Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rutler on the Novus Ordo

After a brief description of what the Oakland, California School Board termed "ebonics," Fr. Rutler continues:
What I do object to is the suggestion that all this is the brainchild of the Oakland School Board. Thirty years ago, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy invented a proleptical and prolegomenous form of "Ebonics" for the new vernacular Mass.  Catholics in America have thus been speaking this way since Vatican II.
Mark Twain deftly mastered the syntax, as did the nineteenth-century repertoire of dialect songs, like those of Stephen Foster.  One might protest that these were affectations of an idiom, but so were the many wistful Irish songs written by the agile Jewish song masters of Schubert Alley.  The most distinguished precursor of ebonical syntax in drama, after Harriet Beecher Stowe, was Dion Boucicault, whose play The Octoroon opened in the Winter Garden in New York City on December 5, 1859.  By a strange coincidence, that was the day Senator Charles Sumner returned to his Senate desk after having been beaten with a cane by Senator Preston S. Brooks on May 22, 1856 during a debate over slavery in Kansas.  No such violence has yet been inflicted on a liturgical translator, not even on those responsible for the alternative opening collects of the ebonical Novus Ordo, the English translation of the Roman Rite which parses like Thomas Cranmer on Prozac.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

To Thee I Show My Wounds

One of the prayers I often use before Mass is a prayer of Saint Ambrose.  One line in that prayer goes like this:
To Thee, O Lord, I show my wounds, to Thee I lay bare my shame. 
As I pondered those words recently, it was surely helpful that I happened to have within my sight the large crucifix above the altar.  For I came to see that this is precisely what Christ does.  He shows His wounds; He lays bare His shame.  He shows them to His Father, and He shows them to us. 

In the brief moments before the start of Mass, the Christian has the opportunity interiorly to bare his soul, as it were, before the holy God, and to ponder both his great need for forgiveness and healing and the fact that he is about to receive God's forgiveness and healing lavishly set before us in Christ's Word and Sacrament.  I hasten to add that the Christian has also the rich opportunity to do the same thing quite orally in the Sacrament of private Confession. 

And when he thus bares his wounds, and lays bare his shame, whether interiorly before the Holy Supper or orally in Confession, it is encouraging to consider Christ crucified as clearly set before us, for there He shows us His wounds.  His wounds remind us simultaneously of our sin and shame, on the one hand, for that is what they reflect, that is what He bears thereby, and of our salvation and healing, on the other hand, for by those wounds we are healed.  His wounds are so deep they have the capacity to bear and swallow up even our sin.  His wounds are an invitation for us to find our consolation within them.  Indeed, sacramentally speaking, we do just that. 

I hasten to add that this is yet another devotional benefit of praying before the crucifix.  If you are denied this opportunity in your church, develop a hunger for it, and give voice to this need.  If your church does have a crucifix, develop and cultivate your appreciation for it.

O You Lamb of God

Is the common, dumbed down style of language, which is inflicted on us in four out of the five mass orders in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's latest hymnal, really just as beautiful and worthy of liturgical use as is the classic liturgical English that has been sung in the Church for centuries?  The answer to this can no longer be assumed as self-evident; nor do many today even appreciate the value of the question, who have been led to think that beauty should be demoted in the priority scale of considerations for how best to address liturgical matters, and consigned a place far behind new priorities, like comfort.  Therefore we must never tire of addressing these questions anew in today's church. 

I suggest that one unscientific way of putting the vulgar second person singular pronoun, you, to the test, in terms of it's use in addressing God in the liturgy, is to take the classic English version of the eucharistic hymn, "Agnus Dei", and imagine just replacing "thou" for "you." 

