What Sister Never Knew and Father Never Told You…About the Mass as Sacrifice

Whoever runs the blog about church history “What Sister Never Knew and Father Never Told You” knows his stuff. (I’m assuming it’s a ‘he,’ what do you think?) He tells us he’s a professional historian with a Ph.D. plus with a masters in theology from Rome. Sisters of Mercy in grade school, then Jesuit-trained in high school and college. Masters and doctorate “from a private East Coast university (where Jews teach Christianity to atheists).” He’s “thoroughly committed to the program of the Second Vatican Council as it was promulgated in 1965 (as contrasted with how it has been reinterpreted, in some cases almost out of existence) by both self-appointed and divinely anointed authorities over the last thirty-some years.”

Be all that purple prose as it may, I like what he just posted on the nature of Eucharist as sacrifice. It’s clear and to the point. The distinctions are clearly drawn, which has great pedagogical value. I’d start with an account like this, and then maybe nuance it a bit and I suppose I’d pull back from some generalizations about emotional health of some clergy. Oh, and I’d try to finesse the continuity/rupture thing to say that there are (drawing on Benedict XVI) ruptures within greater continuities, and that the reformed rite is in continuity with the core of the old rite, however much it was distorted and occluded back there. And everyone please note, he does not deny that the Mass is a sacrifice. Any comments that don’t get that will be deleted.

But enough from me. Let’s get to him. He shows why for so many of us there can’t be a going back to the old rite – no way, no how. What do you think?

Had sixteenth-century Catholicism maintained the scriptural roots of patristic theology, the second problem – the exaggerated notion of Eucharistic sacrifice in which each Mass was seen as a new and unique Sacrifice of Christ to the Father – would not have been problematic. The loss of the patristic heritage and its replacement with Scholastic theology in the thirteenth and subsequent centuries created an appalling mystique to the Mass where it was claimed that Christ died anew and again day after day upon the altars. This stands in total contradiction to the scriptures where we are told that Christ died once for all (1 Peter 3:18; Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:28). Each Mass was seen to be in its own right a propitiatory sacrifice and each priest an Aaronic priest who offered the victim to God on behalf of the people. The priest was not seen to be a sacramental sharer in the one priesthood of the One Priest, Christ, but like the priests of the Old Law a man who approached the sacrifice in virtue of his own priesthood. (Shadows of this exaggerated – and blasphemous – claim to a particular priesthood continue to exist among some clergy today, especially those given to the pre-conciliar rites.  The roots of this egoistic self-deception are psychological inadequacies that make men hide within an artificial persona that deludes them into a faux greatness that compensates for a lack of an authentic grace of knowing one’s true self in God. That is why these men usually make horrid confessors who sit in judgment rather than as channels of the compassion of Christ who was tempted in every way we are: Hebrews, 4:15.)  The medieval scholastic theologians not only exaggerated the sacrificial nature of the Mass to make it repetitive of Calvary, but they invented a second sacrifice in which bread and wine were offered to God at the “offertory” of the Mass.

In the liturgical reforms of Paul VI in the 1970 Missal, the Mass was radically restructured to take away any pretense of this second sacrifice. There is no “offertory” of bread and wine, but rather a “preparation of the gifts” in which the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist. The only sacrifice is the sharing in the One Eternal Sacrifice of Calvary as we “proclaim the Death of the Lord until he comes in glory.” This is the major objection of those who challenge the 1970 Missal. There is a clear break here with the 1962 and earlier Missals that follow the 1570 liturgical revisions of Pius V, and indeed many of the medieval rites that had developed and on which Pius V based his reforms after the Council of Trent. And this is precisely where we see claims to a “hermeneutic of continuity” in the liturgy to be unsupported by fact. I agree with those who claim that the Novus Ordo represents a break with the past: the 1570 and 1970 Missals have very different theologies of Eucharistic Sacrifice.  Where I disagree with them is that it is very clear to me that it is the 1570 Missal, not the 1970 Rite, that deviates from the Apostolic (and patristic) Tradition.


  1. But enough from me. Let’s get to him. He shows why for so many of us there can’t be a going back to the old rite – no way, no how. What do you think?

    I can’t think a whole lot of it — seeing as said author makes no citations to any of his claims, especially the more grave ones such as that “each Mass was seen to be in its own right a propitiatory sacrifice and each priest an Aaronic priest who offered the victim to God on behalf of the people” — yet the tie to the “Priesthood of Melchizedek” of which Christ is High Priest is evident in the Usus antiquior when one examines the prayers of the Offertory (which make offerings of the bread and wine — a connection not only lacking in the Missal of Paul VI, but deliberately excised.

    As to the arguments in the first paragraph — they sound more like the arguments that my Calvinist college mates used to argue againtst ANY Mass (regardless of the rite or use used) to undermine even the One Sacrifice of the Cross that is re-presented in either use of the Roman Rite and any valid Eucharistic Liturgy.

    As to my thoughts on the author: having read several other blog posts, he reads like one completely lacking in charity — disrespectful, irreverant, crass. To add to this, he is arrogant enough to boast of his degrees, and too much a coward to be transparent enough to identify himself.

