3 February 2022

The Sacrament of Confirmation (2)

S Paul VI removed the Roman Form of the Sacrament of Confirmation, as it was understood by Benedict XIV (Ex quo primum tempore 52). In its place, he put the Form used in Byzantine Christendom: Sphragis doreas Pneumatos Hagiou latinised as Accipe Signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti.

What general comments might be made about this? Vatican II laid down "Innovationes ... ne fiant nisi vera et certa utilitas Ecclesiae id exigat"

Exigat is a strong word. It is clearly intended as a remora against change: change can only be made if a true and certain usefulness of the Church enforces (cf OLD sub voce exigo) it. In other words, innovation is given, by the Conciliar text Sacrosanctum Concilium, a very high hurdle to jump. An arguable usefulness is no good. A merely plausible benefit will not be enough to commend it. Nor will a preference.

Sacrosanctum Concilium was signed by S Paul VI on December 4, 1963. His Apostolic Constitution changing the Form of the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Church was 'given' on August 15, 1971. In those eight years, clearly, the bulwark against change so wisely established by the Council had been seriously eroded. The Pope now wrote: "dignitatem venerabilis formulae, quae in Ecclesia Latina adhibetur, aequa aestimatione perpendimus quidem; ei tamen praeferendam censemus antiquissimam formulam ritus Byzantini ...". 

Did I imply that S Paul VI adopted the Byzantine way of doing things lock, stock, and barrel? Well, it is not quite as simple as that. In the Byzantine Rite, the priest, using Chrism, makes the sign of the Cross while saying the words Sphragis ktl, on the forehead of the candidate ... and also his eyes and nostrils and mouth and ears and chest and hands and feet. Incidentally, when a baptised person returns to Orthodoxy, even if already baptised/chrismated/confirmed, the same words are used and he is chrismated on the forehead, ears, beard, hands, chest and knees. The words are repeated each time.

This raised a number of questions, discussed at considerable length by Benedict XIV with his customarily profound erudition in Ex quo primum tempore. Sharp readers will have guessed them. Let us here cut straight to the ... er ... mustard and observe that the Byzantine ceremonies at Chrismation must be remarkably impressive: consecrating ... sealing ... the entire human organism. 

The Latin Rite, in its quite different way (which I hope to suggest in the third and final part of this series) has, because of its own very Roman directness, simplicity, and biblical intertextuality, a power which it is a crime to abandon.

In the additional Eucharistic Prayers stuffed into the 'Roman Missal' by the 'reformers' in the Sixties, the authentic Roman notion of Eucharistic Consecration is elided; but the substituted Byzantinisation is not given its own completeness of effect. The worshipper is deprived of the austere and suggestive simplicity of the ancient Roman tradition, and is not recompensed by a full-blooded Byzantine Consecration (have you ever watched a video of His All-Holiness the Patriarch of All the Russias consecrating by Epiclesis?).

This is precisely what is also done in the 1971 Vatican rite of Confirmation. The inherited Western Formula, with all its meaning, is stolen from us; but the full, massively impressive (and thought-provoking) Byzantine ceremonies are not offered in reparation.

We are left with a pallid hotch potch which is neither the one thing nor the other. A cockerel with cod's fins and its tail cut off. Play around in this sort of way and you get something which is neither Latin nor Byzantine.

Byzantine liturgy should not be latinised.

Latin liturgy should not be byzantinised.

Each should flourish proprio vigore.

QUERY: S Cyril's Catecheses record the anointing of forehead, ears, nostrils, breast. I wonder if the Byzantine formula Sphragis ktl was designed ... specifically ... to accompany with economic brevity these multiple anointings? In other words, perhaps that formula was not intended to accompany a single sealing, and thus to bear the weight of the meaning of the entire rite, as it is made to do in the rite of S Paul VI. Does any reader know?

4 comments:

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Paul VI was enraptured by novelty and innovation to the point where he justified much of what he did by publicly calling himself and the fathers of Vatican Two the best and holiest Catholics who ever lived.

General Audience of July 2, 1969 he said that:

We desire to make our own the important words used by the Council, the words which define its spirit, and in a dynamic synthesis form the spirit of all those who place their confidence in it, whether they be in or outside of the Church. The [key] word is novelty (nouveaut√©—change, innovation, newness), a simple word, in common usage, and most dear to the hearts of modern man. . . . This word . . . has been given to us as a command and as a program.

Had the unfortunate prelate ever read Saint Vincent of Lerins?


As to what he was about walking around publicly wearing the rational and the ephod is anybody's guess. At least he stopped doing that.

Albertus said...

"Byzantine liturgy should not be latinised. Latin liturgy should not be byzantinised. Each should flourish proprio vigore." Precisely so, Father! The novelties of Papa Montini are neither fish nor flesh. As for his statement, that "this word (novelty) has been given to us as a command and a programme", one can only say that this "programme" is shockingly uncatholic, and the root of all evils in contemporary Catholicism, and western christianity in general.

Anonymous said...

and yet was not Paul the sixth hp wrote no more changes the children are confused?

vetusta ecclesia said...



What was it made the reformers do convinced that the Latin Rite was deficient but the Byzantine perfect? The latter rite is much more florid but their aim was “ noble simplicity”.