Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXXI

An English Parish Church

the "Wool Church" of

I am sorry that the last few days I did postings but hadn’t included the usual photo.  The photos are, for the most part, only decorative but I do like to add them and sometimes they even illustrate a point.  The problem is that I usually write and post in my office (where I have access to my library)  but most of my photo collection is on my home computer.  So I have added photos for the last two postings—and they illustrate various points that I wrote about—and will try not to let the lapse between the posting proper and the illustration happen again. 
Well back to Cranmer’s 1552 Prayer Book.   Archbishop Cranmer included in his book 42 “Articles of Religion” which set forth and clarified several points of doctrine for the Church of England.  (In later books they were reduced to 39 Articles.)  Many of these articles reaffirm the ancient faith of the Church in the Holy Trinity, in the two natures of Christ, in the Virgin Birth, in the Resurrection of Christ, of Original Sin, and other doctrines on which Catholic and Anglicans were then and still are agreed.  There are articles where at the time there were thought to be differences between the Reformers and Catholics but which have now been, at least to some degree, resolved such as Justification by Faith and the necessity of grace.  However, there were also articles which clearly delineated the newly Reformed faith from the Catholic faith of the centuries previous.   Cranmer denied the doctrines of purgatory and the invocation of the Saints as well as the use of relics and images.  But I want to post three of his articles as they come down to us in the Anglican tradition. 

XXV. Of the sacraments.
Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.
There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

XXXI. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

We can see in these articles a very clear break with Catholic belief and practice.  These articles, in a somewhat revised but no less Protestant form, stand today in contemporary Anglicanism and in most Churches of the Anglican Communion, a priest must swear assent to them before ordination.  One priest of whom I read said: “I swear assent to the Articles of Religion as I might swear assent to the Oxford Gas Works.  I am aware of their existence and am not, at the current time, engaged in any activity for their destruction, but that does not mean that I approve of them.”  Such mental gymnastics aside, we can see how Cranmer’s Reform of the Church of England laid the foundation for centuries of division.  Any story of a “hermeneutic of continuity” with the pre-Reformation Church of England in doctrine or practice is obviously a fable. 
Frederic William Maitland, the noted English jurist and historian, satirized his contemporary, William Stubbs, Bishop of Oxford and Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, by saying that Stubbs (and other High Churchmen) would have “England as Protestant before the Reformation and Catholic afterward.”  We have seen that prior to the Reformation the Church of England had its own distinct character within the Roman Communion, but it is clear that whatever continuity with its Catholic faith once existed and which might later be repaired, was clearly and cleanly snapped by Archbishop Cranmer.   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXX

