As we have seen, the Holy Eucharist, besides the outward sign and the thing
signified, contains a third part,
the benefit conveyed to us which is described by the Church Catechism as
the strengthening and refreshing of our souls
by the Body and Blood of Christ.
This benefit requires repentance, faith, and charity in those who receive
and the extent of the benefit that they receive
depends upon the depth of their repentance,
the reality of their faith,
and the vigour of their charity,
all of which are wholly due to the gracious gift of God.
The chief benefits conveyed by the Holy Eucharist are four.
The first is the benefit of sharing in our Lord's offering to the Father, which we can only do to the fullest extent when we are partakers of His Body and Blood.
The second is the Divine life which is thereby imparted to us and by which our spirits are nourished as our bodies are nourished by ordinary food.
The third is the benefit of being made like God through the cleansing of our lives:
our bodies are made clean by His Body,
and our souls washed by His most precious Blood.
[Prayer of Humble Access, in the Liturgy.]
The fourth is the experience of union with God to the greatest extent that is possible in this world.
To these may be added the benefit of spiritual communion with our fellow
not only those visible in the church, but the whole body of Catholic Christians throughout the world;
not only those still alive, but also those who have departed this life.
And with them every spirit blest,
From realms of triumph or of rest,
From him who saw creation's morn,
Of all the angels eldest-born,
To the poor babe who died today,
Takes part in our thanksgiving lay.
John Keble: Christian Year, "Holy Communion".
It is at the altar that we are united with the blessed angels and saints
and with our own departed friends.
Now if all these benefits are necessary to our spiritual life when we are
they are certainly not less so when we are sick;
most of all when we are near to death and need strength, cleansing, and fellowship to make us ready for that tremendous change.
The almost universal custom of the Church has been to enable the sick and those who, through no fault of their own, cannot be present at the Eucharist to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, by reserving a portion of the consecrated elements and carrying it to them or administering it to them in the church at another hour.
The first reference to this custom is in St. Justin Martyr about 140.
It was practiced in every part of the ancient Church and is practiced today throughout both Eastern and Latin Christendom.
Formerly the laity were allowed to carry the sacrament away and communicate themselves.
This is no longer allowed anywhere, and there were other abuses connected with the reserved sacrament in early times which have long since disappeared.
Reservation appears to imply that the bread and wine become the Body and
Blood of Christ and remain so permanently.
Those who deny this frequently oppose reservation.
There is now no reservation among the Lutherans, though it does not appear to be necessarily inconsistent with Lutheran doctrine.
But there is some evidence for reservation by the Lutherans in the first century after the Reformation.
It was sanctioned under restrictions by Luther himself.
[C. Harris, in Liturgy and Worship, p. 580.
He says that it is still practiced by the Scottish Presbyterians.
According to the latest edition of the Book of Common Order the consecrated elements are in some parishes reserved for the "Second Table" which is on the same day as the service at which they were consecrated.]
In the Anglican Communion reservation was provided for in the 1549 Prayer
Book and in the Latin Prayer Book of 1560, but not in any later English Prayer
Book till 1928, though Archbishop Parker allowed it.
The practice of holding a private celebration of Holy Communion in the sick person's room took its place.
But many divines defended reservation in the seventeenth century both in
England and Scotland including some of those who revised the Prayer Book
It became customary in the persecuted Scottish Episcopal Church in the eighteenth century and is traditional there.
It has also been formally sanctioned in the South African and other Anglican provinces.
In England it was permitted with restrictions by the 1928 revision of the Prayer Book.
Reservation has never been forbidden in the English Church (except by decisions
of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council whose authority we cannot
recognize, and which in this case based its judgment on an interpretation
of Article 28 which the words will not bear; for what the Article says is
not that certain practices are forbidden, but that they are not by Christ's
The rubric forbidding the consecrated elements to be carried out of the church (1662), though it appears to forbid reservation, was intended for an entirely different purpose;
and there is evidence that it was not regarded as referring to reservation.
On the other hand, the question whether the medieval canon law requiring
reservation in every parish church, or the common law of the Church on which
it was based, is still binding in the Church of England, is too intricate
to be discussed here.
It is certain that in modern conditions reservation is necessary for reasons that did not exist in the seventeenth century, unless large numbers of people are to be deprived of the Bread of Life.
Frequent communion was unusual in the seventeenth century.
Now it is very common.
The Industrial Revolution has made life much more complicated, and there are very many who are hindered by their work from being present at the Eucharist frequently or even at all.
Private Eucharists (which were strongly discouraged in earlier ages) have probably never been satisfactory except in the houses of the well-to-do.
Those of us who have had to celebrate the Eucharist in a tenement bedroom know how difficult reverence is in such conditions.
The proportion of priests to the population is much smaller than it used to be,
and the calls on their time much greater.
No priest ought to have to celebrate the Eucharist separately for each invalid in a large parish, to say nothing of the needs of hospitals, etc.
The sacrament must therefore be reserved wherever it is needed.
The proper place for it to be reserved is the parish church or cathedral.
The bishop of the diocese has the right to regulate the manner of reservation, subject to any directions that may have been given by the provincial synod.
It is his duty to see that the reserved sacrament is kept securely and treated reverently.
No perpetual reservation should be allowed anywhere but in a cathedral or parish church without the bishop's explicit consent, and it is for him to decide where and how it is to be reserved.
Reservation in one kind only was apparently usual in the age of persecution.
After the fourth century it was commonly in both kinds as it still is in the Eastern churches.
Since the Anglican churches forbid communion in one kind only,
the sacrament should always be reserved in both kinds,
by intinction (see p. 356) when necessary (as for perpetual reservation it must be).
It is cruel to deprive the helpless sick of the privilege of receiving the cup,
which is held by some theologians (even in the Roman Communion) to convey a special gift.
At the same time the custom of private Eucharists should be retained.
Many chronic invalids, not dangerously ill but bedridden, who can never come to church are very much helped and comforted by a private Eucharist, and they should always be given it when the priest has time and the house is suitable.
The practice of reservation is universal, harmless, and necessary, and would probably never have aroused controversy if it had not been complicated by the practice of using the reserved sacrament as a centre of worship.
This practice was entirely unknown until about the eleventh century and
is still unknown in the Eastern churches.
The English Church has never formally allowed it since the Reformation.
Archbishop Parker expressly permitted reservation so long as it was not accompanied by the medieval acts of worship such as carrying the Host in procession.
The modern forms of this cult, Adoration, Benediction, and Exposition, were unknown in England before the Reformation, and were not practiced even by the English Romanists until the nineteenth century.
Therefore it is in a completely different position from reservation simply
for communion, which is ancient and universal.
The use of the reserved sacrament as a centre of worship is medieval and modern, and is a purely Latin development.
It is not part of the Catholic tradition.
Some of the best Anglican theologians have strongly opposed it, including Pusey, Gore, and Scott Holland.
The English provincial synods have forbidden it.
Till this century hardly any Anglican theologian could be found to defend it.
On the other hand, it is now established in some American dioceses and in some parts of the mission field.
The arguments for and against it appeal very differently to different minds.
Those who defend it do so chiefly on the ground that it has had the practical effect of increasing devotion.
But it is not certain that it has always had this effect when introduced into the Church of England, or that the devotion which it is supposed to have increased is always reasonable, healthy, or loyal.
This defence might be applied to many undesirable practices including some that are condemned in the Old Testament.
The chief grounds on which it is opposed are:
that it implies belief in a local presence of Christ in the reserved sacrament;
that Divine worship given to a visible object, latria given to an eidolon, is constantly forbidden in Scripture (I Cor. 10:14; etc.)
[The Host is "exposed" on a high place for the people to worship it.
It is carried in procession under a canopy.
This is exactly how pagans treat their idols.];
that the cult of the reserved sacrament leads to the neglect of the Holy Spirit (which is notorious in the Roman Communion, as has been shown), and of the mystical presence of Christ in the Church (this was the objection of Richard Meus Benson, the founder of the "Cowley Fathers");
that it arose historically out of the medieval change of emphasis at the Eucharist from the corporate offering and means of fellowship to the miraculous change in the elements and individual adoration;
and that it lacks the ethical element which is strongly marked in the Liturgy.
[The Liturgy includes and requires confession of sin.
The services of "Adoration", "Benediction", and "Exposition" do not.]
This cult is subject to peculiar dangers in the Anglican Communion that
do not exist in the Roman Communion.
The Romanist who attends BENEDICTION has been at Mass already,
but in the Anglican Communion with its laxer discipline this cannot be guaranteed.
Adoration or Benediction might easily take the place of the Eucharist among people whose favorite hour of worship is the evening.
Moreover, we cannot ignore the fact that some of the supporters of this cult are deliberately promoting the imitation of Latin piety with the object of making surrender to the Papacy easier; and that in the presence of Romanizing propaganda from within as well as from without the Anglican Communion it is extremely unwise to accustom our people to Romanist services which, when they go to another place, they may only be able to find in the Romanist chapel.
It appears to me that while a theological defence of this cult is possible,
it is only possible if the cult itself is made almost meaningless.
If the cult of the reserved sacrament implies that Christ is locally present in the tabernacle, it implies what is not true for, as we have seen, His sacramental presence is not local.
But if it does not imply this, it is of little use.
No one would prefer to pray before the tabernacle if he did not believe that he was nearer to our Lord by doing so.
Again, there is no reason for believing that benediction with the Host is different from any other blessing;
but if it does not differ from any other blessing, it is meaningless and certainly not worth fighting for.
It may be held that the value of this cult is purely subjective;
that people are helped and comforted by it, not because they are actually nearer to our Lord when they are near the reserved sacrament, but because it is associated with their communion as it is easier to pray in a church or before a crucifix than elsewhere.
But it is doubtful whether this can be maintained in popular teaching.
Many people who are accustomed to the cult hardly regard a church where the sacrament is not reserved as a consecrated building.
They will even say, "Our Lord is not there", as if He were not everywhere.
Like other Latin devotions this cult can only be defended if we ignore the way in which it is used by the untheological.
If we are to have a visible object to help us to pray, a crucifix or a picture is preferable to the Host because the appeal is more direct, the practice is more ancient and more universal, and the danger of misuse is less.
The question is made much more difficult because it arouses the emotions
of many people who cannot understand the theological objections, and because
the danger is not so much false doctrine as one-sided emphasis on true doctrine.
Pious but unlearned people naturally think that whatever stirs their religious feelings ought to be encouraged, and that if a doctrine is true, it cannot be emphasized too strongly.
But most superstitions began as unregulated popular devotions, and over-emphasis of one truth leads to the neglect of other truths and, by reaction, to refusal to accept the truth, which is over-emphasized, as the medieval over-emphasis of the Real Presence led the Reformers to deny it.
The English Church is probably wise to forbid this cult; and as long as she does so, no English priest has any right to introduce it.
[I cannot myself distinguish between various forms of
The arguments against Exposition, or Processions of the Host, seem to me to tell against "Devotions" also, but in a lesser degree.
I am not prepared to say that this cult is necessarily to be blamed where it receives the full consent of the local church and is free from suspicion of Romanizing in doctrine or policy, as among the Old Catholics and perhaps in some Anglican missionary dioceses.
But I doubt whether these conditions exist in England or in any English-speaking country.]