So instead of singing this:
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God

try this instead:
O Christ, You Lamb of God

Obviously the makers of modern liturgy know this is unworkable, so they leave out altogether the opening address to "Christ," and go straight to "Lamb of God."  And of course the "O Christ" is a poetic flourish and not in the Latin.  Nevertheless, a little exercise like this goes to show the linguistic and aesthetic limitations of throwing in the "you" where we once had "thou."

the art of hagiagraphy

Though I do not always agree with Father George Rutler, he being a Thomist and I being a Lutheran, I do deeply appreciate much of what he has to say, in theological, liturgical, and historical matters, as well as the way he says it.  In some ways he is a jolt of fresh air amidst the liturgical devastation of modern Romanism.  One of my favorite reads, by the way, is his book, Coincidentally, in which, for example, the discerning reader gets a particularly tasty riff on the Novus Ordo.  I also recommend his book on the Cure of Ars, The Cure D'Ars Today, but only for the theologically discerning.  In the following passage he reflects on the balance that must be struck when writing about the saints.
In depicting the saints, there are bad and good portraits. It may be that Vianney scorned his portraitists, not because they drew bad likenesses, which they usually did, but because they liked him. Hagiagraphy may flatter saints but, when it does, it insults them; an affectionate picture of a man who is detached from the world can make him seem disconnected. In true devotion, though, to like a subject can give a good likeness. Strachey's word portraits of his eminent Victorians were no truer for being written with venom. In the case of the saints, you either have to attach yourself to their detachment, and let sympathy become empathy, or you have to reject it until scepticism becomes satire. But either is more apt to give some sense of a soul than the clinical indifference which claims to be objective. No one can remain indifferent to an object and get an impression of it.
The one pertinent consideration is the validity of the impression. Though it should not be shaped by less than history, it may take its form from a calculus behind history; it may be under the influence of a tale more delicate and shining than the most fabulous enchantment; it may have met the truth of myth and the object of legend. The saints impress by possessing their own heart's desire within themselves. If the prophets have prefigured a truth to come, the saints have postfigured a truth that came and stayed. When the wise have lived to foretell the way of God with man, the lives of the saints are its very telling. Here is how the saints make such an impression, and no unbeliever has dared completely to deny it. The atheist denies God, but he ignores the saints; he would not do that had he not been influenced by a need to ignore them. The need assumes a paradoxical and even compulsive quality, like the nihilist insisting it is true that there is no truth and like the atheist believing that there is nothing to believe. But the saints continue to live visible lives. As the sacraments are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace, the saints are living sacraments; they are sacraments of the sacraments. And no story about them, no display of their souls' architecture, can be so grand and schematic as living their story with them. The voice of Ars said it: "At the Holy Altar I had the most singular consolations. I was looking at the Good God."

christological implications of Zwinglianism

Zwinglianism is not merely a slightly incomplete view of the eucharist, but even has christological implications; in this passage, Luther sheds light on one of them:
They raise a hue and cry against us, saying that we mingle the two natures into one essence.  This is not true. We do not say that divinity is humanity, or that the divine nature is the human nature, which would be confusing the natures into one essence. Rather, we merge the two distinct natures into one single person, and say, God is man and man is God. We in turn raise a hue and cry against them for separating the person of Christ as though there were two persons. If Zwingli's alloeosis stands, then Christ will have to be two persons, one a divine and the other a human person, since Zwingli applies all the texts concerning the passion only to the human nature and completely excludes them from the divine nature.  But if the works are divided and separated, the person will also have to be separated, since all the doing and suffering are not ascribed to natures but to persons.  It is the person who does and suffers everything, the one thing according to this nature and the other thing according to the other nature, all of which scholars know perfectly well.  Therefore we regard our Lord Christ as God and man in one person, "neither confusing the natures nor dividing the person.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Zwinglian arguments face the meat grinder of Luther