The choir of Salisbury Cathedral.  In this
sort of space, Cranmer wanted the
communion tables positioned lengthwise. 
When a Catholic enters an Anglican or Episcopalian church today, one often feels very much at home.  And when attending an Anglican Eucharist, a Catholic finds himself or herself very familiar with the Liturgy.  There seem to be few differences.  For the most part, the vestments are the same.  The altar is arranged in the same manner. We are all familiar with the Epistle and the Gospel and Gloria and the Sanctus.  Anglicans and Episcopalians generally kneel at a rail to receive Holy Communion, but that might be the most noticeable variation.   Of course, if one attends a particularly “High Church” Liturgy it might seem like going back before Vatican II with the priest celebrating with his back to the congregation.  Or should one find that rare gem—an evangelical Anglican Church such as Saint Helen’s Bishopsgate—you might think you were at the Four Square Bible fellowship.  But for the most part the continuity between the Anglican Church and its Catholic roots seems more than obvious.  But you can’t judge by appearances.  Most of the Catholic trappings were introduced into Anglicanism in the nineteenth century as a result of the Romantic revival in which a passion for things medieval swept away centuries of tradition. 
If you go to George Washington’s Pohick Church in Fairfax Virginia  or Bruton Parish Church in colonial Williamsburg—or Saint Helen’s Bishopsgate in London—you will get a taste of 18th century Anglicanism and see just how Protestant those Episcopalians used to be.  For the most part they don’t like to be reminded of it—which is a pity because there are elements in the Anglican tradition that are marvelously rich in theology and, in particular, in prayer.
We have seen that Cranmer’s 1549 Prayer Book left much of the Catholic trappings intact.  Cranmer’s foe, the orthodox (but schismatic) Stephen Gardiner went so far as to say that the 1549 liturgy was “patient” of a Catholic reading—that is, that there had been sufficient material retained from earlier rites that a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist could be found in the work.  In fact, it was an ambiguous work.  Yes, there were elements that seemed to speak of the Real Presence. And while all reference to Sacrifice had been deleted from the revised Canon (or Prayer of Consecration), overall there was still some impression that the Mass (the 1549 Book still used the term) was something of a sacrifice.  But Cranmer never intended his 1549 liturgy to be the definitive  Liturgy of the Church of England.  It was meant to be a stop-gap measure that would break the hold of the Traditional Rites (England had at least four distinct Rites and the Roman was not one of them) before introducing a far more Protestant liturgy.  Egged on by such Continental Reformers as Peter Martyr Vermigli and Martin Bucer, Cranmer had begun preparing a new and far more extreme book that was published in 1552. 
In the meantime, stone altars had been replaced by wooden communion tables and images of Christ, Mary and the Saints had been removed from the churches.  The 1552 book directed that the “table” be placed, not in what had been the presbyterium or sanctuary of the churches, but in the choir or in the nave.  (The choir is that space in Anglican, Lutheran and some Catholic Churches—mostly in Europe—between the nave and the sanctuary where “stalls” (or seats) for the clergy and male choristers are arranged not facing the altar, but facing each other to facilitate the antiphonal singing of the psalms.  In North America we tend to see such an arrangement only in abbeys, some cathedrals, and the chapels of some religious communities.)  Cranmer wanted the communion table positioned in the center aisle of the choir lengthwise and directed that the priest should stand on the north side—that is on the left long side of the table.  In this position he would be facing those gathered in the seats on the south side, while those seated on the north side would have his back.  What Cranmer did not want was for the priest to be standing in such a position where the congregation—or at least half of them—could not clearly see him as he said the Prayer of Consecration over the gifts.  The table was to be covered with a “fayre white lynnen clothe;” no mention was made of cross or candles.  Crosses and crucifixes had been done away with; candles could be use if needed for light but not for devotion.
