Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dialogue on Validity, Form, and Intention

Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV celebrates the Divine Liturgy at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, 1954
source: P. Pfister, Pages de Rome Immortelle, Arthaud 1954, p. 155
The Rad Trad has been privileged to correspond with several of his readers—you know who you are—over the last year. Discussion usually beings with a question or an opinion about some liturgical matter. A recent series of exchanges between the Rad Trad and a reader was no different.
Enter the blogger "Maestro" of the page Foretaste of Wisdom, a site certainly worth a look. The Maestro is a Thomistic-minded Catholic and a student at Thomas Aquinas College. We recently exchanged thoughts on an article by Br. Ansgar Santogrossi, a professor at the FSSP seminary in Nebraska, concerning the Thomistic notion of "form" of the Consecration of the Eucharist and the implications for the validity (or invalidity) of the Addai & Mari rite used in the far east. The original article, which I cannot reproduce here owing to copyright, appeared in the Winter 2012 edition of Nova et Veterea should any readers wish to follow the discussion more closely. The Maestro has kindly given me permission to post some excerpts of our exchanges below. Readers may find the discussion and the historical/theological citations interesting. The exchange is given in chronological order. It is the sort of thing one can scroll through in search of a passage of particular interest rather than labor through the entire thing.
Thomists: please don't be too hard on me!
The Rad Trad: I have read the first third of the article and will finish it tomorrow with my fuller impressions. Thus far I think the author is trying very hard to fit his theological system (neo-Thomism) into texts written and prayed by people who did not believe that a particular set of words "did the deed" on their own. The quotations he adduces from Ss. Ambrose and Justin the Martyr do not really indicate that "This is my body" and "This is my blood" effect the consecration at all, just that they are the pretext for the celebration of the sacred mysteries and that it is by Christ's words that the change takes place. Perhaps the author will investigate the matter further, but the idea of "Christ's words" or "Word of God" has a very broad meaning and could (probably) means that it is Christ Who makes the change happen, rather than referring to a few specific sentences. Sure, some prayers were more important than others (which is the only reason low Mass can be permissible), but the concept of a particular set of words doing the Sacrament really does not find much evidence until the rise of the Latin Schoolmen (for all the good they did—and they did a lot—I've never been too keen on their Sacramental theology).
I hope the author goes into the texts of the Addai and Mari rite in some detail, as this would help him make or break his case.
The Rad Trad (fuller answer): I have finished the article and found it somewhat wanting. The author's premise is basically that everyone from Apostolic times knew that "This is my body" and "This is my blood" make the change happen, and that since the Addai and Mari rite does not (or no longer does) contain these words it does not successfully consecrate the bread and wine. Unfortunately he does not make a very conclusive case from the historical evidence.
As I said before he conflates the "Words of the Lord" with the institution narrative from St Paul used in every other celebration of the Eucharist. It gets especially bad when he begins calling the institution narrative the "words of consecration" as if it is and always has been a settled question, effectively making the rest of the article a circular argument. However in the Eastern Churches (Byzantine and otherwise) there is an emphasis on Christ doing what happens at the altar with the priest presiding in His physical stead. They do not have a concept of the priest in persona Christi, but rather say that the priest "serves" Christ's true priesthood. For instance in the Coptic liturgy (Catholics and Orthodox use it) the epiclesis is "He makes this [bread] His precious Body!" and the same is said of the chalice. Moreover words are spoken with air and breath. Perhaps you know that the Greek and Hebrew for Holy Spirit is actually "Holy Wind" or "Holy Breath?" It makes Christ's consecration a work of the Holy Spirit effected by Christ's intercession (which is why the Byzantines, for instance, insist that in their rite the consecration happens at the epiclesis). In none of the evidence proffered is it clear that the institution narrative is the consecration. 
Lastly, he assumes that the lack of an institution narrative is a relatively new omission in the Addai and Mari rite, which betrays a certain degree of historical ignorance. His best grounds is that according to one 18th century Roman account and a few 19th century Anglican accounts there was a narrative in variable places. However these accounts center on the Chaldean Catholic Church, which formed around that time as a far Eastern Church in communion with the Roman See. What he neglects to mention, or realize, is that most Eastern Churches that joined the Catholic communion at that time were forcibly Latinized and made to conform to Western theology and practices—a problem we have only just begun to solve in the Eastern Catholic Churches. Could the narrative not be a Latinization? The author constantly quotes that judgment from an older document that the absence of a narrative is a "grave abuse" but no where did it said the absence necessarily invalidated the Eucharist. He gets around this by equating it with the attempted ordination of women by some dodgy 5th century bishop who was promptly corrected.  
