Monday, November 28, 2011

What if the priest messes up the words of consecration?

This past Sunday, in the English speaking world, the new translation of the Mass was implemented. While there were certainly many of little mistakes – most notably, the struggle to say “And with your spirit” – we all can recognize that these are of no great consequence. Surely, we want to celebrate the Mass correctly, but a mistake is only a mistake, right?
However, there is one area where we recognize that a mistake could have serious consequences: What happens if the priest does not say the words of consecration correctly? What if he confuses one or two words, especially if he accidently says some portion of the old translation?

The words of consecration
The words necessary for the consecration of the Eucharist are called by theologians the “form” of the sacrament. It is by the power of these words that the bread is transubstantiated into the Body of Christ, and the wine into his Blood. The words of consecration effect the sacrament.
But what exactly are these words? What words are considered to be the “words of consecration”? Here we must note that these words differ from Mass to Mass – that is, the words of consecration in the Eastern Rites are different from those in the Latin Rite. Additionally, even within the Latin Rite, there is a difference between the more ancient form (i.e. the “Traditional Latin Mass”) and the Ordinary Form (i.e. The Novus Ordo). While the words change from Rite to Rite and while they can be modified over time, nevertheless the essential meaning of the words is always the same. The words must signify the reality of transubstantiation and of the sacrifice.
Thus, in the New Mass, it is most likely (though there is some dispute among theologians) that the essential “words of consecration” are “Hoc est enim Corpus meum” (over the Host) and “Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei, novi et eterni testament, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur, in remissionem peccatorum” (over the chalice). In the new English translation, these words correspond to “For this is my Body” and “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”.
Notice that this does not include all of the words which the priest says while consecrating the Sacred Species – rather, only those words which signify transubstantiation (for both the Host and the Chalice, individually) and sacrifice (for the Host and Chalice, together) are generally considered by theologians to be the “words of consecration”. Hence, the words over the Host – “which will be given up for you” – do not seem to be a part of the words of consecration, strictly. Likewise, the other words such as “In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took this precious chalice, etc.” are not part of the words of consecration properly so-called.
Generally, if the priest fails to say the essential words of consecration, the Mass is invalid and the Eucharist is not consecrated. However, what if he gets confused and mixes up part of the old translation with the new?
The teaching of Pope St. Pius V [read it here] or [here in latin and french]
In the Papal Bull of St. Pius V, De defectibus, it is specified that, “if the priest were to shorten or change the form of the consecration of the Body and the Blood, so that in the change of wording the words did not mean the same thing, he would not be achieving a valid Sacrament. If, on the other hand, he were to add or take away anything which did not change the meaning, the Sacrament would be valid, but he would be committing a grave sin.”
Hence, if (presumably by some accident) the priest were to confuse the words of consecration, the first question to ask is: Did the essential meaning (which is transubstantiation and sacrifice) remain? If the words still communicate this meaning, then the Mass is valid. If not, then the Mass is invalid.
Let’s look at an example: “For this is the cup of my Blood, etc.” Now, the word “cup” is out of place, since the new translation says “chalice”; however, the validity of the Mass is certainly not in question, since the essential meaning remains.
Another example: The priest says, “For this is the chalice of my Blood” and then skips ahead to “Do this in memory of me”, without saying anything of the middle (about the Blood being “poured out” or, previously, “shed”). This would make the Mass invalid, since part of the essential meaning (namely, the sacrifice) is left out. In this case, the Host would be validly consecrated, but the wine would remain merely wine.
Although there may be some mistakes on the part of the priest during the pronouncement of the words of consecration – for example, I have formerly heard a priest use contractions as in “It’ll be shed” rather than “It will be shed”, over the chalice (in the old translation) – these errors do not have any negative impact on the validity of the Mass. The Eucharist is still consecrated, so long as the essential meaning of the words remains. Still, the priest is not excused of grave fault (as Pius V says), if he makes these errors purposefully or out of gross carelessness.
What to do if a mistake should occur
I speak now to priests and seminarians – and I am referring to what you should do when you are offering the Mass yourself.
If a mistake should occur during the pronouncement of the words of consecration, you must first ask yourself, “Did I change the meaning of the words? Did what I said fail to convey the essential meaning of the words of consecration (i.e. that this bread and this wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, and that these Eucharistic elements are the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Cross)?”
If the answer is “no” (the meaning isn't changed), then continue the Mass (for it remains valid) – but do penance for the error and be sure to correct it. If the answer is “yes” (the meaning is changed), then we must correct the error immediately.
All of what follows can be found in the De defectibus of Pius V [here] and/or in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas (ST III, q.83, a.6) [here].
If the priest has already pronounced the words of consecration accurately over the chalice, but then realizes that he has not done so over the host (and that the change in words over the host is such as to change the very meaning of the words [e.g. he did not say “This” or “my” or “Body”]), then he must return and pronounce the words over the host (from Qui pridie), and then proceed with where he had left off. [if the words have not yet been said over the chalice, then he should stop immediately and go back and speak the words properly over the host and then continue with the chalice in the usual manner]. 
If the priest speaks the words of consecration properly over the Host but confuses the words over the chalice so that the essential meaning of the words are changed, then he must stop immediately and say the words correctly over the chalice. And, even if it is only at some point later in the Mass that he recognizes the error, the priest must stop immediately and return to the words of consecration and pronounce them properly over the chalice (he would then continue with the Mass, from wherever he was when he realized his mistake).
If any have further questions on this matter, or if you would like a more detailed explanation of the reasoning, please look at St. Thomas’ words in the Summa [here] (note that there are some slight differences between the Summa and De defectibus) – I will not go into greater detail either here or in the comments, since St. Thomas explains it all with great precision.
[if you have recommendations regarding the format of this blog, please consider leaving a comment on our previous post (here)]


