Friday, August 24, 2012


Paul Ford a liturgist and pastoral musician wrote the following: “But what are we saying during the Institution Narrative, “Take this, all of you, and eat/drink of/from it,” if we really mean “only those who are Catholics in good standing who have also observed the fast”? ”

But that made me think that his take on this is precisely what is wrong with our theology of the Mass in the post-Vatican II era and it has to do with liturgical literalism as it concerns the Last Supper and the bodily gestures of the priest and the direction in which he faces!

In fact the Institution Narrative in the Eucharistic is a prayer to God recalling the specific event of the Last Supper and the words are directed to the Apostles who alone are present as an anticipation of Good Friday’s Sacrifice and how they will offer that one Sacrifice in perpetuity as a Memorial of the Good Friday event. Only a literal expression of that by the priest facing the people and gesturing to them would make anyone feel as though this prayer is directed to them literally rather than simply a prayer recalling a specific historical event directed to God in prayer. I’ve seen priests change the rubrics and gesture toward the people dramatically during the consecration as though the congregation is the “Apostles” and the words are directed to them rather than God. That’s the pitfall of the priest facing the congregation during this prayer to God that is highly stylistic and not literalistic.

Rather the laity are called to the Banquet of the Sacrifice at the “Ecce Agnus Dei.” “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sins of the word; Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”

The latter is directed to the laity and those called to Holy Communion and should be done facing them to make that clear and literal. In this case the Sacrifice offered through the Eucharistic Prayer with its words of institution and the share in the Eschatological Eucharistic Sacrificial Banquet which is highlighted in the Communion Rite and specifically the “Ecce Agnus Dei” and the subsequent Communion of the priest and laity form a whole and are integrally related, although as in the case of the Old Testament priest who must consume the Holocaust prior to give what is left to those outside of the holy of holies, so too does the priest-celebrant consume first the Holocaust, but not dead flesh and blood as though Good Friday is all there is, but the Glorified and Risen Body of our Lord as a result of Easter Sunday. In other words we receive the Living Lord, the Lamb of God, not a dead holocaust.

The liturgical gesture toward the people in terms of the meal aspect of the Mass is at the “Behold the Lamb of God…Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.” And this as well as the Mass in its entirety is “eschatologlical” concerning the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the Second Coming, or the Last Judgment. So in effect it goes way beyond Pentecost too. Obviously though, Good Friday’s Sacrifice would not be “memorialized” if not for Easter Sunday and if not for Easter Sunday we would not be talking about Pentecost or the Last things.

Ultimately the entire Mass is a mystery and it is a step into eternity which has no trajectory in our time constricted notions of the future in the philosophical sense, it simply is just as God is “I AM.” So we shouldn’t stop at the Last things either but go to the mind of God and back in our sense of temporal time to the creation of Adam and Eve, their original sin, subsequent actual sin, the covenants to save them, the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifice and so on to the new dispensation–there is a connection to all that too.

The Second Vatican Council did not change any dogma or doctrine. It is a pastoral council and framed the discussion of many things in a “developed” way including the Mass. But so does every encyclical a pope writes even if no new doctrines or dogmas are defined but simply described in a new or different way, which might not always be a better way or the final way.

Certainly “Pope Pius XII Mystici Corporis Christi (June 29, 1943) on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is one of the more important encyclicals of Pope Pius XII, because of its topic, the Church, and because its Church concept was fully included in Lumen Gentium but also strongly debated during and after Vatican II. The Church is called body, because it is a living entity; it is called the body of Christ, because Christ is its Head and Founder; it is called mystical body, because it is neither a purely physical nor a purely spiritual unity, but supernatural.”–Wikipedia

So the Mass, in whatever form one celebrates it Extraordinary, Ordinary, Eastern Rites, etc hasn’t changed, but its expression certainly does and how it is described theologically does too, but it is still the Mass and thus a Mystery.


Marc said...

Father, is it not rather clear, then, that changing the words of Consecration for the Chalice to exclude the Mysterium Fidei represents not only a break for Latin Rite liturgical Tradition, but with the very theological concepts you discuss in this post?


We've discussed the offertory recently: let's discuss this. When there is a break from the narrative (as in the former Consecration of the Chalice), it is more clear that this is a prayer to the Father and not merely a reinactment of the Last Supper.

The Mysterium Fidei has apparently been part of the Chalice Consecration Form since the 600s. And here's something to consider: "St. Thomas Aquinas taught that removing an essential part of the formula of consecration would make the consecration invalid (cf. STh III, q. 60, a. 8). Aquinas opined that 'mysterium fidei' was an essential part of the form of the consecration of the chalice (cf. STh III, q. 78, a. 3; Super I Cor, c. 11, v. 25)."

And while we're at it, let's not forget ENIM added to both to Consecration of the Host and the Chalice, now forgotten in the Novus Ordo...

[No, Marc is not here arguing the Novus Ordo is invalid.]

So, Father, what does your clairvoyance tell you about recapturing our liturgical tradition by returning the Mysterium Fidei and ENIM to the proper place during the Consecration? Do you think this impacts your analysis of the Mystery of the Mass vis-a-vis the Congregation, particularly since they can now actually hear what the priest is saying at the Consecration?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It seems to me that the adjustment for the consecration of the bread, "Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you" has more of the sacrificial language that is obvious, compared to the EF's "All of you take and eat of this: for this is my Body." So the OF is an improvement here over the EF.

The OF's consecration of the wine:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins, do this in memory of me.
(and then) The Mystery of Faith.

