Thursday, August 27, 2009


I've been participating in some discussions (see Piltdown Man* and Hippolytus again) of that annoyingly short and poor Eucharistic Prayer II over at an Anglican, very High Church blog called Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes...

[* alluding to the famous fossil forgery]

As all men know, the trendy liturgists who took over liturgical reforms in the Roman Rite in the sixties (and arguably did a pretty bad job of it, introducing all manner of discontinuities) were obsessed by the fabled ancientry and purity of a very early consecratory prayer found in a document attributed to St Hippolytus, the only antipope ever to die a martyr and end up a saint!

As Dix long ago observed, the prayer is self-consciously archaizing even for a third-century Roman writer, and there is no evidence it was ever used - it may be considered an academic exercise - let alone was once the Eucharistic Prayer of the Church of Rome before the Peace of the Church and the advent of what became the Roman Canon (first attested to in the late 4th Century by St Ambrose).

Surprise, surprise, no modern liturgist now believes this effusion was really written by St Hippolytus (his "Apostolic Tradition" isn't actually his!), yet, perversely, it is de facto the Eucharistic Prayer of the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form (yes, very ordinary) of the modern Roman Rite. It is beloved of the clergy for its brevity, and sadly is far more used to-day than the Roman Canon: apparently in some countries especially it is almost always used.

The one and only Canon used in the Roman Rite for 1600 years or so has been largely replaced by a pastiche, less than half of which is even from Pseudo-Hippolytus, the rest was added by a committee. So much for the hermeneutic of continuity: this is a terrible example of its nemesis, the hermeneutic of disruption.

Being less explicit about sacrifice and oblation than other Eucharistic Prayers, it is a sad choice that speaks volumes for the confusion about and minimalist, doubting attitude toward the Mass found nowadays. It's not nicknamed the Quickie Canon and the Lutheran Canon for nothing!


Bizarrely, one other Rite adopted Pseudo-Hippolytus as the basis of its Anaphora - the Ethiopian!


Patricius said...

Apart from the tedium of the Novus Ordo, the lop-sided balance between the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful (called nowadays, as you know, the ''liturgy of the Word'' and the ''liturgy of the Eucharist'') is another thing that irritates me about it. For Scripture is wrongly emphasized over what is more important about the Mass, the Consecration. A long-drawn-out sequence of meaningless Scripture readings (with a Psalm thrown in), and a hasty Canon, does not constitute a proper Mass for me; and if you ask me, the Canon of the Mass ought not to be garbled like that.

Joshua said...

Yes, there has been atrophy of the rites of preparation, hypertrophy of the Liturgy of the Word, atrophy of the offertory and even of the Canon... While not as extreme as the Lutheran and other deletions and modifications, they do detract from the Mass.

Anonymous said...

'meaningless Scripture readings', Patricius? That's the sort of thing that gives traddies a bad name!

Joshua said...

Understand the hyperbole: it must be admitted that the dose of Scripture given at the modern Mass is perhaps over-large and ill-digested: I think there is a lot to be said for a less-is-more approach, particularly as having lectio continua for the Gospel, with an unrelated lectio continua for the Epistle, plus an Old Testament text chosen for its parallel with the Gospel (all chosen by exegetes rather than by liturgical scholars) makes for a sometimes confusing collection of verbiage. A one year cycle that becomes familiar is arguably easier for people to appreciate. Recall that the modern (sixties) obsession with a vastly extended Lectionary is quite untraditional - indeed, the mark of ancient lectionaries is their apparent paucity! Too much emphasis is put on lectio continua to-day, and moreover the only counterveiling tendency is bowdlerization, the omission (as Paul VI foolishly decreed) of any "hurtful" or confusing verses, which are precisely the ones our complacent universalist Pelagian generation needs.