Patricius said...

What if the priest were to accidentally turn over too many pages after the Sanctus and neglect to say the words of consecration all together?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

It would be imperative that the priest stop immediately and return to the place missed and continue through again (including the words of consecration).

If however he skipped some earlier portion, but did no notice until after he had consecrated the Eucharist (or even just the Host), he should continue on -- but he should be more careful in the future, and he should do penance.

[if the priest isn't sure whether he said the words, but thinks it more probable that he did ... then he should continue forward ... if he is pretty sure that he did not (morally convinced that he did not), then he should stop and return to the place where he believes he had gotten confused and say it all again from there]

If a lay person notices ... and if he is sure that the priest did in fact skip the words of consecration ... he may even go and tell the priest ... though I am not sure how this would be done best ... certainly prudence would be necessary (so as not to confuse the priest too much, since he must already be very confused if he missed the consecration).

Hope that helps! Peace to you. +

Anonymous said...

However, since the Anaphora of Addai and Mari is supposedly valid even without any sort of words of consecration (this is my body, this is my blood). With that in mind, aside from purposefully and (seemingly) maliciously intending not to form the intention to consecrate, it would seem that if the intention to consecrate is there, an accidental flub of the specific words of consecration since the whole anaphora/canon/EP is consecratory in itself and one accidental fault in the saying of Mass could not, in and of itself, invalidate the whole thing.

Now, granted, I don't buy this (and if I ever went to one of these Eastern liturgies, I'd probably just sit in the back...)but that seems to be the idea now days.

Also, that is another reason for ad orientem and the silent canon-if any of the things described in the De Defectibus happen, it is so much easier to correct them without giving undue confusion to the Faithful and without possibly embarrassing the priest to the point where he plugs on even though he really ought to redo something or have recourse to some sort of remedial action.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

However, even in the Addai Mari anaphora, the words of consecration are implied ... so the essential meaning still remains (at least that is the argument).

With the Latin Rite Eucharistic Prayers, however, the essential meaning is not conveyed if the words of consecration are wholly left out.
This is why the words are necessary for the Roman Canon (for example), even though they are not contained in Addai Mari.

Does that make sense?
Without any doubt, the Roman Canon (and all the others, excepting Addai Mari) does not consecrate without the words of consecration.