On the whole not very impressive. Even Aquinas admitted to some extent that his analysis was based on the Latin liturgy, which was the only liturgy he knew. This article absolutizes that analysis and tries to fit it into other Apostolic Churches' systems. Bad history, bad ecclesiology, bad theology. Your thoughts, sir?
The Maestro: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have a couple questions which are purely theological....
St. Thomas quotes St. Ambrose, also from the de sacramentis: "The consecration is accomplished by the words and expressions of the Lord Jesus. Because, by all the other words spoken, praise is rendered to God, prayer is put up for the people, for kings, and others; but when the time comes for perfecting the sacrament, the priest uses no longer his own words, but the words of Christ. Therefore, it is Christ's words that perfect this sacrament."
An alternate translation: "How can that which is bread be the body of Christ? By consecration. But in what words and in whose language is the consecration? Those of the Lord Jesus. For all the other things which are said in the earlier parts of the service are said by the priest—praises are offered to God, prayer is asked for the people, for kings, and the rest; when it comes to the consecration of the venerable sacrament, the priest no longer uses his own language, but he uses the language of Christ. Therefore, the word of Christ consecrates this sacrament."
I don't recall Br. Ansgar quoting this in his article, but this passage seems to me to more clearly emphasize the efficacy of the actual words spoken by the priest, in bringing about the consecration - that's the impression I get. Would your interpretation of this be more along the lines of a "spiritual" language or word, in line with your broader understanding of the "Word of Christ"?
Also, I'm sure you are aware of the Council of Florence on this matter: "The words of the Savior, by which He instituted this sacrament, are the form of this sacrament; for the priest speaking in the person of Christ effects this sacrament. For by the power of the very words the substance of the bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the substance of the wine into the blood; yet in such a way that Christ is contained entire under the species of bread, and entire under the species of wine."
Obviously, the term "form" is being borrowed here from St. Thomas and Aristotle. So according to your view, would this teaching apply, like that of St. Thomas, only to the Roman liturgy? 
The Rad Trad: I would say that the last sentence in those two translations displays quite a disparity. The latter indicates a broad possibility of meanings (a spiritual idea of the "Lord's word", the institution narrative, the entire anaphora after the preface etc). Even if it refers to the narrative that would put St Ambrose in Br Ansgar's camp, but does not make the case for any sort of consensus, even in the Latin Church, prior to the Middle Ages. The quotation he used from St John Chrysostom certainly has no where near the message he thinks it has (the narrative-as-consecration just is not part of the Byzantine tradition). 
Florence is obviously referencing St Thomas, but St Thomas's analysis really cannot go beyond the Latin rite (which uses the Roman Canon—except the rite of Milan, which uses a variation of it, and the Mozarabic rite of Toledo, a very odd liturgy). From a historical perspective it is clear to me in Summa pars III question 78.1 that there was a very wide array of views on the matter at the time, even within the Roman Church. And if we are to take Aquinas as far out of his Roman context as Br Ansgar does, must we not conclude that the Byzantine rite and the Novus Ordo Mass are invalid (pars III, article 78.3, answer before the reply) because they lack the words mysterium fidei, making for an imcomplete form? 
One last note about Florence: it was not a teaching council in the same way Nicea, Chalcedon, Lateran IV, Trent, or Vatican I were teaching councils. It was a disastrous attempt to re-unite the Latin and Greek Churches. The Byzantine emperor was desperate for political capital and soldiers to fight the Muslims on his doorstep and the Roman authorities saw an opportunity to force Roman theology, customs, and discipline upon a Greek Church which would give them anything. For example the famous Cantate Domino bull by Eugene IV was actually a thinly veiled letter to the Eastern Churches saying "Join me or go to hell;" ditto for Boniface VIII and Unam Sanctam. One must take time to learn about these councils and documents and how the Church historically uses them and receive them before applying them in theological and liturgical discussion. My impression is that the above passage from Florence was an attempt to Latinize the Greek Church's theology. 
I may be wrong though!
The Maestro: Looking again at the whole of the Ambrose quote, it seems to me that his emphasis on the priests words, which, he says, are also Christ's words, indicates something very like the words of institution. And to which quote from Chrysostom are you referring? Is this the one? "It is not man who causes what is present to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but Christ Himself Who was crucified for us. The priest is the representative when he pronounces those words, but the power and the grace are those of the Lord. “This is My Body,” [h]e says. This word changes the things that lie before us; and as that sentence “Increase and multiply,” once spoken, extends through all time and gives to our nature the power to reproduce itself; even so that saying “This is My Body,” once uttered, does at every altar in the Churches from that time to the present day, and even till Christ’s coming, make the sacrifice complete."
I'm curious, what do you take this passage to be saying, if not that the actual words of institution, repeated by Christ, bring about the change? I also found this from St. Athanasius: "You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wonderous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ....When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body."
Granted, it doesn't yet establish a general consensus, but it's something...  
And I'm not certain that St. Thomas intends for every word that he discusses to be an essential part of the form. For example, he says that the word "for" ("enim") isn't actually part of the essential form, although the Roman Church uses it (III, Q.78, A.2, ad.5). He also says generally that if different words were used to communicate the same meaning it would still be valid (III, Q.60, A.8). I'm not sure that the omission of mysterium fidei affects the essential sense of the words.
St. Thomas has other arguments for the necessity of specific words in the sacraments. Since you do not consider a specific "form" or set of words to be the cause of transubstantiation in the Eucharist, would you hold a similar position with regard to the other sacraments, such as Baptism? It seems evident at least that for Baptism a specific set of words is necessary for the sacrament to be effected. St. Thomas speaks of Baptism as example for his argument that all the sacraments require words, and he quotes St. Augustine (III, Q.60, A.6). And it seems evident from Scripture too, for Christ commanded the apostles to baptize all nations "In the name of the Father," etc. If from that we can draw the necessity of a determinate set of words, why not also from the words of institution also recorded in Scripture? 
I'll have to study more on the history of the Council of Florence, but from what I gather from Catholic Encyclopedia, it seems that the main controversy there was whether the epiklesis or the words of institution brought about transubstantiation. It's not clear to me that a case like that of Addai and Mari would even have been considered - whether by the Latins or the Greeks. Isn't true that Addai and Mari has neither the Words of Institution nor an Epiklesis? I could be wrong, but it seems as though at Florence, the only two options were either the words of institution or the epiklesis.
The Rad Trad: I will refrain from further comment on the Golden Mouth's quotation until I can look up some commentaries and more translations. The bit from St Athanasius does not really suggest anything concrete at all to me. In fact, as Patriarch of Egypt his current successor is Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Church, a church which uses the liturgy I mentioned earlier which claims the change takes place as the words "He makes [the bread] into His Body" and the same for the chalice. 
A further difficulty is that writers in this time tended not to reflect too deeply on the liturgy because they took it as a given. They wrote about the natures of Christ and the Trinity because Jesus' divinity was in question. They wrote about icons because icons were in question. We, in the West, wrote so much about the Eucharist and priesthood because the protestants questioned those things. No one, until the 16th century, really questioned what happened on the altar so they did not dissect and analyze it. Moreover, there are some manuscripts from that era, but not many. They just followed what St Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11: I have passed onto you what I have received. A Melkite Catholic priest once said to me something to the effect that "We don't dwell on minimal things like validity or forms. We just do what was given to us and we only do that." 
I only adduced the bit from the Summa on the consecration simply to show the effect of over-applying the liturgical theology of one rite to another, even another Roman liturgical rite. 
There are indeed many different forms for many of the Sacraments throughout the Catholic Church. Your example of Baptism mostly holds. All valid Baptism is "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" but that is it. Romans baptize with the words "I baptize you in the name....." while the Byzantines baptize with "The servant/handmaiden of God is baptized in the name......" Roman and Slavic rites absolve sins with "I absolve you...." while the Byzantines say "Jesus Christ absolves you." Indeed it has to be verbal, because it is a prayer after all, and there are some guidelines, but the exact formula is not entrenched. 
The main controversies at Florence were (in order of importance):
  • The doctrinal soundness/legality of the filioque in the Latin version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed
  • The use of unleavened bread in the Latin liturgy
  • The extent of Papal power outside the Roman patriarchate
  • The conflict between Scholastic ideas about the un-knowability of God versus the Hesychast Greek theology of God's un-knowability in essence and knowability in energies 
Again, it was supposed to be a reunion Council and one that did not work out. I suspect your excerpt above might be from the part of Florence wherein they discussed Scholastic theology's role in the Universal Church. The Greeks, eager for some money and soldiers, did not make much of a case for their position, except for Mark of Ephesus, who [helped] ruined the reunion upon his return to Byzantium. 
The Maestro: What I was wondering was whether the case of Baptism is at all analogous to that of the Eucharist. From all the examples you mention - if I understand you correctly - it seems that the same essential form is used throughout all of those rites (" the name of the Father, etc"), with only the minor differences which St. Thomas says do not change the meaning. So as far as I can see, there is a set formula, but which allows for minor variations. The formula does appear to originate directly from the words of Christ Himself, in all of these cases. Whereas, according to your position, the case is not so with regard to the Eucharist: the Roman "formula" consists in the words of institution, the Byzantine in the epiklesis, and the Addai and Mari rite doesn't even seem to have a formula. So there doesn't seem to be an analogy between Baptism and the Eucharist, in this respect: for in the latter case, in some rites, it appears that the crucial words are not those of Christ. So my question was why, if in the case of Baptism, the "formulae" for all Catholic rites seem to be drawn from the words of Christ, the same could not be said of the "formula" for the Eucharist. Of course, perhaps the same could not be said for some of the other sacraments either... I've seen a distinction between those Sacraments whose forms were given by Christ (as evident in Scripture) and those whose were not.
In any case, I am also wondering about the extent to which theological variety is acceptable in the Church. You've mentioned several times now the tendency to universalize the Thomistic theology and apply it to other rites. Obviously, there is some room for variation and theological opinion, but I'm not entirely clear on how we can hold St. Thomas' sacramental theology to be true only in the Roman Rite, or even Eastern theology to be true only in the Eastern rites... It seems to me to be more than a question of method, but of the actual theological truths. Or are we really to hold that, in the Roman Rite, the consecration really does take place at the words of institution, but in the Byzantine Rite, it really does take place at the epiklesis; and further, that in Addai and Mari... do we even know when it takes place? So if the consecration takes place at a different moment for each of these rites, what is that determines which moment? Is it simply the belief of the people within each rite? That is, does the Roman consecration take place at the words of institution because the Romans believe so, and the Byzantine at the epiklesis because the Byzantines believe so, etc? That seems to make it very subjective. Which is why, I think, we see that tendency to universalize theology, especially among the scholastics: because the nature of truth doesn't allow for that much subjectivity.
Even if we were to try to address this problem simply by saying that in all these liturgies the consecration does take place at some point, and that is what matters, nonetheless that seems to me to avoid, rather than solve, the problem...
As to Florence, the quote I gave earlier is from "Exultate Domino" bull concerning union with the Armenians. I'm not entirely sure of what all the content was (I've only skimmed it) but it does go through each of the seven sacraments. It seems almost like a catechism on the sacraments... (It's somewhere in this link: The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a brief summary of the debates that occurred concerning the Eucharist, and it seems an important one was concerning the words of institution versus the epiklesis.
The Rad Trad: You may find this commentary on the Addai & Mari rite, provided by the Chaldean Catholic diocese of the USA, heuristic:
The baptismal rites all use "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" not because the clergy of those rites though Our Lord gave them a formula, but because He gave them a command: to reveal the Trinity and baptize people into the Triune Godhead, to the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit. Similarly with the Eucharist, He did not necessarily mean to restrict His command to the repetition of words over bread and wine, but to communicate the need to repeat an action. The Greek for "Do this in memory of me" is actually very strong, meaning "Do this for the anamnesis of me" (do this action as I do it). By that He meant the entire Eucharistic action: thanksgiving, the establishment of the purpose of the bread and wine, and the offering of Himself on the Cross—the sacrifice made present on the altar, and the rising up on the third day. One would be hard-pressed to find a Eucharistic prayer East or West that does not repeat this pattern. Also, the Eucharist was instituted in the context of a meal, which indicates to me at least that the eating and drinking in His sacrifice is the action being continued, not the specific words alone. If you have a strong enough interest in this matter I suggest you track down a copy of Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy, a monumental book on liturgical history (some of his work is outdated, but it is still the best book of its kind) which frames its discussion around the idea of anamnesis. Dix ws an Anglo-Catholic, but, aside from the chapter on the Anglican liturgy (which I ignored) it hardly shows. 
The consecration, to my mind, does take place at different times in the different rites owing not only to the form, but also to the intention. Can a priest accidentally consecrate, as would be the case in the Byzantine rite at the narrative, when he does not intend to do so? The priest is given power to "offer sacrifice for the living and the dead" (old ordination rite) and to "offer the Eucharist" (new ordination rite), not to use a particular formula. If the priest has the power and intention, and he offers the Eucharist in manner hallowed by time and which the Church has accepted, who am I to tell him he's doing it wrong or that the change happens in a way otherwise than what his rite's tradition says? 
I think St Thomas's writing on the consecration is very limited to the Roman rite, not least because he does not purpose to offer an a priori form for consecration, but rather the form for consecration in the only Eucharistic prayer he ever knew. He is using Scripture as evidence, not as a starting point. He really is holding the liturgy as a revealed truth (as do I) and attempting to understand it; the issue is that he had one datum. 
Another factor may have been that a century before St Thomas lived priests began to elevate the Host and Chalice at Mass (people would actually yell from the nave "Show us" and "Let me see"), a kind of piety that substituted for the actual reception of Communion (from the 9th century until the 18th Communion was never really distributed at Mass, only at side chapels and on major feasts due to popular fear of unworthy reception). I think those elevations may have popularized discussion as to the exact moment of change.  
With Florence, as with most Councils, one must contextualize what they are saying to understand the extent of it. In the Eastern Churches, for instance, they say there are "at least seven Sacraments" whereas we say "there are seven sacraments and then many sacramentals." The Easterners refer to Sacraments as Mysteries and lump Mysteries and Sacramentals into Sacraments (all possible means of transmitting grace). It takes some patience to understand and might be at the heart of the bulls to the Armenians and Copts.
The Maestro: The idea of anamnesis does intrigue me, though I am wondering - and perhaps I misunderstand - why would that concept not include the words by which Christ consecrated the bread and wine?
So according to your position, the most essential validity of the sacrament, for whatever rite, is determined by the power and intention of the priest, and the approval of the Church? I wonder though, has the Church officially approved of the idea that the Byzantine consecration occurs at the epiklesis, or that the Addai and Mari consecration occurs... whenever it does? As I understand, the Church thus far has attempted to "universalize" the Thomistic account of the consecration, as at Florence - unless I am missing something. Furthermore, has the Addai and Mari rite actually been magisterially approved? I am not certain that the CDF qualifies as a strictly magisterial authority, when compared to something like Florence or Trent, or the common opinion of the theologians and scholastics. Has the Church approved of it elsewhere? As for the power and intention of the priest, if the approval of the Church is doubtful, intention seems a week foundation; and the exercise of power seems properly to imply the need for some instrument or means by which it is exercised - such as a set of words - or else the priest could say any prayer he likes, with the intention, and effect the consecration. It's similar to my earlier problem: it seems very subjective.
You make interesting points about St. Thomas and the history of the elevation and so forth. 
The Rad Trad: Dix does not necessarily exclude the importance of the institution words, but he does not think they are strictly needed (as evidenced by the anaphora of St Hippolytus for instance) for the action, though he does not see a conflict there either. I will let his book speak for itself.
The idea of the Church approving something "magisterially" is actually quite novel and quite new (Counter-Reformation era, before only grave matters went to Rome and the bishop most often passed judgment). The older concept is summed up by St Vincent of Lerins: "If it is tradition it needs no explanation. If it is not tradition then it has no explanation." Time and perpetual use gives a rite the Church's approval, not the stamp of a congregation in Rome or the Pope (if what he does is novel). The Church has not magisterially approved the apparition of the Empty Tomb to Mary Magdalen and the other Mary in the year 33, she has just always believed and taught it. The Byzantine rite was never "approved," nor was the Roman rite until 1570. Heck, the Mass of Paul VI was released by a congregation in Rome, not by the Pope. Is it approved? The Addai and Mari rite pre-dates the Pauline Mass by approximately 1,600 years, which, in Scholastic terms, would indicate its approval by the "Universal Ordinary Magisterium" to me. The approval of the Church is not doubtful to me. It is not even doubtful to Br Ansgar, given the rite's constant use, which is why he attempts, with debatable success, to demonstrate that it originally had an institution narrative which disappeared. Intention is a necessary condition, not the primary condition, for a Sacrament to take place. Time and use hallows rites, intention grows out of them (which is why I mentioned the elevations which began in the Middle Ages—a positive development to be sure).
The Maestro: Perhaps the main problem in my mind is whether the truth of the matter determines the intention of the priest and faithful, or whether their intention is what determines the truth of the matter. In other words, have the faithful always believed the rite is valid because it is so, or is it valid because they have believed so? If the truth is determined by their belief and intention, then it seems the answer is the latter. Granted, normally speaking, that a certain belief is in the tradition is evidence for its truth - and I don't think I could answer such an argument, at this point - but that's different than saying that it's being in tradition is the cause of its truth. Are you proposing this latter?


  1. Words of institution are needed for consecration. That's it. Some schismatic liturgies have suffered corruptions. That's also it.

  2. Portions of Br. Ansgar's article were posted over at Rorate Caeli a while back, for readers' interest: