2 August 2009

Drip drip drip

It must have been a schoolmaster that wrote the Quicunque vult. A parson couldn't have written it; parsons address their docile congregations Sunday by Sunday and are often complimented and sometimes disagreed with: each of these phenomena conceals the brutal fact that they aren't actually understood. It is the schoolmaster who smiles contentedly as the students leave his study or seminar room, happy in the sure and certain knowledge that he has just had one of the best, most learned, most interesting teaching sessions of his life ... only to discover, when he reads the essays or marks the examination scripts, that the group falls into two groups: two thirds of them, who clearly hadn't the faintest idea what he was talking about; and the other third, who did understand, but have forgotten it three weeks later. Or do I mean one week?

The parson feels the need to make sure he never bores the folk by saying the same thing twice. If you preach what is essentially the same message ... just dressed up a bit differently or put the other way round ... clearly they will notice your repetitiousness. So you don't. And that means that the poor people never get anything straight. Because with humans you just have to lay it out as simply as possible, elementary stage following elementary stage, and then just keep repeating it. Drip drip drip. And a few years later a few might start to grasp a bit of it. This is the truth that teachers find out very fast.

Cranmer may, as a good Protestant, have disapproved in principle of 'vain repetitions' but he had a dash of the schoolmaster about him. He understood drip drip drip. Not so Bugnini. So Cranmer ordered that the 'Athanasian' [pace Bishop Fellay, it wasn't actually written by S Athanasius] Creed should be used once a month, but Bugnini, mechanically following the suggestion of the Council that repetitions should be reduced, expunged it from its last toe-hold in the Liturgy of the RC Church.

Just try reading it. You'll find it after Evensong in the Prayer Book. "Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal. And also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet there are not ..." Yes; even Bloggs Minimus, your most gamma minus student, will be starting to get the point. Drip drip drip.

'It's unsophisticated. People won't put up with being condescended to in this patronising way'. You can perfectly understand why the Modern Parson, and the Modern Liturgist heave a sigh of relief as they shovel Quicunque vult into their rubbish bins; something that Pusey and Newman, Aquinas and Benedict XIV weren't ashamed to recite prayerfully and humbly as they said their office. It is my impression that most modern clergy are either Unitarians or Modalists, and that what is worse is that they are do unwholesomely pleased with themselves about it.

The omission of QV from the Office of the clergy, for nearly two generations now is, in my view, one of the main causes of the de facto total disintegration of Trinitarian belief in Western Christendom. We've lost that Threefold drip drip drip. But there is another such loss, which presbyters of my advanced generation will recall: the use of the Preface of the Holy Trinity on most Sundays of the year ... the Green Sundays, Advent, and the Gesimas [since SSPX are a tadge fundamentalist about not letting the books of 1962 be tampered with, why do they use proper Prefaces in Advent? are they the same ones as the OF offers?]. Of course, when one uses repeatedly a liturgical formula, one does not think profoundly about the fulness of the sense of each phrase every time one says it. But ... drip drip drip ... it becomes part of you. Drip drip drip.


Michael Vyse said...

I think the Preface of the Most Holy Trinity, as well as setting out the sound teaching of Trinity, also lets us give thanks to God for who He IS, rather than what He has DONE for us - the same idea as the words in the Gloria "we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory" - we accept God on His terms, not ours!
I would urge the return of the Trinity Preface on all the "green" Sundays, in place of all those "salvation history" prefaces: surely the right place for recalling the Lord's saving Works is the Anamnesis/Oblation (Unde et memores), so that we can not just talk about it and make a mental recollection of it, but physically it show it forth as the Bread and the Cup.

Bishop of Ebbsfleet said...

The Apostles' Creed is simarly threatened with liturgical obsolesence. Users of the BCP Office or Benedictine Prime are increasingly rare and the provision for Apostles' Creed at Mass doesn't extend in the Roman Rite to E & W (I think... though that is what we used this morning.)

+ Andrew

Bishop of Ebbsfleet said...

'Obsolesence' is what I meant to write. Sorry about the typo. +A

Rubricarius said...

The 1962 books have Quicumque but once a year.

In the 'good old days' Q V was said whenever the Office was of Sunday, somewhat reduced in more modern times with Pius X's fusion of the Dominical and festal Office before its single annual recitation after Pius XII's cutting away of the Breviary.

Pastor in Valle said...

In fact we RCs do have permission to use the Apostles' Creed at Mass in England and Wales, and when I remember, I use it during Eastertide.
Catholics are more or less familiar with it, since it occurs at baptisms, confirmations and the renewal of baptismal vows at Easter. And, of course, in the Rosary, when the thing is properly said with the tailpiece.

Magister said...

