By Fr John Zuhlsdorf
As of this writing the whole of the new translation of the Roman Missal will come into use in a month and five days.
Mysterium fidei (“the mystery of faith”) has been embedded in the formula of consecration of the Precious Blood in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite since at least the seventh century. History shrouds exactly how it was inserted into the consecration.
It is possible that it was proclaimed by a deacon to clue people in about what was going on behind the curtains hiding the altar. n 1202 Pope Innocent III explained (cf ep. 5, 121; DS 782) that the phrase was important to combat errors about the sacramental mystery taking place on the altar. The concept mysterium is so closely connected with sacramentum that in liturgical texts they are often virtually interchangeable. The phrase makes explicit the Church’s faith about the effects of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, after the twofold consecration of the Eucharist, there follows a twofold Memorial Acclamation. The priest says “Mysterium fidei” and the congregation responds with one of three optional formulae.
The displacement of the mysterium fidei was a titanic innovation. Contemplate it in light of the words of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium 23: namely, “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing”.
In the traditional Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, mysterium fidei within the consecration formula accentuates the sacramental effects coming from the consecration and consumption of the Precious Blood.
St Thomas Aquinas (d 1274) opined that mysterium fidei was an essential part of the form of the consecration of the wine (cf STh III, q. 78, a. 3; Super I Cor, c. 11, v. 25). Mind you, Aquinas’s teaching is not automatically the equivalent of the Church’s Magisterium. In any event, for Aquinas the simple consecration formula for Body of Christ needs nothing added to it. The form for the Blood, however, requires clarification. The Eucharistic “bread” represents the subject of the Passion, Christ Himself. The “wine” expresses also the effects of the Passion flowing to us through the sacramental mystery. According to Aquinas, the effects of the Passion in the pouring out of Christ’s Blood (“for you and for many”) are threefold: 1) remission of sins; 2) justification of faith; and 3) the attaining of heavenly glory. Christ’s Passion (for all) brings the reward (for many) at the end of the world.
In the Extraordinary Form, mysterium fidei within the form of consecration is the priest’s immediate profession of faith in transubstantiation and the effects of Christ’s saving Sacrifice. In the Ordinary Form, it is part of an acclamation with the congregation affirming the connection of the twofold consecration with the Lord’s saving work in the whole of the Paschal Mystery (Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection) to be brought to completion at His Second Coming.
That said, in the new, corrected translation of Mass we have now three, instead of four, optional memorial acclamations. There are only three in the Latin edition of the Missale Romanum. The first, perhaps most frequently used, in the now obsolete ICEL translation, was never in any Latin edition. Old, obsolete Option “A” – that is, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” – is no longer an option.
Mysterium fidei means “the mystery of faith” and so that is how it is in the new ICEL translation, without the interfering addition of “Let us proclaim...” Thereafter follows one of three options, revised thusly: – Mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, et tuam resurrectionem confitemur, donec venias.
OLD ICEL B: Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.
NEW: We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.
– Quotiescumque manducamus panem hunc et calicem bibimus, mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, donec venias.
OLD ICEL C: When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.
NEW: When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.
– Salvator mundi, salva nos, qui per crucem et resurrectionem tuam liberasti nos.
OLD ICEL D: Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the World.
NEW: Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.
A bit loose, that last one. Did you notice that in the second option that calix is rendered as “cup” rather than “chalice”?
Next week we must skip ahead to something beyond the Eucharistic Prayer.