Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On the 1662 Book of Extraordinary Prayer (#3)

How serious are you about God? Especially if you know that you are going to receive Holy Communion this Sunday? How committed are you to reconciling with your neighbor? How ruthless are you at rooting out evil and injustice in your life? How passionate are you about being 'open to grief' and about receiving 'the benefit of absolution'.

In other words, how 'hard-core' are you?

Let me explain where this is coming from. G.K. Chesterton said of tradition in Orthodoxy:
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
So, in resistance to the arrogant oligarchy of the living, I'm going to keep my series going on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. As I've said, I am not used to this Prayer Book, but I am very used to the Protestant and Reformed theology of the 1662 edition. So it has been a delight to be to rediscover this book as I read it through.

I said recently that the students in my Bible Study group called the Prayer Book truly 'hard core'. Let me give you an example. Take a look at what you are required to do in the lead up to receiving The Communion. Please, I beg you to take a moment to read this:
When the Minister giveth warning for the celebration of the holy Communion, (which he shall always do upon the Sunday, or some Holy-day, immediately preceding,) after the Sermon or Homily ended, he shall read this Exhortation following.

DEARLY beloved, on [October 7] next I purpose, through God's assistance, to administer to all such as shall be religiously and devoutly disposed the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; to be by them received in remembrance of his meritorious Cross and Passion; whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are make partakers of the Kingdom of heaven. Wherefore it is our duty to render most humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God our heavenly Father, for that he hath given his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament. Which being so divine and comfortable a thing to them who receive it worthily, and so dangerous to them that will presume to receive it unworthily; my duty is to exhort you in the mean season to consider the dignity of that holy mystery, and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof; and so to search and examine your own consciences, (and that nor lightly, and after the manner of dissemblers with God; but so) that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table.

The way and means thereto is; First, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God's commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God, but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other; and being likewise ready to forgive others that have offended you, as ye would have forgiveness of your offences at God's hand: for otherwise the receiving of the holy Communion doth nothing else but increase your damnation. Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer, or be in malice, or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that holy Table; lest, after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul.

And because it is requisite, that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God's mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Minister of God's Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God's holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.
Read that second paragraph again! Go ahead. It'll take a minute.
  • Is this something you'd like to be reminded of before communion?
  • Would that scare you, if that was read to you the Sunday before communion?
  • Is this approach to God true to the gospel?
  • Are we tough enough in the way we discipline believers?
  • Is this over the top? (And we've got it right?)
  • Or are we underwhelming (And they got it right?)
Discuss. Or pray. Whichever seems more fitting.



Anonymous said...

we've used this recently
it certainly does add gravity to the occasion though it is read the week before and a lot happens in a week. maybe in small groups the few nights before?

I have had as a result some people contact me during the week to confess sin or talk through an issue where they needed assurance from God's word.

for all its weightiness though, its wordiness feel a little out of place in modern liturgy.
what do you do with that?

all for guarding the table and getting people to grasp God's holiness.

should the Lord's supper be a form of discipline or an inviation ot participate (maybe for the first time) in grace?

byron smith said...

Regarding Shane's final question, Andrew Errington posted a (to me) convincing series a while back arguing for the latter. There were two posts: 1 and 2. He argues there is an important place for church discipline, but this is not it.

Justin said...

Errington did the good work of going to the Scriptures. Good man, he is.

Just reading over the BCP exhortation: it is all about a person making an examination of their own heart ('to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God's commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended').

And only if they cannot find comfort in God do they 'come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Minister of God's Word, and open his grief.'

So it is self examination, rather than discipline. At least here.

Anonymous said...

"...but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith."

agreed - sefl examination, self condemnation

Article XXIX

"Of the Wicked which do not eat the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord’s Supper

The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing."

assume that wicked peple iwll prewss wiht their teeth but not partake in Christ.

Article XXXIII

"Of Excommunicated Persons, how they are to be avoided

That person which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excummunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful, as an Heathen and Publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received into the Church by a Judge that hath authority thereunto."

there is a place for judging and discipling the wicked.

what is not clear , as Andrew point out in post 2, point 7, is what this actually looks like in practice.
"not even eat with them" must surely be taken into account here.

I take it is primarily an opportunity to particupate in grace, yet if there is an opening wicked person who is unrepentant, the elders of the church must exercise discipline or else devalue the meaning and significance of the sacraments.

ie there should be clear fruit evidence of repentance and faith, or believing behaving and belonging .

we get ourselves in all kinds of trouble when this is not applied to families in baptism.

Anonymous said...

sorry for the really bad spelling

Justin said...

'sok, Shane. We get your meaning.

Nice to see some self-examination going on there, even it be the literary kind.