Cranmer's Godly Order
by Michael Davies
Protestant Teaching on the Eucharist,
Part 2: Rejection of Transubstantiation
"For they teach, that Christ is in the bread and wine: but we say
(according to the truth), that he is in them that worthily
eat and drink the bread and wine . . ."-----Cranmer 1
MOST OF the Reformers accompanied their rejection of the sacrificial nature of the Mass by the rejection of any real, objective presence of Christ in the consecrated elements. As is so often the case with revolutionaries in any sphere, it is easier to discover what they reject than what they propose to put in its place. Professor Owen Chadwick, while explaining how Zwingli considered the Sacraments to be simply signs of a covenant between God and man, and not a means of grace, remarks that: "In his early years as a reformer he and his friend Oecolampadius of Basle were so engaged on saying what the Lord's Supper was not, that they rarely and reluctantly attempted to describe what it was." 2
The belief that Christ was in any way contained in the consecrated elements was rejected by all the Continental and British Reformers but for Luther. Their standpoint was clearly expressed by Bishop Hooper. The Holy Supper was "to be used as a communion unto all men under both kinds, and not to be made a mass of them that blasphemeth God; for such as honour the bread there for God, doth no less idolatry than they that made the sun their God or stars." 3 The manner in which this attitude is reflected in the notorious Black Rubric and Article XXIX of the Forty-two Articles of 1553 is examined in detail in the final section of Chapter XII.
The Reformers' theories of precisely how Christ is present to the believer during the Lord's Supper are so varied and complex that it is not possible to discuss them in any detail here. The position is further complicated by frequent developments and modifications in their particular theories. "As to the nature of Cranmer's belief in the real presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament," complains Cardinal Gasquet, "it is always difficult to determine with precision, at any given time, the exact phase of a mind so shifting." The Cardinal claims, after studying the different theories in some detail, that the schools of opinion in the sixteenth century can be roughly classified into two categories-----those who held the "real presence" and those who held the "real absence". 4
"The highest form-----and yet far removed from the Catholic doctrine," writes Fr. Messenger, "was the theory of Consubstantiation, as put forward by Luther. The lowest form would be the symbolist view put forward by Zwingli, according to which the bread and wine merely 'represent' Christ's Body and Blood. Between these two extremes are all kinds of intermediate views, such as those of Bucer, Melancthon and Calvin, which may be described as virtualistic views of the Presence." 5 "Virtualism" is a term used to describe the belief according to which the virtue of Christ's Passion is received with the Sacrament through faith. Bucer, who had more influence on Cranmer than any other Continental Reformer, totally rejected the Lutheran, let alone the Catholic, position that somehow Christ was received in or under the form of bread and wine. "He therefore proposed that the true statement of the matter should use the preposition with. The Divine gift was not given in or under the forms of bread and wine-----thus far Zwingli was right. But it was given in an indissoluble conjunction with them-----as the bread is given to the body, so the Divine gift passes into the faithful soul." 6 It will be made clear during this chapter how faithfully Cranmer echoes this theory in his own explanations of the "real presence". This fact is conceded by Anglican historians who have even gone as far as describing his views as "Zwinglio-Calvinistic". 7 Zwingli and Calvin laid great stress on the fact that since the Body and Blood of Christ were not contained objectively in the Sacrament they could not be offered by the priest. The concept of the Eucharistic oblation was, quite logically, bound up for them with what they continually denounced as "bread worship". 8 This viewpoint is reproduced in Bishop Ridley's Brief Declaration of the Lord's Supper: "This kind of oblation standeth on transubstantiation, its german cousin, and do grow both upon one ground." 9 He agrees that if the Sacrament "be Christ's own natural body, born of the Virgin . . . then if the priest do offer the sacrament, he doth offer indeed Christ Himself." Francis Clark points out that: "this remark is another illustration of how the English Reformers understood their opponents' doctrine of the Mass." 10 He summarises the position of these English Reformers as follows: "As well as holding in common with all the Reformers the doctrine of salvation and faith that had dictated the original Lutheran rejection of the Mass, the leaders of the English Reformation shared with the Swiss divines an additional and compelling objection-----that an oblation of Christ at the altar was in any case impossible because he was not objectively present there." 11
Cranmer's views were certainly far nearer to those of Calvin and Zwingli than to those of Luther who "to the end of his life, believed that Christ is really present in what the communicant receives at the hand of the minister, and not only in the soul of the communicant as he receives. For Zwingli, what the communicant receives is bread and wine and no more than bread and wine." 12 This is a point which Cranmer never tired of stressing.
