Page 11, 1st December 1978

1st December 1978
Page 11
Page 11, 1st December 1978 — Return to tradition

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Locations: Alexandria, Rome


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Return to tradition

N WHAT we may call our 'ourney through the Eucharistic rayer we come next to the epiclesis or invocation — in the ites of Rome and Alexandria the .econd of them.

In the Eastern rites, as in the ncient non-Roman Western ites, it is normally a prayer for he descent of the Holy Spirit on he elements to make them the ody and Blood of Christ.

In the Roman canon it cornrises the prayer for the c c ept an c e of the oblation, with eferences to those of Abel, braham and Melchisedech (all of them pretigurations of the Eucharist), and the prayer for its transference to the heavenly altar.

The latter is as much a prayer or consecration as those in the 'astern liturgies, despite the ifference of form: it has been ailed an "ascendant" epidesis, -s distinct from a "descendant" ne.

In the new Eucharistic Prayers 't is replaced by a prayer for the wine regard on the Sacrifice, -nd for the action of the Holy pint through it on the offering ongregation.

What is essential is that etween the first and second invocations all these elements cceptance of the Sacrifice, Consecration of the Sacrifice which theologically is actually he same thing), and effect on the fferers -should be covered.

The distribution of material is elated to the question of the "moment of consecration", an in'olved historical problem into hich we cannot enter here, xcept to say that the arrangent in the new Eucharistic rayers reflects what is at present he authoritative Catholic eaching.

In the historic Roman canon here now follow the two prayers hich constitute the second part of the intercessions: Memento etiam for the departed, and Nobis quoque for the ministers, or. perhaps, for the whole congregation. In the new Eucharistic Prayers the whole of the intercessions follows at this point, as in most of the Eastern rites.

The Eucharistic Prayer universally concludes with a doxology, usually a particularly solemn Trinitarian form, to which the people respond "Amen". It should be noted that ancient writers, from Justin Martyr onwards, lay great stress on this -Amen": as the prayer begins, so it must end, with the people's participation and assent.

Of all the criticisms which have been levelled at the revised order of Mass by some "conservatives", none are more fantastic --I use the word deliberately -than some of those directed at new Eucharistic Prayers.

Catholic enrichment

The very provision of alternatives to the Roman canon has been condemned; the fact is that the Roman rite has been almost alone among the historic liturgies of Catholic Christendom in having only one Eucharistic Prayer, and the provision of alternatives is a truly Catholic enrichment.

It has been asserted that the new prayers are un-Catholic in that they do not embody the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, or at best embody it in a watered-down form.

The fact is that they all embody it clearly, and that the language of the anamneses in Prayers Ill and IV is the most explicit in any Catholic liturgy,

and in particular more explicit than that of the Roman canon. It has been asserted that they represent a compromise with "Protestantism ', whatever exactly is meant by that. The fact is that they are quite incompatible with any genuinely "Protestant" eucharistic theology.

The next section of the Mass is the Communion Rite, comprising the Lord's Prayer, the Peace. the Fraction and the Communion.

The Lord's Prayer first appears in certain eucharistic liturgies towards the end of the fourth century.

Originally it may well have been placed after and not before the fraction, as in a number of other liturgies -a position which makes its function, pre paration for Communion, clear. The present arrangement was certainly introduced by St Gregory the Great.

There can be no doubt that the original position of the Greeting of Peace was before the offertory: all the earliest evidence for it testifies to this. When was it removed to before the Commu nion at Rome? We don't know; hut certainly by Augustine's

time it was in the later position in North Africa, and the Roman and North African liturgies were closely related.

Just as in the earlier position it was intended as a preparation for the Eucharist as a whole, so in the later it was intended as a preparation for the Communion, and

Augustine, in a sermon, links it with the petition "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" in the Lord's Prayer.

The restriction of the actual exchange of the greeting to the ministers was a very late development indeed, and the new order has returned to Catholic tradition in restoring it to the whole congregation.

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