Thursday, August 16, 2007

More wisdom from the good Father Moss, Answer Me This, 1959

Chapter Seventeen – The Holy Communion

219. Is it correct to say that the Holy Spirit is with us always, but God the Son is found not only, but especially, in the consecrated elements, at the Holy Communion?
Yes, but you must not draw the distinction too sharply. Our Saviour said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world” (St. Matthew 28:20), and “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (St. Matthew 18:20). God the Holy Spirit is the Agent of Holy Communion (see St. John 16:14). We must not claim to understand fully the mystery of the Trinity or ignore the fact that God is One.
220. Does the Church believe that the bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist become the flesh and blood of Christ, or just that Christ is present?
They become the Body and Blood of Christ, but not in a local or material sense. “When the Sacrament is moved, the Body of Christ does not move” (John Henry Newman). It is a mystery which we cannot expect to understand. The bread and wine continue to have all the properties of bread and wine; but they are also much greater than bread and wine, as we know by experience.
221. Is Christ really present in the consecrated elements?
222. What is meant by the Real Presence?
Christ is really present in the consecrated elements, but the words “real” and “presence” may mean several different things. He is present to feed us with His life and to enable us to share in His offering of that life to the Father. In my opinion it is wiser to think in terms of power than of presence. The bread and wine are changed by the Holy Spirit: they have Divine power which before consecration they did not have.
223. In professing to believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, do we mean the Son as opposed to the Holy Spirit?
Yes; for the Holy Spirit has not taken to Himself a body or blood (but see Question 219).
224. Why should I believe in the Real Presence in the Holy Communion?
Because our Lord taught us to believe it. He said, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me” (I Cor. 11:24; see also St. Mark 14:22; St. Luke 22:19; St. John 6:51–54). Every part of the Church in every age has believed it. Even Luther held it strongly, and Charles Wesley ended one of his eucharistic hymns with these words:
We need not now go up to heaven
To bring the long-sought Saviour down.
Thou art to all who seek Thee given:
Thou dost e’en here Thy banquet crown.
To every faithful soul appear,
And show Thy real presence here.
The rubric in the English Prayer Book says: “If any of the bread and wine remain unconsecrated, the Curate shall have it to his own use; but if any remain of that which was consecrated, it shall not be carried out of the church, but the priest ... shall immediately after the blessing, reverently eat and drink the same” (part of this is omitted in the American Prayer Book). This distinction between the consecrated and the unconsecrated elements shows that Anglican teaching agrees with that of the rest of the Church.
225. Is the Real Presence the same as Transubstantiation?
226. Do we believe in Transubstantiation?
Transubstantiation is a theory devised in the twelfth century to explain the Real Presence in terms of the philosophy then universally current. It was made compulsory for Romanists by the Lateran Council of 1215 and the Council of Trent (1563). ‘We are not bound by these Councils. Our Article 28 condemns Transubstantiation, but whether the official doctrine or a popular corruption of it is uncertain. Transubstantiation cannot be proved from Scripture, and there are serious technical objections to it (see Charles Gore, The Body of Christ). There seems to most of us to be no need for any explanation or definition of the mystery of the Eucharist.
227. What exactly happens at the consecration? Do the bread and wine turn to the actual Body and Blood of Christ, as Roman Catholics believe?
They do not become the material Body and Blood of Christ, as you appear to mean. That is certainly not the official Roman doctrine (even if some Romanists think it is). Romanists do not believe that they are cannibals. The best Anglican divines teach that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ after a heavenly and spiritual manner. What happens at the consecration is that in answer to the prayer of the congregation led by the priest, who is ordained and authorized to lead it, the Holy Spirit changes the bread and wine, so that while remaining bread and wine they also become the spiritual Body and Blood of Christ. It is a mystery which we cannot define further.
228. What is the official teaching on the Holy Communion, since the Articles are vague?
See the Second Office of Instruction in the American Prayer Book (in the English Prayer Book, the Church Catechism). The mystery of the Holy Communion cannot be fully understood and there have, and still are, different opinions about it. The Church is wise to avoid sharp definitions. The Holy Communion was given to us to be received reverently, regularly, and thankfully, not to be a subject for disputes.
229. Why is the Holy Communion the most important service of the Church?
It is the one service which our Lord expressly commanded, when He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” From the earliest days of the Church, all its members gathered on the Lord’s Day for the “Breaking of Bread” (Acts 2:42, 46, 20:7). Hebrews 10:25 commands regular attendance. The whole Church in all ages has regarded the Holy Communion, or Liturgy, as the chief service round which all others are grouped. The Lord’s Day, or Sunday (which is not a continuation of the Sabbath of the Jews), was made a public holiday in order that Christians might be free to worship at the Eucharist. The Church of England directs sermons to be preached and notices issued at this service, and at no others, and the Episcopal Church follows its example.
230. Why has Morning Prayer superseded the Holy Communion as the main service on Sunday morning?
