Archive for September, 2006

Anglican Formularies and Anglican Authority: Prolegomena (II)

September 17, 2006

(continued from here)

Last May, in advance of the General Convention of ECUSA (now TEC) in Columbus, Ohio, Lord Carey, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, gave an address at Virginia Theological Seminary in which he criticized the decision to consecrate Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in words that included the following:

A departure from our understanding of Authority. When I was Archbishop I gave expression on a number of occasions to my worries about the fragility of our theology of authority. We are strong on synodical authority within our Provinces but very weak when it comes to exercising authority within the Communion. August 5th 2003 revealed the stark poverty at the heart of our tradition [emphasis mine] as ECUSA ignored the fundamental four Instruments of Unity; the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates, ACC and the Lambeth Conference.

Lord Carey is a good man, although someone with whom I have disagreed strongly and who bears, I believe, no little responsibility for the pickle we’re all in now. However, his address, taken as a whole, puts him on the side of the angels as far as the immediate presenting issue of our current crisis is concerned. Still, one could fairly ask how, if the Anglican tradition of authority is so weak and starkly poor, the decision to consecrate Gene Robinson could be a departure from it. If there’s no there there, you can’t very well leave.

Moreover, the paragraph I quote above contains an important, but subtle, confusion. A theology of authority and the exercise of it are two different, if related, things. I could have all sorts of authority, but if I sit on my hands, it doesn’t matter much.

Nevertheless, a recognition of authority—or rather, in the case of a revealed religion, an agreed upon theology of authority—is certainly essential before it can be exercised. So before anyone gets around to wielding authority, it would be a good idea to clear up just what we Anglicans have supposed it is and see if we need to make any adjustments. To do that, however, involves an exercise in philology that may try the patience of some. I am going to ask you, dear Reader, to take a walk with me through some Latin and Greek.

  • Anglicans familiar with their Prayer Book know that it contains, as an appendix, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, a statement of Anglican doctrine that went through several phases of composition before subscription of the clergy to it was finally required by a Convocation of the Church of England in 1571. What most Anglicans may not know, familiar as they are with the traditional English version of the Articles, is that the Articles were in fact composed in Latin, and that the very canons of 1571 that called for subscription were likewise composed in Latin. The Latin text thus stands as an official text of this classic statement of Anglican doctrine and is, in truth, often clearer and more revealing than the English translation.

    The Book of Common Prayer, on the other hand, was specifically intended to be in English. However, beginning in the reign of Edward VI and continuing through the Restoration of Charles II, various of the Acts of Uniformity requiring use of the Book of Common Prayer passed by Parliament and signed by the sovereign allowed for the use of Latin in services in universities and in those parts of Ireland where English was not the normal language of communication. A series of Latin translations of the Prayer Book thus began to appear, beginning in 1560 and continuing until the classic Latin translation of the 1662 book by Bright and Medd that first appeared in the 19th century. While thus not having the same standing as the English Prayer book, the various Latin translations have a quasi-authority and serve as indicators of what it was commonly believed the Prayer Book meant.

    The men who wrote these articles and produced these translations were more-than-competent classicists, familiar (particularly since the Renaissance) with the original sources of classical languages. When they wrote or debated in Latin, they generally knew what they were doing. It is thus no idle exercise to look into the meanings behind the words they read and wrote.

  • Auctoritas and Potestas, Authority and Power

    In English, “authority” has a variety of meanings. We commonly refer to legal authority, as in “to surrendur to the authorities.” We also refer to the authority of learning: “He is an authority on Italian literature in general and Dante in particular.” As well, we sometimes speak of moral authority, the authority acquired by previous example. In addition, there is natural authority, an authority rooted in nature but which is both recognized and limited by legal authority, such as a father’s authority over his children. There is also, of course, religious authority—but even here, at least today this often implies an authority to which someone submits, as if to suggest that authority in this sense is a reciprocal arrangement, something that arises from the agreement of both parties. In this line of thinking, a priest has authority over me only insofar as I recognize it and submit myself to it. If I do not, then such authority does not exist.

    We get our English word “authority” from Latin; yet none of these meanings exhaust Roman concept of auctoritas.

