THe Churches care for the sick, ends not here: For, besides all this, she appoints, that if the sick person desires it, the Priest may communicate him in his private house, if there be a convenient place, where the Curate may reverently minister. [Rubr, before priv. Com. of Sick] so was the ancient decree of holy Church. Nic. Can. 13. Cod. Eccl. univer. Generaliter omni cuilibet in exitu posito, & Eucharistiae participationem petenti, Episcopus cum examinatione oblationem impertiat. [To every man that is ready to depart out of this world, let the Bishop after examination and trial give the holy Communion, if he desires it.] For this, saies the Counsel, is antiqua & Canonica lex, ut si quis vita excedat, ultimo & necessario viatico minime privetur. [This is the ancient law of the Church, saies this Conc. there, concerning him that is dying, that whosoever he be, he shall not be denied the last and most necessary viaticum of his life.] This viaticum, or provision for the way, is the holy Communion, as is plain in the Canon cited.
For though as learned Albaspineus observes, this word Viaticum was applyed to more things besides the Eucharist, as to Alms, to Baptism, to Absolution, which are all necessary helps in our journey to heaven; Yet in this Canon I conceive the Viaticum or provision for the way, to be the holy Eucharist. For in the first part of the Canon it is call'd Ultimum Viaticum, the last provision for the way; which cannot be meant of any other properly but of the holy Eucharist: For the rest, for instance, Absolution, (of which Albaspineus understands this Canon,) is Reconciliatio Altaribus, a Reconciliation to the Altar, or Sacraments, as it was anciently call'd, a fitting or qualifying of the Communicant for the holy Eucharist, and therefore to go before it, as the 76. Can. of Carth. 4. directs; and for Alms, they are part of the fruits of penance, and so necessary to fit us for Absolution, and Baptism is janua Sacramentorum, the first admission into Christs Church, which gives the first right to the Communion and Sacrament of the Church; and therefore, all these being precedentous to the holy Eucharist, cannot be call'd any of them ultimum viaticum, the last provision, but only the Eucharist it self. Besides, in the last part of the Canon there is expresly mentioned, the participation of the Eucharist, which must be the same with the Viaticum in the first part, as may appear by this: The Canon immediately before this, had directed, that penitents, especially those of the first or second degree, should fulfil the Churches tax, before they were received to the Churches prayers: but if those should fall into danger of death, the ancient Canon shall be observed (saith this Canon in the beginning) that they shall be admitted, notwithstanding the former Canon, to the last Viaticum; the reason is given in the later part of this Canon: Because that to every one whatsoever, that shall in danger of death desire the Eucharist, it shall be given to him if he be found fit to receive it. This could be no reason of the former part of the Canon, namely, of giving the last viaticum to penitents in danger of death, unless that Viaticum and the Eucharist, here be all one. To that which may be objected that this Viaticum cannot be the same with the Eucharist mentioned in the last part of the Canon, because this Viaticum here is allowed to persons in danger of death without any examination, but the Eucharist is granted to persons in the same danger with this exception, if the Bishop after examination shall find him fit. It may be answered, that notwithstanding this, the Viaticum and the Eucharist may be all one, for the Canon in the first part, where it allows it to persons in necessity without examination, speaks only of penitents, who had already undergone the examination, and had received their penance, and submitted to the Churches discipline, and so professed themselves truly penitents; and were in such necessity desiring the Eucharist, in the judgment of charity supposed fit to receive it; though the Church denied the same to them, when there was no such necessity, for the maintenance of holy discipline, and in terror of offenders. But generaliter de quolibet for every one that should desire it, before he had given testimony of his repentance, there could not be sufficient ground of charity to believe so well; and therefore they were to be examined by the Bishop, or some others by his appointment. So then I think the Canon may be interpreted thus of the holy Communion, without any contradiction; and that it ought to be so understood, may, I think, be concluded by these Testimonies following, Con. Ilerd. c. 5. Const. Leon. 17. And most clearly by S. Cyprian Ep. 54.
After consultation we have determined, that those that have faln in time of persecution, and have defiled themselves with unlawful Sacrifices, should do full penance: yet if they were dangerously sick, they should be received to peace. For divine clemency does not suffer the Church to be shut against them that knock; nor the succour of saving hope to be denied to those that mourn and beg it; nor to send them out of the World without peace and the Communion. This is exactly agreeable to that Canon of Nice. What Communion that was, he tells us soon after; that it was not only Absolution but the holy Eucharist besides, as appears by that which follows: Formerly we made this rule, That penitents, unless in time of extream sickness, should not receive the Communion. And this rule was good, while the Church was in peace and quiet; but now in time of persecution, not only to the sick, but to the healthful peace is necessary; not only to the dying, but to the living, the Communion is to be given; that those whom we perswade to fight manfully under Christs Banner, and to resist even to blood, may not be left naked and unarmed, but be defended with the protection of the body and blood of Christ; which for this cause was instituted, that it might be a strength and defence to them that receive it: how shall we teach them to shed their blood for Christ, if we deny them Christs blood to strengthen them? Or how shall we fit them for the cup of Martyrdom, if we do not admit them to the Communion of the Cup of the Lord? Upon this very ground was it provided, that all dying men might have the holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, the great defence in that dangerous hour, when the Devil is doing his worst and last. Agreeable to this of S. Cyprian is the 76. Canon of the 4. Carth. Coun. He that in time of sickness desires penance, if happily while the Priest is coming to him, he falls dumb, or into a phrensie, let them that heard his desire bear witness to it, and let him receive penance: and if he be like to die speedily, Let him be reconciled by imposition of hands, and let the Eucharist be put into his mouth. If he recovers, let him be acquainted with what was done by the former witnesses, and be subject to the known laws of Penance. And those penitents which in their sickness received the Viaticum of the Eucharist, let them not think themselves absolved without imposition of hands, if they shall recover, c. 78. Car. 4.
And the Coun. of Orange c. 3. saies the same.
They, that after penance set them, are ready to depart out of this life, it hath pleased the Synod to give them the Communion, without the reconciliatory Imposition of hands. Which suffices for the reconciling of a dying man, according to the definition of the Fathers, who fitly call'd the Communion a Viaticum. But if they recover, let them stand in the rank of penitents, that by shewing the necessary fruits of penance, they may be received to the Canonical Communion by the reconciliatory Imposition of hands.
It will not be amiss for the clearer understanding of all passages in these Canons, to consider the Church her discipline in this particular. Holy Church for preserving of holy discipline and deterring men from sin, did appoint for wasting sins, such as Adultery, Murder, Idolatry, and the like, severe penance for three or four, six or seven years, more or less, according to the quantity and quality of the offence. In the Greek Church they had several degrees of penance to be gone through in this set time.
These several degrees were poor penitents to go through in the Greek Church, and as much affliction in the Latin, unless the Bishop should think fit to remit any thing of it, before they were fully admitted to the Churches favour: but if any of these were desperately sick, Holy Church took care, that upon their desire they should have the Churches peace by Absolution, 4. Carth. c. 78. and 77. and the holy Communion, sayes the same Canon, and Cypr. Epist. 54. lest they should want that great strengthening and refreshing of their souls in their last and greatest necessity. Provided nevertheless, that if they should recover, then they should resume their several places and degrees of penance they were in before, and go through and perfect their task of penance, which having done, they should receive Ultimam reconciliationem, their last and highest reconciliation; a favour which was denied to some that had been admitted to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as you may see Con. Vas. 2. c. 2. This last Reconciliation was a solemn Absolution from all the Churches censures and penances, by the laying on of the hands of the Bishop, and some of his Clergy, says Cypr. l. 3. Ep. 14. A Declaration to all the Church, that they were received not only to necessary Viatica, and assisting such as the former Absolution mentioned, 76. Can. 4. Carth. and the holy Sacrament of the Eucharist were; which they were permitted to receive in case of necessity; but also to all the honour and solemnities, and priviledges of the faithful, quite free from all brands and marks of penitents. They were restored Legitimae Communioni, to the Canonical and Legitimate Communion, Orang. c. 3. they might offer with the faithful, and their offerings be received by the Church; and they might receive the kiss of peace, and all other favours of the Church.