This custom, which is peculiar to the Anglican Churches, and is now rapidly breaking down, has a long history. The intention of the Prayer Book was that the Sunday morning service should be Morning Prayer, Litany, and Holy Communion with sermon. In the sixteenth century people had long been accustomed to communicate only once a year. The Reformers wished to abolish “solitary Masses,” at which only the priest communicated, and to restore frequent Communion by the laity. They laid down that if no one had given notice that he wished to communicate the service should proceed only to the Prayer for the Church Militant. This was the usual order of service until about a hundred years ago. The belief had long become general that no one ought to be present at the Holy Communion who did not at the time intend to communicate. (There is no trace of this in the Prayer Book, nor is it known in any other part of Christendom. It is supposed to be due to the Elizabethan Puritans.) So when there was a Eucharist, the greater part of the congregation as they were not communicating, trooped out.
The followers of the Tractarians, in order to induce people to prepare for Communion more carefully, especially by receiving it fasting, introduced the early Communion service, which is now almost universal in the Church of England. When choral services became common, Morning Prayer and Ante-Communion became choral, and the choir and most of the people, when there was to be Communion, departed after the Prayer for the Church Militant. Then came the demand for shorter services; the Ante-Communion was dropped, and the sermon was preached at Matins. Other parishes introduced a Choral Eucharist at which people were not supposed, or even allowed, to communicate, for fear they might not be fasting. So arose the contrast of parishes with Sung Morning Prayer and parishes with Sung Eucharist. The distinction is now being broken down by the Parish Communion at nine or ten o’clock, sometimes followed by a parish breakfast; this service combines general Communion with music, but Morning Prayer disappears. (For its advantages and disadvantages, see the Archbishop of York [Michael Ramsey], Durham Essays.)
231. Where there is but one priest, ought he to celebrate three times on Sunday? Might one of the services be replaced by the Mass of the Presanctified?
I cannot say without knowing the conditions. A priest ought not to celebrate more than once a day without necessity, but for many reasons it often is necessary. If there is a parish or family Communion, as the inquirer says, I see no reason for a late one as well. The laity might fairly put themselves to some inconvenience rather than expect their priest to celebrate three times in one day.
The Mass of the Presanctified would not solve the difficulty. This is an ancient service, based on Communion from the Reserved Sacrament, and held on days when the ordinary Liturgy was not thought suitable: among the Greeks, on all Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent; among the Romanists, on Good Friday and Easter Eve only. It has no Anglican authority and would not satisfy anyone’s needs on a Sunday; there is no consecration, so that the congregation is not joining in the Sacrifice, for which Communion from the Reserved Sacrament is not a sufficient substitute.
232. If the Holy Communion is the chief service, why is it at eight o’clock rather than at a decent hour when most people are present?
It is at an early hour in order that the communicants may be fasting, according to the universal custom of the Church. The first hour of the day is the best time to give to the worship of God.
233. If Holy Communion is the chief service, why do many parishes have Morning Prayer?
See Question 230. We ought to attend both, and it is quite possible, by not having too many hymns or too long a sermon, to get both into an hour, or a little more. This seems the more urgently required if there is no Evensong, which in many English parishes is the best-attended Sunday service.
234. Why is Morning Prayer frowned on unless it is accompanied by the Holy Communion?
There is nothing whatever against Morning Prayer, which every member of the Church ought to know and love, but it should never be a substitute for the offering of the Holy Eucharist; if you have not attended the latter you have not done your Sunday duty and are breaking the Fourth Commandment.
235. How can the importance of the Mass, not only on Sundays but on weekdays, be better emphasized?
If you are one of the fortunate few who have the time and opportunity to go to the Holy Communion (Eucharist, Mass, or Lord’s Supper) every day you ought to live up to that great privilege by showing yourself specially kind, patient, and self-sacrificing toward your less fortunate neighbors: “to whom much is given, of them much will be required” (St. Luke 12:48).
236. Does the Church believe that the sacraments (Holy Communion) are God, or only symbolic of Him?
Neither. The sacraments are means by which God’s grace and power are conveyed to us; they are not bare symbols (such as, for instance, the sign of the cross in baptism), but “effectual signs” (Article 25). They are not God: God is almighty and eternal; the Holy Eucharist is not almighty or eternal.
237. How should I receive the Holy Communion?
Go to church early: be in your place at least five minutes before the service begins; fasting (unless you are sick or aged), that is, having eaten or drunk nothing that day. Make sure that your hands and nails are perfectly clean. If you are a woman, put on no lipstick, for obvious reasons. When the time comes, proceed quietly to the altar, take off your gloves, and kneel at the rail. When the priest comes to you with the Bread, be ready, with the palm of your right hand held out and your left hand cupped underneath it (as St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century directed), making your left hand a throne for your right. The priest will place the Bread in your palm; raise it to your mouth but don’t touch it with your fingers, and be careful that no crumb or fragment is lost. When the priest comes to you with the Cup, he will have a firm hold of it. Grasp the base of the Chalice with your right hand, and tilt it carefully to your lips. Drink only the least quantity that you can swallow. If you are a woman, don’t wear a hat with a broad brim, which would prevent the priest from seeing your face; that is how accidents easily happen. Kneel straight upright throughout, and don’t bow your head. Wait until the next person has communicated, then rise and return to your place; in some churches it is the custom to return by a different way, so as to avoid confusion between those coming and those going. Unless it is absolutely necessary, never leave the church until the priest has returned to the sacristy; to leave before he does is very bad manners. Never leave the church without offering a thanksgiving. Be careful what you say immediately after Communion, for the reaction on returning to the world is the devil’s opportunity: if you can do so without hurting anyone’s feelings, it is best to go home silently.
