5 November 2010

MYSTERY OF FAITH

Since Fr Zed has a rather meandering post about these words, I here repeat my own piece from last January. The phrase is not diaconal and the fashion in some places of getting the Deacion to sing it is misguided as well as contrary to the rubrics.
'The Mystery of Faith'. Why does the PP of S Thomas's not say 'Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith' when that is what ASB ordered ... and it's what the present RC version of the Mass in English has? Why won't he even say what Common Worship prescribes: 'Great is the Mystery of Faith'?

The history of the phrase begins with I Timothy 3:9 - 'deacons ... holding ... the mystery of faith'. Since, already in the Third Century, it was the convention that the Deacon at Mass held the Chalice, it looks as though 'Mystery of Faith' was considered to mean the Chalice of the Lord's Blood, and was consequently incorporated into the Roman Institution Narrative: 'For this is the Chalice of My Blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant, the Mystery of Faith'. After Vatican II, 'Mystery of Faith' was removed from the Lord's words, because it is not in the biblical record, but was left for the priest to say immediately after them. ICEL (the RC translation organisation) invented the words 'Let us proclaim', which are not in the official Latin. Then they offered four alternative 'acclamations'; three of them translated from the Latin and one ('Christ has died' etc.) invented by themselves.

Unfortunately, this gives the impression that 'let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith' is there simply to invite the congregation to respond with an 'acclamation'. Rome has now very wisely decided to emphasise 'the Latin tradition which closely links Mystery of Faith' with the Words of Institution; i. e. 'Mystery of Faith' points to the consecrated Chalice, the Saving Blood now present en mysterio (in a sacrament) upon the Altar, not to a congregational acclamation.

While Common Worship was in the making, ICEL made two brilliantly clever decisions: (1) to change the phrase to 'Great is the Mystery of Faith'; and (2) to produce alternative introductory phrases before each of the four acclamations, so that whichever one Father said would give the congregation the clue to which acclamation he wanted them to answer him with. The C of E Liturgical Commission saw these draft proposals and incorporated them into CW.

Rashly, because Rome decided soon after to sack the whole gang of heterodox and feminist jokers that comprised Old ICEL, and to set up a New ICEL. This New ICEL, in the drafts which are now in the final phases of approval, has dumped both those decisions. So Common Worship enthusiasts look like being left saddled with a mistake Rome toyed with but then wisely abandoned.

To summarise: 'The Mystery of Faith' is what the Church's praying life made of S Paul's words to S Timothy; the Blood which is for ever poured out before the Father is the Blood we worship by faith in the mystery of the Sacrament.

17 comments:

CJ said...

Father - I follow your argument regarding "the mystery of faith" but are we really supposed to be changing the words of the Mass on our own? I think one must wait for a new translation to come out. Otherwise we are in a terrible position where every priest can just make changes according to his own likes and reasoning.

Athanasius of Alexandria said...

CJ, I'd say the sense of the faithful, even when that refers to one faithful parish priest and his people, is worthy of respect and consideration.

However...

We, and I mean we Anglo-Catholics, simply cannot afford to have every man his own interpretational dicastery: it could cause division within our ranks and with regard to the Universal Church, and I think the avoidance of that should be high in our prayers.

CJ said...

Ath. of Alex., I fully agree the sense of the faithful is worthy of repect and consideration - and I did not intend any manner of disrespect in my comment. With that said, the sense of the faithful or the personal tastes of an individual priest or body of faithful must be submissive to the right of the faithful to have the liturgy celebrated as provide by the Church and the duty of the priest to do so. I agree with Father's reasoning but I do not agree with its implementation.

Sir Watkin said...

CJ, Atahanasius ....

Good point, but where do you think the English Missal came from?

Steve said...

