Mystery of Faith (Mysterium Fidei)

Priest: The mystery of faith: People: We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again. Or: When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again. Or: Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.

The “mystery of faith” or mysterium fidei (in Latin) is new to the 1970 Missal. Previously, the phrase mysterium fidei did not exist as an acclamation; rather, it was part of the formula of consecration spoken inaudibly by the priest. It was included just after “the new and everlasting covenant (novi et aeterni testamenti)” and just before “which will be poured out for you and for many… (qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur…).” However, it was only those two Latin words: mysterium fidei. The phrase following, of which there are three valid choices, is completely new to the Roman Canon as of 1970.

Originally, the use of the term mysterium fidei referred to the mysterious goodness of the material of Christ’s Blood being poured out. An early heretical sect, the Manicheans, held that the material order was bad and only the spiritual was good. So, adding the “mystery of faith” into the Canon further showed how important the Flesh and Blood of Christ was and is, His material humanity joined to His divinity.

The 1970 addition to the Missal of “we proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again” seems to be more akin to the traditions of the Eastern liturgies. The Liturgy of St. James, a Byzantine form of liturgy, says, “This do in remembrance of me; for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord’s death, and confess His resurrection, till He comes.” This shows that the memorial acclamation may be new to the Roman Rite of the Church but it has been used for ages in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

We are recognizing that the Mass is an anamnetic reality. Anamnesis was discussed previously in greater depth in the “Essential Parts of the Eucharistic Prayer” section. By way of a quick review, anamnesis in Greek literally means “bring to mind.” We could also translate it as a deliberate recollection. Anamnesis in the context of liturgy is more than just a memory or a calling to the mind in some abstract way. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the mediation of Jesus Christ, our High Priest, the One Sacrifice becomes present once again in an unbloody manner. The word anamnesis is what Jesus says in the words of consecration when He says, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

So, the Mass is not a representation, it is a RE-presentation. It is the presenting once more the one and only Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His suffering, death, and resurrection. Anamnetically, we become present in these sacred events, outside of space and time. Through our prayers and intention, we take part in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We enter into the saving Action of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

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