24 August 2009

Piltdown Man

I have a lovely postcard which I bought when I was a keen little boy very interested in Science. It came from the Natural History Museum, and showed the skull which is the final glorious proof that Men are descended from Apes; the long awaited proof of Darwinianism: Eoanthopus Dawsonii, AKA the Piltdown Man, AKA the Great Hoax. If I had time to waste being childish, I'd pin it up with a picture beside it of the mighty Dawkins.

Liturgy has its Piltdown Man; the Liturgy of Hippolytus. Actually, I'm not being quite fair; Piltdown Man was a deliberate forgery; an attempt to prove a dogma for which genuine evidence was unkindly shy to show itself. Hippolytus is no forgery, but a genuine first millennium liturgical text.

But, everone now agrees, it is not by Hippolytus, nor was it a very early liturgy of the Roman Church. And Professor Paul Bradshaw has shown good reason the think that it is not nearly as early as had been assumed. Yet this text dominated the Committee-Liturgy reconstructions of the twentieth century. It provided the basis of the Eucharistic Prayer which is by far the most commonly used in the RC Church: Prayer 2. It was the model of the drafts which started to be considered in the Church of England in the late 1960s.

Gregory Dix was among the many taken in by it; although he was too fly to swallow the idea that really early liturgy had an Epiclesis of the Holy Spirit after the Institution Narrative (he concluded that this must be an interpolation into 'Hippolytus' dating from the fourth century, when notions of Epiclesis became popular in the East).

Hippolytus' became real politics in the C of E in 1965. The Liturgical Commission offered a draft Eucharistic Prayer which ran "Wherefore ... we offer unto thee this bread and this cup; and we pray thee to accept this our duty and service in the presence of thy divine majesty (note the echoes of the Canon: ... offerimus ... panem ... calicem ... hanc ... oblationem servitutis nostrae ... ... in conspectu divinae maietatis tuae ...). A year later they offered the explanation "this need mean no more than 'we put this bread and this cup at God's disposal', so that he may use them to feed those who receive in faith. It can, of course, be interpreted to mean something else; but it does not assert the fully developed doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It confines itself to the simple language of the first two centuries ... Hippolytus ... Irenaeus ... Justin ... Clement ... The use of the phrase is in line with the Anglican appeal to antiquity". But a tiny 'note of dissent' followed from one Colin Buchanan: "I reluctantly dissent ... Inquiry has shown that the phrase ... is unacceptable to many Anglicans".

In the decades which followed, Buchanan's eagle eye relentlessly spotted and vetoed (through the Evangelical block vote in Synods) any phrase expressive of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; not because he didn't want evangelicals to have phrases they dislike forced upon them - he just couldn't stand the thought that in a long list of alternatives, there might be just one on the menu which Catholics could use with a good conscience. He is still going strong and wrote a couple of articles early this year about the iniquities of those who use 'Melchizedek' talk (or use 'Melchizedek' Canons). I'm afraid I was one of his targets.

The poor bloke would go apoplectic if anybody pointed this out to him, but the main fruit of his long active life has been the unwillingness of Anglican Catholics to use Eucharistic prayers authorised by the Church of England. In the debate about the 1965 draft, an Anglo-Catholic representative from the diocese of Exeter, a plain spoken General, told the truth: "Many priests will not use this present service, and what could be more divisive than that?" How right he was.

Even 'Non-Conformist' churches use 'offer' language nowadays; after all, it is based on a diachronic and synchronic ecumenical consensus. But not Buchanan's C of E.


Little Black Sambo said...

Why do catholics bother with anything less than the old Canon? What was the (Roman) motive for writing all these "eucharistic prayers"? And if Anglicans want it in the vernacular they at least have several good translations and are not forced to say "you know how firmly we believe in you" - ugh!
(Wv dishi - is that you, Father?)

rev'd up said...

Yes, textual criticism reveals many inconsistencies in the erstwhile heretic Hippolytus' so called "Apostolic Tradition (AT)." AT conflates, as does the NO (novus ordo) (I use the term loosely) liturgy, the Agape with the Eucharist. The AT speaks of an action called the "Lord's Supper." The problem is that this phrase, Lord's Supper, has been made to simply imply "Eucharist." Based as it is on the AT, the NO isn't really quite anything at all, neither Agape nor Eucharist but rather a synthesis of the two. The phrase "cognitive dissonance" comes to mind (ie. let your yea be nay, and your nay be yea).

