore, and would, if it were necessary or my duty, teach my people to adore, Christ present in the elements under the form of bread and wine. I then expressed what was my conviction on this subject, but I did not express it because it was my conviction. The object which I had in expressing it has clearly been lost sight of. Woe be to that man, I say, who in this age of ours attempts to force down the throats of churchmen any particular formula upon a given doctrine! The doctrine is eternal; the words in which we may express it may change and alter. I only used these words, not because they were words which a court of law--the second to the highest in England--had adjudicated upon and decided that they were words which would be used in the Church of England, and that the man who did use them was not liable to penal prosecution."

He quoted a sermon of Dr. Samuel Farmer Jarvis, preached before the Board of Missions in 1836, and at the request of the Bishops and Clergy published the following year. The quotation reads: "As, on the one hand, we have no right to banish from our communion those whose notions of the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament rise to a mysterious change, by which the very elements, though they retain their original properties, are corporally united with or transformed into Christ; so on the other, they are not to be excluded who consider the real presence as altogether spiritual, but productive of the same blessed results, namely the Privileges of the Gospel resulting from the death of Christ."

Dr. de Koven continued and presently, referring to the quotation, said: "Let me say, my dear brethren, that I never in my life said does not at all come up to Connecticut Churchmanship. If, perchance, I have imbibed some feeble idea of that which the Reverend Father from Connecticut taught, having been catechised by him when I was a boy, I trust that this house will pardon the succession, in that I have received it from him."

Dr. Fulton, who was at the General Convention at the time, once asked him the question: "What do you believe to be he difference between the spiritual attitude of a devout Low Churchman drawing near to our Blessed Lord in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and your own spiritual attitude in the practice of Eucharistic adoration?" After a moment's thought, Dr. de Koven's face was lighted up with a smile and he answered: "I do not believe there is any difference."

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