August 27-29, 2001
volume 12, no. 146

The Ottaviani Interventions

A Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae

Part Six: Chapter Four second section

3. THE ROLE OF THE MAIN ALTAR. The altar is nearly always called the table: [19]

    19. The Instruction recognizes the altar's primary function only once: "At the altar, the sacrifice of the cross is made present under sacramental signs." GIRM 259, DOL 1649. This single reference seems insufficient to remove the equivocation resulting from the other, more frequently used term.
"...the altar or the Lord's table, which is the center of the whole eucharistic liturgy..." [20]
    20. GIRM 49, DOL 1489. Cf. GIRM 262, DOL 1652.
    The altar must now be detached from the back wall so that the priest can walk around it and celebrate Mass facing the people. [21]
    21. GIRM 262, DOL 1652.
    The Instruction states that the altar should be at the center of the assembled faithful, so that their attention is spontaneously drawn to it. Comparing this Article with another, however, seems to exclude outright the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar where Mass is celebrated. [22]
    22. GIRM 262, DOL 1652, and GIRM 276, DOL 1666. 23.
    This will signal an irreparable dichotomy between the presence of Christ the High Priest in the priest celebrating the Mass and Christ's sacramental Presence. Before, they were one and the same Presence. [23 ]
    23. "To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which by their origin and nature should remain united." Pius XII, "Allocution to the International Congress on Pastoral Liturgy." 22 September 1956, PTL 817. See also Pius XII, Encyclical "Mediator Dei," 20 November 1947, PTL 550, quoted below.
    The Instruction recommends that the Blessed Sacrament now be kept in a place apart for private devotion - as though It were some sort of relic. Thus, on entering a church, one's attention will be drawn not to a tabernacle, but to a table stripped bare. Once again, private piety is set up against liturgical piety, and altar is set up against altar. The Instruction urges that hosts distributed for Communion be ones consecrated at the same Mass. It also recommends consecrating a large wafer, [24 ]
    24. Rarely does the Novus Ordo use the word hostia. In liturgical books this traditional term has a precise meaning: "victim." Again we encounter a systematic attempt to emphasize only "supper" and "food."
so that the priest can share a part of it with the faithful. It is always the same disparaging attitude towards both the tabernacle and every form of Eucharistic piety outside of Mass. This constitutes a new and violent blow to faith that the Real Presence continues as long as the consecrated Species remain. [25]
    25. Following their customary practice of substituting one thing for another, the reformers made Christ's presence in the proclaimed word equal to the Real Presence. (See GIRM 7, 54; DOL 1397, 1444). But Christ's presence when Scripture is proclaimed is of a different nature and has no reality except when it is taking place (in usu). Christ's Real Presence in the consecrated Host, on the other hand, is objective, permanent and independent of the reception of the Sacrament. The formulae "God is speaking to his people," and "Christ is present to the faithful through his own word" (GIRM 33, DOL 1423) are typically Protestant. Strictly speaking, they have no meaning, since God's presence in the word is mediated, bound to an individual's spiritual act or condition, and only temporary. This formula leads to a tragic error: the conclusion, expressed or implied, that the Real Presence continues only as long as the Sacrament is in the process of being used--received at Communion time, for instance--and that the Real Presence ends when the use ends.

4. THE FORMULAS FOR THE CONSECRATION. The old formula for the Consecration was a *sacramental* formula, properly speaking, and not merely a *narrative*. This was shown above by three things:
A. The Text Employed. The Scripture text was not used word-for-word as the formula for the Consecration in the old Missal. St. Paul's expression, the "Mystery of Faith," was inserted into the text as an immediate expression of the priest's faith in the mystery which the Church makes real through the hierarchical priesthood.

B. Typography and Punctuation. In the old Missal, a period and a new paragraph separated the words "Take ye all of this and eat" from the words of the sacramental form, "This is My Body." The period and the new paragraph marked the passage from a merely *narrative* mode to a *sacramental* and *affirmative* mode which is proper to a true sacramental action. The words of Consecration in the Roman Missal, moreover, were printed in larger type in the center of the page. Often a different color ink was used. All these things clearly detached the words from a merely historical context, and combined to give the formula of Consecration a proper and autonomous value.

C. The Anamnesis. The Roman Missal added the words "As often as ye shall do these things, ye shall do them in memory of Me" after the formula of Consecration. This formula referred not merely to remembering Christ or a past event, but to Christ acting in the here and now. It was an invitation to recall not merely His Person or the Last Supper, but *to do* what He did *in the way* that He did it. In the Novus Ordo, the words of St. Paul, "Do this in memory of Me," will now replace the old formula and be daily proclaimed in the vernacular everywhere. This will inevitably cause hearers to concentrate on the remembrance of Christ as the end of the Eucharistic action, rather than as its beginning. The idea of commemoration will thus soon replace the idea of the Mass as a sacramental action. [26]

    26. As the General Instruction describes it, the sacramental action originated at the moment Our Lord gave the Apostles His Body and Blood "to eat" under the appearances of bread and wine. The sacramental action thus no longer consists in the consecratory action and the mystical separation of the Body from the Blood--the very essence of Eucharistic Sacrifice. See "Mediator Dei," esp. Part II, Chapter I, PTL 551, ff.
    The General Instruction emphasizes the narrative mode further when it describes the Consecration as the "Institution Narrative" [27]
    27. GIRM 55.d, DOL 1445 fn.
and when it adds that, "in fulfillment of the command received from Christ...the Church keeps his memorial." [28]
    28. Ibid.
All this, in short, changes the modus significandi of the words of Consecration - how they show forth the sacramental action taking place. The priest now pronounces the formulas for Consecration as part of an historical narrative, rather than as Christ's representative issuing the affirmative judgment "This is My Body." [29]
    29. As they appear in the context of the Novus Ordo, the words of Consecration could be valid in virtue of the priest's intention. But since their validity no longer comes from the force of the sacramental words themselves (ex vi verborum) - or more precisely, from the meaning (modus significandi) the old rite of the Mass gave to the formula - the words of Consecration in the New Order of Mass could also not be valid. Will priests in the near future, who receive no traditional formation and who rely on the Novus Ordo for the intention of "doing what the Church does," validly consecrate at Mass? One may be allowed to doubt it.
    Furthermore, the people's Memorial Acclamation which immediately follows the Consecration--"Your holy death, we proclaim, O Lord...until you come" - introduces the same ambiguity about the Real Presence under the guise of an allusion to the Last Judgment. Without so much as a pause, the people proclaim their expectation of Christ at the end of time, just at the moment when He is *substantially present* on the altar - as if Christ's real coming will occur only at the end of time, rather than there on the altar itself. The second optional Memorial Acclamation brings this out even more strongly: "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim Your death, Lord Jesus, until You come in glory." The juxtaposition of entirely different realities - immolation and eating, the Real Presence and Christ's Second Coming - brings ambiguity to a new height. [30]
    30. Let it not be said, following the methods of Protestant biblical scholarship, that these phrases being in the same Scriptural context. The Church always avoided superimposing and juxtaposing the texts, precisely in order to avoid confusing the different realities they express.

Note: Bold added by editor for emphasis

Next issue: Chapter Five

For the introduction and Cardinal Ottaviani's letter to Pope Paul VI on September 29, 1969, see Part One Introduction

August 27-29, 2001
volume 12, no. 146
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