Tag Archives: Aquinas

Homily: The Mystery of Adam’s Rib

Delivered at Saint Paul’s, Riverside on 4 October 2015.

There is an echo in the Gospel lesson from the Old Testament lesson. We hear, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus quote from Genesis chapter 2. Jesus says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” In this echoing there is well-established teaching on the Sacrament of Matrimony. And yet there is another echo that I would like to guide us. For this past summer, we read Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In chapter 5 of the Letter is heard the quote, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,’ and then the writer continues: “This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” St Paul, then, is pointing us back to the 2nd chapter of Genesis—back to, then, the creation of Eve out of the side of Adam—making, or in a better translation, “building,” Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul writes of “building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). How the building of Eve might correspond with the building of the Church—this is the profound mystery to which I call our prayer.

Great voices have spoken on this, the mystery of Adam’s rib. Three doctors of the Church invite us to consider through it a mysterious, sacramental, relationship between Eve and the Church. Saint Jerome wrote, “Adam’s rib fashioned into a woman signifies Christ and his Church” (Homilies 66). Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote, “By this is signified that the Church takes her origin from Christ” (Summa Theologiæ, 1.92.2.co).  And in a longer passage, Saint Augustine wrote, “Adam’s sleep was a mystical foreshadowing of Christ’s death, and when his dead body hanging from the cross was pierced by the lance, it was from his side that there issued forth the blood and water that, as we know, signifies the Sacraments by which the Church is built up” (City of God, 22.17). Out of Adam’s side came Eve. Out of the side of Jesus, the new Adam, came Blood and Water—that is, the Sacraments, and hence Christian life.

And as Christ is the new Adam, Blessed Mary is the new Eve. Whereas Eve is the “mother of the living,” Mary is the “mother of the Church.” As Eve’s sin against God is the basic pattern replicated again and again in the life of the children of Israel and summarized by the Seven Capital Sins, Mary’s “yes to God” is the basic pattern of life for the baptized children of God: “Let it be to me according to your Word.” For “in the scene at the Cross the making of Eve from Adam’s side is repeated symbolically when the new Adam, in the sleep of death, breathes the life-giving breath of the Spirit upon the figure of Mary standing below his opened side” (Lionel Thornton, “The Mother of God in Holy Scripture,” in The Mother of God, ed. E.L. Mascall). Like Mary, we are to orient our lives to the Cross and by God’s grace and by means of the Sacraments flowing from him, say Yes to Him, time and time and time again, each time growing ever-more like Him.

But what of the relationship between Eve and the Church? This word “Adam” is usefully ambiguous. Yes, a particular person—but also universal humanity; human beings in general, made through Jesus the Eternal Word. Out of humanity in general did God form his Church. Of late we have considered the Old Testament doctrine of the Remnant, and we have considered this parish as a “Remnant parish” in light of the collapse of Constantinian Christendom. As we continue to explore how Remnant doctrine might shed light on the Incarnation, our consideration is safeguarded by the fact that Eve, who foreshadows the Church, comes out of Adam, who reflects humanity in general. The two, Adam and Eve, are one flesh, and so humanity and the Church are likewise distinct yet still intimately wedded as one. Despite the difficulties encountered in a hostile secular culture—legal, psychological, and even physical—any notion that the Church must be divorced or separated from human society in a cocoon must be false, for it flies in the face of creation as reflected in Genesis.

May we, the counter-cultural Remnant Church, nonetheless always be joined as one flesh with the concerns, the joys, the sufferings of all human beings. May we grasp an ever-greater sense of our mission and calling to be Christ in this world, perpetuating and extending His ministry, His prayer; yet never to become desensitized to the world, but rather grow in sensitivity, grow in feeling and awareness. Compassion means to “suffer with.” May our compassion be fed by the love of Christ’s Sacraments, which pour out of Him and build us up. And may we remember that to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, ate not two loves but rather are two perspectives upon one love: glorious, profound, mysterious, sacramental.

Image: “La création d’Ève (mosaïques de la Chapelle palatine, Palerme)” is licenced under CC BY 2.0. Resized from original.

 

Catholic imagination in Holy Week

For Holy Week, two thoughts on what we call today Catholic imagination, or what is also called a sacramental or eucharistic worldview. The first comes from Saint Augustine (Doctor of the Church, d. 430 AD), in an exploration of the ascetical meaning of the Genesis story of Cain and Abel (emphasis added):

Here we have the very heart of the earthly city. Its God (or gods) is he or they who will help the city to victory after victory and to a reign of earthy peace; and this city worships, not because it has any love for service, but because its passion is for domination. This, in fact, is the difference between good men and bad men, that the former make use of the world in order to enjoy God, whereas the latter would like to make use of God in order to enjoy the world. (City of God, XIV.7)

“Make use of the world in order to enjoy God.” This is another way of expressing a core insight from Saint Thomas Aquinas: that we can only know God through creatures, through our sensory perception of them. To think otherwise risks denying the immense particularity of the Cross: the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, nailed to the hard wood, dying.

With profound humility and reverence, this Holy Week we are invited to ask: What did that wood, those nails, feel like? From the beginning, the Church has taught that its very material—that Cross at that time in history—discloses profound, even incomprehensible mystery. In our corporate prayer, may we ask God to reveal His love for us still more through our meditation and contemplation in this week of Palm Sunday and the Holy Triduum. By God’s grace may we be able to “make use” of the wrenching scriptural drama this week, to “enjoy God”—that is, embrace, absorb, find eucharistic joy within and with others.

