12 May 2014

But are Cuckoos' Eggs Roman? (1)

ROMAN MISSAL, it says on the spine of that splendidly and expensively produced Altar Book which everybody bought three or four years ago; so much more attractive than the old plastic Altar Books with SACRAMENTARY blocked upon them. The change was part of the Hermeneutic of Reform in Continuity, just as the earlier description had been a conscious assertion of rupture. Our Liturgy, we are now taught, is to be seen as in continuity with what preceded it, just as the Edition of S Pius V was in continuity with the printed missals of the late fifteenth century. This motive is highly laudable ... its heart is in the right place ... but I wonder whether its assertion is quite true.

As Aidan Nichols neatly explained, "anaphoras ... are central to the definition of any Eucharistic style". And that is why the title ROMAN MISSAL is only a quarter-truth. The First Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon, is indeed Roman. Its theology is the old theology of Consecration which preceded the changes driven in the East by the realisation that the Holy Spirit is fully God. In the Roman Canon, the Spirit only makes an appearance in the Doxology. Its doctrine is very simple: Divine acceptance is Consecration. In the Quam oblationem, we ask the Father to accept the offering; to bless it by writing it on the Official List of Eucharists (remember Christine Mohrmann's demonstration of the legalism of Roman religious thought both Christian and pre-Christian) and ratifying it (benedictam adscriptam ratam rationabilem acceptabilem). The next word is ut; the linkage is precise and intended. God is asked to accept the offering in order that it may become the Lord's Body and Blood. Then follows Qui pridie .... This qui has a sense of forasmuch as (remember all those collects beginning Deus qui ..., in which the qui clause gives the factual basis upon the logic of which we base our request which follows in the second half of the collect). The Qui pridie  gives the grounds upon which we centre our confidence that the Father will do what is asked. Accept this offering so that it becomes the Lord's body; and His statements at His Last Supper form the 'legal' basis for our confident request.

The Eastern theology is quite different. The Father is asked to send down his Spirit upon the elements and to make them the Body and blood, He, by His Holy Spirit, making the change. No longer is the theology one in which the Divine Acceptance itself constitutes the transformation; instead, the (newly discovered) Holy Spirit is deemed, is asked, to come down ab extra and to transform bread and wine*. (I have no problems with Byzantines keeping the pattern they have had for 1400 or so years, and I would sign any petition against any proposal to latinise their rites; for the same reason that I am disappointed by Byzantines who accept 'Western Rite Orthodox' only if they add an Oriental Epiclesis to the Roman Canon, thereby transsubstantiating it into gobbledegook.)

You know what I'm going to say next. The three Cuckoos' Eggs which follow the Roman Canon in the ROMAN MISSAL do not pray for Acceptance so that Bread becomes Body; instead, they call for the action of the Holy Spirit so that Bread may become Body. Our distinguished Anglican liturgist G G Willis wrote that "the rite has certainly become hybrid"; he surprised Roman liturgists in the post-conciliar period (they thought that Anglicans would be over-the-moon because of their innovations) by taking every opportunity to explain to them how questionable it was to "incorporate into the Western liturgy features which are not native to it, but confessedly derived from Oriental sources".

IMPORTANT FOOTNOTE: Traditional Catholics sometimes make the unfortunate mistake of thinking that the sort of enquiry which I am conducting means or implies that such-and-such a sort of Mass is "invalid". This is very seriously wrong, as I have explained three times before. However celebrated, the Novus Ordo Mass contains ALL the requirements for a valid Mass. You DO receive the Body of the Incarnate Word. AND: there is no such thing as "more valid" and "less valid". A sacrament is valid or invalid, period. There is nothing in between. You may find the Novus Mass very greatly less helpful to you than the Vetus Mass. So might I. But both forms are equally valid. GOD, the significant actor, does exactly the same in each.
To be continued.
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*The following amuses me: In the full fervour of exaggerated pneumatology which gripped the East in and after the fourth century, S Cyril of Jerusalem actually taught that, in exactly the same way as the invoked Spirit transsubstantiated bread and wine into the Lord's Body and Blood, so the invoked Spirit transsubstantiated oil into the charisma of the Holy Spirit. This passage was incorporated into the Liturgia Horarum by the post-conciliar revisers ... but with the Eucharistic analogy excised from the text. They chickened!!! 

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