15 September 2008

Thoughts on EWTN'S Mass for Exaltation of the Holy Cross

[TERRY WARNING: I'm going to say something nice about Vatican II - continue reading at your own risk! ;)]

I suppose it ill becomes a Lutheran to comment upon a Roman Mass, for I'm not a Roman Christian and have no intention of ever becoming one. But I can't pass up the opportunity.

Pope Benedict XVI restored a year ago the right to celebrate the extraordinary rite - the Latin Mass - to any priest. I've not watched the whole before and was curious, so I checked out the service. The music was, of course, beautiful. The ceremony was, for this Lutheran pastor, a bit over the top - now I know what Chemnitz referred to when he criticized the Roman high mass as "theatrical." But the most deeply disturbing moment for me as a Lutheran Christian came during the consecration. This was accomplished with the priest speaking under his breath. The result was that no one assembled got to hear the Verba Christi, the great promise which stands at the heart and center of the Holy Eucharist. I've known for donkey years that that's how the Mass used to be; but knowing it is different from observing it. The observation was downright painful.

Watching during this gaping silence made me quite sad for my fellow Christians in the Roman jurisdiction; and it made me profoundly thankful for the Lutheran Reformation. In all our services, no matter what poverty of ceremony they may have (from a Roman viewpoint), the very words of Christ ring out (and are often SUNG out) as the very heart of the Divine Service. "My Body, given for you...My Blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins!" Surely if Vatican II did ONE thing right with the Roman liturgy, it was putting the canon into the vernacular and having it said aloud so that Christ's people can hear and hold in faith to the wonderful words of our Savior.

Don't get me wrong; the Latin Mass is very beautiful, but its beauty simply pales when you think about taking away from Christ's people the hearing of His Testament. There is no beauty on earth more beautiful than the words, spoken on the night of His betrayal, by our Savior, and repeated now and until the Parousia in the Savior's stead and by His command, for the joy of His people.


Scott Larkins said...

So what of the Greeks? Do they whisper as well?

William Weedon said...

The Eastern Church usually has the priest speak the words of the prayer silently, but when he comes to the Testament of our Lord, he speaks them aloud, and the choir answers each part with "Amen!"

Past Elder said...

Not to worry, Pastor -- if a Lutheran pastor found the traditional Catholic Mass acceptable, he wouldn't be a Lutheran pastor!

In fact, that Lutheran and other non-Catholic clergy and laity find the new rite more acceptable is to the traditionalist Catholic one of the many signs that the new rite is little more than disguised Protestantism. Right after the Council, the joke went around: we could have saved a lot of time and ink by issuing three words, Luther Was Right, and going home. Some, our friend Herr Schuetz zum B, have speculated that had the Mass been celebrated all along as it is now there would have been no Reformation. To the traditional Catholic, this is to say the Church would have lost its faith much earlier than it did.

Both the Latin and the silence are a constituative part of what Catholicism considers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Pius XII, as recently as 1947 in Mediator Dei, called use of the vernacular deserving of severe reproof, denying a manifest unity given to the church and a barrier against theological corruption -- a sort of a verbal iconostasis like the literal one in the East in addition to their liturgical, as opposed to vernacular, spoken language.

Likewise, the use of an audible voice throughout the service is taken as another sign of Protestantism in the novus ordo, whereas the inaudible voice for example at the Consecration highlights that this is a sacrifice, not a promise, and therfore the comfort is from the sacrificial act done rather than the words said, the power residing in the valid priest, Christ in his validly ordained stand-in, as it were, acting in persona Christi, in his actions and not the words -- words which apart from the valid action are without merit, at best. In sum, it's in the action, not the words.

Now, understand, I am not saying these things are right, just that they are Catholic. And when I was Catholic, ie when I thought they were right, it was on such things that I rejected the new rite, and the church for having abandoned its faith; and believing that rejected faith to be the true faith and the RCC to be the true church, Christianity itself since it had imploded.

Now, I think Vatican II was the greatest thing that ever happened to me! Without it, ie had it not happened, I would still be in the errors which I formerly believed! It was when I saw what was taught to me repudiated at Vatican II that I also saw that what was taught to me could not be that which enjoys the promise of Christ that not even the gates of hell will overcome it. In sum, when I saw that what is now Catholic is not Catholic, I also saw that what is Catholic is wrong. And when the Holy Spirit saw fit, I was able to see on reading Babylonian Captivity and the Book of Concord what was right and truly catholic.

So my objection to Vatican II as a Lutheran is entirely different than my objection to Vatican II when I was a Catholic. Now, it just seems like too little, too late, certainly nothing to bother with. Our fathers did not look to Trent nor need we look to Vatican II; rather, we should continue to look where they looked, before all that corruption and zealously guard and defend the mass, not wait for an apostate church to get it right or at least better.

What is more, I can tell you from direct experience that the "reformers" at Vatican II had their sights not just on what was wrong with Catholicism but also on things we hold right with it, not because they are Catholic, but because they are catholic. And too, the proponents of Vatican II will argue that in fact nothing has really changed at all, that the new rites make more clear what the Roman church has taught all along. If the proponents are right about that, then our dalliance with Vatican II is worse and far more dangerous than a dalliance with the Tridentine Mass! And I submit has a lot to do with all the Tiber swimming we see lately.

