8 June 2017

The Holy Spirit and the Roman Rite UPDATED

Every now and again I return to the question of the Epiclesis of the Roman Rite. My answer is invariably the same (see Search Engine attached to this blog): the Roman rite not only does not have an Epiclesis to summon the Holy Spirit upon the Elements so that they may become the Lord's Body and Blood; it never did have such a formula. Comments then flood in from readers who have been brainwashed by the belief of late Victorian scholarship that the Roman Rite must originally have had an oriental-style Epiclesis [as mythical as the canals once discerned on the surface of Mars]; combined with some untruths perpetrated in the years after the Council.

The Roman Rite does not have an Epiclesis because that rite is so ancient. It predates the interest in the Holy Spirit which developed in the fourth century and which then influenced most Eastern Rites.

According to the later Oriental rites, the priest invokes the Spirit which then descends to change the Elements.

According to the older Roman Rite, the Church offers the Elements to the Father, and it is simply by His gracious act of acceptance that they become the Body and Blood of His Son.  

This is exemplified in the Prayers over the Offerings, the 'Secrets', of this Octave week of Pentecost. If the venerable Roman tradition had had the least inkling that the Spirit is involved in the Consecration of Bread and Wine, surely the Pentecost Octave, and the Prayers over the Offerings, would have been its opportunity to offer some sort of hint in this direction.

There is none.The Propers of these days emphasise the role of the Holy Ghost in the Paschal Mysteries of Initiation, Baptism anf Confirmation. For this connection, of course, there is Biblical and Patristic evidence galore. And the renewal of the hearts and lives of the Faithful by the outpouring of the Spirit is expressed.

But not a whisker of any suggestion that the Gifts which, by the gift of the Faithful and the Ministry of the Deacons, have just been piled up on the Altar, might be transformed by that Spirit  from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Incarnate Word.

Of those 'Secret' Prayers, one only brings the Holy Ghost into any sort of proximity with the oblata. It stands out because of its arresting and unusual imagery: the Secret of the Mass of the Friday. Here is a dead literal translation:
O Lord, grant that that Divine fire may take away the sacrifices which have been offered in thy sights, which [=Divine fire]set alight the hearts of the disciples of Christ thy Son through the Holy Spirit.

The imagery is of the animal sacrifices of the Jewish, Greek, and Roman cults, in which some or all of the meat of the sacrificed animal is burned away to nothing upon the stone altar.


Mark said...

If it's wrong to add an epiclesis to the Roman Canon in order to reflect the teaching on the Holy Spirit of the Cappadocian Fathers, what is the justification for changing the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in order to reflect the teaching on the Holy Spirit of the court theologians of the Emperor Charlemagne?

Ana Milan said...

The final argument against the Epiklesis as Consecration-form is the account of the Last Supper in the Gospels. We know what Christ did then, and that He told us to do the same thing. There is no hint of an Epiklesis at the Last Supper. @newadvent.org.

Victor said...

Dear Father,
a friend of mine, also a catholic priest, opines that the Roman Rite is deficient exactly because of the lack of an epiclesis. Consequently (and illicitly), he changes the wording of the Second Eucharistic Prayer - obviously, he doesn't use the deficient Canon Romanus - from (German) "Sende Deinen Geist auf diese Gaben herab und heilige sie" to "Sende Deinen Geist auf diese Gaben herab; ER heilige sie" (rouge translation: instead "Send your Holy Spirit down on these gifts and sanctify them" ; "Send your Holy Spirit down on these gifts so HE may sanctify them"). How to answer him?

stebert said...

How about the Veni Sanctificatur in the EF offertory prayers?

Jesse said...

Father, I have always appreciated your posts asserting the antiquity of the Roman Canon and its theology of oblation and sacrifice. Would you be willing to suggest some recent scholarly literature where the same point is made? (Being mainly a "Divine Office" man, I'm less familiar with the recent literature on the Mass.) Jungmann (trans. Brunner) II, 190-94, seems already to have made much the same point, taking account of a great deal of evidence. I am curious to know, therefore, what "new" evidence (or new interpretation of old evidence) influenced the post-Vatican II thinking that you -- and others? -- are trying to correct.

An (Anglican) priest friend of mine was saying to me the other day that he has found it more and more necessary to read the traditional Roman liturgy as dependent on a background of Christian exegesis of the Old Testament that is assumed but not usually articulated by the liturgical texts themselves. For example, he suggested that the extension of the priest's hands at the Hanc igitur, so often assumed to be an "invocation of the Spirit," is best seen in terms of the priestly laying of hands on a sacrificial victim before it is slaughtered (Exod. 29:10; Lev. 1:4, 3:2, 4:4, 8:14). The specific use of both hands is reminiscent of the scape-goat (Lev. 16:21; cf. Isa. 53:6).

Of course, the historian in me wants to know exactly how old that gesture is. Jungman (II, 145-46) thinks that it and the various signs of the cross were originally undifferentiated "demonstrative" gestures that "pointed" to the offerings every time they were mentioned. A transformation into more "sacral" gestures occurred, he suggests, in the ninth century. I notice that Amalarius of Metz (d. 850) does not refer to any special physical action by the priest at the Hanc igitur. It's the sort of gesture he would normally want to expound. Jungmann would put the universal adoption of extended hands at Hanc igitur only in the late Middle Ages; but he himself admits the OT resonance of the gesture, while doubting its relevance given the absence of a reference to OT sacrifice in the text it accompanies (II, 186-87). My friend would answer him with his point that the OT background must be everywhere assumed.

