Thursday, December 17, 2009

Which We Now Offer Unto Thee

The Nonjuror and Scottish Episcopalian liturgies of the eighteenth century, together with their daughter the U.S. Episcopalian, are noteworthy because, alone of all Protestant liturgies, they dared to use the words "we offer" in reference to the consecrated elements.

Amusingly enough, it was neither the Nonjurors (in their 1718 Communion Office, using the phraseology of the Apostolic Constitutions), nor the Scottish Episcopalians (first in their 1735 Communion Office using the key phrase "which we now offer unto thee"), but an eighteenth century Arian, William Whiston, who in his 1713 suggested liturgy first used the phrase "we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, these thy gifts".

All of these relied upon what, in their uncritical naivete, they accepted as the most primitive and ancient, and therefore the most reliable and uncorrupt liturgy - the Apostolic Constitutions, now considered pseudonymous and tainted by Arianism.

While the theory of those Enlightenment divines, based upon the phrase in St Basil's Liturgy, was that the proposited gifts (prokeimena dôra) were offered as antitypes of Christ's Body and Blood, having been initially made such by the rehearsal of the Lord's words, and subsequently confirmed as such "in power and effect", sans transsubstantiation (that Roman notion), by the ensuing epiclesis or invocation of the Holy Ghost, in practice this acceptance of the Eucharist as a sacrificial rite of oblation - going far beyond what Lutherans would accept or permit, be it noted - opened the way for more advanced and Catholic notions to take hold.

In the Byzantine Rite, at least in its Slavic version, at the words "Thine own of Thine own do we offer unto Thee", the deacon - not the priest - elevates the paten and chalice, crossing his hands while doing so.

Most suggestively, in manuscripts and old printed copies of the various Scottish Episcopalian editions of their liturgy can be seen marginal notes such as eleva (lift up), and one old custom of theirs, the reverse of the Eastern (and mediæval Western) was to set the paten on the right and the chalice on the left - thus it appears that they perhaps copied but simplified this liturgical elevation as a gesture of offering, though keeping it for the celebrant to perform.

(This did not parallel the Latin Rite elevation at the words of consecration, but rather the little elevation at the Per ipsum ending the Canon, a rite of oblation that continues, somewhat simplified, in the modern Roman Rite to-day).

The Nonjurors, and their friends north of the border, thought that by observing the Eastern sequence of institution narrative, oblation and invocation, they avoided the Roman doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass, since the elements were offered before they were 'completely' consecrated, whatever that means. Yet, by subjoining the Prayer for the Church as a series of intercessions made while the fully consecrated gifts lay upon the altar, especially as the prayer (until 1912) said explicitly "accept our... oblations [the Nonjurors even capitalizing Oblations], and [thereby?]... receive these our prayers", it appears very much as if sacrifice were being offered up for determinate ends, as a sacrifice not merely of worship and thanksgiving, but of expiation for all faults and impetration for all ends.

In this, they were in a sense paralleling the well-known Eastern words of the oblation, coming at the end of the anamnesis: "Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, on account of (kata) all and for (dia) all".

Kucharek, in his commentary upon The Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, notes that this extremely concise phrase may be said to mean God's holy gifts of Christ's Body and Blood are offered up "on account of all that Thou hast done for us and through all that Thou hast done for us", where the things done are the magnalia mirabilia Dei enumerated in the immediately preceding words of the liturgical memorial:

Remembering therefore this command of our Saviour and all that He had endured for us: the Cross, the Grave, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Session at the Right Hand of the Father, and the Second and glorious Coming again.

But this "for all" may also be taken as looking forward to the many petitions soon to be made while "Again we offer thee this reasonable worship for (hyper)...".

This is well phrased in a very similar way (though dating back to Cranmer, deriving from the Roman Canon's Unde et memores) in the Scottish recension of the Anglican Prayer of Oblation, including the crucial words:

Wherefore, O Lord, and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, we thy humble servants do celebrate and make here before thy Divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion, and precious death, his mighty resurrection, and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same [, and looking for his coming again with power and great glory - added in 1912].

By offering the holy gifts set forth, they believed themselves fulfilling Christ's command to do this in His memory, as the memorial of His saving works - and they were scholars diligent enough to know that "do" in this phrase, as shown by its usage in the Septuagint Greek and the underlying Hebrew, can have a sacrificial, oblationary connotation. Thus they considered they rendered thanks to the Lord for the great works of His Christ and the benefits gained thereby.

Next, as in the Eastern rites they reverenced, they placed the Invocation or epiclesis, and directly afterward prayed:

And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion.

