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Author Topic: Words of consecration--spoken aloud or inaudible  (Read 2682 times) Average Rating: 0
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scamandrius
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« on: September 15, 2008, 11:21:30 PM »

On another board, a friend of mine laments that in the Catholic Canon of the Mass, the verba of the consecration "Take eat..." are spoken silently by the priest.  I know that several traditions (such as the Slavic) the priest speaks some parts of the Liturgy silently while the choir is singing over it.  In our church, the words of consecration are always heard. Are they to be spoken aloud for all to hear?  Has there ever been a time when these words were spoken silently, regardless of jurisdiction? 

And for our Catholic friends, would you explain to me why the verba are to be spoken silently?  Is there a theological reason?  Does it have to do with the sacrifice of the mass?

Thanks.
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2008, 12:18:25 AM »

In our church, the words of consecration are always heard.
Are you sure? In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the "words of consecration" are not the the words "Take, Eat..." but are actually the following prayer which is said inaudibly:

Quote from: The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysotom
Priest (in a low voice).....And make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ.
(He blesses the holy Bread.)

Deacon (in a low voice):
    Amen.

Priest (in a low voice):
    And that which is in this cup the precious Blood of Your Christ.
(He blesses the holy Cup.)


Deacon (in a low voice):
    Amen.

Priest (in a low voice):    Changing them by Your Holy Spirit.
(He blesses them both.)

Deacon (in a low voice):
    Amen. Amen. Amen.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2008, 12:22:00 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2008, 12:30:56 AM »

Ozgeorge,

Yes, I'm sure.  I always hear "Make this the precious body of Thy Christ" etc.

Isn't this called the epiklesis?  I tried to make a distinction between the Western Rite words of consecration and the Eastern. I obviously was not clear enough.

Now, when you reprinted the rubric, does "low voice" mean inaudible?
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2008, 12:34:49 AM »

Hi Scamandrius,

I'm not an expert of the development of the silent Canon of the Mass, but it is the traditional and ancient practice (if you go to any traditional Latin Mass, you will not audibly hear the Canon). I can only relate my own personal experience of it.

[Forgive me if this is clumsily expressed--it's late, and it's not easy to describe] For me, the silence at the consecration emphasizes interiority---instead of listening to the priest out loud, we are imbibing the miracles expressed in the Canon to the depths of our hearts. We listen to the Holy Spirit in silent awe at that cosmic moment when Heaven and Earth and temporality and eternity meet.

Somehow it is deeper and more meditative when I say the Canon in my heart rather than listen to a priest say it out loud. It's that sense of interiority again.

I am reminded of something Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) wrote in his brilliant book, The Spirit of the Liturgy (a must-read, BTW):

In 1978, to the annoyance of many liturgists, I said tha tin no sense does the whole Canon always HAVE to be said out loud. After much consideration, I should like to repeat and underline the point here in the hope that, twenty years later, this thesis will be better understood. Meanwhile, in their efforts to reform the Missal, the German liturgists have explicitly stated that, of all things, the Eucharistic Prayer, the high point of the Mass, is in crisis. Since the reform of the liturgy, an attempt has been made to meet the crisis by incessantly inventing new Eucharistic Prayers, and in the process we have sunk farther and farther into banality. Multiplying words is no help---that is all too evident. The liturgists have suggested all kinds of remedies, which certainly contain elements that are worthy of consideration. However, as far as I can see, they balk, now as in the past, at the possibility that silence too, silence especially, might constitute communion before God. It is no accident that in Jerusalem, from a very early time, parts of the Canon were prayed in silence and that in the West the silent Canon---overlaid in part with meditative singing---became the norm. To dismiss all this as the result of misunderstandings is just too easy. It really is not true that reciting the whole Eucharistic Prayer out loud and without interruptions is a prerequisite for the participation of everyone in this central act of the Mass. My suggestion in 1978 was as follows. First, liturgical education ought to aim at making the faithful familiar with the essential meaning and fundamental orientation of the Canon. Secondly, the first words of the various prayers should be said out loud as a kind of cue for the congregation, so that each individual in his silent prayer can take up the intonation and bring the personal into the communal and the communal into the personal. Anyone who has experienced a church united in the silent praying of the Canon will know what a really FILLED silence is. It is at once a loud and penetrating cry to God and a Spirit-filled act of prayer. Here everyone does pray the Canon together, albeit in a bond with the special task of the priestly ministry. Here everyone is united, laid hold of by Christ, and led by the Holy Spirit into that common prayer to the Father which is the true sacrifice--the love that reconciles and unites God and the world. (pp. 215-216)