Bucer accepted that adoration must be a logical consequence of transubstantiation and the permanence of the Body and Blood of Christ under the species of bread and wine. He rejected these concepts ''as the common parents of impiety and superstition" and censured them as a cause of superstition "inducing people to think that, if any of the bread and wine of the communion remain after it is over, there is something wrong in applying it to common use as though there were in this bread and wine in itself something divine or holy outside of its use in communion." 13 Bucer taught that: " . . . the bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Christ, by which He offers Himself to us. But outside this use, they are what other bread and wine are. For nothing of their nature is changed, and Christ the Lord is not present in them, but in the minds of the faithful." 14 It will be made clear how faithfully Cranmer echoed this view. The key point which must be borne in mind when discussing all the various shades of virtualism or receptionism is that however realistic the language used to describe Christ's Eucharistic presence, it [meaning for the virtualists----Web Master] is a spiritual presence in the minds of the faithful and not an objective presence in the consecrated elements. Cardinal Gasquet points out that: "The 'real presence' is an ambiguous phrase and was capable, as anyone acquainted with the polemical writing of this period will acknowledge, of conveying, if need be, the whole range of doctrine from that of the Catholic Church to the congregations of Zurich and Geneva." 15 [See Note.] For this reason the term substantial rather than real will be used here to convey the Catholic teaching that Our Lord is present in the consecrated elements by virtue of Transubstantiation, that after the Consecration the bread and wine upon the altar become "Christ's true Body which was born of the Virgin, which hung on the Cross as an offering for the salvation of the world and Which is seated at the right hand of the Father, and Christ's true Blood Which flowed out of His side; they are such not simply because of the Sacrament's symbolism and power but as constituted by nature and as true substances." 16
This chapter should make very clear the manner in which the Reformers use Catholic terminology in a sense that is a complete negation of Catholic belief. The substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist is certainly a Sacramental presence. Cranmer concedes that: "sacramentally and spiritually he is here present " but makes it quite clear that this means that He is not present substantially and that "Christ in his human nature is substantially, really, corporally, naturally, and sensibly present with his Father in Heaven . . ."-----and nowhere else . . . They (the papists) say," he writes, "that Christ is received in the mouth and entereth in with the bread and wine. We say that he is received in the heart and entereth in by faith." 17 This lucid rejection of Catholic teaching is made in a work in which Cranmer makes it quite clear that he fully grasps the Catholic standpoint and totally rejects it.
"Christ is present whensoever the Church prayeth unto him, and is gathered together in his name," he writes . . . And the bread and wine be made unto us the Body and Blood of Christ (as it is in the book of Common Prayer), but not by changing the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of Christ's natural Body and Blood, but that in the godly using of them they be unto the receivers Christ's body and Blood . . . And therefore in the book of the holy communion we do not pray absolutely that the bread and wine may be made the Body and Blood of Christ, but that unto us in that holy mystery they may be so . . . " 18
When Cranmer uses the term 'spiritually present' he means that Our Lord's Body, though Itself in Heaven, is able, by Its innate power, to produce certain spiritual effects in the soul on earth which believes. He is very explicit about this in the preface to his treatise On the Lord's Supper.
