Monday, October 18, 2010

other 'solas'

The idea of an additional 'sola' beyond the famous Lutheran ones, namely, one from the Psalms brought up by Fr. William Weedon at his blog, got me thinking of other 'solas,' just for the fun of it.  So I would like to bring up three instances of 'sola' which are sung in one of the great hymns of the liturgy, namely, the Greater Doxology, also called the Gloria in Excelsis, which is part of the Ordinary of the Mass.  The pertinent portion is as follows:

Tu solus sanctus,
Tu solus Dominus,
Tu solus Altissimus.

First, note that this string of three 'solas' is really one sola, "Tu solus" (Thou only).  And it is addressed to one Divine Person, the Son, for the song continues, "Iesu Christe" (by the way, this brings up one flaw in the TLH version of this hymn, namely, the name of Jesus is left out of that part-it simply reads, "O Christ").  So we have a string of 'solas' which form a trinity in unity and a unity in trinity, centering on the Person of Christ, like the Kyrie eleison.  The Triune God is holy.  Only He is holy.  Only He, the Triune God, is the Lord.  Only He is the Most High.  And our access to Him, our knowledge of Him, is only through the Person of the Son.  Christ is the manifestation of the fullness of the Godhead.  For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.  I am reminded of the beautiful words of Nicolaus Selnecker in his preface to Chemnitz' The Two Natures in Christ:

What is excepted which does not take place in the man Christ?  For where should we seek and find the Godhead, if not in Christ the man, if not in His assumed and glorified human nature?  Where would we lay hold on God the Father, the Logos, and the Holy Spirit if not in the flesh of Christ our brother, who is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones?  Where does the fullness of the Godhead reside and dwell if not in the flesh of Christ or in His body and indeed not in part only but fully (pasa), or with all the fullness (pan pleroma)?

And so we address our doxological confession of God's holiness, lordship, and that He is the Highest, specifically to Jesus Christ, and in doing so, are making trinitarian claims.

Now consider how the hymn continues:

Iesu Christe,
cum Sancto Spiritu,
in gloria Dei Patris.  Amen.

Here the christocentric nature and explicitly trinitarian expression of the hymn culminates and becomes unmistakable.  The Church addresses her praise to Jesus Christ, her holy Bridegroom and Redeemer, and at the same time the Church's praise is a confession that Christ is with the Holy Ghost, and in the glory of God the Father.  The Gloria in Excelsis is a hymn of praise, it is a doxology; and yet it is also a rich confession of the only true God, in which we worship the Trinity in Person and the Unity in Substance, of Majesty coequal.

At a symposium in Fort Wayne Lowell Green once critiqued the simple-minded sloganeering, which passes for theology, that often results from the superficial use of the famous 'solas' of Lutheranism.  For while there is great truth in the solas, we must not take them literalistically.  Faith, for example, is never alone, etc.  This is a useful reminder, indeed, for all of the solas, even the ones I have discussed here.  For, as Luther so brilliantly said at the Marburg Colloquy, "God is above all mathematics."

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