Note: Since publication, my views on the eucharist and its elements (bread and wine) have somewhat changed. The point in this article was to differentiate Anglican eucharistic presence from the Genevan/Calvinistic one. After further reading, Anglican sacramentalism ought not be mistaken for Lutheran though it is indeed closer to the German idea than Calvin’s. Unlike the Calvinist, Anglican eucharistic doctrine generally agree the elements are separated for use by the both prayer and Word, and the point of focus is indeed in the elements. Nonetheless, the bread is spiritually eaten by faith and not carnally so (as the black rubric says). This might be called “phillipist’ as the Variata is the best continental approximation, usually employing the terminology of ‘sacramental union’. Otherwise, the Anglican is generally more conservative than the Calvinist, giving a true objectivity to the bread and wine which the Genevan commonly does not. The Black Rubric should certainly be treated as part of the historical Prayer Book which lends definition as to how Anglicans uniquely understand the Eucharist contra Rome, Geneva, and Zurich. Please read this superior article by Bp. Peter Robinson, A Conservative Reformation . Another that reviews terminology of ‘sacramental union’, evident in our articles, is Mr. Lavender’s Laudian Theology of the Lord’s Supper. And, interestingly, Dr. Tighe identified article 29 as a concession to Luther rather than a rejection of consubstantiation. So, perhaps my piece isn’t totally off the mark. These are also superb essays on the same: Novak on Eucharist and Dr. Crouse on Anglican Sacramentalism. Fr. Hart has suggested a convergence of thought between Protestants (represented by Anglicanism) and Rome. Hopefully, together, these links suffice until I can better edit the post below. For now, note that the Lutheran makes greater plea to the christological statements following the ecumenical council Chalcedon as I partly show below.
Background: Like the Vestment Controversy, the “Black Rubric” was a topmost Puritan grievance from the middle of the 16-th century until the Toleration Acts in 1689. The Black Rubric concerned bodily gestures of the laity during communion, decrying ‘adoration’ of bread and wine. Divines like Thomas Cranmer hoped to restrain ‘superstitious’ lay devotions (e.g., genuflecting, bowing, and kneeling unto the bread) that persisted through the Edwardian regency despite Puritan remonstrance.
Though the rubric Calvinist-inspired, it confusingly gave leeway to veneration of the host, angering Puritans who wanted a more consistent condemnation. Normally rubrics were highlighted in red ink. It was the only prayer book rubric printed in black font, hence its name. The Black Rubric stated:
We do declare that it is not meant thereby, that any adoration is done, or ought to be done, either to the Sacramental bread and wine there bodily received, or to any real or essential Presence there being of Christ’s natural flesh and blood. For as concerning the Sacramental bread and wine, they remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored, for those were Idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians. And as concerning the natural body and blood of our savior Christ, they are in heaven and not here. For it is against he truth of Christ’s natural body, to be in more places than one, at the same time.
The controversy around adoration illustrates how tightly prayer and theology are bound together. Minutia such as how the sacrament is received can become a great liturgical matter with deep theological ramifications. Relatively simple rules intended to restrain error—e.g, “scripture alone” or RPW– too frequently explode into larger hermeneutical, creedal questions, especially where the issue does not render itself easily interpretation or “necessary consequence”. Amazingly even the smallest bodily gesture could speak volumes regarding the nature of the bread, having even creedal implications. In reality there are few ‘transparent’ matters but many more complex questions. The Black Rubric was one such dilemma.
Puritans believed measures like the Black Rubric evidenced Episcopacy’s wish to restore Roman Catholicism. Thus the matter was both dire and urgent. When the Solemn League and Covenant (SLC) was finally adopted by Puritans (Long Parliament 1643), the Black Rubric was just one of many complaints which justified English civil war beginning in 1642. But the black rubric controversy was rooted in earlier, acrimonious debates on the continent that began in Germany between Reformed and Lutheran parties. This debate later spilled northward into Britain where partisans differed over the extent Roman Catholic sacramentology required revision. Debates around the Supper are summed by two main categories, the Black Rubric properly belonging to the second–
1. The elements of communion as an offertory sacrifice,
2. The mode of Christ’s presence during the Supper.
Christ’s Presence: With respect to adoration and real presence, amongst Protestants only Lutherans and Calvinists gave the Supper a spiritual realism. Zwingli and the Anabaptist reduced the entire rite to an empty symbol, not departing grace but only stirring the heart to contemplate Christ. This view is called memoralism. However, the Zwinglian position will not be discussed here since in the English Church all parties rejected it. All parties were “realists”. The Henrician Church was either Recusant (Romanist) or Lutheran. By the time of Prince Edward IV possessed the throne, the church added Calvinist definitions. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the principal author of the BCP, was himself a Lutheran won over to Calvinism in the 1546. But these differences were enough. Though much of England’s Protestantism might be said to have been a mixture of Calvinistic and Lutheran opinion, the combination was nonetheless tense if not volatile. Their disagreement was not over realism in the rite but the over the consecrated bread itself conferring grace.
