21 September 2008

Whoever wants to be saved ...

There are quite a lot of rural areas in the Church of England where a mixture of conservatism and an inherited suspicion of the Eucharist means that Prayer Book Mattins has survived as a main Sunday service on at least some Sundays in a month. I wonder how many of those churches used, this morning, as the rubric ordered, the Quicunque vult (aka the Athanasian Creed).

Not many, I suspect. It is long, and it starts and ends with some politically incorrect observations about the eternal destiny of those who do not keep the whole Catholic Faith. But it is a superbly simple explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity: effective by the pedagogic device of repetition. You cannot read it without getting straight that each Person really is God and each Person is not one of the other Persons.

Laurence Hemming in his new book (you must read it) suggests that the elimination of this creed from Sunday Prime, back in the 1950s, is probably the reason why modern R C priests don't have Trinitarian orthodoxy at their fingertips. The disuse of it in the Church of England, even by Prayer Book 'enthusiasts' (BCP orders its use a dozen times a year), has certainly gone hand-in-hand with a practical loss of interest in the Trinity, which is now Boring and not Sexy. Conservative Evangelicals, while technically orthodox on the Trinity, de facto are much more interested in soteriology.

Remarkably, Common Worship actually allows the QV to be used as an alternative to the 'Nicene' Creed on Sundays. If ever again I find myself doing 'duty' in a mainstream church, I'll spring it on them.


S.R. Fraczek said...

At Lincoln Cathedral, and I believe many others, it is said on Trinity Sunday. This year, the fact that I had mentioned it to the clergy before Mattins somehow meant that, "we will be doing the Athanasian Creed, by special request from a member of the back row". The rest of the choir were not very happy with me.

Fr Ted said...

Dear Fr,

Many thanks for the remarks about the QV.

The use of it as described in the BCP has made me consider the doctrine(s?) about the Trinity several times a year.

QV does end in a somewhat strong sense for anyone of a politically over-correct disposition. Again, it forces us to think through what we believe about redemption, and on a regular basis.