Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.

(For what this all means scroll to the bottom of the sidebar.)

VDMA

Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.


Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar.

23 October 2020

Boethius, Terence, Wheel of Fortune. 23 October 2020.

 Festschrift for the feast of St Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, 23 October.


Now whoda thunk that an apparently purely entertainment TV game show actually references one of the more important topics in philosophy, with a history back to ancient Rome and an influence for centuries thereafter, including why there's Lutherans and what we think we're doing here.

It all comes from the Latin phrase "Fortes fortuna adiuvat" which is usually translated "fortune favours the brave" and is generally taken to mean that those who take risks, or at least take action, are going to be luckier, or at least get more results, in life than those who don't.

It was first written by a Roman playwright named Terence, which is also my first name.

There's just a bit more to it than that. First a bit about who that Terence was, then about who this Terence is, then about the famous phrase, what it means and the significance of that.

About Terence, or, My Name Is Terence and I'm a Playwright.

The English name Terence comes from the Roman playwright Terentius. Here's where the fun starts.  Terence is a "first name" in English but Terentius is not a "first name" in Latin. It wasn't my name at birth and it wasn't his at birth either.  And, I am not of the ethnic descent of the people who gave me that name, and he wasn't either.

Here's the deal. The Roman Terence was born around 185 or 195 BC, depending on which ancient source got it right.  He was born in or around Carthage, or possibly to a woman in Greek-speaking Italy (yeah, they spoke more Greek than Latin in Rome back then, it was the cultural language) who was sold into slavery and then taken to in or around Carthage. He himself was sold as a slave to a Roman senator named Publius Terentius Lucanus, who brought him to Rome, gave him an education, and then, apparently impressed with the result, adopted him and freed him, which made him a Roman citizen.  Ancient sources indicate he was lost at sea in 159 B.C., making him either 36 or 26 at the time of his death.

So why do we call him Terence?  Well, Romans actually had three names. First comes the praenomen, which means your first name, or given name as it is called. Second comes the nomen, aka the nomen gentile or sometimes the gentilicium, which by whichever term designates the clan, or gens, from which one came. Third and last comes the cognomen, which designates your family branch, stirps in Latin, among the branches (stirpes) within the clan.  We still use the cognomen term in estate law, where distribution of the estate per stirpes is equal to each branch no matter how many people are in each branch, as opposed to per capita, by head, meaning equal to each individual.  This structure is even older than the Romans, who got it from the Etruscans before them.

But that's Romans, not slaves or kids of slaves who become slaves themselves. Nobody knows what Terentius' birth name was, but it wasn't Terence, sure as hell. His name reflects his status as a Roman citizen, upon being freed. So he took the praenomen Publius, meaning "public", which was one of the relatively few first names, and was also his former master's first name, and took the clan name of his master, Terentius, and for a last name to distinguish his family within the clan, took Afer, since he was not a blood Terentius but from Afer.

Afer, what the hell is that, sounds like Africa. Yeah it does and for good reason. Africa now means the whole continent, but in Terence' lifetime it meant the land of the Libyan tribe the Afri, who hung in and around Carthage, which is in modern Tunisia but was founded as a Phoenician colony in 814 BC, or so the Romans said. But when the Romans trashed Carthage in 146 BC, by which time Terence had been dead several years, the Carthaginians themselves were called Punic, a reference to Carthage's Phoenician origin, and Afri came to mean the Libyan Berbers around them.

So hard telling. He may have been a Berber, although that use of Afri is just a little later than his lifetime.  Or, he may have been Afri, who were descendants of Abraham's grandson Epher, hence the name Afri, according to Titus Flavius Josephus, the great Roman historian.  Btw Josephus was another non-Roman who got a Roman name on being made a Roman citizen, and is there ever a story to that.  Or, Terence may have been none of the above and was who knows what, since when you're a slave you don't get a hell of a lot of choice about where you end up.

Afer as a Roman cognomen meant people who whatever else were from in or around Carthage, but that doesn't clarify whether he was from there originally, and if so was he Afri or something else, or was he something else and got brought there.

So we got a guy whose birth name and people are not known, who was sold as a slave but treated well and educated, and when freed took his former master's praenomen or given name, his clan name, within which he was distinguished by his Carthaginian/Tunisian origins at least with regard to the Roman world.

About Terence, or, My Name Is Terence and I'm a Blogger.

Now, when I was adopted, my new mother wanted to name me Cornelius Steven, but my new dad wanted Terence James. Dad won. Which is unusual twice over. For one thing generally mothers get naming rights, and for another the usual RC practice in those days was to name a kid after one of the saints. So here's my dad naming me after a pagan Roman playwright and the RCC allowed it, and so I was baptised at Holy Name By God Cathedral in Chicago.

My details aren't as murky as the Roman Terence, but here's the thing.  I don't know how it's done now, but in those days after an adoption a birth certificate was rewritten with the adoptive parents as if it were a live birth.  What I have for a baptismal certificate is not the certificate itself, but a signed documents from Holy Name By God Cathedral ("By God" isn't actually in the name, I'm just clowning around, happens from time to time on this blog) dated 1958, probably because we were in Minnesota by then and a parish wanted evidence that I had been baptized.  It says that a baptism was on record for 7 July 1950 and there's my adopted name.  Thing is, according to the court documents, I wasn't placed in my adoptive parents care until later that month, and the adoption and name change wasn't official until February 1951.  So, it may well be that the baptism was re-expressed to reflect my later adoption and name change.  Even God knows better than to mess with Cook County (ok, more clowning around).  But no matter how exactly it happened, I ended up with a non-saint's name, and picked by my dad, both factors unusual at the time.

My adoptive parents were of Irish-American stock, which completes both the irony and the fittingness of the name Terence for me. I learned later, from seeing the adoption papers among my parents' stuff after they died, my original name. Douglas John Clutterham.  The last name is English, from the Suffolk area specifically, making me an Angle by descent, not Irish.

So I get a first name from a guy whose first name it wasn't! Which is OK, you don't hear Publius much these days. And neither that Terence nor this one started out with the name, or came from the people who gave him that name (he wasn't Roman and I ain't Irish), but got names that look like it by, as they say in insurance, major life event. He by being freed from slavery and made a Roman, me by being adopted. I doubt Dad was thinking of all that, but he did know the correct spelling to give me, which, the original being Terentius, is Terence. No double damn r.

Which was totally in tune with what was to come, namely, the great gift of the Christian faith, as revealed in Scripture and accurately confessed in the Book of Concord. Not in not having a saint's name, since there ain't no Saint Douglas either, but in getting Terence.  Luther admired the plays of Terence and quoted them a lot, and thought they were good for kids to learn in their educational formation.

Ain't that a kick? My first Lutheran pastor once said -- not sure if he was joking or not -- that my growing up in Minnesota and going to a Bavarian Benedictine founded school and picking up German and the whole German thing was God's way of getting me to be ready to be Lutheran, so I could lapse into German when ranting. But right there at the RC origins, I was given the name of a Roman playwright Luther admired!

About the Saying, or, What the Translations Can't Translate.

Now to the phrase itself. I think I learnt it "Fortuna fortes adiuvat". OK, "adiuvat" is the verb and verbs go at the end of a sentence in Latin, so at least that part's right. It means "helps" or "assists" or "aids", and you can see it in the English word "adjutant", which means a helper, or assistant, or aide. So what's "fortes"? It's the direct object of the verb, the one helped or assisted or aided, and means "the brave" or "the strong", and you can see it in the English word "fortitude" for courage aka guts or grit.

So, the generally accepted Latin form is "fortes fortuna adiuvat" and the generally accepted English translation is "fortune favours the brave".  It was widely used as a proverb and first appears in a play by Terence, namely, in line 203 of Phormio. End of story? Oh hell no.

For one thing, the first of many, some Latin scholars contend that it should be fortis fortuna adiuvat. Huh? Well, Latin is an inflected language, which means that the function of words is shown by differences in how the word ends rather than by prepositions cluttering things up and word order as in English. These differences are classified into typical uses of words, called cases, and direct objects, which are that to which the action of the verb is applied, go in what is called the accusative case.

Some say that while "fortes" is the usual ending of the word in the plural accusative in Latin generally, in Terence's time  --  which was 195 or 185 to 159, which was the era of the Roman Republic, before the Roman Empire -- the accusative plural was then fortis, not fortes, and so in his play it's actually fortis fortuna adiuvat. The Latin texts available online give it both ways.