    And as a side note…. there seems to be a great deal of confusion about this continuity from 1962 to 1970. In the RotR Redux thread, I had Rita Ferrone arguing to the internet equivalent of being blue-in-the-face that the Missal of Paul VI is completely in continuity with the Missal of 1570/1962 because of what the GIRM says about the Missal of Paul VI being a continuation of the reforms of Trent and now of Vatican II.

    Which is it? Never mind consistency between the arguments — any stick seems fine as long as it “proves” the proponents of the RotR or the EF wrong. All this accomplishes is further convincing me that Kocik may well be right.

    1. @Matthew Morelli – comment #2:
      Let’s stick with just this post, not the rest of his blog or your other conversations with Rita about whatever.
      It’s a form of nitpicking to say that he doesn’t cite sources. He’s generalizing broadly about massive trends. One senses that his sources are everything he’s read in theology the last 50 years. To be sure, one could turn his post into an academic article with citations and I would welcome that. But this is a different genre, and can’t be dismissed because of that.
      To #6:
      Regarding Cranmer, if you don’t know the difference between that and what this author is writing, you’re skating close to the warning I put in the post about comments that will be deleted. And if you think Trent’s decrees settle the issues of our time, well… where to begin?

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #10:

        The side-issues I will leave alone from here on out —

        As to the not citing of sources — this is NOT nit-picking. Our anonymous purported scholar makes a generalized statement, characterizing it as the position of the evil, evil Scholastics. Yet as Ed rightly points out above, it was that same Scholasticism that undergirded Trent (and the revision of the Roman Missal into that of 1570).

        The straw man our scholar sets up seems, at best, to be an erroneous position held by some theologians during the Scholastic period. But we have no way of knowing this, because he cannot be bothered to cite it. If he wishes to be a scholar, he needs to be a scholar — if for no other reason than for the benefit of those of us who might wish to research/fact-check what he is saying instead of believing it simply because he says it.

        Re #6: I happily understand both distinctions. Your complaint is with your scholar, who makes a dangerously close connection between Cranmer and the postconciliar liturgical reform.

      2. @Matthew Morelli – comment #12:
        It would be interesting (though I confess I don’t have the time to do it myself right now) to wander around the blogosphere and find comments made by people in the last 50 years or so that betray exactly the problem the author attributes to the Scholastics. And if I may defend the Scholastics a bit, I think the problem is greater in latter-day would be “orthodox” Catholics than it is in the Scholastics themselves. And then it would be interesting to see patterns between advocacy of old rite and theology of sacrifice and priesthood which pretty much looks like an Aaronic priest offering sacrifice on behalf of the people. I’ve seen exactly that kind of thing more than once on trad sites recently.

      3. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #15:
        This business of the Aaronic priest is what needs to be taken out of the equation.

        It is very true that a typological reading of the OT to “explain” the Mass was favored in the period before the Council, and has been the source of more than one distortion.

      4. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #15:

        How about giving us an example of a text from the old rite, not existing in the new, which provides evidence that the old rite supported the view that the priest is offering a sacrifice somehow independent of Calvary? Otherwise your linked bloggers post is just a castle in the air, which just happens to come to a result who already agree with (that is, your confirmation bias is showing).

        The only people from which I have heard such a argument is modern evangelicals, who oppose the idea of the Real Presence, on the basis it would mean we are (trying at least) to re-crucify Christ at each Mass. Such modern evangelicals however consider their argument would apply equally to the new rite (the Catholic response being of course, that the only sacrifice is the sharing in the One Eternal Sacrifice of Calvary).

        If instead you are just trying to say some modern supporters of the old rites are writing erroneous nonsense, that is likely true and should be noted, but it must also be noted erroneous nonsense is also written by many Catholics who have nothing to do with the old rite.

      5. @Scott Smith – comment #33:
        We don’t need a “gotcha” text. Just look at the whole structure of the celebration, including the priest using a language almost no one else knows, and with his back to the people (or ad orientem or whatever your term), and the people having little or no vocal role in the rite. Would anyone among the laity every come up with the idea that the priest is the one offering the sacrifice, and he’s doing it for the people and on behalf of the people?

        Of course they would, and did. And I heard exactly that idea many times from my most pious and devout older relatives. And when I was ordained and they’d give me their Mass intentions, I’d hear the language they would use to describe what they thought was happening when they “paid for a Mass.” They were paying me to do something for them. And clearly they would be happy whether I offered a private Mass with no server, or celebrated abbey conventual Mass, or concelebrated with 20 other priests – either way, I “did a Mass” for them, since I’m the priest.

        I’m pretty sure my relatives are not the only people on planet earth who saw things this way. I’m pretty sure that their piety was entirely typical of the great body of lay people around the world. It’s what the old rite taught them, with its centuries of its formative effect upon people’s theology.


      6. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #36:


        With respect, arguments based on “the vibe” of a thing are best left to movies, rather than real life (cf The Castle, which as an Australian, is my favourite home grown movie).

        One limitation our discussion has brought out is that distinctions, which you noted were “clearly drawn” in the linked post, are very quickly blurred.

