Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

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Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion

The really essential thing is the Communion. There may be minor outward differences as to the manner of its celebration: you shall find in one parish a tradition of Puritan bareness, in another a full and rich ceremonial symbolism, with lights and vestments. A man may have his personal preferences, but it is a mistake to attach undue importance either to the presence or to the absence of the external adjuncts of worship. What matters is the Body and Blood of Christ.

A man must have his own regular rule with regard to Communion. To communicate spasmodically or upon impulse at irregular intervals is not the way to build up a stable Christian character. Where circumstances make possible the leading of a fairly regular life and give adequate opportunity for preparation beforehand, weekly communion is the best rule. Where this is not possible, a fortnightly or even a monthly rule may in particular cases be the best.

Preparation for Communion should be real, but need not be elaborate. It should be made overnight, and should include a review of the period since the last Communion was made, prayers for pardon and new resolves, if possible a short meditation on the essential meaning of the Sacrament, and the selection of some particular theme to be the focus of intercession at the service itself.

At the actual service it is well to arrive early, with a few moments to spare for quiet and recollected prayer before the Liturgy begins. The first part of the service is preparatory. Any pauses or intervals should be filled up by private prayers.[Footnote: Forms and suggestions which, may be used by those who find them helpful are provided for this purpose in any manual of devotion.] From the moment of consecration until the end of the service the mind should be concentrated as far as possible upon the thought of Christ’s realized Presence. A man should go up to the altar to receive Communion as one desiring to meet his Lord and to be renewed in Him, returning subsequently to his place to render thanks for so great a Gift. When the service is over it is best not to hurry out of church, but to linger for further thanksgiving and prayer as occasion serves.

It is an ancient rule or custom of the Church to receive Holy Communion fasting, giving precedence to the food of the soul over that of the body. To insist rigidly upon such a rule in any and every set of circumstances is a piece of unintelligent and unchristian legalism: but many persons are of opinion that to observe it wherever it is reasonably possible to do so makes for reality. There is a real value in the element of asceticism and self-discipline involved in the effort to rise early and come fasting to church: and the fast may be interpreted as a kind of outward sacrament of the inward reality of spiritual preparation–a preparation of the body corresponding to the preparation of the soul, It is, moreover, an advantage of the early morning hour that the mind is undistracted by the occupations and diversions of the day. For all these reasons the early morning Communion is to be preferred to Communion at a later hour.

Whether a man is a weekly communicant or not, he should in any case be present as a worshipper at Holy Communion Sunday by Sunday, and should regard attendance at the weekly Eucharist as the most essential part of church-going. No one who makes it a rule of his life to be present on Sundays and other festivals of the Church at Holy Communion ever has cause to regret having done so.

A man who for any reason (_e.g. by the nature of his employment) is debarred from attending regularly on Sundays should, if possible, secure an opportunity of regular attendance at Holy Communion on a week-day. There are usually churches to be found, at least in the towns, which have an early morning Eucharist daily throughout the week: and advantage can also be taken of this if on any particular occasion the regular Sunday Communion has been missed. If neither Sunday nor week-day opportunities are available, the need should be met by what is known as “spiritual communion”: that is to say, a man should read over the Liturgy in private, unite himself in spirit with the Eucharist as celebrated in the particular church with which he happens to be most familiar (as representing for him the worship of the Church Universal), and pray that he may receive the spiritual benefits of Communion though deprived for the time being of the actual Sacrament. Apart from the “early service,” which is now almost universal, schemes of worship upon Sunday mornings vary in different parishes. In some churches Matins and Litany are sung and a sermon preached, a late Eucharist without music being commonly celebrated about noon: in other parishes Matins is said quietly without music at a comparatively early hour, and the Eucharist is solemnly sung, with a sermon, as the principal service of the forenoon, usually without more than a very limited number of communicants, partly because if the bulk of the congregation communicate at a sung Eucharist the service becomes intolerably long, and partly because the majority of those desiring to receive Communion have done so fasting at an earlier hour.

In large towns a man can usually find churches of either type according to his preference. In “single-church areas” he ought for the sake of fellowship and good example to conform, as a rule, to what is customary. It is desirable, in a general way, to be identified with the corporate worship of the parish: but it is worth remarking that, apart from the weight due to this general consideration, there is no particular sacredness about the hour of eleven o’clock, and a man who has communicated before breakfast, and perhaps contemplates attendance, later on, at Evensong, may not unreasonably feel justified in devoting the forenoon of Sunday (which is usually his solitary morning’s leisure in the week) to other purposes than those of worship. If the preacher is worth listening to (which is not invariably the case) it is a good thing to go and hear him: and it is well, therefore, to attend one or other of the services (morning or evening) at which a sermon is preached. But it is not essential to attend both: and the question may be raised whether one sermon a Sunday is not as much as most men can profitably digest. A sermon is in any case (except at the Eucharist) a detachable appendix to a Church service; and it is both possible and legitimate either to attend the service and leave the church before the sermon, or to avoid the service and come in time to hear the sermon, according to preference or opportunity.

As regards external details of observance, kneeling, and not squatting, should be the attitude adopted for prayer. It is customary to turn eastwards for the Creed, and in some churches, though not in others, to kneel at the reference to the Incarnation in the course of the Nicene Creed. It is also a common practice in some churches to genuflect (_i.e. to drop for a moment upon one knee) on rising from one’s place to go up to the altar to communicate, in reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. A man should adapt his personal usage in these minor details to whatever appears to be customary in the particular church in which he is worshipping.

It is often extremely difficult for the clergy to know personally the men of their congregations, since it is rare in most neighbourhoods for the men to be at home during the hours when it is possible for the clergy to visit. In these circumstances a man ought to be willing to take the initiative in making himself known to the clergy of his parish, and to co-operate as far as possible in any effort which may be made, through parochial Church Councils or otherwise, to develop the spirit of fellowship in a congregation. There is very often about Anglican Church worship a stiffness and frigidity which badly needs to be broken down. Appropriated seats, where they exist, are a particular curse, and anything which can be done in the way of abandoning chosen seats, even if “bought and paid for,” to strangers in the interests of charity is a real piece of Christian service. A stranger ought not to be made to feel uncomfortable, but to be welcomed in every possible way. The ideal is that every church, in every part of it, should be free and open at all times to all comers.


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

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Religious Reality
By A. E. J. Rawlinson
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