This that hath been said, may help us to understand the true meaning of the so much controverted Canon of Orange, before mentioned, together with the 78. Can. Carth. 4. Qui recedunt de corpore, &c. They, that after penance received, are ready to depart out of this life; it hath pleased, that they shall be received to the Communion, without the Reconciliatory Imposition of hands: that is, they shall be admitted to the Communion without that last, outward, solemn Absolution in the Court of the Church, which Balsamon rightly calls καταλλαγὴν, the full reconciliation to the Churches honours and dignities, ἤτοι λύσιν τῶν ἐπιτιμιῶν, a loosening of the Churches censures; which those penitents in case of extremity could not receive, because, as by the Canons appears, they were, if they recovered, to return to their several tasks of penance again, till they had fulfilled them. It was enough for them to be reconciled to the Altar and Sacrament, by the Absolution in foro Caeli in Heavens Court. The power of which was granted to the Apostles and their Successors, S. Iohn 20. Whose sins ye remit, &c. Which Balsamon calls χάριν, or the Absolution from sin; and this they were to receive Can. 76. Carth. 4. and after that the holy Eucharist. And this says the Canon of Orange was sufficient for a dying mans Reconciliation according to the definition of the Fathers. And this the Church of England provides for all dying men that shall desire it. And infinitely bound to their Mother, for this her care, are all true Sons of the Church. For thrice happy souls are they, who shall have the happiness at their last and greatest extremity, worthily to receive the Reconciliation and the holy Communion, the Bread of Heaven, the Blood of God, our Hope, our Health, our Light, our Life. For if we shall depart hence guarded with this Sacrifice, we shall with much holy boldness ascend to the holy Heavens, defended as it were with golden Arms, says S. Chrys.
We have seen the Churches care to provide all necessaries for sick persons salvation: 'Twere an happy thing to see in the people an answerable diligence in the use of these Ghostly Offices, that they would, when they are sick, send for the Priest; not verbally only to comfort them, by rehearsing to them comfortable texts of Scripture, whether they belong to them or not (which is not to heal the sick, but to tell them that they have no need of the spiritual Physician, by which means, precious souls perish, for whom Christ died:) but to search and examine the state of their souls, to shew them their sins, to prepare them by ghostly counsel, and exercises of penance, for absolution, and the holy Communion, whereby they might indeed find comfort, remission of sins and the holy Ghost the Comforter. And this should be done while the sick person hath strength and ability to attend and joyn with him in these holy Services. There is an excellent Canon to this purpose, Decretal. l. 5. tit. 38. c. 13. By this present Decree we strictly charge and command all Physicians, that when they shall be called to sick persons, they first of all admonish and perswade them to send for the Physicians of souls, that after provision hath been made for the spiritual health of the soul, they may the more hopefully proceed to the use of corporal medicine: For when the cause is taken away, the effect may follow. That which chiefly occasioned the making of this good Law, was the supine carelesness of some sick persons, who never used to call for the Physician of the soul, till the Physician of the body had given them over. And if the Physician did, as his duty was, timely admonish them, to provide for their souls health, they took it for a sentence of death, and despair'd of remedy, which hastned their end, and hindred both the bodily Physician from working any cure upon their body, and the ghostly Physician from applying any effectual means to their souls health. It is good counsel that Eccles. gives c. 38. 9: where we are advised, not first to send for the Physician, and when we despair of his help, and are breathing our last, then to send for the Priest, when our weakness hath made him useless. But first to make our peace with God by ghostly offices of the Priest, and then give place to the Physician. Which method our Saviour hath taught us also by his method of Cure; who, when any came to him for bodily cures, first cured the soul of sin, before he healed the bodily infirmity: teaching us, that sin is the cause of sickness, and that cure first to be lookt after. And by thus doing, we may possibly save the body, without the Physician, S. Iames 5. 14. Is any sick, let him send for the Elders or Priests of the Church to pray over him, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick. But if he fails of that bodily cure by these means, yet he may be sure to obtain remission of sins by their means: If he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him, ver. 15. by the benefit of absolution, so the words import. For άμαρτίαι, sins, being a feminine plural, seems not to agree with the verb ἀφεθήσεται, it shall be forgiven, of the singular number, and therefore this word more properly seems to be rendred impersonally thus, If he hath committed sins, pardon or absolution shall be given him: and so by this means the sick person shall be sure, if not to save his body, yet at least to save his soul.
