Excerpt from Chapter 1

Styles of Worship

Anglican churches in, say, 1750 displayed all the puritan austerity of the post-Reformation era. Surviving medieval cathedrals and churches retained their architectural grandeur, but high altars had been removed, along with crucifixes and other images. Statues were defaced and murals or frescoes whitewashed over. Many of the old church buildings were also in poor repair. Some new churches had been constructed, and all the churches in North America were new; but their architecture was spartan, and decoration minimal. The dominant feature was the pulpit, a massive structure, towering over the pews and affirming the centrality of preaching in the religious consciousness of the time.

Worship followed the 1662 Prayer Book. The liturgy was standardized, with prescribed collects and scriptural readings for each Sunday and major festival. Devout Anglicans attended both morning and evening services. The Sunday morning service, which might last three hours, consisted of Morning Prayer, a sermon, and the first part of the Communion Service. The “evening” service, which might start as early as 3:00 p.m., included another sermon and Evening Prayer. It might also include baptisms, churchings,[1] marriages, and catechism classes for children preparing for confirmation and first Communion.[2]

Services were read by a clergyman, assisted by the parish clerk who led the responses to prayers and made announcements. The priest might wear a white surplice for Morning or Evening Prayer but changed into a black “Geneva” gown—similar to today’s academic gown—for the sermon. The sermon, lasting about one hour, typically used the day’s scriptural readings to encourage moral, socially acceptable behavior. Some priests composed their own sermons, but many read homilies written by prominent divines. Sermons were often dry, but they were generally optimistic in tone. Anglican clergy shunned the emotionalism of nonconformist preachers and the “hellfire” style of the Great Awakenings in America. 

Two or three times a year the “Lord’s Supper” would be offered, and the Communion Service would be read in full. On those Sundays, a simple Communion table was placed in the body of the church. No candles burned, unless they were needed for illumination, and no cross, flowers, ornaments, or images were permitted. Communicants knelt around the table—the only time laity or clergy made any kind of reverential gesture in church.

Today’s Anglo-Catholic church is very different. Attention is focused on the high altar. A cross and candles stand on the altar, which is draped in the liturgical colors of the day or season, or possibly stripped bare in penitential seasons. A tabernacle on the altar may contain the reserved Sacrament. The pulpit is placed to the side of the chancel or nave. The walls of the building may be adorned with religious images. Votive candles may burn before statues of the Virgin Mary and the saints.

The Communion Service—the “Sung Communion,” or “High Mass,” if the parish has the resources—is the main Sunday morning service. The faithful enter the church with reverence, genuflecting or bowing to the altar. They may bless themselves with holy water or may be sprinkled in the Asperges at the beginning of the service. Clergy, often more than one, wear ornate vestments in the liturgical colors of the season or festival. If a bishop is in attendance he or she most likely wears the traditional vestments of episcopal office: the cope and mitre.

Clergy, vested acolytes, and possibly vested choristers, process into the church, led by an acolyte carrying a cross. Bells are rung at key points in the service, and—except in Lent—incense creates a sacred aura in the chancel. Psalms and litanies are chanted, and the choir sings an anthem and leads the congregation in hymns. Announcements may be made of a retreat, a pilgrimage, or devotions like the Rosary. Confessions may be scheduled during the week. Special devotions like the Stations of the Cross may be offered during Holy Week. A Celtic Mass may be celebrated on certain festivals or even on a regular basis. References may be made to a religious order or community with which the parish has associations.

The Sunday Mass probably includes a sermon, but the focus is on the offering and consecration of the eucharistic elements, the breaking of the consecrated bread, and the distribution of Holy Communion. Virtually everyone in attendance goes forward and kneels at the altar rails to receive the Sacrament.

Casual visitors may see a resemblance to worship in Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches. Anglo-Catholic worship draws upon the catholic heritage shared by those churches. But Anglo-Catholics are Anglicans, owing loyalty to their Anglican bishops and primates. Like all Anglicans they affirm an essential connection to scripture, common tenets of faith, and a liturgy based on the Book of Common Prayer of their national church. The Catholic Revival reassured Anglicans that they could engage in ceremonial practices without endangering their faith or betraying their tradition. . . .


[1] The churching of women expressed thanksgiving for successful childbirth but also had echoes of primitive purification rites.

[2] Gregory, “The Prayer Book,” 96.

Structure of the Book

A major thesis of this book is that Anglo-Catholicism should be viewed, not as a new phenomenon, but as the culmination of a process that began when Christianity came to the British Isles in the early centuries of the Common Era. The book focuses on the Catholic Revival and its outcomes. But Anglo-Catholicism, a distinctively English form of sacramental Christianity, cannot be understood without at least a brief review of this earlier history. 

Chapter 2 traces the development of Christianity through the Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and post-Norman periods. The medieval English church had weaknesses, which the Reformation sought to remedy. But it also was a vibrant expression of Christianity that encompassed the rich pageantry of worship in the great cathedrals, the lives of quiet contemplation and service in the monasteries, and the fervent devotion of the masses of ordinary people. When the English Reformers sought to reposition the church within western Christianity, they were conscious of traditions built up over a period of nearly 1,500 years—only about 400 of which were under the dominance of the Church of Rome.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the emergence of the Church of England as a distinct religious entity, and the spread of its traditions and ideals to Scotland and North America. Chapter 3 establishes a baseline of mainstream Anglican practices and beliefs as expressed in the English Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Faith. Understanding that baseline is important before we discuss high-church and Anglo-Catholic divergence from it. Chapter 3 places emphasis on the via media, Anglicanism’s middle way between Roman Catholicism and continental Protestantism. Together, Chapters 3 and 4 show how Anglicanism adapted to different environments and changing political and social realities. They show how four national churches—the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Anglican Church of Canada—acquired unique qualities while honoring their common roots and preserving common traditions.

