Final Examination of George A. Nursey
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
March 16, 2011 at 1:00 p.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125
Rev. Msgr. Kevin W. Irwin
Suscipe Munera Nostra: A Liturgical Theology from the Prayers Over the Gifts for Sundays in Ordinary Time
Many liturgical theologians understand the Church’s euchology as a primary source for theological reflection. This dissertation examines the Prayers Over the Gifts (super oblata) for Sundays in Ordinary Time in their liturgical context in the current Order of Mass as such a theological source.
The study begins by examining the presentation of bread and wine and other gifts at the altar in early Eucharistic liturgies. It shows how a practical activity took on cultic and sacrificial connotations. This led to the increasing elaboration of the ritual actions and prayers associated with the presentation, with the super oblata appearing in the seventh century as the sole prayer of preparation for the Eucharistic prayer in the earliest sacramentaries of the western Church. The development of the preparation rite into the highly sacrificial Offertory in the Missale Romanum 1570 is followed. Here, the numerous offering prayers obscured the liturgical and theological import of the super oblata, which were now said silently. Next, in the revision of the Order of Mass following Vatican II the Offertory became the Presentation of the Gifts, in which the sacrificial elements were lessened and the super oblata recovered an approximation of their original significance. A study of some of the critiques of the current preparation rite and the role of the super oblata within it follows.
The dissertation then proceeds to a detailed analysis of the thirty-four super oblata for Ordinary Time. It shows how the orations elucidate the role of the liturgical act of offering in the whole sacramental economy of the Eucharistic sacrifice and give particular expression to theological themes including grace, providence, Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, sacramentality and eschatology. These liturgically founded notions can be applied in the construction of a comprehensive Eucharistic theology, which in turn can contribute to the ongoing development of systematic theology. Moreover, the theological content of the super oblata prayers can be employed in Eucharistic catecheses, mystagogy and homiletics. The prayers also provide language and imagery for further prayer and meditation, which can assist in the development of a spirituality and ethics of self-offering at both the ecclesial and personal level.