Excerpts From
Cranmer's Godly Order
by Michael Davies

An In Ingenious Essay in Ambiguity

IN THEIR vindication of the Bull Apostolicae Curae, the English Catholic bishops urged a comparison of the Missal with Cranmer's 1549 Prayer Book which would reveal a series of omissions "of which the evident purpose was to eliminate the idea of sacrifice." l As has been shown in previous chapters, although this prayer book replaced the Sarum Missal the nature of these omissions can be made clear by comparing it with the Roman Missal in view of the substantial identity between the Sarum and Roman rites. The texts of the 1549 Prayer Book and the Sarum Missal are both obtainable. 2

Cranmer entitled his new service "The Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Masse." This title is an adequate summary of its nature-----it could be, and was clearly intended to be, interpreted as a Protestant "commemoration" of the Lord's Supper but contained nothing specifically heretical and could be interpreted as a Mass. The word "Mass" was, of course, dropped from the title of the service in the 1552 Prayer Book which marked the fourth and final stage in Cranmer's liturgical revolution, the imposition of a service which could be interpreted as nothing but a Protestant commemoration. This ambiguity is stressed by Francis Clark in the most authoritative study of the Eucharistic doctrine of the Reformers yet undertaken, in which he quotes the Protestant scholar T. M. Parker:

"The first Prayer Book of Edward VI could not be convicted of overt heresy, for it was adroitly framed and contained no express denial of pre-Reformation doctrine. It was, as an Anglican scholar puts it, 'an ingenious essay in ambiguity', purposely worded in such a manner that the more conservative could place their own Construction upon it and reconcile their consciences to using it, while the Reformers would interpret it in their own sense and would recognise it as an instrument for furthering the next stage of the religious revolution." 3

Professor A. G. Dickens assesses Cranmer's service as follows: "Though wholly in the English language, this Prayer Book remained a masterpiece of compromise, even of studied ambiguity. While it did not specifically deny Catholic doctrine, its ambiguous phrases were understood by its author in a Protestant sense and was intended to enable Protestants to use it with good conscience." 4 Another Protestant historian, S. T. Bindoff comments: "Its keynote was compromise, and in that it faithfully reflected the personality of its chief author. It also reflected his mastery of the language. Melancthon had once told Cranmer that 'in church it is more proper to call a spade a spade than to throw ambiguous expressions before posterity '." 5
Ample documentation has been provided in Chapter VIII to demonstrate that the "reformed" liturgies in general, and the 1549 Prayer Book in particular, expressed their Protestant ethos principally by what they rejected from the traditional Latin Mass----everything that smacked of oblation, as Luther expressed it. 6

"The liturgy of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer has been exhaustively studied, and there is wide agreement that its most significant difference in comparison with the Latin rite which it replaced was the omission of sacrificial language." 7 This can be made clear by examining Cranmer's Communion service in some detail.

The Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion,
Commonly called the Masse

"Even the closest theological scrutiny of the new composition will not detect anything inconsistent with, or excluding, Luther's negation of the sacrificial nature of the Mass.

"Looking therefore at the characteristics of the new Anglican service and contrasting it on the one hand with the ancient missal, and on the other with the Lutheran liturgies, there can be no hesitation whatever in classing it with the latter, not with the former," writes Cardinal Gasquet. 8 For this reason, it will be pertinent to refer to Luther's liturgical innovations while examining Cranmer's service.

(a) The first part of his new rite corresponds very closely with Luther's 1523 Latin Mass. Luther stipulated that vestments still in use could continue to be used, also the word Mass. The service was to begin with the Introit (the whole psalm to be sung), the Judica me, with its reference to the priest going "to the altar of God ", and the Confiteor are both abolished. 9 The confession of sins to Our Lady, the Saints and Angels and the request for their intercession was obviously incompatible with the Protestant doctrine of Justification. It was also regarded, from the Lutheran standpoint, as a sacerdotal preparation for the sacrifice. 10 Cranmer follows Luther in omitting it.

