Thursday, May 18, 2006

APA/REC Joint Statement on the Eucharist and a Question

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I have very many friends in the US who are a part of these two bodies. I have a question about a joint statement signed in reference to the propitiatory character of the Eucharist. In their statement they say,
It is also affirmed that the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, was instituted by Christ to be a true partaking of his Body and Blood, a sacrament of our spiritual nourishment and growth in him, and a pledge of our communion with him and with each other as members of his mystical body. There is but one sacrifice for sin--the "one oblation of [Christ] once offered" upon the Cross. This one offering is the perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Thus, the Eucharist cannot be said to be a propitiatory sacrifice to the God the Father. Finally, the medieval doctrine of transubstantiation, as stated in Article XXVIII, "cannot be proved by Holy Writ"; nor can any dogmatic definition comprehend the mystery of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The mystery of the Real Presence can only be affirmed by faith.
Now, the question pertains to the many Anglican divines who would have stated otherwise in reference to their theology of the nature of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Particularly Andrewes but one finds his teaching on this in the writings of Laud, Montague, Forbes, Bramhall, early Cosin, Taylor, Thorndike, Johnson and I need not mention the Oxford Movement. Within the scope of these divines and their view to Eucharistic Sacrifice, is it to be out of accord with this statement to see ANY propitiatory qualities of the Eucharistic offering?

After showing the number of different ways that we come to Christ, Andrewes’ final way was the way of repentance. He connects this repentance and coming to the Eucharist. Coming to Christ in repentance is coming to Christ in the Eucharist and receiving Him. Andrewes explains this by referring to Christ as panis vitae. He states that,
By repentance, as Luke, chapter fifteen, I will go to my Father. But Christ receiveth none of these, but that we come to him as he is panis vitae; when we come to Christ, as he offers himself in the Sacrament to be the lively food of our souls; when we come to the same, and doe it in remembrance of his death. And there is reason why both we should come to Christ, and he should receive us comming.
It is at this point that Andrewes communicates one of the aspects of his understanding of seeing the Eucharist as a Sacrifice. Not only do we find his understanding to be a memorial offering of Christ to God but it is specifically coming to offer so that sins can be forgiven. Andrewes unites the one oblation of Christ at Calvary to the coming to Christ in the Eucharist as a renewal of that offering. The propitiatory nature of the offering is that we come to Christ and receive Him so that the judgment due from our sins may be ‘passed over.’ Note the language in this paragraph.
First, there is reason we should come to Christ, in regard of our sinnes already past: For we have need of a Sacrifice, both in respect of the grinding and upbraiding of our consciences for the sinnes we have committed, and by reason of the punishment we have deserved by them. This sacrifice we are put in minde of in this Sacrament, that Christ hath offered himself to God an oblation and sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour, wherein we have planted in our hearts the passive grace of God, for the quieting of our consciences against sinnes past, by the taking of the cup of Salvation makes us say, Return into thy rest O my soul, Psalm the hundred and sixteen; and for the turning away of deserved punishment, as the blood of the Paschal Lamb sprinkled upon the dores, saved the Israelites, from destroying, Exodus the twelfth chapter. So in this true passover we receive the blood of the immaculate Lamb Christ, to assure us of peace with God, and to deliver us from the destroying Angel. As the Heathen had their Altar, whereupon they offered to their gods; so we have an Altar, that is, the Lords Table, where we celebrate the remembrance of that oblation once made by Christ, Hebrews the thirteenth chapter and the twelfth verse.
What is undoubtedly clear in this paragraph is Andrewes’ uniting of the historical act of Christ’s oblation with the offering and need of offering of Christ in this Sacrament so that we may know that we experience anew the forgiveness of our sins by the drinking of the blood of Christ. The propitiatory nature of it comes in the next clause following the instrumental nature of the Cup of Salvation that turns God away from administering the punishment we deserve for our sins. Therefore, the Eucharist is a ‘Passover’ where we receive the blood of the immaculate Lamb Christ that not only makes us right with God but assures us of our actual peace with God by our receiving of the blood of Christ. One then sees Andrewes showing forth the connection of the heathen who has altars and the Christian who has not only an Altar where to make the offering but which is also the Table where we receive back what we have offered as our food for life. Yet this offering is not a new offering as the Fathers were clear to communicate but was united to that one oblation of Christ at Calvary in such a way as to make that act effectual for us in the present.

