Dr. McGowan is the Dean and President of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University. This sermon was preached at the Solemn Mass concluding the conference, “Anglo-Catholicism: Uncovering Roots,” held at the Church of the Advent, November 15 – 16, 2017.
The Eucharist is a sacrifice. See, I said it. I was never really expecting to get a job in the Diocese of Sydney anyway!
This confession, that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, may be as succinct a summary as any of the gift and challenge of the Catholic movement to the Anglican Communion. There are still some places where the defenders of reform will rise to take up theological arms against such a confession; elsewhere however we might fear that it is as much shrugged at, as bristled at. This may be the challenge for Anglican Catholicism as for Christianity now, that we are less the cause of outrage as an object of curiosity. It is time, perhaps, to be a bit more outrageous.
Why is or was sacrifice such a problem? This jubilee year of the Reformation offers or requires some account of the issue. The reformers began pastorally with the abuse of indulgences and the endowing Masses as bargaining-chips for souls in purgatory. Abuse never reveals or exhausts the true meaning of any practice or doctrine, however. As often, the Reformers accurately pointed to weeds growing in the ecclesial garden, but tugged out the wheat instead or as well; for in this regard as in others, what the reformed Church was left with often was not a restored image of its primitive self but a more stilted version of the Medieval one. The results were long and many; Bishop Manton Eastburn of this diocese doggedly refused pastoral engagement with this parish through the 1840s and 50s because the disposition of the holy table and its accouterments, including the cross still to be seen in All Saint’s Chapel here, smacked of it being an altar.
As recently as 1966 the Church of England abandoned the phrase “we offer this bread and this cup” in a proposed eucharistic prayer for what would become the Series 2 alternative services, after a flurry of debate. The issue here was not, or supposedly not, any Romish doctrine of repeated Calvaries, or the offering of transubstantiated elements, but simply the offering of the material things of bread and wine. To this protestant worthies objected, like their predecessors of the 16th century, because they believed in effect that eucharistic sacrifice could only be what the medieval Church had taught at its worst – a repetition of the Cross and a mitigation of the completeness of Christ’s work – and hence was theologically impertinent, or impossible.
Theologically or exegetically however all the protestant objections to any actual sacrifice, whether from the 16th or the 20th Century, have started with a position like that of the Letter to the Hebrews, with its remarkable evocation of the work of Christ as a heavenly and supersessionist Day of Atonement ritual, that revealed the historical sacrifices for sin of the Israelite cultus to be at best partial, and at worst redundant.
For the author of Hebrews however, sacrifice itself was not merely an intellectual trope, the expression of one idea like atonement, but a familiar if multivalent set of rituals with different forms and functions. Scripture itself witnesses to same effect, of various sacrifices, some bloody and others bloodless, some redundant and others vital. The sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were sometimes destroyed and sometimes shared, sometimes for sin and sometimes for thanksgiving, sometimes for the individual and sometimes for the nation.
The ancient readers of all these texts remembered the sacrifices of the Jerusalem Temple, and saw them or smelled their smoke around the ubiquitous pagan shrines of the ancient Mediterranean. Thus while Hebrews states that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22), and that Christ had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins (10:12), the author – known only to God – and their first readers also knew both that not all sacrifice involved shedding of blood, and that not all sacrifice was for the forgiveness of sins.
So in the Letter to the Romans, Paul does, like Hebrews, read Jesus and the cross through the Day of Atonement ritual, likening Christ to the hilasterion, the mercy seat on the ark sprinkled with the blood of the victim; but Paul also, and more emphatically, likens Christ to the Passover Lamb in 1 Corinthians, offered not for expiation but as an anamnesis of God’s liberation of Israel from slavery to be celebrated again and again. Paul clearly countenances further sacrifices of at least some kind, calling the charitable gifts of the Philippians “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (4:18), and urging the Romans to offer themselves as a “living sacrifice” (12:1).
All these sacrifices! It is tempting to imagine John Calvin grumbling, among the Church triumphant, that Paul clearly did not read Hebrews closely enough. Paul however understood sacrifice better than Calvin did.
So if the authors and readers of scripture, and the ancient Christian theologians on whose work catholic faith and order depend, knew that sacrifice was not one thing, but many things, our confession that the Eucharist is a sacrifice may also be the affirmation not merely of one idea from the array of sacrificial types and shadows, that of expiation or atonement by blood, but the invocation of many ideas. What they have in common was not expiation or violence, but gift.
Each of the sacrifices of the Hebrew Bible, and not just the Day of Atonement, is reflected for Christians in the work of Jesus Christ. And so too each takes renewed form in our Eucharist. Atonement involved sacrifice, not as sharing but as destruction and separation; in the Eucharist we commemorate our scapegoat offered and expelled and our sins forgiven. Passover involved the solidarity of the oppressed being liberated from bondage; in the Eucharist, with and by Christ our Passover we are brought from death to life. Peace or communion offerings were brought by Israel, in which the participants gave thanks to God with feasting for blessings received; in our Eucharist we too share in thanksgiving to God in Christ. What these sacrifices have in common is not violence but gift.
The most ancient Christian teaching about the Eucharist does see it as sacrifice not, or not only, because of the real presence of Christ which ensues, but because it was gift, a ritual sharing with God and one another of bread and wine themselves, with thanksgiving – as that often spoken but rarely explored word “Eucharist” itself suggests – the “pure offering” of which Malachi had spoken.
The Eucharist is a “spiritual” sacrifice of course; not however in the sense that it works merely in the intangible realm of the spirit, but insofar as it is an action that takes place in the realm of the Church driven by the power of the Spirit. The Eucharist is actually a material sacrifice, and a literal sacrifice of bread and wine. So we do not offer Christ in the Eucharist, we receive him in it. Our eagerness to affirm the real presence or to connect the Eucharist with Calvary may lead us to skip over this apparently prosaic but foundational affirmation.
But why offer bread and wine at all, or why share them, let alone carry them around in procession, or engage in heated controversy with other good people who do not yet share the faith of the ancient Church? These elements may seem too prosaic to be more than signs quickly to be by-passed on their way to other signifieds. I suggest however that this is far from being the case. First, the fact of sacrifice as the heart of our common life makes the claim that the heart of human sociability and of relationship with God is gift. More specifically these gifts connect us with that ancient Passover sacrifice, including that of Jesus’ Last Supper. They are signs of human life and labor, as well as of human need and liberation. Offering to God bread and wine, we bring things that earth has given and human hands have made, signs of our life itself and of our thanks for life; we offer humanity itself, labor itself, and creation itself. It has always been a mark of the catholic movement to take the world into which the Word became incarnate as fundamentally serious, not as something to flee from but to embrace; and the audacity of this unlikely and very material sacrifice is thus the audacity of the incarnation.
So Christ in the Eucharist, as otherwise, is for us all things and not only one: he is all priests and victims, he is Adam and Abel, he is Isaac and Moses, he is Jepthah’s daughter fatefully dancing, he is Ruth and Naomi gleaning in the barley fields of Passover. Christ in the Eucharist is the fulfillment of all types, and not merely the reduction to one. In this simplest of offerings we commune with all these, and with ancient saints and pilgrims who found in bread and wine not merely the creatures themselves offered, but the Word by whom bread and wine were made, by and through whom we were made, given back to us in the body and blood of Christ. In this material offering we proclaim and commune with a God who cares about hunger and labor and climate and us, and whose character is gift, even to the point that God may seek gratuitous gifts from us.
This confession, of eucharistic sacrifice, may still be the most audacious thing the Church can do, other than actually celebrating the Eucharist. We know that catholicism does not subsist in ritual but in the sacraments to which ritual is servant; our future relies I think not on ritual but in the fact of faithful celebration, and in the authenticity of our confession of a catholic faith. In our action and in our confession let us continue to make the extraordinary claim that not one thing but many things, not one story but all stories, not one group but a countless throng, are caught up together in the praise of the angels, as our sacrifice, our gift, is taken by the Angel to the altar and throne of God.
November 15-16, 2017: A Special "Mini-Conference" in advance of the American Academy of Religion Meeting in Boston
What is Anglo-Catholicism? This brief conference, on the eve of the annual meeting of the AAR, will delve into our broad tradition in a bid to remember and retrieve the best of the past for a faithful future. Inspired by the Anglo-Catholic congresses of the 20th century, young scholars will deliver papers on the holy, catholic, apostolic pattern of Scripture, sacraments, prayer, and the Church herself, formed by God in Christ.
Daily Office & Mass, with special service of Evensong & Benediction.
Registration for the Conference is now closed. All are welcome at the Conference liturgies:
Wednesday, November 15, 6:30 pm - Solemn Evensong & Benediction
Thursday, November 16, 6:30 pm - Solemn Mass, the Very Rev. Dr. Andrew McGowan, Preaching
The Rev. Dr. George Westhaver Pusey House, Oxford
"The Vision Glorious: In Memory of Geoffrey Rowell"
Dr. Liza Anderson Claremont School of Theology
"The Theology of Vocation from the Oxford Movement to Today: Clericalism and Monasticism"
The Rev. Dr. Michael Cover Marquette University
"Apologia Episcoporum: Anglican Catholicism and the Future of Ecclesial Order"
The Rev. Samuel Keyes Boston College
St James School, Hagerstown, MD
"Practical Allegory: Keeping the et in the res et sacramentum"
Elisabeth Kincaid University of Notre Dame
"'Obedience the Remedy': John Henry Newman and the Development of Christian Holiness"
Dr. Christopher Wells The Living Church
"Reconciled Bodies: Recasting Race in Catholic Ecclesiology"
Schedule of Events
Wednesday, November 15
4:00 pm: Welcome and Opening Remarks from Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Hanson
4:15 pm: Keynote Address from Rev. Dr. George Westhaver: "The Vision Glorious: In Memory of Geoffrey Rowell"
5:45 pm: Break
6:30 pm: Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
Featuring the Music of:
Richard Ayleward: Responses
A. Herbert Brewer: Evening Service in D Major
John Sheppard: O God, Be Merciful Unto Us
Charles Villiers Stanford: Beati quorum via, op 38, no 3
7:30 pm: Drinks Reception in Moseley Hall
Sponsored by the Theology Department of Loyola University Baltimore
Thursday, November 16
9:00 am: Morning Prayer
10:00 am: First Speakers' Session
Elisabeth Kincaid: "'Obedience the Remedy': John Henry Newman and the Development of Christian Holiness"
Samuel Keyes: "Practical Allegory: Keeping the et in the res et sacramentum"
12:00 pm: Lunch
1:30 pm: Second Speakers' Session
Michael Cover: "Apologia Episcoporum: Anglican Catholicism and the Future of Ecclesial Order"
Liza Anderson: "The Theology of Vocation from the Oxford Movement to Today: Clericalism and Monasticism"
3:30 pm: Break
4:00 pm: Third Speaker's Session
Christopher Wells: "Reconciled Bodies: Recasting Race in Catholic Ecclesiology"
5:00 pm: Afternoon Tea
Sponsored by Parishioners of the Church of the Advent
5:30 pm: Evening Prayer
6:30 pm: Solemn Mass of the Holy Eucharist
Sermon by the Rev. Prof. Andrew McGowan, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale
Featuring the Music of:
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Missa Brevis
Thomas Tomkins: O Sing unto the Lord a New Song
Matthew Martin: Laudate Dominum
Conference participants are advised that a select number of rooms are available at a special rate at the Park Plaza Hotel, 50 Park Plaza. Participants must register for the conference and cite the Church of the Advent when making their booking to qualify for a discounted rate.
