22 September 2010

The epiclesis of the Roman Rite

Dear old Fortescue's The Mass records the long debates of liturgists a century ago about where the epiclesis of the Roman Rite originally was before it ... er ... "dropped out". Their assumption, of course, was that the epiclesis was original to Christian liturgy and that the Oriental rites which preserve it were more 'primitive' than the Roman Rite. Now, happily, we know better. We see the Oriental epiclesis as a comparatively late fad in the evolving liturgical tradition. Rather than seeking traces of a lost epiclesis in the Canon Romanus, we realise that the prayer Supplices te rogamus, in which we pray that our offerings be taken to the Heavenly Altar, represents an earlier and lovelier expression of the linkage between our offering and the eternal oblation of the Eternal Son at the Heavenly Altar. Patrimony liturgists such as E C Ratcliffe played a large role here, not to mention Dom Gregory.

There has been an unfortunate fashion among Anglican Committees, not only for inserting epicleses (they have even plopped the Holy spirit into Dr Cranmer's Consecration Prayer), but also for putting them after the Institution Narrative. This is partly due to the rather naive idea that it is terribly Sophisticated to avoid the notion of a Moment of Consecration*, and partly to the dislike among the resurgent Evangelical Party for any idea at all of Consecration (expressed also in rubrical provisions for the celebrant, if he realises he is running short of consecrated Elements, simply to add some more hosts to the ciborium without saying anything). Evangelicals, who have historically claimed to be 'confessional' Anglicans committed to the formulae of the Church of England, apparently forget these principles when it comes to those deft and significant changes introduced into Cranmer's rite in 1662 to restore both the terminology and the logic of Consecration.

We know, moreover, that the 1960s Roman Catholic Reformers were simplistic and orientalising in their insistence upon creating, in their new Eucharistic Prayers, epicleses of the Holy Spirit. But the ethos of the Western liturgy reminds us that the Holy Spirit should be invoked: by the celebrant and his ministers. The Praeparatio ad Missam contains no fewer than seven collects invoking the Holy Spirit. One of them, which featured also in the Sarum Rite among the vesting Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, is the collect Deus cui omne cor patet [Sarumists in the Adur Valley will probably remind us that it was preceded by the entire Veni Creator; a lovely way of recalling one's ordination before offering the Holy Sacrifice], which survived into Dr Cranmer's rite as Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open ...

That's our tradition.


*The assumption is that regarding a dozen words as consecratory is mechanistic if not superstitious; seeing 938 words as consecratory is enlightened and unproblematic.


Joshua said...

"simply to add some more hosts to the ciborium without saying anything" - didn't Bad Queen Bess commit some zealous presbyter to the Tower for doing exactly that?

I suppose the utter resistance among the lower sort of Anglican to Reservation and belief in a perduring real presence makes sense of their preference to treat the words spoken as sufficient, having no relation to the status of the elements used: Receptionism.

Then again, ignorance is perhaps worse than ideological zeal (if sloth be worse than pride) - there was a case here in Tasmania of a Catholic priest being discombobulated when he went to the tabernacle and found the ciborium (which he'd checked on before Mass) mysteriously brimful. He asked the sacristan to explain, and the fool replied, "I always top up the ciborium, Faaather". The priest demanded of him to point out which Hosts were consecrated, and which were not. (The local clergy here told the tale in utter horror.)

Joshua said...

For that matter, I recall a nice pious old lady asking our priest something she'd always wondered: Where DO the Hosts in the tabernacle come from? Lord knows why in all her seven decades at Mass she'd never noticed the priest putting the ciborium away... I can only suppose she thought they descended from Heaven (which is sort of true enough in a deeper sense).

Joshua said...

The Nonjurors vastly preferred the Epiclesis after the Words of Consecration, and more importantly after the Oblation: that way they could argue that the Christian Sacrifice was offering of Bread and Wine as antitypes of the Body and Blood offered once for all, rather than as the oblation of the Body and Blood tout court.

Joshua said...

Nonjurors' Communion Office of 1718:

"...saying, Take, eat, (c) THIS IS MY BODY, which is given for you, Do this in remembrance of me.


"LIKEWISE after Supper, he took the Cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying Drink ye all of this, for THIS IS MY BLOOD of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins; Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.


"WHEREFORE, having in remembrance his Passion, Death, and Resurrection from the dead; his Ascension into heaven, and second coming with glory and great power to judge the quick and the dead, and to render to every man according to his works; we Offer to thee, our King and our God, according to his holy Institution, this Bread and this Cup; giving thanks to thee through him, that thou hast vouchsafed us the honour to stand before thee, and to Sacrifice unto thee. And we beseech thee to look favourably on these thy Gifts, which are here set before thee, O thou self-sufficient God: And do thou Accept them to the honour of thy Christ; and send down thine Holy Spirit, the witness of the passion of our Lord Jesus, upon this Sacrifice, that he may make this Bread the Body of thy Christ, and this Cup the Blood of thy Christ..."