Chapter 5 traces the development of high-church Anglicanism from the Reformation to the early nineteenth century. It describes how a relatively small number of traditionalists were able to preserve, at great personal sacrifice, many practices and beliefs of the pre-Reformation church. High-church Anglicanism found its most complete expression in Scotland. The sacramental tradition was expressed in the liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which then flowed to the Episcopal Church in the United States. Important elements of that Scottish/American liturgy later returned to reinvigorate worship in the Church of England and spread to most other national churches in the Anglican Communion.

Chapters 6 and 7 explore the multi-faceted Catholic Revival and the challenges it encountered. The former discusses the Tractarian Movement and the revival of Anglican religious orders. The latter discusses the architectural revival, the Ritualist Movement, and the work in social justice. Together the two chapters show how the Catholic Revival built upon the earlier “orthodox” high-church tradition. They examine the work of prominent individuals, their circumstances, and the resistance they faced. The Tractarians were persecuted, and a came to see conversion to Rome as their only viable option. Ritualism met strong, sometimes violent, opposition but ultimately prevailed. Chapters 6 and 7 seek to capture the passion that motivated the Catholic Revival and the ways it surmounted obstacles to give expression to modern Anglo-Catholicism.

Chapter 8 explores what Anglo-Catholicism has become today and discusses major areas of Anglo-Catholic practice and belief. Liturgical research and ecumenical conversations strengthened Anglican worship and its theological underpinnings. Reports of ecumenical commissions reveal evolving theological understanding within Anglicanism as well as convergence with other sacramental churches. Chapter 8 continues the study of liturgies from different places and times, providing insights into the development of beliefs and attitudes concerning the Eucharist. The Communion Services of all four national churches now offer forms that express Anglo-Catholic principles and aspirations.

Chapter 8 also discusses how recognition of the glory of God creates the impulse for adoration. Anglo-Catholicism captures a strong sense of divine transcendence and pays special attention to the roles of aesthetics and drama in worship. Therein, we glimpse the divine glory—and perhaps anticipate a stage when humanity will fully be redeemed by the incarnation and redemption. The chapter ends by examining how devotion to Mary and the saints complements the worship of God. It shows that Anglicanism—and particularly Anglo-Catholicism—has established a middle way between past excess and neglect.

The “Reflections” section at the end of each chapter provides an opportunity to step back, view the pertinent issues from a larger perspective, and relate them to the entire story of Anglo-Catholicism.

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From Chapter 5

The Caroline Divines

By the end of the Elizabethan reign stronger traditionalists were making their mark. They were the first of a number of theologians and writers who recovered the traditionalism of Gardiner and Tunstall and preserved it during the tumultuous times of the Civil War and Commonwealth. Without their efforts—and those of the long-lived bishops who saved the episcopal succession—the Anglicanism of the Henrician and early Edwardian periods might have been lost forever.

The several theologians and writers became known as the “Caroline Divines,” a reference to the two King Charleses whose reigns bracketed the Interregnum. Despite religious and political turmoil, the Caroline period was a golden age of Anglican scholarship. During that period “high-church” entered the religious vocabulary, probably coined by Archbishop Laud.

Lancelot Andrewes, Richard Neile, and William Laud are usually counted among the Caroline Divines, though Andrewes died just eighteen months after Charles I’s accession, and both Neile and Laud died before the Civil War began. Andrewes (1555–1626), one of the most learned churchmen of his time, served as bishop of Chichester, Ely, and finally Winchester. His reverence for sacramental worship was coupled with a theology based on the works of the Greek Fathers. When James I commissioned his new translation of the Bible, he appointed Andrewes principal editor for the first twelve books of the Old Testament and general editor for the whole project. Ninety-six of Andrewes’ sermons were published by command of Charles I in 1631, and his works fill eight volumes of the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, a tractarian initiative of the nineteenth century.

Neile (1562–1640), another student of patristic works, held various positions before being named archbishop of York in 1631. While he was serving as bishop of Durham in the 1620s, Charles I appointed him to the Privy Council and the Court of Star Chamber. During that period Neile hosted meetings of prominent clergy at his London home, Durham House. The “Durham House Group” acquired fame for resistance to growing puritan influence in the church. Among its members was the young William Laud.

Laud (1573–1645) was ordained in 1601, two years before Elizabeth’s death, and steadily gained influence under James I and Charles I. He was appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 and served for twelve years. Laud had strong organizational abilities but was rigid in temperament and lacking in diplomacy. He angered Puritans by trying to restore more traditional worship in the Church of England. He even planned to appoint a bishop to congregationalist Massachusetts. His downfall was a plan to impose Anglican worship on the Presbyterians of Scotland. He was blamed for the proposed Scottish Prayer Book of 1637, which incited the Scots to invade England and helped provoke the English Civil War. Laud was condemned by a parliamentary bill of attainder and beheaded in 1645.