The next thing is, fortes literally means the strong, as in physically powerful, not the brave, but just like "strength" itself, the word took on a figurative meaning of brave or courageous from the associated connotation of those characteristics with the physically strong.  Like we may say "Be strong" meaning to man up and get through it rather than start working out. So that makes it literally "fortune favours the strong".

Now to the verb. "Favours" is a little different than "aids" or "assists". "Favours" is more a general reference to your overall chances, but "aids" or "assists" or "helps" means that someone or something is actually actively helping or assisting you. That's a real big difference, and that's where "fortuna" comes in. The word is obviously the root of the English words "fortune", "fortunately" and the like, but while now it's like random chance or good luck or something like that, in Latin and to the ancient Romans it wasn't just that, it was the goddess Fortuna who was in charge of that.

So altogether, that makes it more like the goddess "Fortuna helps the strong".

That was a real big deal. Fortuna's sacred day was 11 June.  The cult of Fors Fortuna (hey, there's that "strong" thing again) was found all over the Roman world and was a festival on 24 June.   Fortuna was known as Tyche to the Greeks, from whom the Romans took much of their original state religion, and Fortuna, as Tyche, was all over the Greek world before the Roman world. The Roman name comes from Vortumna, which means "she who spins the year" and if you're paying attention, there you go with a "wheel of fortune".

But, just like with the saying from Terence, wheel of fortune isn't all there is to it. It's rota Fortuna in Latin, not just wheel of fortune, but the wheel of the goddess Fortune.  As she spins the year what happens to you during the year shakes out. Thing is though, you don't get to buy any damn letters to move things in your, uh, favour, so instead, you'd better hit her temple and make her happy, or, you might just say she's a fickle whore who does what she damn well pleases anyway so who cares about her temple. Both opinions and behaviours were common in the ancient world.

About Augustine's Answer, or, So What?

Now is this just some more musty old stuff from Past Elder? Hey, why do you think books with titles like "Purpose Driven Life", "Your Best Life Now" and are best sellers for years? Why do you think people say "shit happens"? Judas H Priest, the whole question of whether life is just a bunch a random stuff that happens without any meaning or any ability to change it much and then you die, or, does it have a meaning, maybe even a reason or purpose, and you can get in there and affect it, has been bugging Mankind since there's been Mankind. It's the biggest question of all -- Why?

So we've got the wheel of the goddess Fortuna, and the original Wheel of Fortune, Rota Fortuna. As she spins the wheel, bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, stuff just seems to happen, and here we are wondering if there's any rhyme or reason to it, to life. A lot people still wonder that about life.

Terence's phrase became a commonplace saying and had been used and/or quoted by heavyweights of Roman literature. Pliny uses it in his Epistles (don't freak, no lost works of the Bible here, just means "letters"). Cicero referred to it as a proverb. Virgil used it in the Aeneid (Book Ten, Line 284) as audentis fortuna iuvat. Audentis is where English gets audacity, audacious, etc, iuvat is just plain helps, the "ad" intensifies the intention toward (that's what "ad" is, toward) someone, so you get the idea. And Ovid topped that in his Metamorphoses (10/86), saying not just Fortuna but God himself helps the bold. Well OK he actually wrote audentes deus ipse iuvat, I translated.

Another guy from Carthage, good old Augustine, took Fortune on in De civitaitis Dei contra Paganos (On the City of God Against the Pagans). Gus wrote The City of God right after the Visigoths trashed Rome in 410. The Romans were wondering if maybe that sacking happened because of two things.  One, thirty years before, the state abandoned the traditional Roman religion for the new state Catholic Church that was established by the co-emperors Theodosius in the East and Gratian and Valentinian II in the West issuing the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380.  Two, the new Imperial religion then launched a destruction of the sites and institutions of the old Imperial religion (details in the next section). As part of making the case that this is was not the cause, Gus says Fortune, since she brings good things to good and bad people alike, is unworthy of worship.  That's his answer to why good things happen to bad people I guess, along with why abandoning the traditional religion didn't bring down the whole damn Empire.

About What Sets Up Another Answer, or, Everything Falls Apart.

But Boethius, writing over a century later, about 524, as he was waiting to be executed, took a different slant on Fortuna. Holy crap, executed -- for what? Well, more Goths, this time of the Ostro kind. Visigoths were from what is now Spain, Ostro or East Goths were from the Balkans.

The Western Roman Empire was gone by 524.  The last Western Emperor, Romulus Augustus, had been deposed by Odoacer, a non-Roman Roman officer of uncertain origin though his name is Germanic, on 4 September 476. Odoacer's army proclaimed him the first "King of Italy" though he was a "barbarian". At first the Roman Senate thought it would be fine to just continue under the remaining of the two Roman Emperors, the Eastern one, Zeno at the time. Zeno made Odoacer a Patrician but also thought he should restore emperor Julius Nepos, whom Romulus Augustus had overthrown. Well actually his father Orestes, Julius Nepos' military chief of staff (magister militum) overthrew him, then named him emperor.

Odoacer declined to do so, and as his power increased, Zeno determined to get rid of him and promised Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, that he and the Ostrogoths could have Odoacer's Italian kingdom if they would get rid of him. Theodoric and Odoacer's forces slugged it out all over Italy. Now both these guys were Arian Christians btw, not the kind still around. Anyway, a treaty was signed and a celebration arranged, at which Theodoric proposed a toast then killed Odoacer personally. And that's the real story of the real "Dietrich von Bern". (OK you Lutherans oughta be laughing like hell right now, if not, go read the preface to the Large Catechism.)

Which far from being a "useless story" here shows that the century between Augustine and Jerome, both of whom we saw in recent posts on each's feast days, and Boethius, was one hell of a century.  Here's a timeline of the major events Rome did replacing its traditional religion with its new Catholic Church.

380, the Roman Empire both East and West constituted the Catholic Church and made it the state religion on 27 February with the Edict of Thessalonica; Damasus, pope after killing supporters of a rival, is proclaimed to have the true faith from Peter, emperor Gratian refuses title of pontifex maximus, head of the state Roman religion, established by Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome, elected by the Senate after the death of the first king and co-founder of Rome (21 April 753 BC) Romulus.  The Babylonian Captivity of the Church begins.
382, Jerome called to Rome to help Damasus, then run out of town after Damasus dies.
390, the Roman Empire destroys the Temple of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi.
391, the Roman Empire destroys the Serapeum and Great Library of Alexandria.
392, the Roman Empire ends the Eleusinian Mysteries after 2,000 years.
393, the Roman Empire ends the Olympic Games for Zeus, begun 776 BC, after that year's games.
394, the Eastern Empire crushes classic Roman resistance to the Catholic Church on 6 September at the Battle of The Frigidus.
394, the Roman Empire disbands the Temple of Vesta, established by Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome (715-673 BC), and puts out its eternal flame.
395, Augustine becomes Bishop of Hippo.
410, the Visigoths under Alaric sacked Rome on 24 August.
420, Jerome died on 30 September.
430, Augustine died on 28 August at 75.
455, Rome was sacked again this time by the Vandals.
476, Romulus Augustus was deposed becoming the last Western Roman Emperor on 4 September by Germanic foederati (non-Roman allies) of Rome under Odoacer.
475 to 480, somewhere in there, Boethius was born.

The entire world these guys knew changed completely during these decades. Jerome himself said of it, that the city which had conquered the world had now itself been conquered. Augustine and Jerome lived at the end of the Western Roman Empire, which is also to say at the end of the full Roman Empire, either divided into East and West or undivided, whereas Boethius never knew that and was born right about the time the last Western Roman Emperor was deposed leaving only the Eastern Roman Empire.

As the Western Roman Empire approached its end, at the same time as its state Catholic Church was busy destroying the institutions of the classic Roman religion, its theologians were busy incorporating and synthesising the state church's faith with classic Roman philosophy -- which religion and philosophy were derived from ancient Greece before them -- and the bishop of Rome increasingly became a symbol of stability that the emperor of Rome no longer was.

Goes like this. "Pope" Leo himself met with no less than Attila the Hun in 452 and averted a sacking by the Huns, due to the grace of God.  Well, the one helluva lot of gold he brought along to buy them off mighta helped too.  Then on 2 June 455 he met with Genseric, King of the Vandals, trying to repeat his performance with Attila, which this time did not prevent a sacking but did hold its severity down somewhat with less physical destruction than the Goths did in 410.

