Among the suggestions for “mutual enrichment” of the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms is the suggestion that the Offertory prayers of the 1962 Missal either replace or be allowed as an alternative to the prayers at the Preparation of the Gifts in the Ordinary Form.
Of course the discrepancy between the terms “Offertory” and “Preparation of the Gifts” immediately points up a difficulty. In the post-conciliar revision of the Mass a very deliberate decision was made to move away from a sacrificial understanding of what takes place with the bread and wine prior to the Eucharistic Prayer. This was in part a result of several centuries of intense reflection on the nature of the Mass as a sacrifice that came in the wake of 16th-century Protestant criticisms of that teaching.
One of the result of that reflection was a consensus position within the Catholic Church that the primary sense in which the Eucharist is a sacrifice is that it is the anamnesis or ritual re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ, in which Christ himself is the principle agent. Moreover, this ritual re-presentation was understood as taking place in the Canon itself, not in the prayers prior to the Canon (i.e. the “Offertory” prayers). Appearances sometimes to the contrary (e.g. the request in the Suscipe sancta Trinitas that God “accept. . . this offering which we make make to you in memory of the passion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ,” which certainly sounds like an anamnesis), these prayers were explained as proleptic of the actual offering, which took place in the Canon. I would stress that this clarification of the nature Eucharistic sacrifice was not some bit of “progressive” theology, but can be found in such impeccably orthodox works as Anscar Vonier’s A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist.
Thus the decision was made that, rather than trying to revise these prayers to reflect the theological clarifications that had taken place since the 16th century, new prayers would be composed, based on the Jewish berekah form, that would make clear that what was taking place was a preparation for the sacrifice, not an anticipation of it.
So, in light of all this, here are some questions that arise for me, both with regard to the post-conciliar revision and with regard to the suggestion that the Extraordinary Form prayers be used with the Ordinary Form:
- Was it wise for the Consilium to create new prayers out of whole cloth? If it was thought desirable to have a simpler rite of preparing the gifts prior to the Canon, would it not have been better to use forms found in one of the other historic rites of the Church, such as the extremely simple offertory rite of the Carthusian Missal?
- If the Extraordinary Form prayers are inserted into the Ordinary Form, does this change the fundamental nature of what is going on, making it an offertory rather than a preparation? If such a change were made, would it be allowable to say the prayers aloud, as with the current Ordinary Form prayers? If not, should we care all that much about what prayers get said?
- On a more strictly theological note: some have suggested that while the Canon/Eucharistic Prayer is the proper locus for the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ, the Eucharistic sacrifice also involves a distinct “sacrifice of the Church” — i.e. the offering of our life and labors to God — that is embodied in the offertory. If this is a theologically worthy idea (and I am not convinced it is), do either the Extraordinary or Ordinary Form prayers adequately express it?