The Agape, as a church activity, was essentially abandoned by the
3rd century because of abuses which even the illustrious Doctor, S Paul, centuries before opprobriously treated the Corinthians. I would pay serious money to hear S Paul's frank opinion of the NO. I would like to hear him rebuke "Peter" to his face. What would Dante's S Peter say of his modern day "successors?"

On a more serious note, I must say though that Dick Dawkins bears less resemblance to Piltdown Man than to Neanderthal. Dick definitely has the Neanderthal thing going.

Chris Jones said...

everyone now agrees, it is not by Hippolytus ...

Forgive me for being a bit suspicious of statements that start with "everyone now agrees." I make no claim to be a scholar, but I have always been given to understand that the Apostolic Tradition was indeed written by Hippolytus in the early part of the 3d century (with some controversy as to whether its epiclesis was (per Dix) a fourth-century interpolation).

Is there a more recent scholarly consensus as to the date and authorship of the Apostolic Tradition, a consensus which makes it pseudonymous and of a significantly later date? And if there is such a consensus, can you give me any reference to scholarly discussions that explain how that consensus was reached?

... nor was it a very early liturgy of the Roman Church.

My understanding is that it represents what Hippolytus, for his own polemical purposes, claimed that the early Roman liturgy had been. That cannot be the case, however, if Hippolytus were not the author.

Whatever it is, it is not an actual service-book of the 2d-century Roman Church (if, indeed, such a thing had ever existed). So I quite agree that it is regrettable that it has been made the ore of liturgical reconstruction.

Joshua said...

It is liked and used by Catholic priests because it is the shortest of the E.P.'s on offer: sad but true.

As some call it, its the mini Canon: barely enough to cover the Mystery.

Of course, many are uncomfortable with saying "and all the clergy", owing to having done a weekend workshop with some religious sisters once; so they substitute "and all ministers of your Gospel/ clergy and religious / all who serve your people" etc. - all of which are very patronizing.

Steve said...

Let's consider Colin Buchanan's position, shall we? He believes that the doctrine of the (propitiatory) eucharistic sacrifice is an abomination; believes that this is also the position of the Church of England, and calls the Prayer Book and the Articles in support; and therefore believes that NO authorised eucharistic liturgy in the C of E should give that doctrine any quarter whatsoever. For all that most readers of this blog will heartily disagree with him, it's a completely consistent position, and does not require any theory of hatred of Anglo-Catholics to account for it; and if the Evangelicals in the General Synod choose to support him, that's up to them (they aren't stupid - they do not have to follow Buchanan any more than the Anglo-Catholics in the GS have to follow Hunwicke).

I'm sorry, but I have to say it; those who are in a church where they cannot, in conscience, use its authorised eucharistic liturgy should join one where they can.

Joshua said...

Forgive me for having to second that comment, very rude of me I know as a recent reader and commenter here, rushing in and all that, but it does rather sum up my view as an outsider looking in.

Maurice said...

How do you substantiate your claim that EP2 is used most often by Catholic clergy? I've said Mass many hundreds of times in the last 10 years and may have only said EP2 a few times - always favouring EP3. Is it helpful to make unsubstantiated generalisations?

The Welsh Jacobite said...

"those who are in a church where they cannot, in conscience, use its authorised eucharistic liturgy should join one where they can."

Is this an argument for Anglo-Catholics to join e.g. the U.R.C. ??

Joshua said...

As an almost-daily Mass-goer for most of my adult life, I can attest that priests mainly say E.P. II - I am very glad always to find the others (esp. I, but also III and IV) used, but I would say that overall no. II is the most popular, and in saying so I would be agreeing with all anecdotal evidence that I have heard from others and read in books. I have not the statistics to prove this, but it is my firm contention.

Sue Sims said...

Joshua is right on all counts. As far as 'clergy' is concerned, so important is this to liberal-leaning priests that the priest who says my parish's Latin Mass each Sunday (Novus Ordo) changes "et universo clero" to "et omnibus ministrantibus" (he's an old-school Jesuit and completely comfortable with Latin).

