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Christendom, every schismatic Church itself, had always admitted the unquestioned validity of Rome's Orders; of them there was not any question. The question lay elsewhere; and no attempt to start another would answer it.
Many times Fernando went back to the book, and never did it cheer and satisfy him.
The arguments it quoted from Catholic opposing sources always seemed to him fatally heavy, and the counter-arguments inconclusive and depressing. I think the end of it all was that he could not see anything more satisfactory proved than that the seventeenth century Orders of the Anglican Church were doubtful; that was not cheerful. He did not feel that it would be easy to be satisfied with doubtful Masses, and doubtful Holy Communion. But the seventeenth century was not the worst. There came the eighteenth, and it was impossible for him to feel assured of the Orders of a Church that depended for them on the eighteenth century bishops. Of how very few of them could it be believed that they had any intention of ordaining sacrificing priests, and of conferring any power to consecrate bread
and wine into the true body and blood of Christ, or any authority to absolve in the sacrament of penance? Even of the nineteenth century bishops could it be generally believed?
This is not a theological treatise, and it is not intended to present Fernando as a youthful theologian. It is only meant to show how Fernando's position received a blow from which it never recovered.
He had come back to St. Wolstan's with a tacit purpose of living his life there, and the prospect had been pleasant and comfortable to him. That pleasantness and comfort had now experienced a menace; and Fernando was never again able to look forward calmly to continuing where he was. A Catholic he must be; and now it was becoming impossible to him to believe that he was one already.
Concerning this unhappy business of the Orders, he wrote many letters, and he was directed to many books. Some of them he could get and did get; and he read them certainly with a desperate desire to find in them a full satisfaction of the doubts that had been raised in him. In none of them could he find that.
Some of the books to which he was referred he could not obtain; but in seeking them he came across others, of which some were written by the divines by whom the Book of Common Prayer had been drawn up. These he read with a kind of anxious suspense. Would they support the "Catholicity" of the Prayer Book? Alas! they breathed nothing but resolute Protestantism. How could their authors have desired or intended to produce a Catholic service-book? How could an Ordinal drawn up by such men really embody any Catholic intention? Nothing could seem more dismally plain than their abhorrence of a sacrificing priesthood. Would any Ordinal of their making express the consecrator's intention of ordaining a priest to offer sacrifice?
As I have just said, this is no theological treatise and Fernando was no theologian, but the only certainty he could arrive at by all his reading was the certainty of doubtfulness. To him it seemed ever more plain that all probability was against the validity of the Orders of those who ministered at the altars where he would wish to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion.
Suppose the Head Master were really a
validly ordained priest, could it also be supposed that he would have the intention of consecration? Fernando could not suppose
Suppose on the other hand, as Fernando certainly did suppose, that the other clergy who in their turns would celebrate had a full intention to sacrifice and consecrate, could it be taken for granted that they had the power? Some few of the bishops might be considered as pretty sure to have intended to ordain a sacrificing, consecrating priest; of most of them no such intention could be held even reasonably probable. And the bishops themselves had, each of them, his episcopal pedigree; what could be thought of it with such an episcopate as that of England during a full century and perhaps much more? How many Georgian bishops ever had intention of consecrating in the Catholic sense, of doing in consecration what the Catholic Church does?
So Fernando at celebration of the Eucharist could never help hearing in his own mind the dismal question, Am I hearing Mass? Is it the Mass? Is it anything?" When he went to Communion he must, in spite of himself, hear that other crucial question asking
itself in his mind. "Is it Our Lord-or unconsecrated bread?" To adore the Living Christ in that White Disguise of the Eucharist was the supreme act of worship; but what a misdirection of worship if the thing adored were only bread!
To those who regard the Eucharist only as a reception of bread and wine in memory of Christ's death it cannot substantially matter by whom the formula of "consecration" is pronounced. It matters altogether to him who believes that in the valid Eucharist Jesus Christ Himself is received by each
It became so painful to Fernando to go to Communion in this state of uncertainty that gradually he almost ceased to go. He was always present at the very frequent "celebrations"; but now he seldom did more than try to "hear Mass"; and less and less did he feel any assurance that he was hearing Mass.
What has been thus described as happening to him has happened to very many other Anglicans; but in one thing he may have been different from most of them. For he had during a long time felt confident of one thingthat in any matter wherein the Catholic Church was at issue with Protestantism,