surviving medieval glass
from Farrington Church
As to the first objection, contemporary Catholic theology first and foremost locates the Eucharist as a participation in the one eternal sacrifice of Christ offered on the Cross at Calvary. It further ties the concept of the Eucharistic sacrifice into the meal sacrifice or communion sacrifice tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures where the participants received back from the Temple priests a portion of the sacrificial lamb on which to dine themselves as a mystical sharing of the meal with God to whom the lamb had been offered. The Passover meal was one example of such a communion sacrifice and the concept of a communion sacrifice was a living part of the Tradition and Spirituality of his own faith of which Jesus would have been aware in instituting the Eucharist. In other words, the Jesus of the Christian scriptures would have consciously intended this meal of commemoration of his Death to be such a “communion sacrifice” in the tradition of the Passover and other such sacrificial meals. (The Passover meal was not the only such communion sacrifice in Temple Judaism.) In “proclaiming the Lord’s Death until he comes again,” (I Corinthians 11:26) we share in such a communion sacrifice by which we feast on the Lamb that was slain on the Cross. Unfortunately for the heirs of Luther and Calvin and Cranmer and Zwingli, the level of biblical scholarship we have today that has let us recover these scriptural roots of the Eucharistic Sacrifice was not available to the Reformers—or to their Catholic contemporaries. The Catholic Church (and the Orthodox) had received this inheritance of Eucharistic Sacrifice from the ancient Church sources but had lost the rationale for it and could not defend it or dialogue about it with the Reformers and so it was lost in the Reformation tradition.
Had sixteenth-century Catholicism maintained the scriptural roots of patristic theology, the second problem—the exaggerated notion of Eucharistic sacrifice in which each Mass was seen as a new and unique Sacrifice of Christ to the Father—would not have been problematic. The loss of the patristic heritage and its replacement with Scholastic Theology in the thirteenth and subsequent centuries created an appalling mystique to the Mass where it was claimed that Christ died anew and again day after day upon the altars. This stands in total contradiction to the scriptures where we are told that Christ died once for all (1 Peter 3:18; Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:28). Each Mass was seen to be in its own right a propitiatory sacrifice and each priest an Aaronic priest who offered the victim to God on behalf of the people. The priest was not seen to be a sacramental sharer in the one priesthood of the One Priest, Christ, but like the priests of the Old Law a man who approached the sacrifice in virtue of his own priesthood. (Shadows of this exaggerated—and blasphemous—claim to a particular priesthood continue to exist among some clergy today, especially those given to the pre-conciliar rites. The roots of this egoistic self-deception are psychological inadequacies that make men hide within an artificial persona that deludes them into a faux greatness that compensates for a lack of an authentic grace of knowing one’s true self in God. That is why these men usually make horrid confessors who sit in judgment rather than as channels of the compassion of Christ who was tempted in every way we are: Hebrews, 4:15.) The medieval scholastic theologians not only exaggerated the sacrificial nature of the Mass to make it repetitive of Calvary, but they invented a second sacrifice in which bread and wine were offered to God at the “offertory” of the Mass.
In the liturgical reforms of Paul VI in the 1970 Missal, the Mass was radically restructured to take away any pretense of this second sacrifice. There is no “offertory” of bread and wine, but rather a “preparation of the gifts” in which the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist. The only sacrifice is the sharing in the One Eternal Sacrifice of Calvary as we “proclaim the Death of the Lord until he comes in glory.” This is the major objection of those who challenge the 1970 Missal. There is a clear break here with the 1962 and earlier Missals that follow the 1570 liturgical revisions of Pius V, and indeed many of the medieval rites that had developed and on which Pius V based his reforms after the Council of Trent. And this is precisely where we see claims to a “hermeneutic of continuity” in the liturgy to be unsupported by fact. I agree with those who claim that the Novus Ordo represents a break with the past: the 1570 and 1970 Missals have very different theologies of Eucharistic Sacrifice. Where I disagree with them is that it is very clear to me that it is the 1570 Missal, not the 1970 Rite, that deviates from the Apostolic (and patristic) Tradition.
In any event, it was not this theological shift away from Sacrifice but the more visible changes that caused the negative reaction to Cranmer’s Prayer Book. There was great dissatisfaction in the Northern regions of England, in particular Yorkshire, where religious sentiments were more conservative. Rebellions broke out in Devon, East Anglia, and Cornwall where the rebels referred to the new liturgy as “a Christmas game,” the sort of thing of people playing at Mass. So much of what people counted on for practical devotions—ashes, palms, holy water, images of the saints, saints’ feast days and stories—were being swept away. Statues were being removed from the churches, paintings whitewashed over and stained glass being smashed. Holidays and festivals associated with the saints were now common workdays. What was one to do in a lightning storm if there was no Holy Water with which to sprinkle the house? Also the local peculiarities of rite—given the diversity of liturgical usages in pre-Reformation England—which gave people a pride in doing things “their way,” were abolished in favor of this uniform Prayer Book Rite. The commercial centers—London and Norwich in particular—and Kent in South-east England were more open to the changes, but these were areas that would prove to be won over to the Protestant cause as the Reformation developed. A deep split was developing between the rural and urban populations with the former resisting the religious changes and the latter championing them. The same split could be seen with the middle class and the new rich favoring Protestantism and the “old blood” clinging to the old religion. It created a certain amount of political instability and indeed the King’s uncle, Edward Seymour—now Duke of Somerset—would fall from power in 1549 (the same year as the new prayerbook) and later (1552) be tried for treason and executed. The Reform party would remain in power, however, as the boy King was not only an ardent Protestant but a rabid-anti-Catholic. Cranmer retained his power and he would continue to push for ever more extreme changes in the Church.