Hocus Pocus: This is My Body

The apologists of this forum were recently asked if the Eucharist is genuinely confected at Mass if the celebrant (wittingly or unwittingly) omits the words “this is my body”.

The answer from the apologist responding was a very clear “no”.

I wondered about this, in fact, because that cut-and-dried “no” just didn’t seem right to me at all. I recalled a book I once read entitled, simply, “The Mass” by liturgist, theologian, professor, and author the Rev. Lucien Deiss, C.S.Sp., which really altered my perspective on the nature of consecration during the Eucharistic liturgy.

I located Father Deiss’ book in my collection, and I’d like to reproduce this excerpt from it, which gives his insight into the matter:

According to the Eastern tradition, it is the epiclesis which consecrates the bread and wine into the body and blood of the risen Christ. According to Western tradition, it is the narration of the Institution that performs this consecration. Popular belief has sometimes even exaggerated the quasi-magical and instantaneous power of the words called consecratory. It used to be affirmed that when the priest said: Hoc (this): there was nothing. Est (is): there was nothing. Enim (indeed): there was nothing. Corpus (body): still nothing. Meum: there was everything; there was the Body of Christ.

Actually the question of the precise moment of the consecration, quite like the discussion of the consecratory value of the epiclesis or of the narration of the Institution, is a bad question. It arose at the turn of the thirteenth-fourteenth century in the course of the controversies between the East and West. And a badly posed problem cannot receive a correct solution. In reality, the Eucharistic Prayer forms a unity of praise, blessing, thanksgiving, and request. It is the entirety of this prayer which is consecratory. That is so true that the old Roman Canon (actually Eucharistic Prayer I) which does not have an explicit epiclesis, is perfectly valid, as is valid the anaphora of Addai and Mari which does not have a narration of Institution.

The Mass by Lucien Deiss, page 77

“Therefore,” Deiss continues, later, in reference to the anaphora of Addai and Mari, “one could celebrate the Lord’s Supper without saying the narration that tells about it.”

If Deiss’ perspective is legitimate, I wonder if the omission of the words “this is my body” would truly invalidate a Mass, as the apologist insists. I would be interested in knowing what the apologist based her answer upon, and to hear the thoughts of other educated Catholics who may have insights into this particular question.

NB: this post is by no means meant to be an insulting slap to the apologist in question, and I’m not even saying that the answer she gave was wrong. I merely mean to inject a point of view from a worthy source that seems, to me, to differ with the apologist’s perspective.

It must be remembered that the epiclesis occurs after the words of institution in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy. It occurs before the words of institution in the Mass.

As a Byzantine Catholic I would say that both are necessary for the consecration to occur as would most Eastern Christians.

As for the Chaldean Liturgy, the words of institution are there implicitly but not explicitly, just as the epiclesis is present in the first Eucharistic prayer (the Roman Canon).

Not meaning any disrespect, but as one who has serious doubts about Catholicism in general and the Eucharist is particular, the title of this thread struck me as kind of funny.

The word “hocus pocus” is actually a derogatory term that came from the sounding of the Latin of the Consecration.

That origin of the term is but one of many possible explanations.

In the Roman Rite, omitting the words “This is my Body” would be a truly jarring occurrence.

Exploring the idea that it is the Eucharistic Prayer as a whole which effects the confection of the Eucharist, I don’t think there is any way to organically omit that one phrase. I just read the AAA in question, and the way that poster reported the occurrence really leaves the hearer/reader asking “do what in memory of me?” I believe that the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite are structured such that they lead up to the Institution Narrative, and so if the priest does not hit that climax, the entire Prayer is left wanting.

That’s an opinion. Not Church teaching. Unless, perhaps, the very clear “no” you received was substantiated and supported by Magisterial teaching?

Me too. I loved it!

