MYSTERY OF FAITH

‘Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith’ (Missal and ASB) ‘Great is the Mystery of Faith’ (Missal and Common Worship). Why the change? And what is the Mystery of Faith anyway? (Mysterium Fidei; MF in what follows.)

Look at 1 Timothy 3.8–9. ‘Deacons … must hold the mystery of the faith …’ Since, already in the third century, it was a convention that the deacon at Mass held the chalice, Mysterium Fidei was considered to mean the chalice of the Lord’s Blood, and was incorporated into the Roman institution narrative: ‘For this is the chalice of my Blood of the new and everlasting covenant, the MF.’

After Vatican II, MF was removed from the Lord’s words, because he is not otherwise recorded as having said it, but was left for the priest to say next. ICEL (the RC organization that translated the Latin liturgy into English in 1973; Rome has just rejected their second draft because it is politically correct) put ‘Let us proclaim’ before MF; then offered four alternative acclamations – ‘Christ has died …’ being their version of one of three Latin originals.

This arrangement gave the impression that MF is just there to invite the congregation to say something. Rome now insists on emphasizing ‘the Latin tradition that closely links MF with the words of institution’; namely, MF points to the consecrated chalice, the saving blood present en mysterio (in a sacrament) upon the altar, not to what the people are about to say.

Rome sees practical consequences. (1) ‘Great is the MF’ is a better English adaptation (and see 1 Timothy 3.16); (2) ICEL, followed by Common Worship, suggests alternatives to ‘Great is the MF’ so that the congregation will know, from whichever one the priest says, which of the alternative acclamations he wants them to use that morning. No, says Rome; MF is what the official Latin says: no alternatives. (Incidentally, now that Rome is insisting on proper translations, ‘Christ has died etc’ may not survive; it was a very free ICEL composition.)

So Mysterium Fidei is what the Church’s praying life made of Paul’s words to Timothy; the Blood which is for ever poured out before the Father is the Blood we worship by faith in the mystery of the sacrament.

 

Fr John Hunwicke celebrates the Mass in Devon.

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