Is it still the same Mass?

John Symon (with Response by Rev John Heron)

John Symon identifies the liturgical reforms and developments that took place during the first century of the Christian era as being the most significant and extensive to have been witnessed in Justin Martyr’s Apology I (Chapters 65 & 67) and in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus we see a far-reaching and radical interpretation of the New Testament experience. He regards these reforms and developments as being far more radical than those witnessed in the sixteenth century Reformation or in the twentieth century within the Roman Catholic Church. Thereafter, Symon takes up the impact of the latter which have come about as a consequence of theVatican II reforms as evidenced in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963). The most obvious of these reforms is the movement from the Latin Rite to the vernacular, but Symon identifies the significance of the theological basis which underpins the reforms insofar as “the liturgy is deservedly regarded as being the exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ… In it complete public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Christ, Head and members.” In terms of the reforms intimated in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Symon notes that the intention is to preserve the substance of the rites whilst simplifying them. (Article 50) Symon suggests that in Scotland there had been very little preparation for the reception of these reforms, in contrast to much of Continental Europe. Nevertheless, he contends that the reforms have been widely received and welcomed. In terms of the doctrinal implications of the Vatican II reforms, Symon contends that the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church remains essentially the same. Nevertheless, there are new emphases which are, in certain respects, akin to those of the Reformers. Thus, for example, the sacraments are signs of faith, with less emphasis on their ex opera operato character, and a clear stress that the Mass constitutes, in no sense, an additional sacrifice. Equally, the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament is understood in terms more explicitly Biblical. John Heron responds to Symon by suggesting that, whilst the emphasis on the sacraments as ‘signs of faith’ is an integral part of our understanding, it must be set within the context of our prior affirmation of the grace of God. Further, he suggests that the Scottish Reformed tradition, as witnessed in Robert Bruce and D M Baillie, has preserved an understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in a manner more acceptable than the Roman Catholic teaching on transubstantiation.

Volume 01, Number 01 May 1971, p27
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