Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Mass In The Infant Church By Rev Garrett Pierse Part 17.

CHAPTER X. The Sacrificial Idea in the Liturgy.


It may be useful to consider how much light the Liturgy throws on the antiquity of the Mass. The Canons of Hippolytus, in their references to ritual, are especially useful for my present purpose, because such a work does not reflect the views of an individual but crystallizes the belief of a community. The Eucharist is designated therein the oblation par excellence. " Let the deacon bring the elements of the Mysteries, and then let the bishop begin the oblation." 1 In the form for ordaining a bishop, which is in substance that prescribed for a priest, God is besought to accept his offerings. " O Lord, accept his prayer and oblations which he shall offer by day and by night, and let them be unto Thee a sweet-smelling odour." 2 " Let him who has been appointed bishop place his hands upon the oblations, together with the presbyters." 3 It is evident from these texts that the Eucharist is an oblation in an objective sense, as distinct from the subjective sense of prayer. It is so concrete, so objective, that the hands of the bishop may be imposed thereon. There is not an explicit statement that the body and blood of Christ constitute the term of the sacrifice, though the Canons are witnesses of Realism. 4

The Didascalia, also, which is considered by Harnack 5 to belong to the first part of the third century, though by others it is referred to the second half, contains some references to ritual, which indicate an offering in an objective sense. " Assemble at graves, and read the Holy Scripture, and offer to God prayers, and offer the Royal Eucharist, which is a figure of the kingly body of Christ . . . presenting a Bread which is sanctified by the invocation." 6 Here an objective reality, namely, the Eucharistic Bread, is offered to God just as the prayers are offered. That the Eucharist is said to be a figure of the kingly body of Christ, is perfectly consistent with Realism, and need present no difficulty to a sincere investigator. The Eucharist, being a Sacrament, must be a symbol; the appearance of bread is a sign of the invisible body of Christ really present.

So much for the rituals which have a bearing on the period under consideration. I refer, next, to the family of formal Liturgies to show that the present period, extending from 150 to 250 A.D., contains most of their explicit concepts about the Eucharistic sacrifice. From an appeal to facts it will be shown that at least this period is the mother and source of their main sacrificial developments. I say, "at least," for an earlier period than that under discussion, may or may not have some of those developments,—I am not concerned with this at present.

It is contended that the universality of the sacrificial doctrine in the great families of Liturgies is a proof that in ante-Nicene times the Mass was regarded as a strict sacrifice. But I do not wish to use this as an independent proof, since these Liturgies were composed, or at least retouched long after my period. I admit, however, the perfect reasonableness of this a priori supposition. All the Liturgies, Eastern and Western, orthodox and unorthodox, speak of the Eucharist as a sacrifice. Is the word, " sacrifice," to be taken metaphorically or strictly ? If a metaphor, is it not strange that all the Liturgies should have conspired to use this metaphor ? A word like this, a universal liturgical appellation, ought to be taken literally, unless other considerations prove a metaphorical usage. But such is not proved; nay, the context in those Liturgies, as will be seen, implies to any honest inquirer a sacrifice which cannot be taken otherwise than in an objective sense. Besides, the Monophysites and Nestorians could not well have conspired to teach this doctrine of an objective sacrifice unless such was the old doctrine, the doctrine held long before they separated from the Mother Church. It may be said that the doctrine of a strict sacrifice is an interpolation in the Liturgy. But it is something more than an interpolation. The doctrine of sacrifice is writ so boldly across the pages of the Liturgies that, were it false, the whole compilation must be pronounced to be a tissue of corrupt developments.

Some will not be affected by this a priori reasoning ; they will be prepared to admit that the Liturgies, in the course of time, might contain corrupt doctrines far removed from the purity of evangelical truth. For such as these an appeal to the facts is useful; an inquiry whether the present period actually contains the main sacrificial ideas of the different Liturgies. My purpose is to compare the Liturgies with the early writers.

I shall briefly refer to the principal Liturgies of the Western family. This is the testimony of the Roman Mass, which in the opinion of Duchesne existed in its present form in the time of Pope Damasus. 8 " We offer to Thine Excellent Majesty out of Thine own gifts and donations, a pure Victim, a holy Victim,a stainless Victim, the Holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of eternal salvation." Spoken at the Anamnesis and after the Consecration, this evidently implies an objective sacrifice. The Frankish Mass contains the following :— "Since the foreshadowings of carnal Victims have been removed, we suppliantly offer to Thee, O Father, the spiritual Victim that by a wondrous and unutterable mystery is always immolated, and, remaining the same, is always offered." 9 It is clear that these words, too, imply a strict, objective sacrifice.

