This post is a continuation of part 1.
I intend to look specifically at the Bishop of Chelmsford’s statement
It has always been the case that Anglicans hold that receiving Communion in one kind we receive the full blessing of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But first I would like to examine the different understandings of Communion or the Eucharist which have been held in various parts of the Church, and compare them with the teaching of the Thirty-Nine Articles. I use the term “Communion” (not “Holy Communion”) as that is what it is called in the Book of Common Prayer; in the Articles it is referred to as “the Lord’s Supper”.
There are several different understandings of the Communion, and specifically of whether and how Jesus Christ is really present during it, as conveniently summarised here:
- Transubstantiation: This is the Roman Catholic view that the substance of the elements (the bread and the wine) is transformed into the body and blood of Christ, while retaining the accidents (physical and chemical properties) of bread and wine. This understanding is specifically rejected in Article 28 of the Thirty-Nine:
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.
- Consubstantiation and Sacramental Union: In these two slightly differing understandings, associated especially with the Lutheran church, the elements are considered to remain bread and wine, and the body and blood of Christ are said to be united with the bread and the wine in some objective way, irrespective of the faith of the recipient. This view, which implies that even unbelievers who take the elements receive the body and blood, is repudiated by these parts of Articles 28 and 29 of the Thirty-Nine:
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. …
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; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ …
- “Objective reality, but pious silence about technicalities”: The view so described at Wikipedia, and attributed to “perhaps most Anglicans”, is also condemned by the same parts of Articles 28 and 29, which clearly rule out any objective reality understanding of the Communion.
- Memorialism: In this view, associated with the Reformer Zwingli and held by most Protestant Christians apart from Anglicans and Lutherans, the Communion is simply a memorial of the death of Jesus, and “Christ is not present in the sacrament, except in the minds and hearts of the communicants.” This view also seems to go against the Thirty-Nine Articles, in this case again Article 28:
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.
- Real Spiritual presence, or Pneumatic presence: This view, or spectrum of views, is that Jesus Christ is present in the Communion in a real but spiritual way, for those who receive the elements with faith. This clearly seems to be the concept expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles, in particular in the passage just quoted from Article 28. It is also my own view of the Communion. At Wikipedia this view is explained as the Holy Spirit making Christ present. But the Thirty-Nine Articles do not make explicit the agency of the Holy Spirit; instead they use sacramental language, specifically in Articles 25 and 26:
Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.
… the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise …
I note these last words “effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise”, which are significant because they imply that the Communion has to be performed according to “Christ’s institution and promise”. That is one point that I have at issue with the Bishop of Chelmsford’s instructions. I also want to argue that the Bishop is presupposing a view of the Communion which goes against the Thirty-Nine Articles and so, I would claim, is not an authentically Anglican one.