21 October 2010

To give the Chalice or Not to Give the Chalice...


The Sacrifice of the Mass
 It is sometimes a contentious question amongst Anglicans, even Anglo-Catholics, as to whether or not communion should be given in both kinds. Some vehemently defend that it "just isn't communion" without giving the Precious Blood to the faithful. Now, I could easily go into hygiene issues of a hundred people drinking from the same cup, especially during cold and flu season, but this is intended instead to be a theological discussion. Also, let me state that if a parish wishes to provide the option of receiving the Precious Blood, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. The question being addressed here is whether or not it is theologically necessary for the faithful to receive communion in both kinds to receive the saving grace of the Sacrament and to be in accord with Christ's commandment.

Protestant churches and even the modern Roman Catholic Church under the Novus Ordo gives communion in both kinds as a matter of practice. The Tridentine Rite churches within the Roman Communion still give only in one kind. All but the celebrating priest receive the host only. Other traditional churches sometimes do similarly. The question is whether or not communion in one kind is somehow deficient, and whether or not it is really necessary to give the Precious Blood to the faithful.

Before I continue, I must stress that this is not a Roman/Anglican debate, an attempt to supplant Anglican tradition with Roman, or anything else of the kind. It is, rather, a discussion of what is theologically proper and logical versus what is not. It is a catholic/protestant discussion.

 Let's begin with the oft-cited justification that both kinds must be given, viz. the Articles of Religion in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which were adopted in 1801 by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the US. Now, if a parish celebrates mass under the rubrics of the 1928 BCP, it might make sense to give communion in both kinds to follow the traditions of that book. That is, of course, not what we are discussing here. Article No. 30 of the Articles of Religion states that "The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike." The Articles of Religion, though, have often been challenged by Anglo-Catholics as being thoroughly infused with protestant notions. For example, the Articles suggest that adoration and relics are not appropriate, while the use of images and icons, adoration, etc. are common practice among Anglo-Catholics.

So, are the Articles of Religion in the 1928 BCP truly representative of catholic doctrine, even within the Anglican tradition, or are they peppered with protestant heresy? When I read the Articles, they read to me like a document written by committee. Such documents often deem somewhat disjointed when there are opposing viewpoints on the committee writing them. Since the Protestant Reformation got a foothold (and sometimes a stranglehold) on the Anglican Church beginning in earnest during the time of Elizabeth I, there have been these competing factions within the Anglican Church, one Catholic, one Protestant. When I was receiving catechism, I was actually taught to take the Articles with a grain of salt due to the protestant influence.

Let's now travel back in time to the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent. While the Council of Trent was Roman, there is no need to say that it should be disregarded by Anglicans. In fact, when learned men of the Church come together to discuss a doctrinal matter of great importance, and they reach a conclusion that refutes protestant claims, it should be given its due. Furthermore, the points made by the Council of Trent, it should be pointed out , were nothing new, but were simply upholding the traditional positions of the Church up to that point.

The protestant claim at the time was that the Real Presence did not exist and both kinds must be given at communion. To refute this heresy, the Council of Trent came up with several key points. The first was that the celebrating priest was joined inherently to the Sacrifice of the Mass, and hence had to receive in both kinds to keep the comm-
The celebrating priest must receive the Chalice.
andment of Christ made at the Last Supper, "Do this in remembrance of me." At least in this sense, the protestant and catholic viewpoints are in some agreement.

The second point made by the Council was that there is no Divine precept requiring the faithful or non-celebrating priests to receive the cup. While both kinds were frequently given in the early church, it was not universal, and the use of giving communion in both kinds fell out of practice almost universally until the Reformation.

The third point made was and is the most crucial. Because of the hypostatic union of Christ and the indivisibility of his glorified humanity, Christ is really present in both the Body and the Blood. They are indivisible. This is signified in the mass with the commixture. Christ is indivisible, and therefore he who eats of his Flesh experiences the same spiritual communion as he who drinks of his Blood. The faithful are not deprived of spiritual graces by communicating only in the form of the Body. 

It was the Reformers, denying the Real Presence and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, proclaimed that the people should receive both kinds in order to fulfill the commandment of Christ. A century earlier, this same heresy was promoted by the Hussites, interestingly enough, though they did not deny the Real Presence and Sacrifice of the Mass. It should be remembered, though, that we do not individually get to come up with our own interpretations of the Sacred Scripture. This has never been permitted, nor was it ever the intent. Saint Peter himself said that such interpretations are not appropriate.

Procedures for administration
of the Sacraments must always
be chosen for the right reasons.

This whole issue is really that of Catholic doctrine versus Protestant heresy. Anglo-Catholics, then, ought to be reminded that there is no requirement, Divine or otherwise, that the faithful must communicate in both kinds. They may do so if deemed appropriate by Church sacramental law, providing doing so is not an attempt to suggest that both kinds are required, as this would cause a doctrinal violation. Similarly, the faithful must not be permitted to demand communion in both kinds as if it is their right or a necessity, as such would further be a doctrinal violation. What they receive sacramentally must be in accord both with doctrine and Church law. The Apostles and their successors were given this authority to tend to the flock. The Church leaders determine the appropriate methods for administration of the Sacraments.

So, it seems that administration of the chalice may be done for the right reasons. However, administration of communion in one kind also is equally valid and provides just as much sacramental grace to the faithful. It is Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Church doctrine and practices that should and must govern how we administer sacraments, not the influx of protestant heresy that has been allowed to remain in practice for the past 500 years. Give the Precious Blood to the faithful if you wish and ecclesiastical authority approves, but it must be done only in accord with doctrine. Otherwise we fail in our duty to the faithful as shepherds and teachers.