Too much yeast: Tom Knowles' conclusions about the Holy See's approval of Anaphora of Addai and Mari

It is possible to put too much yeast in your bread. You end up with something full of holes. I make this point, because in the Christmas edition of the Yarra Theological Union Newsletter, YTU President Kathleen Williams RSM makes the following statement:

A little yeast: theology is meant to be that, a means for enabling people to become what they can be.

I didn’t know that was what theology was meant to be, but Tom Knowles SSS certainly uses too much yeast in his over-blown theological conclusions regarding the Holy See’s approval six years ago of the Assyrian Church’s Anaphora of Sts Addai and Mari (see his article “A Landmark Decision: Vatican Approval for Addai and Mari” in the same newsletter).

After accurately describing the decision and the reasons for it, he goes to make the following conclusions (my comments in bold italics):

The decision has clear ecumenical implications. As the Roman church moves beyond its medieval pre-occupation with the formula of consecration recited by the priest [you can already see where this is heading, can’t you?], it draws closer to the Eastern tradition that upholds the role of the Holy Spirit in transforming the bread and wine.

There are also liturgical implications. The decision invites the presider to see and pray the prayer as a connected whole, without singling out the institution narrative for special emphasis [that is true–which is why the laity may not join in any part of it–including the final doxology].

As a corollary, the presider’s gestures – the taking in hand of the bread and cup plus the elevations and accompanying genuflections (and ringing of the bell still in many places) – could be let go of in favour of the proper elevation of the hallowed gifts at the concluding doxology [why would you want to do this? what purpose would it serve, except to de-emphasise the doctrine of the real presence?].

Shifting the focus away from the institution narrative [ie. away from the words of Christ and the words of scripture that, despite the decision regarding the Anaphora of Addai and Madi, remain the focus of the Roman Eucharistic prayers] would allow the whole assembly not only to maintain a uniform posture throughout the eucharistic prayer [don’t they already? or does he mean standing for the whole thing?] but also to recognise the integrity of the whole prayer and to experience it as the prayer of the whole community [Que? you mean, not just the priest’s prayer?].

There may well be broader theological implications [but wait! there’s more!] consequent on the Vatican’s willingness to go beyond narrow medieval doctrinal positions in favour of the church’s [the Assyrian Church’s, not the Roman Church’s] tradition of prayer and worship but that’s for others with the proper theological competence to say [Deo Gratias!].

In the meantime there’s much to take heart from in this ‘audacious agreement’ [if you are an Assyrian Catholic. It concerns no one else.].

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7 Responses to Too much yeast: Tom Knowles' conclusions about the Holy See's approval of Anaphora of Addai and Mari

  1. Joshua says:

    Happy New Year, David!

    Why anyone would torture themselves at Christmas by reading the YTU newsletter is beyond me; and as is well know, the Blessed Sacks are no longer known for their love of the Blessed Sacrament.

    I hate the use of ‘medieval’ as a term of abuse, when it was the high middle ages that were the ages of faith and of scholasticism, that wondrous flowering of theology.

    You are quite right to see that the Vatican’s careful consideration of the problematic Anaphora of Addai and Mari is here wickedly misread to attempt to justify a perversion of the Roman liturgy: to abolish kneeling, to remove the elevation, and in effect to bring in crypto-Calvinist notions that reduce the Eucharistic elements from the Presence of Christ to mere objects unworthy of respect.

    As Bishop Elliott notes in his liturgical handbooks, the Roman Rite is thrice-blessed in having three showings of the Eucharist, demonstating its threefold nature as Real Presence, Sacrifice and Communion:
    1. directly after the consecrations, for adoration, affirming the transsubstantiation and Real Presence of Our Lord;
    2. at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer, to affirm that Our Lord is offered up in the Sacrifice of the Mass as the Divine Victim uniquely pleasing to the Father;
    3. at the Ecce Agnus Dei, to manifest that Our Lord is present in the Sacrament “to be eaten” (Trent), as our most holy Communion and sacred feast, for He comes to us jointly and severally to be our Guest, to transform us into Himself.

    In reality, the consideration of Addai and Mari affirms the necessity of the Verba Domini to confect the Sacrament: the ruling was that, owing to its extreme antiquity, constant use, and it never having been questioned even in centuries past when the Chaldeans were previously reunited with Rome, it must be that the Verba are present somehow, altho’ not explicitly and ad litteram: instead, thro’ inspecting the anaphora as a whole, the Words of Institution are found to be present “in a diffuse euchological manner”.