In this section of Martin Luther's great treatise against Zwingli and for Christ's presence in the Eucharist, Confession Concerning Christ's Supper, we get a particularly penetrating riff.
Let this suffice to show that our interpretation is not contrary to Scripture or the Creed, as this mad spirit deludes himself into believing.  Next he comes to the two principal points at which I have attacked most strongly, viz. that Christ is at the right hand of God, and that the flesh is of no avail, where he was to prove that these two propositions make it impossible for Christ's body to be present in the Supper.  I had called attention to these passages with capital letters, so they might not skip over them.  Now this dear spirit comes along with his figure, alloeosis, to make everything plain, and teaches us that in the Scriptures one nature in Christ is taken for the other, until he falls into the abyss and concludes that the passage, "The Word became flesh," John 1, must not be understood as it reads, but thus: "The flesh became Word," or "Man became God."  This is to give the lie to Scripture.
I cannot at this time attack all this spirit's errors.  But this I say: whoever will take a warning, let him beware of Zwingli and shun his books as the prince of hell's poison.  For the man is completely perverted and has entirely lost Christ.  Other sacramentarians settle on one error, but this man never publishes a book without spewing out new errors, more and more all the time.  But anyone who rejects this warning may go his way, just so he knows that I warned him, and my conscience is clear.
You must not believe or admit that this figure, alloeosis, is to be found in these passages, or that you can put one nature of Christ in place of the other.  The insane spirit dreamed this up in order to rob us of Christ, for he does not prove it to you nor can he do so.  And even if this error of his were true and right, it still would not prove that Christ's body cannot be present in the Supper.  I have pressed them to show conclusive grounds why these words, "This is my body," just as they read, are false, though Christ is in heaven.  For the power of God is not known to us, and He can find a way to make both true, viz. Christ in heaven and His body present in the Supper.  That was the principal question.  What I demanded, writing in capital letters, was that they should show how the two were contradictory.  But he is silent on this point, passes over it without one letter as if it did not concern him, and spouts meanwhile about his alloeosis.
When I proved that Christ's body is everywhere because the right hand of God is everywhere, I did so-as I quite openly explained at the time-in order to show at least one way how God could bring it about that Christ is in heaven and His body in the Supper at the same time, and that He reserved to His divine wisdom and power many more ways to accomplish the same result, because we do not know the limit or measure of His power.
Later, the Doctor goes into a discussion on various modes of existence, which you won't want to miss.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

distinguishing the merit of Christ from the distribution of merit

The day is far spent, so I assume you have read some Luther already today.  That's okay; read some more.  From, where else? the Great Confession of 1528. 
The blind fool does not know that the merit of Christ and the distribution of merit are two different things.  And he confuses them like a filthy sow.  Christ has once for all merited and won for us the forgiveness of sins on the cross; but this forgiveness he distributes wherever he is, at all times and in all places, as Luke writes, chapter 24, "Thus it is written, that Christ had to suffer and on the third day rise (in this consists his merit), and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name (here the distribution of his merit comes in)"  This is why we say there is forgiveness of sins in the Supper, not on account of the eating, nor because Christ merits or achieves forgiveness of sins there, but on account of the word through which he distributes among us this acquired forgiveness, saying, "This is my body which is given for you."  Here you perceive that we eat the body as it was given for us; we hear this and believe it as we eat.  Hence there is distributed here the forgiveness of sins, which however was obtained on the cross...
In the same way I carefully wrote against the heavenly prophets that the fact of Christ's suffering and the use of it are not the same thing: factum et applicatio facti, seu factum et usus facti.  The passion of Christ occurred but once on the cross.  But whom would it benefit if it were not distributed, applied, and put to use?  And how could it be put to use and distributed except through Word and sacrament?  But why should such great saints read my treatise?  They know far better.  Well, they have their reward, that they consider the fact and the application to be one and the same, and thereby reduce themselves to folly and shame.  They fail to see that in the Supper the application of the passion, and not the fact of it, is concerned.  It serves them right for never reading, or for reading superficially-so proud and presumptuous are they-what has been written against them.
(AE 37)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to deal with a Zwinglian

From the Great Confession of 1528:

