Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Words of Institution, Receiving and Real Presence

And Right Reason

My suggestion, the other day, was that the western tradition of placing great emphasis on the Words of Institution, and seeing it as a special place in the service of Holy Communion in which many genuflect during elevations, is consistent with the scriptural revelation that God's word in the mouth of his spokesmen is filled with the same power that created heaven and earth out of nothing. That post presents the case for this view, and I need not reiterate it here. This met with a comment that not every Eucharistic rite in the long history of the Church has included the Words of Institution; and, we were reminded of the eastern emphasis on the Epiclesis. And, of course, these facts are well known.

What this really brings up is the subject of Right Reason. This is the most misunderstood element in what has so wrongly been called Hooker's Three legged Stool for far too long. Some think of it as merely "reason" and make it one of three equally balanced sources of authority. Some replace "Tradition" with "experience," subjecting the one and only reliable source of revelation left to us from the Apostolic age and the earlier age of the prophets, that is the Scripture, to the whims of human thought; they subject the Church to every wind of doctrine in the process.

In fact, Hooker wrote about Scripture, Right Reason and The Church with her Authority. For this last, he did in fact use the word "tradition" despite popular misinformation to the contrary. But, he used it sparingly, instead preferring to write in such a way as I have summarized: The Church with her Authority. This speaks not only of the Church's authority to teach the true meaning of the revelation, that is the content of Holy Scripture, but also of the Church's use through the centuries of Right Reason, and of the Church's strutures of authority, the pastoral offices of bishops and priests, polity, the making of Canon Law and Rubrics, etc. It was more, for Hooker, than only the Tradition of the Church's teaching. Right Reason is both the Wisdom we see in the Old Testament, and it is the "Mind of Christ" we see in the New Testament (I Corinthians 2:16). As such, the mind of Christ is not the sole property of any one individual, but is the gift of God granted to the Church. Perhaps, St. Paul saying "we" meant the Apostles primarily; but the context indicates he was speaking of all those whom he classified as spiritual (πνευματικός) rather than natural or "soulish" (ψυχικός).

Right Reason is, frankly, almost impossible to separate from Tradition, or the Church with her Authority. It is not at all clear, really, that Hooker was thinking of three elements that guide us rather than two. Modern day "liberals" might be shocked to learn that what they call "Reason" was, for Hooker (whom they wrongly think of as one of their own) completely tied to the Tradition, and was in fact the same thing, being the mind of Christ in the Church; that is, the Church with her Authority. They may think of "reason" with a mind no higher than a gutter in which the zeitgeist reigns; but Right Reason is beyond their reach. It is very conservative, and demands that we give place to what G.K. Chesteron wrote of as Democracy that includes the dead.

About the subject of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, we have no revelation concerning when in the Eucharistic prayer the Bread and Wine become the Body of Blood of Christ that allows us to make a dogma out of singling out the Words of Institution for special consideration. Certainly, using the very tools he spelled out for us, Hooker considered it to be unimportant when the consecration was consummated, and believed we know only that they are the Body and Blood of Christ to the one who duly receives them (and condemnation to the one who presumes to receive without "hearty repentance and true faith." That is, his presumption adds sin to sin). He ruled out, of course, Transubstantiation (as then understood), making the question of when the Real Presence is fully in the sacrament immaterial.

Nonetheless, I have no problem genuflecting and elevating the elements after saying the Words of Institution. With the proper use of Right Reason the western Church knows that we cannot, after the Word of God is spoken, treat these elements any longer as common bread and wine. Indeed, the rubrics themselves testify that they are considered to be consecrated. This does not contradict the fully acceptable Catholic sort of Receptionism (if it be called Receptionism) that teaches that the grace of the sacrament comes only by receiving. The Word of God has power, and the fullness of consecration may have only begun at that point, to be completed only by receiving; or the consecration has happened at that moment when the words are spoken. We do not know; but we can trust that the Church with her Authority has given us, in our patrimony a liturgical shape that allows us to believe that God's power is behind his words spoken by his servants who act as Christ's own mouthpiece. Can we then genuflect, and later enjoy Eucharistsic devotions before the Reserve Sacrament? That depends on our faith in God's word, so long as nothing be substituted for eating and drinking.

With all of its wisdom, and all of its dogmatic teaching, the Church's Right Reason leads us to acknowledge the glorious mystery, and to humbly confess our ignorance about how God works his wonders. That is enough; it is as far as even Right Reason can go.


Anonymous said...

