2 April 2016

Botte, his bathwater, and his epicleses

Until the post-Conciliar 'reforms', the Roman Church had a very simple doctrine of Holy Order. She taught, by her Liturgy, that in Ordination men become the antitypes of the Jewish sacrificial orders of ministry as we find them in the Old Testament.

Not that this account was unknown elsewhere. S Venantius Fortunatus seems to have met it ... in the Veneto? In Aquileia? ... in the sixth century. He wrote (Carmina II 9) "[the bishop is] like a Second Aaron; bright not because of his vesture, but pleasing by reason of his devotion. Not stones, scarlet, mitre, gold, purple, linen adorn his shoulders; no, it is dear Faith that shines. He is sufficiently better than the Priest was under the Old Law, because this [bishop] worships realities (vera), which previously was a Shadow".

We first meet this approach in the (probably first century) Epistle of S Clement to the Church in Corinth (capp 40-44), a text so early that (like the Letter to the Hebrews) it speaks of the Jerusalem Temple as if still functioning. Its teaching about Christian Eucharistic presidency assimilates it closely (in fact, so closely that one can say indistinguishably) to the Temple High Priesthood. Thus this extremely Roman doctrine of the Ministry appears to go back to the first generation of the Roman Church.

It is found fully operative in the Prayer for Episcopal consecration used in the Roman Church until the unfortunate aftermath of Vatican II. That Prayer asked that whatsoever it was that the vesture of the Aaronic priesthood signified in outward splendour might show forth in the conversation and deeds of the Christian Bishop. For God has chosen the candidate ad summi sacerdotii ministerium, for the ministry of the High Priestood. I doubt if there is a syllable in this prayer with which the writer of I Clement would have been uncomfortable. It is so concerned to balance types, aenigmata figurarum, and antitypes, certiora experimenta, that it has barely a word which is indebted uniquely to the New Testament. It thus appears to go back essentially to that early period when the New Testament Canon was unfixed and the New Testament was not yet seen as a normative text which ought to colour and determine theology and euchology. It is a shame that Roman Catholic scholars had not read the explanations of Dom Gregory Dix and other Anglican scholars, about how the immemorially venerable and ancient Roman Rite contains first century materials arguably older than those in the New Testament writings.

A writer deeply involved in the post-Conciliar alterations, Dom Bernard Botte, analysed accurately the spirit of the old Roman Prayer. And he commented "The literary form of this section did not make up for its poor content. The typology insisted exclusively on the cultic role of the bishop and left aside his apostolic ministry... I didn't see how we could make a coherent whole ... Should we create a new prayer from start to finish?" Instead, Botte recommended to his colleagues the Prayer contained in a text of which "I had just finished a critical edition" - the Prayer for Episcopal Consecration in the Apostolic Tradition of an early Roman writer, Hippolytus. Half a century later, academic opinion seems united in the conclusion that this text is not in fact the Apostolic Tradition and is not by Hippolytus and has nothing at all to do with Rome. Talk about all our eggs in one basket ... talk about dangers ... talk about big badly broken eggs. The fad for Pseudo-Hippolytus in the 1960s suggests that they might appropriately be termed the Humpty Dumpty years of Liturgiology.

"The first time I proposed this to my colleagues, they looked at me in disbelief ... they didn't believe it had the slightest chance of being accepted." Interesting proof, is it not, that the post-Conciliar committee-men were only gradually charmed out of assumptions of moderate reform, and were not easily, at first, persuaded to adopt a radical approach contradicting the Council's own insistence upon minimal and organic evolution. But Botte had a trick up his sleeve. The pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer which he was sponsoring was widely used throughout what we now call Oriental Christendom but which our grandfathers more prosaically termed the Monophysites and the Nestorians. "The essential ideas of the the Apostolic Tradition can be found everywhere. Reusing this old text in the Roman Rite would affirm a unity of outlook between East and West on the Episcopacy. This was an ecumenical argument. It was decisive."

So Father Ted was right in our dear old eponymous television series. You will remember that, faced with an unwelcome visit to Craggy Island from the bishop, and fearful that his outrageous retired colleague Father Jack would be an embarrassment, Ted trains the aged and lecherous clerical drunk to reply to any episcopal query with the answer "Well, that would be an ecumenical matter." The strategy works like a charm ... just as it had worked for Bernard Botte. In the atmosphere of the 1960s, you could, it appears, get away with any crime or any deception if you chanted the mantra "Ecumenical".

Secondly: you get an "affirmation of unity of outlook" only if it is true that "Aptrad" is both of ancient Roman origin and is widely used in the East. If, however, the Prayer has no known connections with the Rome, then its adoption there would be ... in fact, was ... and still is ... the imposition of an Oriental formula of dubious origin upon a West whose authentic Tradition had been different.