The second meditation comes from Richard Hooker (Anglican theologian, d. 1600), in an exploration of what it means to speak of a “personal presence of Christ”:

Impossible it is that God should withdraw his presence from any thing, because the very substance [i.e., being] of God is infinite. He filleth heaven and heart, although he take up no room in either, because his substance is immaterial, pure, and of us in this world so incomprehensible, that albeit no part of us be ever absent from him who is present whole unto every particular thing, yet his presence with us we no way discern farther than only that God is present, which partly by reason and more perfectly by faith we know to be firm and certain. (Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, V.51.iii)

Hooker is emphasizing that it is against the nature of Reality itself for creatures and material things to be unable to reveal, or point to, or disclose, the presence of God. The true fulfillment, or perfection, of all creatures is our triune God. Particular creatures and material things might not reveal God at a given moment in any significant way, to be sure. Our sinfulness can, and often does, impede our ability to find God in the ordinary and even the difficult. Also God’s Providence may be at a given moment to be seemingly “far away from us,” just as the Gospels tell us that Jesus often separated Himself from the disciples to go off and pray.

But the point is that nothing created—human or otherwise—is by definition and nature inanimate of God’s presence. This is the doctrine of Creation, emphasized throughout the traditions of the Church. A major factor in spiritual growth in a community and in a person is opening ourselves, day after day, to that fact and its possibilities for prayer. This Holy Week, with all our senses may we approach the Cross that recapitulates all material creation, and reform our likeness still more into the ever-flowing Love of Jesus, our Savior.

Martin Thornton’s Ressourcement Syllabus

[from the appendix to English Spirituality: An Outline of Ascetical Theology According to the English Pastoral Tradition, rev. ed. 1986.]

A Course of Study in Ascetical Theology for Parish Priests and Theological Students of the Anglican Communion

After delivering lectures on this and kindred subjects, I am invariably asked for a “reading list” by those of my audience whose interest has been stirred, or more likely, by those whose politeness and charity wish to give that impression. It is an immensely difficult request: we are not dealing with a “subject” with its own clearly defined literature, but with an approach to theology springing from, and leading back to, prayer. Neither are we dealing with scholars for whom theological study is their main job, but with busy parish priests and students whose burdensome curriculum does not include ascetics as such. This practical point is frequently forgotten by the compilers of such reading lists or courses of study; nothing is more frustrating to serious students and parish priests than to be given prescribed reading at the rate of twenty tomes a month, or to be exhorted to such scholarly ideals of sticking to original sources and eschewing simple commentaries. Since those giving this advice frequently spend their lives writing commentaries, one is forced to wonder what is the point of them all.

The following scheme is an attempt to avoid such impractical ideals. It is, I think, the sort of scheme that a serious reader of this present book—itself no more than an introduction—might naturally compose for himself. Spread over two years, in eight quarterly periods, the scheme suggests ten books to be seriously studied, which is possible to a parish priest giving only five hours a week to it. These books are listed in the first column. Column 2 lists twenty more books which might be “read through” rather than pored over; almost bedside books; or which may be referred to casually at odd free moments. The third column contains a selection of “devotional” books for use in private prayer, which fit in with the reading and which should give a fair picture of English spirituality in action.

My scheme is obviously suggestive: details may vary with personal choice, and it is not meant to be adhered to rigidly. The daily Office is of course assumed, as is meditative use of the Bible throughout. Anyone who finds difficulty with the Office might well bring in some of the Caroline devotional teaching much earlier than the last six months of the two-year period. I have omitted the fundamental “background” books like Harton, Pourrat, and Scaramelli: these might be regarded as general works of reference. I have also kep rather too strictly to the English School: we have seen how St Ignatius Loyola and the Carmelites can be usefully incorporated, while slight acquaintance with, say, the Rhineland Dominicans brings English spirituality into relief by contrast.

I have tried to keep only to books currently in print, and have included devotional books most of which are now available cheaply in paperback form. A few visits to a good theological library, however, would reveal extra riches, particularly in the form of seventeenth-century manuals of private devotion.

If five hours a week of serious study (column 1) are backed up by a similar period of mental prayer or spiritual reading, I think we might have a creative scheme not unduly arduous to the type of reader in mind. Remembering the central speculative-affective synthesis, the main columns also tend to become interchangeable: Anselm and Julian can obviously either be studied or prayed. With a little fluidity and ingenuity it will be found that the four yearly quarters more or less fit with the liturgical season (Advent-Septuagesima, Septuagesima-Easter, Easter-Trinity 10, Trinity 10-Advent). I do not think a parish priest following such a scheme need spend much time on sermon preparation or devotional addresses: nor do I think these would be sub-standard!

My own scheme here appended is neither perfect nor invariable, but as a pattern I hope it may be practical and of use.

For the specific recommendations in the Syllabus, see here.

The Case for a Prologue Office of Praise

“It is not sufficient to participate regularly in the Eucharist, with its unequal stress on individuality and formalism; rather we have to be eucharistic people. We have to live perpetually in the eucharistic context and this means preparation in the form of constant attempts to resolve the underlying paradoxes involved. The cosmic and the local, with stress on the former because the contemporary balance veers strongly towards the other side. Then the corporate and the personal, for the same reasons in the same order, and the immanent-transcendent balance which boils down to an application of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity: which says it all.”
Martin Thornton, A Joyful Heart

“The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world.”
Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World

INTRODUCTION

From the earliest moments of the Christian Church, in part influenced by our Jewish heritage, a fundamental aspect of the life of the disciples of Jesus was to enact formal set-prayer. Jesus bestowed upon us the “Our Father” prayer, the Pater Noster. It is the model for set-prayer: particular words in a particular order to give thanks as a body to God the Father. “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1.14). Vocal prayer using common, yet sacred, words—we now call this the Divine Office.

What is it for? In simple terms, the purpose of the Divine Office is to give thanks God and to magnify God, day by day: a “means of praise.” Christians do so because praising God teaches us who God is. This habitual activity becomes what William of St Thierry termed “necessary obedience.” God is Maker, Lover, and Keeper of all creation; His truth indeed endures forever, and knowledge of Him invites deeper participation in the goodness of Christ’s eucharistic holiness. Internalizing who God is prepares us to receive the Sacraments and to see all of creation eucharistically.