I missed the commment that not every liturgy in the Church's history contained the Institution narrative with the Dominical Words. The only exception I know of is the eccentric Liturgy of Addai and Mari. Two things are remarkable about that rite: (1) The Prayer is addressed to the Son, rather than to the Father; and (2) this was the liturgy of the Nestorians. These two facts raise questions about its orthodoxy.
If there are any other liturgies which omit the Institution narrative, I am willing to be better informed.

poetreader said...

I think the issue, even with Addai & Mari or any other liturgies that may not have included actual recitation of the Words, is not so much the magic power of speaking given words, but the doing of what the Words of the Lord commanded, under the authority of those Words. If one reads the anaphora of SS Addai & Mari carefully, though one doesn't find the dominical words to be quoted, one most certainly finds a prayer saturated with an understanding of what those words require, and a very conscious eanctment of those very acts under that very authority. Should every Prayer of Consecration include the Words of Institution? I certainly feel so, and I just as certainly feel that the Church of the East perpetuates a very ancient error of judgment in not doing so. Does that, thereby mean that the Lord's words are not being obeyed or that consecration does not take place though His own Word? I would not be so presumptuous as to assert that, but neither am I comfortable with relying on such a minimalist usage.


Anonymous said...

As LKW said, the only anaphora that I can think of that does not have the words of institution is the Anaphora of Addai and Mari. However I disagree with his or her conclusion that its orthodoxy is suspect.
At the risk of exposing myself as an "Anglo-Papist" Pope John Paul II had a commission investigate the matter and the commission agreed that it is indeed a valid anaphora because a) it is one of the most ancient anaphorae in the entire Church; composed and used with the intention of confecting the sacrament as the Church understands it. b) The Assyrians were recognized as a true, particular Church within communion of the greater body of apostolic Churches, even if not in full communion with the Catholic Church. c) In the commission's own words "Finally, the words of Eucharistic Institution are indeed present in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, not in a coherent narrative way and ad litteram, but rather in a dispersed euchological way, that is, integrated in successive prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession."

Obviously, we Anglicans can take or leave this since it is a Roman declaration, but the fact that the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches recognize their anaphora is a good sign that it is the "real deal." This is probably one of the best decisions made by John Paul II. Now if only Benedict XVI would set up a like-minded commission to revisit Leo XIII's unjust declaration that Anglican orders are null and void...

Canon Tallis said...

I've been here before and I guess that I will find myself here again and again. I realize that for many the mere recitation of our Lord's words of administration is the defining part of the Eucharistic prayer which is why Roman altar boys of my youth loved the idea of meeting a priest in a bakery and tricking him into reciting words for the bread. Big laugh! Not.

I am a very strong believer in the Tradition of the Church, but I also believe that to label anything as belonging to that tradition requires it to have a great deal more substance and antiquity than that which is to be found in the very Roman ceremony of the "elevations and genuflections" at the recitation of the Dominical words. We know where and by whom that ceremony was invented which alone should be enough to deny it "antiquity, consent and universality."

Further, the old Latin canon itself in the prayer directly following the Words proceeds to call them "the holy bread of eternal life and the chalice of everlasting salvation," only referring to them as "most holy body and blood of thy Son" at the end of the prayer which asks that "these things" be borne by the hand of thy holy angel, etc.,

This, of course, is essentially the same sequence which we find in the 1928 American book. The rubric in the American book also directs that if the canon must be repeated because the sacrament is exhausted, the Priest is begin at "All Glory be to thee" ending with "partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood."

In the English missals just prior to the first Book of Common Prayer, no such ceremonial as the genuflections and elevations are to be found. Neither are they to be found in any printed Roman missal before that of Pius V in 1570. Before that all that was ordered was Hic inclinet se at 'Supplices te rogamus.' In short, given that they also violate Canon 20 of the Council of Nicea, it is difficult to see how they can be regarded as a Catholic custom.

The purpose of the English Reformation was to return to the faith and practice of the earliest church. We can not be said to do so if we ape Renaissance Rome and turn our back on the universal custom of the Western Church until that time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, M, for that bit of information. Although nobody has ever accused me of being an Anglo-Papalist, Rome's decisions on such matters carries weight with me. In Gregory Dix's comments on that Anaphora (that is the totality of information at my frail command) he shows that the Institution narrative is at least alluded to. That allusion, even if brief, is in a critical spot in the logical unfolding of the prayer. Dix's analysis therefore seems to anticipate that of JP II.