“Hoc est enim meus corpum”

That’s the Latin for “for this is my body” and is, likely, the source for “hocus pocus”

Each ritual Church has its valid form of Liturgy. I think you can determine the minimums from this remark by H.H. Pope John Paul II said the The Anaphora of Addai and Mari without the narrative is valid, which is based upon:

**1. **the ancient Anaphora of Addai and Mari are used with the clear intention of celebrating the Eucharist in full continuity with the Last Supper and according to the intention of the Church;

**2. **the Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession with “true sacraments, and above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist” (U.R., n. 15)

**3. **the words of Eucharistic Institution are present in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari in a in successive prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession rather than a coherent narrative way and ad litteram.

vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20011025_chiesa-caldea-assira_en.html

IMHO the ommission of the words in and of themself would not invalidate the Eucharist. It could have been a complete and unfortunate oversight by the Preist. In that case is would still be valid. It would only be invalid if he ommitted them on purpose. To determine which it is is you would have to be there and see does he do this every mass or was this a one time occurrance.

Not meaning any disrespect, but as one who has serious doubts about Catholicism in general and the Eucharist is particular, the title of this thread struck me as kind of funny.

That is funny. I thought it might perhaps grab a chuckle or two from more historically-astute Catholics who are aware of the origins of this phrase. It never occurred to me that it would also coax a smile from non-believers who actually feel that the Mass amounts only to so much “hocus pocus”. How ecumenical. :slight_smile:

Well, if we cannot all believe as one, I’m glad we can, at least, all snicker as one. :wink:

Vico:

You saith:

the ancient Anaphora of Addai and Mari are used with the clear intention of celebrating the Eucharist in full continuity with the Last Supper and according to the intention of the Church

Yes, and thank you for that link, by the way. I really don’t know anything about the Chaldean church and that text was both informative and enlightening. I find the very fact of the anaphora of Addai and Mari fascinating, altogether, insofar as the implications of Rome recognzing the validity of it really force a Roman Catholic to imagine the Eucharist in a rather broader way (than we’ve become used).

But to back up my original point using the point you have expressed, I would have to imagine that the priest in question who omitted the words “this is my Body” also had the clear intention of celebrating the Eucharist in full continuity with the Last Supper and according to the intention of the Church. I mean, what on earth is he doing, otherwise, really? He has done everything else: he has lead the community in the opening prayers, the penitential rite, the Liturgy of the Word, and has recited the whole Eucharistic Prayer (excepting those four words, of course). Surely his intention is to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and to share the sacred species with the gathered community in Eucharist, as Eucharist.

Can we perhaps say that a Mass thus recited, while illicit, is nonetheless valid?

Hello Pregustator,

I’m not sure where to begin… I would think that the apologist in question is operating from a rather traditional perspective, popular in the Latin Church, that looks at each sacrament from a matter and form point of view. The matter and form have been both clearly defined for all the sacraments, over the years, and it is the supreme authority in the Church that is able to make such definitions. As far as I know, the notion that the words of the institution narrative are the form of the sacrament of the Eucharist is widely held. It has been said that the bare minimum is “This is my body” and “This is the cup of my blood” (St. Thomas Aquinas, for example newadvent.org/summa/4078.htm)

Does this lead to “magical thinking?” I don’t see why. If you look at baptism, a person is not baptized until the entire form is spoken, all the way to “Spirit.” If a priest “forgets” to say the whole form, too bad. The person is not baptized. That’s just the way it is. If the priest says “He took bread, gave it to his disciples and said: do this in memory of me”, there is obviously something missing there, something that is essential.

I would also say that the vital importance of the precise words of the institution narrative is highlighted in the decision of the Church to accept the anaphora of Addai and Mari, which “Vico” referenced. It is not as simple as the quote from Fr. Deiss makes it seem. The words of institution are there, as the Vatican pointed out, just not literally, like in the other Eucharistic prayers.

After reading the answer of the Apologist, I agree with her.

Thanks for your time.
Dan

The truth is that no one can say for sure about the words of institution because there is very little manuscript evidence. It is common for liturgists to regard the WoI and the epiclesis as late in date but there is no fixed evidence. It is a grand hypothesis - not completely unsupported but what never comes through in these books in the amount of conjecture that goes into it.

