This was a formative essay which I share here as much for my own ease of reference as to demonstrate my writing. In places it was rushed, and it was criticised for overly focusing on the primary material without sufficient recourse to the secondary literature. However, the personal significance of this essay should not be underestimated. It was during the writing of this piece, and the ensuing time spent examining the texts of the varying liturgies, that an academic love for Liturgy was kindled. I would go on to write my thesis on the liturgical references to Angels within Common Worship. Liturgy continues to be an area of interest for me and so I present this essay here in the hope of capturing something of that moment. I would suggest that the themes are true, but any students chancing upon this would be well served to follow up the sources in the bibliography for themselves.
The Eucharistic Sacramentalities of the Prayer books of 1549, 1552 and 1662.
The Prayer book of 1549
The Thanksgiving Prayer
The Prayer Book of 1552
Prayer of Humble Access
The Book of Common Prayer – 1662.
Liturgy, as a theological discipline, is perhaps a frequently underestimated and underrated field when, upon anything more than a cursory glance, it could well be argued to be living embodiment of all other theology; the tradition of the worshipping life of the church through the ages. Both the liturgies themselves and the scholarship which surrounds them are intimately entangled with questions of doctrinal orthodoxy, the developments of church history, and how to read and understand the scriptures. Even when the lens is focused on one area such as the Eucharist there are several different aspects which are once again all intimately entangled. There are questions of the historical and political context which shapes the responses and thus advancements of the liturgical shape of the rite. There are philosophical questions of time and space and ontology, particularly with the question of transubstantiation as a means of maintaining the real presence of Christ, which in turn leads to questions of Christology and atonement. With Luther we may ask what Jesus meant in the scriptures when he said ‘This is my body’. There are questions surrounding the importance of anamnesis and epiclesis, and at what stage during the rite should they occur. Limiting the scope of these questions, as we must, to the prayer books of 1549, 1552 and 1662 is rather like electing to look at only three paintings of comparable scenes in an art gallery. The artists/authors are varied; the symbolism and composition create perhaps deceptively similar yet significantly distinct results. For the purposes of this essay the rich and complex political and theological contexts of the reformations and royal successions, which undoubtedly impacted upon Cranmer and others at the time, would broaden the scope of the piece in such a way as to diminish the ability to investigate the eucharistic sacramentality of the prayer books. Instead of presenting an historical framework as a controlling lens or filter through which to interpret the theological movements and distinctions of the separate prayer books, the intention will be to examine each one and to tease out something of the key features before then comparing first 1549 and 1552, the Cranmerian ones, as it were, and then comparing 1662 to both 1549 and 1552.
Whilst avoiding historical metanarratives in the main, each prayer book has its own inherent historical drama to a greater or lesser extent. As such it would be prudent to summarise something of their individual histories before making observations first on the texts of the eucharistic services and then drawing upon the secondary materials to aid exploration of the key theme of ‘eucharistic sacramentality’, which will be predominantly concerned with the notion of ‘consecration’; namely, of what (the elements or the congregation or the faithful), when (at which point in the service it occurs) and, lastly, of what, for want of a better word, happens.
Prior to commencing the examination of 1549, it seems only fitting to briefly discover something of Thomas Cranmer, who, as Archdeacon Harrison has stated, ‘was probably the greatest liturgical scholar not only in England, but in Europe, and no Englishman in the next two hundred years possessed his knowledge’. In addition to this, he as Archbishop he was the principal architect of 1549 and 1552.
Born on the second of July in the year 1489, Thomas Cranmer was the second of three sons and also had four sisters. Following the completion of a BA, likely at Jesus College Cambridge, Cranmer was awarded a fellowship and studied Theology. This continued, albeit with a spell of absence due to a short-lived marriage, the details of which are unclear, until the mid-20s where there arose a controversy surrounding the teachings of the German reformer Luther. Bromiley suggests that everything changed for Cranmer in the summer of 1529, when the King and his almoner Fox and his secretary Gardiner came to the house he was staying in at Waltham in Essex. As a result of a conversation with Cranmer, though to what extent it was truly Cranmer’s idea is unknown, the secretary and the almoner made a suggestion to the King as to how the legal difficulties pertaining to his desire to have his marriage annulled might be eased. Rather than pursuing the lengthy course of action that had been recommended, it was suggested that the King take the opinion of the majority of the universities should be taken as final. The King reportedly favoured the idea and so began the various historical events which led to 1533, when he was appointed ‘primate of all England’. It was during his tenure as Archbishop from 1533 to 1555 that the prayerbooks of 1549 and 1552 came about.