Nonetheless, relationship with God is always conditioned by societal context, and today many Christians increasingly live within media-rich environments where travel over significant distance is the daily norm. God certainly works within our conditions, and so must our prayer life: grace perfects nature, as Saint Thomas taught. Yet, oddly, the Divine Office form standard today within Anglican patrimony has remained largely unchanged over almost 500 years, then introduced to a late-medieval, rural society of largely illiterate peasants ruled by a monarch; theirs was a society that lived and worked under the shadow of the village church. Ours is a post-industrial “global village” where the preferred church can be several miles away.

Social conditions change. Saint Benedict and Thomas Cranmer boldly and pastorally amended their Divine Office forms so as to tune into God more efficiently, given their social conditions. Should we do the same? I seems clear that we might have to.

In Anglican patrimony the Divine Office was fashioned as the heart of common prayer. This reflects the strong Benedictine influence on the way Anglicans pray. So much so that Archbishop Arthur Michael Ramsey was led to say to a gathering at Nashdom Abbey in 1965: “So it is that the Benedictine Way really underlies the Book of Common Prayer, where the same trinity of [eucharistic] liturgy, office and personal prayer is found for the joy of us all.” The original purpose of the Book of Common Prayer was to order prayer life through the year so that all in the realm would pray the same way, “with one accord,” as the first Christians did, accompanied by Blessed Mary.

Yet today, because the Divine Office has developed so many variations, such unity—whereby laypersons, religious, deacons, priests and bishops pray together with one accord—appears obscured at best, and in some places lost. For those that do daily liturgical prayer, the variety of options—numerous Prayer Book iterations, Common Worship, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Breviary, and more—are on one hand a blessing, yet erode ascetical unity, upon which the daily set-prayer hinges.

Even worse is that many people do not do any kind of daily liturgical prayer. For these souls, the routine of faithful life finds little space and clearing for the Divine Office. Yet because the Divine Office is a baptismal obligation, and unity is an important characteristic of Anglicanism, something must be done to reunify through prayer the Church Militant that in many ways, despite its strengths given by grace, has been torn apart by the jumbled, even dissociated, conditions of a mobile, secularized society in an satellite-driven information age.

The pastorally minded corrective begins by going “back to basics” as means for creative, necessary renewal. But how do we do that without sacrificing orthodoxy and catholicity, nor the enduring insights of Benedictine spirituality, nor the basic worship pattern of Prayer Book heritage?

THE THEOLOGY BEHIND THE DIVINE OFFICE

Looking at the theological underpinnings of the Office sheds light on the situation, and suggests a remedy. So the key is to see corporate prayer as a dynamic, theological whole. At its core, orthodox and Catholic prayer is responding to God within our baptismal status, and has been since the cosmic explosion of the Pentecost event. “Faith’s name for reality is ‘God,'” wrote Anglican theologian John Macquarrie, and it is what Christians have said since the Coming of the Holy Spirit. Prayer life can be said to be full, integrated, embodied, Catholic, and orthodox when it is an active and intentional response to God-named reality.

But how actually do we name reality as God? We do so through prayer. To us it has been revealed that reality for the Christian is a diversity of three-in-oneness: reality in the dimension of its “transcendent otherness,” which is named God the Father; reality in the dimension of its “immanent nearness,” which is named God the Holy Spirit; and reality in the dimension of “incarnate mediation,” which is named God the Son, Jesus Christ, named in our liturgy as our only Mediator and Advocate. Catholic reality, and hence its prayer life—liturgical, sacramental, salvific—is ultimately derived from, and correlated with, nothing less than the Doctrine of the Trinity.

Prayer is responding to God. How are we to respond? Our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—invites a threefold response mentioned by Archbishop Ramsey and that Anglican theologian Martin Thornton appropriately called Regula, meaning “pattern” or “framework.” Gloriously formulated for 6th-century monastic life by Saint Benedict and for 16th-century secular life by Cranmer (and in many other ways within the family of Catholic churches), the basis for Regula is the Day of Pentecost and its fruits, which is captured in scripture as the “apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers” (Acts 2.42) in light of the pattern already mentioned, whereby the disciple with Mary prayed together “with one accord.” Regula, indeed, is the grace of Pentecost.

Today the terms are, respectively, Devotion (that is, baptismal ministry in theworld according to the Bible), Mass, and Divine Office; these are distinct, but interwoven and irreducible. More than mere formula or framework for organizational discipline, Regula is dynamic praxis; for Thornton, it is the lifeblood of participation in the divine life of the redemptive organism, the Church.

Startlingly, this means that Regula in its deepest sense is the doctrine of the Trinity arranged for prayer. Why? Because Regula orients us to the threefold reality of God. Devotion orients to the immanent dimension: increasing openness to the Holy Spirit who is infinitely variable to us in time and space and who reconciles us to Christ, the definitive revelation of the Father. Divine Office orients to the transcendent dimension: surrender to our heavenly Father, wholly and invariably otherness, our source and origin from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds to unite us to the Son. And Mass (“eucharistic liturgy”) orients to the incarnate dimension: mediated communion with the real presence of Jesus Christ both deity and man—fully transcendent as the Son of God, fully immanent as human being. Yet this is all one response, one prayer life, to love heavenly God who loves us beyond measure and yearns for our spiritual growth. As Saint Athanasius wrote, God became human so that humans might become God—that is, through Himself and His sacraments, we might become numbered with His saints and, in the words of Walter Hilton, reformed into the likeness and holiness of Jesus.