Actually, I don't get anywhere near the consecration before either what they now call the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine) or the Ordinary Form (novus ordo) turns me off completely. It happens right off at the Confiteor, where in either "form" instead of our clear in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins, one hears MAY Almighty God forgive us all our sins etc -- a prayer that he may do what he in fact has done!

My thought on EWTN's anything -- turn to Tom and Jerry, a NASCAR race, whatever, or see if Jimmy Swaggart's on.

Scott Larkins said...

Ahh....the opening of another can-o-worms on Weedon's Blog.

Here we go!

Greeks speak up. Let us know your take.

Past Elder said...

There should be no can of worms at all on my part. I take no exception to anything Pastor has said. I only point out that: my reasons for opposing as a Catholic Vatican II For Catholics are entirely different than my reasons for opposing as a Lutheran Vatican II For Lutherans; the Latin/liturgical language and more importantly the inaudible Verba are as essential a part of what the Catholic faith thinks is going on at Mass as the vernacular and the audible Verba are an essential part of what our Lutheran faith thinks is going on at mass/Divine Service; the novus ordo in using the vernacular and audible Verba has not moved toward what we mean by its use at all.

Chris said...

Fr. Weedon,

The traditions differ according to the Typikon. Those jurisdictions that follow the Slavic Typikon are more likely to silently proclaim the verba save for the epiklesis. HOwever, we Antiochians and Greeks will say the "Take eat" and epiklesis aloud for all to hear.

bgeorge77 said...

"Don't get me wrong; the Latin Mass is very beautiful, but its beauty simply pales when you think about taking away from Christ's people the hearing of His Testament."

I'm usually not one to defend the traditional Latin Mass. As a Catholic I am glad for the vernacular and I am glad that it is not silent; but just a brief note:
Catholics know what Christ's testament is concerning his Body and Blood, silent consecration or no. Though the words might be silent, we hear it.

In fact it is only since Vat II that Catholics have become destabilized in their eucharistic catechesis. Thanks be to God, this seems to be turning around and eucharistic devotion is markedly stronger among active Catholics of my generation than those of the older Baby Boomer set.

Laudably, you speak the words aloud: "This is My Body." May the people of the various Lutheran synods remember to hear them.

Dixie said...

Catholics know what Christ's testament is concerning his Body and Blood, silent consecration or no. Though the words might be silent, we hear it.

Actually I was going to suggest the very same thing. So too with the Orthodox where the epiklesis is spoken quietly (as is done in my parish). And for my deaf Roman Catholic father and others like him. Besides one who has properly prepared to receive knows what he has prepared for. And don't they use the bells in the old Latin mass so there is absolutely no question what is going on...for those who do have hearing?

I think your case may be overstated, Pastor Weedon.

Chris said...

Actually an addendum to what I wrote earlier. The verba "Take eat..." and "Take drink..." are always proclaimed aloud because the choir pronounces a loud Amen after each. However, the epiklesis "make this the precious body/precious blood of Thy Christ, changing them by Thy Holy Spirit" is (supposed to be) said silently because the Deacon announces "amen." I don't know why my parish does it differently.

As far as the verba being said silently or not, I think you are wrong to assume, Fr. Weedon, that the Roman church is somehow cheating the faithful of the words of Christ or trying to keep them in the dark. This practice of the silence of the canon has been established since the 7th century. In a book, Benedict XVI, while he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote the following from "The SPirit of the Liturgy" with regards to the Canon of the Mass:

In 1978, to the annoyance of many liturgists, I said tha tin no sense does the whole Canon always HAVE to be said out loud. After much consideration, I should like to repeat and underline the point here in the hope that, twenty years later, this thesis will be better understood. Meanwhile, in their efforts to reform the Missal, the German liturgists have explicitly stated that, of all things, the Eucharistic Prayer, the high point of the Mass, is in crisis. Since the reform of the liturgy, an attempt has been made to meet the crisis by incessantly inventing new Eucharistic Prayers, and in the process we have sunk farther and farther into banality. Multiplying words is no help---that is all too evident. The liturgists have suggested all kinds of remedies, which certainly contain elements that are worthy of consideration. However, as far as I can see, they balk, now as in the past, at the possibility that silence too, silence especially, might constitute communion before God. It is no accident that in Jerusalem, from a very early time, parts of the Canon were prayed in silence and that in the West the silent Canon---overlaid in part with meditative singing---became the norm. To dismiss all this as the result of misunderstandings is just too easy. It really is not true that reciting the whole Eucharistic Prayer out loud and without interruptions is a prerequisite for the participation of everyone in this central act of the Mass. My suggestion in 1978 was as follows. First, liturgical education ought to aim at making the faithful familiar with the essential meaning and fundamental orientation of the Canon. Secondly, the first words of the various prayers should be said out loud as a kind of cue for the congregation, so that each individual in his silent prayer can take up the intonation and bring the personal into the communal and the communal into the personal. Anyone who has experienced a church united in the silent praying of the Canon will know what a really FILLED silence is. It is at once a loud and penetrating cry to God and a Spirit-filled act of prayer. Here everyone does pray the Canon together, albeit in a bond with the special task of the priestly ministry. Here everyone is united, laid hold of by Christ, and led by the Holy Spirit into that common prayer to the Father which is the true sacrifice--the love that reconciles and unites God and the world. (pp. 215-216)

Hope this sheds some light.

