Reform of the Memorial Acclamation

Cardinal Ratzinger on liturgy in the last few decades: ‘In the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over the centuries and replaced it – as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.’

In many churches, including the church I attend on Sunday evenings, the Prayer of Consecration includes this acclamation: ‘Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.’ These are important truths, of course. I fail to see, however, the point of inserting them into the Prayer of Consecration in this particular form. If the point is to confess these truths directly, the congregation has already done so in the Creed, and a repetition of the same truths with the same purpose is redundant at best.

Whatever its historical pedigree, if any, the current use of this acclamation, it seems to me, is but another unconsidered measure of the Liturgical Movement, with no respect for the integrity of the historic formularies. In both Roman and historically Protestant churches, the acclamation has widely been used for decades, yet without much to commend it. Rather than adding to the celebration of Holy Communion, the acclamation has but detracted from its focus, despite affirming three incontrovertibly orthodox propositions. This is because it seems only marginally related to the purposes of the Prayer of Consecration, or else threatens to wriggle out of its subordination thereto.

The Lord, however, is the God of order, not of disorder. The acclamation, if at all to be retained, must more closely suit its place in the liturgy: ‘Thy death, our Lord, we commemorate, thy resurrection we confess, and thy second coming we await. Thy mercy be upon us all.’ Though much less extraverted, indeed much less sloganeering, this wording is much better suited to the devotional purposes that an acclamation might serve.

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