The Saxon Visitation

Chancellor Crell

Chancellor Crell

The Saxon Visitation Articles were published in 1593 to counter the influence of receptionism amongst Lutheran Churches in Saxony. They define an effectual, localized, spiritual presence in the bread. While Thomas Cranmer had died a convinced ‘receptionist’, Archbishop Parker added article XXIX, modifying Cranmer’s earlier spiritualization of sacrament so that an objective and local presence might be also confessed in the bread,

“The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament”

The XXIXth Article permitted a distinctly  literal (verba) interpretation of sacrament. In so far as the Article persisted after the Restoration, the 1662 Black Rubric might to be read as ‘consubstantiationist’. Hence, the Restoration, like Elizabethan settlement, technically brought Anglicanism to a more German-catholic view.

How secondary elements (like ornaments) relate to Article 29 is another story. Generally speaking, Tudor and Stuart monarchs favored late Henrican worship (1538 Injunctions) and also wished to restore aspects of the 1549 against more ‘puritan’ elements pressed from the vantage of the 1552 BCP. A discrepency in eucharist theology persisted between what would become Parker’s 39 vs. Cranmer’s earlier 42 articles.  The modifications to the 1559 BCP tried to resolve such, and, though Elizabeth restored the older words of administration, the prayer of consecration could also be understood to locate the oblation with worshippers (the real presence located in hearts of the people) rather than in the elements. Thus, between 16th century articles and prayer book, the CofE comprehended both Calvinistic and Lutheran views of sacrament. This would leave her, confessionally speaking, somewhere near the Wittenberg Concord (1536) and Variatas Augsburg (1542) on the continent. The latter was also composed by Melancthon and signed by Calvin. These along with Bucer’s writings deserve re-examination if we are to speak of a “classicaly Anglican”  eucharist.

The image above is Chancellor Nicholas Crell’s head. Crell was executed for “acts of treachery” against the Duke in Wittenburg , 1601. Amongst these ‘acts’ were propagating receptionist views. Frederick William I with Rev. Aegidius Hunnius managed to reverse Calvinist gains through such Visitation powers. Below is Visitation Article’s used to exclude Calvinist views on the Holy Supper, summing the genuine Lutheran position.

Article 1. Holy Supper

The pure and true doctrine of our churches concerning the Holy Supper:

I. The words of Christ, “Take, eat, this is My body; drink, this is My blood” are to be understood simply and according to the letter, as they read.

II. In the Sacrament there ae two things that are given and received with  each other: one earthly, which is bread and wine; and one heavenly, which is the body and blood of Christ.

III. This giving and receiving occurs here on earth, and not above in heaven.

IV. It is the true natural body of Christ that hung on the cross, and the true natural blood that flowed from the side of Christ.

V. The body and blood of Christ are received not only by faith spiritually, which can also occur outside of the Supper, but here with the bread and wine orally. Yet this happens in an unexplainable and supernatural way, as a pledge of assurance of the resurrection of our bodies from the dead.

VI. The oral partaking of the body and blood of Christ is done not only by the worthy, but alos by the unworthy, who approach without repentance and true faith. Nevertheless, this leads to a different result: by the worthy for salvation, by the unworthy for judgment.

8 responses to “The Saxon Visitation

  1. I guess I’m going to have to find the time to read “Cranmer on the Eucharist” or whatever it’s called. It’s a collection of Cranmer’s writings on the Eucharist with an introduction by my father’s teacher, J.I. Packer. My impression from reading bits of it in high school and Ian Robinson’s examinations of Cranmer’s development of the Service of Holy Communion is that Cranmer’s own views developed over time and were highly nuanced. If this is the case with just one of our leading theologians, I fully agree that a “classically Anglican” understanding of the Eucharist is going to be very difficult to grasp.