As for the Dominical Words in the IN, the similarity in the three Synoptic accounts and the account in I Corinthians is striking. What we have here is not just a narrative, but a fragment of the very earliest liturgical tradition, a tradition which predates the NT itself. (I Cor is commonly dated AD 53 or 54.) It was not just an accident that this narrative became so prominent in virtually every liturgy throughout the Christian world.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Canon Tallis:

I never said that the custom of elevation, genuflection and ringing of bells has any claim to antiquity. And, I know the Reformers did not have such practices either (and no doubt would dislike them as steps backwards). Due to the overwhelmingly Anglo-Catholic influence in the Continuing Churches, these things are practiced in most places. So, the question is, can this be done in good conscience, and if so based on what? The Words of Institution have been regarded for centuries, in the west, as a blessed point of no return. Where I am expected to genuflect, my conscience is in full accord, bending the knee to God whose word speaks of the grace about to be given and received.

Of relevance: The American BCP follows the Latin Mass pattern of calling the elements "bread" and "wine" in the Epiclesis. I see no contradiction between this and what has been said up until then.

Anonymous said...

Canon Tallis: Let's not resort to beating up on straw-men. Nobody has ever suggested that the "mere recitation" of the Dominical Words has a magical effect, no matter what some poorly catechised and irreverent RC altar boys might have imagined. I come at this from a frankly Calvinistic concept of prayer as "pleading the promises," boldly reminding God of what He committed Himself, in the Upper Room to give us, "when we eat this bread and drink this cup." Then and there Jesus, God Incarnate, the Creative Logos, who made all things in the beginning ex nihilo, became the great high priest and consecrated every Eucharist "until He come again." When we pray (not merely recite) His Words, our Eucharist is brought under His priestly ordinance. This is why many of us extend our hands over the elements at the words, "and did institute, and in His holy Gospel command us to continue...,"
bringing our Eucharist under His warrant.

Remember the first line of the familiar quatrain, "He was the Word
that spake it..."

Someone suggested that if we wish to discover the liturgical Sine Qua Non for a valid consecration, we should look at the BCP provisions for consecrating additional hosts or wine. The 1662 Book, and earlier Prayer Books, required ONLY the relevant Dominical words. Requiring anything more was a novelty and innovation (going back only to 1764) unknown to classical Anglican usage, which blurred the distinction between the Word of God and the words of men.

Canon Tallis said...

Father Wells,

I think I probably hung around with a great many more Roman altar boys that you in my teens. Indeed during that period I not only came to memorize all the responses in Latin but also the whole of the Latin canon to the delight of my Roman (by city of birth and church) uncle. I now recognize that the altar boys were badly taught, but if they were so likewise were too many of the priests, monsignori, and suffragan bishops of same. Now there is a possibility that they actually knew better, but my comments are based upon what they said to my uncle and his wealthy friends while I made the martinis and served them. My Roman uncle was very proud of my ability with good English gin and vermouth. It was only after I began reading theology for myself (Russians, Greeks and Anglicans) that I ever knew there was a contrary opinion.

I strongly agree with your point on the Dominical Words as representing probably one of the strongest and truest survivals, but feel that their place in the canon may be accounted for as our justification for doing what we were commanded to do. I would not do without them but until Alexander Vi's master of ceremonies invented the ceremonies in or about 1502 which did not find their way into the rubrics of the Latin canon until the missal of Pius V in 1570, they were probably said with great reverence but without any visible sign that would have made their being spoken by the priest which would have alerted a laity ignorant of Latin, even if they were able to hear them, that they had been said.

And that brings me back to the comments of Father Hart.

When one speaks of the "overwhelmingly Anglo-Catholic influence in the Continuing Churches", I only wish that were the case. Instead, and,from my point of view, sadly, the dominant liturgical tradition is Anglo-papist and based upon the ceremonial inventions of the Roman Court in the sixteenth century but not officially incorporated into the Latin liturgical books until 1570. While very theatrical and dramatic, something so absent from the liturgical tradition of even the Western Church until that time can hardly be described as "Catholic," i.e. according to the whole. Plus, given the morals or more accurately the lack of same in the inhabitants of the Roman See at that period, the question is why have such novel liturgical practices come to symbolize Catholic orthodoxy among us? I have never quite understood it - or been afraid that i understood it only too well and simply did not want to admit the possible real implication to myself. There is this problem of a monument to an infamous English priest in a very famous Anglo-papalist London parish . . . .