7 July 2018

Consecration in the Roman Mass 1

... and send out upon us and upon the gifts lying before Thee thy Spirit the all-holy, the Lord and life-giver, the thronesharer with Thee the God and Father and thine only-begotten Son; the coruling One; the consubstantial and coeternal; the One that spake in law and prophets and thy New Covenant; the One that came down in the appearance of a dove upon our lord Jesus Christ in the river Jordan and abode upon Him; the One that came down upon thine Apostles in the appearance of fiery tongues in the upper room of the holy and glorious Sion, on the day of Pentecost; this same Spirit of thine, all-holy, send down, Master, upon us and upon these holy gifts which lie before Thee; that coming upon them with his holy and good and glorious presence [parousiai] he may sanctify and make this loaf the holy Body of thy Christ and this cup, the precious Blood of thy Christ ... (Liturgy of S James, Tetralogia Liturgica of John Mason Neale).

Which oblation, we beseech thee, O Lord, that thou wouldest make in all things blessed, enrolled, ratified, reasonable and acceptable, that for us it may be made the Body and Blood of thy most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, on the day before  ... (Canon Romanus)

Well, the "Petitions for Consecration", in the ancient Eastern Liturgy of S James, and in our own dear and familiar Roman Rite, could not be more different. The Eastern rule is to leave hardly a noun without an adjective; its conviction is that one adjective is rarely as satisfying as two, three or four; its respect for Holy Scripture is such as never to lose a trick. I hope I am not insulting what is holy to my beloved Byzantine brethren if I call it flowery, Scriptural, and wordy. I hope my fellow Latins will not be too cross with me if I call our own rite lean, terse, matter of fact, and legalistic.

But what I wish to emphasise this week is the Elephant which is so conspicuous by its absence from our Roman Canon of the Mass: the Holy Spirit, who does not make it into the text until the Trinitarian Doxology at its very end. Indeed, much was made of this absence in the 1960s by the pensants who reformed the Roman Rite. Constructing new Eucharistic Prayers, they made sure that the Holy Spirit was called upon in each one of them to work the miracle of transsubstantiation. I remember similar stuff being churned out in the C of E: we neo-ordinati were to do the propaganda for these innovations  by descending on worshippers who from their tenderest years had listened to Cranmer's Eucharistic Prayer; we were to point out to uneasy individuals (who, I recall, could only be persuaded reluctantly to receive change by the categorical assurance that it would bring the Young People flooding in) that the Holy Spirit was all but missing, and culpably so, from Cranmer's sonorous periods. And so the revised Anglican rites were, as in the Roman Communion, fitted up, like Edwardian roues being forced into corsets, with Epicleses of the Holy Spirit. The great Begetter of liturgical reform in the C of E, Dom Gregory Dix, must have been rotating in his grave. He had, as recently as 1944, devoted a fair number of pages in The Shape of the Liturgy, to explaining that the Epiclesis was not 'primitive'; and to ensuring that his readers would understand what the implications were of such an importation (which had first been attempted in the C of E in the abortive revised Prayer Book of 1928).
This piece will continue in five more sections. I shall not enable comments until it is finished in all six parts, because it constitutes a whole.

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