Friday, 9 March 2012

Calvin on Tables rather than Altars

Further to my last post, and prompted by Ttony's love of sources, I dug out my copy of Michael Davies' Cranmer's Godly Order, and on p179 (I'm a quick reader), discussing the Protestant changes in 16th century England, I find:
The replacement of altars by tables was another step directly in line with the liturgical policies of the Continental Reformers, the final product of which is well summarised by a description of the Communion Service at Strasbourg after 1530 when Bucer's influence became dominant. "So, Mass, priest, and altar are replaced by Lord's Supper, minister, and Holy Table, and westward replaces the eastward position of the celebrant." (1)  Calvin taught that since Christ has accomplished His sacrifice once and for all, God "hath given us a table at which we are to feast, not an altar upon which any victim is to be offered: he hath not consecrated priests to offer sacrifices, but ministers to distribute the sacred banquet." (2)
(1) D Harrison, The First and Second Prayer Books of Edward Vl 
(2) J Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion

As Michael Davies points out - indeed it is the leitmotif of his trilogy - the parallels are frightening.


Left-footer said...

Very interesting and, as you say, the parallels are frightening.

Rhine flowing into Tiber, no less.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

Where are you and Ttony finding these tables masquerading as altars?

In my current parish (Church built in the 1960's) the altar is clearly stone and clearly not a table. In my previous parish (church built in the 1860's) the altar was (I think) the original altar moved forward. The altar at school is wooden but it has no legs and is nothing like a table; at the previous school it was stone with legs but it did have a proper relic in it.

I am now racking my brain to try to remember other churches and altars but I am clearly not very observant as I can't really remember them but I don't think any of them are like tables. I think I would have noticed.

I think the lack of appreciation of the Mass as a sacrifice is down to, as you said, poor catechesis.

btw I don't think you should take the CCC's referal to the Mass as sacrifice "and also" meal as meaning the former is more important than the latter. Both are essential parts of our understanding of what is going on and emphasising one over the other either way is likely to lead to misunderstanding. I think the Penny Catechism has it the other way round - "The Blessed Eucharist is not a Sacrament only; it is also a sacrifice."

Ben Trovato said...

P-t P

The one that set me going was at St Mary and St James, Scorton, Lancs.