The Mozarabic Mass, on the Feast of the Lord's Nativity, makes this declaration. " We offer to Thee, O God, the stainless Victim that the maternal womb brought forth without injury to virginity . . . And the Immolated Victim doth live, and living, is constantly immolated j a Victim that alone can please God because it is the Lord."

If the word " immolated M is taken strictly, it implies not alone that the Victim of the Cross is present but that in the Mass itself there is a destruction of some kind.

The Gothico-Gallican Mass states that the Eucharist is the sacrifice which Christ on the night of the Last Supper instituted, and in which He Himself is the Paschal Lamb that is slain. 10

Among the Eastern Liturgies, that of St. James 11 states : " We offer Thee, O Lord, this terrible and unbloody offering." These are words which could not be applied to a subjective sacrifice consisting of prayer or a good life but only to a strict objective sacrifice. The Liturgy of St. Mark 12 has: "Giving thanks we offer this spiritual and unbloody worship which all peoples offer Thee from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof. . . . Great is Thy name among all peoples and in all places there are offered to Thy name an offering of incense and a pure sacrifice." This testimony alone, does not prove with demonstrative rigour, that the Mass is a strict sacrifice, though it indicates that the Eucharist is the fulfilment of Malachy's prophecy.

It speaks of the Eucharist only under the aspect of a spiritual and unbloody worship. It is suggested from this that the purity and spirituality of the sacrifice was sometimes interpreted, not of the victim, but of the prayer. The reference in this testimony to the subjective aspect of the Eucharist, to the worship offered to God, does not exclude the idea that it is also an objective sacrifice. The Roman Canon, though treating of an objective sacrifice, speaks also of the Mass as a sacrifice of praise. 13 Since the present testimony refers to the Mass as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Malachy, it indicates very likely a strict sacrifice in the Eucharist.

I shall, also, refer to the unorthodox Liturgies of Oriental sects. The Liturgy of Basil speaks of a " spiritual and unbloody host", which does not of necessity imply more than a subjective sacrifice. 14 But, at the Anamnesis, the same Liturgy evidently implies that the Mass is an objective sacrifice—" We offer Thee Thine own out of Thine own gifts." 15

The Liturgy of St. Gregory is similar. On the one hand, it speaks of the spiritual and unbloody offering, and on the other, it speaks of objective gifts offered to God. 16

The Nestorian Liturgy has : " We offer Thee this living holy acceptable great reasonable excellent, and bloodless sacrifice." 17 That this Liturgy implies an objective offering is clear from the following words also in its Canon : " May the grace of the Holy Ghost come upon us and upon this oblation."

How far are those sacrificial ideas common to the writers of the early period with which I am dealing ? So far as they speak of sacrifice in a subjective sense, they do but crystallize the metaphorical expressions common at the beginning of the period. The Roman Mass speaks of the Eucharist as "this sacrifice of praise," and in the prayer, Quam oblationem, it beseeches God to make the offering a reasonable one. The former expression recalls the Epistle to the Hebrews 18 , which speaks of a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips confessing to His name; the latter vividly recalls the first Epistle of Peter, where the Apostle begs the Christians to present themselves to God as ''reasonable offerings." 19 In so far as the Mass is a prayer, it may well be called a sacrifice in a subjective and loose sense. This idea of a subjective sacrifice, it has been shown, was common to Justin, Clement, Origen, and Tertullian.

This examination of Liturgies, speaking of sacrifice in a subjective sense, is particularly useful. It throws light on the interpretation which must be given to similar sayings in the early period with which I am dealing. If the Roman Liturgy can speak of the Mass viewed under a limited aspect, as a sacrifice in a loose sense, and yet undoubtedly teach its objective and strictly sacrificial nature, considered from another standpoint, why should similar expressions in certain of the early Fathers who have been cited—expressions about a sacrifice of prayer—be construed as meaning that these Fathers looked upon the Mass as exclusively a subjective sacrifice ? And yet this is the construction that is absolutely put by some investigators on such writers as Athenagoras, Clement, and Origen.

Some of the Liturgies speak of the sacrifice as a spiritual and unbloody one. Sometimes they seem to take this " spirituality " in a subjective sense, meaning prayer. Thus the Liturgy of St. Mark, which has been quoted, speaks of the spiritual and unbloody worship. This concept may have been inspired by the idea of the true and spiritual adoration, mentioned by the Lord as the distinguishing characteristic of the new dispensation. The Frankish Mass, however, it has been seen, understands this spirituality, of the Victim perpetually immolated.

Again, those Liturgies speak of the sacrifice as an oblation to God of gifts which have been taken out of His own creation. This second sacrificial idea of the Liturgies does but crystallize the view-point of Irenaeus in our period. In Irenaeus we find : " The Church alone offers this pure oblation, offering to Him with thanksgiving out of His own creation." 20 In the Liturgy of Basil it is stated in the Anamnesis : " We offer Thee Thine own out of Thine own gifts." 21

A third and very important sacrificial idea in those Liturgies is that Christ is offered in the Mass. This is a test of Catholic doctrine on the Mass. This it is which differentiates the Catholic position from the position of, at least, the older Anglicans. The latter may go a part of the way and admit a sacrificial aspect in the Eucharist; they may concede that it is a sacrifice of prayer and that there is in it a representation of the sacrifice of the Cross. But the great sacrificial doctrine of Catholicity, found in those Liturgies and in our early period, is that Christ is offered to God as a Victim in the sacrifice of the Mass. The Mozarabic Mass, as we have seen, contains the following declaration : " We offer to Thee, O God, the stainless Victim that the maternal womb brought forth without injury to virginity." Now this very idea of the offering of Christ in the Eucharist is found explicitly in the latter part of our period at least, that is, in the days of St. Cyprian in the middle of the third century. Here I am appealing to plain facts. Are the testimonies of St. Cyprian such that this fundamental, sacrificial idea of the Liturgies may be said to belong to this very early date ? The testimonies of Cyprian are so unequivocal that such an exacting critic as the Protestant Harnack admits that the object sacrificed is Christ's body and blood according to the martyred bishop of Carthage. 22 We are not now concerned with Harnack's additional comment that Cyprian may have found this explicit concept of the Eucharistic sacrifice already evolved—we are now concerned merely with the facts. " Hence it appears!' writes Cyprian, " that the blood of Christ is not offered if there be no wine in the cup!' 23 This testimony will suffice here, as I have already discussed in full the value of Cyprian's words.

Another sacrificial idea of importance, which has been found in the Liturgies, is that there is an immolation of Christ in the Mass. Thus the Frankish and the Mozarabic Masses, already quoted, speak of a perpetual immolation of Christ. If this word is taken in a strict sense, it means that there is some destruction of the Victim in the Mass itself. In a loose sense, " immolating " might mean merely that the Victim of the Cross in some way perseveres, and is offered in the Mass. It is not defined, though a Catholic opinion, that some kind of destruction of the Victim is required in the Mass itself. Hence the opinion of Vasquez who held that only on the Cross was such a destruction required, is not to be considered heretical. At any rate, the two Liturgies quoted, if taken in their obvious meaning, would indicate that there is a mysterious destruction in the Mass itself.

In our period this concept of immolation, it was seen, is suggested by Tertullian who says ironically that, in imitation of the fatted calf in the parable of the prodigal, Christ will be slain again in the Eucharist even for an apostate, forgiven by the Church. 24 The principal sacrificial ideas of the Liturgies are found in our period. Were they embodied in the Liturgies in this period or afterwards ? It is a question concerning which we cannot have certain knowledge. Sometimes, the development of Liturgical ideas may follow the evolution of theological science. Likely this has happened often—the Lex Orandi followed the Lex Credendi. Sometimes, the development of the Liturgy may have preceded, and given an inspiration to the evolution of doctrine, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. At other times, both developments may have proceeded simultaneously.

1 C.H. xix.

2 Ibid. iii. 

Eodem loco. 

Ibid. xix.

5 Geschich. der altchrist. Lit, xi,, t. ii., c. 3.

6 vi., 27, Ed. Funk p . 376.

Origines, p. 168.

9 Migne, 72, 338.

10 Migne, 72, 314,

11 Renaudot, Liturg. Orient, Coll. ii„ p, 32; 30; 40.

12 Ibid., vol. I., p. 145.

13 Hoc sacrificium laudis after Te igtur.

14 Renaudot, Liturg. Orient, Collect:., Vol. I., p, 61,

15 Renaudot Liturg. Orient. Collectio, Vol, I,, p. 67.

16 Renaudot, Ibid,, p. 98,

17 Renaudot, Ibid, Vol, II., p, 610.

18 C. 13.

19 Chap, II.

20 Adv, Haer,, iv., 18 41

21 Renaudot, Litur, Orient, Collectio, Vol, I, p; 67.

22 Dogmengcschichte, t.11, c. 3.

23 Ep., 63.

24 De Pud., c. 9.