There was an ancient Canon, which that it might be truly practised and observed, it must be the wish of all good men. It is Can. 7. Con. Aurelian 5. ut qui pro quibuscunque culpis in carceribus deputantur, ab Archidiacono seu à Praeposito Eccles. diebus singulis Dominicis requirantur, ut necessitas vinctorum, secundum praeceptum divinum, misericorditer sublevetur; That all prisoners, for what crime soever, shall be call'd for and visited by the Archdeacon or Bishop of the Church, every Lords day, that the necessities, bodily and ghostly, of the prisoners, according to Gods command, may be mercifully relieved. The neglect of which duty, how dangerous it is, we may read, S. Mat. 25. 43. Go ye cursed, for I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me not. The Rubrick at the Communion of the sick, directs the Priest, to deliver the Communion to the sick, but does not there set down how much of the Communion-Service shall be used at the delivering of the Communion to the sick; and therefore seems to me, to refer us to former directions in times past. Now the direction formerly was this:
If the same day (that the sick is to receive the Communion) there be a celebration of the holy Communion in the Church, then shall the Priest reserve (at the open Communion) so much of the Sacrament of the body and blood as shall serve the sick person, and so many as shall communicate with him. And as soon as he may conveniently, after the open Communion ended in the Church, shall go and minister the same first to them that are appointed to communicate with the sick, if there be any; and last of all to the sick. But before the Curate distribute the holy Communion, the appointed general Confession, (in the Communion-Service) must be made in the name of the Communicants, the Curate adding the Absolution, with the comfortable sentences of Scripture, following in the open Communion immediately, and so proceeding in the Communion-Service to the end of the Consecration and Distribution: and after the Communion ended, the Collect is to be used, which begins; Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, &c.
But if the day wherein the sick person is to receive the Communion, be not appointed for the open Communion in the Church; then upon convenient warning given, the Curate shall come and visit the sick person afore noon. And cutting off the form of the visitation at the Psalm, In thee O Lord, shall go straight to the Communion, Rubr. 3. Com. of sick; that is, after he hath said the Collect, Epist. and Gosp. there directed, he shall go to the Communion-Service. K. Edw. 6th. 1.
V. The communion of the sick.] The administration of this Sacrament to Christians, in extremis, and their fatal farewell, was reputed by the primitive fathers so necessary a dispensation, as they indulged it even to such as were excommunicated by the censures of the Church, and were not, no, not in case they recovered, admitted to communicate until their full time was elapsed. So the first council of Nice decreed; περὶ τῶν ἐξοδεύοντων, ὁ παλαιὸς Kal κανονικὸς νόμος φυλαχθήσεται, ὥστε εἴ τις ἐξοδεύοι, τελευταίου καὶ ἀναγκαιοτάτου ἐφοδίου μὴ ἀποστερεῖσθαι : “concerning lapsed persons and penitents passing out of the world, let the ancient and canonical rule be observed, that if any be in that extremity, let him by no means be deprived of his last most necessary viaticum and provision for a better world.” As to this office of our Church, scripta est ad divinarum Scripturarum regulam quam convenientissime, saith Bucer, “it is framed most agreeable to the rule of holy Scripture.” The Argentine or Strasburgh exiles had in their liturgy an office entitled, De Eucharistia ministranda egrotis, “Of administering the Eucharist to sick persons.” Yea, Calvin himself pleads much for it: cur cenam egrotis non arbitror negandam esse multe et graves cause me impellunt: “many and weighty causes move me to think the Communion should not be denied to sick persons.” True it is he tells Olivian, scis in hac Ecclesia alium esse morem, “our usage here, at Geneva, is otherwise ;” but then adds withal, fero, guia non est utile contendere, “I endure it because I know not how to help it.” So that Geneva herself, by Calvin’s confession, was not so well ordered in all things as he wished.