Jesus taught this in His own life. Moments of the life of Jesus Christ reveal Regula, the fundamental pattern of holiness. Besides the Pater Noster, given by Jesus to be our set-prayer, His baptism in the River Jordan points to the Divine Office, an objective daily ritual of corporate repentence that, through Jesus, discloses God’s identity and story. The road to Emmaus along with the feeding miracles of Jesus point to the Mass, where we too are fed by Jesus and his love for us through Word and Sacrament. And the myriad episodes where Jesus heals, preaches, teaches, and eats with others point toward Devotion, ministry to the creatures of the cosmos in relationship with Scripture. Regula, then, is the means by which we live; Regula articulates our corporate experience of being Christ’s Body, and the means by which we cultivate the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

THE PURPOSE OF THE DIVINE OFFICE

Through Thornton’s theology, the specific purpose of the Divine Office as a whole (within the larger whole of Regula) is clarified. First given by Jesus to his disciples as the Pater Noster (“Our Father”), as mentioned already, the Divine Office is set-prayer that allows a transcendent reaching toward and joining with the unceasing praise by Angels, the Archangels, and all the Company of Heaven. The whole Body of Christ sings the Divine Office in the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify God the Father Almighty, “primordial Being,” in the words of John Macquarrie. To glorify the unchanging Father warrants an unadorned yet beautiful recounting of His radical otherness and cosmic creativity. God invites us to abandon ourselves and surrender in Holy Fear to the light inaccessible, the mystery incomprehensible. To live daily as if in the orans posture: this is what the Office is for. Its purpose is not to “sanctify the time” but to pray to the Father as Jesus would have us pray: “an eschatological proclamation of the salvation received in Christ, and a glorification and thanksgiving to God for that gift,” in the words of Roman Catholic theologian Robert Taft, SJ. Simply put, the Pater Noster is the germ of God’s theology.

And here we can see the source of our current difficulties: Christians today do not pray the Divine Office “with one accord.” Variety in prayer, not common prayer, is by far the norm. We can see this even within the narrow sample of Anglicanism within the UK and USA. Compilers of recent the most recent liturgical books, for some reason displaying remarkable permissiveness, allowed many options within the rubrics for the daily prayer liturgies—so much so that two groups could intend Morning Prayer on the same calendar day yet their actual prayer could be quite different, not at all “with one accord.” This cuts at the heart of what it means to be Catholic and apostolic. The problem, therefore, could not be clearer: we are not being faithful to prayer life in its apostolic origin.

A NEW ADDITION 

Despite what may seem to be intractable differences between contemporary liturgical forms for daily set-prayer, a solution may not be too difficult to find. What does not appear to be necessary is any kind of 100% uniformity. Robert Taft, in his magisterial analysis of the history of the Divine Office, shows in a moment’s glance that there have always been differences in practice between traditions when it comes to the Divine Office.

Instead, a smaller amendment, or addition, to what faithful Christians are already doing seems not only more realistic, but also in keeping with the spirit of the Our Father: a short, yet profoundly substantial way to pray with one accord. A well-designed addition to what Christians are already praying according to their tradition would allow diversity within the Body to continue to flourish and at the same time would provide a means for much-needed unity.

Accordingly, this is what the Prologue Office of Praise (Antelogium Laudis) is designed to be. Its invariable, fixed, and unchanging form seeks to revivify the entirety of the scheme of daily Offices, no matter which tradition is followed. It is intended to support the underlying, and original, purpose of the Divine Office as a whole: Marian awe in the face of radical otherness.

Key to its design is making universal, Catholic theology unmistakably evident within its text and enacted in its performance. In the Prologue Office of Praise (Antelogium Laudis), we celebrate the beyond-time and space, unfathomable reality of heavenly God as mediated by His mighty acts of creation, salvation, and reconciliation, initially revealed to the Old Testament prophets and the Children of Israel, and consummated definitively in the Incarnation of Christ as announced by the Holy Spirit through Angel Gabriel to Blessed Mary, Ever-Virgin, our exemplar in discipleship and witness to Christ: Our Lady truly is the Mother of the Church. This refines the purpose of the Divine Office as a whole: to invite daily through praise the unfathomable presence of divine otherness that confronted Blessed Mary. This is an otherness that confounded her in holy fear, that taught her, that empowered her. And, by baptismal incorporation into the Body of Christ, this mystery can do so for us, in a continuous and gradual unfolding of God’s revelation of himself.

As Mary intercedes that we may be made worthy to receive the promises of Christ, we enact obedience to the grace of God through the Divine Office. It is “prologue” in that it prepares us—hones us—by means of the Holy Spirit to adore, and then receive, Holy Communion. Through this heavenly food we can become Christ’s out-poured and kenotic love, most precious as it is most plenteous, in the words of Dame Julian of Norwich. But Saint Paul instructed, before we eat and drink, we are to discern the Body (1 Corinthians 11.29)—such discernment is our daily work: the Divine Office on Monday prepares us for Eucharist the following Sunday. To take the Christian claims seriously means every morning is a test of faith. Yet our obedience, often difficult and even dry feeling, patiently teaches us about Jesus and our baptismal incorporation into Him. A genuine sacramental outlook upon all of creation is a gift from God, yet we must always remember that Blessed Mary had her moments of arid boredom, too.

Likewise, our obedience means internalizing, absorbing, and living-out God’s theology. This ascetical responsibility coincides with the pastoral fact that in many cases within in a mobile society, a “global village,” there is simply less time available for daily formal set-prayer. Might not this fact, the grace of the “mixed life,” also be of divine providence? Yet we cannot forswear orthodoxy, which would deny our baptism, so a Prologue Office of Praise, which can be prayed amid a hectic, busy life as an ascetical minimum, seems quite overdue.

THE NEED FOR A SUPPLEMENT

What must be stressed is that the Prologue Office of Praise (Antelogium Laudis) is not intended as a substitute for the Cranmerian Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, or any form currently in use. The Prologue Office of Praise is not intended replace what is used now, but rather is meant to add to the daily round of set-prayer, in whatever form one follows. One can continue to do Morning and Evening Prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, as one always has, along with the daytime Hours (i.e., Terce, Sext, None, etc.). The suggestion here is to chant or recite the Prologue Office of Praise as another “hour” for daily set-prayer. This could be for a first hour of the day, for an hour right before Sunday Mass, for a Midday hour, for an evening before sleep. Any time that makes sense within the daily routine.