Prominent Divines who played important roles after the Restoration included John Cosin, Herbert Thorndike, Mark Frank, John Pearson, and Jeremy Taylor. Cosin (1594–1672) was master of Trinity College and eventually vice-chancellor of Cambridge University. After spending much of the Interregnum in Paris, he returned to England and was appointed bishop of Durham. He wrote a number of collects for the 1662 Prayer Book,[1] but most of his writings were published posthumously. His collected works fill five volumes of the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.

Thorndike (1598–1672) was lecturer in Hebrew and fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. After the Restoration he was appointed prebendary of Westminster Abbey and is buried there. Thorndike promoted the early church and the decrees of the ecumenical councils as models for Anglican practices and beliefs.[2] He promoted prayers for the dead, urged a restoration of the sacrament of penance, and affirmed a mystical but objective real presence in the Eucharist. Greatly admired by Tractarians, his collected works fill six volumes of the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.

Frank (1612−65), fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, was strongly influenced by Andrewes. Dismissed in 1643, in the approach to the Civil War, he continued to preach during the Interregnum despite great personal hardship. His fellowship was restored after the Restoration, and he went on to serve as archdeacon of St Albans, prebendary of St Paul’s, and eventually master of Pembroke College. Frank was a major proponent of Marian devotion. He was one of the great preachers of the Caroline period, and his sermons fill two volumes of the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.

Pearson (1612–86) served as a chaplain in the royalist army and preached at St Clement’s, Eastcheap, London. After the Restoration he was appointed master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1670 bishop of Chester. His best-known work, based on a series of sermons, was Exposition of the Creed (1659). 

Taylor (1613–67), a protégé of Laud’s and chaplain to Charles I, achieved fame as a poet and prose writer. He was imprisoned during the Civil War but later was appointed bishop of Down and Connor, Ireland, and vice-chancellor of the University of Dublin. His fifteen-volume collected works were published in 1822

In addition to Taylor, several men contributed to the religious culture of the time through their poetry. John Donne (1572–1631) converted from Roman Catholicism and was appointed dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. His poetry enriched his preaching in a distinctively Anglican way that reached back to medieval times. Another poet of note was Henry Vaughan (1622–95), twin brother of alchemist Thomas Vaughan. After a religious conversion experience he came under the influence of the Welshman George Herbert, whereupon his work took on a mystical flavor; Wordsworth and Tennyson were influenced by his writings. Donne, Vaughan, and Herbert are counted among the “metaphysical poets” whose work won new appreciation in the twentieth century through the efforts of T. S. Eliot.[3] The poetry of this and other periods enriched not only preaching but hymnody.


[1] Stanwood, “The Prayer Book,” 144–6.

[2] Thorndike, An Epilogue.

[3] The American-born T. S. Eliot converted to Anglicanism and identified himself as Anglo-Catholic.

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From Chapter 7

External Forms and Inner Realities

Whether the external aspects of worship should be of any concern is a legitimate question. Persuasive arguments can be made that inner spirituality is all that matters—and that a focus on externals is distractive, even idolatrous.

John Henry Hopkins, bishop of Vermont, addressed those issues in The Law of Ritualism (1866). He distinguished the inner life of faith from the form through which it was expressed; “The life of religion is indeed a spiritual principle, but that is no reason why the Lord should be indifferent to its form.” Moreover, “the love of form and order [was] implanted by the Deity Himself, in every human bosom.”[1] Every Christian made use of form and order in worship, even the puritans in their bare meeting houses. The important question, therefore, was: “which is the best system of form and order?”[2]

The best system, Hopkins argued, was the one divinely prescribed for Jewish temple worship. Exodus 28:2–5 described the priestly vestments designed, “for glory and for beauty,” for Moses’s brother Aaron, the first high priest. Those vestments included “a breastplate, and an ephod [tunic], and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle.” To make those vestments, the priests “shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.” Temple furnishings included: “the pure candlestick,” “the altar of incense,” “the altar of burnt offering,” “the cloths of service,” and “anointing oil, and sweet incense” (Exod 31:8–11). The rubrics for temple worship formed “a statute for ever unto [Aaron] and his seed after him” (28:43). The Jewish priests, or kohanim, were Aaron’s descendents.

In the Jewish temple, according to Hopkins (not without some creative imagination), “we see the largest provision for the praise of God accompanied by all the instruments of music, in the Psalms given by inspiration and chanted morning and evening, every day, by trained and skillful choristers, in which the royal David sometimes bore his part.”[3] Hopkins’s thesis—his training was in ecclesiastical law—was that the divine statute had never been revoked. Altars, candles, incense, vestments, music, and so forth were adopted by the early Christian church, so far as their circumstances allowed, and should still be used. Hopkins might have mentioned Revelation, which referred to lamps (Rev 4:5), incense (8:3–4), elders in white robes (7:13–14), and angelic musicians and choristers (5:8; 14:2; 15:2).

Nothing is more external to religion than houses of worship, but those buildings tell us much about people’s faith and the state of the church. Chapters 6–7 of First Kings record God’s instructions for construction of Solomon’s temple, and Chapter 8 describes its dedication. The best architect, Hiram, was hired, and by all accounts the building he constructed was impressive. The temple was a “sacred space” where worshippers could sense the presence and glory of God. Writers of the rabbinic period referred to the indwelling, divine glory as the Shekinah.[4]

Christians were unable to acquire large houses of worship until the fourth century, but from then on vast resources were invested in the construction of churches, abbeys, and cathedrals. The Gothic cathedrals of medieval Europe made dramatic statements of the transcendence of God (and not incidentally the power of the church) as well as providing worthy settings for sacred pageantry. The “glory and beauty” of those buildings represented the very best successive generations of Christians could offer. Eight centuries later Gothic architecture is still revered as a timeless heritage of Christian faith and a model for emulation. . . .

