Thursday, May 30, 2019

What's wrong with the 2019 Prayer Book?

To the Bishops and Delegates of the Anglican Church in North America:
In the third century, Tertullian wrote: “We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground” (The Chaplet, or De Corona, ch. 3).

This Memorial Day, I was reminded of how grievous it is to those who served our country in the military to see the flag ever touch the ground (U.S. Flag Code, §8b). I am sure we would never want to allow something so much more than a mere symbol, the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, to be treated in such a way.

I am writing to encourage you to return the rubric regarding the treatment of the consecrated Bread and Wine that remain after communion to the original draft at the upcoming Provincial Assembly.

Original 2019 BCP Draft: Apart from that which is to be reserved, the Priest or Deacon, and other communicants, shall reverently consume the remaining consecrated Bread and Wine either after the Ministration of Communion or after the Dismissal. 

At the very least, the underlined portion of the rubric as it currently appears (below) on page 141 of the proposed 2019 book could be removed.

Current 2019 BCP Draft: If any consecrated Bread or Wine remains after the Communion, it may be set aside in a safe place for future reception. Apart from that which is to be set aside, the Priest or Deacon, and other communicants, reverently consume the remaining consecrated Bread, either after the Ministration of Communion or after the Dismissal. The wine shall likewise be consumed or reverently poured in a place set aside for that purpose. 

In either case, such a change would return the rubric to conformity with the English Prayer Book of 1662 (which is the model for our edition and which we claim not to depart from in theology) and it would conform to all of the subsequent Anglican Prayer Books as well.

I outlined the argument for correcting this rubric in my Youtube video.

To summarize:

 ● The universal tradition of the Prayer Book, beginning with the English and continuing through the various editions of each province, has been for a rubric prescribing reverent consumption of the remaining elements of consecrated Bread and Wine (apart from that to be reserved). No rubric has ever authorized pouring the consecrated Wine on the ground or into the piscina/sacrarium.

 ● Such action is considered a sacrilege in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. For comparison, if any of the sacrament were to accidentally spill upon the carpet during the administration of communion, that carpet is removed and burned (much like a flag that has been desecrated). Imagine the action that would be taken against someone who poured it out intentionally.

 ● For Roman Catholics, pouring the consecrated Wine into the piscina/sacrarium is considered “throwing away” the Sacrament, according to Canon 1367 and incurs the penalty of an automatic excommunication reserved to the Holy See. If a cleric does this, he can also be defrocked. This interpretation of the canon was confirmed by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in paragraph 107 of the document Remptionis Sacramentum, issued to deal with common liturgical abuses.

It is true that mishandling the consecrated Wine is a common liturgical abuse, but the proper way to handle it is with awareness, training, and discipline, rather than by changing the liturgical law to accommodate the abuse. The piscina/sacrarium is only used for the disposal of ashes, salt, and water and never for the Precious Blood.

As St Leo the Great expressed it in his famous Ascension Day sermon, “Our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments” (Sermo 2 de Ascensione1-4: PL 54,397-399). It is no wonder that the Christians of the early centuries had a great love of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Some were even martyred to protect it, just as they laid down their lives to protect the holy Scriptures.

Consider the “Homily on the Worthy Receiving and Reverend Esteeming of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ” in the Second Book of Homilies. Think of the devotional writings on the Holy Communion of our own great Anglican divines like Lancelot Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, John Cosin, Herbert Thorndike, Richard Hooker, and more. I can’t imagine any one of them ever pouring the Precious Blood of Christ upon the ground.

I implore you to correct this rubric in the upcoming Provincial Assembly. We need to get it right this time, rather than wait another 50 to 100 years for the next revision. And frankly, if we can fix the typo in the table of contents, we can surely fix this.


Appendix:Frequently Asked Questions

Are you just trying to sabotage a Prayer Book you don't like?
No. I am in favor of the book, provided that this problem with the rubric is corrected. While not perfect, I believe it is a sound edition and there is much to admire and appreciate.

Why did you not send this feedback to the drafting committee via the proper channels?
I did submit feedback to the drafting committee on other items regarding the book that I thought could be improved. In considering feedback to offer about the Texts for Common Prayer, it never occurred to me that something would be proposed that would be detrimental to the faith and order of the Church. The original draft of this rubric was completely orthodox, and I did not realize it was changed in a subsequent draft in 2018 until after the final book was issued. In any case, there was no feedback solicited after that final version appeared in the Spring of 2019, which changed the rubric again.