(b) "Next, according to Luther, there are to follow the Kyrie, Gloria, and the ancient collects (provided they are pious), the Epistle, Gradual, Gospel and Nicene Creed." Cranmer follows this pattern but abolishes the Gradual.

(c) Luther says that a sermon may be preached before the Mass or after the Credo. Cranmer follows the latter suggestion and adds two exhortations to Holy Communion taken from the 1548 Order of Communion referred to in Chapter XI. Certain modifications had been made in these exhortations to make their Protestant import more clear.

(d) After this there follows in the "Roman Mass" what Luther describes as "all that abomination called the Offertory, and from this point almost everything stinks of oblation". Luther therefore swept away the whole of the Offertory in the Roman rite and Cranmer followed suit. "The 'Offertory' now became merely the collecting of money for the 'poor men's box' and for church dues. Gone were all the prayers and invocations of the former Latin rite which spoke of the sacrifice to be performed." 11 A Communion Antiphon is still said or sung "according to the length and shortness of the tyme, that the people be offering." There is no trace of such prayers as the following from the Sarum Missal: "Receive, O Holy Father, this Oblation which I, an unworthy sinner offer in Thine honour, of Blessed Mary and all Thy Saints, for my sins and offences, and for the salvation of the living and of all the Faithful departed."

(e) The Orate Fratres and the Secret Prayer are abolished both by Luther and Cranmer. Both direct that after completing the preparation of the bread and wine the minister should begin the Sursum Corda dialogue preceding the Preface. Dialogue and Preface are as in the Roman rite and in Cranmer's rite this similarity is enhanced by keeping the Sanctus in its traditional position. Luther had postponed it until after the Words of Institution, though this was not always observed.

(f) The most startling difference between the 1549 Prayer Book and Luther's 1523 Mass is that the former keeps a version of the Canon while Luther had cast aside "everything that savours of oblation together with the entire Canon, let us keep those things which are pure and holy." However, from what Cranmer kept of the Old Mass "all the numerous references indicating and implying that the action being done is a sacrifice, and that what the priest is offering as a sacrifice, is the Body and Blood of Christ here really present-----all this has been carefully cut out". Cardinal Gasquet explained that: "Luther swept away the Canon altogether and retained only the essential words of Institution. Cranmer substituted a new prayer of about the same length as the old Canon, leaving in it a few shreds of  the ancient one, but divesting it of its character of sacrifice and oblation." 12 Some examples of Cranmer's technique are provided here:

(i) The opening prayer of the Roman Canon
-----the Te Igitur-----asks God "to receive and bless these gifts these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices." Cranmer asks God "to receive these our praiers, which we offer unto thy diuine Majestie."

(ii) The prayer Hanc Igitur  before the Consecration asks God to accept "The oblation which we, Thy servants and Thy whole family make to Thee . . . " Cranmer replaces this by a reference to the "full, perfect and sufficient sacrifyce, oblacion, and satysfacyon for the sinnes of the whole world which Christ made upon the Cross."
(iii) Before the words of Consecration Cranmer asks God to "blesse and sanctifie these thy gyftes, and creatures of bread and wyne, that they maie be unto us the bodye and bloode of thy moste derely beloued sonne Jesus Christ." Hugh Ross Williamson has pointed out that though a similar phrase occurs in the traditional prayer immediately preceding the Consecration (Quam oblationem), "the transubstantiation has been prepared for by the magnificent Te Igitur, Memento Domine and Hanc Igitur where the 'holy, unblemished sacrificial gifts' are described in terms proper to the coming change into the Body and Blood of which we are the unworthy beneficiaries." 13 Fr. Messenger stresses the fact that Cranmer's rite says
"may be unto us" while the Roman rite has "fiant ", namely, that they may become or be made for us. The former is clearly intended to exclude the idea of change but ever "fiant" could quite easily have been interpreted in a Protestant sense if not prepared for by the magnificent prayers to which Mr. Ross Williamson refers. They would be Christ's Body and Blood in a Protestant sense having become so by the faith of the communicant who would be spiritually nourished by receiving them as food and drink. In reply to Gardiner who insisted upon interpreting the 1549 rite in the orthodox sense Cranmer explained ". . . we do not pray absolutely that the bread and wine may be made the body and blood of Christ; but that unto us in the holy mystery they may be so, that is to say, that we may worthily receive the same that we may be made partakers of Christ's body and blood, and that therewith in spirit and in truth we may be spiritually nourished." 14