As a Theologian engaged with developing the liturgical programme of the Church, Cranmer had several areas with which he was particularly concerned. Buchanan identifies six with relation to the Eucharist. These were:
- Whether the ‘unworthy’ participating in the sign participate in the things signified.
- The notion of in usu sacramenti; the presence of the Holy Spirit through the administration of the sacrament.
- The importance and distinction of eating the bread and wine and the remembrance which accompanied them.
- The question of where is Christ in the mediation of the sacrament.
- (For Buchanan) Having identified the former, then Cranmer ‘has no objection to realist language, so long as it is concerned with what is received by the faithful’.
- The final point relates to the concept of the eucharistic sacrifice.
There seems to be a prevailing view, espoused by Buchanan, Taylor, Kennedy and others, that Cranmer’s development of both 1549 and 1552 was intended to implement liturgical changes in a gradual manner. Indeed Bromiley describes Cranmer’s approach to the Lutheran discussion as being a measured one, not accepting it or rejecting it spuriously, instead ‘he was accustomed to weigh every side of a question, accepting new truth only after a long period of careful and deliberate reflection’.
As such as we turn to examine the texts and the liturgical features of the prayer books of 1549 and 1552 it will be important to remember that whilst there are profoundly theological concerns at stake, there’s also the question of couching these theological moves in liturgical expression which can best serve the whole church as it learns and discovered what it means to be the Church of England, no longer strictly wedded to the Roman Catholic traditions in the light of the European and English Reformations (of which these books were a part).
It would be remiss to examine the text of the rite of the Eucharist as found in the 1549 Book of Common prayer without acknowledging the political dimension, which whilst it shouldn’t dominate the discussion seems inescapable in part. The main discussion of note would be that of The Great Parliamentary Debate in 1548 concerning the Eucharist. It would appear that the main issues at hand were the question of the ‘real presence’ and was argued using both doctrine, scripture and, so some were accused, with ‘sophistry’. The value of acknowledging this is to provide an element of the context of the society at the time; this was very much a lively and important issue and as we shall see 1549 potentially erred too strongly in the eyes of some on the side of saying that something ‘real’ happens. Here follows an exploration of the text of the rite and some observations before drawing, as outlined above, on a selection of the secondary material.
The Structure of the Rite is as follows:
Lord’s Prayer and Opening Collect
Collect for the Day and for the King
An exhortation to consider whether one is worthy to receive the sacrament
The Intention to Celebrate the Sacrament
The Lord’s Prayer
The Comfortable Words
The Prayer of Humble Access
There are five aspects of the service which are worth examining in closer detail to discover something of the sacramentality of the rite, namely; the exhortation, the intention, the consecration, the words of administration and the thanksgiving prayer.
Here follows the relevant passage of interest:
[All must] examine themselves, before they presume to eate of that breade, and drinke of that cup: for as the benefite is great, if with a truly penitent heart, and lively faith, we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eate the fleshe of Christ, and drinke his bloude, then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us, wee bee made one with Christ, and Christ with us;)…
Here the liturgy seems to indicate that there is a spiritual realism to the act of participating in eating the bread and the wine. It is for this reason that the prayer continues to warn, strongly, against taking the bread and the wine if one is ‘unworthy’ to do so. If taking the sacrament worthily has a great benefit, then taking it unworthily has a very real consequence, which could well include disease and death. This sense of ‘spiritual realism’ continues when the Priest continues to state his intention to celebrate the sacrament.
