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consecrating only bread?

flying-disk-gun-hq9645-300x300I have blogged previously on the impact of swine flu on liturgy and the usefulness of the illustrated wafer-firing apparatus. Since then, however, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, amongst many others have added suggestions. In their case it was to suggest suspending administering the chalice to the congregation, or, if seeking to offer communion in both kinds, to follow a practice they say is common in Africa that “the presiding minister… personally intincts all wafers before placing them in the hands of communicants.”

In discussions, I have heard of communities “pre-intincting” – they dip the wafer in the wine prior to celebrating the Eucharist and so consecrate wine-dipped wafers (in this situation I am not sure if a chalice of wine is also being consecrated). But now I have been pointed to a blog where the Church of England curate, the Rev. James Ogley, (he prefers to call himself an “elder”) writes about how his parish of Bursledon, in the Diocese of Winchester followed the advice of the Archbishops but “did not even have a chalice on the table” whatsoever.

The Church of England makes reference to the Sacrament Act of 1547 which has that the “moste blessed sacrament be hereafter commenlie delivered and ministred unto the people, within this Churche of Englande and Irelande and other the Kings Dominions, under bothe the Kyndes, that is to saie of breade and wyne, excepte necessitie otherwise require“. In other words, receiving under one kind is permitted in exceptional circumstances. This is also envisaged in Common Worship’s Celebration of Holy Communion at Home or in Hospital with the Sick and Housebound: “Communion should normally be received in both kinds separately, but where necessary may be received in one kind, whether of bread or, where the communicant cannot receive solid food, wine.”

In all of 2,000 years of Christian history I cannot recall, even during lengthy periods of the norm of receiving in one kind only, or of many people present not receiving at all, of only consecrating one kind. I would be interested in knowing any historical precedence for this, or if this is happening elsewhere, or of Church of England canons relating to this apparently revisionist celebrating of the Eucharist. (And puhhleez can we do better than “it doesn’t matter because Church of England orders are invalid anyway…”)

Bishop Alan Wilson (CofE) has said it well

The genius of Anglicanism, its missional crown jewels within the whole Kingdom of God, has been its ability to run essentially (but not exclusively) primitive Evangelical software on essentially (but not exclusively) primitive Catholic hardware.

Within Catholicism one could hardly find a more sensitive issue than to fool about with the Holy Eucharist and its celebration.

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10 thoughts on “consecrating only bread?”

  1. Our little parish in Kentucky, with the prompting of our diocese, “encourages” intinction in response to Swine flu. This encouragement probably may be stronger at today’s services since we learned just two days ago that 39 confirmed cases of H1N1 were identified in a residential setting institution near here. The Catholic diocese here is doing same. It may not be long until the encouragement becomes the strict rule. Some Protestant denominations here in the States normally receive from the cup (usually containing non-alcoholic grape juice) by drinking from little individual glass thimbles.
    I would miss greatly receiving from the Cup of Salvation but my faith would not shatter if we only received the Bread of Life. It is a reasonable solution to the presence of a disease that might be able to kill a third of people, including Anglicans. I do not think martyrdom through stupidity would be pleasing to the Lord.

  2. The Council of Trent, in responding to the Reformation, recommended that only bread be consecrated, because of percieved taunts that the people couldn’t believe that the totus Christus was present in each species. Things have changed, thank God; but many would say that too many things have changed.

    1. Frugal, I think you may be confusing “consecrating” with “distributing to laity” – I don’t think that Trent envisaged a priest only consecrating bread and not wine, and I’m convinced that has never happened in the Roman Catholic Church. It would be helpful if you give the link to the actual ruling.

  3. Panic much? According to the CDC, the transmission of H1N1 seems not much different from transmission of any influenza:
    And in an “average” year, over 200,000 people suffer from flu-related illnesses in the USA alone (about 36,000 deaths). Might as well tell everyone to stay home and not attend eucharist at all, since encountering a congregation in which people may be coughing, sneezing, etc., seems at least as risky as intinction, if not more so. They should probably forbid “passing the peace” as well.
    WHO stats so far (admittedly probably underestimates):

  4. I belong to the Church of England in the UK and today I had communion of one kind. I had just the wafer not intincted. The presider looked weird all alone at the front and he tripped over some of the liturgy as he tried not to include some of the words. The use of a an alcoholic hand wipe was noticed too.

    The whole thing is a farce and I am quite cross that this all seems to fly in the face of Christ’s teachings.

    We cannot receive communion in inidividual cups as this is illegal under canon law.

  5. Bosco – I think that you are correct about Trent. There were long and sad eras of little communion for the laity, but that is another story.

    I am of the mind that says that one can abstain from the cup if one is concerned. Now I say that as a Catholic and we do not have intinction available. Some tell me it is but I have not ever experienced it at an RC Eucharist.

    I work in one parish and worship in another – we have kept the cup in both places and I suspect in most places in our diocese. A lot of more conservative dioceses have used this as way to get rid of a cup that they never wanted.

    Recently I was in Philadelphia where both the Peace Rite was reduced to a smile and a wave and no cup. It makes me very sad. If we truly believe that Jesus is present and we can’t touch or drink, I am not sure why we are there.

    That said, I do not judge anyone who declines – it is their choice, but it should be consecrated and available. Yesterday at Eucharist was the first time in a long time as a cup minister when my cup was drained. Praise God for that.

  6. We were in York minster only a day or so after the decision. The priest had both bread and wine, and the congregation was offered only the bread.
    It wasn’t complete.
    I was glad that on Sunday I was in an Anglican church where the priest had not heard about his bishops decision, or just didn’t want to listen. Everyone received both bread and wine, it felt good.

    Will be presiding at communion myself sunday next, we have individual cups, so that should be “safe”

  7. @Emy – I’m afraid individual cups aren’t permitted by Canon law in the C of E.

    In the C of E at present both Kyndes are Consecrated but only the Priest drinks from the Chalice. Intinction is only for the priest to do and then place the intincted wafer in the hands of the faithful – individual intinction can spread the disease more rapidly (fingernails in wine etc).

    Intinction should only be used in the case of strong pastoral reasons though (e.g. my father was killed in the reformation over this issue!). Most should receive under one Kynde – and the grace of the sacrament is in no way diminished.

  8. Some additional thoughts on the question here:
    “Does this suggest, we might ask, that worshippers in the C. of E. are now at the start of the first of a number of periods of infectious disease when they will be denied the chalice? Once a precedent has been established, we may be sure that it will be repeated.”
    “There is a measure of irony in the fact that for nearly a millennium, the Roman Catholic Church withdrew giving wine to its communicants – for health and other reasons – only to reverse its policy in 1963 at the Second Vatican Council when bishops were permitted to restore the practice in their dioceses. It now seems that the C. of E. has decided to move in the opposite direction also for health reasons.”

    Several of the comments following the editorial are also quite interesting, especially the account of a recent baptismal service in Durham, UK.

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