[1] Hopkins, The Law of Ritualism, 1–2. Emphasis in original.

[2] Ibid., 3. Emphasis in original.

[3] Ibid., 7.

[4] Nash, J. F., “The Shekinah.”


The external forms of religion certainly can become empty and meaningless. Church buildings can become shrines to forgotten gods, ritual superstitious proceduralism, vestments symbols of clerical ego, gestures pharisaical, decorations tasteless, and music distractive. But those pitfalls can be avoided. Intelligent and careful attention to externals enhances the religious experience and creates more perfect vehicles for the receipt of divine grace.

The architectural revival and Ritualist Movement were inspired by the belief that worship, particularly the Eucharist, deserves a setting of beauty and grandeur. Fine church buildings, ceremony, and music heighten the solemnity of worship; they also express proper adoration of the transcendent God and the immanent Christ. Morgan Dix of Trinity Church, New York City, commented that the Catholic Revival “revived the lost idea of worship.”[1] Anglo-Catholics believe that investment of the very best of human resources in the liturgy rewards not only participants but people everywhere.

The nineteenth-century ritualists may have been deliberately provocative. Some intentionally imitated Roman Catholic practices, and a few converted to Rome. But most were committed Anglicans who sincerely believed that the revival of medieval practices would allow Anglicanism to attain its full potential. Opponents believed that enhanced ritual undermined what the Reformation had accomplished; but destiny was not on their side, and all they could do was slow the process. By the 1880s opposition was weakening. Morgan Dix declared that “the work of the past half century cannot be undone. It shall proceed, in larger outcome, and a wider reach; it shall appear to be the preamble of a vaster movement preparing the nation for the Second Coming of the Lord.”[2]

Sacred ritual clearly satisfied a hunger in clergy and laity alike. Anglo-Catholics came from all social classes and walks of life. Opponents criticized ritualism on the grounds that it appealed chiefly to women and effeminate men. They contrasted clergy, acolytes and choristers in their “petticoats” with rugged evangelists striding through the mission fields and with decent men of letters preaching in their Geneva gowns. They ignored the fact that virile men in the Roman Empire wore chasubles. The comment about women—intended to be derogatory—ignored statistics showing that the male–female ratio was about the same in ritualist and nonritualist parishes.[3]

Ritualism succeeded mainly because opponents grew old and died. The Royal Commission of 1904–6 noted that scarcely anyone remembered the austere worship of a century earlier.[4] A whole new generation of clergy and laity had grown up taking the “glory and beauty” of Anglican worship for granted. Moreover, traditional parties had fragmented, the church faced new challenges, and new partisan groupings were emerging.

The Tractarians and early ritualists set out to transform the Church of England. The realization that others did not embrace their vision was both mystifying and abhorrent. Idealism eventually gave way to pragmatism: “More and more [Anglo-Catholics] were at least temporarily abandoning the original goal of remaking the Church of England and fighting simply to be allowed to exist as a party within it.”[5] The shift in expectations tapped into latitudinarian sentiments within the church and softened opposition.

Ironically, by the end of the nineteenth century Anglicanism was transformed, to a degree that neither the early Anglo-Catholics nor their opponents anticipated. Only a minority of parishes identified themselves as Anglo-Catholic, but most Anglican churches embraced practices that had provoked riots a few decades earlier. As a historian of the Scottish Episcopal Church observed:

Early in the century, churches were very plain and without chancels. The only vestment worn by the clergy was the black gown. The services were without musical accompaniment. The psalms were always read . . . . Yet, at the close of the century, it was customary to find surpliced choirs and musical services, with the accompaniment of finely-tuned organs, and monthly or weekly celebration of Holy Communion, and in places a daily Eucharist . . . . The Church had recovered its Catholic heritage.[6]

Anglicanism had always sought a via media between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. But now it resembled the latter much more than the former. The church had religious orders and devotion to Mary, even private confession and Requiem Masses. Some Anglicans had aspirations for some kind of union with Rome, or possibly Constantinople.

In 1865 the ECU expressed hope for the reunification of Christianity, particularly rapprochement with Rome.[7] Those aspirations were dashed in 1896 when Pope Leo XIII rejected the validity of Anglican orders and its apostolic succession. Leo’s encyclical claimed that the 1549 ordinal failed to specify the sacerdotal role in the sacrifice of the Mass and to specify the episcopal responsibility for ordaining priests. Subsequent editions of the Prayer Book neither restored the necessary intent of ordination nor repaired the interruption in the succession.[8]

According to the ruling, Anglican clergy would have to accept not only re-ordination but also re-confirmation, whereupon “their Mother, the Church, will welcome them, and will cherish with all her love and care those whom the strength of their generous souls has, amidst many trials and difficulties, led back to her bosom.”[9] Needless to say, the encyclical was not received well by Anglicans, who firmly believed their sacraments to be legitimate and the apostolic succession unbroken.

No hope remained for union with Rome in the foreseeable future. In 1922, however, the patriarch of Constantinople affirmed the validity of Anglican orders, offering new prospects for union with Eastern Orthodox churches.[10] Anglicans also began to realize that they had more in common with Eastern than Roman Christianity.