Why did you not contact your bishop about this?
I did. I had an earlier version of the video I showed him. He offered encouragement and some tips to make the presentation better.

Why do you call this a sacrilege?
Sacrilege is the mistreatment of sacred things. It is a sin by thwarting the virtue of religion. Using holy things in a profane or common way is central to the act of sacrilege. Part of the way of determining how such holy things ought to be handled is to consider them teleologically, that it, with their end purpose in mind. The bread and wine are consecrated with the end purpose of eating and drinking them. The reservation of the Sacrament simply delays that end. To deliberately put them to another ultimate purpose would be mistreating them, that is, not using them in accordance with their end purpose. To call this action a sacrilege is merely a statement that such holy things are not being handled properly and does not necessarily mean that it was done with any malice.

Is this blasphemy?
No. Blasphemy is dishonoring God through a verbal assault (or some written or symbolic speech). To proclaim, "There is no God!", or to curse God would be examples. This is not the case here by the nature of the act; it is sacrilege rather than a blasphemy. Also, this is almost always done in ignorance rather than defiance, so there is typically no question of symbolic speech being involved.

Is the ground an appropriate place for the Communion elements?
No. Remember they were set apart as holy in order to ultimately be consumed. Also, the ground is often held to be a place of disrespect. Allowing the flag to touch the ground is against the flag code. We have seen people do just that in order to desecrate the flag in protest. Muslims are offended if the Quran touches the ground. In Christianity, the Holy Bible or other sacred objects cast upon the ground would be taken by most people as a sign of disrespect. Indeed, such tactics are often used by those who violently persecute the Church.

Isn't the piscina in the sacristy the place for excess Communion wine?
No. It is a drain leading to the ground for the disposal of ablutions (the water from cleaning the sacred vessels). It is also the place to pour out blessed salt, ashes, and holy water. Generally, older holy oils are burned, but if this is impractical, they could be put into the piscina.

Don't you realize how common it is to pour out excess Communion wine?
Yes, it is a very common problem, but still technically a liturgical abuse. Thankfully, it is almost always done out of ignorance, not from any impious motive. That is a positive sign because that means that increased awareness and training can help tremendously. It is one thing to have a rule that is routinely disobeyed. It is quite another to change the rule in order to bring the multitude into "obedience."

What if there is too much Communion wine left over to drink?
That is a problem that should occur rarely (such as at a funeral where it is thought that many would communicate, but very few do). In those cases, reverence requires toughing it out with as many people and as much time as it takes to get the job done. And of course, the remaining Sacrament was consumed after, rather than during the liturgy for most of the history of the Prayer Book. Personally, I once had to consume over a full flagon. It gave me a headache, but not a guilty conscience. If there is regularly too much wine being consecrated, the quantity should be lowered. There is a provision for consecrating more of either element if needed, and in fact that last bit remaining in the chalice can stretch far longer than most think when people are only taking the smallest sip.

Does the mandatory consumption of the Communion wine require belief in transubstantiation?
No. While the Church of England professes believe in the "true" and "real" Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, it does not specify a philosophical explanation. The ecumenical theological study Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry recommends reverent consumption. And the Church of England’s Guidelines on the Ecumenical Canons argue that “This provision for reverent consumption dates back to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and has helped to hold in unity worshippers with a variety of understandings of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist”.

If someone pours it out reverently, how can it still be a sacrilege?
Reverence is not just about feeling, nor even primarily about feeling. It is about the fittingness of our actions. The idea that the moral reality of a situation is governed by our feelings stems from the logical fallacy called solipsism. For example, when the Ark of the Covenant was being brought back from captivity by the Philistines to be returned to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6:6-7, the oxen stumbled along the road and to keep it from falling off the cart, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. He was immediately struck dead by God. According to Numbers 4:15, whenever the Ark was being transported, the temple workers were instructed not to touch any of the sacred objects on pain of death. Undoubtedly, Uzzah reached out with love and devotion, not wanting any harm to come to the sacred vessel. However, he acted in defiance of the clear commandment given in the Bible. So while he may have felt reverent, his action was a sacrilege.

