THEOLOGIANS HAVE WRANGLED OVER THIS TRIUMPHANT THESIS
The Mystery of Faith. By Maurice de la Taille, SA. Book I : The Sacrifice of Our Lord. English Translation. (Sliced and Ward. 10s. 6d.) Rev iew ed by CANON G. D. SMITH, D.D., Ph.D.
Vis now twenty-three years since the theological world was at first somewhat startled and then, in spite of itself, deeply impressed by the appearance of Pere de la Taille's book Mysterium Fidel. Theologians are always startled by what is novel, and the theory of the author about the essence of the Mass :seemed to them very novel indeed. But they are also impressed by profound theological reasoning and by sound erudition; and those who, moved by the author's reasonable plea " 1[01 to condemn him unless first heard with toleration front the opening chapter to the conclusion," did in fact study the book as whole and in all its parts were constrained to acknowledge that here was a work challenging comparison with the masterpieces of the best periods of theological thought. Novelty is not a recommendation for a theory in dogmatic theology: it is rather the The student of revealed truth is preovscie se.ses.cd by the salutary conviction that " the old is better." and for him a theological theory, understood as a logical and systematic presentation of a doctrine. finds its best reesammendation in the fact of being firmly rooted in traditional teaching. None showed himself more fully aware' of this than Pere de Is Taille who, while giving dueeprominence in his book to the logical consistency of his " new " theory, did not make this the principal ground for its acceptance, but rather concentrated upon proving that the theory was in fact not new at all. A great part or the book is consequently devoted to a study of the teaching of the Fathers and of medieval theologians. with the object of showing how successfully the reviewer does not feel it incumbent upon him tie judge that his view is the authentic view of antiquity.
MOREOVER, in the treatment by Pere de Taille the doctrine of the Eucharistic sacrifice does not stand alone and in isolation from the other doctrines of our faith. In this admirable synthesis Redemption, man's elevation to the supernatural order by grace, the dispensation of that grace through the sevenfold channels of the Sacraments, the Reserrection and the Ascension of Christ, all these dogmas and many others are found woven together into a tapestry of symmetrical beauty, at the centre of which stands Christ, Meeting Himself ritually in sacrifice at the Last Supper and pledging Himself to its consummation in the drama of Calvary.
In order to appreciate these outstanding merits of the euthor's achievement it is necessary to study the book whole and entire. But the particular theory of the essence of the Eucharistic sacrifice which, though it had been held by others before him, has now become inseparably associated with his name, is already known to English readers from several sources. Among these we may mention twri conferences delivered by the author himself at the Cambridge Summer School its 1922 and published in Catholic Faith in the Holy Eucharist (Heifer. Cambridge, 1923): but more especially The Mystery of Faith and Human Opinion Contrasted and Defined (Sheed and Ward), which besides an excellent outline of the original work contains various articles written by the author in elucidation of his doctrine.
From these essays the main thesis of the author emerges clearly. It is that Christ Himself offered one sacrifice, His voluntary Death on the Cross. But that Death is not to be considered absolutely in itself but in its essential relation to the ritual offering which Christ made of Himself at the Last Supper. It was this oblative act which conferred upon the Death of Christ its essential .sacrificial character. The Supper and the Cross, therefore, complete each other and form numerically one sacrifice offered by Christ Himself.. Thus offered, immolated and accepted by God. Christ is now in heaven in the perpetual state of glorified and accepted victinthood.
To the Mass the priest. obeying the command of Christ, does what Christ Himself did at the Last Supper: by the words of consecration he makes Christ, who is already in reality a victim immolated to God and accepted by Him, to be really present on the altar under the appearances or bread and wine, i.e., in the visible condition of mystical death, and thereby offers Him once more to the eternal Father. The real immolation, or destruction, of the Victim is not and cannot be repeated ; hut the ritual oblation first made by Christ at the Supper, and persisting virtually in Christ glorious in heaven, is repeated actually by the Church through her legitimate minister each 'time that the priest utters the words of consecration in the Mass. And thus the Mass is a true sacrifice, one and the same with the sacrifice of the Cross.
SUCH is the theory in the barest outline. But Messrs. Sheed and Ward, publishers of the synopsis above-mentioned. felt rightly that the monumental work of de la Taille deserved to be made accessible in its entirety to English leaders, and the result is the translation, the first part or which (dealing with the personal sacrifice of Christ Himself) lies before us.
The task of rendering into readable English such a mass of close theological reasoning and erudition was assuredly not an easy one, and we should be glad if we could state with treth that the translator has accomplished it successfully,
But we feel bound to say that the translation is unsatisfactory and disappointing. It is by no means easily readable, and-we have in many instances found it possible to gather the author's meaning without having recourse to the original.