Thursday, May 19, 2016

Octave Musing: They Shall Be Created

"In times of difficulty the Holy Spirit raises up saints within the Church," Fr. Capreolus preached at Mass this Pentecost Sunday. The good priest touched on something that has been floating around the Catholic blogosphere recently, that the ancient Western understanding of the Holy Spirit has been obscured in since the mid-20th century by an unhealthy wave of Greek epicleptism.

The Roman liturgy, as it existed at the dawn of the 20th century, could be mistaken for an Arian rite if not for the Athanasius Creed at Prime, the Gloria Patri doxologies at the psalms, and the qui tecum vivit et regnat concluding orations. That is not to say the old Roman liturgy is in the least Arian, but it has every trace of being an ante-Nicene tradition that the Church enriched after the Christological clarifications of the first four councils. Unlike the explicitly didactic Greek rite, which preaches a small Trinitarian sermon at the sessional hymns and the troparia, the Latin rite rarely teaches about the nature of the Trinity, it simply directs the faithful in worship to God in the persons of the Trinity. I recall some time ago reading in an introduction to the writings of St. Gregory Nazianzen that the Byzantine Church saw the Trinity as three Divine persons Who, in virtue of the first commandment, must be one God, whereas the Latin Church saw one God Who, in virtue of the New Testament, must exist as three Divine persons. The Greek tradition narrates the active role of the Paraclete in every act of the Church, while the Latin tradition simply assumes it.

In the middle of the anaphora of the Greek liturgy the celebrant asks that the Father might "send down Your Holy Spirit and upon these gifts here offered," transforming them into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Roman Church quietly assumes that the Holy Spirit came down upon the Church once and is passed on by the laying of hands at exorcisms, Confirmation, absolution of sins, the conferral of Holy Order, and other blessings. The Holy Spirit need not descend upon the Church, He is already in it. St. Bernard writes in one reflection on the Song of Songs that the Holy Spirit ensures us of "truth of our interior life," guiding the faithful in the three so-called "theological" virtues (Song of Songs sermon 18). The Holy Spirit does not transubstantiate the gifts, He raises the priest to offer them to the Father, Who transforms them by his acceptance of them (Quam oblationem).

Perhaps the indwelling, as opposed to descending, Latin view of the Paraclete is why Roman Christians are more concerned than Easterners with having a pure Church at any given moment of history and why turbulent times are more difficult for them to endure (cf. Rorate Caeli every day). If the indwelling Spirit guides the Church "in all truth" then is the Church to be found in Pope Francis? Or in the "Novus Ordo"? Or in the Borgia era? The wise reply to those troubled hearts is the same Fr. Capreolus gave at Mass, that the Spirit lives in the Church, is passed on from age to age, and lifts up saints at the most dire of times. Perhaps the Church suffers today not from the lack of potentially great saints, but from bureaucratic obstruction of their work.

Regardless, the Lord sent forth His Holy Spirit fifty days after the Resurrection; henceforth, every generation of the Church has been created in the Spirit.


  1. The lack of a pneumatological epiclesis, as well as the emphasis on the Father being the oblation's receptor, is regarded by many (secular; clerical ones mostly continue to endorse the Hyppolitus' myth) contemporary liturgologists as a sign of great archaism, coming probably from the fact that Western Christianity was, until the high Middle Ages, not involved in theological controversies in such a vital way as the Eastern Church.

    If you can read French, I recommend you Matthieu Smyth's studies (though some of his conclusions are highly disputable):

    Rorate et al.'s sometimes obsessive concern would deserve another comment.

  2. One could regard the Supplices te rogamus as an epiclesis, but also the words of institution because they are inspired, i.e. Holy Spirit permeates them.

    Where Church has chosen to consecrate with the words of institution, even without the explicit epiclesis, it is so.
    Where Church has chosen to consecrate with the epiclesis, even without the explicit words of institution, it is so.

