5 August 2023

tes theias phuseos koinonoi

As we look ahead to the Feast of the Transfiguration, invested with such rich teaching within the Byzantine tradition*, I recall the ancient Western Preface for the Ascension, preserved even (although with an alternative) in the Novus Ordo. One reason for my affection is the prayer that, through the Lord's Ascension, we may become Partakers of His Divine Nature. Because that, of course, is a preoccupation that sets us at one with Byzantine Christianity, and not least with the Hesychast Tradition. Both 'lungs' here breathe a harmonious doctrine!

Poor proddy Dr Cranmer couldn't take this heady dose of participatory Christianity; he replaced it with an aspiration that we might also zoom up into the clouds (a bit of a dash of Rapture here?). I have no problems with images of a three-decker Universe in Liturgy, but I don't see why we need to drag them in, particularly not when the classical Roman texts prefer a more sophisticated alignment with Athonite verities! And, of course, this ancient Roman and biblical formula is centuries older than S Gregory Palamas, and the Palamite Councils of the thirteen hundreds.

Old ICEL toned these words of the Preface down to 'sharing in the divine life'. Happily, Mgr Wadsworth's ICEL gave us back a literal transklation. Unhappily, the Ordinariate prefers Cranmer's unfortunate bowdlerisation.

*For Byzantine teaching on Theosis and Light, perhaps the most accessible book by now is Lossky's The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Probably out of print is The Ascetical and Theological Teaching of [S] Gregory Palamas by Archbishop Krivosheine, reproducing his article from The Eastern Churches Quarterly, 1938. George Florovsky gave a good lecture in Thessalonica, on the 600th anniversary of the Dormition of S Gregory Palamas in 1959 (Sobornost Series 4: No.4. Timothy ("Kallistos") Ware wrote well about the eschatological aspects in Sacrament and Image 1967.


scotchlil said...

30 years ago or so I spent three months at St Beuno's training to give the Ignatian 'Exercises'. The Jesuit celebrants at the daily Mass routinely altered the words at the 'Offertory' to 'Bythe mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divine life of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our human life.' It irritated me then (mind you, a lot of what went on irritated me) and still does, as it seems to weaken our view of the incarnation. Perhaps we ought to have a Patron Saint of Paraphrase...

dunstan said...

The 'separated doctor' of the Church, as Aidan Nichols calls the Anglican Thomist, Eric Mascall, was a close friend and sparring partner of Vladimier Lossky. In Saraband, the former's autobiography h wites about their relationship as follows: " I can remember vividly a conversation in the garden at Abingdon about the doctrine of sanctifying grace, at the end of which Vladimir remained as convinced of the incoherence and inadequacy of the Western concept of the created supernatural as I was of of the unintelligibility of the Eastern distinction between the divine essence and energies."
But disappointing though it was, Mascall obviously thought it important because he reproduces it Existence and Analogy pp151 ff and Via Media pp162ff. The dialogue is also depicted light-heartedly in the poem Ecumenism Exemplified (Pi in the High pp42-45) which Mascall and Lossky recited together in an informal concert during one of the Fellowship of SS Alban and Sergius Summer Schools held in Abingdon's St Helen's School (Saraband p186)
In addition to the books by Mascall referred to above, I would add to your list the important study by A.N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (1999) which brilliantly vindicates Mascall insistence against the opposition of his Orthodox friend, that there is indeed a Western concept of deification.

Matthew F Kluk said...


El Codo said...

There is another mystery…why the great Mascall also chose to stay on board the sinking SS Anglicana. No one is able to come up with an answer to these queries.

PM said...

Did Cranmer then dismiss 2 Peter, as Luther did the Epistle of St James, as an 'epistle of straw' because he disliked the contents? So much for sola scriptura!

William Tighe said...