[and I understand (and share) your distrust of the theology which led to accepting the Addai Mari anaphora]

And I completely agree with your point about the silent Canon! +

pewpewaliens said...

But in the Roman Canon (especially with the OF offertory), isn't the epiclesis also more or less an implied epiclesis?
And what about the theory that the only required form (excepting the Addai Mari) is "this is my Body", and "this is my Blood"?

Anonymous said...

Father, I'm pretty sure that in one of the classic English language morals manuals - "Moral Theology" by McHugh OP and Callan OP - the authors identify the essential words of consecration over the chalice simply as Hic est calix Sanguinis mei and consider all the remaining words of the formula to be of grave ecclesiastical precept.

Likewise, if my memory is correct, another popular manual - "Moral and Pastoral Theology" by Henry Davis SJ - considers those remaining words of formula (the ones after Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei) to be "possibly essential."

I guess my point is simply that the morals manualists seemed to be very open to the position that the ending part of the formula for the consecration over the chalice are not essential for validity.

Certainly it would be grave matter for a priest to knowingly tamper with or omit that part of the formula. The only reason I bring it up is that I've found the responses in those manuals useful in discussions with radical-traditionalist types who want to call into question the validity of the consecration over the chalice at Novus Ordo Masses, especially with respect to the now replaced ICEL translations of the 2nd edition. Obviously there are many ways to defend the validity of the previous English translation, but quoting the morals manuals can be particularly helpful.

Anyway, I'm curious what you think of this all and if you know of other authors who would disagree and argue that all the words of the formula are strictly essential.

- Peter

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I am surprised to here the OPs taking that position ... the one I present in the article is what I have understood to be the classical Thomistic opinion (held, as I gather it) by the Thomists of Salamanca.
[this also seems to be the express teaching of Pope Pius V in his Bull]

Now, it is certainly a matter which theologians have debated ... but (again, as I have understood the history of the debate) the classical Thomistic position is that the words signifying sacrifice are part of the words of consecration.

Thank you for the reference to those manuals ... they certainly hold a lot of authority for me ... I will try to check on this more (If I can gain access to some of the old works from Salamanca).

Peace to you! +

Josemaria Paulo Jeromino Martin Carvalho-Von Verster said...

What if A Priest Say an Eucharistic prayer of his choice before consecration but says another one after?



Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The epiclesis of the Roman Canon expresses the intention of a future consecration, but does not express a consecration at the moment.
Therefore, it cannot effect transubstantiation.
This is why it is different from the Addai Mari anaphora.

Yes, I do agree that the epiclesis of the Roman Canon is more-or-less an implied epiclesis -- at least it is not as explicit as in many other Eucharistic Prayers.

As to whether "This is my Blood" would be enough ... see my comment to Peter.

Peace to you! +

dcs said...

Fr. Erlenbush,

I do believe the position you have presented here is that of the Salamanticenses. However Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange held a different position, so it is not surprising to see other Dominicans hold an opinion opposed to that of the School of Salamanca.

Dan Buckley said...

Dan Buckley
I was lector at a Mass where the priest said, "This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant; it wil become for us our spiritual drink." When brought to his attention, he said that his intention with those words was sufficient

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Which work does Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange discuss this in? I would love to look it up -- I would not lightly disagree with him!
(I'm presuming it is his "Priest in union with Christ", but I don't recall it there)

Thanks for the info ... how on earth do we decide between John of St. Thomas and Garrigou-Lagrange?!

@Dan Buckley, I think it is doubtful whether the wine was consecrated ... but perhaps ... certainly, the intention to consecrated doesn't do anything if the words do not signify the meaning (so I don't like his explanation). Peace! +

Father S. said...


In that case, presuming he said the proper words of consecration and intended to consecrate, his actions would be valid and illicit.


This kind of thing happens from time to time. Offering the Holy Mass is something that is done every day at least once. There are bound to be errors. For example, next weekend, I will offer the Holy Mass in the EF once, in the OF in English twice and the OF in Spanish twice. Usually, by the time I get to the last one, my brain is dragging a little bit. Binating on Saturday and trinating on Sunday take a toll. As much as I try to concentrate, there have been a handful of misfires.