-The Eucharistic Prayer is derived from the Jewish prayers (which ones are debated)

  • Therefore it is implausible that the early Christians would have added the Dominical Words to prayers of thanksgiving.
  • Therefore any manuscripts found with the dominical words must have them as a later insertion.

In addition, many modern liturgists have an aversion to things like insisting on the dogmatic significance of this or that part, and this IMHO, biases many of them.

As to Addai and Mari: I hesitate to pompously argue with the decision of the Congregation, which has much wiser and more knowlegeable *periti *but my personal (and non-important) opinion was that the decree was highly inadvisable. It was based on evidence that is in no way absolutely certain and clear, Fr. Taft’s historical brilliance notwithstanding. Scholars are by no means united in the idea that Addai and Mari NEVER HAD the WoI, and there are dozens of other explanations which have been, and still are, put forward in publications (scholarly ones, and not the crackpot polemical tracts). Given this situation, knocking over the table of dogmatic teaching of centuries in the absence of absolutely uncontested historical evidence, to secure an ecumenical effort, does not seem justified.

dans0622:

The words of institution are there, as the Vatican pointed out, just not literally, like in the other Eucharistic prayers.

Thank you for your insight, first of all; your point concerning the form for a valid baptism is a compelling one.

I would be grateful, however, if someone would explain what it means to say that “the words of institution are there…just not literally.” That doesn’t seem to make sense, on the surface. Why must they be there, literally (all in one place, just as Christ spoke them), in the Roman Rite for validity, but for this ancient Eucharistic Prayer of the Chaldean Rite, not?

According to the excerpts of the anaphora quoted in this Vatican document, there is text referencing the body and blood of the Lord, and His sacrifice, to be sure, but nothing like the narration appears. When we say, therefore, that “the words are not literally there”, are we not simply saying, “the words are not there at all”?

AJV:

As to Addai and Mari: I hesitate to pompously argue with the decision of the Congregation…

Oh, but why? What’s one more pompous argument in these fora?:wink:

Given this situation, knocking over the table of dogmatic teaching of centuries in the absence of absolutely uncontested historical evidence, to secure an ecumenical effort, does not seem justified.

Do you think it may be possible that the form for the confection of the Eucharist presented in the anaphora of Addai and Mari may not, in fact, be valid, despite the Vatican saying that it “can” be considered to be. I think that’s an interesting choice of words, incidentally…

As the Catholic Church considers the words of the Eucharistic Institution a constitutive and therefore indispensable part of the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer, a long and careful study was undertaken of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, from a historical, liturgical and theological perspective, at the end of which the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on January 17th, 2001 concluded that this Anaphora can be considered valid. H.H. Pope John Paul II has approved this decision.

“…can be considered valid.”

Does saying that something “can” be valid also imply that it might not be?

I admit that I’m not having one of my better days, so I hope what follows is at least reasonably clear or at minimum comprehensible. :o

There is also a case that is somewhat the reverse: scholars are equally divided as to whether the uniquely Maronite Anaphora of Peter III (which is similar in structure to Addai & Mari) had an Institution Narrative in the original. It’s clear that one is present at least from the 8th century but the Anaphora is known to be at least 300 years older than that. The question there, then, is whether the Institution Narrative was added rather than removed.

Ah, but it really doesn’t knock over the table of dogmatic teaching, at least that’s my take FWLIW. One has to keep in mind that the Scholastic concept of “matter and form” does not exist in the East and Orient, so the idea that a specific formula is required for consecration is alien. In its stead, there is (and has been for ages), a notion in the East and Orient that the Anaphora as a whole is consecratory. And that is what Rome essentially seems to have applied in the case of Addai & Mari as used by the ACoE.

