Missal Moments V: “The mystery of faith”

Immediately after the consecration of the host and the chalice we have been used to hearing hitherto from the priest, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith”. The most popular response, especially when sung, was “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”. Neither of these will we hear again.

First, to deal with the priest’s part, in the new Missal “let us proclaim” has been omitted. As you might have guessed by now, this brings the English more precisely in line with the Latin original, mysterium fidei (there is no annuntiamus preceding it of the Latin). But, yet again, there is more involved than mere fidelity to the Latin. The inclusion of these additional words seems to have been intended to make more felicitous the rather stark phrase in the Latin (much as adding “This is” to verbum Domini – the Word of the Lord – after the readings). In doing so, the whole dynamic of this moment was obscured.

So if we are proclaiming something, in this case the mystery of faith, to whom are we proclaiming it? To the world? It is not present (though it is remembered in our prayers), only the Church is. To God? It would be odd to proclaim something to God in the middle of a prayer of humble remembrance, supplication and consecration. To ourselves? Is it possible to proclaim something to ourselves?

The key lies in what immediately precedes “the mystery of faith”. It is, as noted above, the consecration of the gifts. So having just adored Christ now present after his Spirit has wonderfully transformed the gifts, the priest makes not a proclamation, but an exclamation. The mystery itself is now present among us – the Body and Blood of Christ offered on the altar of the Cross, and risen again, for us and for our salvation. The priest makes an exclamation of faith in the mystery now present. The people hear this ritualised moment of wonder and faith and affirm the priest’s exclamation of faith in the now-present Lord by themselves addressing the Lord, making an acclamation to him, the Mystery, now present among them in his Passion, Death and Resurrection – “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again”. Faith takes up faith’s cry.

What this moment is certainly not is a dialogue. The priest is not talking to the people as such, nor should the people talk to him. If Christ is now present, he is the focus. Now we can see why the familiar “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” has been dropped. Theologically it is impeccable. Logically it is all wrong, in the context of this part of the Mass. For it is a statement about Christ, not to him. If Christ is now present among us, we do not talk about him, we talk to him, we acknowledge his presence by addressing him. So you will notice that the three options in the revised Missal all directly address Christ himself professing faith in his Real Presence and the presence of his Paschal Mystery:

  • We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you come again.
  • When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.
  • Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.

The recognition that this part of the Mass is not a dialogue between priest and people may help explain why the habit of some priests of embellishing the old translation at this point by saying “Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith” is a dangerous alteration of the text. Especially in the context of an apparent dialogue this could be seen to imply that it is “our faith” that has made Christ present sacramentally. Nothing of the sort has happened at all, and indeed we are in the realms of heresy if we think it. It is Christ’s Spirit who has brought this about, by means of the priest who acts in and for Christ, in persona Christi.

3 thoughts on “Missal Moments V: “The mystery of faith”

  1. Thank you. I found your explanation while deliberating on the fact that Christians Proclaim the Mystery of Faith. I take comfort in the fact we Proclaim Mystery, we don’t have all the answers, nor do we need them. I hope I am not in danger of misinterpretation.

    Like

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