Finally, Scamandrius, I think the silent Canon (a tradition that is very ancient in the West, being fully established by the 7th century) is something that functions in a similar way to the iconostasis in the Eastern Divine Liturgy. This idea of "veiling" the holy of holies, of course, goes back to the ancient Israelites.

I don't have a problem with the audible Canon, really---I see different advantages to both practices.
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2008, 12:43:04 AM »

Now, when you reprinted the rubric, does "low voice" mean inaudible?
Yes. And this is the practice in my monastery Church.
"Take, eat..." is said audibly.
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« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2008, 12:50:37 AM »

Now, when you reprinted the rubric, does "low voice" mean inaudible?
Yes. And this is the practice in my monastery Church.
"Take, eat..." is said audibly.

Traditionally it would have been said audibly, but I think the reason for saying it inaudibly is purely practical. Whenever I've seen it audible the people have always responded 'Amen'. Which is inappropriate, it's the role of the deakon. By making it inaudible you eliminate the problem of the people responding and the service can be properly performed.
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2008, 01:05:39 AM »

Traditionally it would have been said audibly, but I think the reason for saying it inaudibly is purely practical. Whenever I've seen it audible the people have always responded 'Amen'. Which is inappropriate, it's the role of the deakon. By making it inaudible you eliminate the problem of the people responding and the service can be properly performed.

Thanks GiC! I always wondered if there was a reason behind it.
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2008, 07:23:35 AM »

As I'm born and grown Roman Catholic, I was very surprised by such a declaration.
I can witness that, at least in Italy, the use is to have the Canon spoken in a slow and profound voice, but still very audible. I think (but I may be wrong) that's just the practice of some Episcopal Conferences to have it said in an inaudible voice. In truth, even if the Roman Rite is almost identical in all nations, I personally witnessed many differences according to the different Episcopal Conferences. For example in France the so-called "sign of peace" is different then in Italy, as French laymen wait for a clergymen to give it at those on the extremities of the banches and then the latter pass the sign to the neighbours; on the contrary in Italy (at least in the dioceses I visited up to now) at the words "scambiamoci un segno di pace" all "neighbours" make the sign. The latter is, in truth, a more caotic practice, as the very important words of st. John the Baptist "Here's the Lamb of God" are often covered by the noise of people giving one's hand to neighbour and saying "Peace be with you"... I always found this disturbing.

By the way, I think that about the question on topic, we should admit that the Words of Institution and the Epiclesis (which in the RCC is implicit and isn't necessary for consecration) may be heard by anyone. The problem of hearing the answer "Amen", at least here in Italy, is very rare: the bell played by the acolyte or altar boy is more then enough to "mark" the time of consecration/transubstantiation.

The real problem is the continous variations not only from diocese to diocese, but often from parish to parish... Some priests take some liberties introducing anything they want in the liturgy, sometimes bringing innovation or using pre-Vatican II practices, so that we can't even think of one "rite" when a priest introduces too many novelties. My interpretation is that the Roman Catholic Church has lost any appreciation for what is to be considered the most important liturgical act of the Christian Church.

In Christ,    Alex
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2008, 08:34:56 AM »

Traditionally it would have been said audibly, but I think the reason for saying it inaudibly is purely practical. Whenever I've seen it audible the people have always responded 'Amen'. Which is inappropriate, it's the role of the deakon. By making it inaudible you eliminate the problem of the people responding and the service can be properly performed.

So, it is considered inappropriate for the people to respond "Amen" to the epiklesis who are about to receive the life-giving mysteries?  Why is that? 
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2008, 09:48:52 AM »

So, it is considered inappropriate for the people to respond "Amen" to the epiklesis who are about to receive the life-giving mysteries?  Why is that? 