And yes, EPII is used at about 90% of all the Masses I've attended during the last dozen years (since becoming a Catholic [papist variety]) - that is, every Sunday and most weekdays. Occasionally one has EPIII on Sundays. Only in the nooks and crannies of tradition - the various Oratories, Masses said by Opus Dei priests, etc - will one generally here EPI.

Sue Sims said...


'Hear', not 'here'.

How embarrassing...

Figulus said...

In my experience, EP2 is indeed the most common prayer, and it is used in the plurality if not the majority of masses. In our parish it is used about half of all Sundays. The remainder of Sundays EP3 or something from some appendix somewhere is used, or perhaps the pastor just makes one up. Very rarely, EP1 is used.

Figulus said...

It has been some time since I read the apostolic tradition, but I seem to recall that the Hippolytan anaphora is actually placed in the middle of an ordination rite. I also recall that it is actually quite different from EP2, most strikingly in its lack of a Sanctus. Are we sure that it was actually a eucharistic prayer?

While EP2 is similar in some respects to the Hippolytan anaphora, I would not say that it is the same prayer. Quite apart from the question of authorship, I remember being unimpressed with the claim made by some that it should serve as the prime example of a primitive eucharistic prayer. Perhaps I am a Philistine, but I am blind to its much touted virtues.

William Tighe said...

EP II I remember reading somewhere was much mangled in the process of producing the NO rite. The first proposal was for a fairly straightforward version of the anaphora in Ap. Trad.; then a Sanctus was added and the anaphora diced and sliced, and inserted in part before the Sanctus and in part afterwards -- at this stage, and right to the penultimate moment EP II was supposed to have one invariable preface, like EP IV. Finally, it was conceded that variable proper prefaces could be used on occasion (and now it seems to me on most occasions) instead of the invariable one.

At this last point the whole exercise became pointless, and EP II ought to have been consigned to the dustbin. I think both EP III and IV both have a certain mustiness and artificiality about them, but compared with the idiotic EPs for special occasions and groups and the vile "Swiss Eucharistic Prayer" (which has long been authorized for use in various countries; what a boon if it could be banished forthwith) they glitter, even if not golden.

Joshua said...

While I object on traditional grounds to having more than one Eucharistic Prayer (the Roman Rite was quite happy with just one for at least 1600 years, and the Byzantine has just two - three if the very rare Greek St James is counted - of which that of St Basil is said only a dozen times a year on appointed days), I must admit that EP III and EP IV are quite decent - indeed, of all these Roman Canons, the Fourth is arguably the most forthright about sacrifice:

...offerimus tibi ejus Corpus et Sanguinem, sacrificium tibi acceptabile et toti mundo salutare. Respice, Domine, in Hostiam, quam Ecclesiæ tuæ ipse parasti... omnium recordare, pro quibus tibi hanc oblationem offerimus...

(...we offer you his body and blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world. Lord, look upon this sacrifice which you have given to your church... remember [all] those for whom we offer this sacrifice...)

As said, the amount of Pseudo-Hippolytus that actually subsists in EP II is quite minor, and the poverty of this pastiche is evident even compared to the other new compositions in the Missal.

Some time ago, I made a quick comparison between Pseudo-Hip. (as good name for this effusion as any) and EP II, and found:

- the body of its (optionally replaceable) Preface is from Ps-Hip.;

- the consecratory epiclesis is not;

- most of the consecration is;

- the anamnesis and communion epiclesis is, mostly;

- the intercessions and commemorations are not;

- the last two lines before the Per ipsum (from the Roman Canon) are from Ps-Hip.

Interestingly, the opening lines of the intercessions in EP II are from the Didache (10:5 & 9:4).

Joshua said...

Having some time ago annotated my hand-missal to show which words of the Latin do correspond with Ps.-Hip., and which not, I find that only 47% of EP II can be classed as from the works of Pseudo-Hippolytus.

Michael McDonough said...

I did a similar tally, noting in the Latin of the 4 EPs, references that might broadly be considered as references to "sacrifice", with the following results: Roman Canon, EP III & IV, II.

I also wonder if, along with the "speedo" element of EP II (very modern that), there may be some pernicious influence from the early days of the RC Charismatic movement, and the liturgical practice of the Neocatechumal Way? I understand the latter "prefer" to use EP II (exclusively?) until Pope Benedict warned them not to do so, and the whole "primitive Christianity" thing was very big with Charismatics some decades ago (they seem since to have settled down to a more traditional orthodox attitude).