23 October 2016

Quicunque vult, commonly called the 'Athanasian Creed' or 'QV'

Those of you who wisely keep an eye on the St Lawrence Press ORDO will have noticed that today is among a small number of Sundays upon which 'QV' is to be said. 

"The most simple and sublime, the most devotional formulary to which Christianity has given birth".

That is how Blessed John Henry Newman, with his superb gift for lapidary precision, described the 'Athanasian Creed'. Since the Holy See saw fit to give Newman to the English Ordinariate as a Patron, I feel that this superbly credal canticle ought to be in the forefront of the mission of the Ordinariate to repair the lacunae in the day-by-day teaching of the modern Catholic Church; and it certainly ought to be recited regularly in the Divine Office.

Newman often sprang to the defence of this Creed, and our Tractarian Fathers (and their successors during the Prayer Book controversies of 1927-8) fought for its retention in Anglican worship. The most recent occasion upon which I felt a great temptation myself to spring to the defence of the Quicunque vult was during one of the less good lectures during our 'formation'. A lecturer told us this anecdote: one of his regular students had found, on the the EWTN website, the teaching that Christ is "equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood." He had felt it necessary to explain to his students that this was heretical, and had encouraged them to write to EWTN and explain that they were promoting heresy (he actually used this unfashionable term). Looking meaningfully at us, with a nod and a wink, he regretted that none of his students had yet done so.

During that 'formation', I maintained a principle of not offering corrections of howlers promoted by the lecturers, lest (mirabile dictu) I should appear to be a troublemaker. But I felt obliged to enter into an email correspondence with the joker concerned, pointing out that this 'heresy' was not only in the Athanasian Creed, but in the Tome of S Leo (and hence inter acta Concilii Chalcedoniensis). It is present in S Augustine and I tracked it down in most of the Latin Fathers. Eventually, very grudgingly, he made some sort of vague retraction (but, of course, not publicly).

S Pius V's Breviary anticipated this Creed being said at the Divine Office on most Sundays; although, in effect, by the twentieth century, it was very rarely said because a commemoratio 'excused' its omission from Prime. The Book of Common Prayer prescribed its use a dozen times a year. During the aetas Bugniniana it was eventually dislodged from its last Catholic toehold, Trinity Sunday.

S Pius V, and Thomas Cranmer, were dead right in this consensus. And, today, the 'Athanasian Creed' is as necessary as ever it was. Trinitarian errors still abound, and many of our present woes arise from faulty beliefs with regard to Catholic teaching about the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union. Dorothy Sayers, a major part of our Anglican theological Patrimony but sadly almost forgotten even among those who should know better, wrote immensely well about this in her The Mind of the Maker (especially Chapter 10; it's on the Internet).

16 comments:

Thomas said...

I think you are accepting comments again by today, Father, but forgive me if I am mistaken. I am curious to know what your 'formation' lecturer thought was the heresy. Did he think that Jesus is less divine than the Father in his Person, or did he think that Our Lord's humanity is eternal, immortal and transcendent by nature?

El Codo said...

Father , you keep sniping at the One Holy and Apostoilc Church...has your ordination not convinced you or are you harbouring doubts?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I think he thought that the "Inferiority" of the Son related simply to the Son's generation from the Monarchia of the Father. I have no problems with such an account, but I do object to the categorisation by some illiterate of the teaching of the Latin Fathers and of the formal Magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church as "heresy".

Thomas said...

Thank-you. And while pondering your answer it has only just dawned on me what mon-archia/monarchy really means: point-source, sole origin, or something like that. I do get there in the end but I'm just catching up after all these years!

Anita Moore said...

I made it through 12 years of Catholic school without even having heard of the Athanasian Creed. I learned about it for the first time on this blog, whereupon I copied it into my prayerbook in English and in Latin. I read it during the Offertory at Sunday Mass, as a counter and corrective to the dreadful "music" then being played and to the wonky outpourings from the pulpit.

Jacobi said...

I have read the Athenasian Creed. It is orthodox Catholicism.

It is also a definitive counter to anyone who suggests, or thinks, or hints, or says anything that might cause anyone to think that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Anita

What a kind comment. It has greatly raised my spirits!

Timothy Graham said...

Even better than the Roman Breviary, switch to Sarum for Prime & say the QV every day, and the Trisagion.

Julie McCarthy said...

Two conincidences, I looked up the Athanasian Creed which I had never learnt either when I saw it somewhere recently referred to thus: "a creed for brainy people like Fr Hunwicke". Glad to see you reference The Mind of the Maker, I was telling our church organist about it last week: a fan of D. Sayer's fiction, he had no idea she had also written on Christianity.

And our PP made my day again today by complaining about the appalling translation of the first reading! Not bad for an NO mass!

Joshua said...

The Ordinariate liturgical experts might consider this suggestion for the Divine Office: on the 31st day of the month, rather than repeating the psalmody for Day 30 at Mattins and Evensong, use the Benedicite (and its junior partner, the Benedictus es) in place of the psalmody at Morning Prayer, and use the Athanasian Creed in place of the psalmody at Evening Prayer. (I am aware that the Athanasian Creed was appointed for use at Mattins in the BCP on certain feasts in place of the Apostles' Creed - but Mattins is already longer than Evensong...)

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I rather thought that, given its repetitious simplicity, it was THE Creed for UNBRAINY people. Unless mere length nowadays constitutes an obstacle to the unbrainy.

Duarte Valério said...

I'm afraid that the only creed palatable to the "unbrainy" nowadays is the one that says that there ought to be no creeds at all, dogmatically accepting that no dogmas can be true.

Banshee said...

El Codo, it's hardly "sniping" for Father to make comments defending the Church's teaching being opposed by heretical members, especially those members who are rapidly cutting their own branch away from the Vine.

And it's weird to imply that converts are wrong to take notice of such things. St. Paul and St. Justin Martyr didn't put their hands over their eyes and moan, "I'm a convert, so I can't say anything!"

Maybe you don't like it, but Fr. Hunwicke belongs here as much as anyone. Don't be a jerk.

Lepanto said...

I learn such useful and interesting things here. Thank you, Father.

Julie McCarthy said...

Please forgive my appalling spelling in that comment Father. BTW, I hope you were gratified by Hillary Clinton's staff singling out converts for criticism - a backhanded compliment that even they recognise orthodoxy.

Reader said...

You may be pleased to know that the Quiqumque Vult is prayed monthly by members of Opus Dei as one of our regular norms. Every time I hear some "catechist" declare that the Bless Trinity is utterly incomprehensible and that it just must be accepted anyway, I refer to the Athanasian Creed as the single best explanation of the Trinity I have ever encountered.