Anonymous said...

The observation was downright painful.

Not surprising, Pastor Weedon. You are looking at the Mass through Lutheran paradigms so your reaction is entirely understandable.

As Terry points out very well, both the Latin and the silence serve as a verbal "iconostasis" in the Tridentine Rite; through what the reformers called "theatrics" the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord unfolds through signs and symbols that those participating spiritually enter into. No Catholic participating would feel "deprived" at not hearing the Words of Institution. They know what is happening.

The Institution is seen as part of the wider Eucharistic canon that became far more truncated under Luther's reforms. The Holy Sacrifice includes but is not limited to the Verba, a distinguishing feature between Protestant and Catholic worship that has not changed even with the reforms of Vatican II.

It wasn't until I had worshipped for a while as a Catholic that I began to notice the essentially "verbal" nature of Lutheran and Protestant worship (which makes complete sense in a sola scriptura environment).

I also agree with Dixie's observations. One who has prepared for the Mass is never at loss as to what is going on. My Catholic Father, who grew up in the Tridentine Rite certainly knew where he was in the liturgy at all times.

Past Elder said...

I would say Pastor's case is right on the mark, if our Lutheran understanding of what happens at mass is correct.

Ex opere operato: from the work having been done. That is how Catholicism understands grace to be conferred when a sacrament has been validly confected. Thus:

As to the Latin, while the vernacular does not contradict the institution of Christ, Latin is retained for several reasons among them
1. being fixed words in a fixed language, it insures that the intent of the Church will be expressed (intent along with matter and form being the three elements of a sacrament) no matter the priest, the place or the time
2. it is a visible sign of the unity of the Church in all places and ages
3. the sentence and manner of death of Christ was passed in Latin, the language of the world power in the time and place in which he lived, representing he was killed not by the Jews but by the sins of the entire world, therefore his resurrection and his giving of his body and blood for the salvation of souls is celebrated in that same language as a sign of his victory over the world, its sin and its power
4. the use of the vernacular is associated with other Reformation doctrines that do contradict the institution of Christ

As to the silent Verba
1. the Mass is a propitiary sacrifice, identical to and one with the sacrifice of the Cross, not the Last Supper, therefore its reality is found not in words but in the action of sacrifice
2. "do this" is given to the Apostles in turn transmitted to their successors the bishops and those priests ordained by and attached to them, so the sacrament is validly confected not as a promise of the Lord made true by the power of his words to do what they say, but by the action of the priesthood of Christ, personally at the Cross and in persona Christi through the priest at Mass, apart from which there is no sacrament, even if the words be spoken
3. the words therefore, not being the reality itself, are spoken inaudibly, but the action is the focus, the priest (standing as a man himself in the same direction as the other faithful) raising the host, no longer bread but the very Body of the Lord, high over his head and the altar boy ringing the bell (three bells on a common handle, where I was!) loudly so that none miss, not the words, but the action by which salvation is offered to Man

The Tridentine expresses all this, in fact, is the way it is preciely to express all this. A radically different understanding of what is going on than the Lutheran one, therefore radically different than the Divine Service, as it is often called, of the Lutheran church, though a belief in the Real Presence is common to both, but, sadly, present in only one (which is also why the Roman church recognises the validity of the Eastern sacraments)

Again, I say these things not that they are right, though I once thought so, but that they are Catholic, and was once taught so.

Jim Huffman said...

"It wasn't until I had worshipped for a while as a Catholic that I began to notice the essentially "verbal" nature of Lutheran and Protestant worship (which makes complete sense in a sola scriptura environment)."

I think you are on to something here. There's an essentially "word-bound" quality to Protestantism, which manifests an aesthetic barrenness in Protestant worship spaces, and in the continuing temptation to strip the liturgy of aspects believed non-essential.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, the re-presentation, the making present, of the Sacrifice of Calvary, not only the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, is the defining difference between Lutheran and Catholic/Orthodox worship.

The fullness of the Paschal mystery expressed in the liturgy is one of the most compelling reasons that people become Catholic and Orthodox.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your comments.

When I go to Mass the flow from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist is even and uninterrupted. Through words and symbols I am carried into the Paschal Mystery in a way that has become second nature to me.

There are of course Lutheran parishes that have retained a great deal of their catholic heritage. But most that I've attended have a very decidely "evangelical" environment.

William Weedon said...

To know that the words are what is being said is by no means the same as to HEAR the words - and especially as they are sung! Promise from God's mouth to your ear and from your ear to your heart: my body and my blood for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

Our worship is "wordy" but that's because our Lord speaks and we listen and sing back to Him what He says. But the "wordy" of our worship is an incarnate word: hence the pictures, the statues, the stained glass, the architecture of the Church building itself which preaches - but above all: a paten holding bread and a chalice holding wine - bread and wine that become for us the Word Incarnate.

Anonymous said...

my body and my blood for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

Which is exactly what the Catholic ethos perceives at the elevation and the reception of the Body and Blood in the Tridentine Rite. Of course, in the vernacular liturgy the Words of Institution are very clearly spoken but to the Catholic mind there is no disconnect.