238. Being an Anglican member of the Catholic Church, may I communicate in the Roman Church?
Certainly not. If the Roman priest knew who you were he would not communicate you. To communicate without telling him would be a lie, and a very grave one; to communicate in unrepented sin is to be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord, and to bring judgment on yourself (I Cor. 11:27). To receive Communion in any Church is to commit yourself to its beliefs; in this case to the papal supremacy, etc. The Orthodox Church will sometimes, in exceptional cases such as that of the former Queen of Rumania, give Anglicans Communion when there is no Anglican priest at hand; and there is no Orthodox doctrine which we are bound as Anglicans to reject. But this is perhaps unlikely in the United States. No Anglican should do so without special permission from the Orthodox bishop.
239. May intinction be used, and in what way consistently with Catholic usage and Anglican tradition?
240. Why do some priests and some dioceses object to intinction? Has it been sanctioned by the Lambeth Conference or the American bishops?
Intinction is Communion with the Bread dipped in the Chalice or touched with the Wine. It has been the regular practice of the Eastern Churches since the thirteenth century, and recently of the Dutch Old Catholics (who formerly communicated in one kind only). There is no Anglican tradition or authority behind it, as far as I know. Intinction is permissible, with the leave of the bishop, in special cases, such as for alcoholics or persons with diseased lips. However, it does not really fulfill our Lord’s command (St. Matthew 26:27): “Drink ye all of it.” The notion current in some quarters that the common cup (which has great symbolic value) is dangerous to health is nonsense. The person most likely to suffer, if there were any truth in this silly idea, would be the priest: and statistics show that priests live longer than anyone else.
241. How often should I receive the Holy Communion?
Provided you come in repentance, faith, and charity, and make proper preparation and thanksgiving, you should aim at once a week at least. An old writer says: “If he asks how often he should receive, tell him as often as he can, that the old Serpent, seeing the Blood of Christ on his lips, may tremble to approach.” No one, except a priest who has to celebrate more than once, is allowed to communicate twice in one day.
242. Does a priest have to consecrate specially to take Communion to a sick person?
No. He may bring the Body and Blood of Christ from the altar or he may keep the sacrament permanently in the church, so that a sick person, or anyone who cannot get to the church, may be communicated at any time. But those who are permanently house-bound should be given a private celebration from time to time, if conditions permit. The priest who celebrates will always himself receive.
243. How much wine may a priest consecrate at one time?
As much as is needed, but not more than enough.
244. Why is not the Host reserved in all Anglican churches, as there seems to be always a tabernacle built in?
I suppose some priests do not know how to reserve and do not feel the need for it. The standing tabernacle is not a good place because it distracts attention from the altar, which is more holy than the tabernacle. It is more usual to reserve in an ambry (small cupboard) at the side.
245. Need one make a formal preparation before every Communion if one communicates often?
I do not think so, if one is careful to make frequent self-examination, to be sure one is in charity with all men, and to beware of letting Communion become formal. You should have a spiritual adviser and consult him.
246. How can Communion in one kind be justified, in view of the words of institution?
It cannot be justified: and it is forbidden in the Anglican Communion as it is in all the Eastern Churches (see Article 30). Even Communion from the Reserved Sacrament, if not in both kinds separately (which may be impossible), should be by intinction (see Question 239).
247. How about the use of one cup for Communion?
The Church requires the use of the common cup, out of which all are to drink. This has high symbolic value. Fear of infection is an idea which should be ignored. The Chalice must be cleansed by the lips of the celebrant, and not by a purificator. If the consecrated wine touches any fabric, that fabric must be carefully washed, and the water drunk by the celebrant. See Question 240.
248. Does the Invocation in the Canon imply a Receptionist theory?
The Invocation is: “We most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us; and, of thy almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.” There is nothing here that implies Receptionism, but, like all Anglican consecration prayers, it does not exclude Receptionism; which is not a heresy, for it has never been condemned by the Church, though it is contrary to the usual teaching of the Church. The elements are here called “bread and wine” after the recital of the words of our Lord, “This is my body, This is my blood.” At the same place in the Roman Canon the following words occur: “the holy bread of eternal life, and the cup of perpetual salvation” (in Unde et memores). The theory that the use by the celebrating priest of the words of our Lord (which were His words of administering, not of consecrating) effects the consecration is a medieval belief which has given rise to many superstitions. The Canon of the Roman Mass is much older than this theory. The belief shown by all the ancient liturgies is that the consecration is effected by God the Holy Spirit in answer to the prayer of the Church, which has already offered thanks over the bread and wine. Every ancient liturgy known to us, with the doubtful exception of the very obscure Roman Mass, contains an Invocation of the Word or the Holy Spirit. The American Church (with the Scottish and other Anglican Churches) has, by restoring this invocation, returned to the practice of the ancient Church.