This may very well be seen as foreshadowing the intercessions to come, praying that this sacrifice commemorative of Christ's precious death, will be not merely one of "praise and thanksgiving", but worthy to "obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of his passion" for "all thy whole Church".

In the explanatory Preface to their 1718 Communion Office the Nonjuror compilers wrote:

THE Eucharistick Sacrifice being the most efficacious Means for Pardon and Graces ought to be perform'd with proportionable Care and Solemnity.
The Prayer for the whole State of Christ’s Church is much the same with that in the First Reform’d English Liturgy. But the Order is changed, by putting it after the Prayer for Consecration : For when the Sacrifice, commemorative of that upon the Cross, is finish'd, and God the Father propitiated by this Memorial; 'tis then the most proper Time to declare the Ends of the Oblation, and recommend the Church tb the Divine Protection.

The Nonjuror Brett, in his 1718 A Collection of the Principal Liturgies... (page 270) wrote likewise:

The reason of the thing also pleads for the putting the prayer for all estates and conditions of men after the consecration; for as it is one general end of sacrifice, and of this eucharistical sacrifice in particular, to render our prayers more effectual, is certainly most proper, that the sacrifice or oblation should be first offered, and that prayer should be made whilst it lies upon the altar, and is already dedicated to God. So that we have antiquity, universality, and consent, for praying for all estates and conditions of men whenever we offer the Christian sacrifice, which may satisfy us that such prayer is necessary at that time; and we have the more ancient and general practice of the Church, and the reason of the thing also, to satisfy us that it is most proper, at least, that this prayer should be made after the consecration, and not before it: which is sufficient to justify those, who having found it necessary to compile a new communion office for their own use, have judged it expedient so to place this prayer; though they would not have altered the old office merely for the sake of such a transposition.

Similarly, the eighteenth century Scottish Episcopalian Bishop, and learned liturgiologist, Rattray, who in 1744 made for his own use an elegant edition of the Liturgy of St James, wrote: "…Then the Priest maketh intercession in virtue of this sacrifice thus offered up in commemoration of, and union with, the one great personal Sacrifice of Christ, for the whole Catholick Church, and pleadeth the merits of this one Sacrifice in behalf of all estates and conditions of men in it, offering this memorial thereof not for the living only but for the dead also..." (quoted in Dowden & Wilson, The Scottish Communion Office, 1764... (1922), page 232).


At this time, when according to all reports the Vatican is having compiled a new and improved version of the Anglican Use for those Anglicans desirous of entering into full communion with the Holy See, I believe it to be essential that, if any Anglican Canon or Eucharistic Prayer be edited and approved for use - as famously one was not in the Book of Divine Worship - then, unlike all but the old Scottish Episcopalian forms, it must include more than just a hint of intercession, attesting practically thereby - as do all the modern Roman Eucharistic Prayers - that the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered up for determinate ends.

Consider for instance even the maligned Eucharistic Prayer II, certainly the shortest and probably the least explicitly sacrificial of the modern Roman forms, which I will quote in its debased ICEL paraphase, soon at last to be improved upon: "In memory of his death and resurrection we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup" (which have previously been prayed for that "they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ... [who] said... this is my body... given up for you... this is the cup of my blood... shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven...").

The lifegiving Body and Blood of the Lord are solemnly offered to the Father; and here I note what one sometimes sees at Mass: many a priest of the less solemn kind will quite unconsciously point at the paten and chalice while saying "we offer... this... bread... this... cup". One imagines that over time the traditional gestures of making crosses - not of blessing, but of signification - over the consecrated elements will be restored, pointing to their oblation as the One Sacrifice made present.

Furthermore, even in E.P. II (the "quickie" Canon, even the "Lutheran" Canon, as some detractors call it!), intercessions are made for:
  • the Church throughout the world;
  • the Pope;
  • the bishop;
  • the clergy;
  • by contrary custom, "for all your people" (as in the other longer E.P.'s);
  • for the dead, to be brought into the light of God's presence;
  • "for us all" to be shown mercy and to be made worthy of eternal life with the saints -
for of course the saints - "Mary the Virgin Mother of God, with the apostles and with all the saints" - are commemorated, as, be it noted, Roman decree requires any would-be Eucharistic Prayer must contain.

At a minimum, any forthcoming Anglican Canon must include these intercessions.

I note that the two variant forms of the Anglican liturgy modified and approved for Orthodox use have been thus supplemented, by inserting two paragraphs of the Roman Canon: the Memento etiam (for the dead) and the Nobis quoque (praying for "us sinners" to be granted part and parcel with a list of saints.

I would argue that, if this manner of supplementation be used, some phrase answering to the Roman Canon's In primis (praying for the Church, by name for the Pope and bishop, and for and all right-believers) would also need adding.

No comments: