Thursday, December 29, 2005

Andrewes and the Damascene: Eucharist and the Conferring of Grace

* Warning! This is a lengthy post but please do take the time to read it and think about what you read and comment if you feel led to do so. I believe that what follows below is the source of Andrewes' Isaiah 6 sermon of 1598. See if you are convinced.

I have been thinking a lot about Andrewes’ theology of the Eucharist for obvious reasons. I have had many questions race through my mind about his instrumentality and how he views the ‘working’ of the Sacrament for the Church. I have written a very lengthy section on this (49 pages) that I will have to cut down but I continue to find stuff to add. One of the big questions that has been put out there by one particular scholar (Dr. Peter McCullough) is that Andrewes is most indebted to Chemnitz’ Examinis for his Eucharistic theology. Well, I disagree. He argues this from the Isaiah 6 sermon preached at St. Giles Cripplegate that was not a part of the XCVI Sermons but is a part of the Apospasmatia Sacra. Not to give away too much of my argument since it will be in my dissertation I am convinced that he is wrong in his argumentation. One is the complete silence of any reference to Chemnitz when looking at the Eucharist. Lossky is correct that Andrewes is Patristic and more Eastern than many theologians of his day or those who have gone before him.

This morning I was reading Aquinas on the conferring of grace of the Sacrament and he had a reference to St. John the Damascene from his De Fide Orth. IV that I went to see what he was getting at here. I jumped from my seat when I read it. This is the source of Andrewes’ argumentation of the Christological formulations for his Eucharistic theology and its efficacy. This is where his ideas from Isaiah 6 are coming from. Andrewes is talking about the efficacy of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Within the efficacy of the action he speaks of the taking away of sins by the action. What he is stressing in this application of the Eucharist is the not only the taking away but the purging as well. What he then goes on to discuss is the preferment that God has for us in the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is not like an ordinary Judge who gives pardon but there is no favour that is shown after. With the Father we are given veniam and gratiam (kindness and grace). The sentence that jumped out at me was one within the context of Andrewes speaking about this favour whereby we are not punished for our sins but lifted up to God as acceptable sacrifices, (and here is the phrase) “our nature is most acceptable to God because there remaineth nothing but his own nature.” (1 Pet. 3.18)