Next this fellow leads my finger, as if I were a blind man, to the word, "Do this," which St. Paul is said to explain thus: "As often as you eat this bread," etc.  From this he attempts to deduce that with the words, "Do this," Christ refers to the eating of the bread and not the eating of his body.  Of course, if St. Paul had said, "As often as you eat this bread which is not the body of Christ"-which this spirit has added out of his own head-there would have been no need to lay my finger on it; I would have been able to see it more than five paces away. Every time I hope they will produce scripture, they produce their own dreams.  Therefore I repeat, I would like them to lay their finger on the preceding word, where Christ refers to the bread and yet says, "This is my body." Here also stands the word "this," which is waiting to be grasped by the fanatical spirit's fingers. That word exerts a greater and stronger pressure upon me to conclude that Christ's body is eaten in the bread than this fellow's word "this," out of which he would like to make mere bread.  For my word "this" and his "this" both refer to one and the same bread, as they admit. And yet, where I cite the word "this" it reads, "It is my body"; but where he cites the word "this" it does not read, "It is not my body," but he must insert it and skip over the whole context in which my word "this" stands. What a faithful, zealous expositor of scripture!
Now let the whole world be judge between me and this spirit, which bread must yield to the other. My bread has on its side the text, "Eat, this is my body," and explains with emphatic words that this bread is the body of Christ. The spirit's bread has on his side the text, "Do this," or "As often as you eat this bread," and does not explain that it is mere bread or that it is not the body of Christ.  No, the spirit must emend the text and say it is not Christ's body, as he has been commanded to do-yes, by the devil! Now if one "this" must yield to the other, then properly his should yield to mine, since his is bare and naked apart from explanations, whereas mine carries its explanation with it. Or else he must sweat still more in order to prove that my "this" must yield to his "this."  Finger-pointing doesn't help. If he wished to act fairly and squarely, he should not point out to us with his fingers how his "this" indicates the bread. This indeed we could discover without his spirit, explanations, and arguments.  But he should first parry the thrust of this text, "Eat, this is my body." If he could prove that the bread there is not proclaimed as Christ's body, then of course we would know perfectly well ourselves that his "this" does refer to mere bread. However, he does not do this. Thus it is a "begging of the question" and hopeless twaddle, for he does not answer what we ask and beg him to answer, as I continually complain. We say, however, that if the first "this" refers to the body of Christ. then his "this" in the next instance must refer to it also; for "this" in both cases refers to the bread, and yet the first at the same time stands in immediate connection with Christ's body, as the words say, "Eat, this is my body."
(AE 37)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Christological View of St. Michael Is Not Heresy

Last Sunday & today we had seminarian-led catechesis, and I appreciated it, because it was on the Holy Trinity, a truly great topic.  Last week, however, the point was made, in one of the vicar's power point images, that one of the trinitarian heresies is the idea that Christ and Michael are the same.  It is quite possible that he did not mean it the way it reads, but of course this point must be clarified, lest it lead people to draw the wrong conclusions.  Today I was going to take a moment in class and clarify the issue, but I never got the chance.  I walked in a bit late, because of coffee clean up, and at no point during or at the end of class did I find the opportunity.  So I do so now.

There are heretical sects, most notably the Jehovah's Witnesses, which teach that Jesus Christ was merely the incarnation of the Archangel Michael.  That, of course, is a christological heresy, one which offers a novel twist on the ancient heresy that denies Christ's true divinity.

On the other hand, there are Christians who believe that Michael, the Archangel, is the Lord Himself, the uncreated Angel (messenger) Who is Himself the message, the eternal Logos, ie., the Lord Jesus Christ, in a pre- or extra- incarnational manifestation. 

To view Michael as Christ is not the same as viewing Christ as Michael, if "angel" not be read in a literalistic manner.  In this instance, I am not attempting to argue that Michael is Christ, for that would require a more thought out, better organized, and thorough argument than what I can give this afternoon.  Nevertheless, we must be clear that it is not heresy.  It has a long history among right-thinking Christians, and it has its advocates even today.  I confess that it is my own view, as well.

Christians are free to disagree with this interpretation of the scriptural witness to the Archangel,  but there is certainly nothing heretical about it.  There are sound exegetical and theological arguments behind it, and I would suggest that it fits well with the christus victor theme of the atonement, and can help us appreciate the fact that the battle which Christ fights for us is waged in several dimensions, including the cosmic and the historical, even within the individual soul of the Christian.