249. Who may be admitted to the Holy Communion, and why?
See Questions 168–79. Those who have been baptized and confirmed (and have not been excommunicated), and are under the bishop of the diocese or some bishop in full communion with him (that is, are Anglican or Old Catholic communicants) are entitled to receive the Holy Communion as full members of the Episcopal Church (remember that this was written before the 1970s), which is the Catholic Church in the United States (see Questions 127, 128). Communicants of the Orthodox, Armenian, and Assyrian Churches may be communicated at our altars, with the permission of their own bishops. This permission must be obtained in every case and on every occasion; and they must on no account be admitted to Communion without it (except at the point of death). Our authority is the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference, subject to the consent of the American bishops.
The Church of England has formally permitted communicants of the Churches of Sweden and Finland, and some other national Churches of the Lutheran tradition, to communicate at our altars. They believe as we do about the creeds and the two great sacraments; they never seceded from the Church of England, whose authority they recognize; and they could not become Anglicans even if they wished to, as there is no Anglican Church in their native countries.
250. Is it not superstitious to think the condition of the stomach before Communion more important than the condition of heart and mind?
The condition of heart and mind is indeed the most important thing: to communicate without repentance, faith, and charity is profane. The reason for the rule of fasting Communion is that we may honor our Lord’s Body and Blood by making it the first food of the day. This has been a custom of all parts of the Church from early times. It is also the experience of most people that they are not in a fit condition for religious exercises after a meal, for this there is plenty of biblical authority (Ex. 34:28; I Kings 19:8; Dan. 10:3; St. Matthew 4:2; Acts 10:10). The best time to communicate is early in the morning, before the cares and distractions of the day have begun.
251. Has the Anglican Church an official or majority doctrine of the Real Presence?
See Questions 220–24. The Anglican Church has no doctrine on this or any other subject that cannot be proved from Scripture or has not been defined by the Universal Church. There is no definition of the Universal Church on this subject. We must not be explicit where Scripture is not explicit. In any case doctrine is not decided by majorities, which have no spiritual authority. The Holy Eucharist is a mystery, and the less we try to explain it the better.
252. Why is the Eucharist a sacrifice?
See Question 189. The only sacrifice in the Christian religion is the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, made on the Cross and offered in heaven (see the Epistle to the Hebrews). The Eucharist is the principal means by which we are permitted to take part in that sacrifice and to offer all that we are and have, that we may be united with our Saviour’s perfect sacrifice. When we take part in the Eucharist, even without receiving Communion, we are carried into heaven and share the worship of the angels and archangels; when we receive Communion we take part more fully, for then we feast on the Sacrifice.
253. What is “Benediction”? How can it be reconciled with Articles 25 and 28?
“Benediction” is the practice of using the consecrated Bread for blessing people: either in a glass vessel called a “monstrance” or in a closed vessel called a “ciborium.” It is a modern Romanist ceremony, unknown in ancient times or in the Eastern Churches. It was not in use even among English Romanists before the nineteenth century. The Articles quoted only say that Christ did not command the sacraments to be carried about, or gazed at, and this cannot be denied by anyone.
Benediction is forbidden or strongly discouraged in most Anglican dioceses. Such learned and holy men as Pusey, Scott Holland, Richard Benson (founder of the Cowley Fathers), and Bishop Gore (who forbade it in his diocese) were strongly opposed to it. Benediction encourages simple people to believe that our Lord is locally present in the tabernacle and to offer adoration to the outward visible signs of His presence; but we must not offer adoration, the worship due to God alone, to anything that we can see. If we believe that Christ is locally present we believe what the best theologians say is not true; and if we do not believe it, Benediction is meaningless. The blessing of God is the same, whether the sacrament is used for the purpose or not.
Other objections are these: Whereas our Lord is in the sacrament for sacrifice and for Communion, “Benediction” and similar practices are not connected with either, and we cannot be sure that they have His sanction. Emphasis on His sacramental presence, apart from Communion, leads to neglect of His promise to be present wherever His people are assembled; and of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Benediction and similar unnecessary practices have created in many minds a strong prejudice against the reservation of the sacrament, which is often necessary for the sick and others who cannot be present at the Eucharist.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for these posts. The only quibble I have with this one is something I have generally observed in Anglican circles: we say that we do not define or seek to penetrate the mystery of our Lord's presence in the Blessed Sacrament, yet, with Moss, many go on to Insist that the substance of bread and wine remain in the Sacrament. (I am familiar with some of the arguments here, but a little less dogmatism would be nice). And Moss adds that it is "in my opinion wiser to think in terms of power than of presence." I believe that it is wise to have informed opinions about the meaning of "Real Presence." My opinion is that Moss's opinion (that the best way to think about the Presence is not so much in terms of "presence" [!]) is not wise. But I appreciate his tone.