All room reservations must be made before October 16. Please call the reservations department at the hotel at: 617-379-7129.
If you wish to explore additional options for accommodation please contact Fr. Hanson.
This lecture will examine some of the principles which animated the leaders of the Oxford Movement and consider their relevance for contemporary opportunities and concerns. The title is inspired by one of the best presentations of the animating spirit of the Oxford Movement, The Vision Glorious: Themes and Personalities of the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism, by Geoffrey Rowell. Bp Geoffrey, sometime Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Chaplain and Fellow of Keble College Oxford, and a long-time Governor of Pusey House, Oxford, not only communicated but embodied something of the best ideals of the Tractarians. He died this past summer on Trinity Sunday. Following his inspiration, this lecture will consider how the principles of the Oxford Movement are embodied and communicated in the architecture, mosaics, and adornment of Keble College Oxford. We find there not only a space for worship, but a theology of creation and the sacramental life, a social programme and a call to sanctification. The chapel's mosaics also illustrate the importance of a kind of exegesis of the Scriptures which is also an invitation to the Vision Glorious, and a way of reading, living, and praying which itself is meant to instruct and to transform. The principles of renewal which the chapel expresses are just as relevant for the catholic movement today.
“Obedience the Remedy”: John Henry Newman and the Development of Christian Holiness
In recent decades, many Anglican theologians have been engaged in the recovery of a concept of virtue ethics within the field of Moral Theology and Christian Ethics. In this paper, I consider how John Henry Newman’s concept of the development of personal holiness within hisPlain and Parochial Sermonscan make a uniquely Anglo-Catholic contribution to this discussion.
Specifically, I focus on his description of the development of holiness as a combination of the work of the Holy Spirit, obedience to the law of God, religious affection, and reception of the sacraments. I then consider, on an academic level, how his theory of holiness relates to questions in modern virtue ethics and, on a practical level, how this theory should improve contemporary practices of Christian catechesis.
Practical Allegory: Keeping the 'et' in the 'res et sacramentum'
It seems especially clear, after the heyday of Anglo-catholic ritualism and the 20th century’s liturgical movement(s), that good liturgy, or “meaningful” liturgy, does not make good people or healthy churches. Inspired by the medieval commentary tradition and its near-obsession with ritual detail, this paper will argue that liturgy’s formational work happens neither from rubrical precision nor from a clear “meaning” behind the sign, but rather from an active use of both as an engine for reimagining the world. The traditional method of allegorical exegesis, rather than making the liturgy into spiritual escapism, forces us to see ourselves in history, which in turn drives us to greater spiritual vitality in the present.
'Apologia Episcoporum': Anglican Catholicism and the Future of Ecclesial Order
It is well known that the preservation of apostolic succession, as expressed to a large degree by the maintenance of the historic episcopate, is one of the principal arguments marshalled by Anglicans (as well as by Swedish Lutherans) in defense of their possession of a catholic identity. And yet, as the persistent extremes of puritanism and papalism manifest, the episcopacy remains an irritant as well as a catholic rallying point within the church’s divided life. This paper explores both the past and future prospects of the episcopacy (and its discontents) as conceived by Anglican catholic theologians, in attempt to better understand this traditional hallmark of the church’s order. I begin with a twofold typology of the catholic episcopacy in 20th century ecclesiology: the Ignatian-Cyprianic type (represented by Michael Ramsey) and the Augustinian type (represented by Oliver O’Donovan). While these types might be taken to articulate the Anglo-Catholic and the Evangelical positions, respectively, each is also fairly conceived as retrieving a necessary and complementary part of the catholic witness. To try and make sense of the thesis and antithesis offered by Ramsey and O’Donovan and to discover points of consensus between them, I review the “Anglican catholic” defense of the episcopacy in two previous centuries—the 19th century defense by the Tractarians and the 17th century defense by the Laudians. This diachronic study shows that among those defending a reformed, patristic (i.e. non-papalist) conception of the episcopacy was Archbishop Laud’s English Catholic interlocutor, Francis à Sancta Clara, whose Apologia episcoporum paves the way for a renewed appreciation of the episcopacy as a locus of ecumenical reconciliation.
