2 March 2018

The Liturgy of the Hours, friday week 2; eviscerated!

Liturgia Horarum, Friday in Week II: Ad Horam mediam. Psalm 58(vg) = 59(MT) is traditionally regarded as referring to David, when Saul had his house watched so that he could kill him.

This psalm is printed with (Neovulgate) verses 6-9 and 12-16 (= RSV 5-8 and 11-15) removed.

That deceived and mis-guided pontiff Paul VI, or whoever wrote the words he signed, explains why: "A few harsher verses are missed out, taking account especially of the difficulties which would be going to arise when the Office was done in the vernacular". The relevant coetus itself is rather shame-faced (and not a little naive) about this. "This omission is done because of a certain psychological difficulty, even though imprecatory psalms themselves occur in the piety of the New Testament, e.g. Revelation 6:10, and do not intend in any way to induce people to cursing." And "In general both the Fathers and the Liturgy fittingly hear, in the psalms, Christ crying to the Father, or the Father speaking with the Son, and even recognise the voice of the Church, the Apostles or Martyrs".

So, as the LH tells us, quoting words of Eusebius of Caesarea referring to this psalm, "these words should teach everybody the devotion of the Saviour towards his Father". Exactly. The Lord was surrounded by the temptations of Satan himself; he was beseiged by the Powers of Evil. The Church, and the Christian, also find that their warfare is against the Powerrs of Evil in High Places. It is in this sense that we beg the Father that we may be delivered from those who come back each evening, howling like dogs, the half-wild dogs which infest most Eastern cities and which especially prowl round the town-ditch in search of carrion (I plagiarise John Mason 'Ordinariate Patrimony' Neale). Ss Augustine, Hilary, and Gregory of Nyssa regard the story of David, for whom his enemies lay in wait by night, as a Type of the story of what befel the Son of David, in that Night in which he was betrayed.

The reason why it is so questionabe to expurgate a psalm in the way that LH does is: expurgation still leaves words like "There is no crime or sin in me, O Lord", and leaves them decontextualised . If such things are said simplistically, they can only foster a very dangerous sense of of complacency and self-righteousness. We are only entitled to say such words in persona Christi, or en Christoi, or as speaking with the voice of the Church which in her essential nature is without spot or wrinkle. How can we say them as if they were true of the imperfect lives of each one of us?

I am not one who believes that every psalm needs to be read in the Divine Office. History gives imperfect support for such an integralist approach to the Book of Psalms and their use in Christian worship. I am concerned with dangerous imbalances which can result from the use of psalms over which someone has been allowed to roam with a care-free pair of scissors. (I also rather dislike the implication that the 'problems' of such psalms are only apparent when they are said in the vernacular. There is every reason to feel disquiet about the cheerful assumption that nobody notices what they are saying when they use Latin. Is Latin, or is it not, supposed to be still the clerical vernacular of Western clergy?)

Lastly, I draw your attention to the root of the problem: the loss in the Western Church of the Typological Method which was the heart of scriptural exegesis in both the Patristic and Medieval periods and in both East and West. When people discuss the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, dicussion often seems nowadays to be mired in reductionist considerations about "What is the bare minimum we are required to believe about Biblical inerrancy?" rather than about the hermeneutical, exegetical and eisegetical modalities by which we are all to embrace and be fed by the whole of Scripture ... every sentence, every word of it. Of course vast swathes of Scripture provide enormous difficulties ... are in fact not so much unusable as potentially positively poisonous ... IF we do not trace out the richly complex patterns of intertextuality which formed the basis of their apprehension by Christians before the dark shadow of the 'Enlightenment' fell upon the study of Scripture. The Bible is, indeed, highly dangerous if we do not use it in the Tradition. Reducing Scriptural semiotics to the naked Historicism of the 'Enlightenment' is to hand the Bible over to the Devil. I think I very probably mean that literally.

We members of the Anglican Patrimony entered into Full Communion with the works of John Mason Neale and Lionel Thornton and Austin Farrer under our arms; perhaps there is something we can do to help the ailing Western Church to understand the Patristic, Typological, way of appropriating Scripture.

16 comments:

Feed Room Five said...

