Q&A
From the June AD 1999
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question: A lot of what I have read about the new mass, and particularly the Consecration, suggests that the Mass has changed very little since the Last Supper -- and that the form of Consecration is specifically defined in several authoritative Church documents. But looking through The Mass of the Roman Rite by Father Joseph A. Jungmann, SJ suggests otherwise. He even quotes descriptions of the Mass by the antipope Hippolytus and by Saint Ambrose that differ from the Tridentine Mass. Is Jungmann reliable?

    Answer: There are a number of "histories" of the Mass that try to give the impression that the first Mass was virtually identical to that contained in the missal of Pope Saint Pius V -- apparently right down to naming the saints in the canon who died a few hundred years later. They evoke a mental picture of twelve Apostles in white "fiddle back" vestments being presented by our Lord with red leather bound copies of the tridentine missal. This sort of writing can be very damaging, making orthodox Catholics appear to be gullible fools who will believe anything if it goes against the novus ordo -- it does nothing to prove the case for Catholic orthodoxy, and nothing to demonstrate of what that orthodoxy consists.

    Yet, one can't be too cautious about "modern" liturgical scholarship. Like Biblical criticism and translation it is an area where modern Catholics have made a 180 degree turn, accepting rationalist Protestant thought as though it were revealed truth. And an imprimatur in the 40s or 50s doesn't always prove the orthodoxy of a writer, let alone his competence as an historian.

    Yet, the Canon of the Mass very obviously had to undergo development to get to its Tridentine form from what the Apostles received at the Last Supper. Research using primary sources (where they exist) is out of the question for most of us, but there are some commonly available works on the history of the Mass beside Jungmann's. Although not ancient, Adrian Fortescue's book, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (1919) is back in print through Preserving Christian Publications, Inc (Albany NY). In the same league is the Catholic Encyclopedia, (CE) which appeared around 1912. Nicholas Gihr's, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass appeared in 1897 and was translated to English in 1908, but is rather hard to find, and is more theological than historical. Archdale King wrote an interesting volume on the Liturgies of the Religious Orders, but it wasn't published until the 50s. There is an English translation of Hippolytus' Apostolic Tradition by Burton Easton in 1934. St. Ambrose did write a treatise "de Sacramentis," but it remains elusive to this writer -- however, what Jungmann quotes seems reasonable.

    All of these authors who deal with the question, including Jungmann (pp. 58, 63), agree that the development of the Roman Canon was completed during the pontificate of Pope Gregory the Great. But none of them claim that the Roman Canon was in universal use at that time (or ever). Those of us raised in the Roman rite often tend to be parochial, thinking of it as "the rite of the Universal Church," rather than only one of Its rites. The reference to St. Ambrose should not be surprising, for the rite of Milan belongs to the Gallican family of rites, and even in modern times its Romanized version has a slightly different "Qui pridie" and "Simili modo" (CE, s.v. "Ambrosian"). Likewise the Mozarabic rite of Toledo (CE, s.v. "Mozarabic"). The Gallican family of rites was quite important elsewhere in Europe until its suppression in the Empire by Charlemagne and in England by the Synod of Whitby. Fortescue (p.173) holds that parts of the Tridentine rite are Gallican in origin. It persisted as the diocesan rite of Lyons until the 19th century (CE, s.v. "Lyons"). See also Western Rites? August, September, October A.D. 1999

    Unfortunately, there is a dearth of Mass texts before Gregory the Great, so a lot of the scholarship is tentative. Fortescue (p.37) holds that the liturgy of Hippolytus is a later composition -- but modern scholars attribute it to the antipope. No one that I have read suggests that it is purely imaginary -- which is to say that it reflects the rite of Rome as someone knew it at a rather early time. In any event, we know that the form of Consecration is not standard throughout the Catholic Church , and was not, even before Vatican II.

    St. Thomas (Summa Theologica III, Q78, a3) and the "de defectibus" section of the Roman Missal address the Roman rite formula, and no other. Aquinas is saying that the formula as he knows it consists of a subject and a predicate -- as it is worded in the Roman rite, the words following "This is a chalice of My blood" determine the predicate of sentence. He was not commenting on what is appropriate to the form in, for example, the Ukrainian rite -- or in whatever form was used in second century Rome.

    In the same question St. Thomas says that the words "et ŠternŠ" -- "and eternal" and "mysterium fidei" -- "the mystery of faith" are of Apostlic origin -- and the Catechism of Trent> agrees. Yet they are not included in all Catholic rites -- perhaps they were not universally used by the Apostles. Fortescue (337) says the words "mysterium fidei" were probably borrowed by Rome from Gaul, and exist in no other rite (except, presumably, where an older rite has been Romanized, e.g. the Maronite). It is possibile that St. Thomas and the Catechism are wrong about what amounts to an historical, rather than a dogmatic, matter.

    We can put the question in different perspective: In what way do the words attributed to Hippolytus (or whomever) fail to convey what our Lord said at the Last Supper? Do we accuse Ss. Mark and Luke of error for failing to mention the "new covenanant"? Or all of the writers for not including "mysterium fidei"? Or conversely do we find error in the Roman rite for omitting "which shall be given up for you" after "This is My body"? Of course not.

    Hippolytus' "Accipiens panem gratias tibi agens dixit: Accipite, manducate: hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis confrigentur. Similiter et calicem dicens: His est sanguis meus qui pro vobis effundetur. Quando hoc facitis, meam commermorationem facitis" seems to be a reasonable rendition of what our Lord said and intended to do with the bread and wine of the Last Supper, it suggests the link to His death on the Cross, and that these things were being done for the faithful. The improvised parallelism between the two parts of the form is seen in some Eastern Catholic liturgies today.

    The thing that distinguishes the form of Consecration in modern translations of the novus ordo from every liturgical and biblical form ever used in the Catholic Church is the deliberate mistranslation so that it will approximate a heresy. Even if "For this is a chalice of My blood" is adequate for consecration, the intention to join it to an heretical phrase is sacrilegious at best. Uttering heresy is not "doing what Christ did," so quite possibly it is invalid. Would any of us accept the validity of the consecration of the bread if it was immediately joined with an heretical phrase? "This is a symbol of My Body"? This is My body, or a symbol thereof"? I think not.

    Fr. Jungmann was a product of his time and culture, as are all historians (as are all of us). A large part of studying history is sifting through that bias and making use of what appears to be consistent with what else we know. Sometime we like what we learn and sometimes we don't, but we should never accept scholarship that tries to "prove" our case at any cost. It will almost always make us look like liars or fools -- and the Truth of Jesus Christ is a sacred thing, never to be falsified.

 



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