Thursday, 26 May 2011

Liturgical changes

The ongoing "reform of the reform" of the Catholic liturgy seems to be leading towards an interesting goal. As readers may know, the Old Rite has in the last few years been made once again widely available, and the New Rite promulgated by Paul VI after Vatican II is receiving a facelift, in the form of the new English translation of the Missal to be phased in from September. But Cardinal Kurt Koch recently let slip that “The Pope’s long-term aim is not simply to allow the old and new rites to co-exist, but to move toward a ‘common rite’ that is shaped by the mutual enrichment of the two Mass forms.” This did seem to be the implication of Cardinal Ratzinger's comments years ago at a conference I attended in Fontgombault. My own paper from that conference is available here.

Meanwhile, back to the facelift. We are running a series of articles on this in Magnificat (US and UK editions have different articles), and of course the new Mass texts will be available each month in Magnificat as needed. Elsewhere I recently ventured some thoughts of my own on one of the changes. The words by which the bread is consecrated remain pretty much the same as before: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” But the words spoken over the wine are changed. They were previously: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.” Those are the familiar words, but now they read, in the revised translation: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

In the new version, the words “for many” replace “for all”. This is done on the grounds that
the Latin text has pro multis, a term which might actually have been captured more effectively in English by saying “for the many” or “for the multitude”. Replacing “all” by “many” might seem to imply that some will not be saved. But in his book God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003), Joseph Ratzinger writes: “We cannot start to set limits on God's behalf; the very heart of the faith has been lost to anyone who supposes that it is only worthwhile, if it is, so to say, made worthwhile by the damnation of others.… It is a basic element of the biblical message that the Lord died for all – being jealous of salvation is not Christian” (p. 36). The Pope reaffirms this in Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2, where he talks about the words of institution and their origin in different passages of Scripture (pp. 134-8). Clearly we cannot assume that all will be saved, since human beings always retain their freedom to reject God’s salvation, but no more can we assume that some will not.

So what is the deeper reason for the change? My comments are based on an article I wrote in The Catholic Herald, but have been revised to take account of subsequent correspondence. The Catechism of the Council of Trent is clear, as far as it goes. When our Lord said: “for you”, in relation to the body and blood, “he meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people, such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom he was speaking. When he added, ‘and for many’, he wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews or Gentiles.” But this does not take account of the fact that “for many” is said only in relation to the blood. The body, too, was surely given up for the “remainder of the elect” as well as for those to whom he was speaking, but in the case of the body the words “and for many” were not added.

The old Catechism adds, intriguingly, “Beneath the words of this consecration lie hid many other mysteries, which by frequent meditation and study of sacred things, pastors will find it easy, with the divine assistance, to discover for themselves.” What might these “other mysteries” be? I venture a speculation, though I am no "pastor". It is probably not one that the fathers of the Council of Trent would have contemplated, but I think it is perfectly orthodox. The words “Take this, all of you…” are pronounced during the Last Supper. They are addressed to us as disciples, as members of the Church, and it is as such that we are invited to eat and drink the Body and Blood of the Lord. (Non-Catholics are not offered the Eucharist.) By adding the words “and for many”, the logical implication is that the Blood is poured out not only for the disciples or members of the Church who are directly addressed, but also for an indefinite number of others.

The pouring out of the Blood “for many” refers to all those outside the visible community who will nevertheless be recipients of the Lord’s grace: those “invisible” members of the Church, not qualified to receive Holy Communion, yet who belong to the Church “spiritually” – those whose lack of formal baptism cannot be imputed to them as a fault or a refusal. The Blood poured out is in other words for all people everywhere – that is, for everyone who is willing to receive it (salvation is still not automatic). What do others think?

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