Sunday, June 04, 2006

Whitsun: Lancelot Andrewes

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A sermon before the King’s Majesty, at Greenwich, on the Nineteenth of May, A.D. MDCXVI, being Whit-Sunday.

Text: John 20.22

Andrewes begins by stating that it is baptism that makes us Christians. That is the service or performance of that rite brings about the change in covenant status. Andrewes seems to draw a close parallel between baptism and penance when he says,
This of breath comes after it; this serves to make them, as I may say, Christian-makers; such, whose ministry Christ would use to make Christians; make them, and keep them; make them so by baptism, and keep them so by the power of the keys here given them in the next words, for the remission of sins.
As Andrewes explains the giving of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son a Patre Filioque, he gives an explanation of what he understands as the relationship of symbolum and the thing that is to be signified in the sign. The two need be close enough as to rightly communicate the reality of what the sign signifies and hence communicates to the recipient. “It is required in a sign, that choice be made of such a a one, as near as may be, as may best suit and serve to express that is conferred by it.” Andrewes is referring here to the Holy Ghost and the breath of Christ and how the Spirit is the sign of Christ’s breathing. The point here is that Andrewes sees the importance of the union of the sign and the thing signified to be so united where as one speaks of the sign and the thing signified as one of the same thing. It is in this context that Andrewes shows how it is proper for the Church to speak of the Holy Ghost coming from both the Father and the Son. But one will take note when reading Andrewes that he shows the same union when speaking of the sacraments. One such example of this is a reference that Andrewes makes in this sermon as to the nature of the Eucharist in receiving the body of Christ and the nature of the breath and receiving the Spirit of Christ. Showing that it is not necessary for the bread to be changed into the body of Christ Andrewes says,
Yet was not the substance of His breath transubstantiate into that of the Holy Ghost—none hath ever imagined that—yet said He truly, Accipite Spiritum; [receive the Spirit] and no less truly in another place, Accipite corpus. Truly said by Him, and received by them in both. And no more need the bread should be changed into His body in that, than His breath into the Holy Ghost in this. No, though it be a Sacrament, (for with them both are so) yet as all confess, both truly said, truly given, and truly received, and in the same sense without any difference at all. This for them.
The mystery of the Eucharist is tied up with the mystery of receiving the Spirit. Receiving the Spirit is receiving Him within us as someone outside of us. It is not educate e, but inducata in according to Andrewes. The Eucharist is something that we receive not necessarily conceive. Just as we do not see the Spirit so also we do not conceive of a necessary change in the elements in order for there exists a real and true receiving of the body. It is spoken by divine fiat by Christ much like creation itself. This is how I see Andrewes possibly connecting the two without denying a true receiving of Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharistic presence is something too mysterious to conceive and is rather received.

The grace that is given to men is the Spirit of grace that is received in many forms for the good of the Church. This particular grace within the present passage is not a grace of a saving effect but a grace of office as Apostle to forgive sins. Andrewes clearly was not a Donatist in his view of the office and the validity of that office even within a man who hath not saving grace. Though it is long, it is worth it to read. He says,
So here, it is no internal quality infused, but the grace only of their spiritual and sacred function. Good it were, and much to be wished, they were holy and leanred all; but if they be not, their office holds good though. He that is a sinner himself, may remit sins for all that, and save others he may, though himself be not saved; for it was not propter se he received this power, to absolve himself, but, as the next word is, quorumcunque, any others whosoever…For an error it is, and old worn error of the Donatists; and but new dressed over by some fanatical spirits in our days, that teach in corners: one that is not himself inwardly holy, cannot be the means of holiness to another. And where they dare too, that: One that is not in a state of grace, can have no right to any possession or place. For they of right belong to none, but to the true children of God’ that is, to none but to themselves. Fond, ignorant men! For hath not the Church long since defined it positively, that the baptism of Peter gave was no better than that which Judas; and exemplified it, that a seal of iron will give as perfect a stamp, as one of gold? That as the carpenters that built the ark wherein Noah was saved, were themselves drowned in the flood; that as the water of baptism that sends the child to Heaven, is itself cast down the kennel; semblably is it with these: and they that by the word, the Sacraments, the keys, are unto other the conduits of grace, to make them fructify in all good works, may well so be, though themselves remain unfruitful, as do the pipes of wood or lead, that by transmitting the waters make the garden to bear any. And let that content us, that what is here received, for us it is received; that what is given them, is given them for us, and is given us by them. Sever the office from the men; leave the men to God to whom they stand or fall; let the ordinance of God stand fast. This breath, though not into them for themselves, yet goeth into and through every act of their office or ministry, and by them conveyeth His saving grace into us all.
Not all men receive this gift of the Spirit as has already been said that there are a variety of spiritual gifts that are received but not by all. So, how does the Church all receive the same Spirit? Accipite corpus meum. ‘Receive my body.’ To receive the body of Christ is to receive the Spirit of Christ.

For Accipite corpus, upon the matter, is Accipite Spiritum, inasmuch as they two never part, not possible to sever them one minute. Thus, when or to whom we say Accipite corpus, we may safely say with the same breath Accipite Spiritum; and as truly every way. For that body is never without this Spirit: he that receives the one, receives the other; he that the body, together with it the Spirit also.

What benefit does this bring since it obviously is not a receiving so that we remit the sins of others? It is for the forgiveness of our own sins. “Now whether is the better, remission of sins, to be able to remit to others, or to have our own remitted? To have our own, no doubt.” According to Andrewes, the benefit of the Spirit received in the Eucharist is
To the stablishing of our hearts with grace, to the cleansing and quieting our consciences. Which spiritual grace we receive in this spiritual food, and are made to drink (I will not say “the spiritual rock,” but) of the spiritual “vine” that followeth us, which “vine” is Christ. To that then let us apply ourselves. Both are received, both are holy, both cooperate to the “remission of sins.” The “body”—Matthew the twenty-sixth. The Spirit, here evidently. And there is no better way of celebrating the feast of the receiving the Holy Ghost than so to do, with receiving the same body that came of It at His birth, and that came from It now at His rising again. And so receiving it, He that breathed, and He that was breathed, both of Them vouchsafe to breathe into those holy mysteries a Divine power and virtue, and make them to us the bread of life, and the cup of salvation; God the Father also sending His blessing upon them, that they may be is blessed means of this thrice-blessed effect!


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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

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