Once again, here follows the relevant passage:
I do intende by Gods grace, to goodn to all suche as shalbe godlye disposed, the moste comfortable Sacrament of the body and bloud of Christ, to be taken of them in the remembraunce of his moste fruitfull and glorious Passyon: by the whiche passion we have obteigned remission of our synnes,… and bestowed upon us his unworthye servauntes, for whom he hath not onely geven his body to death, and shed his bloude, but also doothe vouchesave in a Sacrament and Mistery, to geve us his sayed bodye and bloud to feede upon spiritually. The whyche Sacrament goodn so Divine and holy a goodn, and so comfortable to them whiche goodnes it worthilye, and so daungerous to them that wyll presume to take the same unworthily… (Emphasis mine).
There are two aspects here which immediately cast light upon the understanding of the sacramentality presented here. The bread and the wine are to be eaten in remembrance of what Christ has already done for the receiver through his passion and through their repentance and faith. However, although it is an act of remembrance there is a sense in which the sacrament is actually and really ‘a divine and holy thing’ and as such the body and blood of Christ are given spiritually. We shall return to this observation shortly.
This section has a couple of points of interest, and the whole theological presentation of the meaning of the Eucharist is rich in imagery and scriptural tradition. In particular it’s fascinating to observe the understanding of sacrifice following the Hebrews theme of being a ‘full, perfect, and sufficient goodness, oblacion, and satysfaccyon, for the sinnes of the whole worlde’. However, with dogged determination we must stick to the sacramental aspects in the following passages:
to celebrate a perpetuall memory of that his precious death, untyll his goodne again: Heare us (O merciful father) we besech thee; and with thy holy spirite and worde, vouchsafe to blesse and sanctifie these thy gyftes, and creatures of bread and wyne, that they maie be unto us the bodye and bloude of thy moste derely beloved sonne Jesus Christe.
We thy humble servauntes do celebrate, and make here before thy divine Majestie, with these thy holy giftes, the memoryall whyche thy sonne hath wylled us to make, goodne in remembraunce his blessed passion, mightie resurreccyon, and goodness ascencion, goodness unto thee most hartie thankes, for the innumerable benefites procured unto us by the same, entierely goodness thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accepte this our Sacrifice of praise and thankesgeving: most humbly goodness thee to graunt, that by the merites and death of thy sonne Jesus Christ, and through faith in his bloud, we and al thy whole church, may obteigne remission of our sinnes, and all other benefites of hys goodnes. And here wee oodn and present unto thee (O Lorde) oure selfe, oure soules, and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee: humbly besechyng thee, that whosoever shalbee partakers of thys holy Communion, maye goodness receive the most precious body and bloude of thy sonne Jesus Christe: and bee fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediccion, and made one bodye with thy sonne Jesu Christe, that he maye dwell in them, and they in hym.
Again it is made clear that the Eucharist is not the cause of the salvation which they are remembering, while they seem to genuinely impart a grace which is nourishing and sustains that which they have already received.
This theme is consistently presented once again in the words of administration:
The body of our Lorde Jesus Christe whiche was geven for thee, preserve thy bodye and soule unto everlasting lyfe.
The bloud of our Lorde Jesus Christe which was shed for thee, preserve thy bodye and soule unto everlasting lyfe.
The significance of these words will have to be drawn in comparison to the words of administration in 1552. Before we can explore 1552 and venture to explore the similarities and differences we must first turn, briefly, to the thanksgiving prayer which follows the sacrament.
