30 December 2018

The Priority of Dogma

Ever since I became old enough to understand such things, I have been impressed by the annual Gospel of the main Mass of Christmass Day: the Prologue of S John's Gospel.

The world has largely eliminated the Dogma of the Birth of God as a human being ... I gather that, for some commercial interests, the Octave of Christmass is now renamed 'Boxing Week'.

But even where the Christ has not been entirely removed from the Christmass, the celebration is often reduced to the schmalzy. Mary and Joseph; shepherds and (undoubtedly hygenic) animals ... Don't get me wrong: I'm all for the iconography of the Infancy Narratives. But I like it best when it is expressed on a traditional Byzantine icon, with two words bracketing the head of the Mother: METER and THEOU. My only suggestion would be the wild idea that, in Anglophone countries, icons should be vernacular: MOTHER OF GOD.

And let's flog for all it's worth the beautiful Byzantine theme of the Mother PLATYTERA TOU KOSMOU: Mary's womb is broader, wider than the entire created order (a concept nicely taken up in C S Lewis's The Last Battle and applied to the Stable). The Johannine Prologue expresses the Dogma of the Incarnation, the Fleshing of God. Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb. I am left cold by the assurance that 'Mother and Baby' imagery expresses a more universal, a more than narrowly Christian, object of appeal.

And I rather like the ancient Roman Mass for this Sunday within the Octave of Christmass. Unlike the appeal made today in the Novus Ordo to the Holy Family, with the risks of sentimentality, we have for our Introit that superb passage from the Book of Wisdom While all things were in quiet silence, and night was in the midst of her swift course, thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne.

Indeed, I commend the Book of Wisdom to readers. Like modern New York, ancient Alexandria was the largest Jewish city in the world, and the Jewish community there was powerful, wealthy, and powerfully intellectual. This is the city of Philo as well as of Callimachus; it is where the Book of Wisdom was almost certainly written, and in sophisticated Greek. It prepared the way for understanding the Incarnation by exploring complexities hidden within the plainer monotheism of other Judaisms. The rabbinic 'Massoretic Canon', of course, does not contain Wisdom, but we are privileged to be part of a broader expression of our Jewish identity.

On a related subject: enjoy those first three verses of chapter 4 of S Paul's Letter to the Galatians in today's Mass, because they are neatly expurgated from the Novus Ordo. Indeed, the NO efficiently protects its victims from the entire brilliant sweep of S Paul's teaching in Chapter 3 of Galatians, as well as from its continuation in 4:21 ff., which is the Epistle of Laetare Sunday.

So traddy Catholics will be happily returning to the glorious concept of the Heavenly Jerusalem in the middle of Lent. But Bergoglian Catholics, poor nervous and gloomy poppets, will be protected from it, preserved in their safe fluffy twilight of threatened innocence. What a dangerous fellow S Paul was/is!


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Next week, ABS will be able to assist at the Real Mass in Miami but today he was constrained to endure the Lil' Licit Liturgy in Wellington at St. Therese de Lesieux , during which service the presider sermonised that Jesus had no idea He was God and He had to learn about God from Mary.

And then, after the Jewish meal prayer that was substituted for the offertory, ABS was blessed to hear the presider ad lib about Jesus as he held up the host for all to see...

Are there indulgences to be gained for those who are able to sit through such heretical gruel silently, stifling desires to stand-uo and start screaming HERETIC!!!!

Oliver Nicholson said...

And it is not often that you hear the word "Whenas" deployed:
Whenas all the world was in profoundest quietness and night was in the midst of her swift course: thine almighty word O Lord leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne.

Jesse said...

How pleasant, Father, to be at least in "textual" communion with you today. Because I am travelling, I have just privately recited 1662 Mattins, Litany, and Ante-Communion of the Sunday after Christmas, supplemented by the Office hymn and minor propers from the English Hymnal, including that lovely introit and the same Epistle and Gospel!

As C. S. Lewis put it in one of his Letters to an American Lady: "I believe we are very near to one another, but not because I am at all on the Rome-ward frontier of my own communion. I believe that, in the present divided state of Christendom, those who are at the heart of each division are all closer to one another than those who are at the fringes. I would even carry this beyond the borders of Christianity: how much more one has in common with a real Jew or Muslim than with a wretched liberalising, occidentalised specimen of the same categories."

The sad irony is that most people in our two communions would regard you and me as radical outliers.

Michael Ortiz said...

I went to our NO parish here near Washington DC where we had the Valkyrie maiden cantor and affable Father in his homily call Our Lord “a know it all adolescent”, though he pivoted and said he was God too. Please pray for NO priests as many of them have good hearts (as our pastor) they just don’t know any better. We had a mother murdered in front of the church last week by her son, so please pray for her too. We do pray the St Michael’s prayer after Mass together. Recent events have made it more urgent, more real.

mar said...

Dear Michael Ortiz,

Years ago my dear wife bolted out of this church in horror, when the celebrant ripped a guitar from the hands of an unsuspecting youth strummer to musically support his own rendition of Kyrie eleison. But have you ever tried another one up the county (exit 10 Westward)? It would put your current reservations to rest.
And yes, I do see dangerous downside of my valuation scheme. (I may be going mad...)

Anna said...

The world has largely eliminated the Dogma of the Birth of God as a human being ... I gather that, for some commercial interests, the Octave of Christmass is now renamed 'Boxing Week'.

Father, did you misspeak, so to speak? Our Lord is not a human being, He is a Divine Being with 2 natures.