The Anglo-Catholic ministry to the poor can be compared and contrasted with John Wesley’s evangelism of the eighteenth century. Both offered alternatives to the monotonous reading of Daily Offices and dry Anglican preaching. But whereas the Wesley brothers offered the emotional stimulus of congregational singing, Anglo-Catholics offered the aesthetic stimulus of sacred ceremony. Ritualism, as Molesworth observed, “appealed to the eyes of men, and produced strong excitement, especially among the working classes, who are more prone to be stirred by ritualistic innovations than by doctrinal novelties.”[11]

Concern for social justice spread throughout the Anglican church and beyond. Ministering to poor and disadvantaged people is now a normal part of the church’s mission. Outreach may be particularly important for Anglo-Catholics to overcome any elitist tendency or temptation to live in an idealized reconstruction of the Middle Ages. Nostalgia must never divert us from living and expressing our faith in the modern world. Few challenges are as great—or as compelling—as addressing the social and economic opportunities that exist in our neighborhoods and across the globe.


[1] Dix, M., The Oxford Movement, 20.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The same is probably true today. In any event, such a comment would need to be refocused since women play active roles as acolytes, deaconesses, priests, and bishops.

[4] Reed, Glorious Battle, 131–3.

[5] Ibid., 68–9.

[6] Goldie, A Short History, 99.

[7] Reed, Glorious Battle, 260.

[8] Leo XIII, Apostolicae Curae, §31.

[9] Ibid., §39.

[10] DeMille, The Episcopal Church, 59.

[11] Molesworth, History, 355.

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From Chapter 8

The Eucharist

Doctrinal understanding of the Eucharist has been discussed in earlier chapters from both a theological and a liturgical standpoint. The present discussion focuses on the liturgical developments of the last one-hundred years and on statements of the ecumenical commissions. These semi-authoritative statements add a new dimension, not only placing Anglican beliefs and attitudes in a larger context but also documenting current thinking by influential members of the Anglican Communion. As always, attention to nuances of wording in the liturgy is important in discerning theological understanding.

The following examples will show the extent to which Anglican understanding of the Eucharist has evolved during the period and the degree of convergence among Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and even Roman Catholic positions. The Scottish and American liturgies, which reflect the work of the Caroline Divines and Nonjurors as well as Orthodox influence, offer eucharistic prayers that affirm the objective real presence and sacrificial intent of the Eucharist. The Church of England has moved in the same direction, though not to the same degree. The Anglican Church of Canada tends to offer both “Scottish/American-” and “English-style” liturgies.

The Real Presence

An intellectual understanding of the Eucharist is not essential to the religious experience. But we are thinking beings, and the theology of the Eucharist is important from both a theoretical and a practical standpoint; what we believe influences how we behave. Most Anglo-Catholics believe that Christ is sacramentally present on the altar and consequently are moved to express adoration during the Mass. But they are not unanimous on whether the real presence is localized in the eucharistic elements or pervades the Communion Service in a more general way. Belief in a localized, objective real presence justifies reservation of the Sacrament.

The Eucharist is about transformation—possibly of the elements, but certainly of communicants and the church. Receptionism discounts the possibility of transformation of the elements. Transubstantiation distracts attention from the people’s transformation and attempts to reduce transformation of the elements to a chemical formula. The objectivism explored by the Caroline Divines need not imply transubstantiation; the body and blood of Christ may be related to the bread and wine in some other way.[1] Or if, as Lancelot Andrewes believed, transformation occurs, it may take some form other than the substitution of one “substance,” in the Aristotelian sense, for another.

An objectivist understanding does not resolve the issue of whether the real presence is effected at a specific instant in the Communion Service or takes effect more gradually. Anglicans generally follow Eastern Orthodox tradition in favoring gradualism. The AOJDD declared in its 1976 Moscow Report: “The consecration of the bread and wine results from the whole sacramental liturgy.”[2] Even the ARCIC conceded that “Christ is present and active . . . in the entire eucharistic celebration.”[3]

As noted earlier, the inclusion of an epiclesis in the eucharistic prayer, and its placement and wording, provide important clues to eucharistic understanding. The epiclesis asks God the Father to send the Holy Spirit to bless and sanctify the elements—and, in “strong forms,” to give effect to the real presence. By examining the epiclesis and other components of the eucharistic prayer, Chapter 5 traced the high-church understanding of the eucharist through the Scottish liturgies to the American 1789 BCP. An epiclesis was reintroduced into the Church of England liturgy in the Proposed Book of 1927/8, for the first time since 1549. It was retained in the more recent alternative liturgies, including most options in Rite A of the Alternative Service Book and Order One of Common Worship.

Table 8.1 compares the epicleses in The Anglican Missal;[4] ASB Rite A, Prayer 1;[5] and CW Order One, Prayer B.[6] The first two ask that the elements “may be unto us, the Body and Blood” of Christ (emphasis added), possibly suggesting a receptionist understanding. But their placement before the institution narrative—where it was in the 1637 “Laud’s Book”—could imply belief that the bread and wine are transformed upon utterance of the words of institution. Roman Catholicism affirms that belief but did not include an explicit epiclesis in the Mass until after the Second Vatican Council.

Table 8.1. Epicleses in English Eucharistic Liturgies

The Anglican Missal (1921)

Alternative Service Book, Rite A, Prayer 1 (1980)

Common Worship, Order 1, Prayer B (2000)

Hear us, O merciful Father, we beseech thee: and with thy Holy Spirit and Word vouchsafe to bless and sanctify these thy gifts, and creatures of Bread and Wine, that they may be unto us, the Body and Blood thy most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ.

