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 Issues | Liturgy | Holy Communion Order One

Order One

The Order One Holy Communion service follows a similar pattern to the Rite A of the 1980 Alternative Services Book which was itself a development of an experimental service known as Series 3.


The language used in the service is largely contemporary English. However, in common with the rest of Common Worship there has been a deliberate attempt to use 'gender inclusive' language.  CW has not followed this slavishly but the change can be seen clearly in a number of places.

In producing the liturgy there was also a concren that the language should 'do something' rather than merely contain propositions.  In practice this means an attempt to find language which stirs the emotions.  The problem with this is that it is so subjective and therefore what thrills worshippers one day may seem ridiculous the next.

Reformed Worship is concerned to 'do something' but the focus has always been on proclaiming the truth about God and His works so that the worshipper will be stirred by this truth, not by mere words.



For the last 50 years much liturgy has been shaped according to fourfold structure deriving from the scholarship of Gregory Dix. Dix claimed that this was evident in the early liturgies but this is now disputed.

The shape of the service comes to the fore in the central part.  Here the service is related to four actions which Jesus took at the Last Supper:

¨ Taking (he took bread)
¨ Giving Thanks (=Eucharist in Greek)
¨ Breaking (he broke it)
¨ Giving (and gave it to them)

This is a way of doing the Lord's Supper. However, it is by no means the only way and it now seems that Gregory Dix derived this shape not from teh ancient liturgies of the Church but from medieval practice and these medieval practices were themslves the fruit of errors concerning the Lord's Supper.

Many today like the shape becuse it gives a sense of drama to the service.  The danger in this is that it encourages the worship to focus on their own actions, or the actions of those leading the liturgy, rather than on the works of God.

What are we doing?
One of the key controversies historically concerns what we are doing at the Lord's Supper.  Many treat the Lord's Supper either as a sacrifice, or as a making real or present the sacrifice of Christ.  There is, however, nothing in Scripture that suggests that this is the purpose of the Lord's Supper.  Whilst sacrificial imagery is certainly used in the New Testament it is never used of the Lord's Supper.  We can see historically that the idea of the Communion as a sacrfice was a later development.

In mediaeval and Roman Catholic teaching at the Eucharist 'we offer bread and wine' to God 'which becomes the body and blood of Christ'. It 'is a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross.' (RC Catechism)

In the shape of Order One the 'taking' and 'giving thanks' are understood by some as the sacrificial action. Some of the optional words at the 'taking' are:

through your goodness we have this bread to set before you...
which earth has given and human hands have made.
It will become for us the bread of life.

The Roman Catholic Church uses the same words but with'offer' rather than 'set before'.  The Revision Committee which produced Order One balked at the full-blooded Roman statement as unlikely to get past the evangelicals on General Synod.

During the 'giving thanks' comes what is known to liturgists as the the 'anamnesis' which means memorial.  This is a key part of the text since it is in effect a statement fo what we are doing.

There are eight 'Eucharistic Prayers' in Order One but some of the more developed statements are:

Prayer B:

we celebrate this memorial of our redemption.
We bring before you this bread and this cup

Prayer E

we plead with confidence his sacrifice made once for all upon the cross.
Bringing before you the bread of life and the cup of salvation,

These are clearly intended to suggest that the Communion is in some way a sacrifice or the re-presentment of the sacrafice of Christ.

These prayers, and the intentions or others are incompatible with the Doctrine of the Church of England and therefore should not have been authorised.  The General Synod does not have the legal power to authorise litrugy contrary to the 39 Articles of Religion (under the 1974 Worship and Doctrine Measure).

Article 31 states:

XXXI. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

What is it?

One of the key issues of the Reformation was what is the bread and wine after 'consecration'. Doctrinally the Church of England is clear that 'transubstantiation is repugnant to the plain words of scripture'. Article 28

Since Vatican II the Roman Catholics and others have developed the Eastern teaching of epiclesis.
A prayer is made for the Holy Spirit to come upon the elements and change them. Epiclesis is understood to mean 'to call down'. This has not been permitted in Common Worship. Instead the Spirit is called down on us.
Prayer A (=ASB Prayer 1)
grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these gifts of bread and wine may be to us his body and his blood.

However, in scripture 'epiclesis' means 'to call upon' or 'to plead'. In the New Testament the only instances of the Holy Spirit coming down are associated with regeneration (being born again). The Spirit indwells believers and we can ask Him to work in us or fill us, but not come down on. This was reflected in many reformation liturgies where there was a prayer for the Holy Spirit to do His work.

The other issue is the sort of language used about the bread and wine after 'consecration'. The words used at distribution are significant. The words in the ASB are very stark and CW was due to develop these. However, following protests the normative form are the BCP (which were themselves a compromise). This issue is also relevant to the placement of prayers such as the Humble Access and the Prayer of Oblation. In ASB and CW the 'Prayer of Oblation' has been integrated into the Eucharistic Prayer. The prayer of Humble Access has been moved to immediately before distribution of the elements. Both these therefore tend to mislead.

Proclaiming His Death

1Cor. 11:26   For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

It is important in the Lord's Supper that we are clear in the statements we make about the significance of the death of Christ. Thomas Cranmer knew this and piled up the terms:
who made there by his one oblation of himself once offered a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world

In the ASB and in Order One the statements made about the atonement are all much weaker and in some places there is so much focus on other themes that little is said about the significance of the death of Christ. This is, of course, no accident, the biblical teaching on the nature of the atonement is not popular today. There was a particular battle to get the term 'satisfaction' included. Some consider that 'satisfaction' is a late idea. However, clear teaching about satisfaction can be found in patristic writers as well as in scripture.


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