Receptionism is a theological doctrine according to which, while the bread and wine in the Eucharist continue to exist unchanged after consecration, the faithful communicant receives together with them the body and blood of Christ. The term itself seems not to have appeared before 1867.
This doctrine originated in the Church of England during the Reformation. Although older authors such as Dix and Gibson describe Cranmer's Eucharistic theology as "Zuinglian", more recent ones such as MacCulloch, Bates and Beckwith & Tiller class it as "receptionism". It was also held in some form by Richard Hooker. According to him, the bread is unchanged at the blessing of the priest, but becomes an effectual spiritual sign when received by someone in faith.
This Eucharistic teaching was commonly held by 16th and 17th-century Anglican theologians. It was characteristic of 17th century thought to "insist on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but to profess agnosticism concerning the manner of the presence ..." It remained "the dominant theological position in the Church of England until the Oxford Movement in the early nineteenth century, with varying degrees of emphasis". It is important to remember that it is "a doctrine of the real presence" but one which "relates the presence primarily to the worthy receiver rather than to the elements of bread and wine".
Receptionism rules out the practice of Eucharistic adoration, a practice that in any case most Protestants reject as unscriptural.
Roman Catholic rejection
The 16th-century Council of Trent condemned this teaching, declaring that "if any one saith, that, after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist, but (are there) only during the use, whilst it is being taken, and not either before or after; and that, in the hosts, or consecrated particles, which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true Body of the Lord remaineth not; let him be anathema".
The Catholic Church's rejection of receptionism was reaffirmed by Pope Paul VI in his papal encyclical Mysterium fidei of 3 September 1965. Citing Origen, Hippolytus of Rome, Novatian and Cyril of Alexandria, he stated: "The Catholic Church has always displayed and still displays this latria that ought to be paid to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, both during Mass and outside of it, by taking the greatest possible care of consecrated Hosts, by exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and by carrying them about in processions to the joy of great numbers of the people."
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article "receptionism"
- The Shape of the Liturgy (Dacre Press: 1949), p.659
- The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England (Methuen & Cº: 1912), p. 643
- Thomas Cranmer (Yale: 1991) p. 467
- "the Worthy Comminicant" in Thomas Cranmer (ed. Margot Johnson - Turnstone Ventures, Durham: 1990), p.109
- The Service of Holy Communion & its Revision (Marcham Manor Press: 1972), p.59
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 1974) art. "Hooker"
- Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (Everyman/J.M. Dent: 1960) V.lxvii.5-7
- William R. Crockett "Holy Communion" in The Study of Anglicanism ed. Stephen Sykes and John Booty (SPCK: 1988), p.275
- Council of Trent, Session 13 (11 October 1551), canon IV
- Mysterium fidei, paragraphs 56-61