2 September 2020

Archimandrite Taft and the Roman Rite

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.


Simon Cotton said...

You can't beat the Roman Canon. Well said, Father.

stebert said...

What of the meaning or the sufficiency of the "Veni sanctificator" in the former offertory prayers? When was it added? Perhaps it was added outside the Canon precisely because the Canon was so ancient and respected it was not thought alterable (until 1962)? Why is its presence outside the Canon proper not deemed sufficient as a pneumatalogical invocation?

PM said...

Is the difference due to the absence of pneumatomachians in the West? If the divinity of the Spirit was not disputed, there was no need to make such a point of it.

Just as it was Latin common sense, in the form of Leo's Tome, that stopped the East from tearing itself apart over Christology.

Atticus said...

... and if you can't beat it, enjoin it.

Stephen said...

Yes, yes, but WHY do you think the ancient Roman canon has been abandoned by its own? What happened, how it happened, and the results of it happening (such as the loss of Latin and the abandonment of the Roman Canon) receive quite a bit of attention. What is most puzzling is how all these men, nurtured and groomed within the bosom of the Church, could have so easily cast all that aside. Was it some form of low self-esteem? Ivy Leaguers in America, famous for looking down upon Catholics, held in lowest regard those types from places like Georgetown and Notre Dame who so desperately desired to be like the Ivies. "Oh, he's just one more WASP-wannabe. And doesn't his collar make him a nice ornament at cocktail parties?"

Or maybe the shared experiences in WWII changed them so. Did they, for example also, not really believe in the Oath against Modernism, to which they all swore fealty as younger men? Much is made these days of the power of "group-think", especially in the university. Did this overwhelm all those bishops and periti?

Longinus said...

Is there an authoritative source for dating the Roman Canon?

Thomas said...

While reading through this post I had a thought, the theological value of which I do not know. So please ignore or delete it, Father, if you think there is anything erroneous, absurd or unworthy in it. It struck me that in Baptism and Confirmation there is a 'downwards' dynamic, in the sense of movement from the intrinsically superior to the inferior, the Supernatural to the natural, as Christ confers sanctifying grace on one of his creatures through the action of the Church. This is indeed made effective by the power of the Holy Spirit. However, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice the dynamic is primarily 'upwards' from the natural to the Supernatural. The consecration is part of that upwards movement of the eucharistic action as the supreme offering from man to God carried out by Christ.

It is not that Christ 'descends' into the bread by the action of the Holy Spirit, but these creatures are actively 'taken up' by Our Lord and made one with himself in order that his eternal self-offering to The Father may be re-presented in every time and place. This, after all, is what the words of institution tell us happened at the Last Supper: he took bread and wine, gave thanks to The Father, then by his word as The Word made flesh, they were made one reality with his physical and personal presence. This was his own action as God made man in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of The New Covenant which he would consummate upon the Cross. Surely this is what happens at Mass too. The addition of an epiclesis almost seems to be a lack of faith in the priest being able to act "in persona Christi" and do what he did at the Last Supper. Does another divine intervention need to be invoked to supplement the grace of ordination for the miracle to take place?

I must admit I always liked the thought of the same Holy Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of all, and which overshadowed Mary at the Incarnation, coming upon the gifts on the altar to extend the Incarnate and redemptive presence of the Lord. It seems beautiful and Scriptural. But now dare I rethink all this? The Incarnation of the Lord in the womb of Mary is not the Word 'descending' into Mary's womb and passively being 'made flesh', but her immaculate flesh and blood being taken to himself by God the Son. And that this is also the culmination of the whole upward dynamic of creation, which from the very beginning (in fact from 'before the foundation of the world') was made at the word of The Word to be gathered into Godhead through his coming as Christ for his own kind purposes, "in whom we have redemption through his blood".

coradcorloquitur said...

To address Stephen above: it seems to me the spirit of iniquity and what Sister Lucy of Fatima calls diabolical disorientation only can account for the vandalism and iconoclasm (liturgical, moral and theological) that was triggered---if not directly caused---by the misguided and highjacked council. Scholarship is now abundant on how the Council was derailed by prelates and periti (largely from central Europe) from the original, orthodox preparatory documents. What remains to me a greater mystery is that well-educated men from one of the most beautiful regions of the planet could produce and embrace so much ugliness in the liturgy, in church appointments and architecture, in music, in theology, and ultimately in moral heteropraxis. Some may say I am attributing too much emphasis to the esthetic issues at the heart of the Church's current passion (as in Our Lord's Passion); but given that God is the Source of beauty (as as well as goodness and truth), I do not think my emphasis is ill placed. How does anyone transition from the luminosity of Catholic Truth to the swampish gloominess of Modernist obfuscation; from the grand testimony to Christ that are Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Neo-classical churches to the horrid sterility of the underground basilica in Lourdes; from the grace-giving practice of the Christian virtues to the soul-destroying decadence of modernity? How, indeed? Did not these modern and Modernist ecclesiastics feel any pangs of conscience and sadness over the destruction they oversaw (and often created directly), over the violence they inflicted on the People of God, about whom they have been prattling for the past half century ad nauseam? What operated on their souls if not a force of frightful evil?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. The redoubtable Taft was forever banging on about how all peoples are deserving on a liturgy in the vernacular.

He could be very curt, cutting and funny. He was also be vey opinionated and you know how ABS objects to the opinionated.

