6 April 2023

The inviolabity of the Institution Narrative in the Roman Canon (3)

A striking characteristic of the Roman Eucharistic Institution Narrative is its determination to gather in whatever appropriate material can be found in Scripture ... and, by that, we mean the Hebrew Scriptures as well as what we call the New Testament. Too often even Catholics, who should know better, fail to comprehend the Scriptures holistically as a single narrative of Salvation History in which everything relates to everything. In earlier times, Christian writers are as likely to have regarded  passages in the Old Testament as historical sources as good as passages in one of the Gospels.

The distinguished Anglican liturgical scholar E C Ratcliff had a convincing line on this. He associated it with North African themes associating the precision of what we do liturgically with the validity of that liturgical action (cf the word "adscriptam"). (This in fact fits in neatly with Christine Mohrmann's demonstration of the legalism of Roman Christianity, and its relationship with the traditional ancient pre-Christian religious legalism of the Roman state.)

(1) So we say that the Lord took hunc praeclarum calicem ["this excellent chalice"]. This phrase is gathered into the Last Supper Narrative from Psalm 22:5 [The Lord is my shepherd...]. A dreary 'Enlightenment' approach might tediously discuss the date and authorship of the psalm, and would implicitly ignore the Eucharistic reference, obvious to any Catholic or Orthodox, of calix meus quam praeclarus est. But we are Catholics.

(2) The words about the Lord lifting his eyes to heaven ... you will have noticed that these are gathered into the Institution Narrative from the Feedings of the 5,000 and the 4,000 recorded in Scripture, which we recognise as Eucharistic anticipations.

(3) Our Covenant is not only the  Covenant [Testament] which lies at the heart of the 'Old Testament'; it is also 'New' (I Corinthians 11:25), and additionally 'Eternal' (Psalm 110:9; Ecclus.17:12; 45: 15: etc.).So "New" and "Eternal" are gathered into the story of the Last Supper.

(4) The most puzzlement is caused by the words Mysterium Fidei. Jungmann rightly dismisses as "poetry, not history" the theory that these were words originally spoken by the Deacon. Baseless myths, however, die hard and after Vatican II it became yet another silly (and illegal) fad to give these words to the Deacon.

I am quite sure that the phrase was gathered into the Consecration of the Chalice from I Timothy 3:9, which talks about the deacons "holding the Mystery of Faith". Since the Deacon was commonly regarded as having a special liturgical responsibility for the Chalice (at High Mass he still joins the Priest in offering the Chalice), "holding the Mystery of Faith" was taken to be equivalent to "holding the Chalice".

(Ratcliff makes the intriguing suggestion that the frequency with which S Cyprian uses this sort of language may derive from the Deacon saying "Calix Domini" or "Calix Dominici Sanguinis" as he administered the Precious Blood.)

I am not suggesting that this association of the Chalice with the Deacon was in the mind of S Paul when he wrote this letter (although perhaps it was!!); my point is that this was how S Paul's words were understood at the time when the text of the Canon achieved some stability).

So "Mystery of Faith" in the Roman rite means the Chalice of the Lord's Blood.

So, just as "this excellent chalice" and "lifting up His eyes to heaven" and "New" Covenant and "Eternal' were gathered into the Institution Narrative from elsewhere in Holy Scripture, so also the Apostle's words about the Deacons "holding" [ekhontas] the "Mystery of Faith" were understood as referring to the Chalice and gathered into the account of the Last Supper. 

You can guess what I'm going to say next: I'm going to condemn the "experts"of the 1960s who considered themselves to have the right to fiddle with venerable texts! So



Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Anathema AMEN

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Can any Pope do what he desires vis a vis the Roman Rite?