I have wondered many times how likely a reform of the Liturgica Horarum might be. Besides the problems with the editing of the psalms, I would like to see the Gospel read at the Vigil for Sundays, Solemnities, and Feasts to be the Gospel which is read at Mass, instead of of a generic Paschal Gospel. It is not just that this is traditional but rather that it is what a Vigil Office is supposed to do: a great part of what we are watching for is the Gospel itself. But I do not see that any reform of the Office will happen in my life time.

Marco da Vinha said...

As we're on the topic of typology, maybe you could clarify something for me Father. Lately I've been thinking about about Adam, in light of our child's recent baptism. It suddenly struck me that, if the old Adam is God's son (made in His image and likeness) and was given garments of animal skins when he was expelled from Eden, can we not see in this a prefiguration of the Incarnation: the second Adam coming down to dwell in the flesh, so as to recover old Adam's garment of glory? Do any of the Fathers comment on this?

mark wauck said...

I"m unaware of Jesus ever tracing out "the richly complex patterns of intertextuality" when explaining Scripture or teaching. Some might say, how about when he "opened" the Scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus? but unfortunately neither this nor any other example of Dominical "tracing out" was actually preserved by the disciples. What was preserved was examples of remarkably modern, if you will, exegesis. For example, when Jesus offered his teaching on divorce he stated that Moses--Moses, be it noted, not God in the revealed Word of God as we V2ers are wont to incessantly repeat--allowed divorce out of the hardness of their hearts. If we take that approach seriously, and of course we should, I suspect that Jesus didn't have much time for typology, any more than he had for the "traditions of men."

Typological exegesis is fundamentally subjective in nature, and basing it on the tradition of men doesn't alter that fact. I suggest that what the Church really needs is to free itself from the false either-or dichotomy of Typology v. Enlightenment style rationalism. To paraphrase Paul, if our faith is based on "richly complex patterns of intertextuality" then ...

Randolph Crane said...

I have tried to pray the LH, and I felt like I was betrying the Church. It caused me actual physical pain and a bad conscience. I have tried to make up for that by also praying the same hour of the traditional Divine Office.

Although I am of the opinion that every psalm should be contained within the Divine Office, they are usually not all read in the course of one week. There might be a Ist/IInd class feast, and you have the festival psalms. The seasons sometimes prescribe certain psalms, and so on. Leaving out psalms or verses because they are "difficult" is actual betrayal of Christ, and of the Old Covenant. God's words are difficult. If we want to make them easy and light, there is definitely something wrong with this agenda.

I will stick to my beloved Divine Office. I may not get all 150 psalms every week, but at least I know it's not intentionally done so I, a stupid little Catholic layman, may not be bothered by "difficult" verses and psalms which are too much for my frail little heart.

Michael Demers said...

If I'm not mistaken, the Daily Prayer of the Church of England doesn't omit verses from the Psalms they use.

Banshee said...

For some reason, a lot of people dislike the idea of the Lord laughing at malevolent sinners. Guilty conscience, maybe?

Timothy Graham said...

Fr H, I am mystified by these two sentences: "I am not one who believes that every psalm needs to be read in the Divine Office. History gives imperfect support for such an integralist approach to the Book of Psalms and their use in Christian worship." Especially on account of the ancient Roman & Benedictine schemata for the weekly Psalter, which abridged the practice of recitation of the whole Psalter every night in a more ancient tradition still.

Stan Metheny said...

The damage done to the psalms in the _LH_ is a frequent lament of mine. As in so many areas, the astounding arrogance, pastoral insensitivity, and general ignorance of education levels today displayed by the Consilium was insulting, not to mention incompetent. Are we all suddenly so stupid that we are incapable of understand the psalms - as well as other places in the Scriptures where imprecatory language appears - as our ancestors have done for centuries? At least for those of us who sing the _LH_ in Latin/Gregorian chant according to _Les Heures Gregoriennes_, these missing verses have been restored [in brackets] within the psalms. So we can sing them in situ. To my - perhaps limited? - knowledge, this is the only Rome approved place where this has been done.

Pulex said...