What Andrewes seems to be referring to is the divinisation of the Christian that happens in the Eucharistic liturgy. The Fathers spoke of this divinisation of us as well. Andrewes mentions that God can do what He will with His word.
It pleased God to take away the Prophets sinnes by touching his lips. And albeit he can take away our sins, without touching of bread or wine, if he will; yet in the councell of his will, he commandeth unto us the sacramental partaking of his body and blood. It is his will, that our sins shall be taken away by the outward act of the sacrament: The reason is, not only in regard of ourselves, which consists of body and soul, and therefore have need both of bodily and Ghostly meanes, to assure us of our Salvation; but in regard of Christ himself, who is the burning Cole.
Andrewes follows this with an explanation of how this happens through the Sacrament by use of the analogy of the hypostatic union concerning the two natures of Christ, both divine and human, joined together without confusion or separation as the God-man. The quotation is lengthy but it is necessary and worth its length to get to the nature of Andrewes’s understanding of the sacramental efficacy of the Eucharist and its propitiatory qualities.
As Christ became himself a man, having a bodily substance; so his actions were bodily. As in the Hypostasis of the Sun, there is both the Humane and Divine nature; so the Sacrament is of an Heavenly and Earthly nature. As he hath taken our body to himself, so he honoureth bodily things, that by them we should have our sinnes taken away from us, By one bodily sacrament he taketh away the affection unto sin, that is naturally planted in us. By another bodily Sacrament he taketh away the habituall sins and the actuall transgressions which proceed from the corruption of our nature. And here we have matter offered us of faith; that as he used the touching of a cole, to assure the Prophet that his sinnes were taken away; so in the Sacrament he doth so elevate a piece of bread, and a little wine, and make them of such power; that they are able to take away our sinnes: And this maketh for Gods glory, not only to believe that God can work out Salvation, without any outward means of his creatures; not only the hemme of a garment, but even a strawe, (if he see it good) shall be powerfull enough, to save us from our sinnes. As Christ himself is spirituall and bodily; so he taketh away our sinnes, by means not only spirituall but bodily; as in the Sacrament.
Andrewes continues with this explanation of sacramental instrumentalism with the place of the preached word and its relationship to the forgiveness of sins and says,
For if there be a cleansing power in the Word, as Christ speaketh in the fifteenth chapter of John and the third verse: If in prayer, as Peter sheweth in the fifteenth chapter of John and the third verse: If in prayer, as Peter sheweth to Simon Magus, Pray to God, that (if it be possible) the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee, in the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and the twenty second verse: If in shewing mercy, and giving almes, sinnes shall be forgiven, as Salomon saith in the sixteenth chapter of the Proverbs, and the sixth verse, by mercy sinnes are being forgiven much more in the Sacrament, wherein both the word and prayer and the works of mercy doe concurre, to the cleansing of sinners from their sinnes: Whereas the Seraphim, did not take the coale in his mouth, but with tongues; and applied it not to the Prophet’s eare, but to his tongue. We learn, that it is not the hearing of a sermon that can cleanse us from sinne; but we must taste of the bodily element, appointed to represent the invisible grace of God. It is true, that meditation privately had, will kindle a fire in the hearts of many, in the thirty ninth Psalm and the third verse: And the word as it is a fire, Jeremie the twenty third chapter, and the twenty ninth verse, will also kindle a man, and heat him inwardly: But because in the Sacrament all those doe meete together, therefore nothing is so available to take away sinne, as the touching of bread and wine, with our lips.
Now, here is St. John of Damascus. Note his Christological formulations to talk about the nature of the Sacrament and the efficacy that flows from this. This is a very long piece so patiently read through it.
He gave us therefore, as I said, a second birth in order that, just as we who are born of Adam are in his image and are the heirs of the curse and corruption, so also being born of Him we may be in His likeness and heirs145 of His incorruption and blessing and glory.
Now seeing that this Adam is spiritual, it was meet that both the birth and likewise the food should be spiritual too, but since we are of a double and compound nature, it is meet that both the birth should be double and likewise the food compound. We were therefore given a birth by water and Spirit: I mean, by the holy baptism146 : and the food is the very bread of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came down from heaven147 . For when He was about to take on Himself a voluntary death for our sakes, on the night on which He gave Himself up, He laid a new covenant on His holy disciples and apostles, and through them on all who believe on Him. In the upper chamber, then, of holy and illustrious Sion, after He had eaten the ancient Passover with His disciples and had fulfilled the ancient covenant, He washed His disciples’ feet148 in token of the holy baptism. Then having broken bread He gave it to them saying, Take, eat, this is My body broken for you for the remission of sins149 . Likewise also He took the cup of wine and water and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it: for this is My blood, the blood of the New Testament which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the death of the Son of man and confess His resurrection until He come150 .