Why make this addition? The primary reason, again, is for ascetical unity—a truly common prayer. We need to pray a common prayer, knowing it to be common prayer. Being a concise form, it is perfect for the home, to cultivate the “domestic Church,” and it is perfect within the church grounds, such as in a chapel or in the church pews before Mass begins.

Another reason is that this Office is a form of catechesis. This is one of its great strengths. Refined to its bare theological core, the Prologue Office becomes a sturdy rock of daily doctrinal catechesis for young and old alike, experientially absorbed through memorization and singing. This points directly to the theological virtue of “Faith,” what Macquarrie called “existential knowledge” and Aidan Kavanagh called “theologia prima.” Faith is a virtue, a behavior, a willing assent. As such it requires cultivation on a daily basis. A memorizable, and hence internalized, Divine Office form expands upon the set-prayer of the Our Father by means of the Creed. God’s story, the deep truths, thus becomes our story, and this Office, by growing the virtue of Faith, becomes a sturdy rock for both catechesis and evangelization. To chant the Prologue Office of Praise is to confess doctrinal orthodoxy, a confession inwardly digested and lived-out still more through offices of Holy Silence and Readings, as well as recollectively in ministry.

This Prologue Office of Praise is fittingly seen as a pledge of allegiance to God, an eschatological proclamation of faith, the basis for “a school for the service of the Lord” in the Benedictine sense: it teaches as much through the mere habit of it as it does through its content. Our lives showly adjust to the truths embedded in this Office.

It catechizes also because it is awash in Catholic and Orthodox doctrine. This Antelogium Laudis is a theological and experiential expansion of the Pater Noster by means of the Nicene Creed. Analyzed as a whole, its text proclaims a variety of authoritative doctrine, the crucibles of the Church’s historical experience. Doctrines include that of Prevenient Grace, Baptismal Incorporation, Remnant and Adoration in the Preces; God and Metanoia in the Jubilate; of Creation, Angels, the People of God and Remnant in the Benedicite; of Incarnation, the Church, Atonement, Resurrection, Parousia and Theosis in the Te Deum; of Penitence and Adoration in the Kyrie Eleison; of the Kingdom of God in the Pater Noster; and of the Theotokos and Assumption in the Ave Regina Caelorum—these and more, directly from scriptural and scripturally derived prayers primarily of patristic ethos. Yes, these are canticles and hymns, but embedded within them is Catholic imagination: tremendous theology and glorious doctrine ecumenically celebrated.

Why the emphasis on doctrine? Because to sing the Prologue Office of Praise (Antelogium Laudis) is to confess universal truth, a constant need in the Church no matter the age. And as in the patristic era, particularly prior to Constantine, doctrinal confession manifests through joyful performance and almost secretive memorization: to memorize is to internalize, to internalize is to embody, to embody is to teach by example, with or without words. We are to serve the Lord with gladness and come before His presence with a song (Psalm 100). Singing forms us, and formation through catechesis, as theological reflection in relationship with doctrine and experience, is the beating heart of evangelization.

CONCLUSION: AN ORTHODOX AND BENEDICTINE PASTORAL SOLUTION

To reconcile the pastoral situation today with our baptismal obligation, an orthodox solution is to add a Prologue Office that is comparatively shorter, more accessible, more explicitly doctrinal—and a Benedictine and Cranmerian solution is to restore a common Office able to to be sung by laity and clergy alike: a true unity of the Church Militant. This counteracts a clergy-only Divine Office, too often our situation today, upends the entire theology of historic Prayer Book heritage. It is called the Book of Common Prayer not for nothing.

All of which is to say, this Prologue Office is pastorally attuned for a missional Church in a mobile, “post-Christian” society. It is doctrinally vigorous, yet ascetically realistic. It does not require paging through books, does not discriminate against the illiterate, young or old, and can be sung anywhere and at any time, whether in the morning, noonday, or evening: whenever the holiness of beauty is disclosed (Psalm 29).

This Office is also family-friendly. For those with young children, its second half—Kyrie Eleison, Pater Noster, and Ave Regina Caelorum—is a gentle place to start for adult and children alike, and it is quickly memorizable. Subsequently, the Jubilate can be added, followed in turn by the Benedicite and Te Deum, first in portions and then in their entireties. Because even the youngest of children, through the help and example of their parents, day by day can magnify God, and worship His Name ever world without end. May we join Ananias, Azariah, and Misael, the three holy children—saved by God in the fiery furnace of His abundant and gracious love. And in so doing, may we sing—may we trumpet!—our love of our heavenly Father, who confers upon us our very being, and who gives for our salvation His only Son, Jesus Christ.

As a final note, the reason that the Prologue Office of Praise uses classic, non-contemporary language—also known as “sacral English”—is two-fold. The first is to be consistent with the sensibility of the Pater Noster, the prayer that controls the theology of the Divine Office; despite it too being non-contemporary, it is nonetheless beloved today—”art,” “thy,” and “thine” are familiar precisely because the prayer is used. Likewise, the more one uses the JubilateBenedicite, and Te Deum, the more “ye,” “hath,” and the rest become familiar and second nature.

And the second follows from the first. Without question, the sacral English translations simply sing better: the phrasing and literary sensibility of that era have more musicality and hence more poetical allure. Contemporary does not necessarily mean improved, and a persuasive case can be made that contemporary translations of these prayers obstruct rather than edify. The translations selected here are better to sing, theologically more transparent, and, in the case of the Benedicite, shorter. The choice therefore is obvious. We are, after all, to bring the first fruits of our ground into the house of the Lord our God (Exodus 23.19). Not only Truth, and not only Goodness, but also Beauty adores our Maker, our Lover, and our Keeper—for He is their source.

