Gerald Bray - The Anglican Way

Great little article by Gerald Bray at Ligonier


The first Book of Common Prayer appeared in 1549. It contained services for daily worship, both morning and evening, and forms for the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, along with other ceremonies that were used less often. The services were full of biblical phrases and imagery, and English people absorbed a considerable knowledge of Scripture from the Prayer Book, which was often repeated and easily memorized. The most important service was the one for the Lord’s Supper. Cranmer used traditional medieval English liturgies like the Sarum rite (“Sarum” is Latin for the town of Salisbury, in southern England), a liturgy drawn from Norman, Anglo-Saxon, and Roman traditions in the eleventh century. Cranmer restructured the old liturgies, however, in order to bring out the centrality of justification by faith alone. The communicant’s attention was directed away from the consecration of the bread and wine, which recalled the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and refocused on his spiritual state, in line with Reformed teaching.

In order to reach the widest audience with the least resistance, Cranmer was careful not to break too obviously with tradition, and although the doctrines of the Reformers were clearly stated in the Prayer Book, traditionalist Catholics could still use the new rites. Cranmer had to move on, and in 1552, with some help from Martin Bucer and John Knox, he brought out a much more radically Protestant Prayer Book. What this meant can be seen in the revision of the words used in the administration of Holy Communion. In 1549, the minister said: “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.” This did not make it clear whether the bread being given to the recipient was transubstantiated or not. But in 1552 the words were changed to: “Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.” Here what the communicant received was bread, and he was told to reflect on the presence of Christ in his heart.

Not a long article and well worth reading in full.

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