    Since in every other liturgy the Eucharistic Prayer has the words present explicitly in a central part of the prayer, there can be no comparison between this ruling and the correct and traditional rituals associated with them.

    It is really so terribly old-hat, and 1970’s hippie-ish of the inward-looking YTU mob, all old, and tired, to obsess about what they apparently prefer, who knows why: liturgy stript of mystery and reduced to a communal navel-gazing exercise.

    In a time when the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite has just been relegitimized, how out of touch are these people?!

    If this community meal focus be what they desire, they’ll find more palatable food at McDonalds.

  2. eulogos says:

    I don’t see why the affirmation of one venerable tradition should be used to vitiate another venerable tradition of far wider use.

    Nevertheless there are implications of this which are of interest to others besides Assyrian Catholics. Just the notion that the verbi domini can be present ” in a diffuse euchological manner” is radical. (Although I am not sure I understand the word euchological.)
    In coming to understanding with the Orthodox we have to get beyond “the change happens at the words of institution” vs “the change happens at the Epiclesis.”
    The decision about the Assyrian canon shows that the Holy See does find it possible to think about this in a different way. It also shows an admirable precedence to the tradition of the church over theologisms about that tradition.

    RE standing during the canon:
    The Eastern tradition, found in the canons of Nicaea, was to stand throughout the canon. As someone whose faith began and was nurtured in the Western tradition, I admit I find this difficult, especially I find it difficult not to kneel to pray after I receive communion. However when this is done in an Eastern Catholic church, it is traditional and reverent. When it is done in a Latin rite church, one always has to wonder if the Eastern tradition has been dragged into the Western church because it here serves the agenda of those who want to encourage less reverence, since to anyone from the Western tradition standing is clearly less reverent than kneeling. Katherine Williams RSM is clearly trying to use the decision about the Assyrian canon to vitiate a Western tradition with which she is uncomfortable for some reason. I suspect the reason is more that it isn’t in fashion with her set than anything more profound, although I understand those who see more sinster reasons.
    Susan Peterson

  3. Peregrinus says:

    Just the notion that the verbi domini can be present ” in a diffuse euchological manner” is radical. (Although I am not sure I understand the word euchological.)

    I, by contrast, am quite confidence that I don’t understand the word “euchological”.

    There must be more signficance to this statement than its use as a weapon in the Latin Rite’s internal culture wars (by those on either side). Does anyone know of a link to an English translation of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari? I would dearly like to see exactly how the words of institution are “diffused” througout it. It might be the fist step in coming to an understanding of euchology.

  4. Joshua says:

    Sorry – euchology is the study of prayers (in Greek, a prayer is called ???? or ????????), such as collects and other orations of the typical short Western type, or longer prayers, especially the Anaphorai or Eucharistic Prayers, which are THE prayer of the Mass par excellence.

    Hence, if a given formula is present in a “diffuse euchological manner”, one presumably must find, in Addai and Mari, something along the lines of “O God Whose Incarnate Son… taking bread and wine… blessed… broke and mixed… gave… declaring them to be His Body and Blood…”.

    Note that:
    1. classically it was considered a sine qua non to actually quote some version of “This is My Body… This is my Blood…”, rather than more or less obliquely allude to it;
    2. having examined Addai and Mari, I honestly couldn’t see that the Verba Domini were anywhere present!

    As always, simply look up “Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari” on Wikipedia (Qurbana means something like Oblation – the Assyrians/Chaldaeans of course strongly affirm the Sacrifice of the Mass), and you’ll find commentary on this controversial issue, plus links to the actual text.

    Here are some extracts:

    1. At the ‘Offertory’ after the Scriptural readings, proleptically referring to the gifts as already consecrated:

    “The body of Christ and his precious blood are on the holy altar. …”

    “May Christ, who was sacrificed for our salvation, and who commanded us to make a remembrance of his death, burial, and resurrection, accept this sacrifice from our hands in his grace and mercies for ever. Amen.”

    The priest prays the prayer of Mar Bar Sauma:

    “Glory to you, my Lord, for you have called me… to offer before you this living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice, which is the memorial of the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…”

    2. Within “The Hallowing of the Blessed Apostles Mar Addai and Mar Mari Disciplers of the East”:

    First Gehantha: “We give thanks, O my Lord… for though we are sinners and unworthy, you have deemed us worthy to administer the Holy Mysteries of the body and blood of your Christ.”

