17 April 2016

LEX ORANDI (1): Archimandrite Taft ...

 ... is not one of my heroes. His view that the second millennium ecumenical councils are not truly ecumenical but essentially only Western synods puzzles me: after all, if the views of Byzantines not in communion with Rome disqualify Florence, I do not see why the views of Copts not in communion with either Rome or Constantinople should not disqualify Chalcedon. An elementary circularity vitiates his arguments. Nor do I like his slighting remarks about current movements of liturgical restoration within the damaged fabric of Latin Christendom. But it is not easy to dismiss his lifetime of erudite work in the field of liturgy.

Hence I was rather interested in a paper of his which is currently  the subject of a degree of Internet discussion. One of its aims is to sweep away myths, including the common superstition among illiterate and superficial Western dabblers in Liturgy, that everything Eastern is more ancient, venerable, and authoritative than any thing Western. Taft writes:

"Here too of course one must avoid cliches and know what one is talking about. The decidedly Christological stamp of the old Roman Canon is a sign of great antiquity. This eucharistic prayer, obviously formulated before the impact of the late fourth century pneumatological resolution at Constantinople I (381 AD) reflects a primitive euchological theology much older than almost any extant eastern anaphora except Addai and Mari ... pace the common myth that everything Eastern is automatically older." ( Eastern Presuppositions and Western Liturgical Reforms.)

Which, of course, is precisely the point I have made in many posts on this blog, particularly a series of six in March 2015. The Roman Canon expresses a very primitive theology involving only the Father and the Son, whereby the Eucharistic Elements are consecrated simply by being accepted by the Father ... not a hint here of the need for the Holy Spirit to be sent down upon the Elements like a bolt of divine lightning to transform them. This venerable Prayer is our heritage; and a very great disservice was done to us in the 1960s when a great crowd of alternative Eucharistic Prayers was thrust upon the Western Church, all containing Epikleses (requests for the Spirit to be sent in order to change them into the Lord's Body and Blood). One of these, the pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer II, because of its seductive brevity, has de facto superseded the Roman Canon in almost universal use, despite the fact that the GIRM makes clear that it was provided solely for optional use on weekdays.

S Prosper of Aquitaine was so close a collaborator of Pope S Leo the Great that it is not always entirely clear which of S Leo's writings are his and which might owe much or little to S Prosper. It was he who formulated the adage Lex Orandi Lex Credendi ("obsecrationum quoque sacerdotalium sacramenta respiciamus, quae ab apostolis tradita in toto mundo atque in omni catholica ecclesia uniformiter celebrantur, ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi"): it is to the Law of the Church's Prayer that we should turn in order to find sound doctrine.

In the second half of this piece I will discuss the application of the Lex Prosperiana.

1 comment:

Steve Perisho said...

"The old roman Canon Missae has a weak pneumatology not because it is defective but because it is old, so old that it was composed before the divine personhood of the Holy Spirit became a problem to be resolved."

Robert F. Taft, "'Communion' from the tabernacle—a liturgico-theological oxymoron," Worship 88, no 1 (January 2014): 17 (2-22).