Moreover, with the 1552 Prayer Book, the priest was no longer to wear the alb with cope or chasuble, but only the surplice over his black gown.  Bishops did not wear the surplice but the rochet—a white linen gown with voluminous sleeves like the surplice, but longer and with the sleeves gathered in cuffs.  As somewhat of a conceit, academic regalia—the hood, the tippet (scarf), and for bishops the chimere were added to the prescribed dress.  (Academic types are always anxious to play the peacock and show off their academic accouterments.) 
The book directed that
And to take away the supersticion, whiche any person hothe, or myghte have in the bread and wyne, it shall suffyse that the bread bee such, as is usuall to bee eaten at the Table wyth other meates, but the best and purest wheate bread, that conveniently maye be gotten. And yf any of the bread or wine remayne, the Curate shal have it to hys owne use.
The bread was ordinary table bread—of the best quality available, but ordinary bread and what was left over was returned to ordinary use.  The wine—and it was wine, not grape-juice—was no longer in chalices made of precious metal but in cups (or, for large congregations, flagons) made of pewter or tin.  There was a great pedestrianization of the Liturgy.  There was almost no vernacular music to replace the medieval chants though composers such as Byrd and Tallis (both Catholics) would eventually write music of the highest caliber for the Anglican services.  Of course, it takes trained choirs to perform their work—not your typical parish singers and so only in Cathedrals could one find that level of music.  The Cranmer liturgies were dreadfully devoid of any beauty except for one factor: their use of the English language.  Other than Shakespeare, Thomas Cranmer was probably the finest craftsman of the English tongue that has been known.  His prayers—both original compositions and his translation of older prayers from the medieval liturgical books—are exquisite in their beauty. 
What were the effects of Cranmer’s reforms?  Well, in the first place it would take Anglicanism several centuries to recover the aesthetics of worship.  Up through the early nineteenth century, Anglican worship was devoid of any architectural, artistic, or musical richness.  (The Cathedral churches with their choral offices being the exception, at least as regards music.) The liturgy was top-heavy with words—glorious in their composition but relentless in their loquacity.  Going to church was to be bombarded with words and even the best of words are given to monotony when repeated incessantly week after week.  However, the English were never known for the sophistication of the French or the sensuality of the Italians, and the urban professional and business classes embraced the reformed religion.  They liked the moral black and white the reformed religion bespoke.  It gave them guidelines on how soberly to use their newly acquired wealth and the Prayer Book bespoke a piety that set them right before God and over and against those godless people in Spain and France who were given to rank sensuality and religious superstition.  The upper classes were somewhat divided. Many of the old families, especially in the North, discreetly remained Catholics and retained priests as tutors to their children and unofficial chaplains to their households.  The newer families, rising from the bourgeoisie into government service or even into the peerage, tended to favor the new religion, but like many of a political bent, wore all religion somewhat lightly.  The rural masses and the urban poor found themselves bewildered by the new ways.  They were not given to the theological fine points but simply wanted religion.  Where Catholicism survived, in the North and West in particular, some degree of the “old religion” survived among the common folk, but by and large the ordinary people, deprived of the religion they had known and not at home in the new ways, simply drifted away from the formal practice of religion.  To any extent they were compelled by law to attend church and receive the Sacrament, they did, but they could hardly be said to be avid churchmen. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXVIX

The High Altar at Durham Cathedral--one can see
in the Reredos the empty nitches from which
images had been removed at the Reformation and
never restored
As I had mentioned in previous posts, while Henry VIII brought England into schism, he did not bring it into heresy.   On key points of the faith Henry strictly maintained Catholic doctrine and discipline.  He affirmed the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass.  The maintained the doctrine of the invocation of Mary and Saints and the pious customs that accompanied that doctrine.  Masses and prayers continued to be offered for the dead.  Bishops were consecrated according to the ancient formulae and priests were ordained in the manner they always had been. The traditional liturgy remained in place.  Communion was in one kind only.  Celibacy was required of the clergy.  The Pope was gone, the monks were gone, but otherwise the Church remained in a position analogous to the Greek Church.  And, moreover, Henry persecuted any who deviated from Catholic orthodoxy.  The anti-lollardy laws remained in effect and dozens went to the stake for maintaining the teachings of Luther and other Continental Reformers. 
One center of the dissemination of Lutheran ideas in England in the reign of King Henry was the White Horse Tavern in Cambridge.  Leading theologians of the University met there to discuss these new ideas coming out of Germany.  This is where Thomas Cranmer was first exposed to the ideas that would lead him to champion the Protestant cause in the Church of England.  Several of the group—Robert Barnes and Thomas Bilney among others—ended up being burned at the stake.  Others such as John Bale and Myles Coverdale fled to the continent.  Still others—like Cranmer himself—remained in England, keeping their Protestant ideals to themselves and enjoying the protection of powerful friends at court.  Coverdale and Bale were not the only two proto-Protestants to flee to the Continent under Henry.  William Tyndale and John Hooper were two prominent others who fled the realm to investigate further the exciting new ideas emerging from Germany and later from Geneva.  Tyndale was to die a Protestant Martyr under Charles V in Flanders.  Hooper would go on to become a Bishop under Edward VI; and an important figure in the Reformation. 
While they were abroad these English Protestants made many friends among continental Reformers and when Edward VI came to the throne and Protestantism was in the English air, not only did the English Reformers return, but they brought with them some of the leading continental figures.  The Strasbourg Reformer, Martin Bucer; Bucer’s sidekick, Paul Fagius; the Polish Biblicist Jan Łaski (John a Lasco); and the Italian Reformer, Peter Martyr Vermigli were among the more distinguished Reformers seeking to advance the Protestant cause in England. 
Cranmer welcomed these men to England and sought their support for the Reform (read: Protestantization) of the English Church, but at the same time their presence placed him in a bind.  The Continental Reformers and their English disciples were anxious for far more drastic action than Cranmer had laid out in the 1549 Prayerbook and more radical than the politics of the Court would allow.   By this point, Luther and his fairly conservative policies had been left in the dust by the more radical Swiss and Rhineland Reformers.  Bucer and the others were not slow in letting Cranmer know that they were disappointed in his 1549 Prayer Book and 1550 Ordinal and they pushed him to go further.  He would issue a far more drastically Protestant liturgy in a second Prayer Book in 1552 and at the same time a revised ordinal, but in the meantime the Archbishop continued to make changes that stripped the Church of England of its Catholic identity.  Stone altars were to be replaced by wooden communion tables to further clarify that the Reformed Sacrament was not a Sacrifice.  Statutes were taken down and paintings whitewashed over.  In many places the medieval glass with its scenes of scripture and the lives of the saints was smashed.  The chantry chapels where masses and prayers for the dead had been offered were destroyed. 
A particularly crucial incident happened when John Hooper was named Bishop of Gloucester in 1550.  Hooper had spent time in Geneva where he had come under the influence of Zwingli and Bullinger and where church ornaments had been done completely away.  Hooper refused consecration as a bishop because the 1549 Ordinal demanded that he wear a surplice and a cope and he considered this to be papal superstition—confusing the Aaronic Priesthood of the Old Law for the Christian ministry instituted by Christ, the only Priest of the New Law.  Unfortunately to decline a nomination by the King was considered an act against the Crown and Hooper was called to the Privy Council to explain.  King Edward, a Protestant of the most base bias, was willing to forgo the point and allow Hooper to be consecrated without the required vestments, but the Privy Council—following a slower path of Reform—was not.  The issue dragged on for over a year including a debate between Hooper and Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, who—though a convinced Protestant himself—defended the vestments rubric.  Hooper finally gave in and—wearing the required vestments—was consecrated bishop on March 8, 1551.  What both Ridley (defending vestments) and Hooper (attacking vestments) agreed on was that vestments were adiaphora—a thing indifferent.  It is amazing that such indifference would cause such an uproar and cause Hooper to bear imprisonment, but it isn’t the vestments themselves but what they symbolized that was the problem.   Vestments were another sign of a sacrificing priesthood.  The outcome of this debate was the gradual disappearance of vestments from the rites of the Church of England.  Some bishops and priests wore simply a black gown when presiding at the liturgy.  Others would maintain the rochet (for bishops) or surplice (for priest and deacons) which were officially required after 1552.  The cope would be seen at the coronation service and in some cathedrals.  The chasuble was to disappear completely.  With the replacement of altars with communion tables it was clear that the Eucharist was no longer understood to be a Sacrifice.  With the gradual loss of vestments it was clear that the clergy were no longer priests. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXVIII

The High Altar at Canterbury
Sorry for the break of a few days but I have been tied up with other things.  Now let’s get back to the Church of England.  As I had put in my last post, Cranmer’s 1549 Prayer Book, while conservative in externals, betrayed a radically new theology of the Eucharist which removed any concept of sacrifice from the sacrament.  While current theologians and biblical scholars would not have been so facile in dismissing the notion of the Eucharist as Sacrifice, the level of biblical and patristic scholarship available to Cranmer and others was not nearly as nuanced as it is today.  Furthermore, Cranmer and other reformers were reacting to the grossly exaggerated notions of Eucharistic Sacrifice held by many in Catholic piety and scholastic theology in the sixteenth century. 
Cranmer’s program for reform in the Church of England was not only concerned with the Book of Common Prayer and its regular offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, the Holy Communion (The Mass), matrimony, penance, confirmation and the burial service, but in the ordination to Church ministries.  Among the Catholic liturgical books is one called a Pontificale and it deals with the ceremonies unique to bishops—ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons, consecration and or dedication of churches, and other rituals normally conducted by bishops rather than priests.  Cranmer too needed a book of Episcopal ceremonies and so in addition to the 1549 Prayer Book, he issued an Ordinal.  (An Ordinal is a type of book that contains the particulars of a Rite.  Generally speaking, it is a book that tells you which prayers are to be said and which ceremonies are to be conducted on which days, but in this case the Ordinal replaced the pre-Reformation Pontificales of the various Rites used in the Church of England in the Middle Ages.)  Consistent with his approach to the Prayer Book, Cranmer left many of the externals in place but he gutted the theological content of any reference to Sacrifice or of a proper priesthood.    What I mean by “proper priesthood” here is one that has a sacrificial character, that is, where the priest offers sacrifice.  Most of the Reform Churches on the continent had done away with the word “priest” for minister, stressing the character of the clergy to serve, but Cranmer was reluctant to do this.  Moreover, most of the continental reformers had eliminated the distinction of bishops and priests, but again Cranmer—perhaps because he was a bishop—intended to retain the threefold ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon.  And unlike the continental reformers who stressed that the primary task of a Church minister was to proclaim the Word, Cranmer made it clear that bishops were consecrated and priests ordained for the Sacraments (here meant more narrowly as Baptism and Eucharist) as well as for preaching the Word.  In fact, Cranmer’s revised rites did a very nice work in balancing Word and Sacrament while the Catholic rites had stressed sacraments to the expense of the Word. 
Of course, this was one of the things that triggered the Reformation in the first place.  The Word was not being preached and the sacraments had for the most part devolved into magical rituals.  In some respects, Cranmer’s reforms were very happy restorers of the balance.  Unfortunately, in terms of preserving the idea of the Eucharist as Sacrifice and the Bishop or Priest as having a sacerdotal character, this was deficient. 
One of the problems we have in the English language is a certain imprecision in theological language.  In Latin there are two words that one might use for a priest—Sacerdos and Presbyter.  A sacerdos is one who makes things “sacer” or sacred.   The corresponding Greek term is hieros.  A presbyter (Greek: presbuteros) is an elder.  It was borrowed by the early Christians from the synagogue governing structure where a board of presbyters (elders, presbuteroi) were the leaders of the assembly, regulating the life of the congregation, and interpreting the scriptures.  The Latin word for a bishop is episcopus (Greek episkopos) which means an overseer.  The Jerusalem Temple was served by bands of priests who inherited their title from their descent from Aaron, brother of Moses and first High Priest.  The Christian communities of the first and early second centuries were led by an episcopus assisted by deacons or by a board of presbyters assisted by deacons.  By the earliest decades of the second century these two systems coalesced into a system followed everywhere in the Christian world where the community was headed by an episcopus, assisted by his presbyteri, and his deacons.  You notice I am very careful to say presbyteri rather than priests.  That word sacerdos, priest, is reserved for Christ alone.   Christ is the only Priest of the New Covenant, but gradually in those early years of Christianity, the community of believers came to how those who lead them—episopi and presbyteri reflected in their ministries—especially their leading worship—Christ the High Priest. 
According to 1 Peter, all Christians share in the priestly office of Christ.  In the current baptismal rite of the Catholic Church this is made explicit in the prayer anointing the newly baptized with Chrism.  When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist and offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice with Christ our High Priest and when we stand with Christ our High Priest at the Throne of Grace and make intercession, we all, by virtue of our baptism, participate in Christ’s Priesthood.  But the ordained bishop and priest share in the Priesthood of Christ in a way unique to the Sacrament of Orders.  (The deacons receive Holy Order but do not share in the Priesthood of Christ in any way beyond that which was conferred on them at Baptism.)  All this, I know, sounds very complex and a bit mystical, but in fact our worship is a mystical worship, that is a sacramental worship, in which earthly signs and symbols bespeak transcendent realities.  This is what marks a difference of Catholic and Orthodox worship from that of various “Bible Churches” where worship is rather pedestrian and consists almost entirely of moral lessons drawn from the Scriptures.  Don’t get me wrong—the scripture is given us for our moral instruction, but just read the Letter to the Hebrews or the Book of Revelation to see how the worship of the Church on Earth is meant to open the eyes of the soul to the heavenly worship led by Christ our High Priest. 
The problem is that in the late Middle Ages some proposed theological ideas stretched the idea of priesthood far beyond any scriptural warrant.  Instead of the bishop or priest participating in the Priesthood of Christ the High Priest, bishops and priests were seen to be the heirs of Aaron and of the Levites.  For all practical purposes, Christ the Priest was removed from the theological equation.  Cranmer was anxious to correct this abuse but he lacked the historical and theological sophistication—as did most of his contemporaries—to strike the right balance.  As a result, the theological constructs in his Ordinal were flawed.
What must be kept in mind in this whole matter is that Thomas Cranmer—who is not one of my favorite people, Diarmud MacCulloch’s biography notwithstanding—intended to do what he sincerely believed Christ had meant for the Church to do in selecting people and setting them apart for ordained ministry.  Unfortunately the Catholic Church would come to look on his ordinals—he prepared a second one in 1552—as flawed and consequently the rites to be a break in the Apostolic Tradition.  That is a very complex question and we will look at it over time from several different perspectives.