    A Kushapa:

    “O Lord God of hosts, accept this oblation (from my unworthy hands) for all the holy catholic church, for all the just and righteous fathers who were well-pleasing before you, for all the prophets and apostles, for all the martyrs and confessors, for all the mourning and distressed, for all the needy and harassed, (for all priests, kings, and rulers,) for all the ill and afflicted, for all the departed who have died and gone out from among us, for this people which looks for and awaits your mercies… may we—I and these—be deemed worthy of the pardon of debts and the forgiveness of sins through this holy body which in true faith we receive through the grace which is from you. Amen.”

    Another Gehantha following:

    “O my Lord, in your many ineffable mercies… make a good and acceptable memorial for all the just and righteous fathers who were well-pleasing before you through the commemoration of the body and blood of your Christ which we offer you upon your pure and holy altar, as you taught us.”

    – Note here the phrases “as you taught us” [to] “offer” “the body and blood of your Christ”; and compare with what comes after, “hav[ing] received by tradition the example which is from you”: apparently this part alludes to the whole of the Institution in a very discreet manner! –

    “We too, my Lord, your feeble, unworthy, and miserable servants who are gathered in your name and stand before you at this hour, and have received by tradition the example which is from you, while rejoicing, glorifying, exalting, and commemorating, perform this great, fearful, holy, life-giving, and divine Mystery of the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Directly after this comes what appears to be the Epiclesis:

    “And may there come, O my Lord, your Holy Spirit, and may he rest upon this oblation of your servants. May he bless it and hallow it, and may it be for us, O my Lord, for the pardon of debts, the forgiveness of sins, the great hope of resurrection from the dead, and for new life in the kingdom of heaven…”

    Again, I must say I personally can’t see it, but have as best I can indicated where presumably the diffused mention of the Verba Domini must lie.

    It is obvious that the Assyrians see their priests very much as offering up the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ; it is curious to find that in the midst of all this the actual formula seems to be not so explicitly put!

  5. Peregrinus says:

    Thanks, Joshua. I will read up further up this following the links you suggest.

    My preliminary reaction, though is that this is very interesting, and that David is quite wrong to suggest that it is only of interest to Assyrians. It seems to me to counter the temptation to treat the Eucharist as “magic”. If one who has been initiated through the correct rituals recites the correct “magic words” then, lo, the Echaristic miracle occurs. That is obviously a grossly deficient understanding of the Eucharist.but, if we are honest, an understanding into which it is all to easy to fall, given poor catechesis and some inappropriate emphases in the study of the Eucharistic canon..

    At first glance the statement on the Assyrian canon seems to suggest basically, that it is “effective” (for want of a better word) because, basically, the church which created it and uses it understands and wants and intends it to be effective, and because it expresses that understanding and desire and intention. This comes perilously close to saying that it is the church which gives the Eucharistic prayer its “effect” – or, and perhaps here we are getting closer to a correct understanding, the action of the Holy Spirit which is central to the Eucharist comes in response, not to the use of any particular “magic words”, but to the faith and intention of the worshipping church, expressed in its liturgy.

    So, could the Latin church (or any other church) adopt a canon which did not explicitly include an institution narrative? The answer in principle has to be “yes”; there is no reason why the Assyrian church should be uniquely privileged in this regard.

    But it matters why the church concerned would chose to do so. If the decision to dispense with the institution narrative reflected any compromising of that church’s faith, understanding and intention with respect to the Real Presence, then we’d have a problem. And the same would be true of lesser changes such as those mentioned in the article and discussed by David, even if the institution narrative were to be retained.

    But I differ from David in his assumption that those changes would appear to be directed to downplaying the Real Presence. Rather, they might be directed at correcting the “magic words” misconception that I mentioned earlier.

  6. Ttony says:

    Have you seen this?

  7. Schütz says:

    Thanks for that link, Tony. I generally find Fr Taft a reliable source, but as the article points out, the decision regarding this anaphora could be reversed in the future if indeed it is found to contradict the faith of the Church, as it was not made in a way that would suggest that in permitting the anaphora the Church has in any sense altered her teaching on the necessity for the verba Domini to form a part of the consecratory prayer.

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