Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Liturgical minimalism and combatting heresy...

Ingeborg Psalter c1200
Over at Sentire Cum Ecclesia David has a post on why taking up the highly untraditional option offered in the new Missal to ditch the Nicene Creed in favour of the Apostolic Creed might not be a great idea. 

Not least, he suggests, because the new Missal goes to a lot of trouble to restate some key doctrines (consubstantial, etc) left fuzzy by the old version of the text.  

Indeed, I'd add, the particular virtue of the Nicene Creed is its witness to the Tradition, that is larger than purely Scriptural formulations. There are almost twice as many lines about Our Lord in particular, for example, in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed as there are in the Apostles', possibly important when implicit or explicit rejection of the divinity of Our Lord, neo-Arianism, is rampant among priests and people alike. 

Indeed, the Pope spoke on the importance of belief in the divinity of Christ in some remarks for Pentecost:

"If mankind forgets God this is also because Jesus is often reduced to the status of a wise man, and His divinity is diminished if not denied outright. This way of thinking makes it impossible to comprehend the radical novelty of Christianity, because if Jesus is not the only Son of the Father, then God did not enter into the history of mankind. The truth is that the incarnation is at the very heart of the Gospel..."

Permission to use the Nicene Creed

Here in Canberra it is full steam ahead with the Apostles Creed option, as the archdiocesan website announces:

"Archbishop Mark Coleridge has given permission for use in the Archdiocese of the Apostles Creed in place of the Nicene Creed at the discretion of local pastors in light of the introduction of the new translation of the Missal. If the Apostles Creed is normally used, he asked that the Nicene Creed be sung or recited in English or Latin on the great feasts, especially Christmas and Easter."

What's the motivation for this?  Is it a conciliatory gesture to those who prefer the imagined golden age of the pre-nicene Church, divorced from subsequent ecclesial tradition?  Or is it a clericalism that asumes the benighted laity cannot grapple with the complexities of the creed traditionally used in the liturgy?  Or even an ecumenical nod to fundamentalists who can't find such schmancy words as "consubstantial" in their King James Bible?  Whatever the reason, it makes the new Missal a case of two steps forward and one step back!

Providentially, today's traditional Matins readings for Ember Wednesday in the Octave of Pentecost (or 'quarter tense of Pentecost' if one is into Irish antiquarianism) are not entirely irrelevant to these issues.

Consubstantial with the Father

St Augustine on St John 6:44-52 (I am the bread of life):

"Do not think that you are drawn unwillingly; the soul indeed is drawn also by love. Nor should we be fearful lest we be accused concerning the Gospel word of the sacred Scripture by men who place emphasis on the words and are far removed from understanding matters wholly divine, and it be said to us: "How do I believe by my own will if I be drawn?" I declare: "It is of little consequence that you are drawn by the will, for you are drawn by desire also." What is it to be drawn by desire? It is to delight in the Lord, and He shall give to you the petitions of your heart. It is a certain desire of the heart whose sweet bread is that bread from heaven. Furthermore, if it is allowed the poet to say, One's own desire draws one; not necessity, but desire; not obligation, but delight; how much more vigorously should we declare that that man is drawn to Christ who is delighted with truth, who is delighted with happiness, who is delighted with justice, who is delighted with everlasting life—all of which Christ is! Or do the senses possess their desires, while the soul is deprived of its own? If the soul does not possess its desires, whence is it said: "But the children of men shall put their trust under the covert of thy wings. They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house; and them shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure. For with thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light we shall see light"?

Propose this to one who loves, and he will sense what I am saying; propose it to one who desires; propose it to one who hungers; propose it to him who is journeying in this solitude and thirsts and sighs for the fountain of his eternal country; propose it to such a one, and he will sense what I am saying. But if I speak to one who is cold, he knows not whereof I speak. Such were those who murmured among themselves. He says: "He whom the Father draweth, cometh to me." What is this, "whom the Father draweth," when Christ Himself draws? Why did He wish to say, "whom the Father draweth"? If we are to be drawn, let us be drawn by Him to whom she who loves Him says: "We will run after the odor of thy ointments." But let us take note of what He wished to be understood, brethren, and grasp it in as far as we are able. The Father draws to the Son those who believe in the Son by reason of the fact that they believe He has God as His Father. For God the Father begot the Son equal to Himself, and whosoever thinks and feels in his faith and reflects that He in whom he believes is equal to the Father, him the Father draws to the Son.

Arius believed that the Son was a creature; the Father did not draw him, because he who does not believe the Son to be equal to the Father does not know the Father. What do you say, O Arius? What do you say, thou heretic? What are you talking about? What is Christ? "He is not," says he, "true God, but him whom the true God has made!" The Father has not drawn you, for you have not known the Father whose Son you deny. You think another thing— He is not His Son; you are neither drawn by the Father, nor are you drawn to the Son! "He is the Son" is one thing; what you say, another. Photinus states: "Christ is man alone; He is not also God." The Father has not drawn him who so believes. Whom has the Father drawn? Him who says: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Show a green branch to a sheep, and you will draw it. Nuts are shown to a child, and it is drawn, and because it runs, it is drawn—drawn by love, drawn without harm to the body, drawn without binding the heart. If then those things which are among earthly delights and desires, when shown to those who love them, draw them—because it is true that the desires of a person draw him on—does not Christ, revealed by the Father, draw? For what does the soul more vehemently desire than the truth?

And for your listening delight today, the Alleluia for Mass today (Verbo Domini caeli firmati sunt in Latin) in a Byzantine Rite chant setting from the Basilian Monastery of Gottaferrata near Rome, founded in 1004.


A Canberra Observer said...

The announcement from Canberra regarding the Apostle's Creed is, well frankly, WEIRD.

A Canberra Observer said...

Of course this is from the Archbishop who wrote a great pastoral letter about the liturgy, but the great(!) practical initiative for increased reverence to the Blessed Sacrament was, and wait for it, a simple Roman bow.

I don't think I am on the same planet as these guys sometimes.

David said...

It's one of those changes that leaves one shaking the head and asking "cui bono?".

Thank God and Pope Benedict for Summorum Pontificum.