Selnecker & the Flesh of Christ

The practice of eucharistic adoration (expressing one's worship physically by kneeling in the presence of the Sacrament) is foreign to many Lutherans.  That is unfortunate, all the moreso because it is, in fact, a healthy part of Lutherans' own tradition.  Among many other things, it is good christology, which I would like to show now with the words of a sixteenth century divine.

One of the delights in rereading The Two Natures in Christ is that it provides the occasion also to read the preface that Nicolaus Selnecker wrote for it.  Of course, Chemnitz brilliantly expands upon the themes discussed in this preface, and should be read often, but I would like simply to highlight here a point Selnecker makes regarding the suitability of worshipping the flesh of Christ.  Read this and ponder anew that the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith, while endlessly rich from a theological point of view, is decidedly far more than mere theory, it is far from merely academic; rather, it manifests itself in the real world.  We live it.  Nothing could be more vital, lively, and relevant to our pilgrimage in this life. 
Indeed, He is, by His very essence, omnipotence itself.  He receives this divine and omnipotent power according to His human nature in, with, and through which He performs the work of our redemption and salvation and is present with us, guides, rules, protects, heals, and saves us.
In this brief summary the statements of Scripture can be understood: the Son of Man has received eternal power, has been anointed above all His brothers, has been given all authority, all power, and all strength, or all omnipotence and rule in heaven, on earth, or anywhere; has received the name which is above every name; His flesh is life-giving and worthy of adoration (for nothing is life-giving and worthy of adoration which does not have the praise, the name, and the substance of the eternal omnipotence); the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin; the Seed of the woman crushes the head of the serpent; in the seed of Abraham the people are saved; Christ is made higher than the heavens and sits as Lord at the right hand of God in the council of the Trinity; and He has received all judgment and many other gifts.  Each one of these statements refers to the assumed and exalted human nature of Christ, to which are given and communicated these divine gifts and properties so that in, with, and through it they shine forth, reveal themselves, and accomplish their work, and they do so in no other way.  Those who deny or contradict these matters in the least degree do not have God...But since the flesh or human nature of Christ is not simply in one place according to its natural characteristics, but through the union is personally elevated in the Logos to the infinite, uncircumscribed, and eternal right hand of the omnipotent God, we believe, know, and confess that Christ, God and man, is everywhere and complete and...indissolubly so.  Furthermore, never and nowhere is He separated from either the divine or the human nature (although no creature understands how this takes place).  He is to be sought, found, or apprehended nowhere else than where He has promised in His Word that He wills to be, and for the reasons which He Himself has given, that is, in the church, in the Supper, and in our hearts.

As often as we eat Christ's flesh and drink His blood in the eucharist, we remember and proclaim His life-giving death.  And when we do, we have the joyous opportunity to worship and adore His flesh and blood, truly present on the altar.  We worship Him in song, in prayer, in the disposition of our hearts, and it is also our privilege do so quite literally, ie., on our knees.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Have a Dangerous New Year

When I hear people telling me to have a safe new year, I appreciate the sentiment, and I know what they mean.  Untold harm is caused to oneself, and to others, when one forgets his responsibility to take care of himself.  Whether in one's partying, or in terms of work habits, or whatever, placing ourselves into unnecessary danger is irresponsible, foolish, and bad stewardship of the gifts of this life. 

I would like to employ this good advise, however, also as a point of departure for a couple of thoughts which are worthy of consideration as we set course on a new year.

First, one of the dangers, to our souls, in the level of importance we in the modern West have given to the "Be safe" approach to life is that it sends the message that immoral behavior is okay, so long as we engage in them in a safe manner.  This is a mistake, and poses great danger, not only for the individual soul, but also for our culture generally.

Second, there is an important sense in which we should actually follow the opposite approach to life.  That is, within one's calling and vocation, out of love for our neighbor (which is really all mankind, especially those who directly relate to us according to our various callings), and out of respect for the great unknown potential that is life, we ought to be bold, take risks, and embrace danger.

And so one of my more general goals, and my wish for the reader, is to take more risks, and in that sense, have a dangerous new year.