Accept our praises, heavenly Father, through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and as we follow his example and obey his command, grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these gifts of bread and wine may be to us his body and blood.

(Before the words of institution) Lord, you are holy indeed, the source of all holiness; grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit, and according to your holy will, these gifts of bread and wine may be to us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(After the words of institution) Send the Holy Spirit on your people and gather into one in your kingdom all who share this one bread and one cup, so that we, in the company of [N and] all the saints, may praise and glorify you for ever, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Prayer B of CW Order One contains a double, or split, epiclesis, a rare feature shared by the eucharistic liturgy proposed by the World Council of Churches. The “consecratory epiclesis,” placed before the institution narrative, asks that the Holy Spirit give effect to the real presence. That placement could be interpreted as adding weight to the words of institution; on the other hand, “may be unto us, the Body and Blood” of Christ (emphasis added) might imply receptionism. The “communion epiclesis,” that follows the words of institution, asks the Father to “Send the Holy Spirit on your people and gather into one in your kingdom [and to] praise and glorify” God. None of the epicleses in Order One asks that the elements may be or become the body and blood of Christ. Order Two of Common Worship follows the tradition of the 1552 and 1662 Prayer Books and omits the epiclesis.

Table 8.2 shows three epicleses in the Scottish/American tradition.[7] All five eucharistic prayers in the current 1982 Scottish Liturgy ask that the elements “may be the Body and Blood” of Christ. Eucharistic Prayer B in the 1979 American BCP asks the Father “to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant.” The Canadian BAS of 1985 contains optional forms modeled on both the English and the Scottish models. Most affirmative of an objective understanding is Prayer 6, which asks that the “Holy Spirit may descend upon us and these gifts, sanctifying them and showing them to be . . . the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the  body and blood of your son Jesus Christ.”

Table 8.2. Epicleses in Scottish/American Eucharistic Liturgies

Scottish Episcopal Church Scottish Liturgy (1982), Prayers 1-4

Episcopal Church (U.S.) Book of Common Prayer (1979), Rite II, Prayer B

Anglican Church of Canada Book of Alternative Services (1985), Prayer 6

Hear us, most merciful Father, and send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon this bread and this wine, that, overshadowed by his life-giving power, they may be the Body and Blood of your Son, and we may be kindled with the fire of your love and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.

We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Father, we pray that in your goodness and mercy your Holy Spirit may descend upon us, and upon these gifts,

sanctifying them and showing them to be holy gifts for your holy people, the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.


The Church of England now accommodates, within the pluralism of its optional forms of the Communion Service, a stronger affirmation of the objective real presence than existed in the 1662 Prayer Book. A distinction remains, however, between the English and the Scottish/American forms. The latter continue to offers greater support for orthodox high-church and Anglo-Catholic eucharistic understanding.

Eastern Orthodox liturgies have always contained strong epicleses. The ones in the liturgies of St John Chrysostom and St Basil specifically ask that the Holy Spirit give objective effect to the real presence. For example, the former asks: “Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered. And make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ.” In both cases the epiclesis follows the words of institution, consistent with the Eastern belief in gradualism. In its Moscow Report the AOJDD emphasized that the epiclesis is “the culminating and decisive moment in the consecration.”[8] Interestingly, the liturgy of St Basil asks the Spirit to “reveal this bread to be the precious Body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, and that which is in this chalice to be the precious Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.” “Reveal” might suggest that transformation had already been effected by the words of institution.

The prayer of administration, said during distribution of Holy Communion, is another indicator of eucharistic understanding. Common Worship offers the terse: “The body of Christ. The blood of Christ.”[9] The Scottish Liturgy of 1982 offers: “The Body of Christ given for you. The Blood of Christ shed for you.” The 1979 American Prayer Book provides three options, including the simple but effective: “The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.” The Canadian 1985 BAS offers both the 1982 Scottish and the 1979 Episcopal forms.

Communicants are rarely expected to respond to the prayer of administration, except possibly with “Amen.” But the Sarum Rite required them to recite a lengthy prayer (Table 8.3). The Anglican Missal requires a shorter prayer, but one that could still be time-consuming in the modern environment of numerous communicants.

Table 8.3. Prayers Recited by Communicants

Sarum Rite

The Anglican Missal

Hail evermore most holy Flesh of Christ: Sweeter far to me than all else beside. May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ be to me a sinner, the way and the life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Hail evermore celestial drink, Sweeter far to me than all else beside. May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ be profitable to me a sinner, for an eternal remedy unto everlasting life. Amen. In the Name of the Father, etc. I give Thee thanks, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Eternal God; Who hast refreshed me by the most sacred Body and Blood of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and I pray that the sacrament of our salvation, which I, an unworthy sinner, have received, may not turn to my judgment and condemnation, according to my deserts, but may be available to the profit of my body and soul, unto everlasting life. Amen.

Grant O Lord, that what our mouths have taken, our minds may receive unalloyed; and what comes to us in time, may be our healing in the endless years. May this Flesh which I have taken, and thy Blood which I have drunk, O Lord cleave unto my heart; and grant that no spot of sin abide in me, whose meat has been thy true and holy sacraments; Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.



