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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 - Eastern Teaching

Now comes an interesting question. In what relation does the Greek Church stand to this doctrine of Transubstantiation? Well, in reality there is no practical difference either in the doctrine or ritual of the Mass. Those who have witnessed a Russian celebration will recollect the same routine and endless ceremonies; adoration of the elements, prayers to the Blessed Virgin, etc. The Celebrant has no less than 114 actions to perform, including: (1) the piercing with a spear of a portion of the bread; (2) elevation of the paten and chalice; (3) genuflections without number; (4) kissing of the chalice; and (5) incensing it, etc. P. Martin von Cochern in his book, published at Cologne, 1897, states that a Roman priest:-

“Signs himself at the Mass with the sign of the Cross sixteen times. He turns to the people six times. He kisses the altar eight times. He lifts his eyes to Heaven eleven times. He strikes his breast ten times. He kneels down ten times. He folds his hands together twenty-four times. He bows his head twenty-one times. He bows his shoulders seven times. He bows himself low eight times. He blesses the altar with the sign of the cross thirty-one times. He lays his two hands flat on the altar twenty-nine times. He prays with outstretched hands fourteen times. He prays with hands folded thirty-six times. He puts his hands folded on the altar seven times. He puts his left hand alone on the altar nine times. He lays his left hand on the breast eleven times. He lifts both hands to Heaven eight times. He prays secretly eleven times. He prays aloud thirteen times. He covers and uncovers the chalice ten times. He goes to and fro twenty times.

“Besides these three hundred and fifty oft-repeated things, the priest has also to observe one hundred and fifty other ceremonies, which together makes five hundred ceremonies. Every priest must also, besides this, remember four hundred rubrics or rules; if, now, these be also reckoned with the ceremonies, the priest who reads Mass according to Roman fashion has nine hundred things to do, of which he cannot omit one without sin . . . By this thou mayest see what great thanks thou owest to the priest when he reads holy Mass for thee, with attention to so many things, for which the greatest presence of mind is necessary.”

The Catechism of the Council of Trent has 87 Sections on the Eucharist alone, to try and explain the position.

Were it not for the superstition attached to the Service such idle and dumb ceremonies could never have taken place, so antagonistic to what we might expect from the simple Bible instructions.

In the Greek Church, it is said that “the same Son of God, God and Man, is present on earth . . . in the Holy Supper . . . by a change of substance, for the substance of the bread is changed into the substance of His most blessed body like that of other men, sin only except.”

Their “Orthodox Confession” asserts that after the words of consecration the mystic change immediately takes place: “The wine into true blood, there remains only the species (appearances) where they are seen, and this according to the Divine economy.” The Synod of Jerusalem drew up an Article to the same effect, in 1672, viz.:-

“Further, we believe that after the consecration of the bread and wine, the substance of the bread and wine no longer remains, but the very body and blood of our Lord under the appearance and form of bread and wine that is to say, under the accidents of the bread . . ,

“The body and blood of our Lord are divided and separated by hands and teeth in their accidents alone, or in the accidents of bread and wine, through which alone they may be seen or touched.”

It is a mistake, therefore, to think that the Greek Church is purer than the Roman on this point. Both claim to have sacrificing Priests for the Mass. Hooker, on the contrary, says: “In truth the word, Presbyter, doth seem more fit, and in propriety of speech more agreeable than Priest with the drift of the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost throughout the body of the New Testament making so much mention of ministers doth not anywhere call them Priests.”

Lightfoot certifies the same, viz.: “The Church of Christ has no sacerdotal system.” By the most careful examination of the Prayer-Book, the only offerings made by us to God are (a) Praises; (b) Thanksgivings; (c) Alms; (d) Oblations, and (e) Our own selves. Mention must here be made of two other ideas in connection with Holy Communion, viz. : The view that not exactly “in” but “together with” the consecrated elements the real body of Christ is eaten; and the view, that the Supper is simply a commemoration of Christ's death and nothing more. Now, neither of these represents the Church of England view. A careful study of our Communion Service shows that the consecrated elements are regarded as “pledges of His love,” not merely signs or badges or tokens. They are “ certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace.” As the 3rd Exhortation states so well: “Then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood. Then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us; we are one with Christ and Christ with us.” Our sinful bodies are “made clean” by His body, and “our souls washed” in order that we may “evermore dwell in Him and He in us.” Hence it is said to each one, viz.: “feed on Him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.”

It is exactly the same idea that St. Paul had, of incorporation; a permeating of our whole personality by the Lord present at the feast: “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2,20).

The great psychologist, F. W. H. Myers, in his poem, “St. Paul,” expresses this personal incorporation thus:-

“Yea! thrr' life, death, sorrow, and though sinning,
He shall suffice me. for He hath sufficed.
Christ is the End, for Christ was the beginning;
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.”

 

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