After the Definition in 1950 of the Bodily Glorious Assumption, done by Pius XII, it was taken for granted that Mass and Office for August 15 should be brought directly into line with the precisions of the new Definition. Thus the Lex orandi, which had traditionally been deemed the basis of the Lex credendi, was instead itself changed in order to be conformed to the latter. That, perhaps, was a minor episode compared with the doctrinaire application, in the next decade, of the same disastrous iron rule to the formulae for Ordination. Readers will recall my demonstration of how the formulae for ordaining deacons were similarly corrupted to express a foolish and baseless 1960s assumption that deacons are ordained as ecclesiastical Social Workers for Philanthropic Outreach.

And the baby that went out when Botte discarded the bathwater was indeed the authentically Roman tradition concerning Holy Order which we found in I Clement and in the Roman Pontifical; a tradition dismissed by Botte in the revealing phrase "The literary form ... did not make up for its poor content." His phrase "poor content" betrays the fact that Typology had ceased to be a living tradition among the 1960s 'reformers'. Yet Typology is at the heart of the appropriation by the New Testament of the texts and traditions of the Old. (Failure to understand Typology and its implications is also what vitiates the analyses of the 2015 Vatican discussion paper about Judaism.)

The Prayer which Botte and his colleagues adopted, smuggled another Epiclesis into the Roman Rite: Consecration apparently is now to be done by the Holy Spirit, invoked, descending, to transubsstantiate the consecrand as a bishop. The older Roman texts were content simply to assume that the Father would bring the consecrand within the Aaronic priestly typology. (Epicleses, in old Roman texts, appeared only at Confirmation, where the accounts of the Lord's own Baptism justify them, or at the Ordination of a Deacon, where His seven-fold power will enable the ordinand to live in clerical chastity.)

A sorry tale; a warning to us all about the dangers of over-confidence in the fashions of our own decade. The tragedy is that so many at the highest levels in the Church have not learned the stern lessons of the 1960s. Imperiously, they demand that the Almighty should have a go at teaching them the same stuff all over again.

5 comments:

William Tighe said...


"The pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer which he was sponsoring was widely used throughout what we now call Oriental Christendom but which our grandfathers more prosaically termed the Monophysites and the Nestorians."

So far as I am aware, and under correction, it is not more "widely" used in the East, nor has it been for many centuries, than among the Ethiopians - in that respect like the Eucharistic Prayer found in the "Apostolic Tradition" of the same Pseudo-Hippolytus.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Ecumenism is the Universal Solvent of Tradition

mark wauck said...

Fascinating. Thanks.

Священник села said...

Until the post-Conciliar 'reforms', the Roman Church had a very simple doctrine of Holy Order. She taught, by her Liturgy, that in Ordination men become the antitypes of the Jewish sacrificial orders of ministry as we find them in the Old Testament.

Yes, Absolutely essential. I thought of these words as I read the 'secret' prayer of the Prothesis this morning at the Liturgy of St Basil:

O Lord our God, who hast created us, and hast brought us into this life, who hast shown us the way to salvation, and hast bestowed upon us the revelation of heavenly mysteries, thou art He who hath placed us in this service by the power of thy Holy Spirit. Be pleased, therefore, O Lord, that we may be servitors of thy new Covenant, ministers of thy holy Mysteries. Accept us who draw nigh to thy holy Altar, according to the multitude of thy mercy, that we may be worthy to offer unto thee this rational and bloodless sacrifice for our sins and for the ignorance of thy people, which do thou accept upon thy holy, and most heavenly, and noetic Altar for an odor of sweet spiritual fragrance, and send down upon us in return the grace of thy Holy Spirit. Look down upon us, O God, and behold this our worship, and accept it as thou didst accept the gifts of Abel, the sacrifices of Noah, the whole burnt-offerings of Abraham, the priestly offices of Moses and Aaron, the peace-offerings of Samuel. Even as thou didst accept from the holy Apostles this true worship, so also do thou in thy loving-kindness, O Lord, accept from the hands of us sinners these gifts, that having been vouchsafed blamelessly to minister at thy holy Altar, we may find the reward of faithful and wise stewards, in the fearful day of thy just retribution.

Stephen said...

So how does anyone truly know what to believe, or what anybody else believes, outside of common worship? I for one would certainly rank what I hear publicly professed by any communion higher than, say, what I might read about what they say they believe.

That's one of the reasons liturgy is so important. Communal prayer is generally much more difficult to change than, say, a document up for a vote by a much more limited number of people than those who profess communal prayer on a regular basis.

Which makes extra-liturgical proclamations/activity less powerful and important, IMO. There's more room for caprice, and variance from the mean, which is public prayer. Now, happily, from an ecumenical perspective with the Orthodox, the Orthodox would probably find common cause with Roman Catholics much, much easier IF the communal prayer of Roman Catholics was deemed MORE important than anything extra-liturgical; and vice-versa.

Yes, this is not agreeable to Orthodox hype on canons of councils, nor to Roman Catholic extra-ordinary focus on the Magisterium. Which are, not coincidentally, all extra-liturgical and subject to selective ignorance and even caprice ...hmmmm..seems like many problems occur when carts are put before an horses.