        Your initial comments appear to indicate a belief the old rite somehow had the priest offering a sacrifice independent of Calvary. Your most recent comment how seems to be talking the old rite generating a understanding of the mass in which the priest offers mass without reference to the lay faithful.

        These are very different criticisms of the old rite, and the truth of one does not support the truth of the other. In particular, while your most recent comment is actually reasonable IMO, it does not support the very odd criticism in the linked post.

      7. @Scott Smith – comment #38:
        We fine “the vibe” of the old rite problematic, and the easily observable results of it upon piety of lay people devastating… so we dismiss “the vibe” as irrelevant? You seem to say we shouldn’t observe the thing or its implications.

        Blurred distinctions are still distinctions. Most all distinctions in theology – it’s not an exact science – become somewhat blurry when you press them. But in this case, the blurry distinctions remain, and they can’t be ignored.

        New sacrifice independent of Calvary, priest independent of lay faithful – these are closely related problems. Two sides of the same coin, namely a distorted notion of what an ordained priest is. Do you not see the connection?


      8. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #41:


        Clear distinctions are important if we are going to make any sense. For example, the effects on the laity are evidence, the “vibe” is not. Confusing them means your conclusions run ahead of your evidence.

        In terms of the connection you see between a new sacrifice independent of Calvary, and a priest independent of lay faithful.

        First show me some evidence anyone actually thinks the former, or the old rite provide some support for that belief, and then we can talk about what it might be connected with.

        Otherwise you are drawing connections with imaginary things.

      9. @Scott Smith – comment #45:
        No, let’s drop this conversation. You don’t seem to believe we can make observations about the old rite – presumably because they might be negative – so let’s leave it at that.

      10. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #47:
        Father Anthony,

        You sound just like a traditionalist who will point to a survey that shows that only 2/3 of Catholics today believe in the Real Presence, and declares that the Ordinary Form destroys faith in the Real Presence.

      11. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #48:
        Baloney. There is nothing in the Ordinary Form to lessen faith in the Real Presence (that stupid survey is inaccurate, starting with the wording of the questions, btw). But there are plenty of things about the whole aura of the Extraordinary Form that gave and give lots of people the impression that only the priest offers sacrifice and he does it on behalf of the congregation.

        Here is the key point: the more one accepts Vatican II, the more my above statement makes sense. So much of the tedious bickering on this blog is from people who don’t really ‘get’ or accept the whole point of Vatican II and the resulting liturgical reform. These defenders of the EF just can’t get it that what they’re defending is something about which the fathers of the Second Vatican Council took a different judgment. The bishops at Vatican II really did think it needed reform and shouldn’t continue in it’s then-current form. If one accepts that judgment, much falls into place. If not, we get this endless bickering and nitpicking.


      12. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #49:
        Father Anthony,

        I agree that the survey was inaccurate, I was simply drawing an analogy between the way you’re criticizing the EF, and the way that some traditionalists criticize the OF. You perceive a lack of understanding on the part of people formed by the EF and draw a conclusion about the rite itself. They perceive a lack of understanding on the part of people formed by the OF and draw a conclusion about the rite itself.
        I must say I’m confused as to why you keep posting things that criticize the EF and the reform of the reform if you’re tired of pointless bickering about these issues. Why don’t you keep the focus on the other 99% of the church that this blog is written for and leave traditionalists to watching their sacred dramas? (or is it having priests offer sacrifices to God on their behalf? I get confused as to what characterization you slap onto traditionalists which week)

      13. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #47:
        They need to be objective, evidence-based observations rather than some anecdotes and personal feelings. The problem with most of the arguments presented here as if they are damning evidence the EF should not be celebrated today is that they don’t go very deep. Once someone presses for explanations and evidence it becomes “I’m tired of this conversation/let’s drop it/we’ve talked about this too much already” or the thread is closed.

        Did it ever occur to you that most of your arguments presented here only seem effective on those who already accepted the conclusions, but are largely ineffective on those who have not? Claiming we are all petty bickerers who just don’t get it can only go so far.

      14. @Jack Wayne – comment #51:
        Sorry – look at #26 – provided ample resources; quotes from experts, etc. These are peer reviewed, objective, evidence based observations (vs. your comment in #51). You pressed for explanations and evidence – did you rread it?

        Most arguments are only effective if the person reviewing the evidence has an open mind? If the mind is already closed – you bicker.

      15. @Jack Wayne – comment #51:
        Depends on what we think of Vatican II. It keeps coming back to that. My critique of EF is why the fathers of Vatican II decreed as they did. I’m not saying anything new – it’s what liturgists were saying for decades before Vatican II, and which the bishops of Vatican II affirmed.

        For those who accept Vatican II, my arguments make sense. For those who don’t, they don’t. It really comes down to that.


      16. @Scott Smith – comment #33:
        Scott, here is the offertory prayer of the 1570 rite that (1) refers to bread as though it were already the consecrated [the one for the wine does the same], and (2) speaks of a sacrifice as though the priest makes it alone on our behalf.