But the Vandals, like the Goths Germanic types who were Arian Christians and who by then were operating out of North Africa, made off with so much loot, and people to be sold as slaves, that it became legendary, and centuries later, the religious and social order destruction following the French Revolution was described as "vandalisme" by the bishop of Blois Henri Gregoire in 1794, the year the Reign of Terror ended, which quickly became a name for any notable destruction -- vandalism.

It is right here that the doctrine of "Petrine" supremacy becomes established. Petrine, what the hell is that?  Nothing to do with St Peter, but with the popes, the bishops of Rome, who had come from being proclaimed by the Roman Empire as conservators of the true Apostolic faith in 380 to just 70-some years later meeting with leaders of powers about to kick Rome's butt. But in the face of that oncoming destruction Leo asserted a religious authority complementary to his civil influence, with the bishop of Rome assuming the significance of the long-gone undivided emperor of Rome, the last emperor of an undivided Roman Empire being Diocletian, who retired (about the only one to do so without being killed into retirement) 1 May 305.

So from an edict issued during the reign of the last Roman Emperor of both the Eastern and Western Empire, Theodosius in 380, Leo just decades later harks back to the last Roman Emperor of an undivided Roman Empire. Just as "Rome" became more a concept than a place as new imperial seats of power (Trier, Milan, etc) emerged, as Herodian put it "Rome is where the Emperor is" (OK that's an English translation of his Latin words), so now Rome asserts itself as the seat of power, and not just a concept, and that is where Peter is, meaning Peter's supposed successor the bishop of Rome, and he heads the whole Christian church, with the heads of local churches valid insofar as they are "in communion" with him.

None of which has the faintest justification in Scripture, but when the entire world about you is swirling down the tubes politically and culturally it looks pretty good, and when this pontifex maximus, now the Roman pope rather than the Roman emperor, is about all that's left it looks damn good. Unfortunately it still looks damn good to many looking for the Kingdom of God to have the same external signs of visibility and continuity as a Kingdom or State of Man.

About Boethius' Answer, or, So What Revisited?

Theodoric, though Germanic, was interested in keeping the culture and institutions of the Roman Empire going, and appointed Boethius his Master of Offices (magister officiorum), the head of the government bureaucracy. Theodoric was educated in Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Empire, and kind of worked out a deal where the defeated Romans could continue their thing under his rule while the Goths continued the Goth thing. As part of this, Theodoric, though an Arian Christian, was pretty favourable toward the Pope, head of the Catholic Church, about the only major institution of the Roman Empire in the West to survive. Theodoric was effectively but unofficially the new Western Roman Emperor.

Boethius, a Roman, was a Trinitarian, or Nicene, Christian, which is to say Christian in the usual sense now, and eventually Theodoric, an Arian Christian, came to distrust him, thinking he might be more in sympathy with the effective AND official emperor of the surviving Eastern Roman Empire, then Justin, also a Nicene Christian. So he ordered him tried and executed for treason. Thing is, while he is awaiting execution, he writes this book, one of the most influential books ever, and for some time THE most influential book in philosophy, as a consolation, but it's not the Consolation of Christianity but the Consolation of Philosophy. Well, De consolatione philosophiae, actually. Christianity is never mentioned or treated by name, but it sounds a lot like Christianity, and that's because since Augustine Christianity sounded a lot like Plato.

The basic idea of the Consolation is pure Platonism -- even if everything looks like it's going right straight to hell it ain't. Now you might say well hell, don't Christians believe that too?  Yes they do but with a different idea about why that is. For Christians it's not just a matter of an ideal world that is truly real beyond the mess we see here, old Fortuna spinning her wheel in what appears to be real.

But Boethius, and this is typical of everything about him, blended Christianity and Roman/Greek philosophy to-gether, so that while Fortuna may indeed spin her wheel, apparently at random and pretty much indifferent to the results, nonetheless, distinct from Gus' take that therefore she is unworthy of worship, she is herself subject to God and her effects and any other such effects all bend to the unseen plan of God, so it's all good even when it looks like pure crap. So the Consolation is kind of like the Book of Esther, in which as the rabbis pointed out God is not mentioned yet he is everywhere present in it.

Boethius was on a mission, and the mission was, to pass on the learning and wisdom of the Greek/Roman world falling apart in his time to the new world that would emerge from it. So he translated into the new language of learning, Latin, the great works of classic learning in Greek.

Specifically, he attempted to pass on the system for organising and teaching knowledge outlined in his book De arithmetica.  You may have heard of this system, it's the Seven Liberal Arts.  And within that system, for example, he attempted to pass on the three-fold division of one of those arts, called musica --  but, musica means a hell of a lot more than we do by "music".  What we mean by music was the lowest of three levels of it and best left to the uneducated. All that stuff was the subject of my doctoral dissertation, and a lot of it is summarised in the post "Readin, Writin and Absolute Multitude" posted in February on this blog.

What's "absolute multitude" and didn't I mean arithmetic?  I ain't gonna tell you here since it's in the post and no I didn't mean arithmetic, which too was more than the word means now.  Well hell, you didn't think the future Past Elder was gonna write another music theory dissertation in which some obscure piece or musical relationship is analysed into further obscurity while putting everyone who isn't into such things, which is nearly everyone, to bloody sleep, now did you? Hell no.

You can read a rather good summary about Boethius by "Pope" Benedict XVI, given at a general audience on 12 March 2008, here.

Boethius succeeded in his mission. His works would form the backbone of the learning system for centuries in the new world that emerged from the ancient. The Consolation was one of the bedrocks of education and formation for hundreds and hundreds of years to come. King Alfred of old England, Chaucer, and Queen Elizabeth (not the current one, the first one) all translated it, it's all over Dante and Chaucer's original works, Shakespeare too, and students read and studied The Consolation for a thousand years after.

About Time, or, Conclusion.

Ironic, isn't it, that Theodoric, the non-Roman Arian Christian Germanic type who became effectively the new Roman Emperor, in the West anyway, and Boethius, the Roman Nicene Christian that Theodoric had executed for suspected Eastern sympathies, were both concerned that Roman, and thus classical Greek along with it, learning and culture survive into the new world just beginning to emerge from the destruction of the Western Roman Empire.

They succeeded.

The Eastern Roman Empire survived until it fell to the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1453. Whereupon the Russian regime of Ivan III (no, not the "Terrible", that was Ivan IV, his grandson) of the Grand Principality of Moscow took up the mantle: Czar, or Tsar, is a Russianisation of "Caesar", Ivan married the niece (Sophia Palaiologina) of the last Eastern Roman Emperor (Constantine XI), and Moscow established itself as the "Third Rome".  The state church of the Roman Empire survives in the East in the various churches known as Eastern Orthodoxy.  I might mention that the Eastern Roman double-headed eagle, adopted by the Russian Empire, survives in the coat of arms of the Russian Federation, after an interruption by the Soviet Union.  Then again, I might not.

In the West, the state church of the Roman Empire survives in what is known as, though this is not its actual name, the Roman Catholic Church. It would be joined by what its participants understood to be a transfer of rule, translatio imperii in Latin, of the authority of the Roman Empire in what would later become known as the Holy Roman Empire, sacrum romanum imperium in Latin, which survived until Napoleon dissolved it in 1806.

As the Empire was falling apart and the Western Empire fell in 476, the idea that this fall happened because of abandoning traditional Roman religion for the then 96-year-old state Catholic Church was so prominent that, as we saw above, Augustine wrote a huge volume generally known in English as The City of God to say that wasn't so.

It was so.

Not as a matter of the truth or falsity of any religion.  Believe what one will about why it happened, there is no disputing that it did happen that:
1) in the West, although the translatio imperii is defined in terms of political entities, these entities brought with them the culture and learning evolving through the Romans since the ancient Greeks, and this survived and grew throughout the Holy Roman Empire, and
2) in the East, though the Eastern Empire survived nearly a thousand years after the Western, it fell to the Islamic Ottoman culture and the mantle passed to Russia.

The Roman Empire did not survive the abandonment of its traditional religion for its then-new state church, but its state church did survive the loss of the Empire, and around it, both East and West, new entities carried on the culture and learning.  This is why Boethius' answer is to be preferred over Augustine's, which is actually no answer at all.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great orator and statesman of the Roman Republic, once said "Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum."  Yeah, yeah, what does this mean?  To not know what happened before one was born, that is to be always a child (boy, actually), that's what it means.  Godfrey once said to me that institutions have memories too, and an institution that loses its memory functions much like a person who does -- institutional Alzheimer's.