So, we see that the Eucharistic offering is given for the forgiveness of sins. It is also given as a means to help us ward off any future sins that we may be tempted to commit. It therefore provides the necessary fruits that enable us the grace not to sin when we come with the faith, hope and love that faith in the one oblation of Christ seals in our hearts. The Eucharist is the means by which the active grace of God works within us. We are enabled by the grace in the Sacrament to resist sins. Andrewes explains this in the following way:
In respect of sinne to come likewise, we have need to come to Christ; for thereby there is wrought in us active grace, whereby we are enabled to resist sinne: For the endowing of our souls with much strength, Psalm the hundred and thirtieth eighth, and with much power from above, is here performed unto us that come aright, Luke the twenty fourth chapter: And therefore the Apostle would have us to stablish our hearts with grace, the spirituall food, and not with meat, Hebrews the thirteenth chapter: For by this means we shall be made able both to indure the conflict of sinne, and to be conquerors over Satan and own our corruptions. Thirdly, For that the eating of the flesh of Christ and the drinking of the blood, is a pledge of our rising up at the last day, the fifty fourth verse; and that after this life we which come to the Lords Supper shall be invited to the supper of the Lamb, [597/598] of which it is said, Apocalyps the nineteenth chapter and the ninth verse blessed are they which are called the Lambs Supper.
Andrewes concludes the active grace received in the Eucharist with the eschatological fruit received of the assurance of the eternity with Christ and seeing the Eucharist as a pledge of our own rising from the dead and our invitation to the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb. What Andrewes accomplishes in this sermon on the Eucharist is a holistic approach to his understanding of what Jesus meant in His Eucharistic words ‘to do this as my memorial.’

Not only do we receive Christ but in our coming we are also received by Him when we come to the Altar. Our faith is at the highest at the point of Communion because of what we hold in our hands. Here Andrewes shows that the presence of Christ inheres within the elements themselves. Here is one of the clearest places that Andrewes speaks for the objective presence of Christ in the elements that makes effectual the fruits and benefits that actually flow from it. It is here that we see the clarity of thought within his own understanding of the two-way offering that takes place within his understanding of giving and receiving in the Eucharist. We offer Christ and we receive Christ.

Would this be in opposition to the Statement?


Anonymous I'd rather not say said...

It would be if the REC/APCK statement included the word "additional"before the phrase "propitiatory sacrifice to the God the Father." The grammar and tone of the statement suggests that this is what they have in mind, but (perhaps to their credit), the statement does not actually say that.

It would have been helpful if they had included somewhere language about or participation in the one oblation of Calvary carried out eternally in the heavenly tabernacle (see Hebrews), but that is apparently too risky for them at this stage.

2:29 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

The Liturgy of St. James is filled with this language of Victim and bloodless sacrifice. One such prayer that catches my eye that Andrewes was keen to echo was the following:

O God, who through Thy great and unspeakable love didst send forth Thy only-begot-ten Son into the world, in order that He might turn back the lost sheep, turn not away us sinners, laying hold of Thee by this dread and bloodless sacrifice; for we trust not in our own righteousness, but in Thy good mercy, by which Thou purchasest our race.

We entreat and beseech Thy goodness that it may not be for condemnation to Thy people that this mystery for salvation has been administered by us, but for remission of sins, for renewal of souls and bodies, for the well-pleasing of Thee, God and Father, in the mercy and love of Thy only-begotten Son, with whom Thou art blessed, together with Thy all-holy and good and quickening Spirit, now and always, and for ever.

4:01 pm  
Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

'I'd rather not say',

I think you mean APA/REC, not REC/APCK.

7:53 am  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

Statements of consensus are typically ambiguous on issues of controversy between parties. I happen to know that the author of this part of the APA/REC statement intended to leave the issue of just how the eucharist is a sacrifice unresolved and open to further discussion.

"I'd rather not say"'s comment is very observant, apart from confusion on the APA/APCK.

6:23 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks Dan. But the issue of whether or not it is propitiatory does not seem to be ambiguous at all or am I not reading enough ambiguity into it? ;-)

8:28 am  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

If you would, please define your terms. What do YOU mean when you say that the eucharist is propitiatory? Do you mean that through the eucharist we receive forgiveness for sins? Or something more?