The general rubric for communicating the sick. Forasmuch as mortal men be subject to many sudden perils, diseases, and sicknesses, and ever uncertain what time they shall depart out of this life; therefore to the intent they may be always in a readiness to die, whensoever it shall please Almighty God to call them, the Curates are diligently from time to time (but especially in the time of pestilence or other infectious sickness) to exhort the parishioners to the often receiving of the holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ when it shall be publicly administered in the Church; that so doing they may, in case of sudden visitation, have the less cause to be disquieted for loch of the same. But if the sick person be not able to come to the Church, and yet is desirous to receive the Communion in his house, then he must give timely notice to the Curate;
Agreeable to the practice of the primitive Church. who, in such a case, is here directed to celebrate and administer this holy Sacrament to him; which is exactly conformable to the most early practice of the primitive Church: for there is nothing more frequently mentioned by the ancient writers than the care of the Church to distribute the Eucharist to all dying persons that were capable of receiving it. They esteemed it the greatest unhappiness that could be, for any one to die before he had been supplied with this Ἐφόδιον, or Viaticum, (as the ancient canons frequently call it,) i.e. the necessary preparation or provision for the road, for those that are going to their eternal home. For this reason even those who were under the censures of the Church, and were suspended from the Eucharist in the time of their health, were yet allowed to communicate, if any danger of death surprised them, before they had finished their stated penance. Nay, about the fifth century this was carried so high, that some were for forcing the elements into the mouths of those that were dead: but this was soon censured by several Councils, which ordered that practice to be discontinued. However, the care of the Church to communicate the sick has been equally the same in all ages. And indeed that she looks upon this not only as convenient, but as highly necessary, may be gathered from the dispensation that she grants with the canons, purely to secure it.
§.2. Private consecration of the elements, how far allowed. For though administering: the Communion in private houses be forbid by the canons of 1603, as well as by those of ancient times, under the severest penalties; yet there is an exception made in the case of sickness: upon which occasion, both the canons above mentioned, and this present rubric, allow the Curate (having a convenient place in the sick man’s house, with all things necessary so prepared, that he may reverently minister) there to celebrate the holy Communion. This indulgence was rare in the primitive Church: however, some instances may be produced, even from thence, of private consecrations upon great emergencies. But, generally speaking, it was usual for the Ministers to reserve some part of the elements that had been consecrated before, in the church, to be always in a readiness upon such like occasions. Agreeably to which in this very rubric (as it was worded in king Edward’s first Common Prayer) it was ordered, that if the same day (on which the person was to be visited) there was a celebration of the holy Communion in the church, then the Priest was to reserve (at the open Communion) so much of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood, as would serve the sick person, and so many as were to communicate with him, (if there were any:) and so soon as he conveniently could, after the open Communion ended in the church, he was to go and minister the same, &c. But then this reservation was not allowed, unless there was a Communion at the church on the same day on which the sick person was to be visited: for by another rubric it was ordered, that if the day were not appointed for the open Communion in the church, then (upon convenient warning given) the Curate was to go and visit the sick person afore noon: and having a convenient place in the sick man’s house (where he might reverently celebrate) with all things necessary for the same, and not being otherwise letted with the public service, or any other just impediment, there to celebrate the holy Communion. And even the elements that were consecrated thus privately were to be reserved, if there was any occasion to administer the sacrament again that day. For so it was ordered by a third rubric of this office in the same book, that if there were any more sick persons to be visited the same day that the Curate celebrated in any sick man’s house; then the Curate was there to reserve so much of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood, as would serve the other sick persons, and such as were appointed to communicate with them, (if there were any,) and immediately to carry it and minister it unto them. So that from all these rubrics compared together, we may observe, first, that though anciently it was usual for the Ministers to reserve some part of the consecrated elements, either in the church or at their houses, to be always in a readiness for any that should want to receive, before the time came to consecrate again; yet after the Reformation it was never allowed to reserve them longer than that day on which they were consecrated, nor indeed to reserve them