We ourselves are products of an evolution of culture and learning that came to-gether in ancient Greece and matured in Rome.  But here's the thing -- while much is made of the Roman Empire, the culture and learning that it passed on was largely matured in the Roman Republic.  Cicero, that great champion of republican Rome, saw an empire coming and tried to articulate republican values against it.  He was proscribed by the new regime, captured and executed on 7 December 43 B.C.  What he feared was exactly what came to pass.  The Empire had the culture and learning of the Republic, but traded the dignity and freedom of the Republic for a strong custodian state that would take care of everything.  The transition was clear enough that just a few decades into the Empire, Juvenal wrote satires decrying what was lost, including the famous warning, Who guards the guardians?  (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, Juvenal, Satire VI, lines 347/8)  The Roman Empire was distinctly un-Roman, as was and is the state Roman church it founded some three centuries later that would survive the Empire.

New entities emerged, that like the Empire had the culture and learning but within had quite un-Roman political structures.  Now comes the difference for us.  The outcome of the world war that began just over one hundred years ago in 1914 brought an end to the last remnants of those political entities that continued the evolution of classic culture and learning.  We are now in a period much like those which followed both the fall of the Western Empire.  Comparisons of the present with "the Fall of Rome" are often made.  But which Fall of Rome?  Generally the comparisons refer to the fall of the Western Empire in 476.  But as we have seen with all this Boethius stuff, there's the fall of the Western reconstitution of the Western Empire as the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and then fall of spin-off empires still within its world order in WWI, and the fall of the Eastern Empire in 1476, and before all that the real Fall of Rome, the fall of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire, which gave to itself and all later "Romes" a distinctly unRoman character.

The difference now is, whether that culture and learning will continue in the order which is still emerging one hundred some years later after the fall of the remnants of that world order in WWI is yet to be seen.  The 20th Century saw two of the most disruptive regimes in all of human history, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and an even worse world war after the first one that was supposed to "end all wars" but didn't and only led to worse wars.  Win the war, lose the peace.  Even now our headlines are daily full of events from states imposed on what is now called the Middle East after the first, and in the case of Israel, second, world war.

More than just the incomplete chronology at this point, the real difference is that where before, in the transition from Republic to Empire and from Empire to resurrected Empire, the new entities were at pains to preserve the learning and culture from before, even within structures that are foreign to it, now no transition or transfer is sought, but rather, peace to many is characterised by a full scale retreat from, and ignorance of, and more recently outright rejection of, the culture and learning that went before, seeing it as part of the package that was the problem, and from which we have moved on.  Is that moving on, or cultural Alzheimer's? And, an Alzheimer's that mistakes its condition for Progress, when in fact it is just as Cicero said, always to be a child.  And due to the technological advances in its toys, much like a child with a loaded pistol.

The Wheel of Fortune was, and endures as, an allegory. You can get all hung up in why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people and whether there's anything to life but a bunch of stuff that happens and then you die, but what you gotta see is that the wheel keeps on turning. Big wheel keeps on turning, proud Mary keeps on burning, just like Tina Turner said. Things change, and you can't get all hung up on one point in the process. The mighty fall, the lowly rise. Riding high in April, shot down in May, like the Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon song written for Sinatra says. (Hey, that song made it into the Tony Hawk video game Underground 2.)

Stay in the process, not one point of it, and that applies equally to when things look good as to when things look bad. You can't put your trust in any one point in the process, whether you like that point or not, because the process is gonna keep right on processing. There ain't no Fortuna, and the process itself ain't God either. And just like Boethius -- not to mention St Paul -- said, there is a God and while things aren't all good all things do work to-gether for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Fortune does favour the brave. And as Ovid tweaked it, God himself's gonna help ya. Except Ovid didn't know how. None of us (Mankind) does, did, or can, which is why the whole life thing bugs us so much and we come up with all sorts of answers to it. But God himself helps you with finding out how he's gonna help you too. He reveals it, first in the Law of Moses, then in the Gospel, or Good News, of Jesus Christ. The wheel stops there even if it keeps on turning in the world. Sooner or later the world is gonna stop too. But the good news is, you're free even when you remain here, Jesus paid your price on the cross for your disconnect with the "wheel", he gives you new life in him in Baptism, his Law and Gospel are proclaimed to you in preaching by the Office of Holy Ministry, and he gives you his body and blood in Holy Communion that he gave for you at Calvary as his sure pledge of that.

Besides, Vanna is way better looking than any representation I ever saw of Fortuna. I wasn't thinking about it at the time, but it's kind of a wild ride that a guy who doesn't start out with the name Terence says something that leads right into Boethius, the major force in the intellectual transition from the ancient world to the modern one, then, as the postmodern one is emerging from that, another guy who doesn't start out with the name Terence becomes a Philosophiae doctor writing about it for the postmodern world.

So take it from Terence, either one  --  Fortuna fortes adjuvat. (Yeah I know I wrote adiuvat above but since I'm saying it as I remember being taught it, I'll write it in closing with the spelling more common to ecclesiastical Latin as I was taught to write and pronounce it.) But more importantly, take it from God how that works out, as he revealed it to us in the Law and Gospel of Scripture, and accurately confessed in the Book of Concord.

10 October 2020

Hold Fast To Hype. 11 October 2020.

 Preface.

It is fitting indeed and just, right and helpful unto salvation -- oh wait, not that kind of preface, but it is dignum et justum to say I did not write what follows this preface. It is an article by Patrick Marrin of the National Catholic Reporter, with copyright given. It is, or at least was, also published online here. I am posting the text, typos and all.  The article refers to an accompanying story, and that is also given.  The accompanying story is an address given by Godfrey Diekmann OSB in 1997.

Who is that and why should I care?  Godfrey was a leading figure, both in the movements in the decades before Vatican II that led up to it, and at Vatican II itself where he was a peritus.  What's that?  "peritus" in Latin means skilled or expert, and in church usage it's a noun meaning an expert in theology appointed by the Vatican Secretary of State to attend and advise a church council.

It was my inestimable privilege to have known Godfrey, a stunning accomplishment of the human spirit and a professor and Benedictine extraordinaire, even if he was, IMHO, wrong about damn near everything.  I'm actually much more in awe of his much lesser known brother, Father Conrad, whose World Lit I class (Homer, the Greek tragedians, Virgil, Dante and Cervantes, I suppose to-day we would say Western Lit I, though Conrad also offered a wonderful class on haiku which I also took), though at 0800 on Minnesota Winter mornings, was among the singular experiences of my life.

Father Godfrey was born into eternity on 22 February 2002.  There's some real irony here.  Godfrey was a champion of "collegiality" and 22 February, in the new order to which Godfrey was such an influence, is now in the Roman Calendar the Feast of the Chair of St Peter.  I suppose it might have been fitting etc. to post this on that date.  Formerly, 18 January was the Feast of the Chair of Peter at Rome and 22 February was the Feast of the Chair of Peter at Antioch.  The novus ordo abolished the former and combined it with the latter.

Either way though, it's all about chairs, as in seats of authority.  Yet our beloved synod, ever ready to engage in Vatican II for Lutherans, in its current worship book reinvents the 18 January date as being about the confession of St Peter and ignores the 22 February date, though that is the date traditionally associated with St Peter delivering his confession!  This blog disentangles the well-intended but misguided the story of these feasts on that date, along with much else that comes from it, in the post "22 February.  The Confession of St Peter.  On Chairs, Guardians, Noble Lies and Pious Fictions Too."

So, 22 February is taken with much bigger stuff than Godfrey's dies natalis.  And actually it is even more fitting to post this on 11 October, the anniversary of the opening of Vatican II in 1962.  That was my original intent when this post was first created in 2019.  But, on 1 October 2019 I took a bad fall in the rain, with injury to the right shoulder, at first expected to heal with immobilization but examination by an orthopaedist revealed more extensive damage requiring a hemiarthroplasty, which was done 10 October 2019.  So I was a bit taken up at the time.  

So instead I posted it on 4 December.  Why then?  Well, that was in 1963 the promulgation date of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which is the document of Vatican II most directly affecting not just Catholics but non-Catholics as well, particularly those like ourselves (LCMS) who historically retain liturgy.  It is this document that both summed up the drift of the preceding decades of the "liturgical movement" and resulted in a wholesale change to the previous liturgy in the promulgation of what is often called the novus ordo, though that is not its actual name.  

