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An Oxford Movement Corporal
The Corporal as a Missionary Antimension, with the Blessing of Corporals.
The Anglican Center just received its limited run of red-on-white embroidered corporals produced for Convocation of the West clergy (and a few other clergy in FiFNA, ACNA, APA). Screen printed corporals were also produced and provided for other clergy; extras from these runs are available on Anglican.Center.
Corporal page on Anglican.Center
Recommended Reading: Sacred House: What Do You Need for a Liturgical, Sacramental House Church?
The inspiration for doing this was the need for creating reverent space within mission and church planting contexts.
Missionary Use of a Blessed Corporal
While a plain white linen corporal is the most appropriate in the English tradition, frequently churches in America, especially in the American West following the Affirmation of St Louis and the Anglican Realignment of the 2000s, do not have spaces that have consecrated altars. To put another way, they do not have dedicated sacred space. Many parishes operate in rented space, and the custom of some churches and dioceses would expect that the space should be consecrated for religious use before service starts, and then deconsecrated.1 A blessed corporal makes a potential mission use a little less cumbersome in those places where this might be expected. It is appropriate to set apart a corporal for such blessed/sacred use by way of religious design making it clear for what use it is intended, and only that use. In places where there is no such expectation of a ‘blessed’ object, have a dedicated space, or even a consecrated altar, then a seemly design is helpful in religious devotion for drawing those in the altar to a greater awareness of the sacred space that is, and always has been, present.
So why produce these when “Plain Linen” is the Anglican, even the pre-medieval Western, norm?
The inspiration for producing a seemly embroidered (or printed) corporal comes from the Byzantine tradition of the Antimension: literally, “without the table,” the portable altar. The history of the Antimension is interesting: in Byzantine practice, it was the property of the bishop, and carried by the priest as evidence of his licence to officiate communion. In a society where some could not be vetted quickly, it functioned alongside the Letters Dimissory as the way to validate that the Priest was functioning within the unbroken Catholic church. In Byzantine use, consecration of the cloth for use as a portable altar cannot happen unless there is a relic.
In the Roman tradition, a consecrated altar would have an altar stone containing a relic. Pre-conciliar (pre-Vatican II) Rome has provisions2 for the consecration of antimension, provided there is a relic enclosed in the cloth. It became more common for chaplain clergy during World War I and World War II, where there was an increased need for sacramental celebration, but access to consecrated stone altars, or even carrying portable wooden altars with altar stones, was impractical if not impossible.
Anglicans, of course, have no historic provision to require relics, so the cloth alone could be specifically for use as a western Antimension: it designates the sacred altar space where a dedicated place for worship might not be possible.3
The Antimension was often covered in an Eleiton, which translating into western custom would be the burse which holds the corporal. This corporal-in-burse, when blessed, should be treated with the reverence of sacred space. In the Eastern practice, only a priest or bishop is allowed to carry the Antimension, in an Eleiton, and it is expected the priest wears a stole when handling such consecrated relics.
In an Anglican context, I would suggest that the same reverence be applied to a blessed corporal in this context as one would with a tabernacle, pyx, or other vessels which might contain Eucharistic elements. Indeed, given that it is the cloth upon which the elements for Holy Communion are consecrated, it is likely that pieces of the elements may be present in the cloth (in the case of crumbs and drips).
Again, no such devotion is required in the Anglican tradition, but may be expedient as part of a community’s connection with Catholic devotion throughout history.
Three designs were made: red-on-white, white-on-white, and a screen printed alternate. Red-on-red was the primary design, provided to Convocation of the West clergy as well as a few others in FiFNA, ACNA, and APA invited to be part of the preorder. With the color intended to match a deep rubrical red found in some prayer books. White-on-white was alternate design with only a few made, but more will be made for society use if The Caroline Society forms. Another experiment was in creating a screen printed version, in hopes of having a lower-cost alternate, especially for outdoor or travel use, especially if cleaning is necessary.
It is also derivative of Brandon LeTourneau’s design. I rendered the JPEG he posted into vector graphics, and modified a few key design elements and typography, as well as modifying the Latin to follow 1662 BCP in Latin, as well as the Roman Liturgy. Thanks to Fr Wes Walker for helping me revisit my high school Latin on this (any errors are mine).
An Art-Nouveau font was chosen to align with Tiffany & Co Episcopal design and Dearmer/Alcuin Club sensibilities.
IHS4 design is adapted from St Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, UK.
There are eight exterior fleurs-de-lis (lilies) and four interior, framing the Holy Name. Beginning in the 11th century, the ‘flower of the lily’ began to symbolize alternately and simultaneously The Blessed Virgin Mary, The Holy Trintiy, and The Virtues.
[Bernard of Clairvaux’s] readings of the biblical lily as a Marian symbol and attribute are reflected in medieval depictions of the Virgin Mary, which frequently included a white lily intended to symbolise chastity.5
the triangular part of the lilium mysticum is associated with the members of the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – which establish for the first time the connection between the flower and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. In the Vitis mystica, the symbolism of the lily is thus extended beyond Marian interpretation, with its interpretation based on the physical characteristics of the flower.6
Ordering the Design
In addition to the embroidered run, a small run of the design printed on a 20” x 20” corporal was made. Those clergy who might be interested in obtaining an affordable screen printed version, email through the Anglican.Center page. Priority given to Convocation of the West or Forward in Faith clergy.
