Now here is something which I think really needs opening up. Since the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, we have emphasised the reality of the Lord's presence in the consecrated elements. And so we should have doe. Indeed, perhaps we should have done more of it. While I was in Devon, nearly every sermon I preached for six years was about the Eucharist; and, right at the end of it, one distinctly intelligent parishioner told me that he was starting to realise what it was all about. And since the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus, I have heard two separate anecdotes about laypeople saying "We wouldn't have to believe in Transubstantiation, would we?" Moreover, the extent to which Roman Catholic laity have forgotten the Lord's Eucharistic Presence is notorious. I once heard some of my Church of Ireland people talking in shocked tones about the irreverence with which RCs received Communion. Yes; this job is still not finished.
But there is another job which I sometimes feel we have barely started. And that is teaching about the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In 1947, Dom Gregory Dix congratulated the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, which he was addressing, upon having done 'notable work' in restoring adoration, corporate and personal; reparation; and many other aspects of Eucharistic devotion which centred round the doctrine of the Real Presence. But he felt that the sacrificial aspect had proved much less easy to bring out. In the near future I plan to put extracts from his address on to this blog (thanks to Professor Tighe's kindness in sending me notes made by one of those who heaerd Dix speak).
But, for the time being, I would like to leave you - and especially brother priests - with this thought.
I think we have been made much too nervous by Protestant attacks upon the Sacrifice of the Mass on the grounds that it undermines the uniqueness of Calvary. We have tended to feel that, rather than saying something which, horror of horrors, led to this appalling error, it will be better to say nothing. I think this is completely wrong. Laypeople get a whole lot of things wrong; and if you don't think your laity do, then I think you should try to talk to them more. We can't ensure that every woman-jill of them puts everything just precisely accurately. Even among clergy, I often feel that some sort of general approximation and a few dollops of goodwill are the best we can hope for.
So, sez I, teach them that the Mass is the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ and that it is offered daily in your church by the priest and that it is the sacrifice appointed by God to take away sins. Don't put a paragraph or two into your homily about how incredibly careful we must be to avoid compromising the uniqueness of Calvary. If the Calvary question gets raised, of course you can do some finessing. But even if their understanding is likely to be askew, nevertheless just teach the basics, simply and ... yes ... crudely.