"Moreover, when I say, and repeat many times in my book, that the body of Christ is present in them that worthily receive the sacrament; lest any man should mistake my words, and think that I mean, that although Christ be not corporally in the outward visible signs, yet he is corporally in the persons that duly receive them, this is to advertise the reader, that I mean no such thing; but my meaning is, that the force, the grace, the virtue and benefit of Christ's body that was crucified for us, and his Blood that was shed for us, be really and effectually present with all them that duly receive! the sacraments: but all this I understand of his spiritual presence, of which he saith, 'I will be with you unto the world's end'; and 'wheresoever two or three be gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst ot them'; and 'he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him'. Nor no more truly is he corporally or really present in the due ministration of the Lord's Supper, than he is in the due ministration of baptism; that is to say, in both spiritually by grace. And wheresoever in the scripture it is said that Christ, God or the Holy Ghost is in any man, the same is understood spiritually by grace." 19
"Nothing could be more decisive than this," comment the English bishops in their Vindication of the Bull Apostolicae Curae. "Being present spiritually, he tells us, is being present by grace; and being present by grace means that the grace, not the Body, of Our Lord is really present in the soul. That is what we Catholics should ourselves say of the presence of Our Lord with those gathered together in His name, or those undergoing Baptism. But a Presence in the Holy Eucharist which is the same in kind as the Divine Presence in Baptism is certainly not the Real Objective Presence which the Church holds and professes." 20
In this vindication, the Catholic bishops lay great stress on Cranmer's explicit teaching that "evil men receive not the Body and Blood in the Sacrament" and the reason is that "they (the Body and Blood of Christ) cannot be eaten and drunken but by spirit and faith whereof ungodly men be destitute . . . " 21 He explains that Christ's Body "cannot be eaten but spiritually by believing and remembering Christ's benefits, and revolving them in our mind, believing that as the bread and wine feed and nourish our bodies, so Christ. feedeth and nourisheth our souls." 22 Our bishops pointed out that the faith to which Cranmer refers is that "illusory feeling of assurance which is called 'justifying faith' by the Lutherans and Calvinists: for it is described i as a faith which the ungodly are incapable of having.
"Clearly this doctrine is not the doctrine of a Real Objective Presence, for that Presence is a presence quite as much in the unworthy and unbelieving as in the worthy. The attitude, indeed, of the two classes .of communicants towards it is different, but so too are its effects upon the souls; But the presence Itself is the same in both." 23
Cranmer's doctrine can be summed up thus: "Christ's Body and Blood is 'naturally' only in heaven. 'Spiritually', i.e. by grace, he dwells in the human soul, and is therein received by faith. He is not present in the sacramental bread and wine except as a thing may be said to be in the figure whereby it is signified. It does not seem exaggerated to describe this as the doctrine of the Real Absence." 24
" . . . the bread is called Christ's body, and the wine his blood; and the cause why their names be changed is this, that we should lift up our hearts and minds from the things which we see unto the things which we believe to be above in heaven; whereof of the bread and wine have the names, although they be not the very same things in deed . . . " 25
Although Cranmer sometimes actually uses the term "consecration" he makes it very clear that it is not the Catholic sense, in fact the "consecration" of the bread and wine for Holy Communion is of precisely the same nature as the "consecration" of the water for Baptism.
"Consecration is the separation of any thing from a profane and worldly use into a spiritual and godly use. And therefore when usual and common water is taken from other uses, and put to the use of Baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, then it may rightly be called consecrated water, that is to say, water put to an holy use. Even so, when common bread and wine be taken and severed from other bread and wine to the use of the holy communion, that portion of bread and wine, although it be of the same substance that the other is from which it be severed, yet it is now called consecrated or holy bread and holy wine. Not that the bread or wine have or even can have any holiness in them, but that they be used to a holy work and represent holy and godly things." 26
Fr. Messenger rightly comments that: "It must surely be admitted that it requires no supernatural power or authority thus to 'consecrate' bread and wine; all that be required is a certain delegating or appointing thereto. At any rate there seems to be here no power which an ordinary layman does not possess." 27 A denial of the Real Objective Presence must, he explains, involve a rejection of the priesthood as Catholics understand it. 28 This point was made clear in the previous chapter.
