13 August 2017

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 endures the painful learning experience: the students leave his study or seminar room; he is 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 ... and he discovers, 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, so he never says 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 do that. And this 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, just a few might start to grasp a bit of it. This is the truth that teachers find out very fast and preachers rarely do.

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' [it wasn't actually written by S Athanasius] Creed should be used once a month, but Bugnini, blindly and 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 on Trinity Sunday in the 1962 Breviary, but before Pius XII started meddling, it was said on every Sunday where the liturgy was not lengthened by a Commemoration. In the Church of England, it was ordered to be said twelve times a year. It is printed 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 (what is worse) they are so 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: the use of the Preface of the Holy Trinity on most Sundays of the year ... the Green Sundays, Advent, and the Gesimas . 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.


Unknown said...

The faithful of Opus Dei are enjoined to recite and meditate on the Qicunque on the third Sunday of every month. I used to find it like chewing cardboard; now, I actually look forward to it. As you so rightly say drip, drip, drip...

E sapelion said...

Hear! Hear! I would put the Athanasian Creed in the OF Mass as the credal formula for Trinity Sunday, at least.

Pater Raphael said...

I agree with you most wholeheartedly, dear Father. Being on Holiday here in the Southern reaches of the Kingdom I was asked to say the parish Mass today. I used the preface of the most Holy Trinity... even before having read your blog!

Janol said...

I can remember, as if it were yesterday, when I had just learned how to read and read the Preface of the Holy Trinity during a children’s Holy Communion service. I realized that the Holy Spirit was God and equal to the Father and to the Son!

I can remember, as if it were yesterday, just a few years later, sitting in religion class (Episcopalian) and silently reading the passage in Carleton’s The King’s Highway where he mentions the Church is One but divided into three parts, and realizing that is absurd – for I knew there was no intercommunion. And I knew at that moment I had to become a Roman Catholic despite all my feelings. (I had grown up assuming "the branch theory" but needed to see it stated so simply to see it's absurdity.)

And I think I learned my love and understanding of the Church (and of Mary) through singing and reading the words of The Church’s One Foundation as a child.

By the time I graduated from high school (but after reading all the dissuasives on "Why I am not a Roman Catholic" in the Episcoplian school's library), still a minor, I made an appointment to see a RC priest.

Anita Moore said...

This explains well why I don't buy that it is a per se improvement for the Novus Ordo lectionary to contain vastly more Scripture readings than we hear in the traditional Mass. I don't know why broad yet shallow is better than narrow yet deep.

I note that another and not unrelated thing that was warred against at the same time that repetition was being downplayed was rote learning. What a disservice has been done to generations by not making them memorize things -- and this in the name of allegedly freeing them to think for themselves. They have learned to do neither. But it is the things we learn by heart -- the prayers and the Scripture passages and the doctrines and other treasures of inherited wisdom -- that come to our aid when our powers are at their lowest ebb, and we need them the most.