Belief in the objective real presence justifies reservation of the sacrament for administration to the sick. The Church of England made provision for reservation in its 1927/8 Proposed Book, and most other liturgies also do so.[12] The Episcopal Church offers a prayer commissioning the eucharistic minister who will administer the sacrament.[13] In the Communion of the Sick, the Anglican Service Book follows Roman practice by referring to the host as “the Blessed Sacrament.”[14]

The ARCIC proclaimed that it had “reached substantial agreement on the doctrine of the eucharist.”[15] It affirmed: “Communion with Christ in the eucharist presupposes his true presence, effectually signified by the bread and wine which, in this mystery, become his body and blood.”[16] Given the long history of contentious disagreement over transubstantiation, that statement was highly significant. More generally Anglicans have leaned toward the mystical eucharistic understanding of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Eastern Churches never embraced transubstantiation, and the 1976 Moscow Report of the AOJDD declared: “The deepest understanding of the hallowing of the elements rejects any theory of consecration by formula.” 

Individual Roman Catholics have shared their own reservations about transubstantiation. In the 1960s the Belgian theologian Edward Schillebeeckx proposed two new concepts: transsignification, the significance of the consecrated elements in the minds of participants, and transfinalization: the purpose for which the elements are used.[17] He presented the proposal to Vatican II XE "Vatican Council II" , but Pope Paul VI XE "Paul VI, Pope"  rejected it.[18] The Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–88) did not challenge his Church’s teaching but declared that the mystery of the Eucharist transcends dogma. In a statement that Richard Hooker would have endorsed he said:

It is evident that the “mystery” cannot be “explained,” neither the “transubstantiation” of bread and wine into Flesh and Blood nor the other far more important happening which can analogously be called “transubstantiation” of Christ’s Flesh and Blood into the organism of the Church (and of Christians as her members). What is important is not that we know how God does it, but that we know that and why he does it. It is on this that the stress must fall in the formation of liturgy.[19]

Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) viewed celebration of the eucharist as an activity of global or cosmic dimensions. When the priest utters the words of institution, he said, they “extend beyond the morsel of bread over which they are said: they give birth to the mystical body of Christ. The effect of the priestly act extends beyond the consecrated host to the cosmos itself.”[20]

Eucharistic Sacrifice

Most forms of the eucharistic prayer contain some reference to sacrifice. Whether the Mass should be viewed as a sacrifice or oblation, and precisely what is offered to God, have long been subjects of disagreement among Anglicans and between Anglicans and members of other sacramental traditions. Much depends on whether anamnesis means “remembering an event” or “reliving an experience.” Viewpoints differ over whether the Eucharist simply recalls Christ’s sacrifice on the cross or in some way participates in that sacrifice.

Roman practice has always been to offer up the eucharistic elements, before and after consecration, in a ritual act of sacrifice. The “offertory” originally had that meaning, whether or not it was accompanied by a plate collection. For example, the Sarum Rite asked: “Wherefore, O most merciful Father, we most humbly pray and beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord, that Thou wouldest vouchsafe to accept and bless these Gifts, these Presents, these holy unspotted Sacrifices.”[21] Later in the Mass, the consecrated elements are offered up expressly to link the Eucharist with Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.

Cranmer and fellow reformists rejected the notion of sacrifice, even of self-oblation. However, the latter, prefaced by cautionary language, found its way back the English liturgy in the twentieth century. Prayers A and C of Common Worship, Order One, acknowledge that “we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer you any sacrifice,” but they ask that God “will accept this the duty and service that we owe.” They also refer to “our sacrifice of thanks and praise.” 

Prayer B cautiously includes the elements: “As we offer you this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, we bring before you this bread and this cup and we thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you” [emphasis added]. Three of the five eucharistic prayers in the Scottish Liturgy of 1982 unambiguously link offering of the elements to a self-oblation; the relevant prayer is incorporated into the institution narrative: “Made one with him, we offer you these gifts and with them ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice.” Three of the four eucharistic prayers in the 1979 Episcopal Prayer Book, Rite Two, contain similar language. For example, Prayer B states, immediately before the epiclesis: “[W]e offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord of all, presenting to you . . . this bread and this wine.”[22] 

The Scottish liturgies relate self-oblation to the Last Supper and Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. Commenting on the SEC’s Experimental Liturgy of 1977, the so-called “Orange Book,” one writer noted: “The self-offering of Jesus made possible the self-offering of the church, when united with him in his dedication to God’s purpose for creation. Moreover, the self-offering of Christ and the church were to be seen as one holy and living sacrifice, not two.”[23] The preamble to the Communion Service in the Canadian BAS concedes that “Cranmer’s liturgy failed to give adequate expression to the unity between the Church’s offering and the offering of Christ expressed in the ancient liturgies and in the patristic theology of the ‘whole Church’.”[24] 

Eucharistic Prayer D in the 1979 Episcopal BCP and Prayer 6 in the Canadian BAS—both based on the liturgy of Basil of Caesarea—boldly affirm: “[W]e now celebrate the memorial of our redemption . . . offering to you from the gifts you have given us this bread and this cup.”[25] 

In the Anglican Service Book the priest says: “Pray, brethren, that this sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty.” To which the people respond: “May the Lord receive this sacrifice at thy hands, to the praise and glory of his Name, both to our benefit and that of all his holy Church.”[26] The same book explains: “The Mass is ‘our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.’ By acknowledging the Mass as sacrifice, we remember that Jesus freely gave himself in love that we might have true life in him. The sacrifice of the Mass ‘participates’ in the offering of Jesus at the Last Supper, in the offering of Jesus on the Cross, and in the continual offering of Jesus to his Father in Heaven. It also reminds us that we, too, are to live sacrificially.”[27]

