Saturday, September 3, 2011
Articles in Question: Article 29 and the Doctrine of the Real Presence in the Church of England
(Yes, I realize it's out of order!)
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 St. 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.
This is undoubtedly one of the more "controversial" of the Articles (considering it was initially left out of the first version in 1561, because of what it implies in relation to the doctrine of the real presence). Often times this article is ripped out of context so as to discredit it against the other teaching regarding the Lord's Supper in the Prayer Book and Articles. However, the article in question makes perfect sense when read with the other articles and in fact, logically must follow, if we believe Article 28 to be truthful in its teaching (which we do). Browne asserts that there are only two possible meanings of the text, "There are but two possible views of the question. Either the wicked and unbelieving do not eat Christ’s Body and Blood, but only their sacred symbols; or they eat the Body and Blood, but to condemnation, not to salvation. The former alternative has generally been held, in latter times, by the advocates of a spiritual feeding; the latter, by the believers in transubstantiation, and, I suppose, by most believers in consubstantiation." The question then remains, which view does the Article preceding adopt?
Let us review, briefly, the theology of the preceeding article, in order to understand the logical sequence of the next. First, the 28th Article affirms the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament. "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 is a partaking of the Blood of Christ." Meaning plainly that the Lord's Supper is more than a communal meal or ordinance of remembrance among Christians, it is the meal where Christ truly feeds his people with his body and blood. Next, the Article rejects unbiblical theories of the real presence, first, that of Rome, "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions," which profanes the Lord's Supper by making it into a magical rite. The Scriptures never speak of a change of substance in the Supper. Following the rejection of transubstantiation is the rejection of the Lutheran theory of an oral manducation of the body and blood of Christ in conjunction with the bread and wine, "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." First, the Article declares that the nature of Christ's presence is spiritual and second it clarifies this assertion by noting the mean of eating the body and blood of Christ, which is faith. This is a denial of the theory that the mean of eating Christ's body and blood is the mouth. Lastly, Article 28 rejects certain practices which are inappropriate with a doctrine of spirituallly feeding on Christ, "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped." These practices are useless and superstitious in respect to a true and biblical doctrine of Holy Communion.
After making such assertions in the 28th Article, the logic follows in the 29th. It follows that, if, "The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper," and if the mean by which we receive Christ is faith, then it follows that those without faith do not receive Christ. The Article emphatically proclaims this and it really is for the good of the Church, for in the Sacrament, Christ feeds and nourishes his people, how then would our Lord be if he offered his body and blood to those who are estranged from him? The language of the Article confirms the idea that Christ is not present in the elements but in the sacrament. This is what our Reformers meant when they denied the oral manducation of Christ's body and blood. For when a wicked man kneels at the Communion rail, we can be assured that they may, "carnally and visibly press with their teeth... the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ," yet the integrity of the Sacrament is preserved for, "no wise are they partakers of Christ." They consume the sacred symbols of Christ's Body and Blood but because the true reception is in the worthy reception thereof, they have no partaking of Christ. There can be no good in receiving the symbols of Christ's body and blood yet despising him in your heart, the wicked receive but only, "to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing." Therein lies the Anglican doctrine of Holy Communion.
By the way, here is the quote from Augustine that the Article references,
“Qui non manet in Christo, et in quo non manet Christus, procul dubio ned manducat spiritualiter carnem ejus, nec bibit ejus sanguinem, licet carnaliter et visibiliter premat dentibus sacramentum corporis et sanguinis Christi: sed magis tantae rei sacramentum ad judicium sibi manducat et bibit.”
I turn now to three great expositors of the Articles, Browne, Bicknell, and Thomas, high church, broad church, and "low church" respectively. I am going to quote these authors at length to give the most complete picture I can give through a quote.
