Arthur Middleton on more thoughts of Mark Frank (1613-64)

Mark Frank’s preaching on Candlemas tells us that Candlemas Day is a day of blessing. It is ‘a day of God’s blessing us, and our blessing of him again; of Christ’s being presented for us, and our presenting to him again; of his presenting in the temple, and our presenting ourselves in the Church, to bless God and him for his presentation… our Candlemas, our little candles, our petty lights; our souls reflecting back to this great Light, that was this day presented in the temple and then darted down upon us.’

‘Candlemas.. .so called from the lighting up of candles, offering them, consecrating them, and bearing them in procession.. .to show that long expected Light of the Gentiles was now come… and might be taken in our hands. Let the ceremony pass, reserve the substance; light up the two candles of faith and good works, light them with the fire of charity; bear we them burning in our hands, as Christ commands us; meet we

him ‘with our lamps burning’; consecrate we also them, all our works and actions, with our prayers; offer we them then upon the altars of the Lord of Hosts, to his honour and glory; and go we to the altars of the God of our salvation… as in procession, ‘two and two’, in peace and unity together; and with this solemnity and preparation, we poor oxen and asses may come and approach to our Master’s crib…the candle of faith will there show you him, and the candle of charity will light him down into your arms, that you may embrace him.’

For Frank, priesthood is rooted in the wholeness of revelation in Old and New Testaments, where the organic relationship between priesthood, sacrifice and sacraments is crucial. He pictures Simeon holding up the child. ‘The taker and receiver of Christ is Simeon who is a priest and his office is to receive the offerings of the Lord, and to bless the people, like Aaron. He takes the child and blesses the parents.’

The Christian priest does more; he blesses the child too. ‘No priest of the law could do that: only the minister of the Gospel has that authority, to consecrate, and bless, and take… He blesses the dead elements, and quickens them into holy things by the ministration of his office, by the virtue of his function. Till he blesses, they are but common bread and wine; when he has taken and offered them, then they are holy; then they are the means, and pledges, and seals of grace; then they convey Christ unto the faithful receiver’s soul. This is the mystery of the Gospel and so I speak it; not literally of Christ’s person, but mystically of his body and blood, as offered and taken in the sacrament.’

Frank was concerned with the validity of the sacraments because many non-episcopally ordained ministers had been put in parishes: ‘the taking concerns us all; and though perhaps it concerns us not whether Simeon was a priest or not, yet it both concerns us that he that blesses and offers be a priest, as much as it concerns us that it be the sacrament we would have, which cannot be offered but by the hands to which Christ committed that power and authority…’