Do you think the Prayer Book can be voted down at Assembly?
Since the video, I have heard that the Prayer Book will not be put to a vote at the Provincial Assembly. I had assumed it would be adopted by canon (and canons are passed by the Provincial Council and ratified by the consent of the Provincial Assembly), but that may not be the case. If so, I don't think that procedure was related to this issue; more likely it goes back to the idea of the Prayer Book not being forced on anyone, which was part of the bad feelings over the 1979 Prayer Book. Either way, a change in the rubrics would have to come out of the House of Bishops. Since there are already at least six typos to change, it would be an opportunity to consider this rubric as well.

What will be the consequence if the rubric is not fixed?
That remains to be seen, and hopefully we will never find out. Surely some bishops will forbid the book entirely if it endorses handling the blessed Sacrament in a sacrilegious manner. That puts the whole province in a very awkward position. Having an official liturgy which is officially banned by some of its own bishops harms our ministry within the communion as well as our witness to outsiders, with whom we are to share the transforming love of Jesus Christ. It also casts doubt on the integrity of the whole book (i.e., if this bad rubric is in there, what other problems might be in the book?).


Appendix: Rubrics from Anglican Prayer Books 

1637 Book of Common Prayer (Scottish) And if any of the Bread and Wine remain, which is consecrated, it shall be reverently eaten and drunk by such of the communicants only as the Presbyter which celebrates shall take unto him, but it shall not be carried out of the Church. And to the end that there be little left, he that officiates is required to consecrate with the least, and then if there be want, the words of consecration may be repeated again, over more, either bread or wine: the Presbyter beginning at the words in the prayer of consecration (our Saviour in the night that he was betrayed, took, &c.) 

1662 Book of Common Prayer (Church of England) And if any of the Bread and Wine remain unconsecrated, the Curate shall have it to his own use: but if any remain of that which was consecrated, it shall not be carried out of the Church, but the Priest, and such other of the Communicants as he shall then call unto him, shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same. 

1789 Book of Common Prayer (American) And if any of the consecrated Bread and Wine remain after the Communion, it shall not be carried out of the Church; but the Minister and other Communicants shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same. 

1918 Book of Common Prayer (Canada) And if any of the Bread and Wine remain unconsecrated, the Curate shall have it to his own use: but if any remain of that which was consecrated, it shall not be carried out of the Church, but the Priest, and such other of the Communicants as he shall then call unto him, shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same.

1892 Book of Common Prayer (American) And if any of the consecrated Bread and Wine remain after the Communion it shall not be carried out of the Church; but the Minister and other Communicants shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same. 

1928 Book of Common Prayer (American) And if any of the consecrated Bread and Wine remain after the Communion, it shall not be carried out of the Church; but the Minister and other Communicants shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same. 

1962 Book of Common Prayer (Canada) If any of the consecrated Bread and Wine remain, the Priest and other Communicants shall reverently eat and drink the same, either when all have communicated, or immediately after the Blessing. In the latter case, immediately after the Communion the Priest shall reverently place the same upon the holy Table, and cover them with a fair linen cloth.

1979 Book of Common Prayer (American) If any of the consecrated Bread or Wine remain, apart from any which may be required for the Communion of the sick, or of others who for weighty cause could not be present at the celebration, or for the administration of Communion by a deacon to a congregation when no priest is available, the celebrant or deacon, and other communicants, reverently eat and drink it, either after the Communion of the people or after the Dismissal. 

2003 Book of Common Prayer (Reformed Episcopal Church) If any consecrated Bread or Wine remain, apart from that which may be required for the Communion of the sick, the Celebrant or
Deacon and other communicants shall reverently eat or drink it, either after the Communion of the people or immediately after the dismissal.

2019 Book of Common Prayer (Anglican Church in North America) If any consecrated Bread or Wine remains after the Communion, it may be set aside in a safe place for future reception. Apart from that which is to be set aside, the Priest or Deacon, and other communicants, reverently consume the remaining consecrated Bread, either after the Ministration of Communion or after the Dismissal. The wine shall likewise be consumed or reverently poured in a place set aside for that purpose.

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