9:06 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Let me quickly state things this way though it is taking an entire chapter to discuss what I am about to say in a few sentences. First of all, the latreutic signification of the Eucharistic offering has within itself an intrinsic essence of propitiatory force as a result of the union of the offering of the Church with the ONE offering of Christ at Calvary. It is not merely one of impetration but is none other than that of the Passion. This is because therein is offered to God the everliving Victim of the Passion. Therefore this gives us both the reality and the sign.

Much of this is said in the words of Andrewes and the liturgy of St. James that I also have quoted from in another entry. Yet this immolation is not a 'real' immolation of Christ but symbolic. It is very important that we not go to extremes either way in this as this was the problem in the medieval Church.

11:40 am  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

Well, again, I'm not sure how you're using your terms. I know that Cosin used the language of propitiation to describe the benefits of the eucharist, but (at least in my reading of him) he distinctly meant the benefits of receiving communion, namely the forgiveness of sins. That being said, I think I recall Calvin arguing something similar.

If you are suggesting that the immolation of Christ is symbolic are you also saying that it is therefore not propitiatory? (while the benefits received in partaking are propitiatory).

8:15 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

This is one of the confusions of our times that when the early Church spoke of symbol that it somehow meant an image of something absent. Symbolon for the early Father or for Andrewes did not have that connotation. To say something is sacramental or symbolic is to not say it is not real. The Sacrifice of the Eucharist is propitiatory because there is a real Victim immolated though the oblation is not a bloody one. What I mean by symbolic and what the early Fathers meant by symbolic was not to deny propitiatory but to deny what could be termed a 'natural' sacrifice. The propitiatory effect of the Eucharist derives its force from the Passion and since its force comes from the union with that One offering it is propitiatory for the forgiveness of sins and it is reconciliatory. It puts the broken relationship due to sin together again.

9:08 pm  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

Indeed, I'm pleased to see you were paying attention in class with regard to the patristic understanding of symbol.;-)

Nevertheless I'm still confused as to your use of terms. "Immolation" and to "oblation" are two related, but distinct moments in sacrifice. To "immolate" is to kill or destroy; to "oblate" is to offer, present or give.

11:53 pm  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

(I sent the last comment before I was finished.)

Question: Are you suggesting that the priest symbolically immolates Christ? Or that he offers (oblates) symbolically the Christ who is immolated? Or something else entirely?

11:56 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Dan, sorry to be pants on getting back to your question and I'll have to be brief. The immolatus happens sacramentally and not naturally though really and is offered by the priest alone and the oblatus occurs by impetration within the entirety of the Rite and is offered by both priest and people. Interestingly, you find Laud spelling this out more clearly as he discussed the threefold offering of the Church in the Rite. Does that make sense?

Keep in mind that the immolatus of the Eucharistic offering and that done at Calvary are not different offerings but the one and same offering given by memorial to the Father. That is at least how the Fathers spoke of it and specifically the language of Chrysostom.

11:13 am  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

Would love for you to provide the quote from Laud. Perhaps in one of your future entries.

As I was doing my research, particularly in my reading of Johnson, it occured to me that the issue was not "when" something happened in the rite but rather "where" that something is expressed.

Johnson appreciated this because, being an established churchman, he was bound to use what he undoubtedly considered a rite that was deficient in its expression (1662) while nonetheless valid in its effect.

All this to say that I appreciate your statement that oblation occurs within the entirety of the rite. So the question of "when" it occurs is inconsequential. However, the question of "where" is it expressed (formally speaking) is still relevant, and speaks to the issue of the whole logic of the Eucharistic rite.

The Non-Jurors, and the American Church that adopted their outline, answered that question by naming the anamnesis paragraph "the prayer of oblation."

So going back to immolation, where do you see this expressed as a sacramental action within the Eucharistic rite?

5:28 pm  
Blogger Father Chad said...

Dear Jeff:

Praised be Jesus Christ!

I absolutely love your blog - please keep posting.

I offer today my thoughts on the subject of the Eucharistic Sacrifice from the perspective of the APA on my own blog: please visit


God bless you!

Father Chandler Holder Jones, SSC

9:02 pm  

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