I think the logic is as follows: The response "Amen" make the prayer one's own. The Epiclesis is not a request or supplication which may or may not be fulfilled, rather, it is the invocation of the Holy Spirit to effect a Mysterion (Sacrament), and thus, is proper only for the Priesthood. For the laity to respond "Amen" means that they too are effecting the Mysterion, which is not the case.
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« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2008, 10:04:28 AM »


I think the logic is as follows: The response "Amen" make the prayer one's own. The Epiclesis is not a request or supplication which may or may not be fulfilled, rather, it is the invocation of the Holy Spirit to effect a Mysterion (Sacrament), and thus, is proper only for the Priesthood. For the laity to respond "Amen" means that they too are effecting the Mysterion, which is not the case.

Thanks for the explanation ozgeorge.  BUt I'm not entirely convinced by the logic of effecting the mysterion.  If it is simply the practice reserved to the priest who is called to administer the mysteries, as we are not, then that is enough for me.
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« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2008, 10:10:44 AM »

Thanks for the explanation ozgeorge.  BUt I'm not entirely convinced by the logic of effecting the mysterion.  If it is simply the practice reserved to the priest who is called to administer the mysteries, as we are not, then that is enough for me.

Perhaps I wasn't clear, but isn't that the same thing as what I said? Am I missing a difference?
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« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2008, 10:29:02 AM »

Maybe I'm not being clear.  I know that there are certain prayers reserved especially for the priest. I'm just not convinced that saying "Amen" to a prayer reserved for him means that the people are effecting the mysterion in any ontological way.  Maybe it's a moot point, I don't know.
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« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2008, 10:40:41 AM »

Maybe I'm not being clear.  I know that there are certain prayers reserved especially for the priest. I'm just not convinced that saying "Amen" to a prayer reserved for him means that the people are effecting the mysterion in any ontological way.  Maybe it's a moot point, I don't know.

I think I see now how I was unclear.  What I am saying is that the Priest effects the Mysterion (i.e. causes the change of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood by invocation of the Holy Spirit). He is the agent whose actions "effect" the change. If the people respond "Amen" to the Epiclesis, this gives the impression that they too "effect" the Mysterion (i.e. "cause it to take place").
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2008, 10:42:24 AM »

Maybe I'm not being clear.  I know that there are certain prayers reserved especially for the priest. I'm just not convinced that saying "Amen" to a prayer reserved for him means that the people are effecting the mysterion in any ontological way.  Maybe it's a moot point, I don't know.

I know it's an ancient practice for the deacon only to have that line in the liturgy, as for whether there was initial theological reason behind it or if it was for practical reasons and order during the service I do not know.
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« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2008, 10:44:17 AM »

I think the logic is as follows: The response "Amen" make the prayer one's own. The Epiclesis is not a request or supplication which may or may not be fulfilled, rather, it is the invocation of the Holy Spirit to effect a Mysterion (Sacrament), and thus, is proper only for the Priesthood. For the laity to respond "Amen" means that they too are effecting the Mysterion, which is not the case.

Perhaps that is also part of the reason for our silent Canon.
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« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2008, 11:12:42 AM »

Maybe I'm not being clear.  I know that there are certain prayers reserved especially for the priest. I'm just not convinced that saying "Amen" to a prayer reserved for him means that the people are effecting the mysterion in any ontological way.  Maybe it's a moot point, I don't know.

I think I see now how I was unclear.  What I am saying is that the Priest effects the Mysterion (i.e. causes the change of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood by invocation of the Holy Spirit). He is the agent whose actions "effect" the change. If the people respond "Amen" to the Epiclesis, this gives the impression that they too "effect" the Mysterion (i.e. "cause it to take place").
This logic seems flawed on two theological points, first we are all part of the royal priesthood. Secondly and more importantly in our Theology, the presbytery can not serve the Divine Liturgy by himself, it is a communal act that requires that Amen. While it is ideal that the Amen is said by a deacon I think we all know that there are a lack of deacons in our current time, therefore it become necessary for someone else to say the Amen. The saying of this Amen has evolved into the role of the laity.