    In 80 BC, early in his career as a lawyer, the future Roman statesman Cicero defended one Sexus Roscius against a charge of murder. The charge was itself the product of political abuse, and in appealing to the jury, all members of the Roman Senate, Cicero spoke to their self-interest and that of their institution and class. If men such as they should look the other way when innocents suffer under the law, the Senatorial class risked losing its position in Rome.

    It is now the duty of all wise men of authority and influence (auctoritate et potestate) such as yourselves to remedy the ills which encumber the state. Pro Roscio Amerino 154

    In the mind of Cicero and his fellow Romans, the auctoritas of the Senate was the result of the accumulated actions of its members, men who had all served as magistrates of the Republic and thereby had all wielded the potestas of the state. The cumulative weight of experience in war and peace gained in the exercise of the imperium and potestas of Rome gave to the Senate a collective auctoritas greater than any of its individual members and entitled it, as a body and a class, to lead, so long as such potestas was not itself abused.

    In the decades that followed, the Republic to which Cicero had dedicated his life, and the Senatorial class to which he aspired to belong, collapsed in an extended political crisis and civil war, the so-called “Roman revolution” (a phrase invented by the historian Sir Ronald Syme). The eventual outcome of that revolution was the effective end of the Republic and creation of the velvet autocracy of the principate, the rule of one man inaugurated by the emperor Augustus, whose very name (granted him by the Senate) shares the same root as auctoritas.

  • Shortly before he died in AD 14 at the age of 76, Augustus—final victor in the long struggle for supremacy in the Roman empire, creator of the system of Roman governance known as the principate, and the man usually credited with being the first Roman “emperor”—composed an essay outlining his achievements and giving his own (highly tendentious) version of the events before and after the defeat of his rivals. It is known as the res gestae divi Augusti, or “the achievments of the deified Augustus.” After his death, the Senate decreed that this document should be inscribed in several locations throughout the empire; the most complete copy is found on the walls of the Temple of Rome and Augustus in Ankara, Turkey, the so-called Monumentum Ancyranum, dubbed by the great Theodor Mommsen as “the queen of inscriptions.”

    The text, in both Latin and Greek, reveals most, but not all, of the various parts of Augustus’ constitutional settlement. Augustus based his legal position as leader of the Roman state principally on three legs (something that should sound familiar to Anglicans!): his proconsular control of half the provinces of the empire (which just happened to be those where most of the army was stationed); his special grant by the Senate of a maius imperium or a “greater right of command” than that of other governors and magistrates; and the grant of tribunicia potestas, or the power of a tribune (since, being a patrician, Augustus could not technically hold the office). These various potestates, all based on Republican precedents, gave Augustus enormous legal power. In addition, he was hugely wealthy; belonged to various priesthoods, eventually becoming Pontifex Maximus, the chief religious official of Rome; and credited himself with a large number of military victories and diplomatic successes. As well, while he would not let himself be declared a god in his lifetime, he didn’t mind reminding others of his connection to his now deified adoptive father, Julius Caesar.

    The Latin text of the penultimate paragraph of this inscription has been badly damaged, whereas the Greek text is in much better condition. As reconstructed by epigraphists, the final line reads in translation (with the missing portions suggested by the surviving Greek and indicated by square brackets): “After that time [I excelled all in auctoritas, ‘authority,’] but I possessed no more potestas, ‘power, than my fellow magistrates.”

    If the reconstruction of the Latin is correct, then the position of Augustus in relation to the known world of his day is clear: while his individual offices, considered separately, gave him no more potestas than any other magistrate, his auctoritas was unique and overwhelming. Like the Senate of the earlier Republic, his “authority” flowed from both his accumulated power and the size and scope of his achievements, the difference now being that this cumulative effect belonged to one man rather than a collective. His whole was greater than the sum of his parts.

  • When we turn to the New Testament, however, we find something very different, even disorienting, in the relationship between “power” and “authority” . . .

    (to be continued . . . )

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    Eucharistic Sacrifice

    September 7, 2006

    While I am still working on “authority” . . .

    Jeffrey Steel of Meam Commemoriationem has alerted me to a both a website and blog of Brian Douglas, and Australian Anglican priest, that deal with Anglican eucharistic theology. It is a large project, particularly the website, and deserves attention (although I wish he would darken the print; reading it is a bit of an eye strain).