I wrote a brief essay on Mascall in 2010 for a blog that has long sense disappeared. I will give two excerpts from that article here:

"Unlike his friend Dom Gregory Dix, Mascall did not espouse an overtly “Anglo-Papalist” ecclesiological stance, but neither did he espouse an anti-papalist one such as did Austin Farrer, another one of his friends. His criticisms of some of the excesses and conundrums of a “hyper-papalist” ecclesiology in the last two chapters of his The Recovery of Unity: A Theological Approach (1958) are cogent and forceful because of their limited scope, and given his explicit acceptance of the postulates that Christ conferred a primacy over the Church and the other apostles upon St. Peter, that that primacy was transmissible to his successors, and that his successors are the Bishops of Rome. One might even claim to find in the writings of Joseph Ratzinger, now happily reigning as Benedict XVI, some of the same kinds of criticisms and reservations, and one might likewise see in Vatican II the beginning of a remedy for some of these “excesses,” while the greater “excesses” of theological revisionists have underlined the need for a magisterial authority rooted in the Tradition which it both serves and defends."


"On my final visit to Mascall in August 1992 I found him visibly and emotionally upset in a way that I had never previously experienced. The Women’s Ordination (Priesthood) Bill was to come up for its final vote in November of that year -- it squeaked by the necessary two-thirds majority by only two votes, the votes of Evangelical laymen who changed their minds (or at least their votes) in response to the emotional pleas in favor of the bill by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey -- and he was alarmed a the prospect. “I know what I shall have to do if the bill passes,” he said to me, “but I don’t know if I shall have the strength and health to do it. I hope I die first.” I didn’t dare to ask him what “it” was, and he did die first: the General Synod did approve the measure in November 1992, but the passage of the legislation through Parliament subsequently, and the “Act of Synod” providing compensation for those opponents of women’s ordination who would feel compelled to leave the church, and a scheme of Provincial Episcopal Visitors (or “flying bishops”) for those who wished to remain in the Church of England -- a scheme now evidently to be withdrawn and terminated in connection with the legislation to allow women bishops -- ensured that the measure did not come into legal effect until February 1994, a year after Mascall’s death.

(to be continuedP

William Tighe said...


What would he have decided? After his death I made some attempts to contact the executor of his will, listed in one of his obituaries as “Col. Robert Gould,” but to no avail. A friend of mine inquired some years ago of the recently-deceased former Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp (1915-2009), a friend of Mascall’s, who in his memoirs said that in the unlikely event that he would ever feel compelled to leave the Church of England he would become Orthodox, who replied that he thought he would become Orthodox. Another friend made the same inquiry of the late Msgr. Graham Leonard (1923-2010), a former Bishop of London who became a Catholic in 1994, and likewise a friend of Mascall, who responded that he was sure that he would have become a Catholic. Then a chance telephone conversation with a friend led to another with a colleague of that friend, who identified “Col. Robert Gould” as in fact “Fr. Robert Gould,” a man who in his youth had been a colonel in the “territorial army” (the British equivalent of the National Guards), had them been ordained in the Church of England, served as a priest in it for many years, until he had become a Catholic at the time of Mascall’s death, and had resumed the use of the “courtesy title” of colonel until his subsequent ordination in the Catholic Church. I was given Fr. Gould’s telephone number at the retirement community in which he lived, and in subsequent conversations with him learned that Mascall, whose confessor Fr. Gould had been, had after much agonizing come to the conclusion that he would have to leave the Church of England if the legislation should pass -- but that by the time it did pass his advancing debilitation had reached such a state that he concluded that he did not have the mental faculties to make such a decision. At the end, though, it seems that he was a Catholic in desire if not in fact. We should remember him today, and on this day, as someone whose thought, writings -- and lived experience -- forms a bright tessera in the mosaic of the Anglican patrimony that is moving towards reconstitution within the Catholic Church."

I would encourage anyone interested in Mascall, and able to travel to Oxford, to read his final book manuscript, never published, of ca. 1985 with the title "The Overarching Question: Divine Revelation of Human Invention?" The book manuscript, the final chapter of which is entitled "And Anglicanism Whither?," is preserved in the Pusey House archives. With it are some fragments of what appears to have been an earlier draft of the book, one of which is more extensive in its critique of "Anglicanism" than that in the final version.