Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am weak;
remember, Lord, how short my time is;
remember that I am but flesh,
a wind that passeth away, and cometh
My days are as grass, as a flower of the
for the wind goeth over me, and I am
and my place shall knave me no more.
[Lancelot Andrewes, 1555-1626]
Bishop Lancelot Andrewes was an English bishops and scholar who was one of those who presided over the production of that greatest of works of the English language, the King James Bible. His Devotions are worth reading by any Christian who wants simply to follow in the footsteps of one who had travelled far on the journey to Christ, and with Christ. The passage I have quoted shows a man of humility who lived in the knowledge that through all the storms of his day, the reality was Christ, not the politics which could have cost him his life.
Andrewes also makes the best explanation I have read from an Anglican source of what I believe when I partake of the Eucharist, and a comparison with Chalcedon’s comments about St Cyril is instructive.
Andrewes sees the Eucharist as the means by which we partake of the benefits of the Incarnation:
“Now ‘the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body, of the flesh, of Jesus Christ?’ [1 Corinthians 10: 16] It is surely, and by it and by nothing more are we made partakers of this most blessed union. A little before he said, “Because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also would take part with them’ [Hebrews 2: 14] – may not we say the same? Because he hath so done, taken ours of us, we also ensuing His steps will participate with Him and with His flesh which He hath taken of us. It is most kindly to take part with Him in that which He took part in with us, and that to no other end but that He might make the receiving of it by us a means whereby He might ‘dwell in us, and we in Him’; He taking our flesh, and we receiving His Spirit; by His flesh which He took of us receiving His Spirit which he imparteth to us; that, as He by ours became consors humanae naturae, so we by His might become consortes divinae naturae, ‘partakers of the divine nature’. [2 Peter 1: 4]
This is pure Athanasius. Andrewes did not like to get into detail he thought we could not know. In response to queries from Roman Cardinals, he wrote: “we define nothing rashly” about the “presence”; “we do not anxiously inquire, any more than how the blood of Christ washes us in our Baptism, any more than how the human and divine natures are united in one Person in the Incarnation of Christ.” Nevertheless “we believe no less than you that the presence is real”, except we reject any change of substance.
We need to rediscover the faith of the Elizabethan Settlement, the faith proclaimed in the prayer book and the 39 Articles and the Catechism, the faith of men like Jeremy Taylor, Lancelot Andrewes, Richard Field, Peter Gunning, and many, many more.