Ms. Audrey Seah’s recent article on performatism (“Performatism or Theological Aesthetics of the Liturgy?”, PTB, 6 January 2013) certainly raises the possibility for the analysis of an almost infinite spectrum of performances in liturgy. One of the core performances in the Roman liturgy is the celebrant/presider’s recitation or chanting of the anaphora. I have noticed over the years that a performative angle has sharply divided Catholics over the question of the anaphora in the reformed Mass liturgy. Not infrequently, performative frames isolate certain eucharistic prayers as suitable for certain occasions, or not suitable for any occasion.
Frequent PTB readers might have noticed that I have a very strong intellectual and spiritual devotion to the Roman Canon. At one point in my spiritual and religious development, I considered the Roman Canon to be the only “orthodox” eucharistic prayer. The CDWDS (7 January 2000) has rejected this position as erroneous. Nevertheless, I suspect that I am not the only traditionally or conservatively minded Catholic who has harbored a degree of antipathy towards the three “new” eucharistic prayers introduced in 1968 or the eucharistic prayers added to the reformed missal since 1970. Indeed, an unyielding or even daresay fundamentalist insistence that only the Roman Canon is the only “worthy” eucharistic prayer is a performative frame fiercely protected by some (including myself, even now to some degree) but also quite fragile in light of more recent liturgical and theological developments.
I pose this question: in what way do liturgically progressive (for want of a better term) brothers and sisters understand the role of the Roman Canon within the Pauline liturgy? Why has the celebration of this anaphora declined significantly after the introduction of alternative eucharistic prayers? Lastly, does the complex and ancient Latin of the Roman Canon hinder both an understandable vernacular interpretation and subsequently hinder an assembly’s role in the eucharistic prayer? Put simply, I ask that PTB readers construct and deconstruct an alternate frame for eucharistic prayer performance.