Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand.
This lovely hymn is a translation by G Moultie of a formula in the Liturgy of S James; which may be the oldest rite still used in Christendom except, of course, for the immemorially ancient Roman Rite. It is indeed a splendid hymn, and the concept of the Lord's eucharistic epiphaneia is beautifully expressed. Generations of Anglican worshippers have been moved by the picture of the host of heaven spreading its vanguard before the Lord as he descends from the realms of endless day to stand among us on earth upon the altars of our churches. Long may its use continue.
But it it is fun to look back at the Greek original - where it is not in fact a hymn. It is a priestly proclamation uttered by the celebrant before the Great Entrance; and instead of speaking of Christ our God to earth descending, it states 'Christ our God is going forth to be slain in sacrifice' (proerchetai sphagiasthenai). And that is language which causes problems to some people - unnecessarily. Christ did die but once for all upon the cross, as those in the 'reformed' tradition remind us, but his one sacrifice is beyond time in God's everlasting Now. Yet his sacrifice is made sacramentally present on earth, in the plurality of the times and places which the Creator God in his fluent generosity has given us in which to worship him and to work out our salvation. And whenever it is so made present, Christ our God does go forth to be slain in sacrifice. Furthermore, each eucharist is not merely the offering of a monic being, but of Christ in his body, associating with him and in him those who are partaking in that Mass, so that the sacrifice of the Mass is ever one and unchanging and yet for ever new.
So I've never had any problems with the the offertory prayer in the old Sarum Mass, in which the priest referred to hoc sacrifium novum. But, of course, the 'Reformers' did, and the idea of a nova mactatio has been regarded as one of the worst corruptions of medieval Catholicism. It is good for the Rite of S James to remind us that this way of employing language is not only sound and wholesome but is the usage of East as well as West.
Of course, the East does get away with a lot compared with poor old Western Catholicism. It is commonplace to condemn something Western as 'medieval' or 'baroque' while the same thing in Eastern dress is regarded as part of a wonderful mystical tradition which is pretty well beyond criticism. The ARCIC Report on Mary is a case in point. It says many excellent thigs about our Lady, but there is an in-built anti-Western prejudice. If fifth century Greeks write rather extravagant poetry about Mary, this is termed 'flourishing' (p36). But when fifteenth century Latins do the same, it is called 'florid' (p41). The prejudice shown here is all the more entertaining because both of those words come from the same Latin root; but the first has acquired meliorative vibes, the second pejorative.
Taking my cue from something G K Chesterton once said, I will conclude by suggesting that sound Ecumenism means every church in Western Christendom having a large florid baroque statue of our Lady of Victories (he hupermachos strategos, as the Byzantines in their almost puritanical restraint prefer to call her).