Keep dripping, Father, it's superb stuff! I remember years ago being at Evening Prayer on Trinity Sunday. We had just finished saying the Quicunque vult and the Vicar turned to the congregation and said, "Well, they you go! The Faith is all there, got it? Good! Simple, isn't it?" Enough said, I think.

Stefan said...

I managed to get it said at Mattins for Trinity Sunday last year at Lincoln Cathedral. Unfortunately, in the Vestry Prayers, the Sub-Dean announced that it was "by special request of a member of the back row", and so it was rather obvious who had 'reminded' him. The other lay vicars were not pleased with me.

Nebuly said...


You should have made ( then ) Lay Vicar Halliday sing it with you from Briggs and Frere

Malcolm Kemp said...

A year or so I heard a sermon about creeds from a Priest who had crossed the Tiber in a strange and unusual direction. He told us that the RC church has a fourth Creed so perhaps our friend from Shoreham could kindly enlighten us on that as I can't find it anywhere.

I certainly miss QV. It makes no bones about what happens to you if you don't believe what is says!

A RC friend of mine, who has been mentioned on another blog recently, came to sing at a few Choral Evensongs for me and admitted ignorance of the Apostles' Creed. When I pointed out that it is the one used at the beginning of the Rosary she admitted to not really knowing that either.

Fr William said...

I don't wish to forestall any response from my good friend Pastor in Valle, but I imagine the "fourth Creed" being referred to was the Credo of the People of God promulged by Paul VI in 1968. (Just a little long for liturgical use, I feel!)

I'd be fascinated to know what canonical status it has as a definitive profession of faith: is it in any meaningful sense a "fourth Creed", to be regarded as being on a par with the others (a horrifying thought, but something I fear I wouldn't put past Paul VI), or something more akin to those umpteen pages of "Authorized Affirmations of Faith" churned out by our beloved Liturgical Commission (prop. +Bubbles), of which I am sure Fr Hunwicke makes just as full use as I?

Alice C. Linsley said...

"Cranmer may, as a good Protestant, have disapproved in principle of 'vain repetitions' but he had a dash of the schoolmaster about him. He understood drip drip drip. Not so Bugnini."

Sadly, not so for many and a great detriment to the Church.

Rubricarius said...

Fr. William,

I suspect the 'fourth Creed' was that of Pius IV or the 'Tridentine Profession of Faith'.

That would make Paul VI's Credo V?

Fr William said...

Having belatedly hauled Denzinger off the shelf, it would appear that of making many creeds there is no end.

rev'd up said...

I am particular to Dante's "credo" in Paradiso, Canto 24.

130 And I respond: In one God I believe,
131 Sole and eterne, who moveth all the heavens
132 With love and with desire, himself unmoved;

133 And of such faith not only have I proofs
134 Physical and metaphysical, but gives them
135 Likewise the truth that from this place rains down

136 Through Moses, through the Prophets and the Psalms,
137 Through the Evangel, and through you, who wrote
138 After the fiery Spirit sanctified you;

139 In Persons three eterne believe, and these
140 One essence I believe, so one and trine
141 They bear conjunction both with sunt and est.

142 With the profound condition and divine
143 Which now I touch upon, doth stamp my mind
144 Ofttimes the doctrine evangelical.

145 This the beginning is, this is the spark
146 Which afterwards dilates to vivid flame,
147 And, like a star in heaven, is sparkling in me.

Pastor in Valle said...

As to the fourth creed: I really have no idea what was in the chap's mind.
Fr William: indeed, there are lots and lots of creeds, especially in the first 500 years: many local churches had their own. It is thought that Niceaea adapted a version of the baptismal creed of Caesarea. I think the issue is
1) which creeds are considered sort-of canonical and
2) which creeds are used liturgically.

1) is a very moveable feast: it all depends what you call a creed. The catechism of the council of Trent could in one sense be called a creed: it certainly was a statement of the faith of the Church as held then. Perhaps the CCC could be considered likewise. I wouldn't want to recite either at Mass, however. The Credo of the People of God was another example of Paul VI at his best: his encyclicals and writings are really pretty good: what was not so good was what he allowed to happen on his watch.
2) Liturgically, I suppose we only use the Apostles and Nicene-Const. Creed these days. You get nutters who write their own, but they are usually pulled into line these days (at least if they stick their head above the parapet—excuse the very nearly mixed metaphor). As Fr H writes, the Athanasian creed never makes a scheduled appearance these days. Sad, but it is hard to imagine just where one might slot it in. The suppression of Prime was something profoundly to be regretted.

Alice C. Linsley said...

"...the Athanasian creed never makes a scheduled appearance these days. Sad, but it is hard to imagine just where one might slot it in."

Surely at least on Trinity Sunday.