We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


It is nice to know that TEC is now, finally, good for something. They can marry gay Catholics, even when, it appears, the Catholic in question is "the Chairman of the Theology Department at Fordham University, a Catholic university run by the Jesuits." I don't see this doing much for ecumenical relations, however.

Anywho, back to pointless, pointless theology. I am voraciously consuming evangelical screed in an attempt to understand just what 'gets their goat'. It seems to be wildly over-determined. They seem itchy about epicleses and the word 'sacrifice' drives them directly into apoplexy. So, let's try this approach. Two questions.

In the Eucharist, do we

  1. ... offer anything to God? and, if we do,
  2. ... then is what we offer, connected in any fashion, with Christ's offering?

Many Evangelicals want to say "No" resolutely to both. Will that stand up?

Here's the Prayer Book:

And when there is a Communion, the Priest shall then place upon the Table so much Bread and Wine, as he shall think sufficient.

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, who by thy holy Apostle hast taught us to make prayers, and supplications, and to give thanks for all men; We humbly beseech thee most mercifully [* to accept our alms and oblations, and] to receive these our prayers, which we offer unto thy Divine Majesty; ...

... accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving ... And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee; ... And although we be unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service;

Without investigating the semantics of 'place upon', the sheer fact of the matter is that we are thereby setting aside something we could have used: we could have eaten the bread and drunk the wine. We are not offering them to God in the sense of 'here, take this stuff' but we are, inevitably, setting aside what we could have used for our purposes for his purposes. That's not an offering?

Undoubtedly we offer prayers and invariably alms. "Any material favour done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity, is almsgiving." So, what are the oblations, which may or may not be present? Evangelicals would have believe that these are special gifts extraneous to alms that the minister will be able to acknowledge on the fly, should they miraculously and unexpectedly appear. That reading strains credulity. Following the rubric, if there is to be communion, then the term 'oblations' must be added; else not, if the service concludes with additional collects. (And aren't showy acts of supererogation condemned by the Articles?) 'Oblations' means 'gifts', namely what I have just alluded to. They are pretty poor gifts but, after all, we are not worthy.

Finally, we offer a sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving, and ourselves. Evangelicals want this far removed from the Words of Institution because, otherwise, we shall all fall prey to Pelagianism, believing that we are linking out sacrifice to that of Christ (vain presumption!) and assisting in our own salvation by means of our own merits (works righteousness!). But really, folks, doesn't the prayer say -- no matter where it is found -- that we are sinful and unworthy, that fact not relieving us of "our bounden duty and service"?

The fact that our offering to the Father is sorely lacking does not relieve us of the doing. If someone gives you a gift you cannot reciprocate, you must try anyhow: your predetermined failure does not allow you to shrug off the entire affair. We can never make good our debt; nonetheless, keep trying. So, is it connected? Yes, it is our appropriate response, even though not at all on the same plane.

The genius of 1552/1662 is a swift movement from the dominical words to the communion itself. I would think tradition allows only one major thing to intervene: the prayer our Saviour taught us. I'd also put the prayer of oblation back where it belongs, leaving "thanksgiving" in the post-communion and I'd put the Prayer of Humble Access where both the Presbyterians and the Reformed Episcopal Church put it: the final part of the offertory, functioning as a kind of unified -- and not merely priestly -- apologia.

If someone thinks this is Roman Catholicism, then they've lost it completely.

No comments:

Post a Comment