Browne says, "In one sense of the words, then, we may admit that every communicant eats Christ’s Body and drinks His Blood, because he eats the symbol which is called His Body (corpus, h. e. figura corporis), and drinks the symbol which is called His Blood. But all that has been said in former Articles to disprove the doctrine of the opus operatum, applies here. The actual reception of Christ’s Body and Blood is the reception, not of the outward sign, but of the inward grace. Now, the inward grace of the Sacraments belongs only to the faithful, not to the impenitent and unbelieving. Of course, if we admit a physical change in the elements, we must believe Christ’s Body to be eaten, not only by the wicked, but, as has been often argued, by mice or dogs, or any other animal, that may accidentally devour a portion of the consecrated bread. Hence the contrary position to the statement of this Article follows, of necessity, on the doctrine of transubstantiation. But then, the opposite doctrine of an efficacious, spiritual presence, and that rather in the recipient than in the element, seems inevitably to issue in the doctrine here propounded." Browne agrees with a longstanding interpretation of the Articles in the high church tradition, which stands with the Reformers, Laudians, and later 19th century divines.
Bicknell (termed "broad church" or "liberal catholic") offers the following observation,
"The wicked and the faithful alike receive the elements that have been brought into union with the body and blood of Christ. Neither wicked nor faithful carnally and visibly press with their teeth more than the bread and wine. But only the faithful receive the body and blood of Christ, since only they possess that faith which is the indispensable means of receiving them. This Article does not in any way deny the “real presence”, it only rules out any carnal view of it. To give an illustration: when our Lord was on earth He possessed healing power quite independently of the faith of men: but only those who possessed faith could get into touch with it. Many touched His garments, but only the woman who had faith was healed (Mk 5:30 ff.). The healing power was there: the touch of faith did not create it, but faith, as it were, opened the channel to appropriate the blessing. So in the Eucharist, Christ in all His saving power is present. The wicked are only capable of receiving the visible and material signs of His presence. But those who approach with faith can receive the inward grace and become partakers of Christ by feeding on His Body and Blood. Attempts have, indeed, been made to distinguish between “eating the body of Christ” and “partaking of Christ”. It has been claimed that the wicked do the former to their soul’s peril, but cannot do the latter. No such distinction, however, can be drawn, and Scripture seems to know of no feeding upon Christ that is not unto life (cp. Jn 6:53 ff.). The wicked only receive the outward “sign or sacrament” that has entered into the closest relation with the divine gift."
In the Principles of Theology, W.H. Griffith Thomas writes,
"1. The wicked eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. – “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.”
2. They do not partake of Christ Himself. – “Yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ.” The Latin is particularly forceful, nullo modo.
3. They eat and drink the sign or Sacrament to their spiritual condemnation. – “But rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.” Thus, the Article is a corollary to Article XXVIII, because the teaching of the Church of Rome is that all receive but all do not benefit. Efforts have been made to show that there is a distinction between the title and the Article, the title saying that the wicked do not eat the Body of Christ in the use of the Supper, while the Article says that the wicked are “in no wise partakers of Christ.” It has, therefore, been suggested that the title does not say “receive not,” but “eat not,” and that the Article does not say the wicked are not partakers of the Body and Blood of Christ, but that they are not “partakers of Christ”. This is an endeavour to show that while the wicked might receive the sacramentum, and what is called the res sacramenti, they could not receive the virtus sacramenti. [Maclear and Williams, Introduction to the Articles of the Church of England, pp. 348–350.] But this distinction between the inward part, res, and the benefit, virtus, of the Sacrament finds no place in Anglican theology; and, indeed, it would involve the fact of three parts in a Sacrament, which is contrary to our Catechism. The “thing signified” includes both the spiritual blessing and its benefit by participation. [Simpson, The Thing Signified, pp. 22–26.] This distinction between signum, res and virtus was the ordinary teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, as it is to this day, and it is obvious that the Article is not likely to maintain here what it so definitely denies, and even denounces, in Article XXVIII. [Dr. Kidd rightly says that this view is open to serious objections on three grounds: (a) From the history of the Article; (b) from its connection with Article XXVIII; (c) from other expressions in the Article itself. He adds that if it had been the natural interpretation Bishop Geste would have made no effort to get rid of the Article (Kidd, The Thirty-nine Articles, p. 237).] In view, therefore, of the circumstances of the introduction of the Article there is no reasonable doubt as to its meaning and purpose. [Dimock, ut supra, pp. 615–617.] Proof of this can be adduced from representative writers of the time. [Dimock, ut supra, pp. 618–640.] The Article is also directed specifically against Lutheranism, and in 1577 the Formula Concordiae deliberately condemned its teaching almost in our very words.” [Goode, On the Eucharist, p. 647; Dimock, Vox Liturgiae Anglicanae, p. xxii. ] It is also significant that the Anglican Articles have no place in the list of Lutheran Symbolics. [So Schaff, quoted in Dimock, ut supra, p. xxiii.]