Liturgical rites are named for the pope under whose authority they are promulgated, thus, it is the Mass of Paul VI.  He promulgated it on 3 April 1969 and it was to take effect with the beginning of the church year, the First Sunday of Advent, of that year, but, he was so unhappy with the text prepared for it that that didn't happen until a revision came out the following year, which is why one sees both 1969 and 1970 as its date.  2019 was its 50th anniversary.

Novus ordo means "new order" in Latin, which though that is not its name describes exactly what it is, a new order.  The bumbling around its initial appearance is but openers for no end of bumbling around in the decades since, which continues unabated to the present re both its Latin typical text and translations thereof.  The only thing that Magnum Principium, "The Great Principle" in Latin, Pope Francis' document of 3 September 2017, really clarifies is that bumbling around following Vatican II is now the irreversible norm of the Catholic Church.  The extent to which this bumbling around is completely antithetical to the reforms of the Lutheran Reformation is detailed in this blog's post for 25 June, the anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession.

I would not now give a ginger snap -- or, in the magnificent phrase now nearly entirely absent from usage, a popefig -- about all this except for its woeful effect on Lutherans, distancing them (ie, us) from their heritage as it has with Catholics, all the while presenting a pastiche that looks traditional superficially but in reality is an intentional break with the very tradition it claims to renew.  There's more to tradition than wearing vestments, following a church-approved order and talking about Jesus.  Both the article and the accompanying story are expressly clear about something I heard daily in those heady days, that this is a real and intended break yet one that is not really a break at all, but a return to and a renewal of something that had been increasingly obscured in the last millennium and a half.

Sounds a lot like an acknowledgement of what we call the Babylonian Captivity of the Church and the Reformation, doesn't it?  Yes, it does.  I refer the reader again to this blog's post for 25 June for a fuller discussion; here, I present an interview with and address by one of the architects of both the council and its new liturgy, then following that, the main points which show this to be quite something different than what we are about.  The opening address of the council on 11 October 1962, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia (Mother Church Rejoices) ought well be retrospectively re-titled Lacrimat Mater Ecclesia (Mother Church Weeps), which will be the title of our examination of Mr Marrin's article, and the "accompanying story", which follows.   

Diekmann says hold fast to hope - Vatican II figure Godfrey Diekmann

Vatican II participant appeals for restored priorities, transformed lives

Vatican II, regarded by some as one of the most revolutionary councils in church history, is now the subject of video retrospectives and historical overviews that pronounce who won, or where the pendulum has come to rest. If anyone is watching or reading, the easiest verdict is that the council is fading in both time and influence, its prophets either gone or all but silent.

With at least one notable exception.

Even at 90, Benedictine Fr. Godfrey Diekmann carries his 6-foot-3-inch frame straight and tall behind the aluminum walker he is pushing swiftly down the long monastic corridor at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. His face -- large, sculpted and serene -- glows above his black turtleneck.

He is a man on a final mission, made all the more urgent by a doctor's verdict last August that he could die or be incapacitated at any moment by a, host of heart troubles that have left him too fragile for any further medical remedy.

Diekmann, regarded by many as one of the giants of the American church and a key participant in the work of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), has been using his borrowed time since Benedict August to reassert that the most important goal of the Second Vatican Council was to recover for everyone full and confident access to an intimate life with God through Jesus Christ. The key to opening up the institutional church to this life was to restore an understanding of the church as the body of Christ. This single reform held revolutionary implications for every aspect of the church's governance, worship, spirituality and mission. (See accompanying story.)

The body of Christ

For Diekmann this is no worn cliche but Christianity's best-kept secret, a startling revelation conveyed in the prayer offered daily during the preparation of the wine at Mass: "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."

In his 63 years teaching patristics -- the rich treasury of writings from the first centuries of the church -- Diekmann has struggled to convey to his students the meaning of the patristic adage: "He became human that we might become divine."

"My main point in teaching was to make my students realize what Christianity is -- that it's not just being good with the grace of God helping us, but it means real transformation, that you are sharing the divine nature. This must be taken seriously.

"What does it mean to say that we are members of the body of Christ?" Diekmann asked. "It means that in some absolute, almost contradictory way, we are sons and daughters of God, and not just as a figure of speech. The very fact that we casually keep on talking about being adopted children of God is proof that obviously we don't have the faintest idea what this is about, because adopted, by itself, in present usage, can only mean a matter of the law.

"We acknowledge that Christ, of course, is the tree Son of God. But we are now also tree sons and daughters of God, but by a gift -- by adoption -- and this is actually sharing the life of God. That is a staggering thing, and for many Catholics it is completely new."

For Diekmann, these "glad tidings" so exceed the claims of ordinary religion, are so stunning in their implications, even theologians fail to comprehend them. The language of Western philosophy has never been able to adequately express what the Eastern church has always celebrated through symbol, music and ritual in its liturgy, Diekmann said.

For all the controversy that swirled about Vatican II, this is what it was basically about -- to re-animate the church and its members as the body of Christ.

Diekmann believes that we cannot overstate the importance of this restored ecclesiology and must not allow it to languish. It was the soul of the 40-year pastoral liturgical movement that helped prepare the church for the Vatican Council, and it is the one image of the church that has the power, lacking in other images, to inspire us to embrace the gospel's call to become participants in the life of God.

Resistance to the council

The main source of conflict during and after Vatican II was that the ecclesiology being displaced, a highly centralized and hierarchical model based on Robert Bellarmine's image of the church as a "perfect society," was well entrenched in 1959 when Pope John XXIII surprised everyone by convening the council.

The pre-Vatican II church most older Catholics remember, enshrined by the Council of Trent in 1563 and bolstered by Vatican I in 1870, was a proud if isolated medieval cathedral/fortress at the height of its triumphalist stature. The Catholic church was the oldest, largest, wealthiest, authoritarian institutional religion on earth. For many, it was also divinely ordained, infallible and changeless.

Diekmann shares the view held by many church historians that such a structure was rooted not in the New Testament but in Emperor Constantine's decision in 313 to advance Christianity as the state religion. The church went from being a countercultural force and catalyst to being guardian of the status quo. Bishops became territorial, or diocesan, governors, a corruption of their original servant roles and a blow to collegiality, or shared authority among all bishops. "From the time of Constantine until Vatican II, you had an uninterrupted development of clericalism and centralization," Diekmann said. By unplugging this ecclesiology, the Catholic church set a bold precedent for institutional change worldwide.

The laity, the Catholic church's now nearly 1 billion adherents, had the most to gain by the council's recognition that baptism entitles every member of the church to "conscious, full and active participation" in the worship and life of the church. Every Christian shares in the risen life and redemptive activity of Christ -- priest, prophet and king -- through the use of his or her own charisms.

Diekmann recalls the speech given by Cardinal Leo Suenens during the council on the charisms flowing from baptism: "Each one by baptism has his own charism and contributes something to the church, first of all to the local church, or ecclesia, to which you belong, and then to the entire church. In God's plan you are indispensable. This is terribly important -- the importance of laity of themselves."

The idea of lay charisms was little understood at the time of Suenens' speech in the 1960s, even as the idea of the body of Christ was rejected by some in the 1920s as too dangerous, too much like the Protestant idea of the "priesthood of the faithful."

While many council reforms are coming more slowly than supporters had hoped, Diekmann the historian believes in taking the long view. What the council adopted in principle still needs to be fully implemented: "But the momentum of 1,600 years cannot be reversed in a mere generation," Diekmann cautioned. "The doctrinal foundations have been firmly placed by Vatican II, and, contrary to increasingly pessimistic evaluations, the substructures of renewal are being placed, often by trial and error if not by official initiative."

Even apparent crisis and controversy can be interpreted positively. The shortage of ordained clergy, for example, has opened the way for non-ordained men and women to serve as parish administrators and has prompted creative extensions of the sacramental work of Christ through lay leadership and outreach. Diekmann said he is joyful in the freedom of the Spirit evident in such adaptive situations. He points to early church writings as an untapped treasury of solutions and models for today's needs. The revolution will continue; there is no turning back. The full application of Vatican II's vital ecclesiology will come because it is the will of the Holy Spirit.

