18 August 2019

Typology is the answer

The 'Spirit of the Council' has had a lot to do with the erroneous notion that 'the Council' told the Jews that they did not need to 'convert'.

It's very closely similar to what happened to Liturgy: the Council Fathers thought that in Sacrosanctum Concilium they were mandating a modest revision which would leave Latin substantially in place ... and so on. But in less than a decade, change had vastly outstripped the texts which the Fathers had actually subscribed. And, gradually, people were led to think that the Council had ordered a totally vernacular Liturgy; had prescribed the well-nigh universal reordering of sanctuaries ... and all the rest.  

Nostra aetate  had a very similar fate. The Fathers thought they were roundly condemning anti-Jewish persecution and prejudice. They thought they were doing what little they could to atone for the Shoah. Disgust at what had happened less than two decades earlier led them to speak strongly against the obscene horror which had befouled the face of Europe and about defects in Christian culture which may have contributed to it. But they did not establish, and did not intend (indeed, there is no evidence that they even considered this) to establish, the Two Covenant Error. Yet within a few decades people were being told that the Council had outlawed 'supersessionism'.

Just as there are millions who have never read a page of Sacrosanctum Concilium but are quite sure that it ordered the liturgical ruptures and abuses which in fact ensued, so there are very many who have never opened Nostra aetate but have been lied to about what it contains.

And where did we go wrong?

I don't mean ... two things. Firstly, I don't mean that we should particularly target Jewish communities in our 'mission'. I have never stood outside a synagogue dishing out leaflets. Nor, for that matter, outside a mosque or a Methodist Church or a Mormon centre. Like most clergy, I have always felt that there were enough people around who technically belonged to my Church but were either totally lapsed or had only very light observance. And then, good heavens, there are the multitudes that are not even technically anything. There are only twenty four hours in the day ... and I think I would even feel a trifle uneasy about the deep-down attitudes of people who had a great obsessive thing about Converting Jews and did little about converting anybody else. There is such a nastiness as Anti-Judaism (I prefer to avoid the vague term Anti-Semitism, because, after all, Arabs, too, are Semites). But, when all is said  and done, the Gospel Call to Faith in Christ is for all men and women and that includes Jews. Always and everywhere and despite whatever. There is no Alternative Covenant for anybody; nothing but the Covenant which is in the Blood of Christ.

Secondly, I also do not believe that, unless particular urgent needs make it essential, we should preach or teach against other faiths. My view is that we have failed adequately to teach our own faith.

 One, big, example.

Typology. Exodus the Type, Baptism the Antitype. And so on. All that. Typology is what makes clear that the Old Divine Dispensation has been superseded by the work of Christ. Typology permeates the the Scriptures and the Fathers. It is the Christian hermeneutic for reading the Old Testament. With it, pretty well everything points to Christ; or is a type of something in the Christian life. It is because most laypeople (and clergy?) are unaware or only nominally aware of this that the usually unspoken problem they have is: What is the point of reading the Old Testament? Why do we have all those dreary and irrelevant psalms? And then there is the Easter Vigil: without an understanding of Typology, it is meaningless mumbo-jumbo. The Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore, indeed. Poor Egyptians. What a nasty God. And what a long time ago. Why on earth am I sitting here listening to all this?

I don't think I've ever heard anybody, apart from myself, work this subject into a sermon. I try to introduce people to it myself, especially when I am invited to give Retreats or Conferences or Lent Courses. But ... well, let me put it like this. I was sitting in Allen Hall in one of the "formation" sessions awaiting a lecture entitled something like the Catholic Approach to Scripture. I did not have much expectation of anything other than an hour of 1960s tedium. But then Fr John Hemer came in and explained, lucidly and brilliantly ... that the Catholic Approach to Scripture is Typology! What a sense of liberation I felt ... gosh, I thought, I'm not, after all, the only one ...

To be fair: Cardinal Danielou did Typology in The Bible and the Liturgy 1956.

And Byzantium does a good line on Typology: if you don't use it already, why not pray the Akathist Hymn? But perhaps we Anglicans In Full Communion With Peter could have a particular role to play here. We had John Mason Neale, who filled the windows of his large Convent Chapel with typology ... Lionel Thornton, a Mirfield Father and a notable typologist ... Austin Farrer ... and, deep in the archives of Pusey House, lie the manuscript lectures on Typology of our own great Dr Pusey quo maior vix ullus.

Pusey ... If the Ordinariates have any purpose at all beyond mere survival, it must surely be to bring Pusey along with us as a big part of our luggage, as a particular treasure of our Anglican Patrimony, as a gift of incalculable value to the Universal Church. May he, before the Throne of Grace, intercede for us his children in the Ordinariates.

Oh, and by the way, in addition to the rest of his polymathy, he was Professor of Hebrew in this University.


Michael Leahy said...

Father, thank you for a wonderful, very helpful, essay today.

Woody said...

Speaking of Cardinal Danielou, here is a link to an article urging revival of another of his great books:”Prayer as a Political Problem”.

Unknown said...

Typology, Christ's method of expounding the scriptures:

"And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him." Luke 24:27

Anita Moore said...

Father, as you recommend Pusey as an addition to the Catholic treasury, I have bought the Kindle version of Volume II of his works on the minor prophets (there doesn’t seem to be much available for immediate access). I wish his sermons on typology were generally available; I for one would be interested in adding them to my library.

Dan Hayes said...

I was initially puzzled by the meaning of the word "typology" although I intuited its meaning from your essay which was seconded by dictionary reference. Chalk up my initial puzzlement to ignorance. Although I was already familiar with the concept of prefigurative scriptural symbols, just not with this nifty term. BTW, I wholehearted agree with your call for judicious application of typology.

Fr PJM said...

"I don't think I've ever heard anybody, apart from myself, work typology into a sermon". I do, Father, I do work typology into my sermons.

Ray Kinsella said...

I hope the Holy Spirit is getting credit for this---great stuff!

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

There are people who haven't read Humani Generis (1950) and who are sure it outlawed Young Earth Creationism or total non-evolution (ie special creation) of Adam ...

Mark said...

The current Principal of Pusey House wrote his excellent D.Phil thesis on Dr. Pusey's lectures on typology.