    Fr. Douglas’s internet endeavours have inspired me, as I toil away on other projects, to post something now that I have held in reserve for just such a moment.

    Some years ago (I forget the circumstances), I picked up pamphlet, edited by one J. E. Barnes and published by the Society of St. Peter and Paul in 1975, that contained extracts illustrating the eucharistic theology of a number of 17th century Anglican theologians, particularly as it related to eucharistic sacrifice. The pamphlet, “Testimonies to Anglican Teaching on the Eucharistic Oblation by XII Classical Anglican Divines,” is a useful introduction to the subject. I present the texts here, with links to biographical and critical material as well as in some cases to the full texts themselves. Make of them what you will . . .

    BTW, not all of the authors given below have links, as you can see. If anyone knows or wants to suggest some, particularly for those divines who have no links, please let me know. Also, I propose a contest for the reader who can suggest the fairest (i.e. least polemical without glossing) website to go to for William Laud. A quick look around the internet suggests to me that he still inspires passions sufficient to make this a less than easy task.

    I. RICHARD FIELD, (1561-1616), Dean of Gloster.

    A MAN may be said to offer a thing unto God, in that he bringeth it to his presence, setteth it before his eyes, and offereth it to his view, to incline him to do something by the sight of it, and respect had to it. In this sort Christ offereth himself and his body once crucified, daily in heaven, and so intercedeth for us . . . And in this sort we also offer him daily on the altar, in that, commemorating his death and lively representing his bitter passions endured in his body upon the cross, we offer him that was once crucified and sacrificed for us on the cross, and all his sufferings, to the view and gracious consideration of the Almighty, earnestly desiring, and assuredly hoping, that he will incline to pity us and shew mercy upon us, for his dearest Son’s sake.

    From Of the Church, 1606.

    2. FRANCIS WHITE, (c. 1564-1638), Bishop of Ely.

    TOUCHING the name and title of sacrifice, our Church giveth the same to the Holy Eucharist; and that, not only in respect of certain pious actions annexed unto it, to wit, prayer, thanksgiving, alms, etc., but in regard of the Eucharist itself, wherein, first, the outward elements of bread and wine receiving the calling of God are made sacred, and appointed to divine worship, and become instruments of grace to men. Secondly, the Body and Blood of Christ, present to the soul, are by the faith and devotion of the Pastor and people which receive these mysteries, presented and tendered to God, with request, that He will vouchsafe for the merit thereof, to bestow grace and remission of sins, and other benefits upon them.

    From The Orthodox Faith and Way to the Church, 1617.

    3. WILLIAM LAUD, (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury.

    AT and in the Eucharist we offer up to God three sacrifices: one by the priest only; that is the commemorative sacrifice of Christ’s death, represented in bread broken and wine poured out. Another by the priest and people jointly; and that is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. . . The third, by every particular man for himself only: and that is the sacrifice of every man’s body and soul.

    From Conference With Fisher, 1639.

    4. HERBERT THORNDIKE, (1598-1672), Prebendary of Westminster.

    THAT the eucharist may very properly be accounted a sacrifice propitiatory and impetratory both, in this regard—because the offering of it up to God, with and by the said prayers, doth render God propitious, and obtain at His hands the benefits of Christ’s death which it representeth—there can be no cause to refuse, being no more than the simplicity of plain Christianity enforceth.

    From An Epilogue, Bk. III, 1659.

    5. HAMON L’ESTRANGE, (1605-1660), An Anglican layman.

    THE whole action of the sacred Communion is elemented of nothing but sacrifices and oblations. So in our Church, so in the Apostolick, which should be the grand exemplar to all; . . . The second sacrifice is the consecration of the elements, and presenting them up to God by the prayers of the minister and congregation, whereby they become that Sacrament for which they are set apart and deputed.

    From The Alliance of Divine Offices, 1659.

    6. HENRY HAMMOND, (1605-1660), Canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

    [THE end for which the eucharist was instituted] . . . a commemoration of the death of Christ, a representing His passion. to God, and a coming before Him in His name, first to offer our sacrifices of supplications and praises, in the name of the crucified Jesus, and secondly, to commemorate that His daily continual sacrifice or intercession for us at the right hand of His Father now in heaven.