The quality of ecclesiastical appointments really isn't the root of an Incarnate spirituality. My husband tells me that when he was in Viet Nam some of the most meaningful Masses he attended were those offered by the Catholic chaplain in the most humble of circumstances.

To be Catholic is a way of life, a way of looking at the universe in both its natural and supernatural estates.

William Weedon said...


Indeed. That's why I'm delighted to be a catholic! :)

William Weedon said...


"Since the seventh century." So the practice of the people HEARING the Verba aloud is the practice, then, of St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Gregory - well, you get the idea! ;)

Anonymous said...

To give credit where it is due, actually, that thought came from an august Catholic author, Anne Roche Muggeridge.

I read her before I became Catholic and didn't understand what she meant.

I do now.

Chris said...

Let me rephrase. It has been documented since the 7th century which means it could well be older than that! As far as what Liturgy the St. Gregory, St. Augustine and St. Jerome used, I don't know.

William Weedon said...

Lutheran rubrics from the 16th century tend to be rather sparse. So when they occur they have weight for us. Almost invariably the rubric in this regard is that the priest is to turn himself toward the altar and sing "laut und deutlich" the Verba. Does it accord better with the institution as prescribed by our Lord to SPEAK his words aloud or to pray them silently?

Lutheran Lucciola said...

PE (Terry), you have such an amazing wealth of knowledge in this subject, glad you posted on these comments!
See, I learn from you, too.

Oh, yeah, and this Weedon guy. ;-)

Past Elder said...

That's the problem. There is no agreement on what is the institution as prescribed by Our Lord. We Lutherans would of course be for the audible Verba, but Catholics would be for the silent Verba -- well, post-conciliar ones as usual have a different answer than the Catholic one, which is both are OK, but in either case both "Catholics" would say the audible Verba is not required for fidelity to Christ's institution.

Unfortunately, he did not leave us a service book, or any rubrics. Even the old and new Roman liturgy are not the same on his words of institution. The new Mass says Hoc facite (Do this) where the real Mass says in mei memoriam facietis (ye shall do in remembrance of Me). Even the word before the words of institution, dicens (saying) is inconclusive, because the "silent" Verba are not silent really, they are said, but in a low voice or a whisper so as not to detract from the action which is the focus rather than the words. What is this "this" we are to do?

I submit the reason for the disagreement is a radical difference not just in Eucharistic theology, but joined to and part of many other differences too, even of entire mindset.

This mindset (the Catholic one) is quite real when one is in it. For example, about midway through the twenty years between knowing the Catholic Church was gone and finding the catholic church alive and quite well in the Lutheran Reformation, I went to a Melkite Rite liturgy in Miami. Now, despite a liturgy, language, music, architecture and appointments that were quite out of my experience, at no point in the service did I not know what was going on -- the actions were clear, and since it's about the actions, the words neither helped nor hindered. I had been to Mass and knew it. Perhaps that illustrates the point. Similarly -- and this is only to illustrate the point, not argue with the Catholics here -- despite being in my native and ancestral language, quite audible throughout, in a liturgy whose formation happened right under my nose, not once ever in the novus ordo, even in the broadcasts on EWTN or on CNN when big stuff happens in Rome, have I ever had the sense of being to Mass or anything else but a high church Protestant service done by Catholic clergy.

Or again to make the point, in the first couple years I was Lutheran, despite the audible Verba, my past would object to me, This is all well and good but these aren't priests, it's just guys in some vestments saying the words, therefore there is no Eucharist here, though (as BXVI himself has said) we cannot say Christ is entirely absent even though not sacramentally present.

So, when we look at Our Lord's institution, what did he institute? Is this his body and blood? We both say yes of course, but the question does not stop there -- is this a sacrifice, is this a sacrifice in that it is one and the same as Calvary, is the same priest and victim here present as there, and that because here there is acting in his person someone ordained and attached to a bishop in succession from the Apostles to whom this power was given when he said (quoting of course from the real Mass which contains this than the new which does not) haec quotiescumque feceritis, in mei memoriam facietis (as often as ye do these things, ye shall do them in remembrance of Me)?

The Verba, loudly or softly said, does not resolve all that, but flows from which one accepts as the resolution, the one going with the inaudible Verba the other with the audible.

(except in the novus ordo where you can worship like a Protestant and claim the validity of a Catholic, but as that is an aspect of the topic for another time and another blog I won't even mention it -- Lulu, go with the Weedon guy; we elders only assist our pastors but we're not pastors)

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...


PE may be smart, but when one considers the price he paid for that knowledge...well, I'm not sure one would choose to suffer that. ;)

Interesting perspectives here, from in and out of R.C. Good blog.

Anonymous said...

Our worship is "wordy" but that's because our Lord speaks and we listen and sing back to Him what He says

Hmm, I didn't address that very clearly. I wasn't actually referring to the Scriptural basis of Lutheran worship. Protestant worship (sorry, growing up Lutheran all the congregations I attended, including a few LCMS, self-identified as Protestant -- an old habit) sometimes is interrupted by too many announcements, comments by the pastor, etc. That's what I meant by the flow of the Mass, from the Entrance Hymn, Sign of the Cross, through the Penitential Rite, Gloria, Biblical readings through the entire Eucharistic liturgy -- the flow is from one part of the liturgy to the next, with little interruption. Announcements, etc. are usually made for after the final blessing.

