15 March 2017

Christine Mohrmann (4)

The ancient Romans were very legalistically minded. When they prayed to the Gods, they did their best to ensure that they covered everything; that they addressed the Gods by the right titles (and all of them) so that they could be assured that they were heard; that they asked for everything that they required so that an accidental omission would not frustrate their petitions. Christine Mohrmann showed that there is more than a little of this attitude in the prayers which comprise the Roman Rite of the ancient Latin Church.

In the Canon of the Mass, perhaps this is shown most clearly in the word 'adscriptam'. It means, I suppose, "written on the list". It's lawyer-like. If something's in the Statute, in the inventory, then it's covered. If not, not. We pray that our oblation be "written up". The old ICEL version simply ignored the word; the new ICEL, currently in use, renders it "acknowledged", which is still a trifle coy.

It is not difficult to understand the nervousness of the translators. "Legalism" is not instinctively seen as a virtue in modern culture, still less in modern religious thought. God is not, we feel, a crabbed old backwoods attorney or solicitor just looking all the time for an opportunity or a pedantic excuse to catch us out. He's loving, merciful, generous, understanding. Perhaps, it is suspected, the authors of the Roman Canon were a little bit too Roman and a little bit less Christian than they should have been.

But No. Long before the Roman Canon was written, S Ignatius of Antioch wrote that the Eucharist had to be celebrated by the Bishop, or by one to whom the bishop committed it, for it to be bebaios: a Greek word meaning sure, certain, secure, safe. Conditions have to be fulfilled. To some, this may seem like Legalism. But it is a principle which in turn is based on two root principles of our Faith.

God is true and will do what he has promised. We are called to be faithful and to do what he has commanded in the way that he has commanded. When we are obedient we know that what we have done is official, valid, in the archive, stamped by the clerk.

Praise to him for his faithfulness.
Continues.

6 comments:

mark wauck said...

"Long before the Roman Canon was written, S Ignatius of Antioch wrote that the Eucharist had to be celebrated by the Bishop, or by one to whom the bishop committed it, for it to be bebaios: a Greek word meaning sure, certain, secure, safe. Conditions have to be fulfilled."

This raises an extremely important point. Obviously, Ignatius of Antioch wasn't a Roman. If his remarks about the liturgy reflect a "legal" cast of mind, that would suggest that the "legal" outlook reflects origins that predate any specifically Roman influence. Now, from what I have read--meaning, subject to correction--we know this about the development of the Roman liturgy:

1. The early liturgy appears to have taken a definite shape in Antioch and to have spread back to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem liturgy, in the form that we know it, appears to have Antiochene origins. Nevertheless, this Antiochene liturgy would have developed on the basis of traditions originally brought to Antioch from the Holy City of the Jews, Jerusalem.

2. Likewise, the Roman liturgy also appears to have Antiochene origins--which fits in with the tradition that Peter, having come to Antioch from Jerusalem, at a quite early date traveled to Rome and remained there. This suggests that the Roman liturgy has very early origins in the early Church at Antioch.

3. Further, we learn from early Church tradition that "many priests became obedient to the faith." It's not a stretch to think that the early liturgical traditions that were passed on to Antioch and thence to Rome reflect a Judaic outlook on such matters. A reading of Judaic traditions on sacrificial theology seems to confirm this concern that all matters pertaining to the sacrificial cult should be "sure, certain, secure, safe."

4. To my mind this certainly tends to establish a continuity between early Church traditions, arising out of a Judaic milieu, and the Roman Canon. What are we to make, then, of similarities in the Roman attitude toward sacrifice and that which is seen in the Roman Canon? I suggest that the sacrificial cult of most ancient cultures share these similarities, and that the early Church liturgical traditions found congenial expression in the Roman language for precisely that reason.

Finally, I would suggest that similar attention should be paid to the Judaic roots of our Apostolic Tradition in other areas as well.

William Tighe said...

"The early liturgy appears to have taken a definite shape in Antioch and to have spread back to Jerusalem ... Likewise, the Roman liturgy also appears to have Antiochene origins."

I cannot call to mind any evidence for either one of these claims, and particularly and certainly not for the second one of them.

Mike Hurcum said...

Was it Pliny or Josephus who said that many of the Levites and Aronite priests left the Jewish faith shortly after Christ ascended into heaven? How then would this effect the outward way in which the Liturgy was celebrated? Would it not leave a more "Passover" attitude towards its Celebration?

mark wauck said...

Re the spread of the liturgy from Antioch, as I said, I'm open to correction. One source--among many others--accessible on the web re the Jerusalem liturgy actually having spread back to Jerusalem from Antioch is Liturgy of Jerusalem. Re the spread of the Antiochian liturgy to Rome and its influence on the Roman Canon, Fortescue quotes Baumstark to that effect. I gave the impression that the Antiochian liturgy was brought to Rome with Peter. That is, obviously, something that cannot be proven, although it would be true in the sense that the "shape of the liturgy" is everywhere the same. Apparently Fortescue via Baumstark believe that the influence was brought to the Roman Canon by Leo I. However, since Leo I died in 461 that would be an indication of the antiquity of those elements that were brought to the Roman Canon, since the elements in question ("Hanc Igitur, Quam oblationem, Supra quæ and Supplices, and the list of saints in the Nobis quoque") appear to reflect a theology that predates Byzantine liturgies.

mark wauck said...

@ Mike Hurcum, I wouldn't think so, given that the primary function of the Jewish priesthood and the Levites was to maintain the sacrificial cultus in the Temple--not at passover meals. My initial reaction would be that the entry of a large number of priests to the obedience of the faith would be a strong impulse toward continuity in sacrificial theology. Along the lines of what we see in the Letter to the Hebrews.

Thomas said...

Would the word "adscriptus" be better translated by "approved"? I'm thinking of companies or local government authorities who have lists of approved suppliers. To an Old Testament Hebrew, only those sacrifices approved for offering in the Temple would have been valid, and only then if they were offered in the prescribed way. For Christians, the sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ is the only entry on the approved list of sacrifices acceptable to The Father. The Eucharistic Prayer seems to be asking that the Church's offertory action conforms to Christ's commandment at the Last Supper in such a way that it is accepted by the Father so as to become precisely that same living reality - Himself offered in perfect atonement for sin.