Astonishing series of miracles

Diekmann's confidence is rooted in his own experience at Vatican II, where he served as a member of the preparatory commission for the document on the liturgy. The council was for him and many other witnesses an astonishing series of miracles -- unforeseen events, opportune moments, dramatic interventions and come-from-behind victories that advanced the daring new ecclesiology, first in the liturgy document, then into the debate on the nature of the church itself.

One Protestant observer and close friend of Diekmann, the late Albert Outlet of Southern Methodist University, expressed amazement at the council's dramatic reversal of 1,600 years of church history: "My conviction is that never before in the entire history of Christianity has there been such an obvious intervention of the Holy Spirit as there has been here," Outlet said.

There were setbacks as well. The one Diekmann regards as doing the most damage to the intended impact of the council was the misapplied emphasis given to the phrase "the people of God" in the aftermath of the council.

An Old Testament designation, the phrase was used as the title of Chapter Two of the "Constitution on the Church," and there only to indicate that the whole church is more important than any one part, including the pope or the bishops. Unfortunately, it was later received widely as the operative image for the church, supplanting the body of Christ.

This led to de-emphasis of the most important message flowing from the council. The bold assertion of divine life through baptism, real incorporation into God's own nature, was conveyed as only a special closeness to God within the fellowship of the church. What the council had powerfully proclaimed it failed to effectively teach.

Liturgical buzzword

The idea of fellowship, or koinonia, became the buzzword of many liturgical reformers eager to replace the formal, vertical, divine worship in the old liturgy with the new, theologically horizontal and less formal celebration of a meal with the human Jesus in community. The result was a false evaluation of the transcendent and immanent dimensions of the liturgy. The former emphasis on transcendence became a one-sided stress on immanence -- we become pals with God. Both dimensions are essential. This misunderstanding created divisions within the reform effort and became a source of untold confusion and criticism in the wake of the council, and this has continued to distract and delay implementation of its deeper purposes.

For now, Diekmann is less interested in arguing than in appealing for an openness to the life that is meant to flow freely through the church to each member of the body of Christ. Any structure that blocks that life limits ministry within the church and blocks the urgent mission of the church to proclaim the gospel to the whole world.

As Diekmann anticipates his own face-to-face encounter with God, he has seized every opportunity to alert others to his concern that the gospel of divine life is not reaching the church or the larger world clearly and fully.

When Cardinal Joseph Bernardin attended graduation ceremonies at St. John's University in June of 1996, just months before his death, he asked to see Godfrey Diekmann.

"Before Mass he called for me. He said, `You know I'm sick and I'm not sure I can finish with the Mass. I don't want to just make conversation, but I asked for you so you could tell me what is closest to your heart.' And for 35 minutes I talked about being sons and daughters of God, how that is the essence of Christianity, how that is the glad tidings. He took all of that it in, he listened. Then he said, `You are perfectly correct that we haven't done enough to make that clear.'"

In recent interviews and letters to his many friends, Diekmann's long story of the miracle of the council is being distilled to a kind of mantra he seems intent on proclaiming until the time silence, claims him:

"Baptized Christian, remember of whose body you are a member."

By PATRICK MARRIN Special to the National Catholic Reporter Collegeville, Minn.

COPYRIGHT 1999 National Catholic Reporter
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

[Here is the "accompanying story". It is also online here.]

"Christian, remember your baptism" - 1997 address from Fr Godfrey Diekmann

These remarks were delivered by Fr. Godfrey Diekmann as part of a panel discussion at St. John's School of Theology, Collegeville, Minn., on April 17, 1997. Panelists were asked to speak about the meaning and purpose of the Second Vatican Council and on the state of the reform and renewal in today's church.

Cardinal [Leo] Suenens [of Belgium] stated that Vatican Council II was a council about ecclesiology, about the nature and activities of the church. I believe most theologians would agree. So I suppose the first question that comes to mind is what is the church?

It may come as a surprise to many to discover that Vatican Council I in 1870 and Vatican Council II have given radically different answers to that question. For more than three centuries before Vatican II, the accepted answer would have been that of Robert Bellarmine: The church is a society. There are two perfect societies, that of the church and of the state. That's not a very spiritually inspiring definition, is it? It is a definition in fact which a priori excludes the very possibility of collegiality. It was only in the 1920s that a new, or rather, the biblical, Pauline and patristic understanding of the church, began to surface again in the Western church. And it became the leitmotif of the pastoral liturgical movement, namely, the church as the body of Christ.

The body of Christ. Too bad it was called mystical body of Christ. At that time many were put off by the  word mystical: What has that got to do with me? Perhaps at the present time the term would be welcomed.

The concept of church, or body of Christ, only gradually gained acceptance. It was a very sensitive subject. We had to be very careful in speaking of it, or printing an article about it in Orate Fratres or Worship [magazine], principally because, I suppose, of our post-Reformation nervousness about the priesthood of the laity, of the faithful. Only with Pius XII's encyclical on the mystical body in 1943 did it gain respectability. Let me quickly enumerate five of its most inspiring and revolutionary implications.

1. Every baptized Christian is an active, co-responsible member of the body having a distinctive contribution to make. This became the Magna Carta of the laity, the basis of active participation in the liturgy and the great movements of the time; the Jocists, the Family Life Movement, the Catholic Worker.

2. Collegiality: Bishops are not vicars of the pope. They, too, are vicars of Christ. The diocese is not just a geographical division of the universal church; it is the local church, united to all other churches, and in a most special way to Rome, the church of the pope. The bishop's leadership is made manifest above all in the celebration of the Eucharist.

3. The presences of Christ: Not only in the eucharistic bread and cup but "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." This involved a long overdue rethinking of sacraments. Sacraments are not just external signs to confer grace, that terribly mechanistic, automatic understanding of the sacraments that created rightful scandal among our Protestant friends. Sacraments are not things, they are acts. They are acts of Christ. Christ is in our midst, continuing to send the Holy Spirit for the upbuilding of the church.

4. The recovery of the resurrection of Christ as redemptive: We in the West for some 500 years at least had put almost exclusive emphasis on Christ's passion and death as effecting our redemption. How bad the situation was is clear from the fact that [F.X.] Durrwell's book on the resurrection as redemptive, published in 1960, just a few years before the council, created heated controversy. But the apostle Paul said, "Christ died for our sins and rose for our justification," that is, that we might have life, Christ's life.

No wonder Augustine could cry out, "We are sons and daughters of the resurrection, and Alleluia is our song?

5. And what is that life of Christ? It is the life of the risen Christ. It is divine life. We are sons and daughters of God, not by nature but by gift. This is the essence of the Christian glad tidings. To quote a patristic cliche, "God became human that we might become divine." Or, as St. Leo the Great tells us, "Christian, remember your dignity." And that thought, I submit, constitutes the one and only school of Christian spirituality of the biblical and patristic period. There are dozens of schools of spirituality at the present time. This is the only one that I could recognize in the writings of the early church: "Christian, remember who you are," or equivalently, "Christian, remember your baptism."

I should, by right, add a sixth point. Since Vatican II, a new situation has arisen, a rightful demand to achieve and to put into effect the equality of male and female. In this question, also, the doctrine of the body of Christ, as expressed, for example, in Galatians 3, or 1 Corinthians 12, the body of Christ concept gives us the strongest and clearest biblical warrant for urging the radical equality of men and women. You all know the famous passage: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free person, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

In conclusion, therefore, let me say, the topic of our discussion is the renewal of the church. Those of us who are old enough will remember what an exhilarating and enriching period of spiritual renewal were the several decades of the pre-Vatican II liturgical movement, a movement inspired by the doctrine of the body of Christ. It was a voyage of ever new discoveries. When all is said and done, Vatican II was a church-wide effort to effect spiritual and structural renewal by that same doctrine.

I submit that it is a complete misunderstanding of the council to think that the concept "people of God" was meant to replace that of the "body of Christ," as largely happened after the Vatican Council II. The chosen people of the Old Testament, the Jews, were already spoken of as the people of God. The new dispensation offers something gloriously new, the people of God have become the family of God, true sons and daughters of God.

The term "people of God" was used as the heading of Chapter Two of the document on the church chiefly to pick out, to give prominence to, one important aspect of the body of Christ, namely, that the entire body is more important than any of its members, even pope and bishop, and that applies also to the teaching of infallibility. The total body is greater than its parts.

In a word, renewal of the church according to the council demands of necessity the recovery in the popular minds and perhaps in that of theologians the biblical and patristic understanding of the church as the body of Christ. "Baptized Christian, remember of whose body you are a member."

COPYRIGHT 1999 National Catholic Reporter
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

Lacrimat mater ecclesia.

Let's take a look at what we've just read.

1.  Constantine did not decide in 313 to advance Christianity as the state religion.  This is a reference to the Edict of Milan (Edictum Mediolanensa) of February 313.  The Edict exists in two versions.  One is that of Lactantius, a scholar who was tutor to Constantine's son Crispius, whom Constantine ordered hanged in 326 and shortly thereafter had his stepmom Fausta executed by immersion in boiling water, which was not a Roman method of execution, but was a technique of abortion, suggesting an adulterous relationship and pregnancy.  The other is that of Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea.  For one thing, the two versions are not at all the same.  For another, Lactantius' version is not in the form of an edict.  For another, far from making Christianity the state religion, it simply granted Christianity legal status, and ordered reparations made for recent persecutions.  For yet another, it wasn't even specifically about Christianity, it grants legal status to any and all religions found in the Empire!  The advancement of Christianity as the state religion did not come from Constantine but in the joint declaration of the co-emperors (Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I) on 27 February 380 with the Edict of Thessalonica (Cunctos populos) defining what is and is not the Catholic Church and making it the state religion.

2.  Nowhere in our Lutheran Confessions is there anything even remotely like a concept or sense of reversing 1,600 years (well, at the time the Confessions were written it would have been about 1,100 years) of bad development, jumping over centuries to restore and renew a lost purity of New Testament and Patristic (the "fathers" of the first few centuries of church history) times.  This idea of some sort of lost ideal in the early church, whose purity is to be recovered and restored, is entirely a churchy version of an endemic Romantic fiction of C19 when the "Liturgical Movement" began, a "noble church" as the ecclesiastical expression of the "noble savage".  Noble savage, btw, is a phrase often associated with Rousseau, but, he never used it; it comes from John Dryden much earlier, in his play published in 1672 The Conquest of Grenada -- I am as free as nature first made man / Ere the base laws of servitude began / When wild in woods the noble savage ran.  "Savage" at the time did not have its common pejorative connotation now, but quite the opposite, a sense of free, unrestrained, even superior for not being held back by later imposed norms.

3.  What our Confessions do state, in complete contrast to the above, is continuity with the past, warts and all, and re the warts, removing them by the criteria of, not a model of a lost past, but whether it contradicts anything in Scripture.  Wrt to worship, our Confessions repeatedly point out that our services are NOT a new order but for the most part the ones previously in use.  Godfrey makes an anonymous reference to Pius XII's encyclical Mystici corporis Christi (Of the Mystical Body of Christ) of 29 June 1943, yet omits anything about it not concerned with the liturgical movement, resulting in an emphasis both misplaced and misunderstood.  1943 -- the insistence on the value of each human life to the Church carries over to society, in contrast to Nazi Germany's Aktion T4 programme of killing of those with mental or physical disabilities or those of races or cultures deemed inferior, or as we put it now, insufficient quality of life.  Also, while the encyclical is clear that the Church is not composed of an active clergy dispensing the sacraments and a passive laity receiving them, it is also clear that this life happens within the visible structure established for it by Christ, namely, the Pope as head and the bishops in communion with him.

4.  This in turn led to one of the great bumblings-around since the council.  The encyclical says the mystical body of Christ is the Catholic Church.  "Is", or in Latin, est.  Lumen gentium, "Light of the nations" in Latin, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church as it is called, in its eighth paragraph says instead that the Church subsists in (Latin, subsistit in) the Catholic Church.  Many critics of Vatican II have seen this as the Catholic Church backing off from its former self-understanding.  For decades now the Catholic Church has put forth explanations how these two different statements are the same.  Guess what, they are the same, and guess further what, that is not good news though it sounds like it.  Subsistit in simply means that the church of Christ is only fully found within the visible structure of the Catholic Church, though elements of the Catholic Church sufficient for salvation can and are found outside its visible structure.  IOW, we Lutherans and others are saved by those elements of the Catholic Church which can exist outside the visible Catholic Church and which we do not deny, such as Baptism.

5.  If Godfrey et hoc genus omne want to lament the phrase "people of God" overshadowing "body of Christ" they need look no further than right here, not at est and subsistit in.  Mystici corporis and Lumen gentium do not use the same nouns for what is supposedly the same in the verbs.  Mystici corporis says the body of Christ is the Catholic Church.  Lumen gentium says the Church, not "the body of Christ", subsists in the Catholic Church.  Oh, but church and body of Christ are the same thing, one might say.  Indeed they are, but look at why that is.  The Church is what it is because of each member's baptism into the life of God, says Lumen gentium in chapter two, which thus forms them into not the Old Testament people of God but a new people of God.  IOW, the body of Christ and the people of God are equivalent terms for one thing created by one source, baptism.  If they are not equivalent terms, two nouns for the same thing, then est and subsistit in cannot be equivalent verbs, two verbs for the same thing.  The documents themselves bear that out.

6.  This bumbling is the fons et origo by which Pius XII's encyclicals, not just Mystici corporis, are stood on their heads.  Mediator Dei (Mediator of God, 20 November 1947) both champions the sacraments and liturgy as mediating the life of God to the members of the Church, and warns against the effects of trying to encourage this participation by applying to liturgy the Romantic fiction discussed above, thinking one has recovered some lost past purity, an effort he calls liturgical archaeologism.  Yet it is just this liturgical archaeologism that is the modus operandi celebrated above of the novus ordo.  Lex orandi lex credendi, the law of praying is the law of believing, says the maxim derived from Prosper Aquitanus, a student of Augustine.  The original goes ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, that the law of praying establish the law of believing, which in Catholic hands is sometimes used to establish doctrine on liturgy, yet, this is contradicted both by the principle of sola scriptura, by Scripture alone, that doctrine is determined, and by Pius XII himself in Mediator Dei, saying that the proper distinction between faith and liturgy (so to speak!) is expressed by lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi, the law of belief establishes the law of prayer.

Point being, as you pray so shall you believe, and as you believe so shall you pray.  It works both ways.  If you pray in a manner devised out of a liturgical archaeologism, a Romantic fantasy of having jumped over a millennium and one half of loss of purity, so shall you believe about the faith, the church, the works.  And, if you have faith that includes such a Romantic fantasy, so shall you change the liturgy, the church, the works.  The latter is how the novus ordo and all the rest came to be, first in the Catholic Church and then in other churches or parts thereof who adopt and adapt it.  The former is the ongoing effect once the latter has become the norm.  And the greatest irony here of all is that this is entirely inconsistent with and false to the much vaunted idea of a body, which does not stay the same but grows, the same organism in later stages as in earlier ones, the same person at seven as at seventy, who at seventy does not jump back to seven but moves forward in organic continuity, and as the body of Christ has the guarantee that even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

In the case of the mystical body of Christ this organic growth is both promised and guaranteed by Jesus (lo, I am with you always etc.) through the Holy Spirit.  Which is why there was, and is, a Babylonian Captivity but not a Babylonian Extinction, why real liturgical reform proceeds within the organic continuity of the Body of Christ, the Church, as our Confessions state, normed by what is inconsistent with Scripture not with a Romantic C19 fantasy about a distant past.

It's bad enough that for Catholics Vatican II makes normative exactly what Pius XII in Mystici corporis, Mediator Dei and for that matter Humani generis showed to be dangers to and dissent from Catholicism, and presents a contemporary pastiche that looks traditional, being made up of this and that from here and there, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue (literally, in the case of Advent), but actually is anything but traditional and dismisses three-fourths of the elapsed development of the body of Christ the Church.  But that is their problem.

Our problem is when we follow suit and likewise, without meaning to or even recognising it, we incorporate this intended break with the Church's organic development in which our Confessions so proudly demonstrate we stand, by adopting and adapting the novus ordo pastiche model of a lex orandi that is quite at odds with our confessed lex credendi, thus no less than the cowo crowd trying to infuse Lutheran content into a concept of worship not meant to contain it. 

In this way is our lex credendi subtly altered and compromised.  Novus ordo?  Bogus ordo.  Sacrosanctum concilium?  Sacrorectal concilium.  Better that we stand with our Lutheran principles of reform, within the organic development of the church, the body of Christ, preserving the usual ceremonies, for the most part similar to the ones previously in use, and for the sake of good order in the church retaining the traditional lectionary.

