By Robin G. Jordan
One argument that I frequently encounter is that Texts for Common Prayer is a work in progress. This argument is used to dismiss objections to the teaching and practices countenanced in the rites in Texts for Common Prayer. The same argument is also used to dismiss objections to the doctrine of To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism and the provisions of the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America. Those make this argument assert that the final Prayer Book, Catechism, etc. will be different in doctrine or provisions from its present version. The need to respond to such objections and to make necessary changes is not urgent. It will evolve into something more acceptable on its own.
Developments in the Anglican Church in North America do not support this argument. Rather they show that it is a form of wishful thinking on the part of those making it.
Each new rite added to Texts for Common Prayer show a clear progression away from the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies. They show a definite movement in the direction of unreformed Catholicism.
This progression began in the Episcopal Church, was interrupted, and continues in the Anglican Church in North America. It can be seen from a comparison of the various editions of the American Prayer Book. To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism embodies the same progression. Amendments to the canons have also made the Anglican Church in North America more unreformed Catholic in its institutions.
Another argument that I have recently encountered is that the rites in Texts for Common Prayer admit a number of different interpretations. This argument is also a form of wishful thinking. The language of the rites in Texts for Common Prayer is not so ambiguous that the rites are open to a variety of interpretations. What texts are used in the rites, what additions, alterations, and omissions have been made in these texts, how the different elements of a particular text are arranged, and how a particular text is used—all point to the particular doctrine or doctrines given expression in the rite. While one encounters muted language, one does not see the studied ambiguity in Texts for Common Prayer that one sees in a number of more recent Anglican service books. The doctrine of a rite can be determined from a careful examination of the rite and thoughtful consideration of these indicators. It does require some knowledge of how rites of the same type have been crafted to express a particular doctrine in the liturgical books of other denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church as well as in the service books of the several Anglican provinces. Consequently one can say with reasonable confidence that the Eucharistic Prayer in the Long Form of Holy Communion in Texts for Common Prayer, while avoiding the more explicit language of the Roman Rite, expresses a similar if not identical doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice. This doctrine and its variants are not consistent with the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
One also can say with reasonable confidence that the Long Form expresses a doctrine of eucharistic presence similar to if not identical with the that of the Roman Rite. Likewise, this doctrine and its variants are not consistent with the doctrinal and worship principles laid out in the Anglican formularies.
Those who maintain that the Eucharistic Prayer in the Long Form can be detached from the doctrine which it expresses and given a doctrine more to their liking fail to appreciate the connection between a text or rite and the doctrine it expresses. Archbishop Cranmer recognized this connection which is why he carefully crafted the texts of the 1552 Communion Service as well as the rite itself. He was cognizant that what we pray shapes what we believe. The drafters of the Long Form also recognized this connection.
The particular structure of the Eucharistic Prayer in Long Form was not accidental. It was modeled upon that of the 1549 Canon with an important addition, omission, and substitution. Added to the prayer is the oblation of the bread and wine after the invocation of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the elements and the Words of Institution. Omitted from the prayer are the Intercessions. Their retention would have made a long prayer even longer. Substituted for the wording of the 1549 Canon , “that they may be unto us the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved son Jesus Christ, is that of the 1928 Prayer of Consecration, “that we, receiving them according to your Son our Savior Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.” The language of the 1928 wording is more muted than that of the 1549 wording but both do not exclude the belief that Christ is substantively present under the species of bread and wine especially when preceded by the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the elements with its inference that the elements consequently undergo a change in substance while retaining the appearance of bread and wine.
The particular structure of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Long Form is also that of EucharisticPrayers I-IV in the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal, English Translation, 2011.
From the perspective of the English Reformers, the Anglican formularies, and modern-day conservative Anglican evangelicals, the Eucharistic Prayer in the Long Form is objectionable for a number of reasons:
1. Archbishop Cranmer found nothing in the Bible, which supported the practice of invoking the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the bread and wine. What he did find were several passages in which the Holy Spirit descended upon human beings in response to prayer. He concluded that such a practice was not consistent with Scripture and did not use this particular kind of epiclesis in the 1552 Prayer of Consecration.
2. Critiques of 1549 Communion Service and Cranmer’s own evaluation of the service pointed to the practice supporting the notion that when they were consecrated, the bread and wine underwent a change in substance even though they retained the appearance of bread and wine.
Cranmer rejected the notion that after the consecration of the elements Christ was substantively present under the species of bread and wine on the grounds that Christ, at the Last Supper, after he had given the cup of wine to the disciples with the words, his cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me…” referred to the wine as “the fruit of the vine,” in other words, wine. When Christ had referred to the bread as his body and the cup of wine as his blood, he was speaking figuratively. They were symbols or tokens of his body that would be broken and his blood that would be shed on the cross. Christ, after he rose from the dead, had ascended bodily into heaven. The Declaration on Kneeling which was added to the 1552 Prayer Book and was included in the 1662 Prayer Book is consistent with this view. It affirms that the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine. Christ’s body is in heaven, not in the sacramental species.
Cranmer’s doctrine of the eucharistic presence, which is also the doctrine of the 1552 and 1662 Prayer Books, is that Christ is truly present at the Lord’s Supper. However, his presence is spiritual and it is not tied to the bread and wine. The bread and wine has not become Christ in some fashion nor has Christ been infused into them in some fashion. Rather Christ is present to the heart, or innermost self, of the believer. The believer’s spiritual feeding upon Christ is a separate operation from his consumption of the symbols or tokens of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world on the cross. Through the proclamation of Christ’s saving death in the sharing of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper God invigorates, confirms, and strengthens the believer’s faith in Christ. By faith the believer spiritually feeds upon Christ to whom he is united by the Holy Spirit. By faith he appropriates the benefits of Christ’s saving work on the cross. As the rubrics in the Communion of the Sick of the 1552 and 1662 Prayer Books emphasize, this spiritual feeding upon Christ may occur apart from receiving the elements of the Lord’s Supper.
