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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Paul Owen on Eucharisic Sacrifice

Paul Owen has discussed the Eucharistic Sacrifice on his blog. He speaks of the justification for the Eucharistic sacrifice within the context of the book of Hebrews. This I believe is correct. But I think he needs to go further back than chapter 13 to the priestly order of Christ after Melchizedech rather than that of Aaron; which is the priesthood that defines Christ's priesthood. The Eucharist is a sacrifice because it is ONE AND THE SAME OFFERING of that which Christ offered on the Altar of the Cross. It provides the forgiveness of sins that is mentioned in the Book of Common Prayer in the words of Invocation. Sins can be forgiven because of what the sacrifice accomplishes. It is effectual to the forgiveness of sins because of what it is, ie, the offering of Christ. It is indeed an offering of praise and thanksgiving but it is more than that as well. It is the memorial offering of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. A careful exegetical look at the texts, particularly Luke and Paul in Corinthians, speaks of the Eucharist having these sacrificial overtones. The Sacrifice of Christ that 'naturally' ocurred at Calvary, which was outside the city, is the consummation of the covenantal death of Christ that was inaugurated at the Last Supper. He offered himself in the rite during the 'Maundy Thursday' offering as he spoke the words of institution. At that point, Jesus was covenantally dead, so to speak, and the suffering that lead to his ultimate death was the pinnacle and proof of the love and judgment of God offered at the same time. Below are Paul Owen's thoughts.
There are two texts in the New Testament which encourage us to think of the Eucharist as a sacrifice of some fashion:

1. 1 Corinthians 10:14-22. This passage is plainly speaking of the Eucharist. In it he makes a number of claims:
Verse 16: The cup and the bread are instruments whereby we have an actual koinonia with the blood and body of Christ. When we drink the cup and eat the bread, we are feeding on the body and blood of Christ.

Verse 17: By partaking of the bread, we are made one body with Christ and one another. This is because the one Christ is fed upon by each member of the body in the Lord’s Supper. His dwelling within us by the sacrament is the basis of our mystical unity (cf. John 17:23).

Verse 18: Paul compares the Church’s participation in the Eucharist with the sacrifices of Israel. He uses the Mosaic sacrifices to establish a point about the Eucharist. The argument would not work did he not understand the Eucharist as a sacrifice.

Verse 20: The Gentiles, by contrast, do not offer sacrifice to God. This means that Christians do offer such sacrifice. Otherwise, what is the point of the contrast?

But what sort of sacrifice should we understand the Eucharist to be? Is it a propitiatory sin offering, re-presenting in a non-bloody manner the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross? Or should it be understood as a peace offering, in which we enjoy fellowship with our Lord as we express to him our thanksgiving by offering to God the consecrated sacramental signs of his body and blood?

2. Paul does not address this question, but the author of the book of Hebrews (most likely Silas in my opinion) may give us a hint. He writes in Hebrews 13:10: “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.” What is this altar, which has replaced the offerings of the tabernacle, and from which believers in Christ are allowed to eat? The Jews continue to offer to God sacrifices for sin (13:11). The need for this has been removed by the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross (13:12). But there is a sacrifice which Christians continue to offer at the altar: “Therefore by him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name” (13:15).

With this in mind, it is instructive to hear the words of Invocation for the Eucharist in the Book of Common Prayer: “And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion.”
I think Dr. Owen has some great comments here and I find them quite positive towards a theological understanding of Eucharistic sacrifice. There is simply more to be said on it than here. Bringing this to the essence of sacrifice in the Eucharist Andrewes said, “Christ’s blood not only in the basin for Baptism, but in the cup for the other Sacrament. A sacrifice—so, to be slain; a propitiatory sacrifice—so, to be eaten.” Therefore does Andrewes see Christ in this light as a Passover. He is this Passover for us. All of this was for the quitting us of our sins. That is passing our sins over and transferring them to Christ, (transferendo abstulit). Therefore, the Eucharistic sacrifice is the covenant renewal and memorial offering in the rite of the liturgy.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

Let me add to this by way of comment. It is true that we are only going to get back from God what we offer Him in this rite. If we merely offer bread and wine we will receive bread and wine in return. But if we offer the flesh and blood, we will receive the flesh and blood in return; flesh and blood given for the life of the world.

4:37 pm  
Anonymous Paul Owen said...

Thanks for these comments. I've been sick for several days, and had not noticed this post. How do you reconcile your view with Article XXXI of the 39 Articles? It affirms that the offering of Christ "once made" is the only satisfaction for sin: "Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead" were (among other things) "dangerous deceits." Does this not preclude us from seeing the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice? Maybe I can learn something here. Thanks!

9:12 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Paul it makes one wonder how any of the Caroline Divines got through it then if it is interepreted in a narrow way. To say that the priest offers the One Sacrifice of Christ is not to offer a new sacrifice; what he offers is the commemorative sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins proclaiming his death (sacrificial language) until he comes again. If the Article is critical of this, then I would say the article is wrong. Thank God Anglicanism is not a "confessional" Church in the sense that Presbyterianism is! How did someone like Lancelot Andrewes, the fourth in the line of Bishops when at Winchester, get away with the following:

"The Eucharist ever was, and by us is considered, both as a Sacrament, and as a Sacrifice. A Sacrifice is proper and applicable only to divine worship. The Sacrifice of Christ’s death did succeed to the Sacrifices of the Old Testament. The Sacrifice of Christ’s death is available for present, absent, living, dead, (yea, for them that are yet unborn.) When we say the dead, we mean it is available for the Apostles, Martyrs, and Confessors, and all (because we are all members of one body:) these no man will deny. In a word we hold with Saint Augustine in the very same chapter which the Cardinal citeth, as far as this Sacrifice of the flesh and blood, before Christ’s coming, by means of the likeness of the repayment that was promised; according to the suffering of Christ, by means of the true sacrifice of himself being handed over; after Christ’s coming [ascension], by means of the memorial celebrated in the Sacrament."

The problem is that there is just too little said in the Article to make a stink over this when the Church of England taught such doctrines from the likes of Andrewes and his other followers in the Caroline period. I think what the Article is referencing is bought masses. A lot hinges on the terminology of "commonly said."

9:30 pm  
Anonymous Paul Owen said...

Thanks Jeff. I understand that you are not saying that Christ is being re-sacrificed every time the Mass is celebrated. Rather, the once-for-all sacrifice is being offered anew in the Eucharist. Did Andrewes (or any of the Caroline Divines) directly comment on the meaning of Article XXXI in any of his works which you have consulted? I'm just wondering if, in the original setting of the framing of this article, whether the idea of the Mass being a re-presentation of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ was not being intentionally excluded. Would Cranmer allow for the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice? I'm new to these issues, so I'm honestly wondering aloud. I haven't studied these matters as you have. I'm still learning! :-)

4:01 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

As far as Cranmer is concerned, no he would not speak of a propitiatory offering. He would have followed Bucer's sacrificial offering of praise and thanksgiving. Though we do find his use of sacrificial language in the BCP. I would think if he wasn't sitting on the fence, he was surely leaning against it.

Funny, I haven't seen the Articles really mentioned by Andrewes at all.

5:01 pm  

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