The extent of Cranmer's hatred for the Catholic doctrine of Christ's substantial presence in the Blessed Sacrament can best be indicated by citing the ridicule he poured upon the traditional piety of humble Catholics-----whose only fault was to believe what he had once believed himself. He mocked the manner in which they" run" he says, "from altar to altar, and from sacring (as they call it) to sacring, peeping, tooting, and gazing at that thing which the priest held up in his hands . . . What moved the priests to lift up the sacrament so high over their heads; or the people to cry to the priest, 'Hold up! Hold up!' and one man to say to another 'Stoop down before'; or to say, 'This day have I seen my Maker. I cannot be quiet, except I see my Maker once a-day?' What was the cause of all these, and that as well the priest as the people so devoutly did knock and kneel at every sight of the sacrament, but that they worshipped that visible thing which they saw with their eyes, and took it for very God?" 29
In this passage Cranmer pays an unwitting tribute to the depth and fervour of Eucharistic devotion among the ordinary faithful, a devotion well expressed in a rhymed prayer by John Lydgate to be said at the elevation:
"Hail Jesu, our health, our ghostly food,
Hail blessed Lord here in form of bread,
Hail, for mankind offered on the rood, [The Cross]
For our redemption with thy blood made red,
Stung to the heart with a spear-head.
N ow gracious Jesu, for thy wounds five,
Grant of they mercy before I be dead,
Clean house [Holy Communion] and shrift [Absolution] while I am alive." 30
1. CW, vol. I, p. 52.
2. TR, p. 79.
3. Early Writings, P .S., p. 139.
4. EBCP, pp. 129, 131.
5. RMP, vol. I, p. 202.
6. TR, p. 81.
7. A list of them is cited in ESR, p. 162.
8. ESR, p. 112.
9. Brief Declaration on the Lord's Supper, P.S., p. 23.
10. ESR, p. 160.
11. ESR, p. 159.
12. PHR, p. 129.
13. Censura, pp. 552-3.
14. Ibid., p. 465. The Sacraments are, of course, referred to as sacred signs or symbols within Catholic theology, particularly by St. Augustine. But in Catholic theology the Sacraments effect what they signify, the Baptismal waters do not simply symbolise the removal of Original Sin, they effect it. The Eucharist is unique, even among the Sacraments, for it actually contains what it signifies, Christ Himself. ST, III, Q. LXV, art. III.
15. EBCP, p. 275.
16. D, 355. The oath of Berengarius was familiar to Cranmer, see CW, vol. I, pp. 12-14, 196, 203. It is cited in Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei (C.T.S., London), p. 23.
17. CW, vol. I, p. 57.
18. Ibid., p. 79.
19. Ibid., p. 3.
20. VAC, p. 70.
21. CW, vol. I, p. 203.
22. Ibid., p. 204.
23. VAC, p. 60.
24. RMP, vol. I, p. 429.
25. CW, vol. I, p. 138.
26. Ibid., p. 177.
27. RMP, vol. I, p. 436.
28. Ibid., p. 328.
29. CW, vol. I, p. 229.
30. ESR, p. 555.
Web Master's Note: We disagree with Cardinal Gasquet that the term "Real Presence" is ambiguous; real means real as in objectively so. While Transubstantiation conveys the same meaning essentially, it does not do so any more clearly. In fact Transubstantiation is the action and Real Presence is the reality as a result of that action. So in the grammatical sense the two terms are not synonymous. Then, too, substantial as a substitute for real has actually been interpreted to mean something other than real with modern heretics who now use the term "consubstantiation" to imply transubstantiation without actually meaning it, in order to mislead the faithful.