Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Three Most Untraditional Prayers

Most of the Mass in the Ordinary Form is the same as the corresponding parts of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, or in an edited version thereof.  

For instance, the modern Confiteor is a shortened and rehashed version of the traditional text; and, given the multiplicity of different versions of the Confiteor since it developed in mediæval times, one more variant is quite reasonable.  Similarly, adding phrases to the Kyrie is a modern revival, albeit in rather different form, of the mediæval practice of adding tropes to the Kyrie.  One could say similar things about having three readings rather than two, changing from a Gradual of two verses to a Responsorial Psalm using more, reviving the mediæval "bidding of the bedes" as the General Intercessions – these forms are related in the broad sense.

The introductory words for the penitential rite seem derived from various mediæval formulæ for the kiss of peace; the Dominus vobiscum is moved from before the Collect to right at the start of the Mass (where two other options are given, one of them being that used in the East at the start of the Anaphora)... more variation!

Many of the prayers at the offertory remain the same or almost so: the prayer at the mixing of the chalice is shortened from its older form and altered in one word; the In spiritu humilitatis and Orate fratres remain unchanged; at the washing of the priest's hands, rather than the psalm verses beginning with Lavabo, instead Ps 50:2, Lava me, is now employed.

But now it is time to reveal my list of three most untraditional prayers:
  • the two offertory prayers "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation...";
  • the Memorial Acclamation;
  • the doxology "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours..." ending the Embolism after the Lord's Prayer.

Bugnini's twins, the two made-up offertory prayers derived from Jewish table blessings, are totally untraditional, turning some theories dear to liturgists about how the Eucharist first developed into rather lame effusions to be read at Mass.  And why?  Because, as that fellow candidly admitted, it was feared – feared! – that if no new offertory prayers were made up and imposed, priests would just keep on saying the old ones!  Both prayers are terribly didactic; as Bp Elliott joked in a similar regard, their focus on bread and wine being fruit of the earth and vine, the work of human hands, seems to turn the Eucharist into a cereal offering and a libation.  Both do say "we offer" and are careful to state that these elements do arise from God's bounty as the Creator of all (of the earth, of plants, of human hands), for which we bless Him; both do allude to the coming transsubstantiation of the offered bread and wine into the very Bread of life and that which is our spiritual drink.  All that said, they remain in my estimation sorry substitutes for the rich variety of offertory prayers developed during mediæval times.

The Memorial Acclamation is a complete innovation, featuring in no Western Rite; it is found in the Egyptian or Coptic Rite, in the form "Thy death, Lord, we announce and Thy holy resurrection and ascension we confess" – whence evidently comes the first of the three options for this Acclamation in the modern Roman Rite; the other two, one quoting St Paul, and the other seemingly a mediæval antiphon from Holy Week, are utterly new.  (It goes without saying that the old ICEL paraphrase we've been saddled with these forty years renders these very imperfectly, even managing to turn three options into four!)  As one scholar observed, it would be better to insert these Acclamations after the anamnesis, rather than directly after the Consecration.  I would argue that they take away from the proper emphasis on adoring the Lord at the Elevations, and on therefore joining in offering His Sacrifice made present, remembering His saving works: they ought be suppressed.

It is completely unliturgical to delete the already existing doxology of the Embolism, replace it with one customarily used with the Lord's Prayer alone, and then get everyone to say it together.  Frankly, this is the most Protestant-influenced part of the new Mass, and really grates.  It is as if the liturgical reformers realized that they couldn't add this doxology to the Lord's Prayer itself (where it is found in the Byzantine Rite – but said by the priest alone), since then its link with the Embolism would be broken, so in defiance of all rules they appended it to the Embolism instead.  Worst of all, getting the congregation to say this as a response instead of the expected Amen has encouraged the terrible practice of all and sundry joining in singing or saying the doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Per ipsum.

Some may now have noticed that I write not of the modern multiplicity of Eucharistic Prayers as untraditional: yes, for the moment that question is beyond the scope of this article; I would argue that such multiplicity is now a central characteristic of the modern Roman Rite...

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