(Adapted from a post I wrote for the Catholic and Orthodox Esotericism Facebook Group. This is a long post, and possibly somewhat schizophrenic. It contains thoughts I haven’t fully organized yet.)
As esotericists, occultists, and magicians, it behooves us to scrutinize and learn what we can from the official rituals of our religion. In fact it forms a part of the “outside-in” approach I’ve advocated for many years now – the approach that you start with what is on the outside (exoteric) and work your way to what’s hidden inside (esoteric).
Click here for An Ecumenical Theology of Magical Christianity
When working on the liturgy for the Church of Esoteric Christianity, that period forced me to take a long, hard look at the Western liturgy, in a context very different from what I had to do in my previous ministry.
My previous ministry was exoteric and slightly “soft” leaning, meaning what the people there valued was a worship order that was accessible and understandable. There was a tension between Catholics who’d followed me out of the Traditionalist Movement, and the Protestants there (mostly Baptists), and I pretty much split the difference down the middle. This difference can be found on p. 250 of My New Everyday Prayer Book, and it’s a service order I still use on occasion.
The current ministry is very different, and even the Protestants involved are esoteric and more or less “hard” leaning, meaning the emphasis is on a worship order that’s effective with no interest in “dumbing it down.” That took some getting used to, after 8 years of dealing with the opposite.
Anyways, that’s neither here nor there . . .
I’ve been something of a “western liturgy nerd” for years, so my shelves already display Altar Books for the Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopalian liturgies, and I’ve got the practice in using them. Books I’ve used in public liturgy would be the Traditional Latin Mass (I use a 1953 Romano-Seraphic Missal) and the Novus Ordo (1985 and 2011 editions), as well as the Lutheran “Red Book” and “Green Book,” the Service Book and Hymnal and Lutheran Book of Worship, respectively.
That said, I’ve long known from experience the Latin Mass is like an automatic “power generator” when done by-the-book, while the SBH, NO, and LBW (all more-or-less based on the Latin Mass) can work but not on autopilot – you have to put conscious attention into the generation of energy.
No, I’m not calling into question “ex opere operato” because that’s still happening even with virtual intention. I’m talking about an actual raising of energy that culminates in the Consecration and which the celebrant can raise, manipulate or put down during the duration of the Mass itself. It’s hard to put into exact words, but to me its existence is a proven reality.
I’m also going to state here that I’m not looking to be another Leadbeater, nor am I claiming any sort of authoritative vision in terms of energy flow and the liturgy. All I’m doing in this post is sharing my own perceptions and experiences without expecting anyone to agree with me.
Before I begin, I should say a few words about the structure of the rite. The Latin Mass is structured into two main parts, the Mass of the Catachumens and the Mass of the Faithful. The Mass of the Catachumens is something of a “teaching and preaching” liturgy with roots in the Hebrew synagogue services and covers everything up to the sermon, while the Mass of the Faithful is “where the magic happens,” beginning with the Creed and lasting until the end of the Mass. While the First part of the Mass is based on the Jewish synagogue tradition of prayers and Torah readings, the second part of the Mass contains parallels with ancient Roman rituals of worship and sacrifice, up to and including the “piaculum” preserved in the Pláceat Tibi, Sancta Trínitas prayer.
Yet when I began examining the Traditional Latin Mass, I found it a seamless garment. Tampering with any part of it, even swapping out the Júdica Me for the “Beloved in the Lord” exhortation used by traditional Lutherans (reflected in the Novus Ordo with the Fratres, agnoscámus peccáta nostra option) or removing it altogether (Inter Oecumenici 48:c, 1964 Missal, also an option in Novus Ordo Missae) – it seems to hinder the flow of energy. What I’ve noticed is that the Júdica Me, Deus is more than a ritual dialogue, but also acts like an engine starting to turn over and generating power for the rest of the ritual.
Another “point of contact” seems to be the Offertory, at the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful. The Súscipe Sancte Pater and Offérimus Tibi act like doors to facilitate that flow of energy, and they function much like shifting a transmission to regulate the engine’s power output.
When we move our attention to the Offertory in the Novus Ordo rite, we don’t find that “engine-transmission” effect. What we find are prayers written in imitation of the Hebrew Berakhos prayers, which typically begin: Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Malekh ha-Olam (“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe”); this is reflected in the Novus Ordo’s Offertory prayers by starting with Benedíctus es, Dómine, Deus univérsi (“Blessed art thou, O Lord, God of the universe”). The Berakhos prayers are benediction formulae and can be used in calling down energy, but are alien to the structure and flow of the Catholic liturgy and don’t seem fully “plugged in” to that energy current from Jesus that powers Christianity in general and the Sacraments in particular.
Here we have to remember that no matter who wishes otherwise, Judaism is not Christianity and Christianity is not Judaism; there’s a pretty thick line of separation that begins with Jesus’ divinity and extends into the Trinity (in fact Judaism considers the Trinity avodah zarah, and debates to what extent this belief is compatible with the Noachide restriction against idolatry). This is not anti-semitism but simply an objective statement of facts of which most Christians aren’t aware, and the reason why conscious attention needs to be applied when using Jewish formulae inside Christian ritual. On the flip side of this, I suspect this can bring itself to happen on autopilot once the celebrant becomes practiced enough with the form and hence virtual intention takes over.