3. The same critiques and Cranmer’s own evaluation pointed to the Prayer of Oblation at the conclusion of the 1549 Canon supporting the notion that what occurred during the setting apart of the bread and wine for sacramental use was a sacrifice. In the 1552 Communion Service Cranmer would remove from the Prayer of Consecration anything suggestive of a sacrifice other than Christ’s sacrifice in atonement for the sins of the world on the cross once for all time. Cranmer would omit the Prayer of Oblation from the 1552 Prayer of Consecration and move it to a position after the communion where it was not tied to the consecration and would not suggest that a sacrifice took place during the setting apart of the elements for sacramental use. Moving the Prayer of Oblation to this position also strengthens the emphasis of the rite upon what Christ has done for us.
Cranmer made other changes in the 1552 Communion Service but other than the insertion of the Prayer of Humble Access between the Sanctus and the Commemoration of Christ’s Sacrifice, these changes largely did not affect the consecration of the elements.
4. The drafters of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Long Form added to the prayer an offering of the bread and wine at a point immediately following the Epiclesis and the Words of Institution at which the consecrated bread and wine is offered in the Eucharistic Prayers in the Roman Missal. In modern-day Roman Rite a combination of the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine and the Words of Institution are understood to consecrating the elements, transforming them into Christ’s Body and Blood. In Eastern Orthodox tradition the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the elements is understood to consecrate them. After they are consecrated, the elements are understood to be Christ’s Body and Blood. While the more explicit language of the Eucharistic Prayers in the Roman Missal is avoided, what the priest is doing at this point is offering Christ’s Body and Blood to God. In other words, he is offering the sacrifice of the Mass.
The English Reformers rejected the whole idea of eucharistic sacrifice as the Medieval Catholic Church had understood it. They pointed out that Scripture tell us that Christ in his atoning sacrifice on the cross eliminated the need for any other sacrifice. When he ascended to heaven, he sat down, showing that he had completed his sacrificial work. Therefore the belief that through the priest Christ keeps offering himself to God in the Eucharist is contrary to Scripture.
The 1552 and 1662 Communion Services recognize only two sacrifices—Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world once and for all time and our spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and ourselves in response to Christ’s saving work on the cross which commemorated and proclaimed in the Lord’s Supper.
5. The Eucharistic Prayer in the Long Form refers to the bread and wine which are being offered as a memorial. However, nowhere in Scripture does Christ direct the Church to offer the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial to God. What he does direct the Church to do is to share the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of what he did on the cross. The apostle Paul tells us that those who share Lord’s Supper proclaim his death until he returns—in other words, they make known his saving work on the cross. The offering of the bread and wine as a memorial is itself unscriptural as is the doctrine that through the priest Christ substantively present under the species of bread and wine offers himself to God.As W.H. Griffith Thomas points to our attention in his discussion of the Lord's Supper in The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the Thirty Nine Articles, when Christ says, "do this in remembrance of me," touto poieō, "do this," does not mean "offer this." He writes:
"The force of the present tense in the Greek is 'Do this again and again,' i.e.. 'perform this action."
Anamnēsis, "remembrance," he stresses, in the Greek "means an act of the mind recalling and never an objective memorial." He goes on to write:
"The two Greek words for "remembrance" and "memorial" are never identical, but always carefully distinguished."
He further points to our attention that the indirect object of the verb kataggellō,"proclaim," in 1 Corinthians 11:26 is "always man, never God. It cannot possibly mean 'exhibit before God.'"
In his discussion of the idea of Eucharistic sacrifice in The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the Thirty Nine Articles he reiterates that touto poieō, "do this," in the Institutional Narratives cannot be rendered as "offer this," anamnēsis, "remembrance" as a "memorial before God," and kataggellō, "proclaim" with God, and not man, as the object.
These objections are useful in showing how far the Eucharistic Prayer in the Long Form has progressed in the direction of the unreformed Catholicism. They obviously did not carry any weight with the Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force or the College of Bishops. The Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force and the College of Bishops’ disregard of these objections shows the negligible influence that the English Reformers, the Anglican formularies, and historic Anglicanism exert upon the thinking of the two bodies. It also shows how unrealistic is the view that the Prayer Book in preparation may eventually evolve in something more acceptable to orthodox Anglican clergy and congregations who fully accept the Bible as their rule of faith and life and the Anglican formularies as their standard of doctrine and worship.
If these clergy and congregations want a Prayer Book that is more acceptable in doctrine and liturgical usages, they are going to have to prepare it themselves. The Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force and the College of Bishops have shown no indication of a willingness to comprehend in the liturgies of the denomination the Biblical and Reformation beliefs and convictions of such clergy and congregations—none whatsoever. Those who believe that they can make do with whatever liturgies are produced by the Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force and endorsed by the College of Bishops are deluding themselves. They are underestimating the influence these liturgies, along with To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism will exert on their thinking. They also will be placing themselves in the incongruous position of using liturgies and a catechism that countenance teaching and practices that conflict with what they believe and think. It does not make sense. Loyalty to a denomination and its leaders is not sufficient reason to embrace what orthodox Anglicans faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies have historically considered to be "erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word."