Arthur Middleton on Church and Eucharist
in Mark Frank (1613-64)
The works of Mark Frank, a less well-known Anglican divine, consist of two volumes of sermons which exhibit a combination of all the skills of oratory, imagination, learning and language. He sees the Eucharist as the moment when the past is gathered up, re-membered, the future fulfilment anticipated and made known. It is an intensity of presence when the risen Christ is made known to us and the Father’s love is proclaimed. It is an experience of ‘the world to come’ in an Epiphany of Christ’s coming, where living and departed, past, present and future are recapitulated in Christ. The mystical presence of Christ makes present in time the whole company of heaven and earth. An Advent sermon expounds this:
“The multitudes before are the Jewish synagogue, the multitudes behind, the Christian Church; a multitude, indeed, that cannot be numbered, of emperors, and kings, and princes; bishops and priests; doctors, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, all in their several orders and generations, crying, ‘Hosanna to the Son
of David’… All these multitudes – the Jew, with his multitude of patriarchs, priests, and Levites, and singers, and prophets, with his sacrifices of bulls, and rams, and goats, and sheep, of types and figures, all crying out ‘Messiah is coming’; the Christians, apostles, martyrs, confessors, doctors, virgins, bishops, priests, and deacons, and all several orders in their choirs and churches throughout the world, crying out ‘He is come’… All believing and professing the same He that cometh here; they, the Jews, before, crying ‘He that cometh’; we, the Christians, crying ‘He that is come,’ or rather, He that cometh still, that every day comes to us by his grace, and through his word and in his sacraments: ‘Blessed is he that cometh’ still, not a tense or tittle changed; he that comes being the same for ever; eternity and things eternal being ever coming, never gone or going.’ His Candlemas Sermons express similar truths. Is it surprising that the Puritan mindset irked him? His vision of the Church-in-Christ is large, cosmic and dynamic, with an appreciation of hierarchy and the plurality of vocations that found joy and sacrifice in the service of God and continues in the life of the world to come. Patriarchs, prophets and priests, kings, Apostles, Evangelists and martyrs, religious and virgins and that wonderful order of angels are recapitulated in the mystical presence of the one who comes. It is the Eucharist that makes us one with them in that epiphany of the Lord’s coming.
This is a far cry from the politically correct Church of our day that would keep us in the solitary confinement of the present, where vocation becomes the singular preoccupation of ministerial priesthood, and we have Directors of Ordinands rather than Directors of Vocation. Today’s Church has a narrow conception of vocation that has reduced the priesthood to a power structure when in reality it is a charism. Hence, it is seen as the ultimate, the superior vocation in the management structure of the careerist Church, and too often a part-time vocation. Yet the Church’s history demonstrates that there is a plurality of vocations, without which vocation becomes monochrome and ecclesial life diminished.