January 25-27, 2002
volume 13, no. 15

The Germs of GIRM

Part Thirty-six: Novus Ordo can't shoot straight without a Canon

    This article is a continuation of the analysis of the General Instruction of The Roman Missal I began last March. As I have noted in past commentaries, this work is tedious. However, it is so very important to review the content of the revised G.I.R.M. For despite protestations to the contrary by defenders of the Novus Ordo, the revised G.I.R.M. contains as many problems as were noted by the late Alfred Cardinal Ottaviani at the time of the publication of its first edition in 1969.
    Paragraph 79 of GIRM reads as follows: "The chief elements making up the Eucharistic Prayer are these: a) Thanksgiving (expressed especially in the preface): in the name of the entire holy people, the priest praises God the Father and gives thanks for the whole work of salvation or for some special aspect of it that corresponds to the day, feast, or season; b) Acclamation: joining with the angels, the whole congregation sings the Sanctus. This acclamation is an intrinsic part of the Eucharistic Prayer and all the people join with the priest in singing or reciting it; c) Epiclesis: in special invocations the Church calls on God's power and asks that the gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that is, become Christ's body and blood, and that the victim to be received in communion be the source of salvation for those who will partake; d) Institution narrative and consecration: in the words and actions of Christ, that sacrifice is celebrated when he instituted at the Last Supper, when, under the appearances of bread and wine, he offered his body and blood, gave them to his apostles to eat and drink, then commanded them that they carry on this mystery; e) Anamnesis: in fulfillment of the command received Christ the Lord through the apostles, the Church keeps his memorial by recalling especially his passion, resurrection, and ascension; f) Offering: in this memorial, the Church-and in particular the Church here and now assembled-offers the spotless victim to the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Church's intention is that the faithful not only offer this victim but also learn to offer themselves and so day by day surrender themselves, through Christ the Mediator, to an ever more complete union with God and with each other, so that at last God may be all in all; g) Intercessions: the intercessions make it clear that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the entire Church of heaven and earth and that the offering is made for the Church and all its members, living and dead, who are called in the salvation and redemption purchased by Christ's body and blood; h) Final doxology: the praise of God is expressed in the doxology, to which the people's acclamation, Amen, is an assent and a conclusion."
    Comment and Analysis:

    As I noted in the past installments, the terminology GIRM uses to describe what used to be called the Canon of the Mass reflects an effort to shift, subtly and not-so-subtly, the nature of the Mass as the unbloody re-presentation or perpetuation of the Son's one offering of Himself to the Father in Spirit and Truth to a memorial meal. Cardinal Ottaviani noted this in 1969. Significantly, there is no reference to Calvary anywhere in Paragraph 78 of GIRM. Indeed, many other commentators, much more learned in this field than yours truly, have noted that the three Eucharistic prayers composed specifically for the Novus Ordo strain the credulity of both the priest and faithful concerning the very sacrificial nature of the Mass. This is very much the case with Eucharistic Prayer II, and it is glaringly apparent in the five additional Eucharistic prayers (for reconciliation and for use in Masses celebrated for children) composed since 1969, some of which are less complete doctrinally than Eucharistic Prayer II.

