There are long-standing debates, especially within the classical Protestant churches, over the “when” and “how” of the consecration of the bread and wine. On one side there is consecrationism, championed by Martin Luther and his early followers. This view asserts that the Words of Institution, being the very words of Christ, are the moment in the liturgy when the bread and wine are properly consecrated to be the Body and Blood of Christ. In competition with this rose a view called receptionism, championed by 17th-century Lutheran scholastics and John Calvin’s Reformed tradition, which asserts that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ only in the reception, or even only the faithful reception, of the communicants. The Articles of Religion and the Prayer Book were written early enough that both views are encompassed within our prayers, thus allowing the debate to survive within the Anglican Church throughout these five centuries.
Differences both practical and devotional result from these competing views. A consecrationist will consider the Words of Institution the most central, necessary, and holy part of the eucharistic canon, where a receptionist will emphasize prayers that speak of the worshipers’ faith and participation in Christ. Furthermore, the consecrationist will consider bread and wine left over from the liturgy still consecrated and holy, where the receptionist will consider them ordinary bread and wine. Most Prayer Books have included rubrics mandating the consumption of leftover bread and wine immediately after the liturgy, thus appeasing (though not directly affirming) the consecrationist view.
In the course of the 20th century, through increased contact with Eastern and Early Church liturgies, the epiclesis rose in prominence, especially among pentecostal or charismatic-minded Anglicans who naturally emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit. Although this emphasis was largely absent from Western Christianity beforehand, a variant of consecrationism has arisen which asserts that it is the epiclesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, that consecrates the bread and wine. The impact of this theology is reflected in the Additional Directions of the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books, in which an Epiclesis is included with the Words of Institution in the rubrics for consecrated additional bread and wine during the Ministration of Holy Communion.
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