Pastor Weedon, if you ever have a chance to watch the Tridentine Rite again (perhaps even outside of EWTN, which I rarely watch unless they are broadcasting the beautiful Masses from the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception), it might be handy to have a Latin/English missal nearby -- then the "theatrics" will make sense.

And PE is right -- Catholics gather to worship in order to "do" something -- make present the Sacrifice of Calvary (which makes PE's assertion that the Mass is just a form of "high" Protestant worship absurd -- show me any Protestant body that does that). Nevertheless the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist form a unified whole -- the readings of the Biblical Word prepare us for the Presence of the Eternal Word through whom alone we have access to the Father in the Spirit.

But then, disaffected preconciliar Catholics (oops, former Catholics) like PE are adamant that folks who choose to become Catholic can't possibly know what they are doing :) (thanks to my Catholic Dad and the good Sisters at my Catholic kindergarten who planted the seeds long ago)

William Weedon said...


I didn't have the text before me, but I'm fairly well familiar with it to understand what they were praying when. But even knowing that the qui predie had begun doesn't in anyway alleviate the sadness that those words were not HEARD by the people for their joyous "amen."

As for wordiness in the sense of announcements - that drives me crazy and in our parish it doesn't happen. That's what the bulletin is there for. The only time something gets announced is if there's a variation from what's printed in the bulletin - usually the shortening of a long hymn or some such.

Anonymous said...

But even knowing that the qui predie had begun doesn't in anyway alleviate the sadness that those words were not HEARD by the people for their joyous "amen."

Perhaps I might offer the thought that silence can sometimes produce an interior joy that doesn't require words. For the Catholic, the "making present" and all its fruits occurs whether the Verba are spoken or not. St. Therese understood that concept of interior union very well.

I do understand how that would not fit the Lutheran point of view.

Past Elder said...

I specifically do not want to introduce intramural Catholic stuff into this, so for the purpose of this discussion let me clarify: I am not saying high church Protestant worship thinks it is making present the sacrifice of Calvary; what I said was, in the novus ordo Catholics now still think they are making Calvary present but after the manner of those who don't.

And back to the topic, maybe it will help with that -- faithfulness to the institution of Christ at the Last Supper will not resolve this for a Catholic, because it is not the Last Supper only that is at issue here, it is equally faithfulness to what Christ did at Calvary, since the Mass is not simply the Last Supper presenting the Body and Blood for us, but Calvary's sacrifice itself that is happening in Catholic belief. (Which is also why the host be adored and this union happen with no Verba at all, spoken loud or soft -- "exposition of the blessed sacrament")

And Dan -- you got that right, brother.

Anonymous said...

I specifically do not want to introduce intramural Catholic stuff into this,

Right! That's saved for Schuetz's blog (grin, grin :)

And back to the topic, maybe it will help with that -- faithfulness to the institution of Christ at the Last Supper will not resolve this for a Catholic, because it is not the Last Supper only that is at issue here, it is equally faithfulness to what Christ did at Calvary, since the Mass is not simply the Last Supper presenting the Body and Blood for us, but Calvary's sacrifice itself that is happening in Catholic belief. (Which is also why the host be adored and this union happen with no Verba at all, spoken loud or soft -- "exposition of the blessed sacrament")

Basta !! Which is exactly why trying to "read" the Tridentine Rite through Lutheran paradigms won't work -- and why my Catholic Dad, raised in the Tridentine Rite, never felt quite at home at the Lutheran services he occasionally attended with his Lutheran wife and children (although he also attended the postconciliar Mass).

Anonymous said...

what I said was, in the novus ordo Catholics now still think they are making Calvary present but after the manner of those who don't.

I'll be sure to pass that on to Papa Benedict.

I don't think anyone's told him yet.

Now, on to other things!!

Past Elder said...

I agree with you Christine. That's what we're discussing -- why, given the different understanding of what mass is Lutherans have, the Tridentine Rite will seem wrong, but given the undertanding Catholics have of what Mass is, it is right. And why on that basis fidelity to the institution of Christ won't solve the Verba issue or the reaction to the rite in general, because while there is overlap, Lutherans and Catholics do not have the same understanding of what Christ instituted to which one wants to be faithful.

123 said...

Does the following story from John Moschos' "The Spiritual Meadow" cast any light on why portions of the anaphora/eucharistic canon have come to be said 'to oneself' or 'quietly'?:

"Chapter XXV - A BROTHER of the monastery of Cuziba, and the words of the sacred offering, also of the abbot JOHN

There was a brother in the coenobium of Cuziba who had learned the words and ceremonial of the sacred offering. We were told about him by that Abbot Gregory who had once been a member of the palace guard watching over the Prince. One day this brother was sent to fetch the bread and wine (benedictiones), and as he was returning to the monastery he uttered the words of the sacred offering [i.e. "Canon of the Mass", or "Prayer of Consecration"] as if he were singing some ritual formula (quasi versus aliquos caneret). The deacon placed this bread and wine on the altar, but when abba John the presbyter offered it (he who afterwards was bishop of Caesarea Palestine) he did not perceive the usual descent of the Holy Spirit. He was very upset and wondered whether the Holy Spirit had turned away from him because of some mental sin. He returned to the sacristy weeping, and fell flat on his face. But an angel of the Lord appeared to him saying: "The brother who fetched the offerings (oblationes) said the words of the sacred offering over them as he was on his way, which was the reason for them being already sanctified and perfected." From then on the superior decreed that no one should learn the words of the sacred offering unless he were ordained for this purpose, nor should anyone say them anywhere or at any time apart from a consecrated place."