Remember that the phrase said by the presbyter before the bread and wine are blessed is "Thine own of thine own we offer unto thee, in behalf of all, and for all." Notice that it is a we and not an I that the presbyter says. The we is for everyone who is present at the mystical sacrifice because we all participate in it.

Quote
It is all of us who make the offering through the Priest. However, it was Christ who made the first offering of Himself… He offered Himself. We offer the Bread and Wine which, as we have seen, symbolize the Church gathered together.
Harakas, Stanley S. Living the Liturgy. Light and Life Publishing Company, 1974 pg. 105
 
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« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2008, 11:26:20 AM »

This logic seems flawed on two theological points, first we are all part of the royal priesthood.
Yes, that's true.

Secondly and more importantly in our Theology, the presbytery can not serve the Divine Liturgy by himself, it is a communal act that requires that Amen.
Yes, that's also true. But I also think that a communal act does not necessarily mean that our functions in that act are the same. Surgery is a communal act requiring an anaesthatist, a scrub nurse, a scout nurse as well as a surgeon, but it's the surgeon alone who uses the scalpel.

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« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2008, 01:18:43 PM »

This logic seems flawed on two theological points, first we are all part of the royal priesthood.
Yes, that's true.

Secondly and more importantly in our Theology, the presbytery can not serve the Divine Liturgy by himself, it is a communal act that requires that Amen.
Yes, that's also true. But I also think that a communal act does not necessarily mean that our functions in that act are the same. Surgery is a communal act requiring an anaesthatist, a scrub nurse, a scout nurse as well as a surgeon, but it's the surgeon alone who uses the scalpel.
Yes and the "surgeon" who in this case is the chief celebrant is the one asking for the blessing, no one doubts that it is the chief celebrant who asks for the gifts to be changed. The questions that this thread is asking is if what the chief celebrant is doing is a public or private act.
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« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2008, 01:40:15 PM »

The questions that this thread is asking is if what the chief celebrant is doing is a public or private act.

It most certainly is a public act! The word "Liturgy" itself means "people work". But I don't think this is the only question being asked in this thread. The OP also asks whether the consecration takes place inaudibly and whether there might be a theological explanation for this.


Yes and the "surgeon" who in this case is the chief celebrant is the one asking for the blessing, no one doubts that it is the chief celebrant who asks for the gifts to be changed.
I guess it boils down to how we understand the response "amen". When someone prays for something, and you respond "Amen", does that mean that you offer the same prayer? And is the Epiclesis simply a request in which the chief celebrant asks for something? In other words, can his request be refused by God? In which case, how can we ever be sure that we are receiving the Body and Blood? I would say the Epiclesis is not simply a supplication, but rather, a co-operation of the celebrant and the Holy Spirit to effect the change of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood, and the lay responding "amen" to the Epiclesis has the potential to cause confusion about this, and reduce the understanding of the Epiclesis to being simply a request which might or might not be fulfilled.
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« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2008, 02:42:42 PM »

Perhaps we should ask what "Amen" really means?

It is a Hebrew word of agreement. So if we were to translate it possible translations would include "Yes," "Let it be," or "truly." To agree with someone is not the same as doing it yourself. The presbyter can not concentrate the gifts alone he must have others with him. I would even dare say that these Amens are not directed to priest prayers but rather the action taking place by Holy Spirit in the liturgy of St. John and the Lord in St. Basil (in which case many sources do not even have the amens).
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« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2008, 11:38:06 PM »

My friend and godfather, who is also a priest in the Antiochian jurisdiction, offered me this explanation:

I would simply say that there has been a liturgical "revival" over the past several years.  As part of this revival, the role of the congregation, the community of believers, has been re-emphasized.  Since the time that Orthodoxy became the norm--after St Constantine--and even more so since the Ottoman occupation, Orthodoxy has shifted to a more clerical understanding or emphasis.  This was, in large part, because so many of the believers became nominal, at best (although the same can be said about clergy).
 