Both Lutherans and Calvinists believed the command, “take, eat this in memory of me” bound the limits by which Christ could say to have been ‘present’. Thus, adoration (if permitted at all) had to be connected to the activity of ‘eating’— not carried about or displayed. Luther considered genuflection and other forms of adoration during the rite “indifferent” given these acts of veneration were not separated from an immediate intent to eat. The bread could not be smuggled home or placed in a monstrance on the altar since its purpose for nourishment not gazing. Calvin held a more restricted view, shaped least not by the regulative principle but especially by the mode through which Calvin conceived grace conferred in the rite.
Natural eating was not Calvin’s focus. The difference with Luther revolved around interpretations of the ‘verba’, “this is my body”, i.e., “hoc est corpus meum”. Calvin preferred a figurative interpretation while Luther (like the Roman Catholic) insisted on a literal. Calvin argued the bread cannot circumspect the flesh of Christ given Christ’s humanity was located in heaven not on earth or in bread. Christ’s flesh cannot be swallowed by the mouth or gnashed by teeth. Moreover, the human nature of Christ could not be “all places at once”. Thus, it was improper to speak of the bread as containing or carrying the substance of Christ. If Christ is not localized in or around the bread, then how His death is appropriated by the believer becomes the crucial question. Calvin’s answer is the Holy Spirit, through the administration of the rite, raises the hearts of men spiritually into heaven whereupon they really and truly communicate with the substance of Christ.
Though this sounds very “memorialist”—a symbol that stirs faith upward– Calvin insists a real, spiritual reality lay hidden behind the rite. Calvin is focused on the rite as a whole, especially the faith of those who commune with Jesus, not particularly the bread. Calvin’s Supper may be generously called an ‘upward epiclesis’, evidenced by his liturgical preference for the Sursum Corda, “lift up your hearts”. The ‘key’ idea for Calvin is the Eucharist is a true ‘ascent’, the partaker raptured by the Holy Spirit. However, this was a radical departure from earlier understandings of communion since the “ascent” technically shifted focus away from the word-consecrated bread toward faith working inside men, essentially ex opere operantis. Calvin’s new emphasis is more the congregation rather than any particular element in the rite. The “body” for Calvinism is no longer a tangible bread that we may touch for greater faith but an ‘intellectualized’ body corresponding to the saving faith of congregants. Already there’s a strong sense of iconoclasm (displacing all visual symbols) in this schema which is absolute under RPW.
Luther’s literal approach toward the words, “this is my body”, challenged him to explain how the bread could localize Christ if His body remained in heaven. For Luther, Christ’s humanity was capable of descent to earth (a downward epiclesis) according to Christ’s homostasis with His own divinity. Though an economy of man and divine exist in Christ, Jesus remained was a single person, not two. Both the miracles and sufferings of Christ—e.g., walking on water, raising from the dead, ascending into heaven, virgin birth, dying on the cross, his passion, etc—were necessarily experienced and executed by one and the same person who never ceased being both divine and human simultaneously. To say otherwise would render impossible any claim that “our God died for us”. According to Luther, the real presence of Jesus “in, around, and under” the bread is likewise miraculous, the quality of omnipresence belonging to Christ’s divinity yet inseparable from His humanity by reason of His entire person. Luther pressed the homostasis of Christ in order to explain how ubiquity may communicate human activity (death) to the bread.
Unlike Calvin, Luther avoided ambiguity regarding locale of grace. Calvin somewhat equivocates or confuses the means of grace by emphasizing an invisible element “in, around, and under” the ‘hearts of men’. Consequently, it is unclear what role the bread plays, and the related efficacious channel for grace is now generalized and abstracted to the rite itself of which the congregation is the principle component. Calvin ushers a radical shift. In contrast, Luther retains the concrete center and efficacy of the bread as an objective sign and seal. His focus is not the hearts of men but how the creative-word divinizes the bread (and in turn, our souls). In fact, Luther’s efficacy operates outside and independent of faith working, ex opere operato. The reality of the Christ’s Body “within and around” bread does not depend on man’s belief. If men partake in unbelief, they do so to their condemnation. The sacrament remains efficacious with or without proper faith. Luther seems to set the Roman error straight without a radical departure from earlier devotions, and this kind of conservatism is more in character to Anglicanism. One might then understand how Lutheranism lends itself to tolerate adoration while Calvinism quickly marginalizes traditional devotion.