But father, what do you mean by this: "I am not one who believes that every psalm needs to be read in the Divine Office"? It seems that history indeed supports the "integralist" approach. Both "secular" and monastic versions of the Divine Office of Roman rite include all 150 Psalms with all the verses. And so far I remember what Fr. Taft wrote this is true for most Oriental rites, too.

PM said...

Thank you for this. I agree entirely, but would add just one point. The intertextuality of which you speak is not just patristic and medieval, but is also the way Scripture interprets itself. This is most obvious to Christians in the New Testament (e.g. Paul's citations of the Old Testament and the use of Ps 109 and Ps 118:22 in the apostolic preaching in Acts), but the New Testament carries over from the Old the practice of going back over the text and seeing new and deeper meanings in it.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Restoring the deleted portions of the psalter, and similarly, restoring deleted readings from the lectionary, is one of those less ambitious, "nibble around the edges" reforms that we might hope for, even if much greater corrections of post-Vatican II missteps seem out of reach.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Well, Mr Wauck, even liberal commentators seem to be convinced that the Lord really did see himself as the antitype of the Temple. And if you are right in your conviction that he had little time for Typology, clearly SS Peter and Paul got things badly wrong. We seem to be back to the dreary old liberal Prod nonsense about how the Apostles completely misunderstiood etc. etc.. Not in my name!!

Randolph Crane said...

@Marco da Vinha:

Christ being the New Adam is a constant teaching of the Church.

If you are looking for Patristic writings on this, read just about everything the Holy Fathers have written about Baptism.

Banshee said...

Re: Jesus' use of typology, He did a heckuva lot of talking about the Song of the Vineyard and the fate of the owner's Son. He also cursed a fig tree, which is fairly incomprehensible unless you get the Scriptural references. He made a big deal of Himself being the Son of Man and the Son of David, of representing the Messianic prophecies by His actions, and of making sure to show Himself as "The Prophet" to the Samaritans.

Seriously, I don't know how anybody could say Jesus had no interest in typology! He was constantly acting as the representative of just about every major Biblical patriarch and prophet! And then, yes, all the "cosmic Temple" stuff was very big with Him.

Brant Pitre is very good at explaining all the modern research into Temple Judaism, and how the Gospels and early Christianity presented Jesus clearly as the fulfillment of tons of Jewish stuff. (Because Christ said so.) There's also a great free audio lecture series at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, on how all the major Catholic festivals are fulfillments of the great Jewish festivals.

mark wauck said...

Fr Hunwicke, thanks for publishing my comment, and for your response. I'm afraid that in attempting to be brief I failed to make clear how important I considered your remarks re the dangers in uncritical reading of the psalms.

The whole issue of the proper approach to scripture is, of course, too complex and important a topic to be dealt with readily in the comments section of a blog. However, I assure you that I make no appeal to "dreary old liberal Prod nonsense."

To the liberal commentators who "seem to be convinced" that Jesus saw himself in terms of typology--as regards the Temple, Torah, and other familiar Jewish "symbols"--I would reply as follows.

Did Jesus claim to be an "antitype" of the Temple? I suggest not: "I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here." That's not typological language. To extend that thought, a major point about the Sermon on the Mount is that Jesus is placing himself above the Torah--not truly as a type of the Torah. And his listeners understood this dynamic: he teaches as one having authority (on his own), you're making yourself equal to God, etc. And so I repeat what I said earlier--Jesus' stance toward the Israelite/Jewish scriptures has a remarkable and decidedly modern--but not modernist--cast to it. His deconstruction of expectations of a Davidic messiah ("YHWH said to my lord") comes immediately to mind, as does his deconstruction of the ideology of chosenness based on blood ("God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones").

What we see here is that, of course Jesus is speaking with a consciousness of Jewish symbolism and institutions, but he goes well beyond typology to address what we might call his own unique existential reality that surpasses all types.

This is necessarily brief, but I'll attempt to address these issues (including Peter and Paul) at greater length later.

Marco da Vinha said...

@Randolph Crane

I'm aware of that. My question is if there is any specific commentary on the fact that Adam was clothed in skins and relating that to the Incarnation. I've read a bit of the Fathers, but I don't believe I've come across this yet.