Just last Sunday, while offering the Sunday Mass in Spanish, I was distracted by a set of triplets who are toddlers who all seemed to want to scream and cry, out of the blue, at the same moment. My concentration failed simply out of surprise. I jumbled the prayer over the chalice, started again, jumbled again, and then took a deep breath. I started a third time with no problem. It happens. When in doubt, start over again.

Kind Regards,
Father S.

Michael said...


Thank you for this, and so many other very interesting posts.

My query relates to the form of the words of consecration over the chalice. Prior to the Post-Conciliar reform of the Mass and the promulgation of Missale Romanum of Pope Paul VI, in the Roman Rite the words "Mysterium Fidei" were placed firmly within the text of consecration. Now they are not. It is clear from the presence of the genuflection and elevation of the chalice that transubstantiation is believed to have occurred prior to the newly placed "Mystery of Faith". Therefore, if as is claimed the whole of the text, after "Hic Est Enim Calix Sanguinis Mei" is necessary for the validity of the sacrifice, then we are left with three options:

1)The words "Mysterium Fidei" alone of all those spoken after "Hic Est Enim Calix Sanguinis Mei" are not necessary for consecration and therefore never were, in which case why were they deemed necessary before the Post-Conciliar reforms? They are unnecessary words placed right in the middle of vital ones. This makes no sense whatsoever.

2)None of the words after "Hic Est Enim Calix Sanguinis Mei" are in fact necessary for consecration, and transubstantiation is brought about solely by the words "Hic Est Enim Calix Sanguinis Mei" - hence the acceptability of removing "Mysterium Fidei" from the text of consecration.

3) All of the words after "Hic Est Enim Calix Sanguinis Mei" are necessary for consecration thus invalidating the Ordinary Form of the Mass.

Option 3 is obviously false - therefore we are logically left with 2 options - all of the words after "Hic Est Enim Calix Sanguinis Mei" are necessary for validity WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THOSE 2 WORDS PLACED RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TEXT. Alternatively, none of the words spoken after "Hic Est Enim Calix Sanguinis Mei" are in fact necessary for validity.

It cannot be claimed that the words "Mysterium Fidei" still remain part of the words of consecration as it is obvious from the adoration of the Precious Blood at the elevation and genuflection that transubstantiation is believed to have occurred. Furthermore, if this argument is the case, certainly every Mass celebrated in English since the introduction of the Novus Ordo HAS therefore been invalid because the now defunct translation read "Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith", which certainly does change the meaning of the words.

I would really welcome your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned, they needed to just tell the Assyrians to put in the words of consecration, just like Pope Benedict XIV had others do in the past. Doesn't matter if you can spin some yarn about the consecratory effect of the whole anaphora, we know for sure that the proper words of consecration in all the Catholic Rites do indeed effect a valid consecration. The practices of schismatics couldn't possibly represent the authentic Apostolic Tradition of the CHurch.

Other than that, this is what I've always read-"this is my body" and "this is my blood" were the minimum for validity. This conveys the proper meaning, no?


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I too have seen this argument from the radical/schismatic traditionalists ... they are terribly confused.

In fact, your first point (1) is pretty much the correct answer ... except that "mysterium fidei" aren't the only words which are not strictly necessary.

Remember, what is needed is to convey the meaning ... which is transubstantiation and (possibly) sacrifice -- this is the debated point, some hold sacrifice has to be conveyed in the words (the Thomists of Salamanca) others hold it does not; and this would change whether the second half of the words over the chalice are needed.

Well, "mysterium fidei" is not necessary to convey either transubstantiation or sacrifice ... neither (I suppose) is "novi et eterni testamenti" ... some also argue that the two words "enim" in the "Hoc est enim Corpus meum" and "Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei" are not necessary (and I tend to agree).

So it is no real surprise that one phrase in the middle is not strictly necessary ... in fact, I believe that most any school of theologians would agree that a priest could very probably consecrate the chalice saying "This is my Blood, which will be poured out for you" rather than the whole "This is the chalice of my Blood etc.". (hence, even the word "chalice" may not be strictly and absolutely necessary)

Those who reject the Novus Ordo based on the change of "mysterium fidei" are motivated either by the most extreme ignorance (stemming from blindness of intellect) or malice.

Thanks for the question!
Certainly, your second point (2) is a possibility ... and many would favor this.

Peace to you! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I believe that the Thomists of Salamanca held that the rest of the words over the chalice were necessary to communicate the idea of "sacrifice" -- and if this concept is essential to the Mass (as I think it is), then I am inclined to agree with them.

That is why I have held that the words "poured out for you and for many, etc." are necessary (in that the concept of sacrifice must be conveyed by the words).

It is a debated point, though.

Peace! +

Jack said...

There are several good translations of the Liturgy of Ss Addai and Mari on line. Read any one of them.

I would call your attention to these words at the end of this Anaphora:

"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. *** {no omission here; see below}
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 with all who have been well-pleasing before you. "

How else can we (the church) possibly "perform the great divine mystery of the passion..." which "we have received by tradition from the Lord" except by intending to accomplish the mystery of the Eucharist"

How else can bread and wine be "for the pardon of debts, the forgiveness of sins, the great hope of the Resurrection, and for new life in the Kingdom of Heaven" unless they have been changed into the true Body and Blood of Christ?

I am not arguing against the Latin tradition about the necessity of the Words of Institution. I'm just showing a relevant passage from this ancient Anaphora itself.

And, FWIW, the Chaldean Catholics in their recension of Addai and Mari DO insert the Words of Institution when I have placed the asterisks.

Laurens said...

My God is infinitely merciful.
How about your God?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Wow! You have your OWN PERSONAL Deity?! Where can I get one of those?

In any case, the mercy of the Trinity does not make a non-sacrament into a sacrament ... and if the words are just trivial technicalities, then so is the death of Christ, so is Christianity, and so is the mercy of God.

Veronica said...

What if a priest refuses to use the new words in the Canon ("for many" instead of "for all")?

Howard said...

About 2 years ago, a good priest at the cathedral must have been distracted, because he said the words of institution for the chalice while attempting to consecrate the host. Apparently, I was the only one to notice. I approached him about this privately after mass, because I doubted that the consecration of the host had been valid and the hosts consecrated at that mass were now potentially mixed with hosts validly consecrated at earlier masses in the same ciborium, so I supposed they would all have to be conditionally reconsecrated. However, all the people I asked who might know said that the consecration, though irregular, was valid.

Seraphim said...

The Eastern theology says that the whole Anaphora confects the Eucharist. Just as Latins do not parse the vocal sounds of the word "body" (does transubstantiation occur at the "d"? Or at the "y"? Or at the glottal stop at the end of the word?) but rather assert that the whole phrase "this is my body" is the (minimum) valid form for Consecration, Eastern Christian assert that the whole Anaphora is. In the Roman Rite, if you HAVE to pinpoint the place where "transubstantiation" occurs, it would be at the Words of Institution because they occur after the Epiklesis. In the Eastern Rites, the epiklesis occurs afterwards, so the epiklesis completes the anaphora. In the Roman Rite, the epiklesis is less explicit than it is in the East, as a commentator here pointed out - but it is implied strongly enough for the meaning to be present, just like the Words of Institution in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari.

Regarding this Eastern theology, here is what Pope Benedict has to say about it, in "The Nature and Mission of Theology," pp. 111-112:

“It seems to me that we have before us a typically Western restriction and legalistic reduction of the notion of faith which radicalizes certain one-sided developments which begin to make their appearance around the High Middle Ages. A parallel may render the issue clearer: from about the thirteenth century on, interest in the conditions necessary for validity begins to push every other consideration to the margin of sacramental theology. Increasingly, everything ceases to matter except the alternative between valid and invalid. Those elements which do not affect validity appear to be ultimately trivial and interchangeable. Thus, in the case of the Eucharist, for example, this is expressed in an ever-stronger fixation on the words of consecration; that which is actually constitutive for validity becomes more and more strictly limited. Meanwhile, the eye for the living structure of the Church’s liturgy is progressively lost. Everything other than the words of consecration appears to be mere ceremony, which happens to have evolved into its present form but in principle might just as easily have been omitted. The characteristic nature of liturgy and the irreplaceable liturgical sense cease to be regarded as important, falling as they do outside the narrow limits of a legally defined minimalism. But the truth that this juridical necessary factor retains its meaning solely when it remains within the living totality of the liturgy had to be relearned only with great labor. A good part of the liturgical crisis of the Reformation was due to these constrictive tendencies, which are also the key to understanding the liturgical crisis of the present. If today the entire liturgy has become the playground of private “creativity”, which can romp at will just as long as the words of consecration are kept in place, at work is the same reduction of vision whose origin lies in an erroneous development typical of the West but quite unthinkable in the Eastern Church.”

Seraphim said...


Rome has spoken, the case is closed.

And your view is practically heresy anyway. "The practices of schismatics couldn't possibly represent the authentic Apostolic Tradition of the Church." That is wrong for all the following reasons, and probably many others:

(1) The Assyrian Church of the East is just as much an Apostolic Church as we are; in fact they were the ones who came back into communion with Rome, while the jurisdiction now called the Chaldean Catholics remained in schism. (They switched allegiances sometime in the 16th century, I think; I don't know when the Chaldeans added the Words of Institution.)

(2) They are NOT "schismatics". Communion with them was interrupted, partly from political persecution from the Persian Empire (who would not tolerate any faith from the Roman Empire, their enemies!) and partly from geographical separation. Nor are they heretics. As I heard one Assyrian priest say once, "we're not Nestorians; we just got stuck up here in the mountains while the Council of Ephesus was going on and we never thought it was relevant to us since we never attended."

In the 13th century Kublai Khan sent two Chinese Nestorian monks, Rabban Sawma and Mar Yabh-Allaha, to Rome to hammer out a political alliance. Rome was surprised to see them, not being aware that there were Christians in China (the Nestorian Church at that time was as large as the Catholic Church, in fact), and nobody was aware that there was any schism between them. Rabban Sawma celebrated Liturgy on the altar of St. Peter's Basilica, after his profession of faith was accepted by the Pope, and the Pope sent the pallium to his friend Mar Yabh-Allaha, who had been detained in Babylon by the inconvenience of having been elected Katholikos of All the East.

(3) A schismatic, in the definition of St. Jerome, is one who has rebelled against his bishop, or his lawful superiors. This never happened. The Pope was never the local primate over the Catholicos of Babylon. They are not schismatics. They are in schism from us - there can certainly be schism BETWEEN (not from) two bishops - but we are also in schism from them. To quote the great Melkite Archbishop Mar Elias Zoghby, "we are all schismatics".

(4) The Church has repeatedly, over and over again, urged Byzantine Catholics to return to our traditions and be faithful to who we are. Like it or not, these traditions are the traditions of Orthodoxy - Churches NOT in communion with Rome, and many of these grew and developed AFTER 1054 (the feast of St. Gregory Palamas as the completion of the Triumph of Holy Orthodoxy, the restoration of which for Byzantine Catholics is a symbol of the restoration of the integrity of our Church). So from Rome's perspective it is simply not true that the practices of "schismatics" or whatever you want to call them don't represent the authentic practice for a Church.

dcs said...

Fr. Erlenbush,

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange discusses this in De Eucharistica, commentary on ST III q.78 a.3. Not only does he argue for the "short form" but he also argues (contra the Salamanticenses) that St. Thomas also held that the short form sufficed for validity.

dcs said...

Seraphim writes:
Rome has spoken, the case is closed.

I'm afraid you're mistaken about that. Rome has not spoken in a definitive way and theologians are permitted to argue that the Words of Institution are necessary to confect the Sacrament.

