Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Theology of the Offertory - Part 3: A Different Theology?

As mentioned previously, this series of articles is a reply to the contentions of a pseudonymous blogger “Consolamini” about the sacrifice of the Mass and the Offertory. Fr. Anthony Ruff, the principal author and moderator of PrayTell, recently commended one of Consolamini’s articles to his readers’ attention because, as he states, it “shows why for so many of us there can’t be a going back to the old rite – no way, no how.” In the first article, I examined the claim that the Offertory of the Missal of St Pius V was intended to offer a different sacrifice from that of the Canon of the Mass, and in the second, the idea of the priesthood which Consolamini claims to find within it.
Here I shall deal with the claim that the Missal of Paul VI, by removing the Offertory and replacing it with a “Preparation of the Gifts”, makes a “break with the past,” and that the two forms of the Roman Rite “have very different theologies of Eucharistic Sacrifice.” Consolamini himself clearly believes this to be a good thing, since “it is very clear to (him) that it is the 1570 Missal, not the 1970 Rite, that deviates from the Apostolic (and patristic) Tradition.” (As I have noted previously, he attributes this deviation specifically to the Scholastic theologians of the 13th and following centuries, even though the liturgical texts and ideas of the Offertory all predate the Scholastics by at least a century and half.)
In the liturgical reforms of Paul VI …, the Mass was radically restructured to take away any pretense of this second sacrifice. (purportedly in the Offertory) There is no “offertory” of bread and wine, but rather a “preparation of the gifts” in which the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist. The only sacrifice is the sharing in the One Eternal Sacrifice of Calvary as we “proclaim the Death of the Lord until he comes in glory.” … There is a clear break here with the 1962 and earlier Missals that follow the 1570 liturgical revisions of Pius V, and indeed many of the medieval rites that had developed and on which Pius V based his reforms after the Council of Trent. And this is precisely where we see claims to a “hermeneutic of continuity” in the liturgy to be unsupported by fact. I agree with those who claim that the Novus Ordo represents a break with the past:…
As a first principle, I will take it for granted that liturgical texts must be understood according to the sense in which the Church gives them to us. Furthermore, I take this to be true, even when another sense at variance with the Faith may be plausibly found within them. To give an example: the Pentecost hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus at one point calls the Holy Spirit, “digitus paternae dexterae – a finger of the Father’s right hand.” Taken out of context, these words are strongly suggestive of subordinationism, the belief that the Son and Holy Spirit are lesser beings and servants of God the Father. This is, however, clearly not the sense in which the Church has received them and uses them in the liturgy, and it would be absolutely false to say that by them, She professes a subordinationist belief.
It may be objected that the circumstances in which the Veni, Creator Spiritus came into liturgical use are very different from those which gave us the Novus Ordo, and with it the Preparation of the Gifts in place of the Offertory. I shall therefore give another example, one which forms part of the modern liturgical reform.
Several years ago, I read an article by a Protestant clergyman who contended that it was no longer possible, or even desirable, to claim that the whole of the Scriptures are inspired by God, and wished his church to accept that parts of it are merely the words of men. He then cited the practice of various churches in not reading the whole of Scripture in worship as a tacit acknowledgement of this idea. As an example, he noted that during World War I, some English churches began omitting certain verses from the Psalms, such as the end of Psalm 142, “And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul”, lest they be seen as an incitement to hatred of the Germans.
In the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours, the Psalter has (for the first time in the history of Catholic liturgy, both East and West) been edited on similar lines. The three so-called Imprecatory Psalms (57, 82 and 108) are omitted entirely, and several psalms and canticles have been “censored”, so to speak, including the line of Psalm 142 cited above.
Now one may certainly debate the advisability of censoring the psalms in this fashion; indeed, one even may do so on the grounds that the practice is suggestive of an heretical idea of Biblical inspiration. But one may not claim that the Pope or the Church has given official sanction to an heretical idea of Biblical inspiration by promulgating a censored Psalter, since no such sanction is anywhere stated or implied in the new Office’s decree of promulgation or its praenotanda. Furthermore, this would still hold true even if the person who did the actual censoring did so to express belief in a new theology of Biblical inspiration, since that belief was not in any way officially taken up by the Church. (I say this in a purely hypothetical manner, since there is in fact reason to believe exactly the contrary.)
In this context, it would serve no purpose to discuss either the persons or the circumstances which created the Preparation of the Gifts as a rite to substitute the traditional Offertory. Even if they had intended by doing so to bring into the Church a different theology of the Eucharistic sacrifice, or bring back an older one, they could not do so. The only thing which counts in this regard is the stated intention of the authority that actually promulgated the post-Conciliar reform of the Missal. Let us therefore do the Pope the courtesy which we owe him as sons of the Catholic Church, and take him at his own words in describing his own actions.
His Holiness Pope Paul VI at the Mass of the Concistory held in February of 1965.
The Missal of Pope Paul VI was officially promulgated with the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum on April 3, 1969. Apart from the notes incorporated in the text, and the legal formulae at the end, it comprises 1169 words in the official Latin version. Of these, more than half (just over 600) are dedicated to describing the various changes to the Missal, such as the increased number of prefaces and Eucharistic prayers, the revision of the orations, the expanded lectionary etc. Not a word is dedicated to the new Preparation of the Gifts. It seems reasonable to assume that if the Pope intended to change, or (as Consolamini would have it) change back the theology of the Eucharistic sacrifice to something “very different” by changing the Offertory, this would be the place to say so.
In point of fact, nowhere does the Constitution declare any kind of break with the theology of the Tridentine Missal. Indeed, it begins with the statement, “Everyone acknowledges that the Roman Missal, promulgated by Our Predecessor St Pius V in the year 1570, by a decree of the Council of Trent, must be counted among the many and wonderful useful fruits that flowed forth from that same most holy Synod to the universal Church of Christ.”
In the Missal itself, this Constitution is followed by the “Institutio Generalis” or “General Instruction”, commonly known in English by the unfortunate acronym GIRM. Its second section is entitled “Witness to An Unchanged Faith.” 
The sacrificial nature of the Mass, solemnly asserted by the Council of Trent, in agreement with the universal tradition of the Church, was again declared by the Second Vatican Council. Concerning the Mass it pronounced these important words: “Our Savior at the Last Supper instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood, by which He might render perpetual the sacrifice of the Cross unto the ages, until He come, and indeed entrust to His beloved Spouse the Church the memorial of His death and resurrection.” … Thus in the new Missal the Church’s law of praying corresponds to Her perennial law of belief, by which we are reminded that the Sacrifice of the Cross and the sacramental renewal (renovationem) thereof are one and the same, only the manner of offering being different; which (manner) the Lord instituted at the Last Supper Christ, and commanded the Apostles that it be done in His memory; and accordingly, (we are reminded) that the Mass is at once a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, propitiatory and satisfactory. (i.e., that makes satisfaction for sins.)
These words are essentially a paraphrase of the second chapter of the Council of Trent’s Twenty-Second Session, and the words “only the manner of offering being different” are almost identical in both Trent and the Latin version of the GIRM.
One last note is called for as to the place of the old Offertory and the new Preparation of the Gifts in liturgical history. As Fr. Ruff noted in his article introducing his readers to Consolamini, the latter describes himself as one “…thoroughly committed to the program of the Second Vatican Council as it was promulgated in 1965, as contrasted with how it has been reinterpreted, in some cases almost out of existence by both self-appointed and divinely anointed authorities over the last thirty-some years.” I do not think I am being overly cynical to ask whether this “program” includes the letter and spirit of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which does not even mention the Offertory, much less call for it to be radically overhauled.

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