(iv) Despite the fact that the words of Consecration had been codified by the Council of Florence, Cranmer did not hesitate to make changes even here. 15 The principal changes made by Cranmer are the addition of the words "which is given for you (quod pro vobis tradetur), do this in remembrance of Me" after the Consecration of the bread; the removal of the words Mysterium Fidei from the consecration of the wine, and the translation of benedixit as "blessed and given thanks." This word was considered of great significance by the Reformers as they considered that a literal translation of benedicere as "to bless" clearly implied Transubstantiation. As Ridley explains: "Innocentius, a bishop of Rome of the latter days and Duns Scotus do attribute this work (i.e. Transubstantiation) unto the word benedixit 'He blessed '." 16 The conservative English bishops also laid stress on the translation of benedicere as "to bless". " Worcester said once to me," writes Latimer, "that to offer was contained in benedicere, which is not true, for benedicere is to give thanks." 17 This is not the place for a discussion of the precise theological significance of the word benedixit in the Consecration formula. For the purpose of this study it is sufficient to note the significance the Reformers attached to it, and the action they took. In the 1549 Prayer Book it was translated as "blessed and given thanks" and in the 1552 Prayer Book the words "blessed and" are left out altogether and have not been restored.

(v) The prayer Unde et memores which follows the Consecration in the Roman rite is rewritten in Cranmer's service to exclude mention of the hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam. Similarly, the linking of the Mass with the most celebrated sacrifice of the Old Testament in the prayer Supra quae is also removed.

(vi) Cranmer's Canon does contain a commemoration for the dead, very similar in terms to that of the Roman which, in this instance, is not worded in terms specific enough to conflict with the Protestant doctrine that sola fides justificat. There is also a commemoration of "the glorious and moste blessed virgin Mary, mother of Thy sonne Jesu Christe our Lord and God, and in the holy Patriarches, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs . . . " Fr. Messenger is extremely critical of the term "Virgin Mary" in reference to Our Lady as opposed to the "ever-Virgin" of the Roman Canon. The fact that a reference to the perpetual integrity of Our Lady had been removed at a time when this doctrine was being called into question could be interpreted as implying that doubts on this teaching were lawful. 18

(vii) One of the most significant innovations in Cranmer's Canon is the introduction of an epiklesis. The epiklesis is, as now understood, an invocation to the Holy Ghost that He may change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a characteristic of the Eastern liturgies and there is no prayer that is clearly of this kind in the Roman Mass. 19 There has been considerable discussion among liturgical historians about whether certain prayers in the Roman Mass could have been an epiklesis or, if none of them ever were, whether there once was an epiklesis which has been removed. The teaching of the Catholic Church is that "the form of this Sacrament are the words of the Saviour with which He effected this Sacrament, for the priest effects the Sacrament speaking in the person of Christ." 20 It is explained that the words of Consecration bring about the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ. The form of Consecration was specified as that laid down in the Roman Canon.
21 In 1822 Pope Pius VII ordered that no one, not even a bishop or patriarch should in future dare to defend the position that the epiklesis was necessary for consecration. Pope Pius X found it necessary to repeat this instruction in 1910. 22 The epiklesis is, of course, found in the Catholic Eastern rites and there can be no possible criticism of such a prayer. The dispute has been a doctrinal one as to whether the epiklesis is necessary for consecration. The artificial introduction of an epiklesis into a liturgy which had not contained one is what is at issue here. The prayer in question is the one which has already been discussed in (iii) above. The full text reads: "He are us (o merciful father) we besech thee; and with thy holy spirite and words vouchsafe to blesse and sanctifie these thy gyftes, and creatures of bread and wyne, that they maie be unto us the bodye and bloude of thy moste derely beloued sonne Jesus Christe." Fr. Messenger considers that this prayer was certainly suggested by the invocation of the Holy Ghost found in Greek liturgies. 23 Needless to say, it is clear that Cranmer did not consider that even with his new epiklesis there was anything more than a spiritual presence of Christ.

