Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Anglican Canon Again

Can an Anglican Canon (or Eucharistic Prayer) be admitted into Catholic worship, as part of the precious Patrimony that Pope Benedict intends to bring into the Church, to conserve and share it?

The first objection would be that, while an Anglican Use already exists, and incorporates many Anglican prayers into the Catholic Mass, the American Book of Divine Worship does not admit any such Anglican Eucharistic Prayer, but rather gives the Roman Canon in hieratic English.

A deeper and sterner objection would be that Cranmer deliberately rewrote and mucked about with the Roman Canon when he produced the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), and that his calculated mendacity introduced a fatal ambiguity into his Eucharistic Prayer, due to his ongoing change in belief toward utter Zwinglianism: indeed, in the second B.C.P. of 1552, he divided this prayer into three parts (as Cæsar did Gaul, to subdue it utterly), dispersing them to different parts of the service, and rejecting the Memorial (what is now technically called the Anamnesis) completely.

The 1549 Canon consisted of what later came to be styled the Prayer for the Church (the Intercession), followed by two more parts, what later men called the Prayer of Consecration and the Prayer of Oblation.  In 1552, the Prayer for the Church, stript of intercession for the dead and commemoration by name of Holy Mary and the Saints, thus become but a Prayer for the (Protestant) Church Militant, was put earlier in the service, and the Prayer of Oblation was moved until after Communion – in Dix's damning words, replacing the Oblation of the Son of Man with the oblation of the sons of men, making the spiritual offering of "ourselves, our souls and bodies" substitute for the the offering up of Christ's Sacrifice.

Even in 1549, Cranmer's Canon fell into two parts, since the Intercession had no logical connection to the Consecration and Oblation.  This is an instance of Cranmer's talent for ambiguity – he may be the father of this fatal Anglican vice, which too many ever since his time have paraded as a pretended virtue – for he thus made his new Canon resemble the Roman Canon, without actually in so many words linking the prayers of intercession with any offering up of Christ's Sacrifice made present in the Eucharist.

As to the Invocation or Epiclesis, which in Cranmer's 1549 was capable of Catholic interpretation, his change to it in 1552 made it Protestant only, savouring of receptionism: "that we receiving [the bread and wine] may be made partakers" of the Body and Blood – such a formula denies that the bread and wine are substantially changed into Christ's Flesh and Blood, and is heretical.  It was initially placed in the Prayer of Consecration directly before the Words of Institution, evidently being Cramner's version of the Roman Quam oblationem; following the Nonjurors' Communion Office of 1718, the Scottish Episcopalians moved it from there into the Prayer of Oblation (both parties in this imitating the Eastern Rites, forgetting that the Anglican is a Western offspring), and taking up their example the American Episcopalians did the same.  However, only the Nonjurors and Scottish Episcopalians restored the Invocation or Epiclesis to a properly Catholic form.

Since Cranmer's day, many Anglican Prayer Books have moved the Prayer of Oblation, even reunited with its original opening paragraph, the Memorial or Oblation proper that liturgists to-day term the Anamnesis, back to its original position directly after the Prayer of Consecration: well and good, but insufficient.  Such a Canon lacks the element of Intercession – for the Sacrifice we offer up in the Mass, Christ made present upon our altars, applying the power of the Cross here and now, is not merely a commemorative sacrifice, nor but a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, but an impetratory sacrifice that can be and is offered up for all intentions.

It is for this last reason that I would consider most Anglican Canons insufficient, even if their Epicleses were restored to a Catholic form: they lack this element of intercession.

The Nonjurors, painful scholars that they were, well knew this, as did their colleagues north of the Border, the Scottish Episcopalians, diligent students of the Eastern Liturgies.  First the former, then the latter, solved this problem by moving the Prayer for the Church to third place, after the Prayer of Consecration and the Prayer of Oblation.  In this manner, they put the three prayers in what the Scots called their "natural order".

While these three prayers all in a row make for a lengthy Canon, they alone thus constitute a sufficiently Catholic Canon or Eucharistic Prayer.

Herewith, from Dowden's The Annotated Scottish Communion Office, relevant quotations justifying and explicating this use of intercession after the Consecration and Oblation:
The rationale of the arrangement that places the great prayer for Christ's Church after the Consecration, as it presented itself to the Fathers who used the liturgies of the prevailing type, seems to have been that while the sacrifice lay upon the altar before God we might the more efficaciously entreat His mercy. Every Christian prayer is put up in the name of Christ, and through the merits of His sacrifice; and here, while the one great sacrifice of Calvary was represented before the Father, they would plead the precious death of the immaculate Lamb. [Cf. St Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Mystagogical Catechism.]
They put up their prayers "in such a manner as they thought most prevalent, that is, by virtue of the Eucharistical Sacrifice then lying in open view." [Johnson's Unbloody Sacrifice, i. 388.]
Anglican divines have expressed themselves in similar language. 
Thus Bishop Jeremy Taylor :— 
"Our prayers can never be so holy as when they are offered up in the union of Christ's Sacrifice. ... When we represent His death and pray in virtue of His passion, and imitate his intercession and do that which God commands, and offer Him, in our manner, that which He essentially loves; can it be that either anything should be more prevalent, or that God can possibly deny such addresses and such importunities ?" [Sermon VI., vol. v. p. 88.]
"We do show forth," writes Bishop Patrick, [Mensa Mystica, p. 15.] "the Lord's death unto God, and commemorate before Him the great things He hath done for us. We keep it (as it were) in His memory and plead before him the sacrifice of His Son, which we show imto Him, humbly requiring that grace and pardon, with all other benefits of it, may be bestowed upon us. And as the minister doth most powerfully pray in the virtue of Christ's Sacrifice when he represents it unto God, so doth the people also when they show unto Him what His Son hath suffered. Every man may say —'Behold, Lord, the bleeding wounds of Thy own Son; remember how His Body was broken for us; think upon His precious Blood which was shed in our behalf. Let us die, if He have not made full satisfaction.'"
—John Dowden, The Annotated Scottish Communion Office (Edinburgh: Grant, 1884), 203f.
I gladly cite, however, from Johnson, [Unbloody Sacrifice, vol i. p. 340 (Anglo-Cath. Lib.)] the writer who on this subject exercised the most powerful influence upon the non-juring school, a passage which accurately states the facts..."Though the solemn oblation," he writes, "begins in all the liturgies after the Words of Institution, and [save the Roman] before the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, or the Divine benediction; yet the sacrificial service is not ended until after the Consecration. For it is to be observed that the Clementine liturgy, St. James's, St. Chrysostom's, St. Peter's, St. Gregory's, contain a prayer for the acceptance of the Sacrifice, and particularly that it 'may be received up to the heavenly Altar,' after the consecration is fully ended: and the solemn propitiations, intercessions, reconciliations for the whole Church, for all orders and degrees of men, for all the most desirable graces and favours, follow after the Consecration in the Clementine liturgy. And these no doubt were esteemed a considerable part of the sacrificial service; and these were performed after the symbols had been made the spiritual Body and Blood in the most perfect and complete manner that it was possible for one thing, its substance remaining [Johnson, an Anglican, rejected transsubstantiation], to become another. It was the Eucharistical Body and Blood, Which were the Gifts or Sacrifice, Which they desired might be assumed up to the Altar in heaven." 
—John Dowden, The Annotated Scottish Communion Office (Edinburgh: Grant, 1884), 212f.

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