Friday, February 28, 2014

The Theology of the Offertory - Part 2: the Offertory and Priesthood in the Liturgy

As explained previously, this series of essays is intended to respond to the claims made by the blog “What Sister Never Knew and Father Never Told You ”, in an article which the principal author of PrayTell, Fr. Anthony Ruff OSB, recently quoted as an explanation of “why for so many of us there can’t be a going back to the old rite”. The original article, written under the pseudonym Consolamini, claims that the Offertory ritual of the Missal of St Pius V represents a new theology, invented in the 13th and subsequent centuries by Scholastic theologians.
The priest was not seen to be a sacramental sharer in the one priesthood of the One Priest, Christ, but like the priests of the Old Law a man who approached the sacrifice in virtue of his own priesthood. … The medieval scholastic theologians not only exaggerated the sacrificial nature of the Mass to make it repetitive of Calvary, but they invented a second sacrifice in which bread and wine were offered to God at the “offertory” of the Mass.
In the previous article, I examined the text of the traditional Offertory in light of the claim that it represents a “second sacrifice” of bread and wine, apart from the Sacrifice effected by the Canon. Here I shall examine some of Consolamini’s claims about the Offertory and the priesthood in the light of other liturgical texts, both ancient and modern.

The word “Offertorium” is not formally the name of a rite, but of the chant that was sung while the bread and wine were brought to the altar and then prepared. The term is used in all of the ancient chant manuscripts, and there is no other name for it attested in the Roman Rite. In medieval Missals, as in that of St. Pius V, the group of rites and prayers now usually called “the Offertory” has no title at all. In the edition of 1962, the name of the chant was changed to “the Antiphon at the Offertory”, but even then, the Offertory prayers themselves as a group still do not have a title. The choice of name certainly indicates an understanding, in a much earlier period than that of the Scholastics, that the presentation and preparation of the elements of the Eucharist participates in some way in the Eucharistic offering which is made in the Canon.
A leaf of a Gradual used from a Cluniac monastery, dated 975-1100. The Offertory of the Third Mass of Christmas, “Tui sunt caeli” is indicated in the first line by the abbreviation ŌF. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 1087)
On the other hand, our earliest accounts of the Papal Mass, the Ordines Romani, describe how after the Gospel (and, later on, the Creed), the Pope would receive offerings of various kinds from the different orders of society, the nobility, the clergy, various dignitaries and the matrons of the city. (The oldest of these Ordines is of the 7th century, predating our oldest chant manuscripts, and also calls the chant “Offertorium”.) One could therefore understand the term to mean a chant sung while offerings of bread and wine, but also donations for the poor, were presented to the Pope, rather than as a reference to a sacramental offering. It might then be merely incidental that some of the bread and wine presented were used for the celebration of the Mass.

However, the prayer which is called the “Secreta” in several early sources, and in the Missal of St Pius V, is called in many ancient sacramentaries the “Oratio super oblata – over the things which have been offered.” This title remained in use in the Ambrosian Liturgy even after the Tridentine period, and has replaced “Secreta” in the post-Conciliar Roman Rite. Here there can be no mistake as to the title’s meaning; the prayers themselves clearly do not refer to any offering other than that of the Eucharist, and yet the bread and wine have already in some sense been offered. The prayer might just as easily have been called “super offerenda – over the things to be offered”. It must further be noted that that these two elements, the chant and the Secreta/Super oblata, are the oldest textual elements of the Offertory rite, both predating the Offertory prayers, and both suggesting that an “offering” was made before the Canon, which in some way participates in the Eucharistic offering.

The Offertory prayers were added to the Order of Mass in the post-Carolingian period, as part of the reworking of Roman Sacramentaries sent to Gaul in the time of Charlemagne and his immediate descendents, to replace those of the ancient Gallican Rite. The earliest version of the prayer Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, the concluding prayer of the Offertory in the Missal of St. Pius V, is first found in the mid-9th century Sacramentary of St. Amand, (quoted by Fr. Jungmann in volume 2 of “Missarum Solemnia.”)
Receive, o holy Trinity, this offering, which we offer to you for our Emperor, and his venerable offspring, and for the state of the kingdom of the Franks; for all the Christian people, and for our almsgivers, and for those who are mindful of us in their continual prayers, that here (i.e. in this life) they may receive forgiveness of their sins, and in the future obtain eternal rewards.
This prayer had great success, and was diffused throughout Gaul; every sacramentary of the period contains it, although with considerable modifications. In the Sacramentary of Echternach, written at the very end of the 9th century, it is reworked as follows, a version much closer to that of the Missal of St. Pius V, also found in various medieval Uses. It appears in the pre-Tridentine Ambrosian Missal in almost identical form, but in the Borromean revision, the words “Incarnation, Birth” were removed to maintain parallelism with the Canon.
Receive, o holy Trinity, this offering, which we offer to you in memory of the Incarnation, Birth, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of all the Saints who have pleased you from the beginning of the world, and whose feasts are celebrated today, and whose names and relics are kept here; that it may profit unto their honor and our salvation; that all those whose memory we keep on earth, may deign to intercede for us in Heaven.
Two leaves of the Sacramentary of Echternach, (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 9433) The Offertory prayer Suscipe Sancta Trinitas begins on the lower left; the Apologia (described below) is right above it.

