A Simple Argument Against Internet Communion

Fr Brench:

The 1549 Prayer Book had a couple other gestures directed which are often used today, but only one survived through the course of the Reformation and is fixed in every Prayer Book since the beginning.  Here it is, according to the wording of the 2019 Book:

At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or lay a hand upon it, and here* may break the bread; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing the wine to be consecrated.

There are other rubrics, too, that deal with movement and location, standing and kneeling, but these are the only instructions left that deal with the manuals, the hands.  The celebrant MUST touch the bread or the vessel(s) containing it; the celebrant MUST touch the flagon or chalice or other vessel containing the wine.  These are the only requirements, amidst the many traditional gestures and symbols that prior tradition demanded.

Why is this so?  There may be different answers to this question.  Perhaps it’s as simple and practical as to indicate to all gathered what is to be consecrated.  Perhaps it’s part of a larger system of sacramental theology in which the celebrant has to indicate the intent to consecrate particular elements.  Perhaps there’s something incarnational in the celebrant’s imitation of Christ, or service in the place of Christ, in physically handling the elements in the same way our Lord did on the night that he was betrayed.  The explanation may be different according to whom you ask, but the rule or rubric is the same.

One of the important realizations that we must take from this, today, is the fact that we are NOT permitted to consecrated bread and wine via the internet.  There are a lot of simplifications and extraneous traditions that were removed during the Reformation, but physical contact between the minister and the elements is the one thing we’ve made a point of keeping.  Sadly, a number of priests, and even bishops, have advocated a sort of “remote consecration”, where the congregation has bread and wine in front of their TV or computer screen and the priest or bishop they’re watching live “consecrates” them for the recipients at home.  This is not permissible according to the Prayer Book tradition.  And, depending upon one’s theological explanation of this rubric, it’s probably also not possible or valid.

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