(a discussion starter for those who regularly or occasionally use The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 -- see further, The Order for Holy Communion 1662, annotated by Peter Toon, 2004, The Prayer Book Society Trading Company of England - ISBN 0 9535668 1 1.)
What I wish to do here in a straightforward way is to go through the Contents of The Order for the Administration of Holy Communion and to indicate briefly what doctrine is expressed or is presupposed, and then, where appropriate, to refer to The Articles of Religion [Articles] or to The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons [Ordinal]. Both these texts, together with The Book of Common Prayer (1662), are the official formularies of the Church of England.
It has been suggested to me that only a few people who piously attend a service of Holy Communion realize the amount of doctrine that is assumed and expressed in the service and thus that to which they assent by their sharing in the service in a devotional manner.
A spiritual danger lurking in the shadows for those of us who enjoy the excellent language of the Prayer Book is that we so relish the syntax, grammar, rhythm and vocabulary that we forget that excellent prose is provided to convey biblical and orthodox doctrine, to lift us up to heaven, and to produce holy people who love God.
Here is the brief (and not exhaustive) summary of the doctrinal content (which of course is not easily separated from the language used or the worship intended).
a. In the rubrics at the beginning of the service.
The Holy Communion is ONLY for Christian believers who have repented of their sins and in right relations with their neighbors.
The person who is to lead this service is called The Minister, and he is either a Priest or a Bishop, but normally a Priest -- as later rubrics indicate. (What is a priest or bishop is set forth in the Ordinal & in Articles xxiii, xxvi, xxxii, xxxvi.)
The parish is part of a diocese over which is the Ordinary (the Bishop) and he is ultimately responsible for doctrine and discipline.
b. In the Collect for Purity & the Ten Commandments
God the Father knows the spiritual and moral condition of all who appear before him and his sovereign will is that all should examine their lives according to his law in order to come before him with pure hearts. [See Articles ix, x, xi, xii, xiii, xiv, xv & xvi.]
c. Prayers for the Queen
God the Father is the Lord of space and time, and the supreme Governor of the universe. By his providence Elizabeth II is the Head of the Church of England and the British State and thus she is to care for her people as they are to obey her as God?s representative.
d. Collect, Epistle & Gospel.
The Church is committed to the Christian Year and thus follows the ancient Lectionary and collects. Further, the Bible is the Word of God written and is to be heard when read as God's Word for today. The four Gospels are holy in that they are the basic source of the knowledge of the Incarnation, Ministry, Death and Resurrection of the Son of God. [See Articles vi & vii.]
e. The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 as received in the West and known as the Nicene Creed.
The Church of England is committed to the same Faith as the Early Church, and particularly to its doctrine/dogma of God the Holy Trinity, that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost each possess the one and the same divinity/substance (and thus are Three Persons, One God). Further, she is committed to the nature and polity of the same Early Church, which is Catholic (of heaven and earth) and Apostolic (in doctrine and Ministry). [See further for the dogma of the Trinity and the Person of Christ, The Quicunque Vult or Athanasian Creed, and for the doctrine of the Church and Ministry, the Ordinal. Also see Articles i - iv & viii.]
f. The Prayer for the Church.
The Church of England is committed to the privilege and duty of intercessory and petitionary prayer as an essential part of her vocation. The Church is to pray to the Father in the Name of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost. She is to pray thus for the worldwide Church and for the ordained Ministry, for the Queen, and for all who are in special need, even as she thanks God for the witness of the saints.
g. The Exhortations.
The Holy Communion is a precious gift of God the Father to his adopted children. It is a heavenly Feast. As such it is open to all worthy partakers. Worthiness is not achieved by human endeavor or merit; but by turning from sin, being reconciled to one?s neighbors and believing savingly in the Lord Jesus Christ, fully trusting in the mercy of God. Those who partake unworthily bring divine judgment upon themselves. [See further Articles xxv - xxxi.]
h. The Confession of Sin(s)
God the Father is the Holy Lord and the Judge of all. He hates sin but loves the penitent sinner for the sake of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Entrance to Holy Communion is through confession of sins, for herein there is both the praise of God (the holy and merciful Lord) and the true preparation of the sinner.
i. The Absolution and Comfortable Words
God the Father is a merciful, forgiving God, who speaks to us today through Holy Scripture and his servants. He declares his forgiveness of penitent, believing sinners through the ordained Ministry (see the Ordinal for the doctrine of the Ministry and the authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins).
j. The Prayer of Consecration.
In and by the Holy Spirit the hearts of the people of God are raised to be with the exalted Lord Jesus Christ in heaven at his heavenly Banquet. As penitent, believing hearts are raised they join with the heavenly choir to praise and celebrate the Father and the Son.
The church of God comes to the Holy Communion to eat the flesh and to drink the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the Host and the Gift at the Messianic Banquet.
Thus the Church celebrates before the Father the perfect sacrifice for sin offered by the Incarnate Son at Calvary, rehearses his words at the Last Supper and prays that in remembrance of that death and passion, she will truly partake of his most blessed Body and Blood.
[For a fuller explication of the doctrine assumed and proclaimed here see Articles xxviii - xxx.]
k. The Concluding Prayers, Gloria & Benediction.
The sacrifice offered by the Church is primarily a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for the Sacrifice of Christ and his Exaltation to heaven. The receiving of Holy Communion is a means used by God to assure his children that they are truly members of the Body of Christ. And the wondrous gift given in Holy Communion includes or may be stated in terms of "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." Finally, the Name of the LORD God worshipped by Christians is "The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost."
It is the case that, as Canon Law makes clear, the meaning of the Order for the Administration of Holy Communion is based first upon the Holy Scripture (as this has been read and understood in the Church) and then upon the Formularies of the Church of England (the Ordinal and the Articles, together with other parts of the Prayer Book ? e.g. service of Baptism). This Service of Holy Communion does not stand alone, detached from other Services and Rites of the Prayer Book, and neither does it stand alone from the content of the Articles and Ordinal. Even as we read and interpret Holy Scripture by the analogy of faith, so also we read and use the Service of Holy Communion.
Doctrines excluded by using the Order for Holy Communion (in the context of all the Formularies) include Unitarianism; Modalism (God is One Person with Three Names); Panentheism (the world is in God); Adoptianism (that Christ was adopted as the Son of God either when born or when baptized); Pelagianism (that human beings do not have a fallen nature and bias towards sin); Universalism (that all will be saved in the End); that it is a Mass and is a propitiatory sacrifice; that the elements used actually become the body and blood of Christ (transubstantiation); that the Holy Communion is open to all whatever their state; and that a woman can be ?the Minister? at Holy Communion.
Doctrines included are Trinitarian Theism (The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, one God); that Jesus Christ is One Person made known in two natures, divine and human; that by his perfect sacrifice he has brought salvation into the world; that salvation is by grace through faith in the same Lord Jesus Christ; that the church offers to the Father a sacrifice of praise in remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ & his Sacrifice and in union with him; that the Holy Communion is a gift of God to penitent believers; and that the ordained Ministry celebrating Holy Communion is male.
[See also the booklet from the Prayer Book Society of the USA which contains the 1928 Service of H C together with my annotations -- call 1 800 727 1928 or go to www.anglicanmarketplace.com ]
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)