It seems to me that what is being elided over in this thread is

[quote=Vico]Each ritual Church has its valid form of Liturgy.
[/quote]

In other words, what applies within one Church cannot necessarily be applied within all or even within another. Yes, Churches recognize the validity of the Eucharist among their sister Churches, but that is not to say that the same conditions can be applied within each one. The problem comes in when one tries to use Eastern/Oriental logic within the Roman Church. So, if the Roman Church specifies that a specific formula is required for the validity of the Eucharist, the absence of that formula in a Roman Mass renders the action invalid. Whether it was deliberately not used, or whether it was “overlooked” is immaterial.

I’m not saying that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with the Scholastic notion (“matter and form”), but at the same time there is equally nothing intrinsically wrong with its Eastern/Oriental counterpart (see above). Each concept within its own Church(es).

Anyway, hopefully at least some of the above discourse might prove intelligible and maybe even helpful. :slight_smile:

My suspicion is that those who put forward the historical arguments don’t really care about the dogmatic ones…however, this decree had to acknowledge the doctrinal language of the past, and so came up with this “dispersed form” or whatever.

AJV:

Oh, but why? What’s one more pompous argument in these fora?:wink:

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Do you think it may be possible that the form for the confection of the Eucharist presented in the anaphora of Addai and Mari may not, in fact, be valid, despite the Vatican saying that it “can” be considered to be. I think that’s an interesting choice of words, incidentally…

I say nothing :stuck_out_tongue: but I regret that the document was issued for the reasons I mentioned above.

But see, the thing is there again we come up against that great friend, Hypothesis. There is no manuscript of Sharar that does not have the WoI. Is it possible? Yes. Is it even 75% certain? No.

Ah, but it really doesn’t knock over the table of dogmatic teaching, at least that’s my take FWLIW. One has to keep in mind that the Scholastic concept of “matter and form” does not exist in the East and Orient, so the idea that a specific formula is required for consecration is alien. In its stead, there is (and has been for ages), a notion in the East and Orient that the Anaphora as a whole is consecratory. And that is what Rome essentially seems to have applied in the case of Addai & Mari as used by the ACoE.

Yes, but Rome still held on to the idea of the Words, while allowing the actions, etc. to retain the integrity of the prayer idea. And previously, with regard to certain Syriac prayers where a similar case exists, Rome was always insistent that some form of the Words be present. This “dispersed euchological manner” is a complete and utter novelty. Rome never gave up the idea of the WoI, even while allowing other parts such as the epiclesis as performed in the Russian uses, to take a more predominant role.

In other words, what applies within one Church cannot necessarily be applied within all or even within another. Yes, Churches recognize the validity of the Eucharist among their sister Churches, but that is not to say that the same conditions can be applied within each one. The problem comes in when one tries to use Eastern/Oriental logic within the Roman Church. So, if the Roman Church specifies that a specific formula is required for the validity of the Eucharist, the absence of that formula in a Roman Mass renders the action invalid. Whether it was deliberately not used, or whether it was “overlooked” is immaterial.

I’m not saying that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with the Scholastic notion (“matter and form”), but at the same time there is equally nothing intrinsically wrong with its Eastern/Oriental counterpart (see above). Each concept within its own Church(es).

I do not think that there can be a different-rule-for-different-Churches. I will try and explain myself in fuller detail later but for now: with regard to the Eucharist, as with Baptism, the form of the sacrament is in specie and not upto the Church to determine what can constitute a form.

I think the implication of what of the Vatican said for the ACE could be applied to all, so omitting “this is my Body” might be valid if the words of Eucharistic Institution are still somehow present in the remaining succession of prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession. How would one know without a determination from the Church?

Yes, I know. I thought I implied that. Oh well … And BTW, I’d venture to say that number is not even 50%.

What Rome may have done or said in the past came strictly out of the Scholastic mindset, so it really doesn’t much bear on the case at hand. What does matter to me, though, is that Rome has finally recognized (to a degree, at least) the Eastern/Oriental concept that the Anaphora is a unit.

It’s not exactly a “different rule” but it is a different mode of expression. It seems to me that Rome recognized same in the case at hand, as she says that, while the Institution Narrative is not explicit, it is implicit. Just as the epiklesis is implicit in the Roman Canon.

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