"The Theology of Vocation from the Oxford Movement to Today: Clericalism and Monasticism"
Candles, Copes, and Clericalism: Theologies of Christian Vocation from the Oxford Movement to Today.
“Reconciled Bodies: Recasting Race in Catholic Ecclesiology”
From the earliest days of service in slums, through a subsequent century of courageous cross-continental missions, to sundry political interventions in the last fifty years, Anglo-Catholics have sought to transform society with an invariably “high” doctrine of the Church in hand. How does that doctrine look today, both dogmatically and practically? This paper will set forth several strands in Catholic Anglican thinking about the Church with special attention to its one-body character, on the way to engaging contemporary problems of reform, division, and evangelization.
St Matthew tells us that when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit Jesus, they found him and his mother in a house, not the stable where they had found their first temporary shelter. This is a cue that our Epiphany celebration should focus on our own houses, and it is a very old custom to bless houses on Epiphany. In the East, in particular, it is the custom for the parish priest to go through the parish blessing houses—not the elaborate blessing of a new home, but a special blessing that is also often given at Easter, a renewal of the homes in which the people of God dwell and live out the mystery of faith day by day. In recent years, this custom has been revived in some places in the West, and The Book of Occasional Services of the Episcopal Church provides forms for this blessing. However, there is another way of blessing homes at Epiphany that begins in church, but does not require the priest to go from house to house—something that would be quite impossible in many non-geographical parishes in the modern world. This custom involves chalk that is blessed by the priest and taken home by families to mark the doors of their homes.
On this, the first Sunday after Epiphany, we will bless chalk during the 9:00 Mass to be used to hallow all our homes throughout our parish and our city. The chalk will be available at the back of the Church, so please take some home with you. The initials of the legendary names of the wise men are written with blessed chalk on the lintel above the front door of the house, framed by the numbers of the new year, in this way:
20 + G + M + B + 17
After making the inscription, the following prayer is offered:
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And with thy spirit.
Leader: Let us pray. O Lord, holy Father, Almighty, everlasting God, we beseech you to hear us and vouchsafe to send your holy Angel from heaven to guard and cherish, protect and visit, and evermore defend all that dwell in this home. I call upon your Saints Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, to protect my family, friends and all who enter here from every harm and danger, and I place this mark over my door to remain as a reminder to us that my home is truly the house of the Lord. O God, make the door of my house the gateway to your eternal Kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Announcing Compline at the Advent—Second Sundays at 8 pm
Beginning Sunday, December 11, at 8:00 pm, the Church of the Advent will begin celebrating the ancient liturgy of Compline, preceded by Lucernarium, an evening service of lamp-lighting. All are invited to attend this new service with ancient roots in Christian practice. Going forward, we plan to pray Compline on the second Sunday of every month at 8:00 pm in the nave. There is particular need for parishioners familiar with liturgical practice at the Advent to participate, so if you are interested in helping celebrate this service of prayer before bedtime in the custom of early Christian monasticism, please contact Fr Hanson (email@example.com) or Fr Wood (firstname.lastname@example.org). This is a great opportunity to mark the Advent season with vigilance and reverence, and to become more familiar with the practice of daily prayer.
Softball season starts in early May (!) and the Advent Swingers softball team is getting ready. We’re recruiting players — familiar teammates from previous seasons and new talent! If you have played softball or are even interested in doing so, please contact Fr. Wood (email@example.com).
There is a team fee of $45 per player, which goes towards paying the league fee, T-shirts, and team expenses. Practices begin this month, and the season runs from May through early September.
Whether you are a returning member or would like to sign up for the first time, email Fr Wood or call him at 617-697-8528 to inquire further or to sign up.
Pledging members at least 18 years of age are eligible. Haven’t pledged yet? You can do so online here.