There was a good article in The Latin Mass some years back which argued that there is reason to think that the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, without the Words of Institution, has been corrupted. Interestingly enough, it is not the only anaphora used by the Chaldeans (it is used approximately 60% of the time IIRC), but it is the only one that lacks the Words of Institution.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The so-called "Eastern" position (which I'm not even convinced is the true position of the Eastern Church Fathers) that the whole anaphora consecrates and not the words of consecration leads to a very odd conclusion.

Namely, it leads to the conclusion that Christ did not consecrate the Eucharist at the last supper, since he did not say a complete anaphora but only the words of consecration!

And it is not the West that is legalistic (at least not if you take the theology to its logical conclusion), because those who hold that the whole anaphora is the "words of consecration" would logically have to hold that a mistake in any part of the Eucharistic prayer would bring the validity of the sacrament into question ... now that is radical and extreme rigorism!

As to your comments about Addai Mari, I agree with you that we must be careful to not go overboard in criticism of that anaophora ... still, it is not as though it is a totally settled case ... but you are correct, we are certain (at least morally certain) that that anaphora is valid at least.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Because it does not change the essential meaning, using "for all" would not change the validity of the Mass -- it would still be the Eucharist ... however, if the priest does it knowingly (and, especially, if he does it with malice), he commits a mortal sin.

Peace to you always! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I believe you were quite right to be very concerned.
If the priest did not say "This is my body", then it wasn't!

Let us pray for our priests! +

Mike Mayott said...

I wonder if god can consecrate the species without the helpp of man at all?

Seraphim said...


What you described is not the Eastern position at all. Read what I wrote more carefully again

We don't think of the Anaphora as being a magic formula that consecrates the Eucharist. The whole Anaphora consecrates it; this does not mean that if a priest were to inadvertantly or even intentionally omit part of it (say, the Prayer of the Angels - known as the Sanctus in the West) the Eucharist would be invalid. It only becomes "radical and extreme rigorism" if you insert your rigorism into it to begin with. You can't understand Eastern theology through Western lenses.

Yes, there are certain parts of the Anaphora which are so essential to the meaning of what the priest is doing that one would be hard-pressed to call it an anaphora without them. In the Byzantine rite, there are really two such peaks or high points in the Anaphora, namely the Words of Institution and the Epiklesis. In the Roman Rite, the Epiklesis is less important. In the Anaphora of Addai and Mari (which, in full disclosure, I have never seen), it appears that the Words of Institution are less important.

The Anaphora is the prayer of the Church, which is the prayer of Christ working through His Body. It is Christ mystically offering the Sacrifice, not just a ritual performed by some priest. So from the Eastern perspective what is really the relevant factor in deciding "validity" is whether the priest is doing what the Church is asking him to do. If the priest is doing the prayer of the Church, then it is an Anaphora, which is why I trust that the Assyrian anaphora is valid, and that the pre-2011 English Novus Ordo with its mistranslation of "pro multis" was also valid. But if a Roman Rite priest says "This is the chalice of My Blood" over a piece of bread, or somehow skips the words altogether, it is quite clear that whatever pretty prayers he may be saying, he is not saying the Roman Anaphora. And his service is not a Mass.

From the Western perspective, there can be multiple "valid forms" for any Sacrament. In the East we say "The servant of God N. is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost", in the West we say "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." The Eastern formula for absolution, which even biritual Roman Catholic priests serving part-time in Byzantine parishes will use, is deprecatory. It does not contain the words "I absolve you", yet it is completely valid (as even acknowledged by the most ossified of unreconstructed manualists to borrow an expression from Fr. Zuhlsdorf - see Ludwig Ott for example). That a different "valid form" can exist for a different rite regarding the Eucharist should not be a surprise.

The point of saying that the whole Anaphora is consecratory is that we are not looking at a "bare minimum" for validity. What we are looking at is where is the action of the Holy Spirit taking place. One cannot impose on the unity of the whole prayer, or restrict the action of the Holy Spirit, by considerations of what is minimally necessary for validity. "Hoc est enim corpus meum" is not a magic trick, despite the unfortunate devolution of that phrase into "hocus pocus". It is part, a usually essential and pinnacle part, but only a part, of the whole Canon, and it is the whole Canon that brings Jesus down to the altar.