A very good point, Sir Watkin! The English Missal was never authorised for use in the C of E (nor, of course, by the Roman Pontiff). Personally I think it is legal now, so long as the "BCP options" are all used, purely on the grounds that it falls within the permitted alternatives in Common Worship (Order 1 Trad and/or Order 2) - but don't tell the Rector of Torrington, he'll have a fit!

GOR said...

“Otherwise we are in a terrible position where every priest can just make changes according to his own likes and reasoning.”

Unfortunately CJ, that’s where we have been in the ‘Spirit of Vat II’ these past 40 years or so. This really grates on me, having been brought up in the rubrical discipline of pre-conciliar years. So many post Vat II priests feel they have to put their individual ‘stamp’ on the Liturgy, that it becomes a personal performance with the priest’s personality being central. Whence we get remarks like: “I just love Fr. Jones’ Mass…” as if we were discussing a secular show or ‘performance’.

One of the beauties of the ‘old’ Mass was that the personality of the celebrant didn’t enter into it, as it shouldn’t. It is not about him – it is about Him – as Pope Benedict has been at pains to point out these many years.

Figulus said...

The moral quibble over an improvised translation might be best addressed by intoning "Mysterium Fidei" in Latin. Then the congregation can take that cue to actually acclaim the Lord present in the sacrament, rather than simply proclaim something about him in the third person. ("Christ has died", etc.)

Chris said...

If we have to have something added on the front, surely the statement "Great is..." is at least better than the invitation "Let us proclaim..."?

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

The point is a fair one. Does it make any difference that the tiny change I have made is one of those that all users of the Roman Rite in English will be making later this year?

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

Frankly, I don't know. If they tell you to spell "cat" like "kat", when the original is "gato", what's the harm?

It would be my fondest wish that the CDW give permission to the bishops to decide in their capacity as bishops when to allow Masses to be celebrated according to the new translations in their dioceses. Why wait? How better to catechize? Why provide the "Luddites" with a target to shoot at?

Michael McDonough said...

With apologies to any real Luddites amongst the readers. You know what I mean!

Pastor in Valle said...

They say in France 'il est grand, la mystere de la foi!'. Which, roughly translated, says (I am told) 'It is big, the mystery of the liver!'

Sir Watkin said...

Garde ta foi!

= Look after your liver.

Fr Neil said...

'Foie' is masculine, so no confusion arises.

Sir Watkin said...

Ahem.

cf.

Mis en scene =There are small rodents in the river

Ars est celare artem =I can't see the picture, your posterior is in the way

etc. etc.

Fr Neil said...

Oh well, if you can't beat 'em:

Coup de grĂ¢ce - lawnmower

Moderatio in omnibus - only five standing

Albertus said...

''To summarise: 'The Mystery of Faith' is what the Church's praying life made of S Paul's words to S Timothy; the Blood which is for ever poured out before the Father is the Blood we worship by faith in the mystery of the Sacrament.''
Beautifully said, Father.
Yes indeed, Mysterium Fidei is the Chalice. Bugnini's jansenistic obsession which making liturgical texts conform literally to similar biblical texts is of course anti-liturgical and anti-rraditional. The Liturgy's texts are sacred in themselves and independent of Scripture. The Liturgy is celebrated, with the express purpose of adoring the Trinity through Christ's Sacrifice, and of divinising the worshippers. The liturgical texts are in some cases older than the NT, and in some cases more authentic than surviving corresponding OT texts. It is dangerous and sacrilegious to tamper with immemorable liturgical tradition. It also is quite possible that the Roman Canon's words of consecration, being part of the earliest oral Sacred Tradition, are older and more authentic than those recorded in the Gospels and in St. Paul. However that may be, The Liturgy, like a bee, draws its nectar from many sources, not just Holy Scripture, and uses biblical texts as it needs, often paraphrasing (such as the epistle for Bishop Confessors ''Ecce Sacerdos Magnus''), and does not have to answer to Bugnini, to the ICEL, nor to the word-for-word versions of like-sounding texts found in Scripture.