Emphasis on faith working (reception) shifted ecclesiology away from the altar toward the pews. Under Calvin the spotlight is not the verba uttered by the minister over bread and wine but on the piety of the congregation. This shift favored a new view of the church as democratic assembly if not a flattened hierarchy of elders. No more was the president accompanied by deacons and con-celebrants in the Eucharist prayer and rubrics. No more was the role of distribution exclusively in the hands of clerics. If the rite is so generalized, the implication is grace has no (or at least a very weakened) ecclesial medium, allowing faith to be understood in more pietistic ways.
Puritans called adoration “bread worship”. The matter was far more complex. Not only at stake was traditional lay-piety but the Creedal and Apostolic traditions that the Church of England based her Orthodoxy upon. For Puritans the black rubric represented license to idolatry. For recusant Romans and Anglicans the black rubric was at best hastily conceived and confused, serving no good purpose. Both parties disliked the Rubric’s simultaneous permission/condemnation of adoration. Queen Elizabeth wisely omitted it from the 1559 version resulting in a great diversity of practice. Some parishes continued kneeling while others forbade. This uneasy situation lasted until 1643 when kneeling was finally banned. However, if the Crown bowed to Puritan accusations of idolatry, England’s historical orthodoxy would have been compromised.
Ecumenical Councils: A great scandal of Protestantism is its selective appropriation of the councils. Protestants define orthodoxy as the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon. Yet this is misleading since Chalcedon is only one of five councils which explain the Nicaea formulas. Protestants conveniently dismiss the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth councils on the basis they only reaffirmed Chalcedon. This simply is not true! We cannot fully understand nor appreciate Chalcedon without acknowledging the Councils that followed, namely Constantinople I and II. This is especially true for the Sacrament debate that borrowed heavily depended upon these Christological councils. Calvin drew heavily from Chalcedon, but Luther understood Chalcedon in light of ecumenical synods that followed. It is a gross example of Reformed ‘higher criticism’ with respect to Patristic sources to appropriate Chalcedon at the expense of Constantinople.
Calvin’s understanding of the verba’s “body” or “meum” conceded Zwingli’s contention that Christ’s body unalterably remained in heaven, incapable of descent or ubiquity due to natural limitations. Calvin evoked the chalcedonian formula, “two natures, without confusion…the distinction of natures being in no way abolished because of the union, but rather the characteristic property of each being preserved”. Calvin especially appealed to Leo’s seminal dictum, “each nature does what pertains to it—the human to the human, the divine to divine’. Jesus’ humanity (i.e, his passion and death) therefore could not do what was improper to it, i.e., to become “in and around” the substance of bread. Rather, the omnipresence of God belonged separately to the divine nature and these properties are not shared. Thus, Calvin forces a radical wedge between Christ’s human and divine attributes, supposedly mustering orthodoxy in defense of Zwingli’s iconoclasm.
However, Calvin’s appropriation of the fourth ecumenical council is a highly selective. While Chalcedon did insist on the distinction of man and divine, it also confessed the inseperable and indivisible unity of divine and human natures, both concurring in “one person and one substance,not as if Christ was parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and only begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ”. Calvin conveniently passes over this unity of natures as one substance and person of Christ, making what is to be one, rather two (as the divine cannot deify or commune with the human). Also, Leo’s dictum of proper activity his later writings which, far from revoking his earlier Tome, elaborate the chalcedonian doctrine where “divine action neither damage the validity of the human nor do human actions damage the fullness of the divine, and between them neither is their property absorbed nor persons doubled”. Furthermore, Calvin ignored Chalcedon’s simultaneous affirmation of Cyrill’s Second letter that stressed the unity of the natures in one Person, “Godhead and Manhood completed for us one Lord and Christ and Son by their unutterable and unspeakable concurrence into unity”, especially since the councils that clarified Chalcedon were decidedly Cyrilian. Therefore, Calvin is rather biased about both the foundational documents and Chalcedon’s wording.
Calvin’s radical approach toward Christ’s two natures effectively doubles the person of Jesus, approaching Nestorianism. While Calvin would not deny the ubiquity of the divine nature, he radically divides the two natures in such a way that the same is not granted to the Person of Jesus. It is as if Calvin forces confusion with ‘nature’ and ‘person’, Worst, Calvin’s Nestorianism, if consistent, logically divorces Jesus’ divine miracles from His Manhood and vice-versa. This is very similar to Nestorius’s rejection of Theotokos (“one who gives birth to God”). If God cannot participate in Jesus’ humanity, then how can we say, “God died for our Sins”, since death is proper only to human nature? This is what Calvin is really saying, replacing nature for person.
