Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Missing Link. . .

The love/hate relationship with the Eucharistic Prayer of Hippolytus is, well, rather humorous.  Onc e when I posted the text here and lauded some of the ancient phrases, I was abruptly reminded that it was never used as it in a church and was not from the first century or even the second but most likely the fourth.  Well, there!  Traditional Roman liturgiologists are especially touchy on the subject of the Eucharistic Prayer II (what they call the Hippolytus canon).  When it was first introduced, of course, many thought it was the very earliest complete Eucharistic prayer.  Lutherans had it in the Worship Supplement of 1969 and Rome introduced it as Eucharistic Prayer II.  Some Romans thought the best thing it hard going for it was not simply its antiquity but its Roman-ness.

When in the 19th century, some ancient texts were discovered that read similar to the "Apostolic Constitutions", then called the Egyptian Church Order, many scholars believed it was, in fact, the earliest document and the source of the others.  Remember that the most modern edition we had at the time was that published in 1563.  Now, not so much.  In fact, a number of scholars have raised questions about that conclusion.  Among them, Paul Bradshaw said of the Apostolic Tradition:

We judge the work to be an aggregation of material from different sources, quite possibly arising from different geographical regions and probably from different historical periods, from perhaps as early as the mid-second century to as late as the mid-fourth.
(Bradshaw, P., Johnson, M., & Phillips, L. The Apostolic Tradition. A Commentary. Fortress Press. Minneapolis. 2002. page 14)
The chief problem for Rome is that the "Apostolic Tradition" is not necessarily Roman at all.  That said, some of the other prominence given Hippolytus has also come under scrutiny.  It is to the point where some wish it would just go away (those Roman traditionalists I mentioned above).  All of this contrasts with Cypriano Vaggagini’s assertion that
“The anaphora of Hippolytus… would seem to give us the usual structure of an anaphora in the early Church”
(Vaggagini, C. The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform Geoffrey Chapman. London 1967 page 25)
The problems also have to do with the reliability of the text itself.  Dom Botte's reconstruction was favored by most but Bradshaw and others are not so sure.  They caution:
“it gave the misleading impression that the reconstructed translation could be taken with confidence as reflecting what the author originally wrote, whereas any reconstruction involves a large number of subjective judgements, as well as the assumption that there was once a single ‘original’ text from which all extant versions derive.”
(Bradshaw et al. op cit page 12)
If Hippolytus was as late as the mid-fourth century, then it has no superiority to the Roman Canon, parts of which are thought to be quoted by St Ambrose in the De Sacramentis, thus establishing that the Roman Canon and Hippolytus are of a similar vintage.

My point in all of this is simple.  We look for a golden thread to explain how the medieval church got where it was, in the hopes that it would answer all our questions and give assurance that what we have is also the most ancient.  In effect, we are looking for the missing link, or links, as it were.  There appears to be none and it is a fool's errand to try and find it.  What we do know is that until Luther the prayer of thanksgiving was the most central part of the mass or Divine Service or liturgy.  The actual text of that prayer of thanksgiving was fluid for a time before growing consolidation in Rome brought more uniformity.  Certainly by the time of Luther the history was not all that big of a deal.  It was a given.  Until Luther excised the silent parts of the canon.

One of the problems with Lutherans is that we never really dealt with the issue of form (at least until the modern worship wars that came with Lutheran Book of Worship).  We dealt with content.  That is what Luther dealt with and all Lutherans after him until the 1970s.  The Lutheran Confessions quote approvingly the Eastern Canon all the while condemning the language of the Roman Canon which transformed sacrament into sacrifice and buried the gift under language Luther and the Lutherans found contradictory to the institution of Christ and Scripture.

I like Hippolytus.  It offers us ancient phrases, a rather complete prayer, and a solid look at what an evangelical Eucharistic prayer might look like.  Again, the issue for us is and has been content, not form.  At least until those outside of Missouri led the charge against the Great Thanksgiving of the ILCW and began to merge form and content until Luther's liturgical surgery became for some Lutherans the only canon possible.  Traditionalists in Rome fight Hippolytus and there are some Lutherans who would rather his canon would just be forgotten as well.  I am not one of them.


William Tighe said...

On this whole question of "Hippolytus" one should read - although it is by now a bit dated - "Hippolytus and the Apostolic Tradition: Recent Research and Commentary," by John Baldovin, S.J., Theological Studies , 64 (2003), pp. 520-542.

chaplain7904 said...

Most excellent post.

After 2,000 years we have so many great EP's to choose from (once they their problematic parts are expurgated) that content is no problem.

But there is an institutional prejudice against the EP which discommodes me.

It's largely because we are prisoners of our dogmatics, add in some sectarianism, and wholesale ignorance of liturgical history by Lutheran clergymen, and it all adds up to exactly the situation we have today.

No EP.

Rendering us spiritually impoverished. And sectarian in that this is THE way the Euch. has been conducted from the beginning, to present day by the majority of Christians in the world. Namely, Rome and EO.

For the dogmaticians let me add that I think I can easily demonstrate that John 17 is the first (NT) EP.

Thanks for writing, and for reading.

George said...

There are several problems here. First, the Semitic "brk" was translated as "anaphora" in Greek, hence the Latin "præfatio" (which does not mean "foreword" at all). The anaphora begins with the dialogue, goes on with the sanctus, and on and on with the post-sanctus etc.

Hippolytus' Tradition on the Charismata is NOT the Egyptian Diatexeis ton hagion apostolon. They are different books, one mistaken for the other, first by Schwartz in 1910, then by Connolly in 1917, finally on purpose by Dom Botte in 1967. In his doctoral thesis, then is other articles, Jean Magne has demonstrated the distinction between the two books. See: «Tradition apostolique sur les charismes et diataxeis des saints apôtres: identification des documents et analyse du rituel des ordinations», Paris, 1975. Also his article: «Pour en finir avec Hippolyte», to which Botte replied, saying that "it doesn't matter".

Thirdly, there is the "anaphora of the holy Apostles", in the Ethiopian rite, which is used on ordinary Sundays of the year in that rite, and which is an organic and living text of the so-called Hippolytus' anaphora. The Ethiopian version has an explicit epiclesis over the gifts, the Sanctus, some short intercessions linked with the memory of two saints. If we compare the Ethiopian, with Dom Botte's version, and with Bugnini's "EP II", it is in liturgy as if we compared in bible studies the textus receptus, with the Sinaiticus/Vaticanus, and with JW's New World book.

There are no theological discrepancies between the Oriental, Eastern, Mozarabic and Roman anaphoræ. The sacrificial language is there, everywhere. We should only be careful about how we do translate things, and how we understand other things. When one reads the original collects oàf the Easter vigil (traditional, pre-1948), one can find them so Lutheran in language. When one compares the old Roman collects for saints' festivals on one side, and the premodern ones, one can see the theological contrast.

Therefore: how should we excise the liturgy? With wisdom and discretion. Cutting off the whole Roman Canon was indeed a great mistake. Maybe the Roman Canon created superstitions at the time of the Reformation. Maybe Martin Luther did not have much liturgical material at hand, to chose something better.

But now we have everything at hand. The Ethiopian anaphora is rather short, and, on the interdenominational field, very fitted. Saint Basil's Byzantine anaphora is the best theological anaphora ever written, but it is long, and people get unfortunatelly bored. There are more than 80 Eastern and Oriental anaphoræ, from which the postmodern liturgist has many, many options.

Unless s/he be either idle (and then use only the verba), or arrogant (thinking that the newest be the best, especially if that comes from hir own pen.