Saturday, February 27, 2010

When the Patriarch was returning (Hoste dum victu triumphans)

Fr. John Hunwicke, of Oxford, has mentioned a very beautiful Hymn, one of the favorites at St. Clements Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, called "When the Patriarch was returning". It is a translation, apparently, of a breviary hymn sung at the Vigil of the Octave of Corpus Christi, at the Abbey of Cluny, in France. It was translated into English by Fr. E. Caswall, an Anglican priest contemporary of John Henry Newman, who also converted to Catholicism in the mid 19th Century. Fr. Caswall translated a great number of such hymns from Latin into English. Many find this to be one of his best.

When the Patriarch was returning
Crowned with triumph from the fray,
Him the peaceful king of Salem
Came to meet upon his way;
Meekly bearing bread and wine,
Holy Priesthood's aweful sign.

On the truth thus dimly shadowed
Later days a luster shed;
When the great high-Priest eternal,
Under form of wine and bread,
For the world's immortal food
Gave his flesh and gave his blood.

Wondrous Gift! The Word who fashioned
All things by his might divine,
Bread into his body changes,
Into his own blood the wine;
What though sense no change perceives,
Faith admires, adores, believes.

He who once to die a Victim
On the cross did not refuse,
Day by day upon our altars,
That same Sacrifice renews;
Through his holy priesthood's hands,
Faithful to his last commands.

While the people all uniting
In the sacrifice sublime
Offer Christ to his high Father,
Offer up themselves with him;
Then together with the priest
On the living Victim feast.

The words are from the NLM site, which also has an embedded rendition sung by the congregation at St. Clements. The author of the particular article at NLM is Michael E. Lawrence, who in his introduction, has the following remark:
Save for the occasional Pange lingua or O Salutaris, most Eucharistic hymns that come to my mind which enjoy widespread popularity seem to epitomize either the 1940's or the 1970's. Alas, even the aforementioned Latin hymns can be given a kind of saccharine, "Sweet and Low" sort of flavor, depending upon the rendition.
I love Aquinas's Pange lingua, not to mention his Lauda Sion, but truer words were never spoken about the "rendition", the manner in which they are sung. These are not Broadway solo bits, and no Hymn sung during the Liturgy ought to be so introspective or self-oriented that it obscures the sense of wonder and awe that have inspired the Church (and her saints) to pen these wonderful anthems. There are too many people directing choirs who remember -- and then only dimly -- a poorly catechized sense of the place of these hymns. No wonder Catholic (men) don't sing!

Original Latin

Hoste dum victo triumphans
Abraham revertitur,
Obvius fit magnus illi
Rex Salem Melchisedech,
Vina qui tamquam sacerdos
Atque panem protulit.

Quam vetus signabat umbra,
Clara lucet veritas ;
Pontifex novus secundum
Ordinem, Melchisedech,
Pane, sub vinoque corpus
Dat suum cum sanguine.

Quo creata cuncta verbo
Mira fit mutatio:
Panis in carnem, merumque
In cruorem vertitur
Deficit sen[s]us, sed alta
Roborat mentem fides.

Qui semel Patri cruentam
Obtulit se victimam;
Singulis idem diebus,
Per ministrorum manus,
Rite nostris incruentus
Se sub aris immolat.

Ipsa quin astans sacratis
Sancta plebs altaribus,
Maximo Christum Parenti
Seque cum Christo litat
Carne posthac quam litavit
Et cruore pascitur.

Summa laus Deo Parenti
Qui creavit omnia;
Summa sit Nato redemit
Qui suo nos sanguine ;
Flamini par, cujus almo
Confovemur halitu.

Attribution (and comment by "Walter" for the Latin).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Penance, and its uses

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, of Providence, Rhode Island, has a good article on penance, as a reflection on the penances performed by Pope John Paul II. Toward the end, he provides us with excellent material for a preliminary examination of conscience to detect the sorts of penance that might profit us individually:
So, what are your unhealthy attachments, your obsessions? What hinders your growth in the spiritual life? What should you fast or abstain from? Food and alcohol? Money and material things? Television and technology? Gambling and shopping? Gossip and rumors? Anger and grudges? Unhealthy relationships? -- Bishop Tobin of Providence, RI [Source]
Once we focus on our unhealthy attachments (my own personal opinion about things?) and obsessions, giving them real names, we have a basis for our daily examination of conscience. But we must be truthful with ourselves, and there is no better way to ensure that, than to accuse ourselves of the sins we begin to see in the tribunal of the Sacrament of Penance itself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

To believe the same thing is to not believe a different thing?

The Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) was the fourth ecumenical council, following Nicaea I (AD 325), Constantinople I (AD 381), and Ephesus (AD 431). Below are two selections from its Acta, the first paragraph describing how they recorded the Symbols of Nicaea and Constantinople, the second declaring, after the new declarations regarding the two natures and one person of Christ, that nobody should profess "a different faith" or publish "a different symbol" but this one.
And this have we done with one unanimous consent, driving away erroneous doctrines and renewing the unerring faith of the Fathers, publishing to all men the Creed of the Three Hundred and Eighteen, and to their number adding, as their peers, the Fathers who have received the same summary of religion.  Such are the One Hundred and Fifty holy Fathers who afterwards assembled in the great Constantinople and ratified the same faith.  Moreover, observing the order and every form relating to the faith, which was observed by the holy synod formerly held in Ephesus, of which Celestine of Rome and Cyril of Alexandria, of holy memory, were the leaders, we do declare that the exposition of the right and blameless faith made by the Three Hundred and Eighteen holy and blessed Fathers, assembled at Nice in the reign of Constantine of pious memory, shall be pre-eminent:  and that those things shall be of force also, which were decreed by the One Hundred and Fifty holy Fathers at Constantinople, for the uprooting of the heresies which had then sprung up, and for the confirmation of the same Catholic and Apostolic Faith of ours.
The Creed of the three hundred and eighteen Fathers at Nicaea.
We believe in one God, etc.
Item, the Creed of the one hundred and fifty holy Fathers who were assembled at Constantinople.
We believe in one God, etc.
These things, therefore, having been expressed by us with the greatest accuracy and attention, the holy Ecumenical Synod defines that no one shall be suffered to bring forward a different faith (ἑτέραν πίστιν), nor to write, nor to put together, nor to excogitate, nor to teach it to others. But such as dare either to put together another faith, or to bring forward or to teach or to deliver a different Creed (ἕτερον σύμβολον) to as wish to be converted to the knowledge of the truth, from the Gentiles, or Jews or any heresy whatever, if they be Bishops or clerics let them be deposed, the Bishops from the Episcopate, and the clerics from the clergy; but if they be monks or laymen: let them be anathematized. [Shaff, The Seven Ecumenical Councils, pp. 262-5. (Source)]
They anathematize heterodox faiths and symbols. Does that refer to the formula, or to what the formula expresses?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Professional Ecumenism: Our work here is done.

John Allen of NCR has an interview with Anglican Rev. Ephraim Radner, a professor of theology at the Wycliffe College of the University of Toronto, who is one of those participating in the week-long conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose prefect is Cardinal Walter Kaspar.During that interview he asked Fr. Radner:
Cardinal Walter Kasper in his opening address on Monday said that we are entering an ecumenical phase that may be less exciting but more mature. Do you agree?
I think that’s true, and I think it’s also a challenge. Lots of people know how to do the old stuff … you have a problem, you sit down and talk about it. For instance, the "Joint Declaration on Justification" is viewed as a classic case where the two traditions [Catholics and Lutherans] took a 16th century problem, worked it over, pulled it apart, and realized that they could translate language and concepts and come to a place where it all looks kind of compatible. That’s the notion, "compatible not contradictory." One of the big issues in the cardinal’s book, however, is that with many of these big issues, they’re not totally resolved, and that way of resolving them seems to have run its course.
What exactly has run its course?
This idea of taking concepts, pulling them apart, finding common language that can lie behind all these different methods. The basic notion, to take a completely different example. is what happened in the dialogue between Catholics and Oriental Christians on Christology. Lo and behold, after 1,500 years it turns out it was all a historical misunderstanding. You’re pulling apart culturally conditioned linguistic concepts. [Source]
As an example of what Fr. Radner is talking about in speaking of Oriental Christians, let's take the concept of physis in Greek, translated by the word natura in Latin, and use it to hear the term "transubstantiation". This word was essentially coined by one of the Lateran Councils, and used by it to designate "a change like no other change known to man". When Catholic non-theologians say that Christ becomes present "physically" on the altar, Greek-speakers hear "naturally", which is not what the Catholic intended to say (at least it is not what he should have intended to say); it is not a natural change, and "transubstantiation" was coined to exclude that very idea. From this exchange of "culturally conditioned linguistic concepts" both sides begin to see what the other side has been objecting to, and there is a new mutual understanding. Such new understandings are legitimately described as "compatible not contradictory".