Anonymous said...

Moss, like so many of the Anglo-Catholics (and I don't mean 'Anglo-papists) of his time did a fantastic job of making the theology of the prayer book and of the early church assessible to any who could read. But he was not full of the spirit of rebellion, but of obedience and sanctification which meant in practise that he was ignored for the theology of the penny pamphlets at Westminister cathedral of which Bishop Gore complained.

The split unfortunately is still with us, but my great hope is that between this blog and that of The Patristic Anglican a great deal of the faith of the English church as expressed in the classical prayer books and the Articles can be made known to a great many more.

I was lucky to have found Moss at an early age and have read and re-read him ever since.

Anonymous said...


I am embarrassed to admit that I do not have CB's "Q&A" wisdom. Any tips or leads?

* * * * *

I too would quibbleabout CB's insistence on 8/9am Holy Communion and Fasting Communion. I believe that Dearmer demonstrated that fasting communion was/is a development of medieval piety that too easily becomes a superstition of counter-productive devotion in modern times. At any rate its a quibble and anyone that wants can read Dearmer and Moss's respective arguments and draw their own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Dear AC,
Thank you for posting this selection from Moss's "catechism" for want of a better word. It is interesting that one of the leading RC apologists has pinched his title.

Andrew's post above seems harsh. Perhaps he should reread Moss's section on the Roman innovation of Trans-substantiation (which Moss quite correctly categorises as not the actual teaching of the Magisterium). Rome got herself painted into a corner trying to explain the unexplainable. She doesn't have the stool leg of scripture for it, nor does she have the leg of tradition, and as Dugmore explains in "Eucharistic Doctrine in England from Hooker to Waterland" (SPCK, 1942) reason evades her argument. Moss is simply calling "a spade a spade" and exposing this as the gnostic (little "g")--and thus presumptuous--theory it truly is.

Anonymous said...

A note on the early "Parish Eucharist" seems in order. It seems the Bishop of Salisbury (cf. Dearmer's Parson's Handbook, 6th ed) suggested the 9-9:30 Holy Communion as a solution to the problem of getting the young folk to church before bicycling parties which were quite fashionable in late Victorian times. It also allowed a sufficiently late time for working people to get rest before heading to their dominical duty. And, it wasn't so late that the usual 8AM Holy Communion crowd would be disgruntled. Mattins at 8 or 8:30AM was suggested followed by the Litany before the Holy Communion. The earlier Eucharist was also meant to prevent the practice of the "non-communicating" Mass which had taken hold in many Anglo-Catholic/Papalist parishes at the time and was deemed entirely foreign to a healthy spiritual life.

The Alcuin Club embraced the mid-morning celebration as an explanation of it is reprinted in their pamphlet of leaflets "The Parish Eucharist" issued in l940.

So, practical matters seem to have inspired this more than a desire to promote Communion fasting (although this is noted to be laudable where practised in both Dearmer's work and in the Alcuin Club monograph).