The Legacy of the Sacraments
For Herbert and for all Christians, maintaining reciprocity with the ascended Jesus is possible through the legacy of the sacraments. During Herbert's lifetime the Church of England acknowledged two sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion. Although neither was entirely free from theological controversy, the role of the former remained virtually unchanged by the Reformation. While the Anabaptists denied the efficacy of infant baptism, mainstream reformers continued to baptize infants. Calvin, who disapproved of all ceremony beyond the pouring of waters and the recitation of the prescribed words, rigorously defended the practice of infant baptism. At the same time, he declared that “emergency baptism—the Roman Catholic custom of baptizing immediately those persons (usually infants) whose life was imperiled—was unnecessary: if the parents fully intended to baptize the child, God, he claimed, would recognize their intention (IV.xv.19—21).
The Sacrament of the Eucharist, on the other hand, was the subject of major controversy during and after the Reformation. Its meaning differed dramatically among seventeenth-century Christians. The more radical reformers viewed Holy Communion as a strictly commemorative occasion: they ate the bread and drank the wine in memory of Jesus' last supper before his crucifixion. At the other extreme of this interpretation was the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, which states that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ; only the appearances of bread and wine remain. Furthermore, the Catholic Church maintained that the reception of Holy Communion was an integral part of the sacrifice of the Mass. Luther, who abolished the Mass but retained the sacra