Past Elder said...

For me it more raises a question!

The story implies there is a power in the words alone. Rome does not believe this. The brother in the story, I, a Lutheran pastor, or anyone else who is not a priest ordained by a bishop in succession from the Apostles can say the words all he wants, but there neither is nor will be a Eucharist or the Presence because he lacks ordination into the priesthood of Christ to act in His person.

So it's not like a spell or incantation you'd better not learn!

Therefore, in the story, it would not have been possible for there to be a Presence until Abba John consecrated them, in Roman thinking. Which same thinking is also why Rome recognises the validity of EO sacraments despite the "schism".

So then, does EO think the Verba have a power apart from a proper person saying them?

Anonymous said...

A snippet from a Greek Orthodox site:

The Sacrament of the Holy Priesthood (Ordination)
Fr. Peter Orfanakos

For the Church of Christ is Christ's Body, according to Saint Paul (Col. 1:24), and the man who is entrusted with it must train it to perfect health...."
Saint John Chrysostom

The Three Orders of the Holy Priesthood

The Sacrament of the Holy Priesthood derives its origin from Christ, the great High Priest, Who was "holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens... a minister in the sanctuary which is set up not by man but by the Lord." (Hebrews 7:26, 8:2) Christ as the heavenly High Priest offered Himself as a sacrifice on the Cross "for all," and conferred His priesthood upon His Apostles. (John 20:21-23, Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-18, Acts 2:33)

From the Apostles the office of the Priesthood passed on in an unbroken chain to the first clergymen whom they ordained, and through them to their successors. This is called Apostolic succession and it is fundamental teaching in the Orthodox Church because only through it can the clergymen receive the authority to become real representatives of Christ and the Apostles of the Church.

As successors of the Apostles and representatives of Christ in His Church, clergymen continue the work of Jesus. They teach the word of God; offer the Holy Eucharist and administer the other sacraments; they govern the Church and take care of the spiritual needs of the members of their congregations.

Here is where RC's have more in common with the EO than with Lutherans.


while there is overlap, Lutherans and Catholics do not have the same understanding of what Christ instituted to which one wants to be faithful.

Yup. It's not always easy for non-Catholics to grasp. My Lutheran sister still thinks the Mass is basically a Lutheran worship service with a bit more ceremony.

Mention the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and she gets a blank look on her face.

Past Elder said...

Judas with Doritos. The question is still unanswered. In the story, the person who got the bread and wine was not a priest, yet having said the Verba over them, when the priest consecrated them he found them already consecrated.

This would imply a power in the Verba themselves, effective apart from who speaks them.

As opposed to being effective only when spoken by a validly ordained priest therefore capable of speaking in persona Christi, which I would have thought is the position of the EO.

Growing up, the validity of the EO as a church, its sacraments and all, was very much impressed upon us, it being a matter of a split within the true church, as opposed to the Reformation which is a revolt from it. So I always just figured that, apart from the pope thing and filioque, they were, with cultural differences, the same as us. (As we, more correctly.)

From my first exploration of EO beyond that, when I considered it as a way to go following the implosion of the RCC, to my contact with it now through our Bosphoros swimming former Lutheran brethren, I have found this is not the case, they are not the RCC with a different culture and a disagreement about the pope and filioque, and do not see the RCC the same way the RCC sees them at all.

So while I would have though the story reflects a view I would not expect in EO, nonetheless there it is, hence my question for them.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, I went to the Monachos site and read more of the entries. This one, in particular:

Chapter II - The life of an OLD MAN who fed lions in his own cave

In this same area of Sapsa there lived another old man of such virtue that he welcomed lions into his cave and fed them by hand, so full of divine grace was that man of God.

Put me right in mind of the story of St. Jerome removing a thorn from a lion's paw.

It seems to me this is hagiographical storytelling of the kind that serves to instill a spiritual lesson. I'm not sure it is supposed to support the "Verba alone" position.

If any Orthodox reading this blog can point me to official Orthodox teaching that the Verba alone can consecrate, then I'll believe it is supported in Orthodoxy and will stand firmly corrected.

Anonymous said...

As a Catholic Priest I would say that your blog on the EWTN Mass came accross as a continuation of the Reformation polemics of centuries ago.

"Me thinks that you protest too much." Although you forcefully stated that you will never be a RC, you come accross as fighting too hard against that notion.

Since the Lutheran and other Protestant clergy lack Apostolic Succession, it matters little to argue about whether the words of Consecration are said aloud or silently.

In either case, without a valid Priesthood, there is no Real Presence or Eucharist.

BTW, I enjoy your blogs and pray that God will lead you to the fullness of truth. The churches of the Reformation share imperfectly in the one Catholic Church by Baptism and those truths that are in conformity to the Catholic Faith. Christ founded only one Church, not multitudes of denominations.