    • Hello Rebekah,

      Yes. I’ve heard the same thing about Cranmer’s ‘maturing’ views. Perhaps it would give us some insight into the 1552/9 eucharistic prayer? One thing that is interesting was Edward’s rule was much more ‘Protestant (Swiss)’ than Elizabeth’s. Thus, the 1663-71 Articles, with respect to sacrament, curiously gives an objectivity to the presence that is absent in the ’59 liturgy (which was nearly identical, aside from the words of administration, to Cranmer’s ’52). Elizabeth’s greatest contribution to catholicity, in my opinion, was her treatment of ceremonial– retaining the cross, altars, screens, altar lights, and the vestments. The vestment question with Hooper was not the chasuble, but Hooper wishing to divest both surplice or cope; preferring, I believe, the academic or Geneva gown instead. Please correct me if I am wrong. This was the beginning of the so-called ‘vestment controversy’; the church party against the puritan one. Curiously, both Calvin and Bullinger, while sympathetic to Hooper, believed the controversy was ultimately unproductive and urged Hooper to wear the vestments according to expediency. I think you are right about an ‘anglican’ understanding of the eucharist hard to grasp. There is a latitude in understanding, with Cranmer/Bucer’s view on the one hand, and the Articles on the other. Article 29 may be attributed to AB Parker who insisted upon Luther’s sacramental union, better localizing and objectifying the sacrament. I believe men like Andrewes were much more Lutheran than ‘Greek’, and Luther was far more patristic than either Calvin or Eck.


  2. Those ornate Tallis pieces are Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter. Do you know anything about this text?


  3. I’ll try to remember to bring the CD to Mass. It’s on iTunes, too. I’m not sure how to go about getting the sheet music, but I bet Vaughn and Al know.


  4. Peter Escalante

    The Article in question leaves very little room for a Lutheran reading of the Eucharist, actually; “sacrament” was expressly understood as meaning the outward sign, not the communicated res.

    Andrewes is actually straight Calvin, with some rhetorical flourishes. He is very far from the Lutheran view (whatever that actually is; a clear account is still not forthcoming after five hundred years). Almost all the classical Anglicans were basically Calvinist on the matter of the Eucharist, culminating in the great Waterland; and Waterland shows that the Reformed view of the Eucharist is actually closer to the Patristic than the Lutheran view is. Hooker, for instance, expressly “locates” the presence in the believers, not in the elements: to do the latter is the beginning of superstition. I have short essay on this topic posted at Basilica, if you’re interested.



    • Hello Peter,

      Yes. Please leave a link to your article for others here. It would be great to hear the calvinist argument. I believe in many respects you are right in so far as the CofE possessed a near calvinist consensus throughout the Reformation. That being said, I believe we’d be challenged to pinpoint Anglican eucharist theology. However, I’ve heard it called ‘high calvinist’, and, given calvin might be granted a higher view in his latter years (?– phillipist?), I could swallow such:

      I am glad you say Lutherans have no clear account, and often, by their own apologia, they reject both the terms ‘impantation’ and ‘consubstantiation’. Anglicans also prefer to fall back on ‘mystery’ and silence. However, I believe the difference between Lutherans and Calvinists mainly involve the locality and objectivity of the presence. In this regard Article 28 seems to hinder a pure calvinist reading. Perhaps I am wrong? Let me put it another way, “Do calvinists believe the wicked do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as S. Augustine saith) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ”? If the wicked do, then certainly as well the faithful?

      I also have a second question. This involves the Black Rubric, “why did calvinists dislike kneeling at the rail?” Was it bread worship, or did rail kneeling suggest a presence “in or under” the bread? Another example might be found in the different language of the black rubric, comparing 52 to 62. 1552 says there be no “real or true presence” while 1662 says there is “no corporeal or natural”. The 1552 would have been definately calvinist and favored such. Elizabeth solved this by simply omitting the rubric entirely. At savoy they reinserted it but broadening its confession to include more than the strict calvinist.

      Unless these questions can be automatically dismissed, I’d contend Matthew Parker and the royal chapel, via the Queen, were inclined to somewhat Lutheran views given this better reflected the ‘catholic’ settlement Elizabeth desired amongst her subjects without stumbling into gross superstition or radicalism from the continent. Also, the royal chapel and Parker proved a constant source of conservatism, almost a counterweight, to more zealous parties in England’s church, repeatedly frustrating Puritans. I am not saying Parker was a closet Romanist. Far from it! But I believe Parker, tough committed to Reform, had a conservativism that men like Abbot and Grindal lacked.