at all, unless the Curate knew beforehand that some sick person was that day to be visited. We may therefore, secondly, suppose, that it was not the design of our reformers to attribute more power or efficacy to the sacrament, when it was consecrated in the church, than it had when it was consecrated in a private house; but rather that the sick, by partaking of the elements which had been consecrated elsewhere, and of which his fellow-parishioners or neighbours had been partakers before him, might join as it were in the same Communion with the rest of the congregation, though his present infirmity hindered him from attending the public service of the church. And this, it seems, was generally the motive why the sacrament was sent about to one another in the primitive Church. Nor do I find that Bucer had any objection to it in his Censure upon our Liturgy. However, in the second book of king Edward VI all these rubrics, as far as they relate to the reservation, were laid aside. Though in a Latin translation of the Common Prayer Book, which was put out by authority in the second year of queen Elizabeth, for the use of the universities and the colleges of Winchester and Eton, the rubric for the reservation is inserted at large. The reason of this difference might probably be this, viz. that the reservation having been abused by some ignorant and superstitious people, just after the Reformation, was the cause why it was discontinued in the English Common Prayer Book: but the Latin Book being designed for the use of learned societies, the reservation might safely enough be trusted with them, upon a presumption that they, who enjoyed so much light, would be the less liable to abuse it to error and superstition. Though it is not unlikely that this might be indulged those learned bodies, in order to reconcile them the easier to reformation: for it was the design of queen Elizabeth (as I have more than once observed) to contrive the Liturgy so, as to oblige as many of each party as she could. However (except in this Latin translation of it) there has been no mention of the reservation in any of the Common Prayer Books since the first of king Edward. But the rubric has constantly enjoined the holy Communion to be celebrated, on such. occasion, in the sick man’s house.
§.3. Timely notice to be given to the Curate. When the sick person desires to receive the Communion in his house, he must give timely notice to the Curate; which ought to be some time over-night, or else early in the morning of the same day, as it was expressed in this rubric in all the Common Prayer Books till the last review: since otherwise the Curate, through other necessary avocations, may, for want of such notice, be out of the way at the time that he is wanted.
§.4. How many required to communicate with the sick. When the sick person gives notice, he is also to signify how many there are to communicate with him; which was ordered (as appears by the first Common Prayer) that the Minister might know how much of the sacred elements to reserve. It is also plain by the first and last of those rubrics, which I have above transcribed out of that book, that the Minister was allowed, in all cases of sickness, to communicate alone with the sick man, if there were none else to receive with him. For they order him to reserve so much of the Sacrament as shall serve the sick person, and so many as shall communicate with him, (if there be any;) which plainly supposes that, if there were none, he was only to reserve enough for himself and the sick man. And so in the rubric relating to the manner of the Minister’s distributing; he was first to receive the Communion himself, then to minister to those that were appointed to communicate with the sick, (if there were any;) and then to the sick person. However, it followed in that rubric, that the sick person should always desire some, either of his own house, or else of his neighbours, to receive the holy Communion with him; for that would be to him a singular great comfort, and of their part a great token of charity. But at the second review, these parentheses were all thrown out, and in all our Common Prayers ever since till the Restoration, a good number was required by this general rubric to receive the Communion with the sick person, without determining what number should be esteemed a good one. But the Scotch Common Prayer is a little more explicit, and orders a sufficient number, at least two or three; and from thence, I suppose, our own rubric, at the Restoration, ordered that there should be three, or two at the least, i.e. at least three, including the sick, to communicate with the Minister, which is the same number that is required to a Communion in the Church. However, at the same time that such a number was required in all ordinary sicknesses, (i. e. in the fifth year of king Edward,) there was a rubric added at the end of this office, (which has continued ever since,) that in the time of the plague, sweat, or such other like contagious times of sickness or diseases, when none of the parish or neighbours can be gotten to communicate with the sick in their houses, for fear of the infection, upon special request of the diseased, the Minister alone may communicate with him. But this is only indulged in such extraordinary cases; for in other ordinary diseases, lack of company to receive with the sick person is mentioned as a just impediment why the Sacrament should not be administered to him.
