On December 20th, 1547 A.D., an Act of Parliament was passed bearing the title, |An Act against such as shall unreverently speak against the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, commonly called the Sacrament of the Altar, and for the receiving thereof in both kinds.| This was drawn up in accordance with certain recommendations emanating from the Lower House of Convocation. The Committee of Divines, who had been appointed to revise the Liturgy, issued in the spring of the following year, March 8, 1548 A.D., their first instalment entitled |The Order of the Communion.| It provided not only for the restoration of the Cup to the Laity, but supplied them with a Service-book, which was to be used whenever they communicated.
We have thought fit to print it at length, not only because it has been frequently referred to in the preceding pages, but because from the nature of circumstances it must be full of interest to all who desire to trace the growth of the English Liturgy.
The following is the Order of the Service: --
First, the Parson, Vicar, or Curate, the next Sunday or Holyday, or at the least one day before he shall minister the Communion, shall give warning to his Parishioners, or those which be present, that they prepare themselves thereto, saying to them openly and plainly as hereafter followeth, or such like.
The Order of the Communion
Dear friends, and you especially upon whose souls I have cure and charge, upon day next I do entend, by God's grace, to offer to all such as shall be thereto godly disposed, the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; to be taken of them in the remembrance of his most fruitful and glorious Passion: by the which Passion we have obtained remission of our sins, and be made partakers of the kingdom of heaven, whereof we be assured and ascertained, if we come to the said Sacrament with hearty repentance of our offences, stedfast faith in God's mercy, and earnest mind to obey God's will, and to offend no more: wherefore our duty is, to come to these holy Mysteries with most hearty thanks to be given to Almighty God for his infinite mercy and benefits given and bestowed upon us, his unworthy servants, for whom he bath not only given his Body to death, and shed his Blood, but also doth vouchsafe, in a Sacrament and Mystery, to give us his said Body and Blood spiritually to feed and drink upon. The which Sacrament being so divine and holy a thing, and so comfortable to them which receive it worthily, and so dangerous to them that will presume to take the same unworthily; my duty is to exhort you in the mean season to consider the greatness of the thing, and to search and examine your own consciences, and that not lightly, nor after the manner of dissimulers with God; but as they which should come to a most godly and heavenly banquet; not to come but in the marriage garment required of God in Scripture, that you may, so much as lieth in you, be found worthy to come to such a Table. The way and mean thereto is,
The Order of the Communion
First, That you be truly repentant of your former evil life, and that you confess with an unfeigned heart to Almighty God your sins and unkindness towards his Majesty, committed either by will, word, or deed, infirmity or ignorance ; and that with inward sorrow and tears you bewail your offences, and require of Almighty God mercy and pardon, promising to him from the bottom of your hearts, the amendment of your former life. And amonges all others, I am commanded of God especially to move and exhort you to reconcile yourselves to your neighbours whom you have offended, or who hath offended you, putting out of your hearts all hatred and malice against them, and to be in love and charity with all the world, and to forgive other, as you would that God should forgive you. And if there be any of you whose conscience is troubled and grieved in any thing, lacking comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Priest taught in the law of God, and confess and open his sin and grief secretly that he may receive such ghostly counsel, advice, and comfort, that his conscience may be relieved, and that of us, as a Minister of God, and of the Church, he may receive comfort and Absolution, to the satisfaction of his mind, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness : requiring such as shall be satisfied with a general Confession not to be offended with them that doth use, to their further satisfying, the auricular and secret Confession to the Priest; nor those also, which think needful or convenient, for the quietness of their own consciences, particularly to open their sins to the Priest, to be offended with them which are satisfied with their humble confession to God, and the general Confession to the Church; but in all these things to follow and keep the rule of charity; and every man to be satisfied with his own conscience, not judging other men's minds or acts, where as he bath no warrant of God's Word for the same
The Order of the Communion
The time of the Communion shall be immediately after that the Priest himself hath received the Sacrament, without the varying of any other rite or ceremony in the Mass, (until other order shall be provided,) but as heretofore usually the Priest hath done with the Sacrament of the Body, to prepare, bless, and consecrate so much as will serve the people; so it shall yet continue still after the same manner and form, save that he shall bless and consecrate the biggest Chalice or some fair and convenient Cup or Cups full of Wine, with some Water put unto it. And that day not drink It up all himself, but taking only one sup or draught, leave the rest upon the Altar covered, and turn to them that are disposed to be partakers of the Communion, and shall thus exhort them as followeth.