I mention all this because your reference to the Divine Fire consuming the burnt offering in the Super oblata of Friday in the octave of Pentecost throws the OT interpretive background into high relief.

Diakrisis said...

The Byzantine liturgist Saint Nicholas Cabasilas argued that the Roman rite has an implicit paraclesis in the "supplices te rogamus".

KaeseEs said...

While early 20th century works (Fortescue &c.) confidently proclaim the Supplices te rogamus to be a "mangled epiclesis" (an argument I've never been able to understand), it would seem the Veni Sanctificator bears much more resemblance to an actual epiclesis without explicitly being one.

The problem for those searching for a mythical original Roman epiclesis is of course that this prayer is part of the offertory rather than the canon, and thus is centuries newer than the canon.

Diakrisis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben of the Bayou said...

Well, dear Father,

I feel embarrassed about even offering a comment since my scholarship on this point in no way matches your own. Nonetheless, it seems plain enough that it bears saying even by me. Plus, I can depend on the authority of the great S Thomas, the Angel of the Schools.

It seems that, rather than the acceptance by the Father of the Elements being the instrument by which they are transubstantiated, the Roman Rite (secundum Sanctum Thom. and the robust, Roman theological tradition he represents), it is the pronouncing of the words of Consecration that causes (instrumentally and efficiently) the transubstantiation, the conversion of the whole substance into the Body and Blood. Whereas, no doubt, the Roman Church is truly very concerned with acceptance by authority (e.gr., oblationem ratam), and thus by the Father, from Whom all authority comes, the theological interpreters of the Roman Church have placed the instrument of change, not in this acceptance (instrumentally and efficiently), but rather in the use of the words of the Lord (Dominical Institution) by one who is authorised by consecration (the ordained Priest) to use those words authoritatively (he speaks in His Person) and thus with power: "Hoc facite..."

Sincere regards,


Pastor in Monte said...

I really want Jesse's comment to be true: I found the idea arresting, to draw a parallel between the laying on of hands over a sacrificial victim and the gesture at the Hanc igitur. But he's also right that it isn't ancient, and it isn't universal. I've just reminded myself of the Sarum Use, which directs a priest at the Hanc igitur "Hic respiciat sacerdos hostiam cum magna veneratione, dicens'.
It's actually rather hard to envisage how one might fulfil this liturgical direction. I mean, one isn't looking out of the window at that point.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Of course it is always good to speak the truth but we can be sure that nothing will come of the truth during our lifetimes because those with authority will never admit they made mistakes; o, sure, they will endlessly publicly expound on the mistakes, errors, and sins of long dead Catholics who are not alive to defend themselves, but they will not admit they themselves wildly erred.

> We stole the Roman Rite fair and square is the unspoken motto of far too many.

Matthew Roth said...

But, the gesture is (usually?) done at the next prayer, whereas the priest in the Roman usage makes the sign of the cross.

If it isn’t ancient, then where did it come from, and why in Rome is it at the Hanc igitur and not the Quam oblationem?

John Vasc said...

The 'Veni Sanctificator' is an invocation of *future expectation* requesting a *blessing* ('benedic') of the sacrifice from almighty God ('omnipotens aeterne Deus'). It is not the moment of Consecration, otherwise it would and could not use the word 'Veni'.

Hermianensis said...


The section on the Roman Rite in Spinks' collection ("Do this in Remembrance of Me: The Eucharist from the Early Church to the Present Day", page 200 onward) seems to be the most recent review of the current state of research. Regarding the canon missae it gives references regarding, e.g. common elements with St. Cyprian and Roman Africa (use of the Matthaean institution narrative and the vetus Latina in "enim")[1], adoption of Imperial court language and the language of Roman votive offerings[2,3], the description of Abel as righteous and Melchizedek as "high priest" originating from the Targums[4], and a quantification of the close relationship between the Roman anaphora (preface + canon missae) and the Alexandrian anaphora of St. Mark via the Strassbourg Papyrus and speculates about the possible origins of both in Jerusalem[5]. Do read with care, though.

[1] Ratcliff 1957, "The Institution Narrative of the Roman Canon Missae. Its Beginning and Early Background", Studia Patristica 2:64-82
[2] Stuber 1954, "Die Diptychon-Formel fuer die Nomina offerentium im roemischen Messkanon", Ephemerides Liturgicae 68:127-146
[3] Fiala 1970, "Les priers d'acceptation de l'offerande et le genre litteraire du canon romain", in Eucharisties d'Orient et d'Occident I, pp.117-133
[4] Defaut 1962, "Le titre de Summus sacerdos donne a Melchisedech est-il d'origine juive?", Recherches de Science Religieuse 50:222-229
[5] Ray 2013, "Rome and Alexandria: Two Cities, One Anaphoral Tradition", in Johnson, ed. Issues in Eucharistic Praying in East and West: Essays in Liturgical and Theological Analysis, pp.99-127

Hermianensis said...

Diakrisis and KaeseEs,

Pace St. N. Cabasilas, Fr. Fortescue et al., if the analysis in Ray 2013 (see my previous post) is correct (i.e. the Roman anaphora was a redaction of two Strassbourg papyrus-type prayers joined together end-to-end), then Supplices te rogamus is not any type of epiclesis at all, but is the thematic and positional duplicate of Te igitur - a commendation of the offering to God and petition for its acceptance. On another note the same paper contends that the Roman Institution Narrative Qui pridie has a similar relation to the variable portion of the Preface which starts with the very same relative pronoun qui.