Blessing of Corporals
From The English Ritual: A Companion to the English Missal
This blessing is a reserved blessing and may only be given lawfully by the following: 1) All Bishops. 2) Ordinaries, not being Bishops, for Churches in their own territory, e.g., Deans of Cathedrals and Peculiars. 3) Parish Priests for Churches in their Parish, and Rectors of Churches for their Churches. 4) Priests delegated by the Ordinary of the place. 5) Religious Superiors and Priests delegated by them for their own Churches and for Churches of nuns subject to them.
V. Our help is in the name of the lord.
R. Who hath made heaven and earth.
Y. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
MOST gracious Lord, whose power is unspeakable, and whose mysteries are celebrated with hidden wonders: grant we beseech thee, that this linen cloth may be sancti᛭fied by thy merciful bene᛭diction, that thereon may be consecrated the Body and Blood of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, thy Son: Who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God: world without end.
Let us pray.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, vouchsafe to bl᛭ess, sancti᛭fy and conse᛭crate this linen cloth, that it may cover and envelop the Body and Blood of thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ: Who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God: world without end.
Let us pray.
ALMIGHTY God, shed upon our hands the help of thy blessing: that through our bene᛭diction this linen cloth may be sanctified, and may be made by the grace of thy Holy Spirit a new winding-sheet for the Body and Blood of our Redeemer. Through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord: Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, God: world without end.
And let them be sprinkled with holy Water.
Among the various buildings still standing in the old compound is a roofless walled structure simply known as the “ruined church.” There is nothing left inside except for the old stone altar and a piscina or sacrarium (a small “sink” that drains to the ground for the emptying and washing of chalices) built into the wall right beside the altar. We had about twenty people in our tour group and we decided that it would be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist on that altar. Being blessed with an archbishop in our group—and not knowing what else may have occurred on that altar and in those ruins over the centuries—he consecrated the altar and the Mass was celebrated. We were even joined by a number of other tourists who wandered into the sanctuary while we were there. When we finished, the archbishop deconsecrated the altar as we were getting ready to leave. What a profound moment as we stood together before the Body and Blood of Christ with friends new and old and with the Great Cloud of Witnesses from ages past (Hebrews 12:1), returning that old altar, if even for one hour, to its original and sacred use.
BLESSING OF AN ANTIMENSION (Adapted Roman Rite, with Relic)
The bishop (or a priest delegated for this), having ascertained the authenticity of the relics of holy martyrs to be used here, encloses them in a tiny sack which is sewn in the right corner of the antimension. Then he blesses the antimension, saying:
P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: And with your Spirit.
Let us pray.
Lord, we humbly appeal to your sovereignty, asking that it please you to bless + this antimension, made ready by our lowly ministry to receive the offerings of your people. For on it we are to offer the holy Sacrifice to you, to the honor of the blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, and in particular to the honor of Saints N. and N., whose relics we have enclosed therein. Grant that by these sacred mysteries the bonds of our sins be loosed, our stains blotted out, pardon obtained and graces acquired, so that together with your holy elect we may participate in the joys of everlasting life through Christ our Lord.
He sprinkles it with holy water.
How does this high view of the “Table of the Lord” play out among the survey respondents if they should have a house church without a movable altar in a room permanently arranged for worship or one without a portable altar that can be set up in the home of the host family? I wanted to know if they had considered two other options: The use of an antimension or the use of a portable folding table.
The antimension was presented as an option for those circumstances when, without an available altar, the Eucharist must be arranged on an alternative flat surface such as a coffee or card table—something that is not dedicated and will be returned to its normal use after the service. For those unfamiliar with this particular item, an antimension in its original Greek literally means “instead of table.” Used primarily but not exclusively in the Orthodox Tradition, it is comprised of a silk or linen cloth decorated with representations of the Passion and burial of Christ and blessed by a bishop. In some instances, it is signed by the bishop and dedicated to the specific use of a single parish and then returned to the bishop when its use is no longer required. It is used in those circumstances when there is no properly consecrated altar and, when placed on a suitable surface, it effectively serves as a portable altar. As convenient a solution as this might be, none of the bishops surveyed had considered this as an option for their house churches even though they indicated a familiarity with this Orthodox practice.
IHS is more appropriately called a “Christogram,” and is an ancient way of writing the word “Jesus Christ.”
Dating all the way back to the third century, Christians shortened the name of Jesus by only writing the first three letters of his name in Greek, ΙΗΣ (from his full name ΙΗΣΟΥΣ). The Greek letter Σ (sigma), is written in the Latin alphabet as an “S,” resulting in the monogram being commonly represented as ΙΗS.
In the early centuries of the Church it was a secret symbol, often etched on tombs of Christians. Then in the 15th century, Saint Bernadine of Siena went on a preaching campaign to promote reverence to the Holy Name of Jesus and encouraged Christians to put IHS on the doorways of their homes. A century later in 1541 Saint Ignatius adopted the monogram to represent his newly founded order, the Society of Jesus.