    1. Indeed, both the Quam oblationem and the Supra quae/Supplices (wchich once were one and the same prayer, as Ambrosius' De sacramentis witnesses) may be regarded as epiclesis addressed directly to the Father asking for the acceptance of the sacrifice. It is just a matter of the different churches' traditions.

      By the way, the odd combination of pneumatological epiclesis and words of institution in the new "Eucharistic Prayers" shows pretty plainly how confused the modernizers were.

    2. Well the reformers wanted to keep the Western sacramental theology, but also put in the explicit epiclesis and that's why they put the epiclesis before the words of institution.

      It kinda fits nicely. The work of the invoked Spirit is perfected by the words of Christ.

      They also got the intercessions placing right - after the institution narrative, not before and after as it is in the Roman Canon.

    3. Oh, you two had to know a discussion of anaphorae would summon me ;)

      Most Byzantine/Oriental anaphorae (Basil, James, Cyril, Chrysostom, Nestorius, etc...) have both Epiclesis and Words of Institution. There are only four I've found that break this pattern:

      1.The Roman Canon, which is famous for the Words of Institution and has something of an arguably implicit Epiclesis (as Justinian mentioned above).
      2+3. Pope Sixtus and Dionysius, which state that Christ offered up the gifts without actually saying the Words. An explicit Epiclesis follows in both.
      4. Finally, Addai and Mari which is unrecognizable from a "pattern" standpoint. There's a passive Epiclesis, but no place where the Words of Institution would even logically fit. This is probably because it is just that ancient.

    4. Marko:
      My criticism to the reformers focuses on that they actually concocted something alien both to the Eastern/Gallican tradition (where the epiclesis follows the institution narrative) and to the Roman – and that of Serapion, if I remember well (in which there is no pneumatological epiclesis at all). I don’t value the new EP literary/aesthetic or even theological value; indeed I find the IV EP very beautiful – but would never use it at Mass. Moreover, the mere fact of using more than one anaphora goes against the Roman tradition, and ignores the variability within the Canon itself: the Prefaces and proper Infra actionem.

      Why should the intercessions be regarded as wrong-placed? The fact the Roman Canon differs from the other anaphoras on this subject just shows that it is different, not that is better or worse.

      As far as I have read on the subject, these differences come from historical development. It seems that the pneumatological epiclesis spread throughout the Eastern Church during the IV century, in the wake of Trinitarian disputes and the I Constantinopolitan council. It seems that Hispanic and Gallican anaphorae introduced an epiclesis in the following centuries, mainly due to Byzantine influence. The case of the Roman Canon is somewhat exceptional. From a pope’s writing (during the Byzantine domination, I think) it seems that the papal liturgy used an epiclesis within the Canon (but it is possible that this use be exclusive of some papal ceremonies and did not spread), but it didn’t manage to survive in the Roman tradition. That may be due to the traditionalist approach of the Roman Church in that time: the epiclesis would have been seen as a foreign importation as well as an innovation, so it was never embraced consistently.
      On the words of institution apud Addai and Mari: it is more difficult to ascertain, but it is possible that the earliest anaphorae would not have contained institution narrative at all, since the tradition concerning the origins of Eucharist would have belonged to oral traditions and been taken as granted – that’s why many institution narratives do not fit the New Testament accounts: they come from the Apostolic Tradition, and not from scriptural citations. So its absence from this anaphora is probably due to a reception context similar to that of the epiclesis in Rome.

      For all this, see the articles I cited above.

    5. Well yes, they did concoct something new. Why? To keep western sacramental theology but still to remove the criticism of Holy Spirit not being invoked.

      About invariability of the Canon - it is known that Rome used more than one anaphora in various points of time and that the Canon was written by a "scholasticus", a scholar, as st. Gregory says.

      And about the intercessions. Well it is alien to any liturgy to have the intercessions on "both sides". It is either before or after the consecration, and pope Innocent I., says the "names" were always read after the consecration. - see nn. 9-10.

    6. What that means is that the Canon changed the order of its prayers.

    7. Sorry for the belating.

      Were those concoctions really necessary? I think they were not, but I may be wrong.

      it is known that Rome used more than one anaphora in various points of time
      Really? I beg you to send me the sources of that: it interests me the most!

      the Canon was written by a "scholasticus"
      St. Gregory may refer by this statement to two circumstances: 1) that the Canon was composed at some concrete point of time, and of course some guy would have put it on a written form; or 2) to the rewriting in a Ciceronian Latin stylw which surely happened at his time: indeed the early versions we still preserve (Ambrose's De sacramentis and borrowings in some Hispanic Post Pridie) have a different phraseology, though conveying almost the same meanings.

      Innocent's letter seems to me to pressent a somewhat different state of things. Which prex does the pope refer to? The institution narrative alone? I don't see why should be so: the entire Canon (which was sometimes referred to as canonica prex) is a better candidate. This is why it seems so to me:

      In the first place, those names are closely related to the bread and wine offered to God: eorum oblationes quorum nomina recitanda sunt; cuius hostiam ... eius ante nomen. So it seems that those "names", rather than represent the Saints' intercessions, are those of the people who provided the Church with bread and wine to be offered in the Liturgy. That might actually have been the original purpose of the first Memento of the Canon: to thank those folks by uttering their names publicly during Mass.

      This (as well as: Prius ergo oblationes sunt commendandae, ac tunc eorum nomina quorum sunt edicenda, "tunc" meaning here "after") would seem to agree (partially, for we are not really dealing with the intercessions) with your hypothesis, but let's see what the pope says a little after: ut inter sacra mysteria nominentur, non inter alia quae ante praemittimus ut ipsis mysteriis viam futuris precibus aperiamus "so that they be named within the sacred mysteries, not whithin the other (prayers) which we anticipate before, in order to pave the way for those very mysteries by means of future prayers". What are those sacra mysteria? Surely the same as the prex: the very Canon, whithout mentioning whether the names should be uttered before or after the institution narrative -for the exact moment of consecration is never dealt with in this text. Moreover, the second part of that very sentence (with its ante praemittimus) clearly points to a critic not against mentioning the names in the first part of the anaphora, but rather against the by then very common (and still preserved in the Mozarabic rite) custom of mentioning those living people's names outside and before the anaphora itself, i.e. during the offertory under the form of the so-called dyptics.

      So, I would rather say that Innocent's statements are by no means directed against the intercessions' place, and accordingly do not testify any later change of the Canon's prayers order. I hope I explained my interpretation in a clear manner.

    8. I also hope not being annoying the rest of you.

  3. But Marko, when the reformers talk about the unity of the anaphora without a heavy focus on the institution, the only way to do that is the somewhat chiastic Canon Missae, including the preface and its dialogue all the way to the Agnus inclusive. I speak of the prayers of the Roman Rite and the modern usage of Rome. The Roman Rite and the Byzantine Rite both have the institution; the latter may not emphasize the “whabam” moment of consecration brought about by the narrative, but without it, it’s incomplete, even to the Byzantine Christians. The balance is found in the Divine Liturgy too, and returning to the Latin tradition will restore it in the Latin liturgy...

    1. Also, the Supplices is Christ the angel in a way guided and perfected by and with the Spirit, or to put it another way, in the unity of the Holy Spirit bringing (having brought, whatever: the eternal God sees cause and effect at once) the offering to God, having effected it in the Paschal Mystery and bringing the offerings from our altar to God's in this Mass, this unique offering. That’s my view anyways.

    2. Today it is held by some liturgiologists that the angel in the Supplices represents probably the Lord Christ Himself.

      The chiastic structure of the Canon is worth studying. There is a PhD dissertation available on the internet on that subject, but its analysis seems misguided to me.