Saturday, January 19, 2008

A repost of note:
Article XXIX. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper.

"The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing."

Of all of the Articles, it seems that this is the one that many point to when attempting to demonstrate that Anglicans who hold to the Prayer Book and the Articles do not "really" believe in the Real Presence (a charge usually made by Lutheranism--who believe in a corporal presence, sometimes by Roman Catholics and Orthodox, and sometimes by a few Anglo-Catholics who are convinced that the Articles are not "Catholic," in that they do indeed reject several Roman doctrines--and here we have a confusion of Catholic doctrine with late western Roman doctrine), for does not the aforementioned Article say that only the faithful are given the Body and Blood of Christ? The answer to such a question so stated is "no."In the preceding Article we are told that "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner."

The Body of Christ is indeed given in the Supper, thereby ruling out any manner of mere receptionism. It is done in an "heavenly and spiritual manner," ruling out a carnal and physical presence and siding with Aquinas, but against several versions of transubstantiation common in the Middle Ages (that did not reflect the actual teaching of Aquinas). What then are we to make of the assertion that the wicked "eat not the Body of Christ" in the Supper? Well, first and foremost we must read the content of the Article itself, and take note that the quote given to elucidate the meaning of the title is nearly verbatim from Saint Augustine of Hippo, and that this same quote and manner of speaking is used by Saint Thomas Aquinas, the great expounder of the doctrine of transubstantiation. If we are to use this Article to argue that the official and historic doctrine of the Church of England is somehow "receptionist," then we must also use this logic consistently and accuse both Augustine and Aquinas of this same belief.

Let us examine the writings of Aquinas and determine how he can state that the wicked "eat the Sacrament" and yet "eat not."

First, in De Sacramento Altaris, cap. XVII., Aquinas writes that:"The first mode of eating the Body of Christ is Sacramental only, which is the way wicked Christians eat it, because they, receiving (sumentes) the venerable Body into mouths polluted by mortal sin, close their hearts with their unclean and hard sins, as with mire and stone, against the effect which conies from the influence of His virtue and goodness. . . These eat, and yet they do not eat. They eat because they receive (sumunt) sacramentally the Body of the Lord, but, nevertheless, they eat not, because the spiritual virtue, that is, the salvation of the soul they do not partake (non percipiunt). . . .
There is, says Gregory, in sinners and in those receiving unworthily the true Flesh and true Blood of Christ in efficacious essence, but not in wholesome efficiency. He who is at variance with Christ, says Augustine, 'neither eats His Flesh nor drinks His Blood,' and though he daily receives (sumat) the Sacrament of so great a thing, he receives it unto judgment. They are at variance with Christ who, averting the purposes of their heart from him, turn them to sin. And such may be said, to be truly wretched to whom so great a good oftentimes comes, and yet, who never receive or partake (accipit sive percipit) of any spiritual gain therefrom."

Father William McGarvey, in his excellent essay "The The Doctrine of the Church of England on the Real Presence Examined by the Writings of Thomas Aquinas" (Milwaukee, WI: The Young Churchman, 1900) summarizes the issue when he writes that: "So anxious is St. Thomas to guard against the supposition that the reception of the Sacrament necessarily implies a participation in the Body and Blood of Christ, that he thinks it well to explain that when St. Paul says we are all partakers of that one Bread, it is meant that we are all partakers by a worthy reception that is, a spiritual and not a mere Sacramental reception (Exposition super I. ad Corinthios, cap. X. lec. 4). And it was, no doubt, with a desire to accentuate the same truth that he inserted in the office for Corpus Christi as the eighth lesson the passage from St. Augustine, referred to and partly quoted by our Article. It is as follows: He who abideth not in Christ, and hath not Christ abiding in him, doth not spiritually eat His Flesh nor drink His Blood, although he may carnally and with his teeth press the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, but rather eateth and drinketh the Sacrament of so great a thing to his own condemnation."

Father McGarvey further comments:"Considering, then, all that St. Thomas says in the above quotations with regard to the reception of the Sacrament, can any words sum up his teaching more fully and accurately than those of our Articles? Such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking (communicatio) of the Body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking (communicatio) of the Blood of Christ; and those who receive otherwise do not eat the Body of Christ, and are in no wise partakers of Christ."
I will conclude by stressing that in the language of the Article (and Aquinas and Augustine), there is a difference in what it means to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and what it means to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. Indeed, Aquinas mentions two manners of "eating" as well, as do other sacramental theologians. Therefore, the Articles in this regard do no more than reiterate the writings of Saint Augustine (verbatim) and do not differ, in regards to the importance of the worthy reception of the sacrament, from the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Indeed, they use the very same language. By the standards of the ancient Church and even by the standards of the Angelic Doctor, the official position of the English Reformation in this regard is doctrinally sound.