If then the Word of God is quick and energising151 , and the Lord did all that He willed152 ; if He said, Let there be light and there was light, let there be a firmament and there was a firmament153 ; if the heavens were established by the Word of the Lord and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth154 ; if the heaven and the earth, water and fire and air and the whole glory of these, and, in sooth, this most noble creature, man, were perfected by the Word of the Lord; if God the Word of His own will became man and the pure and undefiled blood of the holy and ever-virginal One made His flesh without the aid of seed155 , can He not then make the bread His body and the wine and water His blood? He said in the beginning, Let the earth bring forth grass156 , and even until this present day, when the rain comes it brings forth its proper fruits, urged on and strengthened by the divine command. God said, This is My body, and This is My blood, and this do ye in remembrance of Me. And so it is at His omnipotent command until He come: for it was in this sense that He said until He come: and the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit becomes through the invocation the rain to this new tillage157 . For just as God made all that He made by the energy of the Holy Spirit, so also now the energy of the Spirit performs those things that are supernatural and which it is not possible to comprehend unless by faith alone. How shall this be, said the holy Virgin, seeing I know not a man? And the archangel Gabriel answered her: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee158 . And now you ask, how the bread became Christ’s body and the wine and water Christ’s blood. And I say unto thee, “The Holy Spirit is present and does those things which surpass reason and thought.”
Further, bread and wine159 are employed: for God knoweth man’s infirmity: for in general man turns away discontentedly from what is not well-worn by custom: and so with His usual indulgence H e performs His supernatural works through familiar objects: and just as, in the case of baptism, since it is man’s custom to wash himself with water and anoint himself with oil, He connected the grace of the Spirit with the oil and the water and made it the water of regeneration, in like manner since it is man’s custom to eat and to drink water and wine160 , He connected His divinity with these and made them His body and blood in order that we may rise to what is supernatural through what is familiar and natural.
The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood161 . But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit. And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energises and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out162 . But one can put it well thus, that just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not163 become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the table164 and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, and are not two but one165 and the same.
Wherefore to those who partake worthily with faith, it is for the remission of sins and for life everlasting and for the safeguarding of soul and body; but to those who partake unworthily without faith, it is for chastisement and punishment, just as also the death of the Lord became to those who believe life and incorruption for the enjoyment of eternal blessedness, while to those who do not believe and to the murderers of the Lord it is for everlasting chastisement and punishment.
The bread and the wine are not merely figures of the body and blood of Christ (God forbid!) but the deified body of the Lord itself: for the Lord has said, “This is My body,” not, this is a figure of My body: and “My blood,” not, a figure of My blood. And on a previous occasion He had said to the Jews, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. For My flesh is meat indeed and My blood is drink indeed. And again, He that eateth Me, shall live166 167 .
Wherefore with all fear and a pure conscience and certain faith let us draw near and it will assuredly be to us as we believe, doubting nothing. Let us pay homage to it in all purity both of soul and body: for it is twofold. Let us draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands held in the form of the cross168 let us receive the body of the Crucified One: and let us apply our eyes and lips and brows and partake of the divine coal, in order that the fire of the longing, that is in us, with the additional heat derived from the coal may utterly consume our sins and illumine our hearts, and that we may be inflamed and deified by the participation in the divine fire. Isaiah saw the coal169 . But coal is not plain wood but wood united with fire: in like manner also the bread of the communion170 is not plain bread but bread united with divinity. But a body171 which is united with divinity is not one nature, but has one nature belonging to the body and another belonging to the divinity that is united to it, so that the compound is not one nature but two.
With bread and wine Melchisedek, the priest of the most high God, received Abraham on his return from the slaughter of the Gentiles172 . That table pre-imaged this mystical table, just as that priest was a type and image of Christ, the true high-priest173 . For thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek174 . Of this bread the show-bread was an image175 . This surely is that pure and bloodless sacrifice which the Lord through the prophet said is offered to Him from the rising to the setting of the sun176 .
It is the Eastern Fathers that Andrewes uses as his source of the nature of the Eucharist as the instrumental means of grace for the forgiveness of sins that is offered at the Altar to God. Therefore, I have become most convinced that the best interpreters of Andrewes and the C17 theologians that followed in his path are the C19 Anglo-Catholics. They knew Andrewes because they knew the Fathers and that is why Andrewes has become one of the fathers of Anglo-Catholics.


Anonymous Fr. Mark Clavier said...


I found out about your website via Johann Vanderbijl, and was struck at once by our similarities. While I was at Duke, I focused my studies on the Caroline Divines, doing an Independent Study of the pneumatology of Lancelot Andrewes, and writing my dissertation on Henry Hammond and Bp. Bramhall. I very nearly went on to Durham to do Ph.D. work. Instead in went into the parish ministry.

Also, I see you are an admirer of N.T. Wright. He and I correspond occasionally, and I'm quite well known as a Wright fanatic within my jurisdiction, the Anglican Province of America.

Anyway, I just felt compelled to write as we seem to be theological brothers. Enjoy Durham and say hello to old Bede for me!

Fr. Mark Clavier
All Saints, Arden, NC

9:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Fr. Mark! Good to hear from you. Fr. J and I are good friends and he has said wonderful things about you and your ministry. I have about 2 more years on my Ph.D work and then back to parish life here in Durham. It is quite nice to be in the company of Bede and Oswalt, and other great northern saints. When you get a chance, come on over and see us. We'd love to put you up!

all the very best,


9:14 pm  

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