Monday, August 13, 2007

Wisdom from The Christian Faith by C.B. Moss



I. Anglican Teaching
The thing signified (res sacramenti), the spiritual reality of which the bread and wine are the outward signs in the Holy Eucharist, is the Body and Blood of Christ who has said, "This is My Body: this is My Blood".
The Church Catechism teaches that the thing signified is "the Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord,s Supper."
Article 28 says: "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner: and the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith." The author of this article, Bishop Guest, has left it on record that he inserted the word "given" in order to assert that the bread and wine become by consecration the Body and Blood of Christ. The rubric, dating from 1662, which distinguishes between the consecrated bread and wine which are to be consumed in the church, and the unconsecrated bread and wine which "the Curate is to have to his own use", shows that the English Church teaches that the bread and wine are changed by the consecration.

II. Meaning of "Body" and "Blood"
The words "Body" and "Blood" do not mean the material body and blood of our Lord. To think that they do is to fall into the error of "Capharnaism" so called from the Jews of Capernaum who asked, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"
The body is the means by which the spirit expresses itself. Though it has been widely held that our Lord has only one Body, it seems that He has at least two. The Church is His Body, but not that Body which was crucified and is now exalted to the throne of God. The bread in the Eucharist becomes the Body of Christ; not His material Body nor His mystical Body (the Church), but His sacramental Body, the means by which He carries out His purpose of feeding us spiritually with His own life.
We avoid many difficulties if we say that He has more than one Body, more than one means of expression. This material Body was one means of expression. The bread at the Last Supper was another. It has always been difficult to explain how the bread at the Last Supper could be our Lord,s Body if He had only one Body; but if He has more than one Body, the bread can be held to be His Body in a different sense.
Though it has been widely held that the Body of which we partake is the same Body as that which was born of the Blessed Virgin and hung on the Cross, there appears to be nothing in Holy Scripture or in any definition of the universal Church to prevent us from distinguishing them from one another.
In any case, the sacramental Body of Christ is not His dead Body, as was held by some of the Anglican divines of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for He "was dead and is alive for evermore" (Rev. 1:18).
The blood is in Hebrew thought the life, especially when released in sacrifice in order to be offered to God. The Israelites were forbidden to drink the blood which belonged to God. The Eucharist was instituted for men who were accustomed to this idea. To "drink the blood" is to share the life. As members of Christ we are permitted to share the life of our Savior because it was given for us, and we do this when we receive the bread and the wine in the Holy Eucharist, for they have become the Body and Blood of Christ. "He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life."

III. Reception of the Body and Blood
Except some of the extreme Reformers who held that the Eucharist was only "a sign of Christian men,s profession", and those who held that we do not receive the Body and Blood of Christ but that the effect on us, or virtue of the sacrament, is the same as if we did, all Christians believe that in the Holy Communion we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The controversies have all been about the manner of the gift, not the gift itself, and about the way in which we ought to use it.

The following lines are attributed to Queen Elizabeth I:
"Christ was the Word that spake it:
He took the bread and brake it:
And what His word doth make it,
That I believe and take it."
Here the consecration is attributed to the word of Christ, "This is my Body". (This is the medieval doctrine from which even the Reformers could not altogether escape. It was not until the next century that the study of the Fathers led to the rediscovery of the older doctrine of the consecration.)

IV. The Real Presence
The result of the change effected by the consecration of the bread and wine is commonly called the Real Presence, though these words are not found in Scripture, in any dogma defined by the Ecumenical Councils, or in any official formula of the Anglican Communion.
That the bread and the wine become the Body and Blood of Christ is implied by Scripture and was explicitly taught by the Fathers. If we believe this, as we can hardly fail to do if we accept the universal agreement of the ancient Church as determining the meaning of the New Testament in matters of doctrine, we must hold that the living Christ is personally present and that we receive Him when we receive the consecrated bread and wine. It seems better to say "The Bread becomes the Body of Christ" than to say "The Body of Christ is present", because the word "present" must be used not in the ordinary sense but in a mysterious sense, undefined because heavenly.
It is easier to say what this "presence" is not, than what it is. It is not natural, or physical, or local. The Body of Christ does not move through space. Even Cardinal Newman wrote, "When the Host is carried in procession, the Body of Christ does not move". The Body and Blood of Christ do not possess the properties of bread and wine.

V. Different Uses of the Word "Sacrament"
The word sacrament is applied to the Eucharist in different senses. It may mean the outward visible sign as when Article 29, quoting St. Augustine, calls the bread and wine "the sign or sacrament of so great a thing". It may mean the thing signified, the Body and Blood of Christ. Or it may mean both together as when the Lord's Supper is defined in the Church Catechism as having two parts. (In fact, it has three, as we have seen.) It is important that the sense in which the word is being used should always be explained. The consecrated bread, the outward sign of the Eucharist, is often called the "Host" (hostia is the Latin for "victim").

VI. Anglican Refusal to Define
The Anglican churches reject the theory of Transubstantiation (in what sense, we shall see in the next chapter), and the theory that the Eucharist is only a sign of Christian men's profession (Article 28). Otherwise the doctrine of the Eucharist is not defined. In this respect the Anglican churches agree with the ancient Church and with the Eastern churches, neither of which has defined any doctrine of the Eucharist as necessary to salvation. For the Eucharist is a mystery which cannot be fully understood, and all attempts to define it have ended by emphasizing one aspect of it above another.

VII. Different Aspects of the Holy Eucharist
The following are different aspects of the Holy Eucharist:
1. Thanksgiving, from which it is called Eucharist.
2. Commemoration of our Redemption; so it is called the Lord,s Supper.
3. Offering of the one perfect Sacrifice, from which aspect we call it the Liturgy or the Mass.
4. Communion with our Lord and with each other.
5. Mystery, in which all the others are united, is the Greek word corresponding to Sacrament.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Moss looks very old fashioned in his priest's gown and square cap, both of which remind me of the Rev'd Herbert Conley going through the streets of Cushing, Oklahoma about his priest work.

The one place in which I think Moss may err is in seeing Elizabeth's poem as medieval theology. If it does it reflects the work of the schoolmen before the definition of transsubstanciation. It does not seek an answer as to how the bread and wine become our Lord's body and blood but only assert that it was the work of His word. It is still the work of His word as was the making and sustaining of all creation.