In the OF Latin it is: "Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei, novi et aterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionen peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationen.
(Then) Mysterium fidei...

Apart from the placement of the Mysterium Fidei, I don't see any difference in the Latin EF or OF in terms of the consecration.

Enim is in both the Latin OF and EF for the consecration of the bread and wine, so I'm not sure what you are saying Marc.

Marc said...

Father, you are correct that I was not very clear with my actual point on that post!

The placement of the Mysterium Fidei in the middle of the Institution Narrative serves to highlight to both priest and people that this is not simply a reinactment of the Last Supper. The placement in the midst of the narrative shows that this is a prayer to the Father instead of storytelling, if you will. Moreover, it show immediately that the priest recognizes that what he has just said is the Mysterium Fidei - he says so directly after the transubstantiation takes place. So, it serves much the same role as the immediate genuflections in the Traditional Mass, which are now delayed in the Novus Ordo. So, the placement of the Mysterium Fidei is precisely the problem!

With regard to ENIM, you can plainly see that this word was simply not translated in English. Again, its placement breaks up the narrative, adding a word that is particular to the Mass. Now, why would translators want to drop this word that in English means "truly"?

I hope that clarifies my point.

Unknown said...

Two words in this quote, Father sets the problem, " “But what are we saying during the Institution Narrative, “Take this, all of you, and eat/drink of/from it,” if we really mean “only those who are Catholics in good standing who have also observed the fast”?”"

Institution Narrative. Those two words change the whole meaning of the Mass. When the Mass is reduced to an institution narrative, it loses it's sacrificial nature. The Holy Sacrifice becomes a meal. And the purpose of the Mass is lost.

The Mass is not primarily a meal. It simply isn't. It is an oblation to God the Father. It is the re-presentation of the Cross in an unbloody way. Only then can we understand it to be a meal.

Christ may have instituted the Sacrament at The Last Supper, but it was not nor could it ever have been completed until there was a sacrifice. And that took place at Calvary in a bloody way once, and in an unbloody way since.

The form and formula has developed over time and is part of the Sacrament. But if we reduce the Mass to an institution narrative, as Ford does, then we have eliminated the salvific action from Holy Mass. That cannot happen.

We aren't saved because of Holy Thursday, we are saved because of Good Friday.

The key to the mistake is understanding that the change is theological and once that is understood, then the proper application can be had, whether it be in the complete restoration of the TLM or in a "reform of the reform." Until the theological problems are resolved, any undertaking is futile, because the Mass is dependent on proper theology. Without it, it is simply a stage play. And the priest ceases to be "in persona Christi" and just an actor. Remember, intent plays a part. The priest must intend to do what the Church expects in order for a Sacrament to be valid. Form and Matter are as dependent on Intention as Intention is to Form and Matter.

John Nolan said...

Marc, in the context of the words of consecration, 'enim' is usually rendered in English as 'for' (ie 'because'); it appears as such in the parallel translations found in pre-conciliar hand missals. It links the 'hoc est Corpus meum' with the antecedent 'accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes'. It was retained in the NO but not translated by the old ICEL which favoured chopped-up sentences. It was restored in the 2011 text, along with the 'ex' - Take this, all of you and eat of it: FOR THIS IS MY BODY ...'

Unlike 'quia', 'enim' cannot begin the clause. Another example, from the Preface of the Most Holy Trinity: 'Quod enim de tua gloria, revelante te, credimus ...' (For what you have revealed to us of your glory &c).

Anonymous 2 said...


Your explanation of the mystery and its relationship to eternity is very helpful. However, your overall account raises for me a question about the proper status of the laity in the Mass. My question is a very basic question. (Part of my role on the Blog seems to be to ask some very basic -- even aka stupid -- questions, and I appreciate your patience with them.)

I understand your point that the words in the Institution Narrative (or Sacrifice Narrative) are directed to the Apostles and that the laity is “called to the Banquet of the Sacrifice” at the “Ecce.” But this then got me thinking: What actually IS the theological basis, or Scriptural basis, for allowing us laity to participate in communion at all? Why isn’t it restricted to the clergy who presumably gain their status from Apostolic succession?

As I suggested above, I feel a bit stupid asking this very basic question. And I am sure there is a very simple answer. I just don’t know, or recall, what it is. So I thought I would ask the question, also because some other readers may perhaps be a bit unclear about it too.


Anonymous said...

The people generally - being careful that they are not receiving unworthily and are observing any canonical requirements - receive holy communion, and not just the priests, because tradition tells us that they may and do! The relevant passages in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians presuppose, surely, do they not, that the generality of the assembled laity should receive, so long as they do so worthily.

Carol H. said...

Anon 2,

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if ANY ONE eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." Jn 6:21

"So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." Jn 6:53-54

These words were adressed to the crowd of people who sought for Jesus in Capernaum, some of the 5,000 that had been miraculously fed with the five barley loaves and two fishes the day before. So it is clear that the laity are to participate in Holy Communion, but the consecration is for the priests as was instituted at the Last Supper.

This is the way I understand it. I hope it helps.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A2, holy Thursday Jesus established the priesthood and the mass which these priests would offer perpetually until the Lord's return. Of course this is in light of the resurrection. For the sacrificial action of the mass to be completed the priest must consume the living Holocaust body and blood. It is not optional for him as he receives on behalf of those he offers the sacrifice. But in the OF the priest and laity receive after not Agnus Dei but in the EF the priest receivers before. Holy Communion is integral at the communion rite but not mandatory for the laity nor is the chalice mandatory for the laity. Yes to Andy about the horizontal aspect in those who are liturgical literalists.