        “Receive, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host which I, your unworthy servant, offer to you, my living and true God, for my own countless sins, offenses, and negligences; and for all present here, as well as for all faithful Christians both living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of reaching salvation in the eternal life. Amen.”

        The prayer associated with the wine is in the plural (as Gregory Dix pointed out, the cup is where the communal nature of Eucharist is inextricably anchored). But this wasn’t so clear that it could balance out the strong “I” in the offertory text over the bread. The fact that the cup wasn’t shared with the laity is significant. The text cannot be evaluated in isolation from action and practice. The restriction of the cup combined with the arrangement of texts would emphasize the bread text as paradigmatic of the priest’s role. In my view, the kernel of the idea of communal offering is there in the old rite– only in the cup text. The offertory prayer for the bread is problematic, and set the tone for those who commented on the ritual.

    2. @Matthew Morelli – comment #2:
      “I had Rita Ferrone arguing to the internet equivalent of being blue-in-the-face”

      Matthew, I’m afraid you exaggerate the stress involved in countering your arguments. But as Anthony suggests, that’s a conversation that took place on another thread.

  2. The other factor—and the more crucial one, however, was how late medieval theologians had exaggerated the sacrificial nature of the Mass beyond any scriptural foundation and to a point where the Mass, instead of re-presenting the one eternal sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, had replaced Christ’s sacrifice with repeated supererogatory sacrifices offered by men claiming a priesthood in their own title or right.

    I think this mindset is still to be found in some of our seminaries, both among students and among faculty. The concept of priestly ministry as servant leadership is often not as visible as it ought to be, and sometimes not visible at all. This is to a certain extent inevitable as long as seminaries perpetuate the notion of forming the “man set apart”. What we need, I think, is a thoroughgoing reform of the entire seminary system.

  3. Bravo!
    Even our first written account of the Eucharist by Justin Martyr (circa 150 AD) doesn’t mention anything about offering the bread and wine as a sacrifice. He mentions lots of Prayers and Thanksgiving but no Eucharistic sacrifice. He mentions a “President of the Brethren” but no priestly offering of a sacrifice.
    We need more articles like this.
    And for those who think the author is crass and arrogant, well, he is, but many trads are mean spirited and just as bad, if not worse. It’s the “pot calling the kettle black”.
    Paul Inwood, agreed. Francis has touched upon seminary training a bit. I think that once he becomes the only pope in the Vatican he will be more inclined to make significant changes. He himself states that he was once overbearing as a priest but changed. Because he has personal experience I think he will move to make changes.

    1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #5:

      Re: Crassness and arrogance: Have you read any of the other posts on the blog? This is one of the tamer of the ones I read.

      As well — the bad behavior of individual traditionalists does not justify rudeness for those promoting your position, especially among those who are purported to be professional scholars. This one far surpasses the rudeness that Grillo exhibited in his exchange with Reid.

      Re: Eucharist as sacrifice: Whether Justin Martyr mentions sacrifice or not, the connection of Sacrifice and Eucharist is early — we see it in Chapter 14 of the Didache.

      Beyond this, the first four Canons of Session XXII of Trent address this issue, anathematizing the position that Cranmer and the other Reformers held concerning the Mass, and that our anonymous scholar seems to want to overlay onto the postconciliar reform.

      1. @Matthew Morelli – comment #6:
        You need to re-read the article again my friend.
        There is a connection to the sacrifice on Calvary, nobody denies this.
        Rather, he states: “The loss of the patristic heritage and its replacement with Scholastic theology in the thirteenth and subsequent centuries created an appalling mystique to the Mass where it was claimed that Christ died anew and again day after day upon the altars.”

        Furthermore, who is justifying rudeness? We are all rude occasionally. You complain about crassness of others then toss around a few choice words yourself: “…and too much a coward to be transparent enough to identify himself.’ Yup, the pot calling the kettle black.

    2. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #5:
      The first written account of the Eucharist (besides 1 Corinthians) is the Didache, and the word “thusia” is there.

      The million-dollar question is not whether the word “sacrifice” is appropriate, but how it’s to be understood, and how it has been misunderstood.

  4. Seems like he is exaggerating the difference between the Scholastic and Patristic understanding of the Mass as sacrifice. Like Matthew Morelli, I’d be interested to know what sources he is basing his claim on. The Council of Trent (you know, the same Council that was heavily influenced by Scholastic theology and resulted in the 1570 Missal, which “deviated” from Apostolic Tradition) had this to say on the Sacrifice of the Mass:

    “He, therefore, our God and Lord, though He was by His death about to offer Himself once upon the altar of the cross to God the Father that He might there accomplish an eternal redemption, nevertheless, that His priesthood might not come to an end with His death, at the last supper, on the night He was betrayed, that He might leave to His beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice once to be accomplished on the cross might be *represented,* the memory thereof remain even to the end of the world, and its salutary effects applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit, declaring Himself constituted a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech, offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the form of bread and wine, and under the forms of those same things gave to the Apostles, whom He then made priests of the New Testament, that they might partake, commanding them and their successors in the priesthood by these words to do likewise: Do this in commemoration of me, as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught.”

