Saturday, April 25, 2015

Reforming the Canon of the Mass: Some Considerations from Fr Hunwicke

I have had several occasions to recommend the writings of Fr John Hunwicke on his blog “Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment”, formerly known as “Liturgical Notes”. Last month, he published a series of six articles on “Consecration in the Roman Canon”, in which he has given us an important contribution towards understanding the essential differences between the Roman Canon, and the various models for its alteration in the post-Conciliar reform. I here offer only a summary of some of his more salient points, and inevitably must skip over a great deal of very useful material. Do yourself a favor and read the whole series; not only for the information and ideas contained therein, but also to enjoy his writing (the fruits, no doubt, of 30 years spent in the study and teaching of Latin and Greek.) I also wish to thank Fr Hunwicke personally for his kind permission to cite his work. [part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5; part 6.]

In part one, he considers the absence of a formal invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Roman Canon, and its prominence in the Eastern rites.
(M)uch was made of this absence in the 1960s by the pensants who reformed the Roman Rite. Constructing new Eucharistic Prayers, they made sure that the Holy Spirit was called upon in each one of them to work the miracle of transsubstantiation. I remember similar stuff being churned out in the C of E: we neo-ordinati were to do the propaganda for these innovations by descending on worshippers who from their tenderest years had listened to Cranmer’s Eucharistic Prayer; we were to point out to uneasy individuals (who, I recall, could only be persuaded reluctantly to receive change by the categorical assurance that it would bring the Young People flooding in) that the Holy Spirit was all but missing, and culpably so, from Cranmer’s sonorous periods. And so the revised Anglican rites were, as in the Roman Communion, fitted up, like Edwardian roués being forced into corsets, with Epicleses of the Holy Spirit. The great Begetter of liturgical reform in the C of E, Dom Gregory Dix, must have been rotating in his grave. He had, as recently as 1944, devoted a fair number of pages in The Shape of the Liturgy, to explaining that the Epiclesis was not ‘primitive’ …
He goes on to explain in the second article why the absence of the Epiclesis was felt to be a defect in need of remedy, and the fundamental error on which this assumption rests, (the same error which led to the creation of the modern three-reading system.)
The answer is embarrassingly simple. Pretty well all rites except the Roman had an epiclesis. Therefore it must be ‘Primitive’. Therefore it was desireable. The alternative possibility, that Rome lacked an epiclesis because it was older than those other rites, occurred to very few. So, for a hundred years or more, the question had been (not why did the other rites add an epiclesis, but) Whatever Happened to the Roman Epiclesis ... deemed to have existed originally but, for some mysterious reason, to have gone missing. … The conviction was bolstered by an inclination to believe that all the existing rites of Christendom must have descended from an Original Liturgy which, at least in its dominant features, was fairly uniform, and could therefore, in principle, be reconstructed from a comparison of existing liturgies. This assumption, as the pendulum swings, is currently highly unfashionable; …
The difference between the Eastern Rites and the Roman, in regard to the Epiclesis, depends on how the canon or anaphora petitions the Father to consecrate bread as the Body of Christ. “(T)he East says Send the Spirit so that He may change bread into Christ’s Body, while Rome says Accept our Offering so that it may become Christ’s Body.In the third article, he explains, on the basis of Christine Mohrmann’s work on the origins of Christian Latin, why the Roman Rite chooses to make this petition with a certain kind of language, terse and legal, and very different from the florid (and more Scriptural) Eastern approach. He then argues forcibly, (and, for what it’s worth, I think these words should be held for all time as a charter for any future efforts to meddle with the Eucharistic prayers), that neither the East or West should have its Rites altered on the basis of the other’s tradition.
It is not my purpose to discuss which of these attitudes is preferable, … What I do wish to highlight is, quite simply, that they are different. … One of the very few things I object to very strongly about Orthodoxy is that it sanctions ‘Western Rites’ in which an Oriental Epiclesis has been violently shoved into the Roman Canon. I would complain with no less vigour if some daft Latinising imperialist tried to mangle or eviscerate an Eastern Anaphora. Each of our rites has its own integrity, its own logic, its own grammar. Neither should be bullied into conformity with the other. To do so ... I would go so far as to call it sacrilege.
This inevitably leads to the question, addressed in the fourth article, of whether the addition of new Eucharistic prayers (or ‘anaphoras’, if you prefer) makes the Novus Ordo a different Rite from the classic Roman Rite, which never had any Canon other than that found in the ancient Roman sacramentaries and the Missal of St Pius V. He begins by pointing out that various scholars, not all of them conservatives, have held the position that they are essentially different rites.
Fr Joseph Gelineau, described by Bugnini himself as “one of the great masters of the international liturgical world”, a liturgical radical who wholeheartedly applauded what happened after Vatican II, did not make (the) claim (that they are the same rite). He wrote “We must say it plainly: the Roman rite as we knew it exists no more. It has gone. … Fr Aidan Nichols points out that ‘the Rite of Paul VI contains more features of Oriental provenance than the Roman Rite has ever known historically, and notably in the new anaphoras, for these are central to the definition of any eucharistic style.’ ”
He further notes that the presence of so many features imported from other rites led the Anglican scholar Dr G. G. Willis to define the modern Roman Rite as a “hybrid”. Fr Zuhlsdorf has stated a similar position on various occasions, that the identity of the two Forms, Ordinary and Extraordinary, as one Rite, is essentially a legal fiction: a good and useful legal fiction, to be sure, but a legal fiction nonetheless. (In a future article, I plan to offer some considerations of my own on this matter.) In any case, Fr Hunwicke declares that it is
a cause worth taking seriously, to restore the Roman Rite to use by using exclusively the Roman Canon. The GIRM itself has pointed to this by saying, in each edition it has been through, that “This Prayer may be always used” (Editio tertia para 365. ‘semper adhiberi potest’); a comment it makes about none of the other anaphoras.
He is also very careful to state, in clear and very red letters at the end of the fourth article, that the status of the Novus Ordo as a different Rite does not make it any way invalid.