    Nowhere does Paragraph 78 or 79 note that the words of consecration (referred to in GIRM as the "institution narrative," implying that the words spoken by the priest over the elements of bread and wine are merely narrating a past event which is not being made present at that moment by his own work as an alter Christus acting in persona Christi) have been changed even in what is now called Eucharistic Prayer I, The Roman Canon. This is unprecedented in the history of the Latin rite. Monsignor Klaus Gamber noted this in his The Reform of the Roman Liturgy. "Pope Paul VI saw fit to alter the words of Consecration and Institution, unchanged in the Roman liturgy for 1,500 years-a change that was neither intended by the [Second Vatican] Council nor of any discernible pastoral benefit. Truly problematic, in fact truly scandalous, is the translation of the phrase pro multis as 'for all,' a translation inspired by modern theological thinking but not to be found in any historical liturgical text." Indeed. The structure and the language of the recently composed Eucharistic prayers betray a commitment to a sense of novelty which has done much to undermine belief in the Real Presence and in the sacrificial nature of the Mass itself. Moreover, the belief that the people have to add their "assent" in the Final Doxology in order to ratify the work of the priest is very much akin to the Calvinist belief that it is that all government, including ecclesiastical government, derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed. There are liturgists who do indeed frankly assert that it is the "Eucharist" or "Liturgy" is merely presided over by the "presbyter" but ratified by the presence and active participation of the faithful. John Calvin, call your office. And it is important to remember at this juncture that a layman who was a friend of Pope Paul VI noted in an interview on French television in 1993 (translated by Latin Mass Magazine and carried in its Winter 1994 edition) that it was the intent of Pope Paul to conform the Catholic Mass as closely as possible to the Calvinist liturgy of the Lord's Supper. The recently composed Eucharistic prayers reflect that intent quite fully.

    Also hidden in Paragraph 78 and 79 is any discussion of how radically the recently composed Eucharistic prayers are in relation to the Roman Canon. As Monsignor Gamber wrote: "What is especially noteworthy is the exclusion, without apparent reason, of the words mysterium fidei (see 1 Timothy 3-9), words that had been part of the consecration formula since the sixth century. These words have by now acquired a purpose: they take the form of an exclamation by the priest the transubstantiation. Certainly, an exclamation like Mysterium fidei! Was note used before in this particular context. The people's response, "...we proclaim your death..." can be found only in some Egyptian anaphorae. It is foreign to all other Oriental rites and to all Occident Eucharistic Prayers; and it really is not stylistically suited to the Roman Canon. Besides, it is an abrupt change from addressing God the Father to addressing God the Son." While there are those who will never admit that the recently composed Eucharistic prayers have in fact undermined faith in the Real Presence, it is nevertheless true that the fixed nature of the Roman Canon undergirded Catholic faith and provided even illiterate peasants in the Middle Ages with the understanding that the Church is our true home, whose permanence is reflected in part by the fixed nature of the Canon.

Paragraph 80 of GIRM reads as follows:

       Paragraph 80 of GIRM reads as follows: "Since the Eucharistic celebration is the paschal meal, it is right that the faithful who are properly disposed receive the Lord's body and blood as spiritual food as he commanded. This is the purpose of the breaking of bread and the other preparatory rites that lead the faithful directly to communion."
    Comment and Analysis:

    Once again, GIRM demonstrates its schizophrenic nature. The word "Mass" is used once in a while. Now and then there is a reference or two to the "Eucharistic sacrifice." Predominantly, however, GIRM refers to the Mass as the "Eucharistic celebration" or the "paschal meal." This very overt shift of emphasis in the nature of the Mass is reflected in the new rituals associated with the Communion Rite which takes place following the Final Doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer. Although the Sacrifice of the Cross has been extended in time in what is called now the Eucharistic Prayer, the faithful attending Mass are told to focus on themselves and the community around them during the Communion Rite. This is not explicitly called for in GIRM. Rather, GIRM's reference to the "paschal meal" and "spiritual food" reflects is anthropocentric and communitarian bias. The rituals have changed so dramatically as to profane the moment at which the faithful should be concentrating upon being disposed interiorly for the reception of Holy Communion, not on the external manifestations of a false, contrived and coerced sense of community togetherness as though our Lord is truly present in the assembled faithful just as much as He is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Parenthetically, it is interesting to note that the English translation of GIRM published in 2000 by the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy of the then National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now called the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) uses lower case letters when referring to our Lord as "he" or "his." Just an observation. Take it for what it is worth.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

Next Friday: Part Thirty-seven There can be no peace in the piece-meal new order

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January 25-27, 2002
volume 13, no. 15
CHRIST or chaos
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