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.