More damaging to Calvin’s arguments against ubiquity (or a “downward epiclesis”) are later ecumenical councils (Constantinople II and III) that necessarily clarified Chalcedon in order to avert similar doublings of Christ’s persons. These later councils dealt with the will and miracles of Jesus, insisting that neither divine nor human actions could be confused; neither could they be isolated from each other. When Jesus ascended into heaven, his human nature necessarily accompanied the divine. Likewise, when Christ died on the cross, His divine nature shared His death. It is rather a false proposition to say either God or Man died. Constantinople III claimed One Person died. To say otherwise divides or doubles His single Person. Constantinople III also said regarding His crucifixion:
“We recognize the miracles and the sufferings as of one and the same Person, but of one or of the other nature of which he is and in which he exists…believing our Lord Jesus Christ to be one of the Trinity and after the incarnation our rue God, we say that his two natures shone forth in his one subsistence in which he both performed the miracles and endured the sufferings through the whole of his economic conversation and that not in appearance only but in very deed”
Constantinople II described the unity of two natures in one person a “synthetic and hypostatic union” (canon 4). Synthetic union meant two unconfused natures which are untied but do not allow separation. The Seventh canon condemned those who divide the natures making of them two persons or entities. And, finally the ninth prescribed worship of Christ by single adoration–
9. If anyone says that Christ is to be worshipped in his two natures, and by that wishes to introduce two adorations, a separate one for God the Word and another for the man; or if anyone, so as to remove the human flesh or to mix up the divinity and the humanity, monstrously invents one nature or substance brought together from the two, and so worships Christ, but not by a single adoration God the Word in human flesh along with his human flesh, as has been the tradition of the church from the beginning: let him be anathema.
Conclusion: Far from viewing themselves a new or primitive Church, Magisterial Protestants leaned heavily on Patristic sources like Chalcedon to justify their claim that Rome had departed from apostolic faith. While Rome fell back on medieval scholastics, Protestants borrowed from older fathers like Augustine, Jerome, and Leo III, disproving the claim that Reformers breeched tradition. However, when Lutheran and Calvinists confessions were presented to the East, Greeks could not “amen” Protestant orthodoxy simply because Reformed faith was so eclectic and partial with quoting the Fathers. Augustine’s predestination minus his sacramentology, or Leo’s two natures without Cyril’s one Person, revealed their critical and even innovative approach to orthodoxy which the East rightly calls ‘over-intellectualized’.
The Puritan rejection of adoration really entailed a new concept of worship. How does God communicate His graces? The Reformed favor weak ecclesial structures, democratizing church government to deprive prelacy of its disciplinary power. Traditional sacramental piety suffered the chopping block, and low clergy allied themselves with Radicals (like Zwingli) led the charge. The gravity of communion shifted away from the consecration of the bread to the internal disposition of the heart. Under the Zwingli, iconoclasm joins with the spiritualization of the Eucharist. Calvin’s subsequent appropriation of Zwingli’s Gnostic division of Spirit and Matter is too unstable to be reconciled with either Luther or early lay devotion. Like the Black Rubric (oddly condemning yet permitting adoration), Calvin’s insistence on the Real Presence, generalizing it to somewhere in the rite itself but nowhere particular, is a ‘useless equivocation’.
The end result is confusion. We cannot identify the channel of grace either in the president or consecrated elements. Worse, by rationally tearing asunder what God has declared one (His Eternal Son taking a rational soul and very body), we risk approaching separate Christs vs. the One Christ. The eighth of Constantinople II declares this doubling a falsehood, and, ironically, in the context of worship Calvin may be advocating idolatry,
“those who divide or split up the mystery of the divine dispensation of Christ and those who introduce into that mystery some confusion are equally rejected and anathematized by the church of God”.
Receptionalist and Memoralists alike ought to ask themselves this question, “Did God die on the Cross”? If God died on the cross in union with perfect man, then couldn’t perfect man likewise be given to us in and around bread in union with God? Our response to this miracle may indeed be veneration; after all, Christ accepted the adoration of the hemorrhaging woman touched his garment. When God declared himself “in, around, and with” the Burning Bush, Moses likewise removed his sandals before God’s presence.
The question of God’s presence in the bread (where He proclaims I AM HERE) is essentially Christological. In this respect Luther, not Calvin, comes closer to the sum of patristic faith– “the faith of Leo, Cyril, and Nicaea”. The question boils down to the Mystery of the Incarnation—how two distinct natures can be indivisibly united in One Person for our salvation.