    From A Practical Catechism, 1644.

    7. JEREMY TAYLOR, (1613-1667), Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore.

    AS Christ is pleased to re-present to His Father that great sacrifice as a means of atonement and expiation for all mankind, and with special purposes and intendment for all the elect, all that serve him in holiness; so He hath appointed that the same ministry shall be done upon earth too, in our manner according to our proportion; and therefore hath constituted and separated an order of men who, by “showing forth the Lord’s death” by sacramental re-presentation, may pray unto God after the same manner that our Lord and High Priest does; that is, offer to God and re-present in this solemn prayer and sacrament, Christ as already offered; so sending up a gracious instrument, whereby our prayers may, for His sake and in the same manner of intercession, be offered up to God in our behalf, and for all them for whom we pray, to all those purposes for which Christ died.

    From The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, 1650.

    8. DANIEL BREVINT, (1616-1695), Dean of Lincoln.

    THIS Sacrifice, which by a real oblation was not to be offered more than once, is by an Eucharistical and devout Commemoration to be offered up every day. This is what the Apostle calls, “to set forth the death of the Lord”; to set it forth I say as well before the Eyes of God his Father as before the Eyes of all men: . . . the sacrifice, as ’tis itself and in itself, it can never be reiterated; yet by way of devout Celebration and Remembrance it may nevertheless be reiterated every day.

    From The Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice, 1673.

    9. GEORGE BULL, (1634-1710), Bishop of St. David’s.

    THEY [the ancient Fathers] held the Eucharist to be a commemorative sacrifice, and so do we. This is the constant language of the ancient liturgies: “we offer by way of commemoration”, according to our Saviour’s words when He ordained this holy rite, “Do this in commemoration of Me”. In the eucharist then, Christ was offered, not hypostatically as the Trent fathers have determined (for so He was but once offered) but commemoratively only, and this commemoration is made to God the Father, and is not a bare remembering, or putting ourselves in mind of Him. In the Holy Eucharist therefore, we set before God the bread and wine as ‘figures or images of the precious blood of Christ shed for us, and of His precious body’, (they are the very words of the Clementine Liturgy) and plead to God the merit of His Son’s sacrifice once offered on the cross for us sinners.

    From Answer to a Query of the Bishop of Meaux, 1705.

    10. GEORGE HICKES, (1642-1715), Dean of Worcester.

    THE Eucharistical sacrifice is . . . a federal commemorative sacrifice, in which as Christ represents unto God His passion, and the merits of it, as our High-Priest in heaven, so in this sacrifice the priests upon earth in conjunction with it, present, and commemorate the same unto Him, setting before Him the symbols of His dead body and blood effused for our sins.

    From The Christian Priesthood Asserted, 1707.

    11. JOHN JOHNSON, (1662-1725), Vicar of Cranbrook.

    THE true and full notion of the Eucharist is, that it is a religious feast upon Bread and Wine, that have first been offered in sacrifice to Almighty God, and are become the mysterious Body and Blood of Christ . . . We do not think we offer another Sacrifice, but only continue and perpetuate that which Christ offered; yet neither are we so stupid as to believe that the sacrifice we offer is substantially the same with that offered by Him. We pretend not that His own natural Body is, or can be, sacrificed again, but only His Sacramental; and therefore we allow that it is commemorative: but we cannot see the consequence which our adversaries would draw from thence, viz. that it is not a real and proper sacrifice . . . It is therefore sufficiently clear, that God does apply the effects of the great Sacrifice to us in the Eucharist; and that in order to obtain this application, we must apply to Him by Sacrifice, even the Sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood.

    From The Unbloody Sacrifice, 1724.

    12. CHARLES WHEATLY, (1686-1742), Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford.

    Since the Death of Christ hath reconciled God to Mankind, and his Intercession alone obtains all good things for us, we are enjoined to make all our Prayers in his Name; and as a more powerful way of interceding, to represent to his Father that his Death and Sacrifice by celebrating the Holy Eucharist.

    From A Rational Illustration Upon The Book of Common Prayer, 1710.