CONCLUDING PRAYER

Heavenly Father, who bestowed upon your Church from its first baptismal moments the grace of Regula: capacitate us to love you, the Lord our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our Mind; and likewise enable us by your presence to love our neighbor as our self, that our life in response to you can indeed become holy, holy, holy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, our comforter, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Icon by the hand of Monica Thornton. 

 

The Person of Jesus Christ (Lecture 1 of 5) by John Macquarrie

LECTURE 1
“The State of Christology in the Present Age”

Presiding Bishop John Allin introduces John Macquarrie to the House of Bishops’ gathering. In this first of five presentations over five days, Macquarrie subsequently outlines his entire lecture and previews each of the five areas of christology that he will examine. Christ is at the center of our faith, and seeking to understand Christ — that of christology — is always a central task. Christology, as a discipline, is in a state of transition, he believes, owing to the fact that classic christological theology took an abrupt turn as a result of Enlightenment-era theological thinking. Christology became subservient to Deistic, natural religion and its two-fold axis of reason and experience. He touches on the theological thought of Kant, Schleiermacher, and like humanistic christology. And he presents his own approach to christology as one that begins with the humanity of Christ and then reaches to his deity. He believes we ought understand “who Christ is” through analysis of “what Christ does”. Overall, in his entire five-part lecture, Macquarrie seeks to address the questions of christology that contemporary thought has raised and contemporary theology has attempted to explore.

keywords: Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon, Chalcedonian definition, Reformation, Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, Enlightenment, Rationalism, Deism, natural religion, Immanuel Kant, evil, Friedrich Schleiermacher, liberal-Protestantism, Edward Schillebeeckx, sin, bliss, christological heresies, Bishop Charles Gore, Bishop John Robinson, Hans Küng, two-natures doctrine, legend, mythology, Apostles’ Creed, New Testament, St John’s Gospel, Synoptic Gospels, biblical criticism, Divine Logos, humanity of Christ, Nicene Creed, docetism, incarnation, metaphysics, one substance, Albrecht Ritschl, Rudolf Bultmann, value judgments, existentialism, magic, eucharist, medicine, immortal substance, atonement, interpersonal relations, human solidarity, Vatican II, polemic versus dialogue

THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST
John Macquarrie
October 1984 to the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
Table of Contents
Introduction.
Lecture 1.
Lecture 2.
Lecture 3.
Lecture 4.
Lecture 5.

The Prayer Book as Regula, a Slideshow

If the first Christians were Catholic, it was because of their threefold prayer life (Acts 2:42) seen as the total, systematic means for repentence and baptismal reality taught by Saint Peter and the Apostles. That is the template, or Regula (Rule), of Catholic life; the threefold Regula orders the repeatable dimensions of Baptism by which we repent. The Book of Common Prayer, being a Regula inherited primarily from the tradition of Saint Benedict, also orders in a unique way such a comprehensive corporate response, with emphases of its own yet leaving nothing fundamental out. Therefore Catholic renewal within Anglican parochial tradition, that is, Catholic Anglican vitality, demands a more profound embrace of the total life of obedience ordered by Prayer Book heritage. Veni, Creator Spiritus!

“So it is that the Benedictine Way really underlies the Book of Common Prayer, where the same trinity of liturgy, office and personal prayer is found for the joy of us all.”

—Archbishop Michael Ramsey (15 July 1965 at Nashdom Abbey)

“The Prayer Book system embodies the ethos of our Church which is founded on scripture, interpreted by tradition, which is not only articulated by the catholic creeds (perhaps more commonly used in the Prayer Book liturgies than in any other liturgical regime) but which is also expressed by the spirit-filled continuity of life in the Church and the ways in which we have sought together to respond to the demands of successive generations.”

(Bishop Richard Chartres from “Afterword” in The Book of Common Prayer: Past, Present, and Future, edited by Prudence Dailey. London: Continuum, 2011.)

click for slideshow


See also: What does Regula mean?

Icon by the hand of Monica Thornton. 

 

Duccio di Buoninsegna - Appearance Behind Locked Doors

Martin Thornton’s Ressourcement Map for Anglican Patrimony

INTRODUCTION
At some point any serious, committed Anglican—particularly someone who has heard that Anglican identity, despite what others may say, can be thoroughly Catholic, though distinct from Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, and Oriental Catholic—is likely going to confront a simple but serious question: What is the nature of Anglican theology?

This is a good question. Perhaps for Catholic Anglicans, it is a crucial question, because this particular question takes us to the the heart of an increasingly important question: what is authentic Anglican identity? Anglicanism has a decades-long crisis of identity on a variety of fronts, but none more important than our spiritual identity. With the emergence of the Anglican Ordinariates, the stakes have been raised. Historic Anglicanism in communion with the historic See of Canterbury needs to have its true patrimony (spiritual, liturgical, and pastoral) brought to the foreground of common Anglican life, in order to recover and rebuild what otherwise is an imploding tradition.

Many Anglicans know, and all should, that Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher (d. 1972) famously said about Anglicanism, “We have no doctrine of our own.  We only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, and these creeds we hold without addition or diminution.  We stand firm on that rock.” These words ought be repeated widely in parish adult formation programs. Fisher’s statement is profound, scriptural, patristic, and humble. Its truth guides our tradition.

Yet while intimately related, there is a difference between doctrine and theology. To put the matter perhaps too simply: Doctrine (and dogma) constitutes the “what” of Christian belief; on the other hand  theology emerges when doctrine is worked with in or “kneaded” in prayer according to pastoral realities. Theology manifests in the life of particular traditions or spiritual schools. Theology indeed rightly becomes spirituality, seen as a corporate phenomenon: or more specifically, as “spiritual theology.”

