4 April 2023

Mucking Around with the Institution Narrative of the Roman Canon (1)

 I hope nobody will be disquieted by a post which might seem to challenge the inerrancy of biblical passages. I had better begin by pointing out that, not only are there five different accounts in the New Testament of the Last Supper; but S Luke, when he described the Conversion of S Paul, himself offered his readers Acts 9; Acts 22; Acts 26. And he showed no evidence of believing that he had to make the details consistent. (Some modern literary scholars would bring in here the functions of literacy in a basically 'oral' society.)

I wish to offer a few words about the words ascribed to the Lord in the accounts we have of what he said at "The Supper"; and to criticise the arrogant ease with which 'experts' in the 1960s interfered with them.

I first address the change made during that troubled period by the addition made to the Words Hoc est enim Corpus meum of the phrase Quod pro vobis tradetur.

The original datum comes from the appearance of Hoc est enim Corpus meum  in the Gospels of S Mark and S Matthew. 

In those two Gospels, the sentence Hoc est enim Corpus meum is not followed by any other words. 

In an important paper written by Fr E C Ratcliff (an Anglican; although when he died he was making arrangements to move over to Orthodoxy), he dealt with the vocabulary of the Institution Narrative, and proved that the basis of the Roman Narrative is the Gospel of S Matthew; but not the Vulgate text of that Gospel. The text used was that of the Vetus Itala, a Latin translation made well before the Vulgate of S Jerome. I make this point in case any keen chaps or chappesses check the Canon against the Vulgate and wonder if I've got this all wrong!

But Ratcliff's demonstration also draws attention to the venerable antiquity and stability of the text of the Canon. It truly has AUCTORITAS! Pope Pius XII, I'm afraid, was willing to change biblical passages in the Liturgy to make them fit a new translation he had commissioned: I'm not sure Pope S Damasus I had such grandiose intentions when he commissioned S Jerome to get  to work on a new, 'Vulgate' translation! 

The idea of adding something to Hoc est enim Corpus Meum appears to have arisen from words recorded by S Paul and S Luke. But here we have a problem: the textual evidence suggests that, for them, the original words of the Lord were simply to huper humon [which is for you]. But this phrase seemed to some people inadequate; so various later scribes padded it out (didomenon; klomenon; thruptomenon).

Twentieth century scholars were worried by the brevity of the text provided by SS Matthew and Mark and adopted in the Canon. The great Jungmann was puzzled; he wrote about "an amazingly significant omission". He wondered why it had been "expunged", feeling that it must have been "for some reason unknown to us." Dom Botte wondered if the suppression was connected with the simplification of the rite of the Fraction (improbable; because the Stowe Missal gives us a form of the Roman Rite as it was before S Gregory fiddled with the Fraction ... and there is in Stowe no addition to Hoc est enim Corpus meum.)

Time for a conclusion to the confusion!

When the 1960s 'reformers' added "quod pro vobis tradetur" (found in a vetus Latina ms listed as f and in the Vulgate), they were answering a question which Ss Mark and Matthew, and none of the early popes who used the Roman Canon, had thought needed asking or answering. 

In my view, given the uncertainties and the confusions, and the AUCTORITAS of the transmitted and received text, the correct procedure would have been to leave matters as they were in the 1960s.

But some people find it hard to be humble.

To be continued.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. "Institution narrative" is an interesting description of the words of consecration.
I never ran onto this expression until recent times but that is prolly cause I am really old.

Here is a link to its use per Ngram


frjustin said...

By way of comparison, the Armenian rite has "Take, eat; this is my body, which is distributed for you and for many, for the expiation and remission of sins".

The Coptic rite has "Take, eat of it. For this is my Body which shall be broken for you, and for many, to be given for the remission of sins".

The Maronite rite (with the institution narrative in Aramaic) has: "Take and eat it, all of you: This is my body which is broken and delivered for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life".

Finally the Byzantine rite has "Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you for the remission of sins".

In some editions of these rites, the words up to "Body" are highlighted by the use of a
bold font or different script, while the remaining words are in the same style as the rest of the institution narrative.

The Ancient Professor said...

There is a country and western song that has the line”O Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way”
The singer songwriter of course was joking, but I doubt our liturgical scholars are.

Arthur Gallagher said...

I learned as a lawyer that apparently inconsistent statements have a way of harmonizing when all the facts come out.

George said...

I agree with you. The short clause of the Roman Canon is in agreement with the multitude of anaphoras of East and West, by the fact that there is no uniformity, even between anaphoras of the same rite and family. In fact, the Churches of the early Christianity were having the Eucharist and anaphoras, decades before the NT arrived to them. Even the formulæ in the synoptics + Paul are, in fact, quotations of anaphoras. In this respect, the verba in S James' anaphora and in S Mark's anaphora have the same value as the four accounts of the NT.