I just hammered out another article for The Wanderer. This week I concluded some comments about the pro multis issue and then moved on to look at the “mysterium fidei” and the acclamations.
Here are a few points.
The words “mysterium fidei”, not found in the biblical institution narrative, have been embedded in the formula of consecration of the chalice since at least the 7th century.
They were displaced in the 20th.
It is possible that in the ancient Church a deacon said these words aloud to clue people in about what was going on behind the curtains drawn before the altar.
History shrouds exactly how the non-Scriptural mysterium fidei was inserted into the consecration formula. In 1202, Bishop John of Lyon wrote to Pope Innocent III (+1216) asking about the consecration. Innocent explained that the words of consecration, while coinciding with Scripture in many ways and departing in others, are part of the sacred Tradition received by the Apostles from Christ and duly handed down. Innocent specifically treats the words “mysterium fidei” saying that they were important to combat errors about the sacramental mystery taking place on the altar (cf. ep. 5, 121; DS 782 and PL 214:1119a ff.). They make explicit the Church’s teaching about what happens at Mass.
The “mysterium fidei” is so important, as a matter of fact, that some traditionalists today, mostly of the Sedevacantist stripe, argue that its removal from the consecration makes every Novus Ordo Mass invalid. They are as wrong about that, but they are on target in stressing the theological importance of the phrase!
Over the years WDTPRS has spent a lot of energy on the concept mysterium, (Greek mysterion). In early Christian Latin, mysterium was connected with the word sacramentum.
In the traditional form of Holy Mass with the 1962MR (and for more than a 1000 years before), the mysterium fidei – imbedded within the sacramental form of consecration of the chalice – accentuates the substantial change of the Precious Blood and its sacramental effects. This is why some important theologians had serious problems with the removal of the “mysterium fidei” to after the two-fold consecration.
St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) taught that removing an essential part of the formula of consecration would make the consecration invalid (cf. STh III, q. 60, a. 8). Aquinas opined that “mysterium fidei” was an essential part of the form of the consecration of the chalice (cf. STh III, q. 78, a. 3; Super I Cor, c. 11, v. 25).
Aquinas’s teaching is not automatically the equivalent of the Church’s Magisterium, mind you.
Aquinas explains in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:25 that while the simple consecration formula for Body of Christ needs nothing added to it, the form for the Blood of Christ requires additional clarification beyond simply saying “Hic est (enim) calix Sanguinis mei”. While the species of the Eucharistic “bread” represents the subject of the Passion, Christ Himself, the species of the Eucharistic “wine” expresses also the effects of the Passion which come to us through this sacramental mystery.
According to Aquinas, the effects of the Passion in the pouring out of the Blood (“for you and for many”) are three-fold: 1) remission of sins; 2) the justification of faith, and 3) the attaining of heavenly glory. The Sacrifice is tied into our reward at the end of the world.
In 1969, after witnessing a trial run of the projected Novus Ordo of the Mass, a document now called the “Ottaviani Intervention” was addressed by important theologians to Pope Paul VI. The chief authors were Alfredo Card. Ottaviani (head of the Holy Office, now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and Antonio Card. Bacci (distinguished Latinist). They objected strongly to the change, saying that “‘mysterium fidei’ was an immediate confession of the priest’s faith in the mystery realized by the Church through the hierarchical priesthood….”
In the Novus Ordo, “mysterium fidei” becomes a preface of an acclamation made by the congregation who share in Christ’s priesthood by baptism, not by the qualitatively different hierarchical priesthood.
In the Novus Ordo there is no immediate affirmation by the consecrating priest of the Church’s faith in Christ’s saving work through transubstantiation as he consecrates the Precious Blood. Instead there is now an acclamation by the priest and congregation affirming the connection of the two-fold consecration with the Lord’s saving work in His death and resurrection.
The new acclamations stress the inseparable bond of the Passion to the Last Supper in light of the need of Christians to persevere in holy and Catholic faith regarding the effects of the whole Mysterium Paschale, the Paschal Mystery (Cenacle – Golgotha – Empty Tomb), until Christ comes and the dead rise after the example of the Lord’s own resurrection.
In the Novus Ordo the mysterium fidei section refers to an eschatological concept: the return of the Lord. (“Eschatology” is from Greek eschaton, “last”, and so it is the study of the “last things”.)
No one should doubt the validity of the consecration in the Novus Ordo because the words mysterium fidei were displaced.
First, the words of consecration have, over the history of the Church, varied. Eastern Catholics and Orthodox did not use the phrase. Also, it is impossible that the Vicar of Christ and Holy Church would permit continuous use of an invalid sacramental form in the Church’s most precious treasure, the Mass. Furthermore, it is the tradition of the Church that Christ effected the transubstantiation of His Body and Blood by saying ‘This is My Body,’ and ‘This is My Blood’.” These words are in every form of consecration. They are essential for validity.
Nevertheless, the removal of the mysterium fidei was a titanic innovation. I consider it in light of the explicit words of the Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Liturgy:
23. That sound tradition may be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress careful investigation is always to be made into each part of the liturgy which is to be revised. This investigation should be theological, historical, and pastoral. Also the general laws governing the structure and meaning of the liturgy must be studied in conjunction with the experience derived from recent liturgical reforms and from the indults conceded to various places. Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.