This portion of the prayer is the last indication within 1549 of the kind of sacramentality which is present in the rite:
we moste hartely thanke thee, for that thou hast vouchsafed to feede us in these holy Misteries, with the spirituall foode of the moste precious body and bloud of thy sonne, our saviour Jesus Christ, and haste assured us (duely receiving the same) of thy favour and goodness toward us… (Emphasis mine)
There are several interesting comparisons to be made between 1549 and 1552 and they start most notably with the structure of the rite, which is as follows:
Lord’s Prayer and Opening Collect
The Ten Commandments
Collect for the day and for the King
Sermon or Homily
Exhortations to self-examination
Invitation to confession
Prayer of humble access
There’s the addition of the Ten Commandments and a few different exhortations concerning worthiness to partake in Holy Communion. However, there’s a notable absence of a consecrational moment prior to the administration. Indeed, in 1549 it seems that the rite itself starts prior to the intercessions with the Prefaces, allowing the comfortable words to serve as part of the build-up to administration, whereas in 1552 the comfortable words are prior to the preface. This combined with the absence of an epiclesis prior to administration creates a much briefer form of the rite itself (in distinction from the rest of the service) and also signifies a different emphasis in the nature of sacramentality (or not) of the Eucharist. To highlight these we shall look at: the minor difference in the prayer of humble access, the anamnesis, the words of administration and the thanksgiving prayer.
The prayer of humble access is essentially the same in 1552 as it was in the 1549 with one omission, masked by a reordering of the final lines. In 1549 it reads:
Graunt us therefore (gracious lorde) so to eate the fleshe of thy dere sonne Jesus Christ, and to drynke his bloud in these holy Misteries, that we may continuallye dwell in hym, and he in us, that our synfull bodyes may bee made cleane by his body, and our soules washed through hys most precious bloud. (Emphasis mine)
Whereas in 1552 the phrases are reordered, saying much the same without the reference to ‘holy misteries’:
graunt us therfore (gracious lord) so to eate the fleshe of thy dere sonne Jesus Christe, and to drinke his bloud, that our synfulle bodyes maye be made cleane by his body, and our soules wasched through his most precious bloud, and that we may evermore dwel in him, and he in us.
As a statement composed in isolation from the precedent set by 1549, 1552 could still be read as having a suitably ambiguous phrasing so that those who wanted to understand the sacrament in terms of some form of doctrine of the ‘real presence’ could read it into it. However, perhaps the removal of the phrase ‘holy misteries’ is indicative of a desire to either remove a stumbling block for those who did not share that view, or as a movement to reject or diminish the priority of an understanding of the ‘real presence’ within the wider understanding of eucharistic sacramentality.
The prayer which follows in the 1552, and which is immediately prior to the administration, serves as a declaration of what God has done in Christ. Having asserted the doctrine of redemption through Christ’s sacrifice, 1552 asks:
graunt that wee, receyving these thy creatures of bread and wyne, accordinge to thy sonne our Savioure Jesus Christ’s holy institucion, in remembraunce of his death and passion, maye be partakers of his most blessed body and bloud… (Emphasis mine).
Highlighting the verbs makes it clear that the bread and wine are received in the act of remembrance and that through this act of remembering, the receiver asks to partake in his body and blood – in his salvific work which has already been accomplished or in an ongoing salvific work which is even now being brought to fruition? Given the words of administration, the former may be more likely.
This is another key area where there’s a distinct development in the theological expression of the rite in comparison to 1549. The words run thus:
Take and eate this, in remembraunce that Christ dyed for thee, and feede on him in thy hearte by faythe, with thankesgeving.
Drinke this in remembraunce that Christ’s bloude was shed for thee, and be thankefull.
No longer does the rite draw a direct correlation between the bread and the body, and the wine and the blood. Here the bread and wine are consumed as an act of remembrance and it is in the thankful remembering that the meaning is conferred upon the symbols.
In comparison with 1549, 1552 presents two alternative prayers to be offered as thanksgiving following the administration of the bread and wine. The second maintains the reference to ‘spiritual food’ of the body and blood of Jesus Christ and the ensuing participation in the ‘mystical body’ which is the Church, as was identified in 1549. However, the first option refers to more simply to ‘we which be partakers of this holy communion may be fulfilled with thy grace and heauenly benediction.’
The sometimes subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, shifts in emphasis from a eucharistic sacramentality centred on the mystery of the sacrament to a sacramentality which is primarily located within the act of remembrance could well be seen as Cranmer’s growing rejection of the catholic tradition which the new church had been born out of. However, it could be that an examination of 1662, and bearing in mind the alternatives provided and that some of the force of the shifts in emphasis come from the shifting and not necessarily the presented text itself, could pick up on a greater emphasis in Cranmer’s prayerbooks; namely, that of presenting a unifying theology and liturgy which could encompass a spectrum of sacramentality.