Marco da Vinha said...

I have heard it said that apparently the words of institution are missing from most fragments on the pre-Nicean liturgies that exist. Can anyone corroborate that claim? Could that have been due to the Discipline of the Secret or just that many did not use them (which I find strange given that St. Paul mentions them in his epistle to the Corinthians).

A friend of mine was at a Sunday Mass a few weeks ago which was celebrated by a priest who is teacher at the local seminary. My friend says that the Mass was invalid given that the priest ad libbed most of it, especially the consecration. IIRC, he said the priest used the following words (not in english , though) for the consecration: "We devliver to, Lord, these signs of the self-gift of your Son". Valid? I think not. I doubt the man believes in the Real Presence at all.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The words "This is my body" by themselves - even without any anophora - will consecrate the host ... and, without those words, or at least without the essential meaning conveyed by those words, the rest of the anaphora will not consecrate the Eucharist ... this is the faith of the Church.

Therefore, it is not the whole anaphora which consecrates (in the strict sense), but those words.

And no, they are not "magic", they are far more powerful than magic -- magic can only manipulate nature, while the Sacrament changes the very nature of the substance.

Finally, I've told you many times before - and now I'm serious - I will not post any more super-long comments from you ... it's too much ... your last comment is nearly as long as the original article!

Peace and blessings always. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Mark of the V.,
The "scholars" who make these claims about the ancient anaphoras are on very shaky ground ... there is little evidence of such nonsense ... as you pointed out, St. Paul very clearly speaks of the words of consecration as part of the Mass.

Regarding that Mass your friend went to ... It sounds like (from what you said) the Mass was not valid, whatever the intention or belief of the priest.
So sad ... we do need to pray for that priest!


Seraphim said...


Your argument that it is not the whole anaphora that consecrates simply does not follow. From the fact that one can consecrate with the part, it does not follow that the whole does not consecrate.

One quick anecdote before this becomes a "long comment": In the East the unity of the anaphora is held to so strongly that it is believed that the anaphora cannot be interrupted. The action of God has already begun. So when Hagia Sophia fell to the Turks in the middle of the anaphora, it is a pious legend (believed by some in Greece to this day) that the priests celebrating the Liturgy disappeared into the walls of the church, to emerge again some day to finish the Liturgy.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I suppose that the whole consecrates, by virtue of the fact that the whole contains the necessary part (namely the words of consecration, or at least the essential meaning of those words).

But, since the whole cannot consecrate without the part and the part can consecrate without the whole, then (in a very real sense) we must admit that the words of consecration are what consecrate the elements.

The West also holds very strongly to the importance of the unity of the Eucharistic prayers ... excepting in the most extreme cases, they cannot be interrupted.

Surely, you would agree that, if the priest died after saying the words of consecration but before finishing the anaphora, the Eucharist would be consecrated ... then, it is clear that the whole anaphora does not consecrate, since the elements are already the Eucharist, even before the anaphora is completed.

ps. I love the story about the Hagia Sophia!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

For any still interested ... I recently came accross St. Alphonsus' discussion of what words are essential for the Chalice (in his Theologia Moralis) ... the Doctor of Morals states that the Thomists (following St. Thomas himself) hold for the whole while the majority favor the part (i.e. only "Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei").

Alphonsus says that he cannot decide which is better and that both positions are probable.

However, in practice, if a priest were to die after saying the first words but not the rest ... Alphonsus says that another priest should come and say the whole words over the chalice (repeating "Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei" and continuing "novi et eterni...").

Personally, I am continuing to affirm that the whole meaning (i.e. both transubstantiation and sacrifice) are necessary and essential to the consecration.
And it seems to me that this is the (practical) opinion of St. Alphonsus as well -- in addition to the favored opinion of St. Thomas and the majority of the Thomists.

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