    Also, never mind that a good chunk of the texts of the 1962 and 1570 Missals–including the Eucharistic Prayer itself!–date back to Late Antiquity. I guess St. Gregory the Great and his predecessors were Proto-Scholastic theologians, with a corrupted Eucharistic theology to boot.

  5. Thanks, Father Ruff. Agree with him or disagree with him, but either way it is an interesting blog. And he does cite sources, at least if you consider the New Testament a source, and I do.

    If I have a criticism, it is that he would be more effective writing in a little less academically pretentious style. Even with that, I do like some of his bon mots, especially this one:
    “historians are those who embrace the future and realized that the past is there to guide us toward it. Those who embrace the past and seek to restore it are antiquarians.” True, true, true…

  6. As to the original post, I believe the author has too hastily and in an un-nuanced manner summarized what happened in the reform, when he writes:

    “In the liturgical reforms of Paul VI in the 1970 Missal, the Mass was radically restructured to take away any pretense of this second sacrifice. There is no “offertory” of bread and wine, but rather a “preparation of the gifts” in which the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist.”

    Michael McGuckian, SJ, gives a much more detailed and nuanced picture of the decisions made and how they were reached, in his 2005 book, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: A Search for an Acceptable Notion of Sacrifice.

    Pope Paul VI in fact intervened in favor of retention of the language of “offering”: “‘There should be a single set of formulas that will express the idea of an offering of human toil in union with the sacrifice of Christ. There should also be active participation of the congregation.’ In the next schema of March 1968, changes were introduced in response to the intervention of Pope Paul VI. … ‘On the other hand, every misconception is to be avoided: it is not a sacrifice of bread and wine or an offering of the body and blood of Christ or a consecratory epiclesis.’…” [continued in next box]

  7. After quoting Fred McManus who reported that the one change introduced between 1968 and the final text was the restoration of Orate Fratres and a full response from the congregation, McGuikian summarizes as follows:

    “If one compares the prayers of the new rite with that of 1570, the substance is identical. In both cases, the bread and wine are ‘offered’ to God. The language of 1969 is less overtly sacrificial, but is, if anything, more deeply so, since the meaning of sacrifice, the human cooperation with the sacrifice of Christ that Pope Paul VI spoke of, is brought out in these beautiful prayers. The Orate fratres has remained. The only significant change from 1570 to 1969 is that the active participation of the people, which had faded out in the early Middle Ages, has once again been restored. The process also reveals the mind of Pope Paul VI in the matter. It is clear he understood the Offertory as an Offertory, and he was insistent that the faithful should be actively involved, so that they ‘may exercise their special role as offerers.'”

    I think one has to distinguish. There are erroneous theological opinions concerning the role of the priest, which were corrected by the reformulation of these prayers. But until one looks at what is being offered and by whom in a reformulated presentation of the sacrifice in the Mass, it’s impossible to see what exactly happened. The blog author cited in the post presents this case as if the majority opinion was never nuanced by the intervention of Paul VI. But it was.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #16:

      Also #19.

      One of the problems with saying that the substance of the 1970 prayers are the same as the 1570 ones is that it ignores the fact that the 1970 prayers were altered before they were promulgated.

      The Latin text as finalized by the Consilium ran as follows:

      Benedíctus es, Dómine, Deus univérsi,
      quia de tua largitáte accépimus panem,
      fructum terrae et óperis mánuum hóminum:
      ex quo nobis fiet panis vitae.

      Benedíctus es, Dómine, Deus univérsi,
      quia de tua largitáte accépimus vinum,
      fructum terrae et óperis mánuum hóminum:
      ex quo nobis fiet potus spiritális.


      Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation.
      Through your goodness we have this bread,
      which earth has given and human hands have made.
      It will become for us the bread of life.


      Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.
      Through your goodness we have this wine,
      which earth has given and human hands have made.
      It will become our spiritual drink.

      This text was sent to Pope Paul VI. On its way to him it was intercepted by a Vatican mandarin who did not understand the theological nicety that the offering takes place in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer and not at this point in the rite. All he knew was that this was “the Offertory” and that therefore there should be some talk of offering.

      He therefore took it upon himself to insert, without comment, two crucial phrases into the prayers:

      quem tibi offérimus, after “accépimus panem,”
      quod tibi offérimus, after “accépimus vinum,”

      The text that therefore passed across Paul VI’s desk was:

      Benedíctus es, Dómine, Deus univérsi,
      quia de tua largitáte accépimus panem, quem tibi offérimus,
      fructum terrae et óperis mánuum hóminum:
      ex quo nobis fiet panis vitae.


      Benedíctus es, Dómine, Deus univérsi,
      quia de tua largitáte accépimus vinum, quod tibi offérimus,
      fructum terrae et óperis mánuum hóminum:
      ex quo nobis fiet potus spiritális.

      and those are the 1969 Ordo Missae texts that Paul VI signed off on. Once he had done that, there was no going back. Those working in the Consilium were aghast, but there was nothing they could do.

      Fast forward to Washington DC and London, England, and ICEL is presented with a huge translation problem. What to do with the inserted phrase, which now says “we have this bread/wine which we offer to you” or, worse still, “which we are offering to you” ?

      A brilliant stroke of genius was the answer in the 1970 prayers:

      “we have this bread/wine to offer

      with its strong implication that we are not offering at this moment but rather that we will offer. I would love to know who was responsible for that.

      Fast forward again to the 1988 ICEL translation, which now reads:

      Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation
      Through your goodness we have this bread/wine to present to you,
      which earth has given and human hands have made.
      It will become for us the bread of life/become our spiritual drink.

      Once again, the theological option to avoid any impression of offering at this point in the rite has been taken. Well done!

      Now fast forward one more time to the 2010 Vox Clara translation which says:

      Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
      for through your goodness we have received the bread/wine we offer you:
      fruit of the earth and work of human hands,
      it will become for us the bread of life/ become our spiritual drink.

      Now the problem is back again because of the strictures of Liturgiam Authenticam.

      So ― I ask myself if McGuickian would have written in the way he did (I have not read his book) if he had known the history of those interpolations in the prayers, interpolations that the reformers never intended to be there. It would be tragic to erect an edifice on such a misunderstanding.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #26:
        Paul, this is a very interesting story you tell. Can you point me to a source?

        It interpolates an element of intrigue and accident to the outcome, actually sabotage.

        McGuikian’s cites on this are straightforward: McManus, Shaping the Liturgy, several from Bugnini, and Consilium Coetus X. He does note the disparity between the vote and what the Pope finally signed off on but attributes it to the Pope not to an unnamed “Vatican mandarin” who pulled the wool over his eyes.

        You are right. If Paul VI was “fooled” into signing something that was not what he thought it was, it calls the final product into question. I do wonder, however, at a situation in which a substitution was effected but no one ever told the Pope. All were aghast — but none could correct the error. A simpler explanation is that Paul VI did not agree, and what he signed corresponded to what he wanted.

      2. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #34:

        I don’t think “the bread we offer you” necessarily nails the action of offering to the moment of that prayer.

        Neither do I, but many folk do because it is often combined with what looks like a gesture of offering to them,

        Here we get into a whole other field, which is that since the 1969 Ordo Missae almost every priest has got this part of the rite wrong. That’s the subject of a separate thread, probably. If I have time I may start it later today.

      3. @Paul Inwood – comment #39:
        Would it be proper to say that the bread and wine are offered/presented to God during the first epiclesis of the EP? E.g. “these gifts we have brought to you for consecration” (EP III). As if to say, “we present you with this bread and wine, that you would find them fitting and acceptable for the change we ask you to bring about in them”?

      4. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #42:

        I don’t believe so. That, I imagine, is precisely why ICEL omitted the words “for consecration” in the 1970 translation of EP III.

        The bread and wine are offered at the words

        we offer you in thanksgiving
        this holy and living sacrifice.

        Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church
        and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death
        you willed to reconcile us to yourself,
        grant that we…

        and not before. The whole question of how to distinguish between presenting and offering is something of a minefield!

      5. @Paul Inwood – comment #43:
        But by that point in the anaphora we’re not offering God bread and wine, are we? We’re offering God the Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine. Bread and wine are not a “holy and living sacrifice”.

        As for the words of EP III, how would you render “haec munera quae tibi sacranda detulimus”?

      6. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #44:

        But by that point in the anaphora we’re not offering God bread and wine, are we? We’re offering God the Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine. Bread and wine are not a “holy and living sacrifice”.

        Without wanting to split hairs, since the whole prayer is consecratory you can’t pinpoint a moment when transubstantiation happens. All we know is that at the beginning, at the Preface Dialogue, we have bread and wine, and by the end, at the Great Amen, we have the Body and Blood of Jesus.

        I am now on the road for a week and a half and have no reference material available apart from what is on my laptop hard drive, so your other question will have to wait a while. Sorry.

  8. It would be interesting (though I confess I don’t have the time to do it myself right now) to wander around the blogosphere and find comments made by people in the last 50 years or so that betray exactly the problem the author attributes to the Scholastics. …

    Now we’re getting somewhere! I completely agree that this would be a useful project (albeit one that I don’t have time to undertake either).

    And this brings about a useful distinction that our theologian did not make — whether the issue is an inherent defect in the rite that leads to a theological error vs. a theological error perpetuated by some scholastics and/or neo-scholastics.

    The former would mean that the MR 1570/1962 is seriously defective — but this would be very difficult to defend in light of the antiquity of the Missal (in large part pre-dating the Scholastics) as well as the decision immediately after Trent to retain the Missal with the prayers that our theologian finds problematic. This difficulty is exacerbated by the explicit connection that the current Missal makes to the ancient ones, especially as we see in GIRM 6-9 — and even further by the modest reintroduction of the UA Offertory prayers into the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite.

    I think it is more likely the latter, as you suggest — an error made on the part of some neo-scholastics/followers of scholastics in the time since the beginning of the postconciliar liturgical reform. If this is true, then it is a problem worth addressing considering the growth, even modest growth, of communities using the Usus antiquior — There is a very real danger of the promotion of an understanding of the Mass that overstates/misstates the nature of the Sacrifice that is offered. This doesn’t mean that the UA must be scrapped — but it certainly puts at risk priests or communities that perpetuate the error.

    1. @Matthew Morelli – comment #18:
      Along with Dale and in response to your request for sources:


      Pertinent to this discussion:

      – “At the Eucharist, this joyful union is signified by sharing a meal. The meal is the outward sign (sacrament) of the sacrifice.”

      “For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.’

      – Balance: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Each of these three speaks to us of “joyful union with God.”

      – BUT: sacrifice is not the issue! To call the execution of Jesus of Nazareth a “sacrifice” involves theological reflection.

      – The over-emphasis on the propitiatory aspect of the Eucharist can obscure the once-and-for-all nature of Christ’s Sacrifice.

      – The reformers were interested in preserving the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice, not in denying something about the eucharist.The biblical notion of anamnesis is key to the resolution of the historical difficulty.

      – Anamnesis takes place through the action of the Holy Spirit in epiclesis. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us present to the reality of the “once and for all” sacrifice of Jesus. The Spirit makes possible the liturgical “hodie” (today). We no longer need to argue about “unrepeatable / repeatable” or “bloody / unbloody”. Epiclesis is at the heart of every liturgical action.

      – The biblical and liturgical renewal in all of the Churches has helped all Christians grow in sacramental awareness. Through this lens of sacrament we can understand the eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice. And the meal the sacramental sign of the sacrifice. We no longer need to argue about “meal / sacrifice?

      – Thus, as a body, Christians constitute a holy nation, a royal priesthood. (Remember, by the way, that the NT reserves the word priest, in a positive sense, to Jesus and to the people alone. Ministers, in the NT, are never called priests.)(Nathan D Mitchell “The Struggle of Religious Women for Eucharist.”)

      “Contemporary restudy of the entire issue as well as the efforts of ecumenical dialogue on the eucharist has pointed out a way in which the issue might be resolved, namely, the Mass is a sacrament of the one sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus as the primordial sacrament furthers this very line of thought since it grounds the sacramentalizing of the eucharist in Jesus’ humanness which includes the sacrifice of his life, death and resurrection. The key issue in this matter of the relationship between the sacrificial work of Jesus and the eucharist as “sacrament.” The eucharist is a sacrament of the one sacrifice. This says, today, much more and in a much better way, the thrust of the Tridentine formulation: bloody / unbloody.” (The Christian Sacraments of Initiation, Kenan B. Osborne, p 224.)

      Today the movement among contemporary theologians is to recover the deeper meaning of sacrifice. For example, Robert Daly (The Origins of the Christian Doctrine of Sacrifice, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978) describes this movement as “an attempt to emphasize the true meaning of sacrifice, that is, the inner, spiritual, or ethical significance of the cult over against the merely material or merely external understanding of it.” (p 7). The essence of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is found in the perfect unity of will and love between Son and Father in the Holy Spirit. In this sense, not only his death, but his entire life was a sacrifice.

      – Through this lens of sacrament we can understand the eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice. The meal is the sacramental sign of the sacrifice. We no longer need to argue about “meal / sacrifice? (See Power, EM 260 and J.H. McKenna, “Eucharistic Epiclesis: Microcosm or Myopia?” Theological Studies 36 (1975) 265-84, esp. 272-274 and 282-83 for a critique of the positioning and splitting of the epiclesis as well as Daly, “Robert Bellarmine,” 242.243.)

  9. The other point that is debatable, and which McGuikian takes on in his book, is whether the Offertory is a “second” sacrifice. His final conclusion, backed up by scriptural and historical sources, is that there are stages in meal sacrifices (which applies to the Eucharist), and one of them is the “offering.”

    OK, his book has been critiqued as having not dealt sufficiently with modern objections to sacrifice in itself, and maybe that’s so, but what he did present about the stages of sacrifice is I think an argument of value if one wants not to jettison but to keep the language of sacrifice with respect to Eucharist. The reformed liturgy does keep this language, even though it’s not self-evident that everybody understands the same thing by it.

  10. @Rita Ferrone – comments #14, #16:

    The distinction between this:

    “the idea of an offering of human toil in union with the sacrifice of Christ” and “the meaning of sacrifice as the human cooperation with the sacrifice of Christ”

    and this:

    “a sacrifice of bread and wine or an offering of the body and blood of Christ or a consecratory epiclesis”

    is very helpful. Thank you!

    [/The More You Know]

    As to the original post and other posts in the blog , I thought his (or her) writings were a hoot.

    But then, I’m used to both the general “crassness” of Internet prose and academically pretentious writing, so there’s that.

  11. Paul, I think that story, like many others on all sides of the liturgical spectrum (think Paul VI crying at the abolition of the Octave of Pentecost) reflects the anxieties of the originator, rather than what happened. Paul VI himself requested the change in his observations on the text AND made explicit references to it in subsequent observations, so it hardly could have passed by him “on the sly” (ignoring the entire question of faking his handwriting on the schema). This is mentioned by more than one author (Antonelli, Bugnini, I think even McManus might have alluded to it in one of his essays on the Presentation of the Gifts) . As Bugnini mentions in his book, because this change was thought undesirable by many on the commission, the idea was taken to “tone it down” in the vernacular translations (hence the language of “presentation” which one finds in many European language translations).

  12. Yes, I think sabotage is not too strong a word.

    I have never seen this narrative in written form, but I can tell you that I heard it from Gelineau, Jounel and Hucke at various times from the early 1970s onwards, both in lectures and in conversations. The Oratorian Fathers in London were certainly aware of it in the early 70s, as were clergy and laypeople stationed in Rome whom I met in England. As you can imagine, this episode was seen as a setback in the progress of postconciliar liturgical theology, and some were very angry about it.

    I asked Fred McManus about it in 1974 during a visit to Washington, and he told me that he too had heard this and was trying to find out the identity of the saboteur. I think I would have heard if he had succeeded, so I assume that he did not.

    As far as no one telling the Pope is concerned, I think it’s important to remember the mood in Rome at the time all this was happening. Paul VI was extremely nervous about the ongoing liturgical developments and changes, as Bugnini documents. Paul wanted them to happen in principle, but was not able to deal well with criticism. He was also dealing with the whole Humanae Vitae debacle (as a result of which he took refuge in his shell and did not produce another major document for the remainder of his pontificate). He could get choleric over liturgical reform, as Gelineau testifies concerning the retention of the phrase “Mysterium Fidei” in the Eucharistic Prayer. I think anyone approaching Paul to tell him that he had signed off on a sabotaged text would have had their ears chewed off in short order. The final straw.

  13. I wonder if the author of the article has any comment on Clark’s “Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation”? It’s been some time since I read it but as I recall, it did address several claims similar to those made here.

    One thing that occurred to me is that it is highly exaggerated to claim that the medieval theologians saw a “second sacrifice” occurring at the Offertory. Admittedly, the prominence given to the Offertory by some in the earlier Middle Ages was larger – but by the 17th century, the Offertory was practically nullified as ceremonial preparation. And even among those who saw an obliationary aspect to the Offertory, I don’t think it can really be proven that they saw this as having some kind of independant value.

    The other problem that I think arguments like this one bring is an indictment on the whole of liturgical tradition. It is almost ironic, because I think in some ways this argument reflects a very logical (“scholastic” if you will) time division. It has gained prominence because of its justification for the elimination of the proleptic offertory language in the revision of the Roman Latin liturgy. But all the liturgies of the Church have developed in this way, using “anticipatory” expressions, even from the start of the liturgy (and not just at the transfer of the gifts). One has only to read through say, a Syriac (either East or West) or Coptic or Ethiopian liturgical text to realize the extent of this. Yet for them it was not really a matter of scholastic theology, which seems too often to become the favourite whipping boy for everything. I think if one really wants to make an indictment on a text such as the 1570 Offertory (which preceded it by some centuries), one has to also look elsewhere.

    But sometimes I wonder when our critiques hit the whole of the liturgical tradition – as opposed to one section’s “deviation”, as it were – from some authentic and pristine pastristic and apostolic tradition, whether that says more about them and their theology, or about us and…

    1. @Joshua Vas – comment #31:
      Clark’s work does seem to go a long way toward giving a much more nuanced account of late-Medieval and early-modern notions of sacrifice, but it seems to be largely ignored by a lot of modern scholarship. It’s a pity, since it might mitigate the sweeping claims that get made in pieces like the blog post quoted above.

  14. Re: the Aaronic priesthood: I think the traditional Roman liturgy in its texts barely emphasizes the Aaronic priesthood when you place it side by side with prayers in other liturgical traditions, and seems quite clear on the idea of the priesthood of Melchisedech (though perhaps people have differing ideas on what that entails?).

    Correct me if I am mistaken, but it seems that a large number of extant ancient ordination prayers, for example, do make typological comparisons between Aaronic priesthood and the priesthood of bishops and priests (certainly the former more than the latter) – which is again, supplemented in commentaries, homilies, sermons, etc. Perhaps it would call for more fleshing out of what is implied and meant by the comparisons, but I’m a bit hesitant to just simply write it off.

  15. Part of the dissonance in the older offertory prayers, as I understand it, is that the prayers were relatively late imports from other sources.

    The “Suscipe sancte pater” (said over the bread) came from the prayer-book of Charles the Bald, taking a prayer intended to be offered by a layman during the canon and making it a prayer of the priest recited earlier than it was intended.

    The “Offerimus tibi Domine” (said over the wine) came from the Mozarabic liturgy, albeit from its offertory.

    On the matter of this proleptic language, the old Catholic Encyclopedia notes: “two expressions, ‘hanc immaculatam hostiam’ and ‘calicem salutaris’ dramatically anticipate the moment of consecration, as does the Byzantine Cherubikon.”

    Should the prayer of acceptance in the offertory (prior to the washing of the hands) be drastically reworked, or omitted? Is it too proleptic, too easily misunderstood?

    With humble spirit and contrite heart
    may we be accepted by you, O Lord,
    and may our sacrifice in your sight this day
    be pleasing to you, Lord God.

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