      Though I won’t say Eucharist theology found in the Articles is specifically Lutheran, it does lean that way, more so than the Calvinist. This is witnessed by the late date and controversy of Article 28. I am willing to say Article 28 at least makes Anglican eucharist theology ‘high calvinist’ or ‘philipist’. That being said, I would not underestimate Lutheran teachings, especially in areas of rites and ceremonies. Lutheranism, as you know, was well-received by Cramner, Cromwell, and Seymour, and it continued even after Cranmer’s left-turn toward Bucer. I think what emerged in the prayer book during this very formative time (1548-52) via Cranmer was a broadened theology which certainly favored “receptionism” yet hesitated ruling out the older, perhaps more catholic and ‘Lutheran’ views. The insertion of the Black Rubric was a last minute alteration which satisfied no one– allowing kneeling yet ruling out specific locality (literalism). Anglicanism, after all, is known for its equivocations, and this is partly due to a national church framework. The 59 is consequently more reflective the protestant opinion in the realm, not merely London, or private veiws of Cranmer and his friends.

      However, in contrast to Cranmer’s turn toward Bucer, I see Parker’s later ‘meddling’ with the Articles as an intentional narrowing against Puritan opinion, even a conservative interference, not reflective, as you say, of calvinist opinion which flourished upon the return of exiles and in the university that Parliament and most divines favored. The 59 BCP consequently continued to be a source of controversy and even the Articles a disappointment given the insertion of #28 and #16 (sin after baptism) not to mention a similar objectivity given to baptism. Anglican sacraments are not calvinist. But they also resist pure Lutheranism, and this is probably because they sought a broad protestant settlement, a more catholic rather than confessional mindset?

      Anyway, I must ask, what is Article 28 saying, and how can a pure receptionist view be read?


    • I must agrees and disagree with Peter on this topic.

      First, I agree that with his intimation that Anglican eucharistic understanding is unique and cannot be fitted neatly into either Calvinist or Lutheran boxes, either by its literal terminology, which do not track either, or by contextual clues from the BCP, which are too vague to admit any precise conclusion. Rather, I believe that the Anglican formularies, much like Orthodoxy, rule out carnal notion of Real Presence as well as bare memorial signification. Instead, the mystical concept of anamnesis is the best we can do, and that defies over rationalization.

      Second, I disagree about Lancelot Andrewes. When I read him, I do not hear Calvinism but rather Orthodoxy (or at least the pre-schism West). Admittedly, Peter and I are seeing Andrewes through different colored lenses, and Receptionism and Orthodox Anamnesis are not so easy to distinguish in practise, much less in theory. So, there may not be much substance in my scruple here.


      • Hello Death,

        I can go either way, calling Anglican eucharistic understanding either high calvinist, philipist, or Lutheran. I find, however, more commonalities between Lutherans and Anglicans with respect to their convictions regarding a real and local presence. Rev. Novak had a very interesting paper on Calvinist sacramentology (the link is somewhere in this comment thread) suggesting the late Calvin differed from early. Perhaps both Calvinists and Lutherans are misunderstood by their antagonists? And perhaps their own proponents know less about their own eucharist theology than they ought? I came from a Westminster confessing Presbyterian church, and it was so preoccupied with preaching the Word (the pulpit), it knew nothing about the eucharist question. Sacramentology is really neglected in churches that have been influenced by waves of revivalism. I will also add when you read the Lutherans in their own writings, they don’t particularly like the term “consubstantiation”. They prefer ‘sacramental union’. But often consubstantiation makes a better strawman. When reading the black rubric, there is a very interesting difference on its wording between 1552 and 1662. Also, Anglicans of both periods continued to insist the ‘bread’ was ‘bread’ (not ‘changed’ in the sense of annihilation), and therefore adoration given to it was wrong. Yet kneeling was argued as ‘indifferent’, for the sake of piety and order, not on any specific sacramental grounds. ? I would think bowing to the altar and kneeling both involve the notion of the ‘burning bush’ and the Lord’s presence in the sanctuary/altar and the consequent holiness thereof. But even here there is a generalization on locality, sic., ‘around, under, and in’? My question, is ‘how around is around’? Perhaps this is where conventionally views of Calvinists and Lutherans can begin to agree. ?


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