Indeed, Archbishop Fisher’s insight remains correct: Anglicanism has no unique doctrine of its own. But at the core of Anglicanism is something unique: not doctrine, but rather a “school of Catholic spirituality.” Spiritual schools do not concoct new official doctrines. Rather various Catholic traditions work with, or again, knead, the doctrines of holy Church has defined according to the whole—the Vincentian Canon is ever-useful: “Care must especially be had that that be held which was believed everywhere, always, and by all.”

Anglican doctrine is Catholic doctrine, as believed everywhere, always, and by all (which is never to suggest its use is merely static and perfunctory). The foundational doctrines include the Doctrine of God, Creation, the Church, Atonement, Blessed Mary, Sacraments, and many more. These are reflected in the Catholic Creeds and in the Liturgy (both Mass and Offices).

But the nature of Anglican spiritual theology flows from Catholic doctrine as it has lived and breathed in the British lands and her ecclesial heirs. And it is in this sense that we are entitled to claim a particular “theology.” Saint Anselm defined “theology” proper as faith seeking understanding. To expand upon that: theology is the manner by which faith in the orthodox doctrines of holy Church seeks to develop both language and practice in the dynamic life of Christian communities. Immediately we perceive that “the manner by which” presupposes a plurality of theologies. The Church lives out doctrine in different ways according to time and place. It is by virtue of being an incarnational religion that different theologies emerge in the working out in actual Christian lives of doctrine universal to the whole Church from its first moments to today. Different schools have their differing languages and differing practices—within the Mystical Body of Christ exist a constellation of complementary living theologies. This is all well and good, and thoroughly orthodox. Because there are various Catholic schools within the historic Church, it follows that there are various Catholic theologies.

So, amid this plurality, the many strands of catholicity within the Church, what is Anglican theology? What is our school of Catholic theology, born of historic Anglican experience and worship?

ENTER FATHER MARTIN THORNTON
I propose that Martin Thornton has given Anglicanism—and the Church—a permanent gift, which is articulation of the contours of the English School of Catholic spirituality in his text, English Spirituality. This text is already well-loved and appreciated in Anglicanism, certainly in the United States (although also in many quarters effectively unknown). It is the go-to book to discuss ascetical theology and is a resource for pastoral theology. Yet neither application exhausts the book’s gift. The true significance is still more profound: it is nothing less than a thorough map of the “English School,” of Anglican patrimony in its thickest sense; that is, of Catholic Anglican theology in its lineage, prepared for ressourcement and pastoral application within parish life

What does “ressourcement” mean? The French theologian Yves Congar defined it as conscious movement from “a less profound to a more profound tradition; a discovery of the most profound resources” (Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012), 4–5). From Fr Thornton, we have a clear sense of what the core curriculum for rediscovery of our most profound resources might be for Anglican theology. Fr Thornton’s might be the very first instance that the contours of our school of spiritual theology have been thoroughly and concisely articulated.

My master’s thesis details this argument at length. The term “ressourcement“, to be sure, is nowhere his corpus, because the term only came into fashion in recent decades. I will not rehearse here the extended argument that Thornton makes, because it is nuanced and does require participation in Anglican liturgical and sacramental life to fully appreciate (as any school would require). Here, rather, is a broad diagram Thornton’s ressourcement map. This is a broad-brush perspective intended to orient Catholic Anglicans to the genuine root-stock of our theological breeding, which is the English School of Catholic spirituality.

Here is the diagram, with commentary to follow:

The middle column is the primary strand of theology whereby today’s living expression of Anglican patrimony corresponds with the New Testament Church. Overall we see a series of “divines,” or periods of flourishings led by theological writers. Building on Patristic and Monastic Divines, there were in Thornton’s view two “flowerings” of the English School. The first was in the 14th and 15th century with the quartet of Rolle, Hilton, Julian, and Kempe—and he also saw The Cloud of Unknowing as central, as well. Let us call this group our “Medieval Divines.” The second flowering was the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer and the resulting Caroline Age, the “Caroline Divines.” Fr Thornton defined the latter more broadly than most: from Hooker’s Lawes through Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life—essentially the seventeenth century. In terms of the side columns, we see Sts Augustine and Aquinas as the most influential across the ages.

The there are also “Evangelical Divines” (Wesleyans), “Tractarian Divines” (Keble, et al), and “Ecumenical Divines” (Mascall, Ramsey, Macquarrie, et al). The adjective “Ecumenical” simply refers to the fact that these theologians—the full list is longer, of course—lived in an age of marked ecumenism and ecumenical exchange within the Church both East and West, including the Second Vatican Council, which despite ecclesial disunity, impacted the entire Church. Additionally we see how the English School, and hence Anglicanism, has within it Franciscan, Dominican, Victorine, and especially, Cistercian influences.

Speaking of Archbishop Ramsey, he wrote an article called “What is Anglican Theology?“. I do recommend it, yet one must immediately note his answer is not to outline a curriculum, but to describe our Anglican method. Thornton talks about method, as well, in English Spirituality—he calls our method “speculative-affective synthesis”; but this can be described different ways, so Ramsey’s piece is useful. The “how” is just as important as the “what.”

Yet do grasp the difference: above is Thornton’s understanding of the core curriculum of Anglican ressourcement. Thus something of this map is how Anglicanism has been, and must continue to be, a theological tradition, and not merely a methodological tradition—again, nothing short of being one of the genuine schools of Catholic spirituality.

Again, whereas English Spirituality has been interpreted and used as a guide for ascetical theology (a good thing!), I suggest its fullest gift is as a clear presentation of our true lineage of historical spirituality—as well as a helpful general commentary upon each of the major theologians living in our tradition, ancient and more contemporary, which is summed up as ressourcement. I believe that discerning and then living out explicitly our true inheritance of theology (as of 1986 when Thornton died) would go a long way toward long-term resolution of the identity crisis that plagues contemporary Anglicanism, and has hobbled Anglicanism for far too long of time. It is not a panacea, to be sure, but a thoroughly helpful guide, not merely to be looked at but used. Thornton invites you to pray with the works of our tradition, and English Spirituality is an expert-level commentary to help you as you do.