Forasmuch as all mortal men be subject to many sudden perils, diseases, and sicknesses, and ever uncertain what time they shall depart out of this life; therefore, to the intent they may always be in a readiness to die, whensoever it shall please Almighty God to call them, the Curates shall diligently from time to time (but especially in the time of pestilence, or other infectious sickness) exhort their Parishioners to the often receiving of the holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, when it shall be publickly ministered in the Church; that so doing, they may, in case of sudden visitation, have the less cause to be disquieted for lack of the same. But if the sick person be not able to come to the Church, and yet is desirous to receive the Communion in his house; then he must give timely notice to the Curate, signifying also how many there are to communicate with him, (which shall be three, or two at the least,) and having a convenient place in the sick man's house, with all things necessary so prepared, that the Curate may reverently minister, he shall there celebrate the holy Communion, beginning with the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel, here following.
The Collect, Epistle, and Gospel. THE Curate having a convenient place in the sick man’s house, with all things necessary so prepared, that he may reverently minister, he was by the first Common Prayer to introduce the office with the hundred and seventeenth Psalm, which was instead of the introit, and then to use the short Litany, Lord have mercy upon us, &c., with the usual salutation, The Lord be with you, &c. But introits now being laid aside, he is to begin immediately with the Collect, that is very proper to the occasion, which is followed by two passages of Scripture for an Epistle and Gospel, which evidently tend to comfort and deliver the sick man from the fears which he may be too apt to entertain.
How much of the Communion-office to be used. After which he is to proceed, according to the form before prescribed for the holy Communion, beginning at these words [Ye that do truly, &c.]
§.2. How much of the Visitation-office at such time may be omitted. And if the sick person is visited, and receiveth the holy Communion all at one time; then the Priest, for more expedition, is to cut off the form of Visitation at the Psalm, [In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust;] i.e. when he comes to that Psalm, he is not to use it, but to go straight to the Communion.
§.3. In what order the Minister is to deliver the elements. At the time of the distribution of the holy Sacrament, the Priest is first to receive the Communion himself, and after to minister unto them that are appointed to communicate with the sick, and last of all to the sick person. The Minister, we know, is always to receive the Communion himself, before he proceeds to deliver it to others: but the reason perhaps why the sick man is to receive last, may be, because those who communicate with him, through fear of some contagion, or the noisomeness of his disease, may be afraid to drink out of the same cup after him.
§.4. The rubric of instructions for those who have no opportunity of receiving. Lastly, because it may happen sometimes that a sick person, who desires to receive the Communion, may yet, by some casualty, be hindered from doing it; therefore here is a rubric added for their comfort, and to remove all fears that may arise on such occasions: by which the Curate is directed, that if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want of giving warning in due time, or for lack of company to receive with him, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, he is to instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and steadfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the cross for him, and shed his blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore, he doth eat and drink the body and blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth. For the means, whereby we partake of the benefits of this Sacrament, is a lively faith: and therefore as our Church asserts in her Articles that the wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press vnth their teeth (as St, Augustine saith) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign and sacrament of so great a thing; so here she declares, that if a sick man be hindered by any just impediment from receiving the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood; yet by faith and repentance, and by mentally laying hold of the benefits obtained for him by Christ, he doth eat and drink the body and blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the sacrament with his mouth.
§.5. The last rubric. The last rubric, which is concerning the Minister’s communicating alone with the sick person, in times of contagious sickness, has already been spoken to in §.4., of the foregoing section.
After which the Priest shall proceed according to the form before prescribed for the holy Communion, beginning at these words [Ye that do truly, &c.]
At the time of the distribution of the holy Sacrament, the priest shall first receive the Communion himself, and after minister unto them that are appointed to communicate with the sick, and last of all to the sick person.
But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want of warning in due time to the curate, or for lack of company to receive with him, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, the Curate shall instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ both suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore, he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his Soul's health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.
When the sick person is visited, and receiveth the holy Communion all at one time, then the Priest, for more expedition, shall cut off the form of the Visitation at the Psalm [In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust &c] and go straight to the Communion.
In the time of the plague, sweat, or such other like contagious times of sickness or diseases, when none of the Parish or neighbors can be gotten to communicate with the sick in their houses, for fear of the infection, upon special request of the diseased, the Minister may only communicate with him.