The Eastward Position at the celebration of the Holy Communion.
As to the place of standing at the consecration, my feeling is with them. It seems to me not desirable to make it essential or even important that the people should see the breaking of the bread, or the taking the cup into the hands of the priest, and positively mischievous to encourage them in gazing on him, or watching him with critical eyes while so employed. I much prefer the spirit of the Rubric of 1549—First Book of Edward VI.—which says, “These words before rehearsed are to be said turning still to the Altar, without any elevation, or showing the Sacraments to the people.” The use now enforced, I think, tends to deprive the most solemn rite of our religion of one of its most solemn particulars. Surely, whatever school we belong to, and even if we consider the whole rite merely commemorative, it is a very solemn idea to conceive the priest at the head of his flock, and, as it were, a shepherd leading them on in heart and spirit, imploring for them and with them the greatest blessing which man is capable of receiving on earth; he alone uttering the prayer—they meanwhile kneeling all, and in deep silence listening, not gazing, rather with closed eyes—and with their whole undistracted attention, joining in the prayer with one heart and without sound until the united “Amen” breaks from them at the close, and seals their union and assent.
But, of course, comes the further question, whether, an English clergyman is authorised to use it. He is not authorised if the Prayer Book tells him not to. Of that there is no question. But if the Prayer Book not only seems to give him the liberty, but, by the prima facie look of its words, seems to prescribe it, the harshness of a ruling which summarily and under penalties prohibits it is not to be smoothed down by saying that the matter is unimportant. Sir John Coleridge’s view of the two points will be read with interest:—