Fr. Martin Gerber

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gerber,

I am well aware of your communion's error about our ministry! :) Christ did indeed found one Church and that one Church is the gathering of all His believers around His throne. He also founded one office of the holy ministry, as one can readily see from reading the NT witness (where presbyter and episcopus are synonyms). To elevate to church dividing status a mere human arrangement that came at a later generation is to make the traditions of men divisive in Christ's holy body. And how sad that is!

I'm glad you introduced yourself though. We have a good friend by the name of Gerber in our parish.

Anonymous said...

The fourth-century Church historian, Eusebius, says that the Apostles Peter and Paul, who planted the faith in Antioch, left directions that Ignatius should succeed Evodius as bishop of that city; St. John Chrysostom lays special emphasis on the honor conferred upon the martyr in receiving his episcopal consecration at the hands of the Apostles themselves.

The seven letters written by Ignatius on his way to Rome, which have come down to us in their entirety, are accepted as absolutely authentic by modern scholars. Their great importance is the light they throw on the organization, beliefs, and practices of the Christian Church, about eighty-five years after Christ's death.

There are many solid reference works extant that trace the development of the episcopal office in response to the growth of the infant Church and the heresies she had to combat. Of course, reformers such as Calvin rejected the episcopal office outright because it did not fit with his own particular theological views.

Catholics and Orthodox (and some Lutherans and Anglicans) see the Holy Spirit at work in the offices of bishop, priest and deacon.

So Catholics likewise are aware of the errors of the Reformed communions vis a vis the ministry! :)

William Weedon said...


On the Ignatian epistles, there is apparently some scholarly debate still surfacing around the question of authenticity. Drives me nuts because I WANT them to be authentic, but certain difficult questions do arise regarding them. My good friend, Pr. Heath Curtis, who is very up on their scholarship tells me that the jury is still out on the question.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Weedon, it is true that the Letters of Ignatius were interpolated in the fourth century and a number of forgeries and legendary acts of his martyrdom were later added to them. But as I understand it scholars in the late nineteenth century finally succeeded in establishing, beyond a reasonable doubt, the original text of the seven authentic letters. These texts show that Catholic doctrines such as the real presence, Christ’s divinity, and a priestly hierarchy were not introduced by the Roman emperor Constantine in the fourth century, as charged by some, but are part of the legacy bequeathed by the apostolic Churches at the close of the New Testament era.

I have the collection at home, and the letters really are a marvelous glimpse into the post-New Testament Christian world.

Past Elder said...

Judas with a Quarter Pounder (which combining meat and milk products is not kosher)!

Can it really be that something, if it is true, so essential to the church awaits confirmation two millennia later by PhDs? God bless me, are we the new magisterium (yes, I have one of the bleeders)?

And here the Catholic chaplain in grad school told me one of the liberating moments of his priesthood was when he discovered after Vatican II that he didn't have to convert the Lutherans! Maybe Father Gerber can cancel him out.

Even the textus receptus back in college, The Jerusalem Bible, was clear in its notes that the bishop/priest/deacon structure was not present as we have it now in the NT. Which, if you're Catholic, real or conciliar, is OK: Scripture is not the sole rule of faith here. The church is, so whether something is taught clearly in Scripture or later through its authentic magisterium it's equally of Christ.

So really, it's all back to that.

Gott hilf mir if I didn't read the Fathers then and wonder how anyone could read them and not be Catholic!

Anonymous said...

Can it really be that something, if it is true, so essential to the church awaits confirmation two millennia later by PhDs?

Yup. Needs to be reiterated from time to time when you have the likes of John Shelby Spong and the Jesus Seminar hanging around.

As for the Catholic chaplain at your grad school (probably near or around the time I was attending the Jesuit John Carroll University (am proud to say that the year I entered was the first year that women were admitted). Man, was the priest who taught history a hunk! Sigh! (Hey, I was single and 18 years old -- I can be forgiven for my carnal attitude!) This was in the late 60's so I probably could add to the list of names that your chaplain would have found very amenable.

I'll repeat something here I posted on David's blog. Although I was not Catholic in the 60's, 70's or 80's I was very involved in ecumenical goings on at the Lutheran church where I was a member. Because of my Catholic connection on papa's side I also followed the events of the postconciliar Catholic Church very closely. I still remember some of the Protestant observers such as the noted Presbyterian theologian Robert McAfee Brown (I have a copy of his book "The Ecumenical Revolution") confidently proclaiming that the Church would be offering Holy Communion to all Protestants shortly. Well, it didn't -- and ain't -- gonna happen, not because Protestants are not worthy (I've always said my Lutheran sister is a far more gracious Christian than I am), but because our ecclesiology and dogmatic foundations are not the same.

So I betcha I could find lotsa company for your chaplain.

Fast forward, by 1978 I was married and attending Mass frequently with my in-laws so I had a pretty good view of what was happening before I converted. By 1997, the year I converted I had met so many gracious and faithful Catholic laity and clergy that I was not going to be kept away by those who erred.

So really yes, it is back to that. Of course, I cherished the patristic writings long before I became Catholic.

Past Elder said...

Well, for the record, the priest at the Catholic Student Center (fka Newman Center) found what I am sure was an even more liberating moment later when he married his "pastoral assistant".