The ecumenical implications of this question should not be lost on anybody, for if a formal Epiclesis is indeed essential to the Eucharistic Consecration, the unavoidable conclusion is that the Roman Rite has always been invalid.
It is true that ‘the Great Church of Constantinople’, replying in 1896 to overtures of unity from Leo XIII, alleged that “The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils used to receive [the teaching that] the precious gifts are hallowed after the Epiclesis of the Holy Spirit by the blessing of the priest”, apparently thereby implying that the Church and Rite of Rome did not exist in the centuries between Nicaea I and Nicaea II in 787. But this only proves that we Latins are not the only ones who quite often say and do extremely foolish things. Happily, a few years ago a writer in the theological journal of the Moscow Patriarchate declared himself content with the Roman Canon. It is a shame that the dominant school among the fashionable intellectuals of the Western Church in the 1960s did not share this contentedness.
The sixth part concludes the series with a beautiful consideration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, and how the Eastern tradition can help us to understand It as an offering made once, and yet continually made anew.
(God) created a multiplicity of times and a multiplicity of places. Within those multiplicities, He could have created just one, monic, being to exist and to be loved; but He chose instead to create a multiplicity of beings. And so it is into that complexity of times, places, beings, that His ‘Once for all’ is graciously communicated. The sacrifice of the Eternal Son is, in the Mass, made ‘sacramentally’ present on earth, in and to that plurality of the times and places which the Creator God in his fluent generosity has given to the innumerable multitudes He has created in which to worship him and to work out their salvation. And whenever it is so made present, Christ our God does “go forth to be slain in sacrifice”. (citing the Liturgy of St James) Furthermore, each Eucharist, bestowed from Eternity into Time, is not merely the offering of a monic being, but of Christ in his social body the Church, associating with him and in him those who are partaking in that new Mass in that new moment, so that the sacrifice of the Mass is ever one and unchanging and rooted in Eternity, and yet for ever here and for ever new.
So I’ve never had any problems with that offertory prayer in the Sarum Mass, in which the priest referred to hoc sacrificium novum. But, of course, the ‘Reformers’ did object, and the idea of a nova mactatio (new slaying) has come to be regarded as one of the worst corruptions of medieval Catholicism. It is good to have the Rite of S James to remind us that this way of employing language is not only sound and wholesome but is guaranteed by the witness of East as well as of West.

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