While we’re talking about the Offertory, the Protestant Rites deserve special consideration. Namely, these rites leave the Offertory blank in their “official” texts, largely out of the Protestant abhorrence of the idea of Mass as Sacrifice. In practice, I’ve seen celebrants pick and choose prayers or craft their own when offering the bread and wine, and this video shows a Lutheran minister saying the Novus Ordo offertory prayers in the context of a “Cranberry Book” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship) liturgy:
There also exist Protestant Offertory prayers, namely the ones given by Piepkorn in his Conduct of the Service, which seem loosely based on Didache 9:3-8. My own belief in the matter is that humans can instinctively sense when something is missing, and will attempt to fill that gap to the best of their knowledge and ability. In my own use of Protestant liturgies and even the Novus Ordo, I’ve always used the Latin Mass offertory prayers and found that even then I still had to concentrate on the energy flow in order to get any real effect.
We now come to the most important part of the Mass, the Consecration. Since there are theological debates over “when” the actual Consecration – the moment the Real Presence actually “happens,” and still more debate over what this Presence actually is – I’ll state my position here.
In the first place, I define the Real Presence as transubstantiation, the complete change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divnity of Christ, the accidents alone remaining. In the second place, I believe firmly that the Consecration happens once the priest pronounces the words HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM and HIC EST ENIM CALYX SANGUINIS MEI; these are technically known as the Verba. I disagree with those who claim the Consecration happens at the “Great Amen,” because the Consecration is confected by the priest and not the people. I likewise disagree with those claiming the Consecration happens at an “Epiklesis” prayer, because the Consecration is confected by the words of Jesus and not a prayer written by man. While the Great Amen and the Epiklesis prayers can help us help us express and understand our faith, they are not and do not mark the moment of Consecration.
On the bright side, the form of the Verba, doesn’t seem much a point of contention; so long as the words “do not change the signification,” it’s valid (De Defectibus, V, 1). This provision is actually more flexible than most Traditional Catholics would have you believe, as we see the Mozarabic Rite employs a different form for the Consecration of the Chalice – “This is the Chalice of the new testament in my Blood,” etc. – and this form is considered valid. Incidentally, this is also the wording found used in the Lutheran liturgy, while the current Episcopalian Liturgy uses a similar form: “this is my Blood of the New Testament,” which seems based on the form used in the Orthodox Liturgy (which doesn’t place the Consecration strictly at the Verba but requires an additional “Epiklesis” prayer).
What’s important to understand about the Verba is that while the Western Church has always considered them necessary, she has never codified an exact form of wording. The wording was a product of consistently-observed Tradition. While De Defectibus gives us the exact wording for the Roman Rite, and a principle for discerning whether a change in wording is valid, it doesn’t pretend to authoritative over all other liturgical Rites and Uses (Sarum, Mozarabic, Ambrosian, Dominican, etc.). For a more authoritative treatment we’d have to go to the “grandfather clause” in Quo Primum that allows the continuation of any recognized liturgical Rite with at least 200 years of continued use – which in turn gives tacit recognition to these alternate wordings – and the Catechism of the Council of Trent‘s explanation that “Not all the words used are essential” (II, IV, 20).
Back to energy flow, I have to confess employing certain visualizations here which aren’t prescribed in the text (i.e. directing the energy which has been generated thus far), so my personal experience may be colored by my personal practice. What the experience is, is that beginning at the Qui Prídie and ending at the Haec Quotiescúmque, the energy becomes concentrated into the Host and Chalice, no longer circulating around the location where Mass is being said but is now totally localized.
While, again, the principle of ex opere operato guarantees that the Consecration will result in an actual transubstantiation so long as form, matter, intent, and properly-ordained minister are involved, there does seem to be a matter of degree in terms of how much energy goes into the rite and becomes localized into the Sacred Species.
From the consecration the energy seems focused equally in both the Sacred Species until the moment of distribution. I’ve been able to sense differences in intent between Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation when receiving from other celebrants. At my first Mass both the Consecration and the reception made me woozy and almost knocked me on my rear end.
The rest of the ritual doesn’t seem to have so much impact, since the energy is grounded at the distribution of communion. Everything after this is a matter of wrapping up and finalizing the channels for manifestation of that energy in people’s lives (e.g. the Postcommunion prayers that the Reformers unanimously despised).
Now I suspect you think I’m crazy for typing this, even crazier still for actually hitting the “Post” button. You’re welcome to that opinion, but even if that’s what you believe, I hope you’ll at least take to heart that not only is ritual not understood from a text or any means other than direct experience, but that the analysis of “official” ritual – whatever your “home rite” as I call it – learn to experience any energy flow from, through, and around it, and determine how much of that flow or blockage is intrinsic to the rite and how much is an issue within the celebrant.
From these principles and this discernment, we can find help when applying principles from these rituals to enrich our personal practice by bringing our lives more in sync with Christ’s and the Church’s “current” thereby.
For more on ex opere operato, energy currents, and the magical qualities of the Mass, see The Magic of Catholicism.