As the Article quotes from St. Augustine and the true meaning has been questioned, it is important to have the facts of the case in view. The passage is from Super. Joann., Tract 26: “Qui non manet in Christo et in quo non manet Christus procul dubio nec manducat spiritualiter carnem ejus nec bibit ejus sanguinem licet carnaliter et visibiliter premat dentibus sacramentum corporis et sanguinis Christi sed magis tantae rei sacramentum ad judicium sibi manducat et bibit.” The portions in italics are rejected by the Benedictine editors, and much controversy has been waged as to them. Archbishop Parker maintained his point and adhered to them, and certainly it is unlikely that they were added in the Middle Ages, though they might easily have been omitted. They are as old as Bede and Alcuin, and even if spurious they do not affect our Article. [Dimock, Papers on the Eucharistic Presence, pp. 676–686.]
The one and only consideration is the proper interpretation of the wording of the Article, whether these statements came from St. Augustine or not. [“To affect the interpretation of the Article, it must be shown, not only what St. Augustine’s views are, but that at the time of the Reformation they were universally felt, and by all confessed, to be clearly and unmistakably against what we contend for as the natural meaning of our Article” (Dimock, ut supra, p. 681.]"
Next I quote the section from Boultbee's exposition,
"This Article is a simple corollary to the last. If faith is the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten, those who have not faith cannot receive and eat it. But, further, this Article categorically denies the possibility of the reception in any wise. Those without lively faith are “in no wise” (nullo modo) partakers of Christ. This seems intended to exclude every possible subterfuge which might bring them in as partakers in a subordinate sense.
This Article is therefore a great difficulty with those who maintain a real objective presence in or with the consecrated elements. If the body of Christ is in anywise brought into union with the matter of the elements themselves by the act of consecration, then in some sense all who partake of them must be partakers of Christ. So not only the Catechism of the Council of Trent, [II. iv. 48.] but most of those who maintain a corporal presence, assert. The difficulties inherent in such an assertion, especially in connection with St. John 6:54 (“Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day”) are felt to be so great that many able Romanist divines [E.g. Cajetan.] do not interpret the expressions in that chapter to mean feeding on Christ in the Eucharist. But the direct application of the chapter to the Lord’s Supper is the usual Roman interpretation. [E.g. Catechism of Trent, II. iv. 52.]
On this subject the sixth chapter of Waterland on the Eucharist will be found very clear and satisfactory. It contains a brief review of the ancient and modern interpretations of the sixth chapter of St. John. It may be well to add some of the conclusions.
“There have been two extremes in the accounts given of the Fathers, and both of them owing, as I conceive, to a want of proper distinctions. They who judge that the Fathers, in general, or almost universally, do interpret John vi. of the Eucharist, appear not to distinguish between interpreting and applying. It was right to apply the general doctrine of John vi. to the particular case of the Eucharist considered as worthily received, because the spiritual feeding there mentioned is the thing signified in the Eucharist, yea and performed likewise. After we have sufficiently proved from other Scriptures that in and by the Eucharist, ordinarily, such spiritual food is conveyed, it is then right to apply all that our Lord, by St. John, says in the general, to that particular case; and this indeed the Fathers commonly did. But such application does not amount to interpreting that chapter of the Eucharist.”