As part of this revival, the role of the people has been stressed.  Hence, in our Archdiocese, there was an edict saying that this part of the Anaphora should be read out loud so all of the people could hear the words and say the "Amen."  Certainly, in any case, whether the deacon alone says the "Amen" or all the people, we must realize that the entire liturgy is the work of the people and it is only within the context of the entire faith community that the Christ re-presents Himself.  That is why the New Testament says "where two are three are gathered..." and the liturgy CANNOT be served in our Church (unlike in the RCC) without a layman present to participate.


But what about those jurisdictions that never came under Ottoman dominion such as Russia where the epiklesis is still silently prayed?  i really need to brush up on my liturgics...a lot.  Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: September 17, 2008, 11:17:38 PM »

The questions that this thread is asking is if what the chief celebrant is doing is a public or private act.

It most certainly is a public act! The word "Liturgy" itself means "people work". But I don't think this is the only question being asked in this thread. The OP also asks whether the consecration takes place inaudibly and whether there might be a theological explanation for this.


Yes and the "surgeon" who in this case is the chief celebrant is the one asking for the blessing, no one doubts that it is the chief celebrant who asks for the gifts to be changed.
I guess it boils down to how we understand the response "amen". When someone prays for something, and you respond "Amen", does that mean that you offer the same prayer? And is the Epiclesis simply a request in which the chief celebrant asks for something? In other words, can his request be refused by God? In which case, how can we ever be sure that we are receiving the Body and Blood? I would say the Epiclesis is not simply a supplication, but rather, a co-operation of the celebrant and the Holy Spirit to effect the change of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood, and the lay responding "amen" to the Epiclesis has the potential to cause confusion about this, and reduce the understanding of the Epiclesis to being simply a request which might or might not be fulfilled.

Okay so I quizzed Fr. Christos (my husband, whose specialty is liturgics) about this.  He pointed the following out to me:

Quote
Once again we offer to You this spiritual worship without the shedding of blood, and we ask, pray, and entreat You: send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here presented.
Emphasis mine
http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/liturgical_texts/liturgy_hchc.asp


The Epeklisis IS, in fact, a supplication.  It IS a request, that the priest makes on the part of the people.  The deacon's response is on behalf of the people.  It is a supplication, but one that we are guaranteed is fulfilled, as Christ gave us this guarantee at the Mystical Supper.  And in fact, we know that in the Divine Liturgy we are LIVING the Mystical Supper, as the Divine Liturgy exists outside of time, and the Eucharist is that SAME sacrifice that Christ made once and for all.  Thus, yes, it is a supplication, but we are confident that no matter how unworthy the priest or people, the Lord never refuses.

Also, the Holy Spirit is the one who effects the change.  The priest makes the supplication on behalf of the people, but it is solely the Holy Spirit who does the changing.  This is why it does not matter whether the priest is worthy or unworthy, because the Holy Spirit works alone, in spite of the sinfulness of the priest and the people.  (Can't remember if we already cleared this up or not)

As far as it being inaudible, it merits more research (Fr. said he needs to look it up), but off the top of his head, it probably became inaudible for the same reason that many of the prayers became inaudible, being the misuse and disrespect of the people-- not paying attention, talking, etc.  If you look at the earlier liturgy of St. James, the prayers are very long, and the people got bored.  During the evolution of the liturgy between that of St. James and that of St. Basil, the petitions were added so the people would know what to pray for, the long prayers were shortened (St. Basil condensed them), and the priest started saying them quietly... This is the quick explanation, of course.  But essentially, the liturgy was shortened and condensed, and during that time, the priests started saying prayers quietly... not a fancy, meaningful explanation, but a practical one.  Father tells me he'll look it up, though, when he gets some time...

Hope I'm not adding to the confusion!

In Christ,
Presbytera Mari

***Edited to add bold text in quote***
« Last Edit: September 17, 2008, 11:19:41 PM by GreekChef » Logged

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« Reply #23 on: September 17, 2008, 11:27:12 PM »

^ Most priests are wearing wireless mikes; hence, there's no longer such a concept as inaudible.  I can't imagine the average Priest turning the wireless mike off and on multiple times.

Honestly, I think the Liturgy lasts longer if not every word is spoken audibly as if the celebrant was running on a schedule.
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