At least she was female.

At my previous university (post-Abbey, now!) I quit going there when I went to Mass and found a scene from Anouilh, or was it Ionescu, being done rather than the Scripture readings, celebrating all things true, etc etc of course.

But, and at the same risk of repeating something from David's blog, while these abuses pushed me toward the door, it was reading the Documents of Vatican II and the novus ordo Mass in Latin than convinced me to leave, as this was in no way, no way, the Faith or the Church as I was taught.

123 said...

Out of curiosity, if the RCC returns to being 'the Church you were taught', would you return?

I am always befuddled by comments on what is essential to Christianity that skip over centuries and centuries of consistent, broad consensus. Arguing for what pastoral/sacredotal offices 'really' were in the Apostolic church seems to me not far from our liberal friends attempts at getting at the 'real' Paul, 'real' Christianity, etc. As if the confessors assembled at Nicea, et al were somehow unclear on the meaning of the episkopos/presbyter passages in what became known as the New Testament.

Anonymous said...

At least she was female.

That may make me break out in a Te Deum :) :)

Anonymous said...

As if the confessors assembled at Nicea, et al were somehow unclear on the meaning of the episkopos/presbyter passages in what became known as the New Testament.

Yup. Those faithful confessors bore the marks of torture on their bodies because of their witness to Christ.

Past Elder said...

Orrologion -- no, I would not, as I now know the church I was taught was false too.

As to the rest lately, maybe an unbaptised emperor can call another church council to settle it. Rome or Constantinople gonna buy that?

Fearsome Pirate said...

This whole conversations illustrates one of the governing theological principles of Roman Catholicism--

Most of what Jesus and the apostles said and did really could have been said and done much better. In the Reformation, the argument was that yes, Jesus did give the cup to everyone present, but the Church has since figured out that's not a good idea. Then it was the admission that yes, Jesus did say "This is my body" to his disciples in a language they all understood, but the Church has since figured out that this in not very important and perhaps sends the wrong message. Then it was the admission that yes, Jesus probably used real bread, but the Church has since figured out that's very dangerous, so we should use these teeny-tiny wafers instead.

And on and on and on. It's not "Scripture and Tradition;" it's just "Tradition," and it's not even really "Tradition," it's "Whatever the pope currently says is the deal."

123 said...


That is an argument that works quite well against RCism, especially when viewing the rather arbitrary changes made by popes in their own names.

However, it doesn't work in light of Eastern Orthodox traditions held anciently, with broad consensus over time, geography, language, government, etc. with no legislated innovations accepted 'because the pope says so'. There the question becomes whether the entire Church of the Ecumenical Councils over the many criteria listed above could be wrong, and more modern Christians 1500+ years later know better. That just sounds an awful lot like the Jesus Seminar to me, merely preferring different ends.

William Weedon said...

St. Jerome was on the Jesus Seminar! NOW I get it. ;)

123 said...

St. Jerome didn't have the benefit of an additional bunch of centuries of consistent continuity across various boundaries.

And one Father does not a consensus make.

Past Elder said...

I think the question then becomes -- if antiquity and consensus are to determine doctrine, or doctrinal correctness (dc, as distinct from the world's pc?) -- do the ecumenical councils have the authority of Scripture, were they indeed ecumenical or valid, and could more ancient Christians 1500+ years before know better?

Indeed, the opponents of Trinitarian Christianity considered THAT to be the later doctrine, not the original and true one they upheld, and the eventual victory of Trinitarian Christianity was due not to the right side winning by the power of God but the wrong side winning through the power of the state.

Arius, Nestorius, on and on.

IOW, they cite a similar defence as the EO, and our latter-day claimants to have discovered the true Cnristianity mount much the same.

Even in Rome, the Monarchists very early on were the more ancient and true religion to some, heretics to others.

It is a can of worms, from which all sides find vindication, whether through a single line of authority or one by consensus.

Therefore, while the Fathers and the Councils are indeed revered and studied, they cannot be the final arbiters of "true" Christianity, and when they are made so have produced the same "denominations where Christ founded one Church" as the sola Scriptura is accused of doing in the Reformation.

Fearsome Pirate said...

Orrologion, that an innovation remains popular for many centuries does not make it any less an innovation. The iconostasis is a great example of Orthodoxy correcting Jesus. The Lord did not separate himself from the disciples by a screen when he did the consecration, but Cyril of Jerusalem figured out a few centuries later that this could have been done much better. Paul liberated the Corinthians and Galatians from dietary laws, but Orthodoxy eventually figured out that true spirituality can be done much better. When Jesus or the apostles talk about salvation, they don't talk about Mary; Orthodoxy has corrected them.

I would much rather believe that the church of Byzantium or Russia consistently erred for a six centuries or more than believe that the church of the apostles erred for six decades.

As St Cyprian said, a tradition without truth is merely an ancient error. Jesus says that his words are truth, not the popular consensus of Byzantine officials or Romanian peasants.

William Weedon said...


About the iconostasis - I don't think St. Cyril of Jerusalem ever saw one. :)

Scott Larkins said...

I said..

"Ahh....the opening of another can-o-worms on Weedon's Blog."

"Here we go!"

To quote Tim the Enchanter. "I warmed yooouuu! I warned yooouuu!