Article XXX: Of both kinds

This post is part of a Lenten series on the 39 Articles.

Article XXX: Of both kinds
The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people; for both parts of the Lord’s sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

Finally, here is an article that is straightforward. Both consecrated bread and wine are to be administered to the congregation. This is, of course, in response to the medieval practice of offering only the bread to lay people, out of fear that wine might be spilled. Never mind that this is still practiced in some quarters today!

For the reformers, the fullness of the sacramental symbol was more important than the risk that wine might be spilled. Presumably, we would agree with this principle, right? Sadly, too often we prioritize expediency over richness. Lots of places use oil-filled candles, plastic covers on Holy Tables, liturgical shortcuts, and any number of other ways to make things convenient. Some people would put communion wafers, rather than actual bread, into this category.

The reformers were on to something. To experience the fullness of the sacraments, you need…the fullness of the sacraments. Eucharist? You need bread AND wine. Baptism? You need (lots of) water and oil. And on and on. We would benefit from extending this principle more widely. Our liturgical and sacramental life will blossom as we lavish riches on our celebrations. Cutting corners says to everyone present that what we’re doing really doesn’t matter all that much.

You will observe, dear reader, that I have digressed from the subject of this 30th Article. Call it blogger’s license. Or call it the desire to write something interesting when the Article itself is straightforward. But whatever you do, please ponder what it might mean to ensure that everyone who approaches the Throne of Grace comes to something that is treated with the extravagance of a throne and which exudes the richness of palpable grace.

Here are some questions for pondering or meditation:

  • We say that we participate fully in the Eucharist by receiving either bread or wine. Do you agree? Is there something to be gained by receiving both bread and wine?
  • Where ought we to draw the line in our decisions about taking risks (or cutting corners) in our celebrations?
  • The Article invokes “Christ’s ordinance” in its rationale. And yet Christ shared a full meal with his disciples at the Institution of the Eucharist. Is there relevance for us today?

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Previous: Article XXIX: Of the wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord’s Supper
Next: Article XXXI: Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross

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1 Response

  1. Jocelyn Rose says:

    question for you – how did the reformers feel about the concept of “first communion”? I know in recent years it is typical that children be brought to the Lord’s Table at a young age. What age would’ve been typical, would there have been a ceremony?