That much I can agree with. I am a metaphysical realist, actually a Thomist, or at least Thomistic (not being a specialist), and I hold that the principle that guarantees the possibility of recognizing agreement or disagreement, is the principle of contradiction itself, and the definition of truth which is adaequatio rei et intellectus, "mutual equality of the intellect's concept and the reality outside the mind". Reality outside the mind includes facts, and "facts are stubborn things" John Adams once told a jury. Proper judgement requires a proper understanding of the facts, and not merely an attempt to dilute doctrinal realities into some kind of mutually agreed upon statements about them. The most important facts the Catholic Church deals with are given to her by Christ, and are not subject to "negotiation". Metaphysical idealists, whether Kantian or Hegelian, not only do not need facts, they believe that we cannot even know reality, so facts themselves, far from being stubborn, are totally malleable, as long as we just keep moving along.

Fr. Radner, echoing Cardinal Kaspar, raises the real issue that has many Catholics perplexed about what we are given to understand "ecumenism" is. "With many of these big issues, they’re not totally resolved, and that way [i.e., the old way] of resolving them seems to have run its course". It seems very clear to me that when one has done all the taking apart, analysis, and there remains no resolution, the parties should be said to be "not in agreement"; in fact, it might be truer to say that the parties actually contradict one another. Perhaps that should be the content of the so-called "ecumenical catechism" spoken about by Cardinal Kaspar: "In the end, we contradicted each other on the following points", followed by the long list of actual doctrines taught down the ages by the Catholic Church which its "ecumenical partners" deny.

And, of course, that catechism should be published, just like all the position statements over the decades have been published.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Angel of Great Counsel II

On January 1, 2010, I posted on this subject. Now I find that Fr. Hunwicke has posted here, on a related subject, and quotes one of the Tractarian fathers as saying,
To the Temple sacrifice is added the perpetual intercession of CHRIST, as the Great Angel of the Covenant (compare the prayer Supplices te rogamus), that is, Christ, presents His petition amidst the smoke which rises from off the altar of gold.
The "mystery" Tractarian is Anglican Priest, Fr. John Mason Neale, well known for his translations of the ancient Latin hymns of the Latin liturgy into English, while retaining almost always the original Latin melody (if that's the right name for it).

Here is Neale's translation of the Sequence Coeli enarrant, written by Godescalcus in about AD 950, for the Feast of the Division of the Apostles which fell on July 15:
The Heavens declare the glory of the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, made Heavens from earth.
For this glory befitteth that LORD alone
Whose Name is the Angel of the Great Counsel.
This Counsel, the assistance of fallen man, is ancient, and profound, and true, made known to the Saints alone,
When this Angel, made Man of a woman, made an immortal out of a mortal; out of men, angels; out of earth, heaven.
This is the LORD GOD of Hosts, Whose angels sent into the earth are the Apostles.
To whom He exhibited Himself alive after His Resurrection by many arguments, announcing peace as the victor of death.
Peace be unto you, saith He; I am He; fear not; preach the word of CHRIST to every creature, before kings and princes.
As the FATHER hath sent Me, even so send I you into the world; be ye therefore prudent as serpents, be ye harmless as doves.
Hence Peter, Prince of Apostles, visited Rome; Paul, Greece, preaching grace everywhere; hence these twelve chiefs in the four quarters of the world, preached as Evangelists the Threefold and the One.
Andrew, either James, Philip, Bartholomew, Simon, Thaddeus, John, Thomas, and Matthew, twelve Judges, not divided from unity, but for unity, collected into one those that were divided through the earth:
Their sound is gone out into all lands.
And their words into the ends of the world.
How beautiful are the feet of them that proclaim good tidings, -- that preach peace;
That speak thus to them that are redeemed by the Blood of CHRIST: Sion, thy GOD shall reign;
Who made the worlds by the Word; Which Word was for us, in the end of the world, made Flesh:
This Word Which we preach, CHRIST crucified, Who liveth and reigneth, GOD in heaven.
These are the Heavens in which, O CHRIST, Thou inhabitest; in whose words Thou thunderest; in whose deeds Thou lightenest; in whose grace Thou sendest Thy dew:
To these Thou hast said: Drop down, O ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One; let the earth be opened and bud.
Raise up a Righteous Branch, Thou Who causest our earth to bring forth, sowing it with the seed of Apostolic words: through whose words grant, O LORD, that we, holding the Word of the FATHER, may bring forth fruit to Thee, O LORD, in patience.
These are the Heavens which Thou, Angel of the great Counsel, inhabitest, Whom Thou callest not servants, but friends; to whom Thou tellest all things that Thou hast heard from the FATHER.
By whose Division mayest Thou preserve Thy flock, collected and undivided, and in the bond of peace; that in Thee we may be one, as with the FATHER Thou art One.
Have mercy on us, Thou that dwellest in the heavens.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Perils of Pseudo-Compassion

