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 Issues | Five Fundamentals | Holy Communion

Five Fundamentals of the Faith

by the Rev J.W.Hayes.

The Church Book Room 1924

Holy Communion - Anglican

The present Prayer Book teaching on the subject of the Holy Communion is very simple, yet profound, and in perfect harmony with Holy Scripture and Apostolic custom. The Articles dealing wit Iit are as follows:-

XXV. Of the Sacraments.

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation : but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death; insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing in a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ ; but it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overrthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped.”

There is certainly no ambiguity, sophistry or casuistry about these Articles. Any honest man can see their meaning at a glance, and can see also that they were expressly framed to prevent men from falling into superstition and idolatry by adopting the discarded doctrines and practices of the dark ages, viz.: Transubstantiation, Adoration and Elevation of the elements ; Procession of the Host ; Corporal Presence of Christ in the wafer, and so on. The Church Catechism speaks with no uncertain sound as to the reasons for, and method of, reception, viz.: “For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby” (i.e., by the atoning death of the Saviour).

It speaks of “the strengthening and refreshing of our souls,” of the necessity for “a thankful remembrance of His death.” Given the requisites then, these inestimable benefits are “verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper.” The great Augustine goes as far as our Office for the Communion to the Sick does, when he says: “Crede et manducasti” (i.e., Believe and thou hast eaten), and only a few seem aware that the very Sarum Office of Extreme Unction itself has these words: “Frater in hoc casu sufficit tibi vera fides et bona voluntas Tantum crede et Manducasti.”

Then in our glorious Communion Office the words Altar and Mass have been entirely eliminated ; the words Table and The Lord's Supper or Holy Communion substituted in every case to bring it into harmony with the New Testament and Apostolic teaching, which alone is truly Catholic. Fourteen times the word table appears in that Office, to teach us that it is a homely feast we are coming to, with Christ as Presiding Head, not a sacrificial altar, which latter word conveys an altogether erroneous idea as to the status of either celebrant or people there. All the Crossings, Stations, Genuflections, Prayers to Saints, Bell ringing. Ostentatious and unnecessary lighting of lamps and candles, Ablutions, Beads, Mixings, Censing of the vessels and worshippers, Vain repetitions, Exorcisms, Sacerdotal Vestments, Holy Water, Ashes, Oil, etc., were purposely omitted and dispensed with in the endeavour to free the Holy Communion Service from its tedious routine and superstitious ceremonies.

That this is so, we will now proceed to show from the words of the Prayer-Book, the Homilies, and the acknowledged Writings of the Reformers and Evangelical Bishops of that date, many of whom were burnt for their opinions by orders from the Popes.

Here it is not out of place to remind ourselves of Cranmer's well-known warning which is to be found in the Preface to his great work on the Lord's Supper:-

“But what availeth it to take away beads, pardons, pilgrimages and such like other popery, so long as two chief roots remain unpulled up? Whereof, so long as they remain, will spring again all further impediments of the Lord's harvest, and corruption of His flock. The rest is but branches and leaves, the cutting away whereof, is but the topping and lopping of a tree, or cutting down of weeds, leaving the body standing and the roots in the ground ; but the very body of the tree, or rather the roots of the weeds, is the popish doctrine of transubstantiation, of the real presence of Christ's flesh and blood in the sacrament of the altar (as they call it), and of the sacrifice and oblation of Christ made by the Priest for the salvation of the quick and the dead. Which roots, if they be suffered to grow in the Lord's vineyard, they will overspread all the ground again with the old errors and superstitions. These injuries to Christ are so intolerable, that no Christian heart can willingly bear them." (Edn. P.S., p. 6.)

The Reformers were convinced, and that rightly, that all this formality and idolatry sprang from false ideas concerning the Holy Communion, and it is plainly so expressed in the first “Preface” to our Prayer-Book and again in the instruction, viz,: “Of Ceremonies-Why some be abolished and some retained.” In Pre-Reformation times, the ritual directions for the Mass alone occupied 70 columns of print in the Missal, besides the Rubrics. Cranmer tells us in the Preface “Of Ceremonies” that some of these tiresome pieces of ritual sprang from “indiscreet devotion”; others from a “zeal without knowledge.” Annexed see what is said on the subject, the spiritual bondage being greater than that of the Jews:-

“Christ's Gospel is not a Ceremonial Law (as much of Moses’ law was), but it is a religion to serve God not in bondage of the figure or shadow, but in the freedom of the spirit.”

“The multitude of them hath so increased in these latter days that the burden of them was intolerable.”

“This our excessive multitude of ceremonies was so great, and many of them so dark, that they did more confound and darken than declare and set forth Christ's benefits unto us.”

The causes were many, chiefly love of power and parade on the part of the priests, but some arose from:-

“The superstitious blindness of the rude and unlearned; the insatiable avarice of such as sought more their own lucre than the glory of God.”

Durandus tells us that a Bishop, to be properly vested, should have on nine garments. It was such directions as these, forced upon the people, that excited the indignation of Jewel, Cosin, Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Bucer, Melancthon, Luther, Erasmus and Andrewes. The latter is most explicit in his utterances, like Hooker, viz.:-

“Their priests to have shaven crown, to be unmarried, to have frankincense offerings, fasts and feasts, to have candles in them, and to carry them up and down, in every respect is heathenish. The placing of lights in churches at some time is not altogether a heathenish ceremony, although it appears by Seneca the Gentiles had it ; but their burning of tapers in their Churches at noon-day is altogether a pagan custom." (Discourse of Ceremonies, Part 3.)

“For more than a thousand years the number of Seven Sacraments was never heard of. How, then, can the belief in Seven Sacraments be Catholic, which means, always believed?” (Resp. ad. Bell., p. 72.)

These Reformers, as we saw previously, wanted to restore to the Church of England the Catholic doctrine, and simple ritual, from which it had so sadly departed. Nothing essential to the Catholic and Apostolic faith was omitted. Bishop Andrewes writes :-

“There is no part of the Catholic Faith that we do not hold; those tenets of yours are patches of the faith, not parts of it.” (Resp. ad Bell., p. 486.)

“How can Transubstantiation be Catholic - that is, always believed And And Concomitance? And one kind? I refrain with difficulty from asking this ‘how’ regarding a number more of your novelties.”' (Ibid., p. 25.)

“We innovate in nothing ; we restore perhaps what those of ancient time held, which you have innovated upon.” (Tortura Torti, p. 96.)

“Whatever you have of the primitive faith and religion remains untouched with us.” (Ibid., p. 375.)

Parker, Grindal, Cox, Usher, Beveridge, Pearson and Hooker say similarly. The great Cosin writes thus:-

“The Papal invention that there are neither more nor 1ess than Seven Sacraments, properly so called, and that that must be held as part of the Catholic faith, was certainly unknown to the Ancient Church and unheard of. That opinion did not prevail before Hugo de St. Victor and Peter Lombard, and there is no Council earlier than that of Florence, in which this sevenfold number was sanctioned, A.D. 1439.” (Note on the Holy Communion.)

Article XXX. Of both kinds.

The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people; for both the parts of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

What, now, was the reason for all these outbursts? Simply (a) the claims of the Pope, and (b) the Decrees of Trent based on Tradition. Our Blessed Lord had something similar to contend with, hence His indignant expostulation (Matt. 15,3-6-9): “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” St. Paul rightly warns the Colossians thus: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men . . . and not after Christ.”

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