1552 remained the primary prayer book, though there were others, for more than a century, until the re-establishment of the monarchy after the Civil War. King Charles II called what became known as the Savoy Conference, attended by puritan and episcopal delegates. The episcopals included the bishops, who said that they agreed with 1552 and asked the puritans to propose their ‘Exceptions’. In effect, this prevented them from making proposals or additions to the liturgy which accounts for the lack of innovation and strength of similarities to 1552. However, external to the liturgy of the Eucharist, there was a strengthened statement on the sacraments added to the Catechism.
The form of the Holy Communion service took on the following structure:
The Lord’s Prayer
The Ten Commandments
Collect for the King and the Day
(Placing of bread and wine on table)
Prayer of Humble Access
Eucharistic Prayer (with physical signs)
This, as you may notice, is strikingly similar to the form of 1552. However, while the structure may well be the same, there are some revisions which shall be illuminating for understanding the kind of sacramentality present here within 1662. In particular, the words of administration.
We noted the difference in the phrasing of the words of administration in 1552 compared with 1549. Here in 1662, instead of an editorial prerogative to ‘pick a side’ and either confirm one or the other, or even reject both in favour of a new formula; 1662 opts to amalgamate both, with the words of 1549 running on into the words of 1552. In practice it is not uncommon for a minister to use either option rather than using the full form every time but the significance of joining the two is that the eucharistic sacramentality of the Prayer Book is wide enough to enable most protestants to partake in good conscience.
Whilst the words of administration have been combined from 1549 and 1552, it seems that the prayer of humble access, the eucharistic prayer and the post-communion thanksgiving prayer all follow the same words (if with revised spellings) as the rite of 1552. The intercessions are likewise virtually the same, though with the addition of a final prayer blessing God’s name for those who have died and asking for grace to follow their examples. However, this doesn’t serve to elucidate a sense of sacramentality in the Eucharist. When it comes to the various exhortations things get a bit more complex to compare. ]
The first in 1552 is the exhortation to those negligent to come to the Holy Communion. This is, for the most part, virtually identical with the second prayer in 1662. However, the prayer in 1662 is shorter and diverges at the point of the reference, in 1552, to the Lord’s Banquet. Here the focus of 1662 is on the separation of those from their brethren ‘who come to feed on the banquet of that most heavenly food’. 1552 prefers to emphasise that this act is to hold the mysteries of Christ in derision, and ‘to mock the testament of Christ’. One notable difference to this spiritual malady is the proposed cure. In 1552, the petition for the restoration to ‘a better mind’ shall occur whilst receiving communion whereas in 1662 says, ‘we shall not cease to make our humble petitions unto Almighty God our heavenly Father’. Perhaps this subtle movement indicates a reduced concept of what occurs during Communion?
The third prayers likewise seem to be similar, though again 1662 presents a slightly shorter prayer. By process of elimination, it becomes apparent that the second prayer in 1552 is mirrored by the first in 1662. Interestingly it is here that the warning which was removed in the third prayer is now inserted concerning being filled with sin as Judas was filled with the devil. Aside from this the two prayers again seem to be remarkably similar. As such, having explored the primary texts of the prayer books of 1549, 1552 and 1662, and noted their respective liturgical articulations of eucharistic sacramentality we now turn to theologically engage with these liturgies in order to more deeply understand the nuances of the liturgical forms.
Whilst we have identified the differing sacramental emphases throughout the prayer books, it has been hard to define them with any genuine sense of conviction; ‘Perhaps they mean this’, ‘maybe this would suggest that’. Spinks suggests that something of this ambiguity, with 1549 and 1552 at least, stems from the difficulty of identifying which tradition Cranmer himself was operating under. Indeed, Spinks recounts that Cranmer was accused of teaching three doctrines of the Eucharist, while Cranmer responded ‘two’. The two were Roman and Reformed, with the additional being Lutheran (through which he may have transitioned from Roman to reformed). Kennedy also reflects on the two opposing influences which could be seen to shape Cranmer’s Eucharistic theology. This fits well with the observations of the apparent distinctions between 1549 and 1552.