(viii) Another change which shows "how carefully the new rite was constructed in order to remove traces of the sacrificial concept which had permeated the old", is the replacement of the phrase (from the Supplices te) referring to those "who are partakers at the altar of the precious Body and Blood of Thy Son . . ." 24 Cranmer changes this to: "Whosoeur shall be partakers of thys holy Communion, maye worthily receive the most precious body and bloude of thy sonne Jesus Christ."

(g) Luther kept the Pater Noster with the traditional introduction but omitted the Libera Nos with its invocation of the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints. He
also omitted the Fraction of the Host. Cranmer followed suit.

(h) Luther directed that the Agnus Dei should be sung during the Communion. Cranmer followed suit.

(i) Luther had kept the first of the preparatory prayers for Communion in the Roman rite, namely, the prayer for peace and unity beginning Domine Jesu Christe qui dixisti, as it contains no reference to the Blessed Sacrament. 25 Luther omits the second Prayer-----Domine Jesu Christi Fili Dei which does contain such a reference, together with the third prayer which comes into the same category-----the Perceptio Corporis tui. The first prayer does not occur in the Sarum Missal but almost identical forms of the second and third do and Cranmer omits these. In place of the prayer for peace and unity in the Roman rite, the Sarum rite has two most beautiful prayers which are excluded by Cranmer for obvious reasons:

"O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty and everlasting God, grant me worthily to receive this most holy Body and Blood of Thy Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, that I may by it be found worthy to obtain remission ot all my sins, and to be filled with the Holy Ghost, and to hold Thy peace. For Thou art God, and there is none beside Thee, whose kingdom and glorious dominion abideth for ever. Amen."

In the second prayer the priest speaks of Christ's flesh "which I unworthy hold in my hands."

(j) Cranmer's service does contain a penitential rite before Communion with a severely truncated Confiteor in which the references to Our Lady, the Saints, and the Angels are removed.

(k) The celebrant's Communion prayers are omitted from Cranmer's rite-----those from the Sarum rite being even less acceptable than the Roman: "Hail evermore, most holy flesh of Christ, to me above all things the sum of delight. May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ avail to me a sinner as the way of life." However, Cranmer does include a prayer to be said by the priest in his own name and that of the people which contains phrases more than capable of being interpreted in a Catholic sense.

"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 continually dwell in hym, and he in us . . . " It is important to note that the inclusion of such expressions does not necessarily imply an acceptance of the Catholic teaching of the substantial presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, a belief which Cranmer most certainly did not have. Sufficient has already been said on the use of Catholic terms by Protestants in a sense that involves the rejection of the Catholic teaching. (See Chapter VII.) The use of the word "spiritually" is perhaps the best example. Holy Communion can be spoken of as our spiritual food and drink with perfect orthodoxy but it can also be intended to specifically exclude the Catholic teaching of the Real Presence. "For figuratively he is in the bread and wine, and spiritually he is in them that worthily eat and drink the bread and wine; but really, carnally, and corporally he is only in heaven . . ." 26

(1) As regards the administration of Holy Communion, it was to be given under both kinds. This had been one of the first changes the Reformers had managed to push through Parliament. 27 The reception of Communion under one kind was, of course, simply a disciplinary matter within the Roman rite. In the Eastern rites Holy Communion is given under both kinds. However, in reverting to a practice which had been long abandoned Cranmer was making the type of revolutionary break with established tradition condemned by the English Bishops in their vindication of Apostolicae Curae. (See Chapter VIII.) Cranmer retained the traditional form of altar-bread but one of the rubrics to the 1549 Prayer Book directs that it must be "without all manner of printe, and something more larger and thicker than it was, so that it may be aptly deuided in two pieces, at the leaste, or more, by the discretion of the minister." This would help to stress the new emphasis on the Mass as essentially a commemorative meal.

