Sunday, September 23, 2012

Worship Woes 1: "Into Their Hands"

In these "Worship Woes", I will be presenting short thoughts on things in modern, Anglican worship that trouble me.  This post is a bit different than what I plan the future posts in this series to be about but this one practice is probably one of the more frustrating things to me, as a blatant rejection of what Anglicanism plainly teaches.

Let me first describe a familiar situation.  You are seated in a lovely parish church, worshipping according to the Prayer Book, in any of its forms.  You come to the moment of the administration of the Lord's Supper.  You leave your pew and approach the table.  You kneel, in good fashion, at the Communion rail, waiting for the minister to deliver unto you the elements of bread and wine.  The priest comes by with a host or piece of bread and you receive the bread into your hands and consume it (ignoring "intinction" for now).  Then the chalice bearer or deacon comes by with the wine and "guides" the chalice to your lips and you take a sip of it but you're not "supposed" to take the chalice into your hands, only "guide" the bottom.

This practice of not letting go of the chalice is really irritating to me, for several reasons.  I'm not sure if it's done for practical purposes but if it is, there has to be a better way of doing it.

The practice raises superstitious thoughts about the nature of the sacrament.  First, it implies that something has happened to the wine, which is not true according to the Articles of Religion and Prayer Book.  There is no substantial change in the elements of bread and wine.  This is not to mean that they shouldn't be treated with respect as the holy signs that they are but they should not be given superstitious reverence which is denounced in the Black Rubric.

Secondly, handing the cup to the laity is a right of a Christian man and one that the Reformers died for. One of the main points of the Reformation universal was the restoration of the cup to the laity.  Even though technically the Reformation principle is being lived out by offering the wine to the laity in our Episcopal parishes, the spirit is not there.  In essence, we are implying that regular lay people are not "special" enough to actually hold the chalice.

Thirdly, this practice is in direct opposition to the rubrics of all classical prayer books, including the beloved 1928 BCP.  What follows is the rubric before delivering Communion:



Then shall the Minister first receive the Communion in both kinds himself, and then proceed to deliver the same to the Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, in like manner, (if any be present,) and after that to the people also in order, into their hands, all meekly kneeling... (1662)
Then shall the Priest first receive the Holy Communion in both kinds himself, and proceed to deliver the same to the Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, in iike manner, (if any be present,) and, after that, to the People also in order, into their hands, all devoutly kneeling... (1928)
 My point with this "woe" is that it subverts the true identity of Anglicanism by a simple action, one that most parishioners probably don't even think about on a regular basis but when the laity are "denied" the cup, in this sense meaning to hold it, this action promotes an unscriptural understanding of the real presence and also spits in the face of our Reformers and their martyr deaths.



10 comments:

aaytch said...

I rarely agree with you these days, but here you have made a sound and important point. I should also say that the practice of individual cups (taken into individual hands) is set forth for the same reason. In other words, the principle you have described is more important than whether "the cup" is singular or plural.

Anonymous said...

I was ordained as a presbyter in the Reformed Episcopal Church back in '99. The wine, upon consecration, is positionally different than it was before consecration. Even if it has not changed in substance, it has changed in function, and therefore ought to be handled only by those in holy orders. If you ask most cradle Episcopalians, they will tell you that they want a more reverent celebration of the eucharist, and if this requires that only clergy handle the cup then so be it. The tone of this article makes me think of the dreaded "prayer book Presbyterians," the bane of many an REC congregation. These guys want to argue about the 39 Articles constantly, and if a priest or parishioner expresses some doubts about Article 17, then our "PBP" will do his best to undermine the priest's authority and hound him out of the church. Sorry, but of all the things you have to be worried about as an Anglican, this ain't one of 'em.

aaytch said...

So much for the "Reformed" in Reformed Episcopal Church. It died some twenty years before you were ordained in it.

The Hackney Hub said...

The "Reformed" in REC never meant Calvinistic... Cummins was an Arminian.

aaytch said...

Having altered the meaning of "Anglican" from the religion of Cranmer to the religion of Laud and Newman, the sights are now turned to the definition of "Reformed". Well, you won the first battle, but you won't win the second. If I were you, I'd quit while the quitting is good.

The Hackney Hub said...

Have you read into the REC's history? Have you read the 35 Articles of Religion? If I were you I would pick up Alfred Guelzo's book...

aaytch said...

Guelzo was a member of my parish (TEC) for some years, and Toon was a not an infrequent guest. I don't need to be lectured on the strengths and weaknesses of either one.

The Hackney Hub said...

So you're perfectly aware that the REC deleted the article on predestination in their version of the Articles.

aaytch said...

My view is that the REC is not Calvinistic and perhaps never was except for a short period at a particular seminary in the 1970s. I say that from personal experience, not from having read it in a textbook.

aaytch said...

While we're on that, even Toon, whom many Anglicans regarded as "Reformed", did NOT agree with the Article on "Predestination and Election" as it is presented in the 39. He thought (falsely) that only Antinomians believe in the flip side of the God's Decree, that "carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ" have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination."