Cardinal Sarah on Active Participation, Latin, Reverence, and Bringing Back the Old Offertory Prayers

Catholic Culture reports on today’s Osservatore Romano editorial of Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.


“To speak of a ‘celebrating community’ is not without ambiguity and requires real caution. The participatio actuosa [active participation] should not therefore be understood as the need to do something. On this point the teaching of the Council has often been distorted. It is instead to let Christ take us and associate us with his sacrifice.”


“It would be wrong to consider the extraordinary form of the Roman rite as coming from another theology,” he said. To manifest that the ordinary form and the extraordinary form are “in continuity and without opposition,” it would be “desirable” that there be an appendix in an upcoming edition of the Roman Missal that would permit celebrants in the ordinary form to use the penitential rite and the offertory of the extraordinary form.



  1. Re. the “desirable” appendix – why not? There’s already a plethora of options in the OF, so what’s one or two more?

    I would, in fact, consider the ability to use the traditional offertory prayers in the OF a) a considerable improvement to the OF and b) a great first textual step (as distinct from matters of rubrics or style of celebration) towards the mutual enrichment of the two forms desired by the Pope emeritus.

    1. @Matthew Hazell:
      An appendix to the 1962 rite might be in order as well. With provision made for optional eucharistic prayers, rubrics for concelebration, and for communion under both forms. Perhaps, provision for an old testament lesson borrowed from the RM and, like the other readings, in the vernacular.

      1. @Brian Palmer (#9): Since concelebration and communion under both kinds were things that, given certain conditions and on certain occasions, were anticipated in SC (55, 57-58), I’d be fine with that. Not so much your suggestion of having the post-conciliar EPs in an appendix; I think multiple anaphoras is something the Roman Rite can live without.

        As far as the lectionary goes, I believe the EF to be generally superior to the OF. I would argue strongly against multi-year cycles, and the overly-rational structure of the per annum Gospel readings in particular leaves me cold. I’m not sure that having three readings on Sundays is automatically the great thing most other people seem to think it is. And the Commons are also way too big and unwieldy in the OF – I don’t think we need 26 options for a Gospel reading in the Common of Holy Men and Women, for example. A weekday cycle of readings in Advent would be a positive, organic development for the EF, though, and the various Commons in that missal could be expanded sensibly and sensitively.

        @Fr Ruff (#2): First, just because something is “papally-approved” doesn’t mean it’s somehow above criticism, or can’t be adjusted/discontinued later on, the classic example being the (papally-approved) Quiñones breviary.

        Second, I’m uncomfortable with using ecumenism as a reason not to use the older offertory prayers. If the prayers better express Catholic doctrine and belief vis-a-vis the Mass (as I believe they do, but I agree with you that we need a “thorough investigation” into the history and rationale of the post-conciliar reforms in order to have a fruitful debate about it), then why is it a problem to use them? Using an offertory formula ambiguous enough that (e.g.) Anglicans and Lutherans could also use it and retain their beliefs about the Eucharist just creates more problems down the line for everyone.

      2. @Matthew Hazell:
        I won’t reply to each of your points because it all has been covered, here and elsewhere, at least a thousand times. I’ll try rather to get at the root problem.

        Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 50 says: “The rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary.”

        I cite it not as a proof text, but rather as a programmatic statement which gives a key to the entire liturgical reform, and which is implicit in passages throughout SC. No. 50 can only mean that some things went wrong in the course of Catholic history and some of this must be undone – not only by going back to earlier, better practices of the first millennium, but in large part by doing this. This is a weighty admission of mistake and a bold call to redirect the tradition where it had sometimes gone astray.

        If one accepts this – which is an intellectual but also spiritual and emotional attitude – then it all falls into place. One sees the whole liturgical reform as a gift, and strives to understand it better and to live ones whole life within the church from that standpoint.

        Then, it makes sense that there will be much overlap with Protestants – they, like us, also think that the tradition went wrong at times. Then there’s no fear of greater convergence with Protestants, which also sometimes includes love of our Catholic tradition and advocacy for it in cases where Protestantism has lost things to its detriment.

        Then, there’s no presumption that the earlier rite expresses Catholic doctrine better, that it is the default, but rather, a guiding suspicion that the new rite most likely expresses Catholic doctrine better.

        SC 50 is the key.

      3. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:

        ” [SC] No. 50 can only mean that some things went wrong in the course of Catholic history and some of this must be undone – not only by going back to earlier, better practices of the first millennium, but in large part by doing this. This is a weighty admission of mistake and a bold call to redirect the tradition where it had sometimes gone astray.”

        Then how do we explain the retention of the Roman Canon? Or, for that matter, having four Eucharistic Prayers? Would not one or two be simpler and their use more strictly dictated e.g. the anaphoras in the Byzantine Rite?

      4. @Andrew Rivera:
        No, sorry, but we ain’t gonna haggle on and on about every point of the liturgical reform here.

        For those who accept the reform as a whole, all this really isn’t a problem. Perhaps there are little things here and there that one might have done differently, but the whole is accepted for the gift that it is.

        For those who don’t accept the liturgical reform, no explanation will every satisfy.

        As for why they did what they did, all that has been written up and is available for consulting in about a thousand books elsewhere. I’m not the reformers’ spokesman, nor can I summarize and defend their work adequately in a commbox.

        Enough already.


      5. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:

        Thank you for your feedback, Father.

        But would you say “Enough already” to, say, a Protestant who likewise questioned the Liturgical Reform of Vatican II for not being strident *enough*?

        Your tone strikes me as blithely unecumenical. I have a soul too, Father!

      6. @Andrew Rivera:
        Sorry if I spoke too strongly – but as I recall, I haven’t yet had a commenter at Pray Tell who is a Protestant being strident about anything in the Catholic liturgical reform. But as for a certain type of Roman Catholic, it’s been non-stop carping about how bad our liturgical reform is. Sorry if I lumped you in with that, since I don’t really know where’ you’re coming from.

      7. @Matthew Hazell:
        EF Lectionary Superior?
        EF uses 1% of OT – 255 vv. on Vigils & Feasts
        But NONE on Sundays
        OF uses 3.7% – 932 vv – Sundays/ Major Feasts

        EF uses 22.4 % Gospels – 848 vv
        OF uses 57.8% Gospels – Sundays/ Major Feasts

        EF uses 11% NT w/o Gospels 461 vv
        OF uses 25.4% NT w/o Gospels 1063 vv
        EF 18.1% Paul 270 vv
        OF 31.3 – 468 vv

        If God’s Word was meant to be heard, I think the addition of more pericopae in the 3 year Sunday Cycle is a great blessing.

      8. @Bruce Janiga:
        But some would say that there was other Scriptures in the propers that aren’t required anymore. (Never mind that most of the people for most of the history would never have understood the text of them, nor did they have a printed translation to help them.)

        But this question is getting us off track, and I’m not sure it’d be that helpful to re-hash all these same arguments yet again between those who accept the liturgical reform and the liturgy of the church and those who don’t.


      9. @Matthew Hazell:

        I second your discomfort using ecumenism as a reason not to use the older offertory prayers. Our prayers at Mass should be unapologetically Catholic. We would not fault Anglicans or Lutherans for using prayers that unambiguously reflected Anglican or Lutheran theology, and I doubt they loose too much sleep over their prayers being too Anglican or Lutheran, so why can’t we be comfortable expressing Catholic theology in our prayer instead of toning our Catholicism down?

      10. @Jay Edward:
        Ecumenism is an enrichment, not a threat, for those who understand and accept in their hearts what the Second Vatican Council taught on the subject. Through ecumenical enrichment we don’t ‘tone down’ our Catholic faith, we deepen it. Conversion of heart is called for.

  2. I think we need a thorough investigation of why the (papally-approved) Preparation of the Offerings rites in the Mass of Paul VI were reformed as they were. There were theological reasons.

    We have to get at whether there is really a legitimate critique of them, or whether people who just plain don’t like the reform of Pope Paul VI and don’t accept it are chipping away at everything they can. And then others are piling on. That doesn’t yet make an argument.

    I personally think that the brand new rites in the Missal of Paul VI are ingenious, and though entirely new in their wording, traditional in the best sense of the word in where they draw their inspiration from.

    I also think that retrieving the preconciliar prayers (as has happened in one of the options of the Ordinariate liturgy) would be an ecumenical disaster of the highest order. I have a suspicion that the people calling for their retrieval would be all too happy with that.

    And perhaps it bears repeating: Pope Gregory the Great certainly didn’t know or say anything like the Offertory Prayers of the Missal of 1570. They’re from the second millennium.


    1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:

      “I also think that retrieving the preconciliar prayers (as has happened in one of the options of the Ordinariate liturgy) would be an ecumenical disaster of the highest order. I have a suspicion that the people calling for their retrieval would be all too happy with that.”

      Would you care to elaborate re: whom would be scandalized and thus harm the ecumenical movement? To which bodies and/or individuals would you specifically refer?

  3. Especially since the recent work of Patrick Regan, Massimo Faggioli, and Andrea Grillo, it is very hard to make the case that the extraordinary form of the Roman rite does not, as Cardinal Sarah puts it, “come from a different theology.” (And there’s nothing about such an assertion that is contrary to doctrine or orthodoxy.)

  4. What does Cardinal Sarah mean by ‘caution in celebration’ ?
    The sharing of the Eucharist in the early church involved the gathering of the people for the eating of a meal. It was essentially an occasion of food and drink, nourishment for the journey. It was a small occasion for a few people together in somebody’s house, an action in which all took part. Indeed, a celebration.
    The loss of this experience, the detachment of Eucharist from the place of the meal within the community, has in so many ways diminished our experience and understanding of what we are about. Some might argue that this is contradictory to Eucharist as a sacrifice. But surely, not so. The human event, the meal, the celebration and the divine event of the Sacrifice are not mutually exclusive as is demonstrated in the Incarnation. We cannot avoid one without the other.

  5. Father Ruff, I respect your viewpoint. If the medieval offertory is restored as an option (MI PLACET!), most priests probably will carry on as the reforms have taken shape. Most will use the modern offertory out of inertia or out of an ideological conviction which mirrors mine. This is fine. For bi-ritual parishes, the restoration of the medieval offertory will connect the ordinary and extraordinary forms more closely. This is especially true because many of these parishes use the Roman Canon exclusively at the ordinary form.

    Some scholars, such as John Baldovin, have plausibly criticized the medieval offertory particularly because of the first-person-singular perspective of some of these prayers. These prayers are not in the first-person-plural perspective like the earliest extant eucharistic prayers. Therefore, one might conclude that the medieval offertory prayers are not legitimate strands in the western liturgical tradition.

    I respect Baldovin’s perspective. Late antique ressourcement is not the only route, however. The Tridentine offering of the bread:

    Suscipe, […] hanc immaculatam hostiam, quam ego indignus famulus tuus offero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis, et offensionibus, et neglegentiis meis, et pro omnibus circumstantibus, sed et pro omnibus fidelibus christianis vivis atque defunctis: ut mihi et illis proficiat ad salutem in vitam aeternam

    The important phrase here is ut mihi et illis proficiat. This is a roundabout way of saying offerimus. The list of the beneficiaries of the offertory are a “we” invoked by the priest in first-person-singular perspective for participation in the act of oblation. This participation fans out from the priest’s personal sin to a core reason for the sacrifice of the Mass (the living and the dead). That first-person-plural isn’t used counters a core tenet of ressourcement philology. However, the use of an ut purpose clause is merely clumsy and not a rejection of “we language”.

  6. With an appendix to the NO missal what other elements will be added as options which are taken from the TLM? I’m wondering, is this cardinal Sarah and Pope Francis’ way of saying goodbye to “Summorum Pontificum”, or filing it in the dead letter box?

  7. I wonder what he means by “the penitential rite…of the extraordinary form”? The EF didn’t have a “penitential rite,” unless one means the Confiteor immediately prior to the communion of the people, which I believe the 62 missal suppressed. I suspect he means the prayers at the foot of the altar, but these were not a penitential rite but private devotions for the ministers. I see no rubrical reason (there might be non-rubrical ones) why the ministers couldn’t say these during the entrance song if they wanted to, and maybe having them in the missal would make this easier.

    As for the prayers at the preparation of the gifts, I have no problem with the current forms, but also have no problem with the older ones. I’m less impressed with the arguments of Faggioli et al. than some are and think the older forms are well within the pale of postconciliar eucharistic theology.

  8. The old offertory prayers could be misinterpreted as indicating that the bread and wine were being or were already consecrated

    eg the offertory of the bread

    Accept O holy Father almighty and eternal God this spotless host which I thy unworthy servant offer unto thee ….. to atone for my numberless sins.

    The Paul VI missal prayers are perparation prayers which point to the bread and wine being offerred in the eucharistic prayer which is much more appropriate and does not give any rise to misinterpretation.

    1. @Louie Macari:
      This was certainly the argument that was made at the time of the reform, but as years pass I become less and less convinced that the liturgy obeys the sort of linear logic that this argument presumes. Certainly the Eastern Great Entrance treats the unconsecrated elements with a reverence that might at first glance seem only fitting for the body and blood of Christ (“Let all mortal flesh keep silence…” etc.). I can’t imagine anyone would propose eliminating the Great Entrance, would they?

  9. Here I am in agreement with Archbishop Quinn, in the interview following. We cannot forget or regard as disposable the Hebrew context of our faith. The prayers at the preparation of the gifts now point back to the action and offering of Jesus in the context of the Jewish Passover (pace with NT exegetical stands on how close the Passover context is to be understood). They also now more succinctly express the notion of divine exchange, venerable from Paul through Irenaeus. Without this context of Jesus’ Jewishnes, the vice of Marcionism constrains too readily Christian theology and liturgy.

    The Dominican rite has a very brief offertory, it would be interesting to know how it relates to the Roman rite’s more prolix expressions. Does the Dominican rite represent the liturgical status quo of the 13th century, with the later Roman rite representing dubious modernisms?

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt:

      Which also bears on the comment made on ecumenism. Looking toward the ‘other’ side and the non-Reformation bodies, the Roman liturgy is currently the only one of those in use among the pre-Reformation ecclesial bodies that does not contain any prolepsis whatsoever. Moreover, in the 3 decades following Vatican II, Rome has actively encouraged reinsertion of proleptic language into Eastern/Oriental liturgies, and actively thwarted efforts to remove it from the liturgies of those Churches in communion with it which have attempted to reform/revise their rites – even when there is no significant Orthodox (i.e. not in communion) counterpart. This does lead one to question why exactly Romans apparently must think linearly but not Eastern/Orientals.

      @Martin Badenhorst OP:

      I have no objection to the argument as presented, but it does seem a little artificial to claim Hebrew links to a rite by the modern insertion of a prayer (whose textual provenance is late, and which is still in the midst of a debate as to its exact connection with the Last Supper).

      With regard to the Dominican prayers, I think one can textually establish the existence of the prayers of the Roman Missal around the same time, with the difference attributable to the different localities and historical circumstances.

      This does raise the question of whether all the prayers from older Roman rite would find their place, or only some (e.g. just the Suscipe Sancta Trinitas’ in line with the rites of most religious orders).

      @Fr. Jack Feehily:

      I assume this means you’d sign on if the majority of the worldwide episcopate did?

  10. Barry Hudock : Especially since the recent work of Patrick Regan, Massimo Faggioli, and Andrea Grillo, it is very hard to make the case that the extraordinary form of the Roman rite does not, as Cardinal Sarah puts it, “come from a different theology.” (And there’s nothing about such an assertion that is contrary to doctrine or orthodoxy.)

    Yes, and if not a different theology, certainly a different ecclesiology.

  11. Most people in my family would be surprised to learn that the priest is even praying something while the congregation is singing the presentation of gifts song. Even if the song is ended before the gifts are offered, the prayers are never said aloud. The prayers over the gifts, in my parish, are as unknown as the prayers the priest says when he mixes the water and wine or washes his fingers.

    Would anyone really notice if the option existed for the priest to say the old prayers by himself?

    1. @Rick Connor:
      On the surface this may be true but I think we have to look just a bit deeper.

      To allow the preconciliar offertory prayers would not go unnoticed – it would set into motion a whole array of articles and blog posts and conference talks. All the right (or wrong) people would take note. For insiders but not only them, it would become a mark of which side one is on, and thus divisive. The ripple effect would be significant, and it would be perceived as a weakening of a key part of the Mass reforms of Paul VI. It would give encouragement to those who think it is a good thing to attack and criticize without cease the liturgy of the Catholic Church. And all this would happen even if 90% or 95% of the people in the pews don’t notice it.


  12. Surely with Francis extolling the need for more synodality in governance, Prefects of the CDW will not be tinkering with appendices to appease the relatively small number of EF aficionados. No going back is what I recall Francis saying a while ago.

  13. Looking at the notes of the Consilium, the different proposals are interesting – especially the Ambrosian derived variants which tried to retain the incipits of the older texts with new wording and ideas. They all unanimously avoid speaking of the gifts as if consecrated – and some also take pains to avoid the theme of oblation (which however, appeared anyway via Paul VI in the “Benedictus es/Blessed are you” prayers.

    Options for the bread:

    A. Sicut hic panis erat dispersus et collectus factus est unus, ita colligatur Ecclesia tua in regnum tuum. Gloria tibi, Deus in saecula.

    B. Suscipe, sancte Pater, hunc panem, quem de opere manuum nostrarum offerimus, ut fiat Unigeniti tui Corpus.

    Options for the cup:

    A. Sapientia aedificavit sibi domum, miscuit vinum et posuit mensam. Gloria tibi, Deus in saecula.

    B. Offerimus tibi, Domine, calicem, vinum aqua mixtum, ut Sanguis fiat Domini nostri Iesu Christi.

  14. It would be wrong to consider the extraordinary form of the Roman rite as coming from another theology,” – when will it cease. Feels like we have had a series of CDW heads who have little skills, training, or professional education in liturgy and yet, they make pronouncements that make little sense.
    Not only does it come from another theology but also ecclesiology – would almost any graduate student in theology disagree with this beyond the usual ideological suspects?

    Fr. Martin – agree with your points and wonder what Deacon thinks about some of the work that explains Bugnini’s use of the Berakah structure for the offertory:

    To quote from Thomas Richstatter and provide a more comprehensive explanation for why there is a difference between Paul VI and the EF:

    Berakah – Preparation Prayers

    BRK over the Gifts. Adapted from BRK meal prayers at the time of Jesus.

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

    Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.
    Through your goodness we have this wine to offer,
    fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
    It will become our spiritual drink.
    All: Blessed be God forever.

    Of course, Richstatter also explains the Eucharistic prayers has having the structure of the Hebrew Berakah prayers.

    It seems, IMO, that without some background, the discussion doesn’t mean much.

  15. @Bruce Janiga (#27): you make the mistake of assuming that more automatically means better.

    @Fr Ruff (#28): but SC 50 doesn’t exist in a vacuum; earlier on, it states that “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them” (SC 23). I am not at all convinced the good of the Church certainly required the complete overhaul of the offertory prayers. And when you refer to the “earlier, better practices of the first millennium”, I fear that you’re skirting on the edges of that archeologism condemned by Pius XII in Mediator Dei.

    1. @Matthew Hazell:

      So we keep coming back to the same issue: does one accept the liturgy of the Church, does once accept Pope Paul’s judgment that the reforms are faithful to Vatican II, is one grateful for this gift.. or not?

      It’s clear that there is development (and – horrors! – change) between Pius XII and Paul VI on archeologism. That’s part of being in the Catholic church.

      It’s clear that the authorities interpreted SC 23 to mean that the changes were required, and that the complete overhaul of the offertory prayers was for the good of the church. You disagree with the church. I think we have to leave it at that.


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