Dearly beloved in the Lord, ye, coming to this holy Communion, must consider what S. Paul writeth to the Corinthians, how he exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves, or ever they presume to eat of this Bread and drink of this Cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a truly penitent heart and lively faith we receive this holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eat the Flesh of Christ, and drink his Blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we be made one with Christ, and Christ with us): So is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily; for then we become guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, because we make no difference of the Lord's Body; we kindle God's wrath over us; we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death. Judge therefore yourselves (brethren), that ye be not judged of the Lord; let your mind be without desire to sin; repent you truly for your sins past; have an earnest and lively faith in Christ our Saviour; he in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of these holy Mysteries. But above all things you must give most humble and hearty thanks to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for the redemption of the world by the Death and Passion of our Saviour Christ, both God and Man; who did humble himself, even to the death upon the Cross, for us miserable sinners, lying in darkness and the shadow of death; that he might make us the children of God, and exalt us to everlasting Life. And to the end that we alway should remember the exceeding love of our Master and only Saviour Jesus Christ, thus doing for us, and the innumerable benefits which by his precious blood-shedding he bath obtained to us; he hath left in these holy Mysteries, as a pledge of his love, and a continual remembrance of the same, his own blessed Body and precious Blood, for us spiritually to feed upon, to our endless comfort and consolation. To him therefore, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, let us give, as we are most bound, continual thanks; submitting ourselves wholly to his holy will and pleasure, and studying to serve him in true holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. Amen.
Then the Priest shall say to them that be ready to take the Sacrament,
If any man here be an open blasphemer, advouterer, in malice, or envy, or any other notable crime, and be not truly sorry therefore, and earnestly minded to leave the same vices, or that doth not trust himself to be reconciled to Almighty God, and in charity with all the world, let him yet a while bewail his sins, and not come to this holy Table, lest, after the taking of this most blessed Bread, the devil enter into him, as he did into Judas, to fulfil in him all iniquity, and to bring him to destruction, both of body and soul.
Here the Priest shall pause a while, to see if any man will withdraw himself: and if he perceive any so to do, then let him common with him privily at convenient leisure, and see whether he can with good exhortation bring him to grace. Aud after a little pause, the Priest shall say,
You that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins and offences committed to Almighty God, and be in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, and heartily to follow the commandments of God, and to walk from henceforth in his holy ways; draw near, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort, make your humble Confession to Almighty God, and to his holy Church, here gathered together in his Name, meekly kneeling upon your knees.
Then shall a general Confession be made, in the name of all those that are minded to receive the holy Communion, either by one of them or else by one of the Ministers, or by the Priest himself; all kneeling humbly upon their knees,
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We knowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, and be heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burthen of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life, to the honour and glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Then shall the Priest stand up, and turning him to the people, say thus:
Our blessed Lord, who hath left power to his Church to absolve penitent sinners from their sins, and to restore to the grace of the heavenly Father such as truly believe in Christ; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all sins; confirm and strength you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life.
Then shall the Priest stand up, and turning him to the people, say thus:
Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith to all that truly turn to him
Come unto me all that travail and be heavy loaden, and I shall refresh you. So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have life everlasting.
Hear also what S. Paul saith.
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced and received, That Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.
Hear also what S. John saith.
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: he it is that obtained grace for our sins.
Then shall the Priest kneel down and say, In the name of all them that shall receive the Communion, this prayer following:
We do not presume to come to this thy Table (O merciful Lord) trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We be not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his Blood, in these holy Mysteries, that we may continually dwell in him, and he in us, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood. Amen.
Then shall the Priest rise, the people still reverently kneeling, and the Priest shall deliver the Communion first to the Ministers, if any be there present, that they may be ready to help the Priest, and after to the other. And when he doth deliver the Sacrament of the Body of Christ, he shall say to every one these words following,
The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, preserve thy body unto everlasting life.
And the Priest, delivering the Sacrament of the Blood, and giving every one to drink once and no more, shall say,
The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee, preserve thy soul unto everlasting life.
If there be a Deacon, or other Priest, then shall he follow with the Chalice; and as the Priest ministereth the bread, so shall he, for more expedition, minister the Wine, in form before written.
Then shall the Priest turning him to the people, let the people depart with this blessing:
The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
To the which the people shall answer,
Note, that the Bread that shall be consecrated shall be such as heretofore hath been accustomed. And every of the said consecrated Breads shall be broken in two pieces, at the least, or more, by the discretion of the Minister, and so distributed. And men must not think less to be received in part than in the whole, but in each of then the whole Body of our Saviour Jesu Christ.
Note, that if it doth so chance that the Wine hallowed and consecrate doth not suffice or be enough for them that do take the Communion, the Priest, after the first Cup or Chalice be emptied, may go again to the Altar, and reverently and devoutly prepare and consecrate another, and so the third, or more likewise, beginning at these words, Simili modo postquam coenatume est, and ending at these words Qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum, and without any levation or lifting up.