13 August 2008

Jeremy Taylor and the Eucharistic Sacrifice, Part One

Those who know me well know that Jeremy Taylor's Eucharistic and Baptismal theologies profoundly shaped my own theological understanding in my anglo-catholic youth. I continue to believe that his liturgical language is too easily dismissed and represents a significant part of the Anglican patrimony worthy of use within the worship of anglo-catholics and Catholics of Anglican Heritage. Fortunately one of his collects has entered the Book of Common Prayer tradition and is much loved as an expression of faith and an aspiration for a holy death:

O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered; Make us, we beseech thee, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let thy Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days: that, when we shall have served thee in our generation, we may be gathered unto our fathers, having the testimony of a good conscience; in the communion of the Catholic Church; in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope; in favour with thee our God, and in perfect charity with the world. All which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I will always be grateful to the late Anglican bishop the Right Reverend Roger Cilley who, as my parish priest as a youth, first introduced me to Jeremy Taylor and to William Law. May his memory be eternal and may he rest in peace and rise in glory.

The following are some of my favourite excerpts from the Eucharistic Liturgy Jeremy Taylor authored for his community's use when the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican Church were banned in England. It is fairly easy to see how the Eastern and early Latin liturgies of the Church formed the palette from which Taylor constructed his Eucharistic language and theology.

Selections from the Ante-Communion


O King of Glory, Lord and Maker of the World,
.....thou art a God knowing all things and all thoughts
.....even long before they are,
be thou present with us in this religious solemnity calling upon thee.
Deliver us from the shame of our sins,
.....from the corruption and evil inclinations that attend them,
.....and from all evils that may justly follow them.
Cleanse our wills and our misunderstandings
.....from all evil lusts and concupiscence,
.....from the deceits of the world,
.....from the violence and snares of the devil,
.....from all guild and hypocrisy,
.....from every evil word and work,
.....that we may serve thee faithfully,
.....worship thee religiously,
.....and pray unto thee acceptably,
.....through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then shall the Presbyter humbly say this Prayer of Preparation, first in behalf of himself, then of the Congregation.

O Lord God who in mercy and great compassion dost consider thy people and hast given unto us thy unworthy servants, miserable sinners, confidence and commandment to present ourselves before thee at thy holy table to represent a holy, venerable and unbloody Sacrifice for our sins, and for the errors and ignorances of all thy people, look upon me the meanest and most polluted of all them that approach to thy sacred presence. Pity me, O God, and wash away all my sins. Cleanse my heart and my hands, my head and my lips from all impurities of the flesh and spirit : and remove far from me all irreverence and undecency, all foolish imaginations and vain reasonings, and by the power of the Holy Ghost make me worthy for this ministry, accepting this service for his sake whose sacrifice I represent, and by whose commandment I minister, even our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have mercy upon this thy people
.....who with hungry and thirsty souls
.....come to be refreshed and comforted
.....by the divine Nutriment of thy Holy Body and Blood.
Pity our infirmities,
.....despise not our unworthiness,
.....curse not our follies,
.....and take not from thy servants
.....thy grace and the light of the divine Countenance,
but according to the multitude of thy great mercies
.....do away all our offences,
that without self-condemnation we may appear before thy glory,
.....covered with the veil of Jesus,
.....adorned with the robe of his righteousness,
.....and illustrated with the brightness of thy divine Spirit ;
that we may live by thy grace,
.....and feel thy mercy and pardon in this world and in the world to come,
.....through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then follows the rehearsal of the Eight Beatitudes of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ.

+ + +
The Address to the Holy Mysteries, to be said before the Sursum Corda

Let us pray.

O God who by thy unspeakable mercy hast sent thy only begotten Son into the world, that he might bring the wandering sheep into his fold, turn not away from us miserable sinners, who worship and invocate thee in these Holy Mysteries. For we do not approach to thee in our own righteousness, but in the hope and confidence of that glorious mercy by which thou hast sent thy holy Son to redeem miserable and lost Mankind. We humbly beseech thee to grant that these mysteries which thou hast ordained to be ministries of salvation to us, may not become an occasion of our condemnation, but of pardon of our sins, of the renovation of our souls, of the sanctification and preservation of our bodies, that we may become well pleasing to thee our God, in the obedience of our Lord Jesus, with thom, and with thy holy Spirit, thou reignest over all, one God, Blessed for evermore. Amen.