22 September 2009


Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the rite of Episcopal Consecration in the Western Church had reached a fair degree of complexity. At its heart lay the ancient Consecratory Prayer of the Roman Church. Into this had been interpolated a paragraph from the Missale Francorum. Where in all this was the 'form' of the Sacrament, essential according to the scholastic analysis of sacramental efficacy, to accompany the 'matter', the Imposition of Hands?

In a later century Pope Pius XII was to lay down that one particular sentence within the original Roman Prayer was the the irreducible minimum of a 'form'. The sentence he chose was itself by no means problem-free. It does not actually mention episcopacy, and at its heart is a couple of textual cruces. It does not point with any clarity to what is essential in Episcopacy, as is shown by the fact that in the old Spanish Mozarabic Rite this same sentence appears at the centre of the rite of ordination to the presbyterate.

But in any case, rubricists of the Medieval and Counter-Reformation periods did not look to sentences in nice old prayers for Sacramental 'form'. They liked an 'imperative' form ('Receive ...') or a 'declarative' ('I baptise/absolve ...'); forms which were uttered simultaneously with the 'matter' and which had entered liturgy rather late. (If you don't know the form by which, in the early Roman Sacramentaries, Baptism was conferred, find out. You will get quite a surprise.) So the sentence Accipe Spiritum Sanctum [Receive the Holy Spirit], said as the Consecrators imposed hands on the candidate, became a very popular candidate; indeed, although by the end of the Middle Ages it had not even secured admission to all Pontificals [in England, Exeter had it but the Sarum rubrics do not mention it, although it had probably become customary] by the nineteenth century the consensus of theologians identified the same words in the then current Pontificale Romanum as the 'form' of Episcopal Consecration.

I know what you're wondering. Faced with this complexity and these questions, what deft, sensitive, 'organic' simplifications did Bugnini - the first of my two Meddlers - perform? Here is the answer: he dumped into his trash-can all three of the formulae I have mentioned; the authentic 0ld Roman Prayer (which contained the words Pius XII had declared to be the 'form'), the possibly French interpolation, and the medieval Imperative formula (which had previously been regarded as the 'form'). Into the place of all three he shipped a prayer of dubious ('Hippolytan'?) origin which had been used in the distant Christian East by groups out of communion with Rome whose Chalcedonian orthodoxy was questionable.

Yes, I thought that would make you jump out of your seat.


Harold said...

I don't suppose anyone has a link to the Baptism rite in the early Roman Sacramentaries?

Fr William said...

Harold: try the latter part of page 140 here.

Fr Anthony said...

If you want to see the reductio ad absurdam of Apostolicae Curae, try this one from our sedevacantist friends:


If they're right, then God help us!

Fr. Anthony

Anonymous said...

Excellent, Fr. Anthony, there is a lot of hand wringing, bulging aneurysms and fecal vulcanism made over by the neo-Jansenist scruple-wonks of the SSPX/sede-vacantist camp!

Out of the blue, a good friend's wife (both with lots of experience in and around the SSPX) said of them today: "They get half what they need at twice the price and that from non-Catholics pedaling junk."

Methinks the the SSPX and the "Continuum blog" are a match made in heaven! Mozel tov!

Maybe you've heard of them but SSPX is "stealing" the argument from the Dimond Brothers. These two are really trippy.


Figulus said...

From Fr. William's reference:

From the Gelasian Sacramentary, no 499, p.74, the baptismal rite is interrogative:

V. Credis in deum patrem omnipotentem?
R. Credo.
V. Credis in Iesum Christum filium eius unicum dominum nostrum natum et passum?
R. Credo.
V. Credis et in spiritum sanctum, sancta aecclesia, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem.
R. Credo.