Why the Creed Doesn't Mention the Eucharist

And More on Mustum

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ROME, JUNE 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.



Q: Could you tell me why, in our profession of faith and creed, we don't profess our belief in the Real Presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? -- D.K., Norwalk, Connecticut

A: The reasons are above all historical but also involve the purpose of the liturgy itself.

From a historical perspective the creed as we know it was first sketched out at the Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381) although in its developed form it first appears in the acts of the Council of Chalcedon (451).

This creed was probably based on a baptismal profession of faith and encapsulated what were perceived as the essential tenets of the faith.

Above all it was a response to Arian and other heresies and defended the doctrine of the Trinity and Christ's true humanity and divinity. It was never intended to be an exhaustive exposition of every aspect of the faith.

Since it was necessary to defend the very foundations of the faith, such questions as the nature of the Eucharist were simply not on the theological horizon and would not be for several centuries more.

Also, during this early period, the fullness of Eucharistic doctrine was often explained only after baptism -- thus only after the new Christian had publicly recited the creed.

The practice of reciting the creed at Mass is attributed to Patriarch Timothy of Constantinople (511-517), and the initiative was copied in other churches under Byzantine influence, including that part of Spain which was under the empire at that time.

About 568, the Byzantine emperor Justinian ordered the creed recited at every Mass within his dominions. Twenty years later (589) the Visigoth king of Spain Reccared renounced the Arian heresy in favor of Catholicism and ordered the creed said at every Mass.

About two centuries later we find the practice of reciting the creed in France and the custom spread slowly to other parts of Northern Europe.

Finally, when in 1114, Emperor Henry II came to Rome for his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, he was surprised that they did not recite the creed. He was told that since Rome had never erred in matters of faith there was no need for the Romans to proclaim it at Mass. However, it was included in deference to the emperor and has pretty much remained ever since, albeit not at every Mass but only on Sundays and on certain feasts.

Eastern and Western Christians use the same creed except that the Latin version adds the expression "filioque" (and the Son) to the article regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit, a difference that has given rise to endless and highly complex theological discussions.

In spite of this difference, there is a common understanding among all Christians that the creed should be left as it is and that neither the creed, nor indeed the Mass itself, is a suitable place to give technical expression to every tenet of the faith.

On another level, however, the entire Mass is itself a profession of faith. It is the living faith celebrated and heralded in a great and sublime act of worship that is converted into a faith that imbues every aspect of daily activity.

Even though there is no explicit mention of the real presence in the creed, Catholics proclaim their Eucharistic faith through almost every word and gesture at Mass and especially by their Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and when receiving Communion.

In a similar fashion they liturgically express their faith in other dogmas not contained in the creed. Going to Mass for the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption also proclaims our faith in these doctrines.

Going to confession or receiving the sacrament of the sick affirms our faith in the sacramental system itself and our belief that Christ has granted the Church power to forgive sins.

In short, every act of liturgical worship is, by its very nature, also a proclamation of faith.

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Follow-up: Use of Mustum at Mass

Some readers expressed some perplexity regarding my remarks that the sacrifice of the Mass is completed with the priest's communion (see June 13).

One correspondent asked "how 'incompletely' did people participate and did they or did they not 'fully' participate in the Eucharistic banquet with all the graces and merits one gains from such participation?" when the celebrant forgot to consume at a concelebration.

Another, a layman from Canada, asked: "I thought the Sacrifice of Calvary is offered during and immediately following the words of consecration. […] Doesn't the priest receive Communion, strictly speaking, in the same manner and purpose as we laymen do, as Christ abiding physically in us, effectual to life everlasting?"

While Christ's action in the Mass would not be affected by the priest's failure to receive Communion, it would impinge on the integrity of the celebration as an act of the Church.

The question of the priest's obligation to receive Communion under both species before distributing Communion, receives less attention today than in former times when only the priest received from the chalice and concelebration was almost nonexistent.

In earlier times, however, the ramifications of the question were explored. St. Thomas Aquinas addressed this point in the Summa Theologiae (III part q. 82 art. 4). Responding to the question, "Whether the priest who consecrates is bound to receive this sacrament?" he states:

"I answer that, as stated above (Q79, AA 5,7), the Eucharist is not only a sacrament, but also a sacrifice. Now whoever offers sacrifice must be a sharer in the sacrifice, because the outward sacrifice he offers is a sign of the inner sacrifice whereby he offers himself to God, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x).

"Hence by partaking of the sacrifice he shows that the inner one is likewise his. In the same way also, by dispensing the sacrifice to the people he shows that he is the dispenser of divine gifts, of which he ought himself to be the first to partake, as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iii).

"Consequently, he ought to receive before dispensing it to the people. Accordingly we read in the chapter mentioned above (Twelfth Council of Toledo, Can. v): 'What kind of sacrifice is that wherein not even the sacrificer is known to have a share?' But it is by partaking of the sacrifice that he has a share in it, as the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 10:18): 'Are not they that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar?' Therefore it is necessary for the priest, as often as he consecrates, to receive this sacrament in its integrity."

Several readers asked questions regarding the validity of mustum (natural unfermented grape juice) for consecration.

In the letter quoted in previous treatments of this theme, signed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, it is specifically stated that the questions regarding the validity of mustum have been resolved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Mustum is therefore valid matter for transubstantiation even though the studies and minutes of the debate that led to the decision are not matter of public record.

In order for mustum to be valid the process used for the suspension of fermentation must not alter the nature of the juice in any way. For this reason, pasteurized grape juice in which all alcohol has been evaporated through high-temperature preparations is invalid matter for Mass.

We can be sure that the Church would never in any way approve the use of mustum if any doubt remained regarding its validity.

According to traditional Catholic moral reasoning it is necessary to use the strictest interpretations when dealing with the validity of the sacraments. Certainty is required and it is never permitted to proceed to celebrate a sacrament on the basis of probable validity.

Since mustum is barely within the range of legitimate matter and is certainly far from the fullness of the sign desired by the Lord, its use is licit only for those who have received proper authorization due to special needs.

The situation is similar for priests and faithful who are only able to ingest special low-gluten bread. Thus if a priest who has received authorization from his bishop to use low-gluten bread presides at a concelebration, then ordinary hosts must be prepared for the other priests and the faithful.

Since the priest must always receive under both species, those who cannot take even low-gluten bread may no longer celebrate individually but may receive permission to concelebrate and receive under one species. The rule would be similar if a priest were also intolerant of any grape product including mustum.

Finally, a reader asked if Church law required red wine alone. No such law exists. We have addressed this question in the follow-up of July 13, 2004.

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