The sacramentaries of the post-Carolingian period made another addition to the Ordo Missae, which, however, was ultimately not as successful as the Offertory prayers. These were prayers to be said by the priest “when he comes before the altar to sacrifice,” as the rubric of the Echternach Sacramentary says. Their consistent theme is the unworthiness of the celebrant to approach the altar, for which reason they are often called the “Apologies” of the priest. The Echternach prayer reads as follows:
God, who commandest that Thou be entreated by sinners, and that sacrifice be offered to Thee by the contrite of heart; deign Thou to accept this sacrifice, which I (singular) unworthy, trusting in Thy mercy, offer to Thy goodness; and that I may be worthy to be unto Thee both priest, and altar, and temple, and sacrifice, mercifully grant, that through the presentation of this ministry, I may merit to obtain the forgiveness of my sins, and Thy most merciful propitiation for myself, and for those for whom it is offered. 
The modern reader may find the expression “that I may be worthy to be unto Thee both priest, and altar, and temple, and sacrifice” rather exaggerated, but one thing should be clear. The author of this prayer is either seeking to associate the action of the priesthood in its entirety with that of Christ, who is truly Priest, Altar and Sacrifice, or he is founding a different religion. More importantly, it should be noted he is offering the sacrifice for others, distinct from himself, despite his repeated protestation of his own sinfulness and unworthiness.

In this latter regard, the Sacramentary of Echternach is the very soul of restraint. In the 11th-century Benedictine Missal of Troyes, there are four such Apologies, occupying three full folios of 9x12” parchment, written in a fairly small hand. The third of these begins as follows, and goes on for almost forty lines after.
Behold, o Lord, behold, I, a wretched and unhappy man, who was unworthy to enter the porches of Thy church, nor cross the threshold of Thy house, I come to minister at Thy holy altars, and stand here, guilty and a sinner, before the sight of Thy divine majesty, without any adornment of good works, and without any fruit worthy of penance, and without any clean thought.
For those who claim that the Scholastic period introduced a new theology of the priesthood, in which “(t)he priest was not seen to be a sacramental sharer in the one priesthood of the One Priest, Christ, but … a man who approached the sacrifice in virtue of his own priesthood,” it might be tempting to see the Apologia’s disappearance from the Ordo Missae as an expression of this “exaggerated – and blasphemous – claim … (that) deludes them into a faux greatness.” But in point of fact, they were already gone by the end of the 12th century, when Scholasticism was just beginning; most likely because of their length, which is often very considerable. (See Dom Paul Tirot, Histoire des prières d'offertoire dans la liturgie romaine du VIIe au XVIe siècle, p. 20; C.L.V. - Edizioni Liturgiche, 1985)
The end of the second and beginning of the third Apologia prayers in the Benedictine Missal of Troyes. (Missale benedictinum ad usum Trecensem; 11th-century; Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 818)

The important things to note is that the Offertory prayer emerges as part of the rite of Mass at the same time as the Apology, the presence of which convincingly belies the idea that the Offertory was created to expresses the priest’s personal magnificence, or independence from Christ in the exercise of his priesthood. And in any event, ALL of this happened well before the Scholastics; the Echternach Sacramentary was copied out 140 years before the birth St. Anselm, the father of Scholasticism, in roughly 1035.

Consolamini goes on to claim that by changing the Offertory of St. Pius V to a “preparation of the gifts”, the Missal of 1970 restores the rite of Mass to a view of sacrifice more consonant with the Apostolic and Patristic tradition, a tradition from which the Missal of 1570 and its antecedents “deviate”. I intend to examine this claim in greater detail in another article. But specifically in regards to the priesthood, his claims are undermined by the post-Conciliar treatment of Sainted priests in the liturgy.

Historically, the Roman Rite groups male saints (after the Apostles) in two classes, Martyrs and Confessors; these are then subdivided into bishops and non-bishops. Many texts of the Mass and Office are common to bishops and non-bishops, but the distinction is always made clear, especially in the prayers. Significant for the topic at hand is the fact that priests, who are supposedly exalted beyond measure by Scholastic theology in their possession of their own priesthood, remained in the same group as laymen, with the same Masses and Offices. Liturgically, Ignatius of Loyola and Jean-Marie Vianney belong to the same class as a locally venerated but otherwise obscure medieval hermit of uncertain history. This distinction was inherited from very ancient times by the Middle Ages, and maintained throughout the Scholastic period, when, if Consolamini were to be believed, there would be every reason to create a special Mass and Office for sainted priests.

In the Novus Ordo, however, the category of Confessors is no longer found. Among the new classifications of male Saints who are not Martyrs, we find a “Common of Pastors”, with variants appropriate to popes, bishops and priests, followed by other commons for the laity. Deacons are not included among the Pastors. I do not believe that this change exaggerates the importance of the priesthood beyond its due, much less that it was designed to do so. It does, however, make for an interesting claim to say that the post-Conciliar revision of the Missal supposedly put the priesthood back in its place by abolishing the Offertory, while creating a new category of Saints just for priests.

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