REDISCOVERING OUR TRADITION
Rediscovery always involves returning to the sources—or, “back to basics”. How do we bring about rediscovery of the English School at the parish level, where the rubber meets the road?

The works that make up our tradition do issue in a curriculum that is comprehensive and, in one sense, large. Just look at the map. But to be well-acquainted with it does not present itself, at least to me, as a thoroughly impossible task. There are many texts, but there aren’t that many. In even rougher outline — Augustine’s Enchiridion, Benedict’s Rule, Anselm’s Proslogion, Julian’s Revelations, Margery Kempe’s Book, Jeremy Taylor’s Rules for Holy Living, and Macquarrie’s The Faith of the People of God, all guided by the Book of Common Prayer  and that is plenty good food for a parish journey. (See also Fr Thornton’s “Syllabus for Anglican ressourcement“, which is longer yet intended for study over multiple years.)

And of course, the concrete texts are not the whole story. Our theological tradition emerges from the marriage of texts within Anglican communities over our history. Our tradition, like any tradition, is what some call a “cultural-linguistic phenomenon”. That is fancy jargon. What is means is simple, however. How our conversation, as Catholic people in a variety of life situations and contexts, relates to the texts is as important as the actual words on the page. We are a family that lives around The Word. This life is through space and time. How we as Anglicans encounter The Word liturgically, sacramentally, corporately through the history of the Body of Christ makes for what we might call “our conversation”—all Anglicans, all Christians, all Saints, gathered around the table in conversation—listening to, feeding upon, and responding to, The Word. As Julian writes, “And what can make us rejoice in God more than to see in Him that He rejoices is us, the highest of all His works?” This is the essence of our conversation.

How do we communicate authentic Anglicanism to others? Before we talk it, we must know what “it” is. That is to say, we first must be able to identify our tradition. Hence the map, as a rough estimation of our tradition of theology as it has unfolded through history. That is the first step.

The second step, after we know what “it” is, becomes clearer: we must “live it.” We have to put our prayer in dialogue with these works, as best we are able, and make them our own (i.e., “appropriate” the texts). This happens through competent guidance by parish priests and lay catechists. The texts of our school, any school in fact, do not easily present themselves for use in prayer as easily as we might like.

Nonetheless, rediscovery is a matter of acquainting ourselves with our tradition, as our tradition. Start with Augustine, Benedict, Anselm, Julian, Taylor, Macquarrie, and proceed as you will to the others. Perhaps this seems imposing. It has to me, to be honest.

Yet the task of doing so starts with an immediate recognition: we are already acquainted with this map—because of the Book of Common Prayer. We are “Prayer-Book Catholics.” And because we are, we are participating in the “Anglican conversation”, the ressourcement map, by virtue of our liturgical life—what Thornton calls “threefold Regula.” Our liturgy is both the source and summit of our experience. It follows that our liturgy is the source and summit of our school of spirituality, in its fullest, most supreme, most actualized sense. O Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say The Word, and my soul shall be healed. Our liturgy feeds us. Furthermore, our liturgy is a school; it teaches our conversation.

To rediscover is to listen. “Listen!” is the first word of The Rule of St Benedict. Thus the “how to reacquaint” method perhaps emerges: within our liturgical life in Anglican parishes (which in its fullest sense is both Mass and Office), we read devotionally in our parish study groups works from the map. We talk about them in our small groups, and we allow the Holy Spirit to feed us, lead us, and unite us. We simply intend, and follow through with, to listen to the Holy Spirit through the works of our tradition. Doing so does two things: (1) it renews our understanding of who we are as Anglicans—the nature of prayer in the Anglican tradition, and (2) it gives us vocabulary that builds upon the vocabulary supplied by parochial formation courses.

These steps seem reasonable to me because we are already doing them. Yet to have the goal at least sketched out—the goal is to be able to respond to God in conversation with others—would seem to me to make the whole enterprise cleaner and more purposeful. Thornton, as usual, captures our task perfectly: “Any satisfactory spirituality . . . especially Anglican spirituality, can only evolve by serious study of our ancient tradition, plus bold experiment.” The task is ours to perform.

CONCLUSION
Obviously one could add complexity to this map in any number of directions with myriad additions. I’m unfairly lumping all the Caroline Divines together, for example, several of whom were in significant dialogue with, and critique of, various Reform theologies, not to mention an array of Fathers. The same could be said for the Evangelical Divines, the Tractarians and in particular Newman, and the Ecumenical Divines.

Acknowledging possible amendments to this diagram, let us not make it too complex. Or better, let it grow more complex through bold and devout experiment knowing the rootstock and key flowerings of our spirituality. What Thornton has provided is the foundational map of our school of Catholic spirituality. In other words, we can add to it—after all, our school, if it is to be a living school, must be dynamic—but we ought resist subtracting from it, because to do so risks a deformed picture of who we are and how we have tended to follow Christ by means of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, seminary application of this map could spring from Thornton’s curriculum; yet at the parish level for formation courses, even this basic outline provides an ample treasury of resources for reflection and devotional/doctrinal study, not to mention endless homiletic application.

Richard John Neuhaus wrote, “Almost five hundred years after the sixteenth-century divisions, the realization grows that there is no via media.” Well, all hinges on what via media actually means. For Martin Thornton, it means the “speculative-affective synthesis”—that is, Benedictine balance of thought and feeling expressed in prayerful, creative action, which for him was a primary characteristic of the English School of Catholic spirituality. And as to whether there is no via media, figures such as Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, John Wesley, John Keble, Charles Gore, Evelyn Underhill, William Temple, Michael Ramsey, John Macquarrie, Martin Thornton and, well, a lot more all argue against Neuhaus’ view. And, although I am biased, I think they get the better of it, by a long shot.

Cover image “Appearance Behind Locked Doors” by Duccio di Buoninsegna is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original