Scottish Communion Office of 1764:

"For in the night that he was betrayed, he took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples saying, Take, eat, THIS IS MY BODY, which is given for you: DO this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this, for THIS IS MY BLOOD, of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins: DO this as oft as ye shall drink it in remembrance of me.

"WHerefore, O Lord, and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, we thy humble servants do celebrate and make here before thy divine majesty, with these thy holy gifts, WHICH WE NOW OFFER UNTO THEE, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion, and precious death, his mighty resurrection, and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same. And we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us, and of thy almighty goodness vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy word and holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, *that they may become the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved Son.*"

[*1789 US: "that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood."]

- From this I take it that in the view of the composers of these liturgies, that the bread and wine, first consecrated, then offered up, were then next made the body and blood in power and effect...

William said...

"… simply to add some more hosts to the ciborium without saying anything …"

I'm mystified by this claim, Father. The relevant rubric in Common Worship reads:
If either or both of the consecrated elements are likely to prove insufficient, the president returns to the holy table and adds more, saying the words on page 296.

The ASB had a similar rubric. One may well be hesitant as to whether the form of "Supplementary Consecration" is really adequate for the purpose, but I cannot find any suggestion that one can simply add more without further ado. (And whatever a certain type of Evangelical may think about it, the language of Consecration is firmly embedded in the rite and its rubrics.)

William Tighe said...

"didn't Bad Queen Bess commit some zealous presbyter to the Tower for doing exactly that?"

Well, one at least, Robert Johnson of Northampton in 1573; cf. E. C. Ratcliff "The English Usage of Eucharistic Consecration 1548-1662," originally published in *Theology* LX:444 (June 1957), pp. 273-280 and later, posthumously, reprinted in *E. C. Ratcliff Liturgical Studies* ed A. H. Couratin and D. H. Tripp (London, 1976: SPCK).

Matthew M said...

'We see the Oriental epiclesis as a comparatively late fad in the evolving liturgical tradition'
Do you have references for this? Never heard it before. Really interested in this. Thank you.

Steve said...

I recall being told, by one of his colleagues, of a C of E priest (an ex-incumbent who was working at the time as hospital chaplain cum senior curate), described as "very high church", who believed that if the consecrated wine was running short during the administration of Communion it was OK simply to top it up with unconsecrated, on the grounds that once it was mixed all the communicants would still be receiving the blood of Christ (albeit mixed in with wine that was still wine).

Both the priest in question (whom I never spoke to about it) and the one who told me are dead now. This goes back to the days when the reigning order for the Eucharist in the parish was Series 3. (My wife and I had a Series 3 Nuptial Mass. Happy days......)

Joshua said...

Ah... the famous theory of either consecration by contact, or of if you add a lesser part to a greater part, the whole remains what the greater part was... this of course applies in the case of supplementing holy water... the practice you mention was used at Papal Masses way back in the first millennium for a while...

Anonymous said...

In the city in which i live, there are nominally catholic churches, where so-called extraordinary ministers (one of the most anti-traditional and regrettable of all post-conciliar inventions) regularly place non-consecrated hosts straight out of the plastic sack into the ciborium. A sacristan whom I know, who holds regularly scheduled ''Word-and-Communion- services'' admitted this to my great horror. He justified himself saying, 'What does it matter, it is all merely symbolic anyway.' In this country, where the number of Catholics since 1970 has gone down from 40 percent to 20 percent of the population, and those practising has gone down from nearly 90 percent to about 6 percent, most of the clergy and so-called ''pastoral workers'' polled declared not to be beleive in the Real Eucharistic Presence. Various lay persons and priests have told me on different occasions, that the dogmas of the Real Presence, together with the Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ's Divinity and Virgin Birth, Confession and even the Sanctus Bell, had been thrown out by order of the Second Vatican Council! Sometimes i think that i might find more Catholic faith in the Anglican Church and in the present-day Roman Catholic Church. The difference between the present-day Church and the Church of my youth is like night and day. As for the Epiclesis, i too have read in more than one study, thet the specific Calling down of the HOly Ghost was added later to the Byzantine Rite Anaphora's during the controversy in the East surrounding the deniaal of the
Divinity of the HOly Ghost. Rome never knew such heresy, and thus needed no such specific Epiclesis. Our Canon ROmanus makes do with the original unspecific request to the Whole GOdhead to bless and sanctify the Gifts in order to change them into the Body and Blood of Christ (Quam oblationem - descending epiclesis) and Supplices Te rogamus - ascending epiclesis). Later, a 'Holy Ghost-specific' epilesis was added to the ROman -Rite as well, but in the OFfertorium (Veni, Sanctificator). That this prayer be addressed to the Holy Ghost is without a doubt, as to the Father is never said ''Veni'', but only to the Son and to the Holy Ghsot. Also, the word Sanctificator, Holy-Maker , is refers only to the Third Person of the Most August Trinity.