Why has it become today the almost universal custom, at
the eucharist, to take the ablutions immediately after the
communion, instead of after the blessing? This is done even in the
Prayer Book service, in spite of the rubrics in both 1662 and 1928,
which direct that the sacrament shall remain on the altar till
after the blessing. Do other readers agree with me that it is
disruptive, keeping the people choir, and organist on edge as to
when the service is to continue, and tends to make the priest
hurry, even sometimes to the loss of reverence?
In the 1662 rite, the eucharistic action continues after the
communion of the people, the Prayer of Oblation having originally
been part of the Prayer of Consecration; so any ablutions before
the blessing would be premature.
TARPing - taking the ablutions in the right place, i.e.
immediately after the communion - was encouraged by the Catholic
wing of the Church because it has been the Roman Catholic practice
since the 16th century, and because it shortened the length of time
during which the celebrant kept thumb and forefinger joined for
fear of dropping consecrated particles.
It is also convenient if the priest wants to disrobe in the
vestry during the last hymn so as to catch people on their way out
or hurry to another service in another church.
It has become customary in some churches to leave the ablutions
until long after the eucharist has finished (which has ancient
precedent, as has the 1662 rubric prescribing the ablutions to be
taken after the blessing); but there are churches where wafers are
returned to the wafer box, and wine is poured back into the bottle.
I would, therefore, much rather that the ablutions are done "in the
right place" as a public witness to belief in the Real
This need not be disruptive if it gives the congregation a time
for reflection, or a devotional hymn before the final prayers and
Derek Jay (Reader)
It was Anglo-Catholics who reintroduced the medieval and modern
Roman practice of taking the ablutions immediately after communion,
and this is now general in the Church of England. But there was
once a bishop who insisted on taking the ablutions at the end,
claiming that having the thanksgiving prayer and the Gloria while
the Sacrament was still on the altar was the BCP justification for
the service of Benediction.
(The Revd) J. D. Wright
We do not wash up until the whole meal is finished. In the BCP
rite, the eucharistic action does not conclude until the Peace and
blessing. This is really, however, because this rite has its own
rich rationale - often not understood. For example, the Sanctus is
followed immediately by the Prayer of Humble Access, following the
pattern of Isaiah
The words "Do this" in the consecration prayer are followed
immediately by an obeying of that command, the receiving
of communion - in the midst, as it were, of the Prayer Book
Any remaining consecrated elements are covered, and only then do
we join in the Lord's Prayer and say Amen to one or other of the
post-communion prayers, in both of which we offer ourselves to do
those good works God has prepared for us to walk in. The Agnus is
incorporated in the Gloria - here "a splendid finale of praise,
penitence, and thanksgiving" (Georgina Battiscombe, in Theology,
Vol. LXXI, No. 572).
The Pax in the BCP rite is well represented by words in the
short exhortation commending "love and charity", and by the
scriptural words of the Peace which precede the blessing; and only
then follows the reverent consumption of consecrated elements that
Canon Max Warren, the great CMS leader, wrote that "it is
fundamental to the true Evangelical appreciation of the Holy
Communion to realise that the solemn words do not by themselves
alone constitute the Sacrament." It is "fulfilled only with the act
of Communion and with the prayer of oblation which follows".
This is equally true for the "Prayer Book Catholic".
(The Revd) John Bunyan
In the Alternative Service Book 1980, 31 October was
kept as Saints and Martyrs of the Reformation Era. Why was this
dropped in Common Worship? A. M.
When the Church in China was forcibly united by the
Communist authorities, did it retain the apostolic succession of
bishops and the threefold Catholic orders of
ministers? G. S.
Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question,
Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London