Sandro Magister has a very interesting piece here, on a false use of the concept of "compassion" around the world, and even within the Catholic Church, these days. His introductory piece is rather interesting for detailing some recent (2009) controversies at high levels of the Church, after which he publishes an excellent essay by Belgian Fr. Michel Schooyans. All this is a propos of a meeting to be held in Rome next week at the Pontifical Academy for Life:

The meeting promises to be a stormy one. Some of the members of the academy are openly questioning whether Fisichella is fit to be president. Foremost among them is Monsignor Michel Schooyans, Belgian, professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Louvain, a respected specialist in anthropology, political philosophy, bioethics. He is a member of three pontifical academies: for social sciences, of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and – most relevant here – for life. Pope Joseph Ratzinger knows and admires him. In 1997, as cardinal prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, he wrote a preface to one of his books: "L'Évangile face au désordre mondial."
At the end of his well-written review of the use of "bogus compassion" by officials of both society and the Church today, Fr. Schooyans asks a very pointed question:
A delicate, yet inescapable, question remains. Given that, under the conditions described above, Holy Communion is to be refused to a lay person, does the Code of Canon Law impose suspension measures, on the twofold grounds of scandal and heresy, on clergy who publicly express pseudo-compassion for abortionists?

Ooh, la la!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rahnerian Inadequatism: Schlepping heresy into the Catholic Church

I recently read an article which does a good job of outlining the pros and cons with respect to forming a proper Catholic attitude toward the Medjugorje phenomenon. For those interested in that, I refer them to the article itself, which may be found here.

The article consists of an interview, with a German theologian, Fr. Manfred Hauke, professor of dogmatics and patristics at Lugano. What I found most refreshing in reading the interview was not something which the professor said pertaining to Medjugorje, but this:

According to one widespread theory, which goes back to Karl Rahner most prominently, all apparitions are "imaginative visions". According to that theory, the content of the "apparition" has a psychogenic origin, even if it can be made possible by a divine impulse. That is, God does not work in this world immediately, but only through created secondary causes (especially through the human psyche). In other words: whether someone experiences a vision of a "ship's goblin", or of his own stepmother, or of the Virgin Mary depends on the subjective psychological disposition, perhaps on unconscious mental processes, and not on objective circumstances that encounter the person from outside himself. In such a theory the question of authenticity or inauthenticity of Marian apparitions is no longer germane, in the last analysis. Against this, I would stress that to exclude the unmediated intervention of God in this world is intellectually not tenable, because then the original creation out of nothing, which goes back to God alone, would be impossible. Besides this, there are unequivocally witnessed phenomena, in which the content of what was seen comes from an extra-mental experience: for example, in the Marian apparitions at Knock in Ireland in 1879, 15 people saw Mary with other saints, and an altar, in pouring rain; the place where the saints stood remained dry despite the pouring rain. Such an event is not explicable by Rahner's subjectivistic proposal. We must always consider the subjective factor: even in genuine revelations errors can intrude, when human imagination adds something or when a statement is interpreted wrongly. And there is naturally the phenomenon of fantasies of a morbid origin, or the possibility of deception. If both are excluded, standing in the center of the interpretation of apparitions is the evaluation of its extra-mental origin: the intervention of God and heavenly personages, or instead evil forces.
 Finally, theologians are speaking sense again.