Anonymous said...

Basil Hall, of blessed memory, had little patience with the idea that Cranmer's eucharistic theology was Swiss. But he also felt it misleading to speak as if he were a receptionist, or even an "instrumental receptionist".

Some of Cranmer's writing certainly has a receptionistic ring, but there are passages where, for example, he affirms that the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist "are so pithy and effectual that whosoever worthily receiveth them, spiritually eateth and drinketh Christ's body and blood, and hath by them everlasting life".

In this brief passage, Cranmer seems to encapsulate the patristic and Augustinian emphases you have noted in the XXXVIV Articles by maintaining:

1) The presence of Christ in the Supper and it's spiritual nature.

2) The significance and power of the consecrated elements; they are "pithy and effectual", or, in a phrase from Art XXV, "effectual signs"( The point being that the effectualness of the elements-which are by no means "bare signs"-is demonstrated by the fact that their worthy reception makes the receiver a partaker of the body and blood of Christ unto eternal life. Hardly a receptionistic concept ).

3) The necessity of worthy reception.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. IMHO, this article actually SUPPORTS the apostolic doctrine of the Eucharist.

welshmann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
welshmann said...


Thanks in part to your ministry here, I've discovered a wealth of Anglo-Catholic material on this subject. I've come to believe that more than a little misunderstanding in this area occurs as a result of writers who communicate in a kind of sacramental shorthand, assuming that the reader will understand that "adoring the Sacrament" means "adoring Christ in the Sacrament", when in fact that distinction appears to be lost even on people who should know better.

I know you've written before on the Seventh Council re images/icons and veneration versus adoration. I gather from reading those posts that you are an iconodule; in fact, if I've understood you on the subject of icons, you believe that all orthodox Christians of whatever stripe are fundamentally icondules, even if they don't understand the subject, i.e., fear of idolatry.

How do you, as an Anglican Catholic, understand the relationship that exists between Christ Himself and (a) the consecrated elements, (b) icons of Christ, (c) the natural human person of Christ? I've seen you write on all those subjects, but I'm unaware of any posts that deal with all of them as they relate to one another.

As always, any thoughts are most appreciated. God Bless.


Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

welshmann wrote:

"How do you, as an Anglican Catholic, understand the relationship that exists between Christ Himself and (a) the consecrated elements, (b) icons of Christ, (c) the natural human person of Christ? I've seen you write on all those subjects, but I'm unaware of any posts that deal with all of them as they relate to one another."

That is a tall theological order, but I'll try an undertaking.


welshmann said...


What do you mean, a tall order? (Insert ironic emoticon here!)

I deleted my previous post because I thought it was just too ridiculous to make such a request, then re-posted, and then, well....

Actually, I thought your follow-up post linking to the discussion on the Continuum concering eucharist adoration/veneration was your answer to my request, but I'd still love to hear your thoughts on the subject(s).

The argument from the pro-eucharistic adoration crowd is, as I understand it, if Christ is not come in the flesh, then we are not redeemed (granted), and if you believe that He is really come in the flesh, then you must be prepared to adore that flesh (also granted, sort of). Strictly speaking, then, the underlying question is not, what do we make of the consecrated elements, but what do we make of the natural human body of our Lord?

Even if the pro-EA folks didn't believe in the real presence in the elements, they'd still insist that we should adore His natural body, that it's not enough to adore Him "in" that natural body.

I think you've anticipated the truth when you observed here or on the Continuum, that we never adore an "it", we adore Him. So I would insist that we do not adore flesh as such, even His flesh, because His natural flesh like all flesh is a created thing. For that matter, we don't adore His deity either. We adore Him. However, we can and must adore Him as the One who has come in flesh.

I know there is a discussion to be had here about identity of person versus identity of substance or nature or whatever, but I'll cool my jets for now.

In His Name,


Unknown said...

When I first read this post - as excellent as it is - my reaction was "standard prayer book Anglican theology. And then thee was Andrew's post later and I came back to read it again. Having gone through it a second and third time, I wonder how could he write what he did there if had really read this.
Whatever? I am simply glad that it drew me back to read and re-read the post so that after a lifetime I could again realize just how wonderful standard prayer book Anglican theology is. Many thanks!