Learning Journal 10 - Cranmer's Revision of the Medieval Mass
As part of the ‘Christian Worship: Tradition and Practice’ module we have examined in some detail Cranmer’s revision of the Medieval mass which was at the heart of his prayer book and the English reformation. This has been a fascinating insight not only into the beginnings of Anglicanism but into a theological hot potato which still has implications today.
Cranmer’s revision of the Mass happened in three stages. The first in 1548 was ‘The Order of the Communion’ which added an English section to the Latin Mass for the people’s reception of the communion in both kinds. The second was the 1549 prayer book, which provided a full service in the English vernacular and the third was in 1552 which represented a more thoroughgoing theologically Reformed revision. Colin Buchanan has made a convincing argument that the 1552 liturgy is what Cranmer had in mind all along and that he used a staged approach to gradually get there. His aims were to correct the medieval doctrines of transubstantiation, the ‘local presence’ of Christ in the bread and the wine, and the practices of the adoration and reservation of the sacrament that went along with this. He also wanted to remove all trace of Eucharistic sacrifice.
In the 1552 prayer book there is no consecration of the bread and wine, there are no manual actions and a rubric says that the curate can take home any leftover bread and wine for his own consumption. The bread and wine remain bread and wine, and Christ is in heaven. The feeding is a spiritual feeding by the faithful in their hearts. The 1552 prayer book is therefore more Reformed than any other prayer book of the Church of England, before or since. The Elizabethan prayer book was slightly less Protestant, and in 1662 consecration is back in, along with manual acts.
I find it fascinating that the hard won Eucharistic reforms that Cranmer fought for, and ultimately went to the stake for seem to have been too radical for the English church and have been largely forgotten.