Waterland then proceeds to discuss the language of Ignatius, Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, &c. &c., and sums up his comments thus: “From this summary view of the ancients it may be observed that they varied sometimes in their constructions of John vi. or of some parts of it; but what prevailed most, and was the general sentiment wherein they united, was that Christ himself is properly and primarily our bread of life, considered as the Word made flesh, as God incarnate, and dying for us; and that whatever else might, in a secondary sense, be called heavenly bread (whether sacraments or doctrines, or any holy service), it was considered but as an antepast to the other, or as the same thing in the main under a different form of expression.”
The distinction thus drawn between “interpreting” and “applying” a passage is most valuable. It will be the key by which the reader may open the perplexity of some strange apparent contradictions in quotations from the Fathers on other subjects beside this."
And finally, that of Baker,
" The last Article declared that the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Lord’s Supper is faith. Not, indeed, that the presence or absence of faith affects the virtue of the Sacrament, except to the recipient. Faith is the hand which is stretched forth to receive the inward grace of the Sacrament. If the hand of faith be not put forth the benefit is not received. The recipient is in no way partaker of Christ, even though he outwardly receive “the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.”
This Article is intended directly to oppose the Roman doctrine that the Sacraments have a mechanical effect, ex opere operato. This doctrine follows necessarily from the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation, being one of the superstitions to which it has given rise. If the matter of bread and wine be actually and substantially changed into the very Flesh and Blood of Christ, whoever partakes of the Sacrament must thereby, however wicked his life or deficient his faith, be partaker of Christ. In that case, then, even those members of the Corinthian Church mentioned in 1 Cor. 11 whose profanation of the Sacrament St. Paul so emphatically condemns, would, notwithstanding their profanity, have been partakers of Christ. Whereas St. Paul traces to this profanity many of the spiritual and temporal calamities that had befallen them, including in some cases even death. Cf. 1 Cor. 11:27–30, “Whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself; and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation unto himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and many sleep.”
It should be added that though it is perilous for a person to come unworthily to Holy Communion, it is equally perilous to neglect Holy Communion.
To do this is (1) to transgress the plain command of Christ, “Do this in remembrance of me”; (2) voluntarily to reject a means of grace, by which additional power is given to resist sin; (3) willfully to place one’s self out of the pale of the Christian community of which this Sacrament is the pledge and bond of union; (4) to make light of the hope of the resurrection of the body, and the life eternal, of which this Sacrament is a surety. Compare the words of our Lord in John 6:53, 54, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”"
As the reader can see, there is much agreement in the interpretation of the plain meaning of this Article. The Divines agree with the interpretation of this Article. We can look to Hooker's famous quote, "The real presence of Christ’s most blessed body and blood is not therefore to be sought for in the sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the sacrament." A full treatment of this subject is beyond the scope of this work. We see from this Article and the one preceeding it that the Church of England (and all Anglican churches by extension) have confessionally taught a distinct doctrine of the real presence from that of Rome and Wittenberg. The doctrine is simple, yet profound. When we receive the consecrated elements of bread and wine we are eating only bread and wine with our mouth but by faith, we are truly partakers of Christ's body and blood through the power of the Holy Ghost in a manner in which we cannot truly understand. Christ is not confined to bread and wine but these are the duly chosen instruments chosen by God. We take seriously the command in the Liturgy, "Lift up your hearts," at this point, our hearts are lifted beyond the natural earth and into the heavenly courts where we feed upon Christ, through faith.
As you can see this doctrine of the Lord's Supper necessitates a change in our approach to worship. If one adopts this view of the Eucharist then much of the ceremonial which has crept up in Anglican churches in now no longer necessary. We do not need to elevate the host and chalice during the consecration prayer nor at the end of it. We do not need to endlessly make the sign of the cross over every bit of material used in the service. The minister need not even dress up in chasuble. The actions prescribed in the Prayer Book are sufficient and the vestments permitted therein are the appropriate dress for an Anglican minister, administering the sacraments ordained by Christ himself according to his command.