In an address to the First Anglo-Catholic Congress in 1920, C. J. Smith, dean of Pembroke College, Cambridge, traced belief in the eucharistic sacrifice through the patristic writings. He insisted that “the sacrifice is not only connected with the death of Christ, but also with His resurrection and ascension . . . . [I]t is so because the Christ who is offered in it is the Christ who not only died in sacrifice, but also who rose and ascended and presents His sacrifice in heaven.”[28] “The reality of the sacrifice,” Smith continued, “is a direct consequence of the reality of sacramental Presence of our Lord. The oblations of bread and wine which we offer at the offertory, become, by virtue of their consecration, an oblation infinitely greater; become—we believe, not knowing how—the Body and Blood of Christ Himself.”[29]

According to the sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist, the priest acts as agent for Christ, the high priest. Christ’s priestly role was mentioned several times in the Epistle to the Hebrews; for example: “we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God” (Heb 4:14). Anglo-Catholics tend to agree. Michael Ramsey, writing before he became archbishop of Canterbury, explained: “If [the Eucharist] be called a worship of sacrificial offering, it is so because it is through Christ who is high-priest.”[30] Prayer C, Rite Two, in the Episcopal Prayer Book asks: “Accept these prayers and praises, Father, through Jesus Christ our great High Priest.”[31] “The highest acts of every religion,” Casel asserted, “are prayer and sacrifice.”[32] “[W]ithout this mystery,” he continued, “the Church would be an offerer without sacrifice, an altar with no gift, a bride cut off from her bridegroom, unconsecrated, knowing no way to the Father.”[33]

The ARCIC and IARCCUM understandably trod carefully in addressing sacrificial intent. The former acknowledged that “Christ’s redeeming death and resurrection took place once and for all in history.” Yet, it continued, “God has given the eucharist to his church as a means through which the atoning work of Christ on the cross is proclaimed and made effective . . . . Christ instituted the eucharist as a memorial (anamnesis) of the totality of God’s reconciling action in him.”[34] The IARCCUM reaffirmed: “By memorial, Anglicans and Catholics both intend not merely a calling to mind of what God has done in the past but an effectual sacramental proclamation, which through the action of the Holy Spirit makes present what has been accomplished and promised once-and-for-all.”[35]

An important point raised by Dean Smith’s discussion—with which Casel no doubt would have agreed—is that in ancient times the focus of attention was less on the slaying of the victim than on the community’s collective sacrificial act. Similarly, the Christian community—the congregation and the church—can participate in Christ’s sacrifice without any suggestion that he is slain each time the Eucharist is offered. As the IARCCUM noted: “In the eucharistic celebration Christ’s one sacrifice is made present for us.”[36] If this point is grasped, much of the traditional disagreement between Anglicans and Roman Catholics becomes moot. We shall return to this issue shortly.

Mainstream Anglican understanding of the Eucharist now includes some notion of sacrifice. The very worthy concept of self-oblation is almost universal, while Anglo-Catholics and many others believe that offering the eucharistic elements validly links the Eucharist with Christ’s sacrifice at the Last Supper and on the cross. 


[1] For example, Luther affirmed a “sacramental union” in which Christ is present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. 

[2] AOJDD, Moscow Agreed Statement, IV, §29.

[3] ARCIC, Windsor Statement, §7.

[4] Anglican Missal, C27.

[5] ASB, “Holy Communion: Rite A, First Eucharistic Prayer.”

[6] CW, “Liturgy of the Sacrament: Order One, Prayer B,” 189–90.

[7] Scottish Liturgy, §18. BCP ECUSA 1979, 369. BAS ACC, “Holy Eucharist,” 209.

[8] AOJDD, Moscow Agreed Statement, IV, §29.

[9] CW, “Words at the Giving: Prayer 2,”

[10] Ordinary and Canon, 19–20.

[11] Anglican Missal, C52

[12] Dowling, “The Eucharist,” 472.

[13] BAS ACC, “Distribution of Holy Communion,” 325.

[14] ASB, “Order for the Communion of the Sick,” 304.

[15] ARCIC, Windsor Statement, §12.

[16] Ibid., §6.

[17] See for example Macquarrie, A Guide, 12.

[18] Paul XE "Paul, Apostle"  VI,  XE "Paul VI, Pope" Mysterium Fidei, §11.

[19] Balthasar, The Glory, I, 574. Parenthesis and italicization in original.

[20] Quoted in Chardin, Hymn, 13.

[21] Ordinary and Canon, 11.

[22] BCP ECUSA 1979, 369.

[23] Tellini, “The Scottish Episcopal Church,” 420. Emphasis in original.

[24] BAS ACC, 179.

[25] Ibid., 209.

[26] Anglican Service Book, 259.

[27] Ibid., 236.

[28] Smith, “The Sacrifice of the Altar,” 128.

[29] Ibid., 135.

[30] Ramsey, The Glory of God, 94.

[31] BCP ECUSA 1979, 372.

[32] Casel, The Mystery, 71.

[33] Ibid., 21.

[34] ARCIC, Windsor Statement, §5. Parenthesis in original.

[35] IARCCUM, Agreed Statement, §40.

[36] Ibid.

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