“Association of the Lord’s Body with the needs of our bodies, and of his Blood with the needs of our souls…”

There is a terrific post at Fr. Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment today.  He drills into the famous Anglican “humble crumble” or, better, the Prayer of Humble Access which those in the Anglican communion were/are wont to recite.  Let’ s have a taste of his erudition.  I am pleased to say that I enjoyed his post with strong coffee over my own homemade humble and slightly crumbly scone, with strawberry jam and a wee dollop of clotted cream.

In the Ordinariate Ordo Missae authorised by the Holy See, there is a very interesting Prayer taken from the Book of Common Prayer: called the ‘Prayer of Humble Access’ (Often frivolously called the humble crumble. We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.). It begins with a paraphrase of the ‘Ambrosian Prayer‘ given in your S Pius V Missals for use by the celebrant before Mass: [Interesting!  I did not know that.] Ad mensam dulcissimi convivii tui, pie Domine Iesu Christe, ego peccator de propriis meis meritis nihil praesumens, sed de tua confidens misericordia et bonitate, accedere vereor et contremisco[There are great prayers for the priest still included even in the Novus Ordo Missal.]

Just before its end, the Anglican Prayer reads as follows: Grant us therefore gracious Lord, so to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his Blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may ever more dwell in him, and he in us.

This association of the Lord’s Body with the needs of our bodies, and of his Blood with the needs of our souls, is a medieval idea going back to an unknown writer whose works were mixed up with those of S Ambrose, so that he is for convenience known as Ambrosiaster. S Thomas Aquinas, who in the Summa (III, lxxiv, 1) teaches this distinction (as had that enthusiastic Carolingian upholder of the Real Presence, S Paschasius Radbertus), quotes it as from S Ambrose; and I think it is clearly what the Angelic Doctor had in mind when he wrote the third stanza of his Verbum supernum prodiens [the hymn for Lauds of Corpus Christi]; I give a literal translation: To whom [i.e.the disciples] He gave flesh and blood under twofold appearance that He might feed the whole Man of double substance. That is to say, He gave himself in the two species so that He might feed the entirety of Man who is composed, doubly, of both body and soul.

In his first (1548) liturgical experiment in the Eucharistic Liturgy, Cranmer carried this Thomistic distinction even into the formulae for Communion: The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ …. preserve thy body … and The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ … preserve thy soul …. After a year he gave this distinction up.

Successive generations of Anglican liturgists have been nervous about the conclusion of the Prayer of Humble Access with its Thomist, non-Biblical distinction between the effect of the Body upon our bodies and of the Blood upon our souls; Dix cattily remarked “there is no particular reason why people should be made to pray medieval speculations in a Reformed church”*.


There’s more.  Apparently, the Prayer of Humble Access was dropped from some American prayerbooks.

You will want to see the material about Garrigou Lagrange’s thoughts about the Body and the Blood.

And remember… Benedict XVI is still the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gerard Plourde says:

    This could reinforce the argument for administering Communion under both species, a practice which is not available to the laity in the Mass of St. Pius V. (Even though we know that the Consecrated Host the laity receives is Our Lord – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, just as the Consecrated Wine is as well).

  2. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks Fr. Hunwicke and Fr. Z.

  3. JesusFreak84 says:

    The Divine Liturgies of Sts. John Chrysostom and Basil the Great make the same link between spiritual nourishment and physical, so the connection goes back much farther than the Middle Ages.

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