28 March 2024

Humble Access

"We do not presume to come to this thy table (o mercifull lord) trusting in our owne righteousnes, but in thy manifold and great mercies: we be not woorthie so much as to gather up the cromes under thy table: but thou art the same lorde whose propertie is alwayes to haue mercie: Graunt us therefore (gracious lorde) so to eate the fleshe of thy dere sonne Jesus Christ, and to drynke his bloud in these holy Misteries, that we may continuallye dwell in hym, and he in us, that our synfull bodyes may bee made cleane by his body, and our soules washed through hys most precious bloud. Amen."

Since the Holy See has approved the Ordinariate Missal, approval has automatically thus been given to a Eucharistic Theologoumenon which is distinctively Anglican. The use of the above Prayer is mandatory in the Ordinariate Missal.

Just before its end, the Anglican Prayer has, since 1552, concluded by asking "that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may ever more dwell in him, and he in us. Amen."

This association of the Lord's Body with the needs of our bodies, and of his Blood with the needs of our souls, is a medieval idea going back to an unknown writer whose works were mixed up with those of S Ambrose, so that he is for convenience known as Ambrosiaster. S Thomas Aquinas, who in the Summa (III, lxxiv, 1) teaches this distinction (as had that enthusiastic Carolingian upholder of the Real Presence, S Paschasius Radbertus), quotes it as from S Ambrose; and I think it is clearly what the Angelic Doctor had in mind when he wrote the third stanza of his Verbum supernum prodiens; I give a literal translation: To whom [i.e. the disciples] He gave flesh and blood under twofold appearance that He might feed the whole Man of double substance. That is to say, He gave himself in the two species so that He might feed the entirety of Man who is composed, doubly, of both body and soul.

In his first (1548) liturgical experiment in the Eucharistic Liturgy, Cranmer carried this Thomistic distinction even into the formulae at the administration of Holy Communion: The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ .... preserve thy body ... and The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ ... preserve thy soul .... 

Successive generations of Anglican liturgists have been nervous about this Thomist, non-Biblical distinction between the effect of the Body upon our bodies and of the Blood upon our souls; Dix cattily remarked "there is no particular reason why people should be made to pray medieval speculations in a Reformed church". The Puritans asked for its removal, and it has been eliminated from most modern Anglican rites. 

But in the Ordnariate we faithfully preserve this highly distinctive piece of Patrimony!

An erudite correspondent once told me that Garrigou Lagrange argued for the Blood being more efficacious than the Body, because the reception of the Body ipso facto remitted all venial sins repented of, thus leaving the soul the more cleansed and ready to profit from the Chalice (medieval monarchs at their coronations were given the Chalice "ad augmentum gratiae").  

Lagrange also held that a desire thus to profit was a sufficient motive for desiring the Holy Order of priesthood!


The Ancient Professor said...

After I was confirmed and could receive Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church, the prayer of humble access as well as the collect of purity meant a lot to me and both strengthened my faith. I later began to lose my faith partly because the young priests that my parish could afford typically were more interested in social work than salvation. When as a graduate student I began attending church again, with the change in the prayer book, I was dumbfounded that these prayers were not always prayed during the Holy Communion service. Partly because these prayers caused me to believe the reception of Holy Communion resulted in the forgiveness of my sins.

Cherub said...

Superb. Thank you.

William Tighe said...

Unfortunately the words "in these holy Misteries," in the 1549 version of this prayer were omitted in 1552 and all subsequent versions and, sadly IMO, were not restored to the Ordinariate rite. One of those involved in preparing the rite told me some years ago that the notion of restoring those words was discussed during the deliberations, but in the end it was decided that the "familiarity" of the version in use since 1552 outweighed the theological case for restoring the omitted phrase.

Christophorus said...

I note that the Church has this idea in the Preface for Holy Thursday.

Cuius carnem pro nobis immolátam
dum súmimus, roborámur,
et fusum pro nobis sánguinem dum potámus, ablúimur.

As we eat his flesh that was sacrificed for us,
we are made strong,
and, as we drink his Blood that was poured out for us,
we are washed clean.

Matthew F Kluk said...

Thank you for this post Father.

Shaun Davies said...

Do you know (or does anyone) know the origin of the expression Humble Crumble ?

Joshua said...

May I wish you in advance a most blessed and holy Easter!

Joshua said...

Dear Fr Hunwicke,

In the Canon of Preparation for Holy Communion, the third troparion of the fifth Ode seems to teach the doctrine that the reception of Christ's Blood washes the soul of the communicant: "O Word of God, and God, may the live coal of Thy Body be for the enlightenment of me who am darkened, and may Thy Blood be the cleansing of my sinful soul." The original Greek is: Λόγε Θεοῦ καὶ Θεέ, ὁ ἄνθραξ γένοιτο τοῦ σοῦ Σώματος εἰς φωτισμὸν τῷ ἐσκοτισμένῳ ἐμοί, καὶ καθαρισμὸν τῆς βεβηλωθείσης ψυχῆς μου τὸ Αἷμὰ σου.

Stephen said...

Might there not be antecedents in the Old Testament? There seems to be a strong connection in the Old Testament between the blood and the soul. For example, Deut. 12:23 seems relevant: "Only beware of this, that thou eat not the blood, for the blood is for the soul: and therefore thou must not eat the soul with the flesh." And Lev. 17:11 would also seem to apply: "Because the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you, that you may make atonement with it upon the altar for your souls, and the blood may be for an expiation of the soul."