(m) After the Communion, Luther omits the Ablutions but allows the two prayers Quod ore sumpsimus and Corpus tuum to be said. Cranmer omits both Ablutions and prayers, the Corpus tuum was not included in the Sarum rite but the Quod ore was followed by another prayer which he found equally unacceptable.

(n) The most unacceptable prayer after the Communion was quite clearly the Placeat tibi "May the homage of my bounden duty be pleasing to Thee, O Holy Trinity; and grant that the sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have offered in the sight of Thy Majesty may be acceptable to Thee, and through Thy mercy be a propitiation for me and for all those for whom I have offered it."

This prayer had been singled out for particular censure by Protestants and, quite naturally, it vanished both in the Lutheran and Cranmerian rites. 28

(o) Both Luther and Cranmer end their services with a blessing and omit the Last Gospel.


It is interesting to note that in the 1549 rite the people received Holy Communion while kneeling from the hands of a priest. "And although it bee redde in aunciente writers, that the people many years past receiued at the priestes handes the Sacrament of the body of Christ in thyr owne handes, and no commaundemet of Christ to the contrary: Yet forasmuche 'as they many tymes conueyghed the same secretelye away, kept it with them, and diuersly abused it to supersticion and wickednes: lest any suche thynge hereafter should be attempted, and that an uniformitie might be used, throughoute the whole Realme: it: thought conuenient the people commoly receiue the Sacramet of Christes body, in their mouthes, at the Priestes hande." 29

However in the 1552 Prayer Book the minister: directed to give the bread "to the people in their handes kneling". 30 In order that the fact that the communicants were still required to kneel should not be "misconstrued, depraued, and interpreted in a wrong part" the notorious "Black Rubric" was added which explains that: "Leste yet the same kneeling myght 1: thought or taken otherwyse, we dooe declare that it not ment thereby, that any adoration is doone, or ought to be doone, eyther unto the sacramental bread or eyne there bodily receyued, or unto any reall and essencil presence there beeying of Christ's naturall fleshe an bloude. For as concernynge the Sacramentall bread an wyne, they remayne styll in theyr verye naturall substaunces, and therefore may not be adored, for that were Idolatrye to be abhorred by all faythfull christians. An as concernynge the naturall body and blood of our sauiour, Christ, they are in heauen and not here. For it is agaynst the trueth of Christes true naturall body, to be in moe places then in one, at one tyme." 31 The rubric was issued as a Royal Proclamation after some copies of the 1552 Prayer Book had already been published. It is interesting to note the correspondence between this rubric and doctrines anathematised in the Canons of the Thirteenth Session of the Council of Trent (1551).

Canon 1. "If anyone denies that the Body and Blood together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jest Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained in the Sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, but says that Christ is present in the Sacrament only as in a sign or figure, or by His power: let him be anathema."

Canon 6. "If anyone says that Christ, the only begotten Son of God is not to be adored in the holy Sacrament of the Eucharist with the worship of latria, including the external worship, and that the Sacrament, therefore, is not to be honoured with extraordinary festive celebrations nor solemnly carried from place to place in processions according to the praiseworthy universal rite and custom of the holy Church; or that the Sacrament is not to be publicly exposed for the people's adoration, and that those who adore it are idolators: let him be anathema." 32

Cranmer was taking careful note of the teaching of Trent and in March, 1552, he wrote to Calvin: "Our adversaries are now holding their councils at Trent for the establishment of their errors . . . They are, as I am informed, making decrees respecting the worship of the host; therefore we ought to leave no stone unturned, not only that we may guard others against this idolatry but also that we may ourselves come to an agreement upon the doctrine of this sacrament."

Cranmer's response to the Council of Trent can be found in the Forty-two Articles of 1553 which were basically his work. 34 A passage in Article XXIX is illuminating both with reference to the Black Rubric and to the Canons of Trent's Thirteenth Session which have just been cited. Even E. C. Gibson, an Anglican historian who is prepared to go to any length to interpret the Articles in the most Catholic manner possible, is compelled to concede that it reflects the opinion of John a Lasco under whose influence Cranmer had come, "and its teaching on the presence in the Eucharist, if not actually Zwinglianism, is perilously near to it." 35

The relevant section of Article XXIX reads as follows:

"Transubstanciation, or the chaunge of the substuance of breade and wine into the substaunce of Christes bodie, and bloude cannot be proued by holie writte, but is repugnant to the plaine woordes of Scripture, and hath geuen occasione to many supersticions.