Spinks proceeds to break down the 1549 rite to examine what he thinks the Eucharistic Sacramentality is. A key observation is that the bread is not lifted up; there is no sense of a Roman Eucharistic sacrifice here. Jeanes suggests that this act, or lack thereof, speaks ‘more clearly of the character of the revised service than the ambiguous wording’. However, he observes, as we have above, that there are several passages which indicate a ‘spiritual presence’ and furthermore that these were removed in 1552.
Before turning to look at 1552, Kennedy explores this spiritual presence and the moment of ‘epiclesis’ in 1549. He likewise observes the removal of these references in 1552 but goes on to clarify Cranmer’s concept of consecration. Through being blessed, the elements are consecrated and so can be called holy. Furthermore, when the worthy consume the elements, in remembrance of Christ’s death, the body and wine are communicated spiritually – by faith. Cocksworth clarifies that for Cranmer this means that the Words of Institution are spoken for the receivers, and not the elements. Kennedy goes on to show that for Cranmer, there is union with Christ through the whole sacrament by the Spirit; even though the elements do not themselves change (as in transubstantiation). For Jeanes, this is indicative of Cranmer’s ‘unhappy’ relationship with the notion of consecration; almost as if by his understanding of ‘spiritual’ Cranmer is conceding ground rather than establishing it. Neill points out that it was Bishop Gardiner’s critiscim that Cranmer had retained too much of the Roman Mass that led to the ‘spiritual’ references being removed in 1552, to which we now turn briefly.
Newman talks of 1552 as recasting the liturgy so that ‘only the Cranmmerian viewpoint could be understood’. Spinks captures this vividly through his observation that following the words of administration there was no ‘Amen’. To remember Christ’s death in the bread and wine in a Cranmmerian sense one must eat it; ‘You don’t gaze and play around with your food – you get straight on and eat it’. In Spinks’ understanding, there is no hint of ‘presence’ in 1552.
So what of 1662? What kind of Eucharistic Sacramentality is present given its general fidelity to 1552? How much of an impact does inclusion of the words of administration from 1549 have?
Kennedy, in his study on Epiclesis, pays close attention to the discussions at the Savoy Council and identifies that it is in the rubrics that is key to understanding the sacramentality of the rite. (As with Jeanes, it seems that actions speak louder than words in sacramental contexts!) It is the breaking of the bread and the placing a hand on the cup which is significant, especially so given that the Savoy Council couldn’t agree on, and therefore rejected, an explicit invocation. For Kennedy’s purposes this sadly leaves the role of the Spirit Liturgically ambiguous.
We mentioned above the lack of innovation present in 1662, and Spinks notes that it was not for lack of trying on the part of Baxter and Taylor. However their efforts were not included, leaving us to try and discern the flavour of sacramentality which is present. Drawing on Buchanan, Spinks suggests that the inclusion of an ‘Amen’ on the prayer of concertation adds a highpoint to Cranmer’s highpoint of receiving the bread and wine. Perhaps the role of the Spirit is liturgically ambiguous, but the presence of the Spirit less so? Cocksworth uses Mackean’s use of Morton regarding the reality of the presence: ‘our difference [between Rome and England] is not about the truth or reality of the presence, but about the true manner of the being and receiving thereof’.
Throughout 1559, 1552 and 1662 it seems that there has been a liturgical pursuit of a genuine sacramentality which would fulfil the intent of the compilers of 1662 to, ‘tend to the preservation of Peace and Unity in the Church; the procuring of Reverence, and exciting of Piety and Devotion in the Publick Worship of God’. Nevertheless, there is merit to Kennedy’s assertion that the prayer of consecration and the lack of an explicit invocation ‘marginalised’ the Holy Spirit. Particularly with the words of administration 1662 is liturgically welcoming to all and, despite the ambiguity, we must hope that includes the Holy Spirit of the Risen Christ who died and rose so that we might know our Heavenly Father.
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