"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Sine Nomine

Because it is the only tune which should be played today; and preferably, repeatedly (although ideally it would be sung enthusiastically by a congregation that can't carry a tune in a bucket and doesn't care.  This is not a time for choral perfection.)

The Pope is seeking to reconcile with the Lutherans, after 500 years.  He will not, however, take communion with them.  That schism still holds, though probably it holds more among clergy than among congregants, who don't really understand the difference between transubstantiation, consubstantiation, receptionalism, and memorialism.

The only time those differences have been truly set apart was in Prussia in the 19th century, when the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestantism were forced to reconcile.  Their solution was a particularly elegant one which neither split the difference nor forced a false resolution.  That resolution continues in a simple phrase now to be found only in abandoned copies of "The Hymnal" of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, in the prayer offered after the communion:

"May the Holy Communion strengthen and preserve you unto everlasting life.  Be it unto you according to your faith."  Amen.  "Depart in peace."

"Be it unto you according to your faith."

Is the cup the true blood of Christ, the bread the true body, changed by a miracle from ordinary elements?  Are Christ's body and blood present "in, with, and under" the bread and wine?  Or is it that Christ is spiritually present, but not literally?  Be it unto you according to your faith.

Even this is too broad a line, or too little a boundary, for some.  I find it a great comfort, and a great sorrow that the words themselves are all but lost now, and soon will be.  Thus is what we call "progress" too often lost and never found again.

Or maybe, as the example of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II show, what really matters is your faith, your heart; what is most important is that it be unto you, according to your faith.  And maybe there is a chance for progress, for improvement, after all.


Blogger rick allen said...

In "Thoughts after Lambeth" T.S. Eliot made the following observation:

"To put it frankly, but I hope not offensively, the Roman view in general seems to me to be that a principle must be affirmed without exception; and that thereafter exceptions can be dealt with, without modifying the principle. The view natural to the English mind, I believe, is rather that a principle must be framed in such a way as to include all allowable exceptions. It follows inevitably that the Roman Church must profess to be fixed, while the Anglican Church must profess to take account of changed conditions. I hope that it is unnecessary to give the assurance that I do not consider the Roman way of thought dishonest, and that I would not endorse any cheap and facile gibes about the duplicity and dissimulation of that Church; it is another conception of human nature and of the means by which, on the whole, the greatest number of souls can be saved; but the difference goes deep."

This is puts it pretty well, I think. In Catholic theology the "faith" is pretty well defined, and you don't act "according to your faith," but in accord with the "faith of the Church."

That sounds pretty rigid, but in fact, as Eliot notes, the continuing insistence on the inviolability of the principle doesn't preclude the occasional exception (which can be seen as an exception that doesn't violate the principle). Hence the Catholic ease with "dispensations."

Traditionalists tend to make the principle absolute, in Eliot's "English" rather than "Roman" fashion. The opposite danger exists as well, that the dispensations becomes so routine and unthinking that the faith is lost in a kind of sincere indifferentism.

10:21 AM  

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