"Forasmoche as the trueth of mannes nature requireth, that the bodie of one, and theself same manne cannot be at one time in diuere places, but must nedes be in some one certeine place: Therefore the bodie of Christe cannot bee presente at one time in many, and diuerse places. And because (as holie Scripture doeth teache) Christe was taken vp into heauen, and there shall continue vnto then de of the worlde, a faithful man ought not either to beleue, or openlie to confesse the reall, and bodilie presence (as thei term it) of Christes fleshe and bloude, in the Sacramente of the Lordes Supper.

"The Sacramente of the Lordes Supper was not commanded by Christes ordinaunce to be kepte, carried about, lifted vp, nor worshipped." 36

E. C. Gibson accepts in his history of the Thirty-Nine Articles that "there can be little doubt that in 1552 and 1553 the formularies of the Church in this country were (to say the least) intended to be acceptable to those who sympathised with the Swiss school of Reformers in regard to the Eucharist, and who held that the Presence was merely figurative." 37

The "Black Rubric" was omitted in the 1559 Prayer Book but was restored in 1662 with what another Anglican historian, J. T. Tomlinson, describes as a few "merely verbal" alterations. He cites other Anglican historians who also insist that "no change of meaning was intended by the verbal alterations of 1662", and points out that: "The pivot sentence upon which the whole Declaration hung remains unchanged, viz. that the body of Christ which 'is' in heaven, is 'not HERE.' That was, and is, absolutely fatal to any theory of 'presence' in the sense of residence within the elements. It was not merely a corporal manner of presence (which no Romanist ever affirmed), but 'ANY corporal presence' at all which is expressly rejected." 38

It is worth pointing out that the more radical Reformers, such as John Knox and John Hooper, objected to kneeling for Communion no matter what might be said in any rubrics. 39 For them, kneeling could imply adoration, and anything which could even imply adoration should be abolished.

1. VAC, p. 54.
2. FSPB and F. H. Dickinson, Missale Sarum  (Gregg International Publishers Ltd., 1 Westmead, Farnborough, Hants., England. S.B.N. 576 99710).
3. ESR, p. 182, citing T. M. Parker, The English Reformation to 1558 (Oxford 1950), p. 130.
4. The English Reformation (London, 1964), p. 219.
5. TE, p. 154.
6. ESR, p. 183.
7. Ibid.
8. EBCP, p. 224.
9. RMP, vol. I, p. 383. References to Luther's reforms are based upon this chapter (VII) of Fr. Messenger's book.
10. EBCP, p. 220.
11. ESR, 184.
12. EBCP, p. 223.
13. The Modern Mass, p. 25.
14. CW, vol. I, p. 79.
15. The Armenian Decree, 1439. D, 715.
16. Works, P.S., p. 26.
17. Works, P.S., 111.
18. RMP,vol. I, p. 387.
19. TM, p. 402.
20. Op. cit., Note 15. D, 698.
21. Op. cit., Note 15.
22. CDT, see entry: Epiklesis.
23. RMP, vol. I, p. 388.
24. ESR, p. 186.
25. RMP, vol. I, p. 394.
26. CW, vol. I, p. 139.
27. RMP, vol. I, p. 358.
28. ESR, p. 187.
29. FSPB, p. 230.
30. Ibid., p. 389.
31. Ibid., p. 393.
32. D, 883 and 888.
33. CW, vol. II, p. 432.
34. Op. cit., Chapter VI, Note 29.
35. Ibid., p. 28.
36. Ibid., p. 83.
37. Ibid., p. 645.
38. The Prayer Book, Articles, and Homilies (London, 1897), pp. 264-5.
39. Ibid., p. 255.

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