January 11-13, 2002
volume 13, no. 5

The Germs of GIRM

Part Thirty-five: The Secret is Out!

    Paragraph 77 of GIRM reads as follows:
        "Once the gifts have been placed on the altar and the accompanying rites completed, the preparation of the gifts comes to an end through the invitation to pray with the priest and the prayer over the gifts, which are a preparation for the Eucharistic Prayer.In every given Mass only one prayer over the gifts is said, with the shorter conclusion, that is, Through Christ Our Lord; or, at the end, mention may be made of the Son Himself: He who lives and reigns for ever and ever."

    Comment and Analysis:

    Gone is the Secret, which is the name for the prayer uttered silently by the priest in the Traditional Latin Mass after the Orate Fratres. Also gone from the Novus Ordo is the practice of two or more secrets in a particular Mass, depending upon the number of feasts that occurred on a particular day (and/or upon whether Mass is celebrated during an octave, either simple or major, of a particular feast). As is the case with the Opening Prayer (referred to as the Collect in the Traditional Latin Mass), the texts of the Prayers Over the Gifts have been altered considerably, reflecting a de-emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the Mass and of our own need to do penance for our sins. A prayer by prayer analysis of the texts of the two Masses would reveal something approaching two entirely different religions.

    Paragraph 78 of GIRM reads as follows:

        "Now the center and summit of the entire celebration begins: the Eucharistic Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. The priest invites the people to lift up their hearts to the Lord in prayer and in thanks; he unites them to himself in the prayer he addresses to God the Father in the name of the entire community through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. The meaning of the prayer is that the entire congregation of the faithful joins itself to Christ in acknowledging the great things God has done and in offering the sacrifice."
    Comment and Analysis:

    Nowhere is the novelty of the Novus Ordo more striking than in the matter of the consecration of the elements of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is so important to understand the greatness of the Roman Canon that a protracted quotation from the work of the late Father Adrian Fortesque, found in Michael Davies' recently published compendium of the great liturgical scholar's writing, is truly apposite:

    "Since the seventh century our Canon has remained unchanged. It is to St. Gregory I (590-604) the great organiser of the Roman Liturgy, that tradition ascribes its final revision and arrangement. His reign then makes the best division in its history.

        "St. Gregory certainly found the Canon that has been already discussed, arranged in the same order, and in possession for centuries. When was it put together? It is certainly not the work of one man, nor was it all composed at one time. Gregory himself thought that the Canon had been composed by 'a certain Scholasticus', and Benedict XIV discusses whether he mean some person so named or merely 'a certain learned man'. But our Canon represents rather the last stage of a development that had been going on gradually ever since the first days when the Roman Christians met together to obey Christ's command and celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him."

    This is so very important. The Roman Canon developed organically over time. As Fortesque noted, most of prayers contained within it date back to the first century, although it is possible, as he conjectured, that they were rearranged within the Canon as time progressed. "The prayers, or at least some of them, can be traced back to a very early date from occasional referenes in letters of the Fathers. From this it does not follow that they always stood in the same order as now. . . . It is very possible that at some unknown period-perhaps in the fifth century-the Canon went through a complete alteration in its order and that its component prayers, without being changed in themselves, were turned around and re-arranged." From the time of Pope St. Gregory I, however, the Canon was unchanged. It was the only prayer in the Roman Rite for the Consecration of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. " 'No pope has added to or changed the Canon since St. Gregory,' says Benedict XIV." (The exception to this being the insertion of the name of Saint Joseph into the Canon by Pope John XXIII in 1962.) However, no committee composed the Roman Canon. Some scholars contend that many elements of it date back to Saint Peter himself.

    To "complement" the Roman Canon with other "Eucharistic Prayers," a phrase which itself is a novelty of the Novus Ordo, was a slap in the face to the entirety of Catholic tradition in the Latin Rite. Indeed, there are now nine different "Eucharistic Prayers" from which a priest may choose during the celebration of the Mass. Some of them, including Eucharistic Prayer II and the various Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and for children's Masses, are very problematic doctrinally. One has to really stretch to find the concept of sacrifice within Eucharistic Prayer II. And the very variability of the prayer, no less its novel structure, leads to further bewilderment among the faithful, as opposed to the stability provided by the Roman Canon, which so perfectly and beautifully expressed the mystery of the Mass.

    As the late Monsignor Klaus Gamber noted in "The Reform of the Roman Liturgy:"

    "However, the three new versions of the Eucharistic Prayer, also known as the three Canons, constitute a complete break with the traditional rite: they have been newly created using Oriental and Gallican texts as models. They are truly alien to the Roman rite, at the very least from a stylistic standpoint. More importantly, theologians have expressed concerns about some of the formulations used in the prayers."
    This is such an important matter that it will receive considerable attention in coming issues. Suffice for now, however, to note that the destruction of the doctrinal certainty contained within the Roman Canon by the introduction of doctrinally problematic and totally unnecessary synthetically created prayers has done very much to undermine belief in the sacerdotal nature of the Mass and therefore belief in our Lord's Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

Next Friday: Part Thirty-six

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January 11-13, 2002
volume 13, no. 5
CHRIST or chaos
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