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.

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