Stephen said...

coradcorloquitur: I don't quite buy the Rhine flowing into the Tiber thesis, as the speed and enthusiasm with which, what, 99% of the bishops of Vaitican II rolled out the nonsense worldwide speaks more to deep, shared undercurrents across the Latin rite than the hijacking of passive humble churchmen by devious Teutonic aggressors. They were all into it together, as evidenced by how few did anything to resist the changes that rolled out after Vatican II.

It would have to be something in their formation in the seminaries during the early half of the 20th century - which, thanks to the centralization of episcopal selection by the Pope that finally was universal and uniform after PIUS X was elected (led in no small part by the future PIUS XII interestingly), to the rollout of a universal catechism in 1918 (led in no small part by the future PIUS XII interestingly), and to the ability to crank out in one language all elements of clerical formation for distribution globally, means that, by 1960, all those bishops were so much more identical to each other than any other council heretofore. Can you say groupthink?

For example, can you guess what was the dominant degree and area of study shared by those men? Canon law, by a wide margin. What can that tell us?

Tom said...

While "Veni sanctificator" in the Offertory of the traditional Latin Mass (or now the Extraordinary Form - which was the Ordinary Form for about 1500 years) might suffice for an epiclesis in that form of the Mass, might not "in omnibus" ("in every repect" or literally "in all ways") in "Quam oblationem tu, Deus, in omnibus, quaesumus, benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque facere digneris: ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiat dilectissimi Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi (Be pleased, O God, we pray, to bless, acknowledge, and approve this offering in every respect; make it spiritual and acceptable, so that it may become for us the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ") within the Roman Canon itself in the Novus Ordo Missae, which replaced the Offeratory prayers with "Presentation" ones (except for the option to use such in the "other" OF (the Ordinariate Form for the Anglican-use Catholic group) suffice as an implicit epiclesis?

I asked that once of a well known priest-liturgist, who commented, "Ah, mentioned by the Jesuit Josef Jungmann in his Mass of the Roman Rite." I never checked out the reference but offer it here for comment.

Leo Bass said...

THANK you Fr Hunwicke.
The Roman Rite has no epiclesis, and it needs no epiclesis.

Of course, the Pauline Rite invented in the late 1960s is an attempted Byzantinisation of the Roman Rite, and did not actually reform said rite, but practically (but not juridically or theologically) replaced it.

Also, Fr Taft apparently hated the Roman Rite, and in my interactions with Byzantine Catholics his criticisms of it are often thrown in my face.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Many men are surprised to learn that the titanium tough trads, Ottaiviani and Ruffini, were both desirous of a council long before John 23rd called one.

They however were not interested in calling a council to "update" or "open to the world" the church (not a legit reason for an ecumenical council if that end is compared to the ends all other ecumenical councils were called) but to address and correct the many errors then circulating in seminaries, theological journals etc.

Calling an ecumenical council which has as its end the identification, correction and condemning of errors is what ecumenical councils have heretofore been about.

Paul-A. Hardy said...

Let us remind ourselves that the context of both the Old and New Testaments is Semitic. Christ is represented as a speaker of Aramaic in the New Testament. Hebrew and Aramaic are written with consonants. So the four letters written yŌd, hē, vav, hē cannot be pronounced without breathing out vowels. That breath is symbolized by the Holy Spirit, where the Uttered is the Father and the Son the Word. When Hebrews speaks of the hypostasis of the Father's glory it includes the Holy Spirit.
We must not overlook the element of polemic in Taft. After all he was in communion with Rome. But keep in mind that the Old Testament, where yŌd, hē, vav, hē is written, Adōnai is read. This is reflected in the Greek Septuagint translation, the Old Testament quoted in the New Testament. So each time we read in the LXX 'kyrios' where Jesus is addressed in the New Testament it is an indication of His divine status. That was no doubt evident before Arius decided that this did not imply that Jesus was eternally divine, since there was an interval prior to His creation contradicting the claim that He is God-with-us (Immanu-El). His divine status in other words came about in time. Arius, Eunomius et al. perhaps too impressed by the temporal movement from premises to conclusion in syllogisms, refused to read Scripture sub specie æternitatis (under the aspect of eternity). The Fathers of Nicaea and Constantinople as you all know objected to Arius as well as his follower Eunomius of Cyzicus et al.
Must texts always mean logically speaking, what they say? And is the meaning meant an index always of their true meaning discoverable by the tools of philology? We all know the conservatism of the ancient Roman mentality. Even before the Roman Empire became Xtian the Roman priests preserved in the formulae they recited ancient words going back to Etruscan times, words they no longer understood! That to me is sufficient reason to back Taft vis-à-vis the Roman canon. In the East, however, the desire to highlight the work of the Holy Spirit in consort with the Father and Son was after Arius and Eunomius et al. is completely understandable.
Now the people who confected the Novus Ordo were part of an operation of reform working behind the scenes. The higher criticism's work on holy scripture wouldn't wash especially in a post-Pius X church. So its proponents turned to the liturgy, where their work has undone people's understanding of the Trinity to such an extent that a Karl Rahner, S.J. could write: "All of these considerations should not lead us to overlook the fact that, despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere "monotheists." We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity and have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged." Of course this really could make no difference to Rahner since one can be an "anonymous Christian."
In my view, Pius XII was either a fellow-traveler or an unfortunate dupe. The psalter was a disgrace, the Easter liturgy another.Then came the Novus Ordo under Paul VI. All shameful!