Article XXXI: Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross

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

Article XXXI: Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross
The offering of Christ once made is the perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual, and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said that the priests did offer Christ for the quick and the dead to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.

Back when I wrote about Article 22, I said that labeling an opposing argument as “a fond thing vainly invented” might be quite effective. If there’s an even better way to zap your debating partner, it’s labeling their claims as “blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits”.

The content of the Article concerns the question of how the Holy Eucharist is related to Christ’s sacrifice. Anglicans maintain that we are recalling Christ’s oblation, once offered. This is distinct from the position of the Roman Catholic church, which maintained (and, I suppose still does) that the Mass re-presents Christ’s sacrifice in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine. As the bread is broken, the sacrifice is made very real and present for those gathered. The reformed Anglican position is that the Eucharist mediates grace surely, but that it does not effect the sacrifice afresh.

I suppose I am biased, but I find the Anglican focus on grace, rather than on a bloodless sacrifice, to be not only more edifying and inspiring, but to be more along the lines of the rite that Christ instituted for us. In other words, the Mass is about the Paschal Mystery expressed on Maundy Thursday, less so Good Friday. Yes, I understand that the Paschal Mystery encompasses creation, incarnation, death, and resurrection. We do make choices in what we emphasize, however.

Through Christ, God has chosen to redeem us. The church’s work is to celebrate that redemption and to proclaim it to the world. We feast in thanksgiving. We bask in grace.

Here are some questions for pondering or meditation:

  • How do you think our celebrations of the Eucharist are related to Christ’s redeeming work?
  • Have a look at Rite I and then Rite II in the Book of Common Prayer (1979). Which rites fit your view of the relationship between our redemption and our celebrations?
  • Do you think we emphasize Christ’s atonement too much today? Not enough? Why?

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Image courtesy of flickr user Leo Reynolds.

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Next: Article XXXII: Of the marriage of priests

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4 Responses

  1. matthew maclellan says:

    as one who is going through the process of being received into the anglican communon, it is this sense of grace that draws me nearer. the meekness is what grabbed me, as soon as i heard those words from the BCP: ‘we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, trusting too much in the devices and desires of our own hearts’ – this is what draws me nearer, and which takes the greater-than-ritual sense out of the equation. Of course, there is something beyond ritual in the anglican service as well, but it lacks the sense of the priest acting as a sort of roman catholic dramatist and replaces it with something that is easier, at least, for myself to access on a prayerful level.

  2. Bob Chapman says:

    Not that there is anything “wrong” with Rite II (especially Eucharistic Prayer D), but–to my way of thinking–the [first] Rite I Eucharistic Prayer is the “Anglican Canon.”

    Something I remember saying to a fellow choir member at Christ Church, Rolla, Missouri, whilst studying at the university there in the 1970s was that we needed a Rite 1.5. That is, the traditional prayers, but in a more current language. The more current language would be primarily the removal of the thee and thy forms, which are actually the informal form of English (same as the “tu” forms in Spanish)–not the fake formal most people think they are. Correct communication is a Good Thing.

    One day I may post what form the next BCP should take, and how that it would allow historic or current language usage for all the prayers. Let’s say you start with ALL prayers approved by two successive General Convention in a mutually inconvenient language for everyone (Latin, per chance). But, since language needs to be in what the people understands, there would be a mechanism to allow localization of the approved standard BCP version into a language understood by a community (with a time frame process for an eventual one-off approval of a localized text by GC, recognizing that some localizations may not be in use long enough to take to GC).

    The only reason for (eventual) GC approval of a localized text is that liturgy is not a private matter. Those localized texts speak our common faith to the world. This common faith should allow language use that includes the Anglican Canon and the Hip Hop generation.

  3. Agreed with Mr Chapman. Updating the traditional language makes a lot more sense than writing new rites (no pun intended).

    The emphasis on grace is what draws me to Anglicanism as well. I try to keep that the focus when thinking about the Eucharist, but it is fun (and important) to think about the details. One question that’s interested me- when we receive the Eucharist, are we eating Christ’s body and drinking His blood that are presently in heaven? That’s what I assume. In that case, what did the disciples receive on Maundy Thursday, before Christ was ascended?