One recent comment seemed to me to suggest that my series on the genius of the Roman Rite, especially its Canon Missae, was a waste of time.
An exploration of the cultural and theological meaning of the Byzantine, or Chaldaean, or Syro-Malabar, rites and traditions might not, I suspect, have elicited such contempt.
It used to be a commonplace that 'Latinisation' of the Catholic Church's Eastern Rites was a Bad Thing. It most definitely was. Rites have their own sacred integrity. Entire jurisdictions of Eastern Catholics were driven by Latinisation out of the Unity of S Peter, particularly in North America. These were the heady days of Occidental imperial arrogance. Only Roman Catholics were real Catholics.
But now the boot ... an apt term ... may be on the other foot.
Particularly as commonly presented, and especially as a result of the de facto desuetude of the 'First Eucharistic Prayer', the worship of 'Latin Christendom' is no longer authentically Roman.
The late Archimandrite Robert Taft, of the Byzantine Rite, was a learned expositor of all things Byzantine, even venturing so far into a separated-Byzantine mindset as to question the legitimacy of the second-millennium Ecumenical Councils. But he did know his history.
Witness a paper of his which had as one of its aims to sweep away myths, including the common superstition among illiterate and superficial Western dabblers in Liturgy, that everything Eastern is more ancient, venerable, and authoritative than anything Western. Taft wrote:
"Here too of course one must avoid cliches and know what one is talking about. The decidedly Christological stamp of the old Roman Canon is a sign of great antiquity. This eucharistic prayer, obviously formulated before the impact of the late fourth century pneumatological resolution at Constantinople I (381 AD) reflects a primitive euchological theology much older than almost any extant eastern anaphora except Addai and Mari ... pace the common myth that everything Eastern is automatically older." ( Eastern Presuppositions and Western Liturgical Reforms.)
In an earlier paper, he wrote: "The old Roman Canon of the Mass has a weak pneumatology not because it is defective but because it is old, so old that it was composed before the divine personhood of the Holy Spirit became a problem to be resolved." (h/t to Steve Perisho)
Indeed. The Roman Canon expresses a very primitive theology involving only the Father and the Son, whereby the Eucharistic Elements are consecrated simply by being accepted by the Father ... not a hint here of any need for the Holy Spirit to be sent down upon the Elements like a bolt of sacerdotally-invoked divine lightning to transform them. This venerable Prayer is our Western heritage; and a very great disservice was done to us in the 1960s when, without the slightest hint of a mandate from the Council, a great crowd of alternative Eucharistic Prayers was thrust upon the Western Church, all containing Epikleses (requests for the Spirit to be sent in order to change the bread and wine into the Lord's Body and Blood). One of these prayers, the pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer II, because of its seductive brevity, has de facto superseded the Roman Canon in almost universal use, despite the fact that the GIRM makes clear that it was provided solely for optional use on weekdays.
The preoccupation among some academics with the 'problem' that the Roman Canon "lacks a theology of the Spirit" has, it seems to me, closed off some interesting lines of theological enquiry. For example: why is it that the Holy Spirit is absent from the NT narratives of the Last Supper and of the Passion and Resurrection (except possibly at John 19:30)? He is central to all the accounts of the Lord's Baptism; and in the teaching of S Paul and S John about Christian Initiation (we receive the sphragis marking us with the chrisma of the Spirit as a guarantee that we are God's). In the classical Roman Rite, there is no shyness about involving the Holy Spirit in the formulae for Confirmation and for the Consecration of the Chrism. Might there be an interesting theological reason why, in the NT and in the immemorially ancient Roman Rite, each of the Persons of the Holy Trinity is involved in Baptism/Confirmation, while the Supper and Passion involve solely the sacrificial movement of the Son to His Father?
The Classical Roman Rite might have unfolded fruitful truths to us, had its mouth not been stoppered by 'scholars' who preferred to be distracted by a different agenda and, above all, by an arrogant disdain for the Catholic and Roman Tradition.