30 September 2020

St Jerome. 30 September 2020.

 Now here's a hell of a guy.

Let's start where I started, long ago in a galaxy far far away -- by which I mean, the preconciliar Roman Catholic Church.  There's been lots of councils to be pre- to, here and now it means the last one, pre-Vatican II.

The Jerome Of My Younger Days.

Here's what I recall from those days. We used an official Bible in Latin, and our English versions were made from the Latin, and that Latin Bible was the Latin translation of St Jerome, often called the Vulgate. Vulgate?  What's that, looks like vulgar, something dirty in it?  No, the name comes from the Latin word for ordinary people, vulgus, since the translation was into the language of ordinary people there and then, Latin. Protestants didn't use the Vulgate. They had the King James Bible, translated from Hebrew and Greek, not translated from a translation into Latin, therefore, they claimed, more accurate.

Not so, we were told, or at least I remember being told. St Jerome, for one thing, was a saint, a term not at least as yet applicable to modern Biblical scholars. And, he was much closer in time to the Biblical, particularly the New Testament, authors, which meant his understanding of the languages was more immediate and not from scholarly studies centuries later. And also, he worked from better sources than we have, including texts that no longer exist. Therefore, in using Jerome's Latin Bible, we are using a source altogether more trustworthy than the much later sources and scholarship of the Protestant Bible translations.

The Historical Jerome versus The Jerome Of Faith.

What's ironic is, while famous in our day for translating the Bible into the dominant language of the people of his place and time, in his own day Jerome was highly controversial not for translating but for the text from which he translated.  He used the Hebrew text of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, but the Jewish translation into Greek called the Septuagint was considered the normative and inspired text for centuries, going back to the Greek-speaking early church.  The New Testament quotes the Old Testament from the Greek, and its longer canon (list of books) was the basis for the Old Testament canon.

We still have echoes of that controversy now, the so-called Apocrypha.  The Septuagint has books and parts of books in it that the Hebrew Bible doesn't.  Bibles of Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox origin retain the use of the Septuagint as the basis of their Old Testament, Bibles of Protestant origin use the Hebrew Canon.  Nobody put anything in or took anything out, they just use different but related sources.  The Septuagint was accepted by the proverbial "early church" and Jerome was going against the grain to favour the Hebrew canon and text rather than the Greek.

Even so, the books in dispute were not rejected altogether, but placed in between an OT of the 39 books of the Hebrew Bible and the 27 of the NT, and given the name Apocrypha, from the Latin aprocryphus which transliterated the Greek apokruphos, which means obscure or hidden.  In this context, obscure was not about being "lost books" or anything, it was about their canonicity and use for doctrine.  Those who accept their canonicity call them deuterocanonical, from the Greek for second canon, meaning added later to the canon.  But in neither case, not Jerome, not Luther, not the King James Version, were they discarded altogether and not published, as has been the innovation in recent times of non-Catholic Bibles.

Another enduring echo of that controversy is that while the Hebrew Bible is arranged in three distinct parts, namely Law, Prophets and Writings, the Septuagint is not, and though many Bibles now use the Hebrew Bible as the OT, the book order has the Prophets and Writings mixed to-gether as in the Septuagint rather than retaining the three-part division of the Hebrew Bible.

Actually though, Jerome was controversial for a hell of a lot more than that and was run out of Rome!  Holy crap, people jumped all over Jimmy Swaggart for getting caught with a prostitute, but that ain't nuttin compared to Jerome's story. Here it is.

Jerome was born a pagan in a town called Stridon, which was in the Roman territory called Dalmatia.   The town no longer exists because the Goths trashed it in 379, and no-body knows exactly where it was, except that it was in Dalmatia, which was more or less modern Croatia and Bosnia and Slovenia.  As a young man he went to Rome to pursue classical education, and by his own account pursue the various extra-curricular activities often found in student life then as now. Somewhere along the line he converted to Christianity and was baptised.

After some years in Rome he set out for France, well, Gaul then, and ended up in Trier, which is about the most magnificent and enchanting place it has been my good fortune to visit, ever, anywhere. But I digress.  Here in this most wonderful place he seems to have taken up theology. Then about 373 or so he sets out for what is now called the Middle East, particularly Antioch, in what is now Turkey and one of the oldest centres of Christianity. It was there that he came to give up secular learning altogether and focus on the Bible, learning Hebrew from Jewish Christians, and, apparently seized with remorse for his past behaviour, got into all sorts of ascetic penitential practices. Always a danger -- the Good News just isn't good enough or news enough, gotta have works!

The Ladies' Ear Tickler Enters the Story.

But in 382 he goes back to Rome again, this time as assistant to Pope Damasus I. Now there's another hell of a guy. Man, papal elections just ain't what they used to be.  Once upon a time, they were a matter of the clergy and people of the area choosing a bishop, or overseer, with overseers from nearby areas confirming it. But by this time we have Constantine, and Christianity attaining respectable state-recognised status, and now the Emperor confirmed newly elected bishops. That's helpful, sorta, because sometimes more than one guy claimed to be elected, sometimes in more than one election!

So when Pope Liberius, whom the Emperor Constantine had thrown out of Rome, died on 24 September 366, one faction supported Ursinus, the previous pope's deacon, while another, which had previously supported a rival pope, Felix II, supported Damasus. The patrician class, the old noble families of Rome, supported Damasus, but the plebian class, the regular folks, and the deacons supported Ursinus. Each was elected, in separate elections. Some real "apostolic succession" there, oh yeah.

It gets worse. There was outright rioting between supporters of the two, each side killing the other, so bad that the prefects of the city had to be called on to restore order. Damasus got formally recognised, and then his supporters commenced a slaughter of 137 of Unsinus' supporters, right in a church. Damasus was accused of murder, and hauled up on charges before a later prefect, but, being the favourite of the wealthy class, they bought the support of the Emperor and got Damasus off. He was known as Auriscalpius Matronarum, the ladies' ear scratcher.

Damasus was "pope" from 366 until he died on 11 December 384. During which time, we have to remember to really get what was going on here, the Emperors East and West made the church as headed by Damasus in Rome, and Peter in Antioch, the official state church and the one recognised as "catholic", in the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380, the birthday of the Catholic Church, as distinct from the catholic church. It was during Damasus' papacy that the Emperor Gratian, one of the signatories to the Edict of Thessalonica, refused the traditional title of pontifex maximus, the chief priest of traditional Roman religion, and the title then became associated with the bishop of Rome as the chief priest of the new Roman state religion. In sum, this is the era of the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (Babylon of course being a figure for Rome).

Back to the Historical Jerome.

So in 382, when Damasus calls Jerome back to Rome to help him shape things up, what was being shaped up was the two-year-old Catholic Church, the new official state religion, which by Imperial edict was the only church entitled to the description "catholic"  (whole, complete, entire, universal), or even the name "church".  All others were defined as truly demented and insane, heretics and, since God's gonna kick their butt, deserving of such punishment as the Empire should choose to inflict.

What, Past Elder up to his usual Catholic bashing?  No, it's what the text says -- Hanc legem sequentes Christianorum catholicorum nomen iubemus amplecti, reliquos vero dementes vesanosque iudicantes haeretici dogmatis infamiam sustinere 'nec conciliabula eorum ecclesiarum nomen accipere', divina primum vindicta post etiam motus nostri quem ex caelesti arbitro sumpserimus ultione plectendos.  The Western Roman Empire at this time was starting to fall apart and was just decades away from totally falling apart, so a lot of this had to do with trying to prevent that.

Jerome was no slouch at matronly ear tickling himself, and once back in Rome soon had a little group of wealthy patrician widows around him, whose money supported him, a Paula in particular. And he had this ascetic works-righteousness thing going, into which he got them all. Nothing like having lots of someone else's money to support you if you want a monastic ascetic life. Hell yes.

In fact, the daughter of Paula, a lively young woman named Blaesilla, after just four months of having to live this way, died of it! Yeah, died. On top of which Jerome tells Paula not to mourn her daughter. This got the Romans really upset, there was an inquiry into just what was really going on between Jerome and Paula, and then Damasus dies, and with that support gone, Jerome is forced out of Rome.

So where's he go? Where else, the Eastern Empire, where they really get into all this monkery and fasting and stuff. Paula and her money follow. The whole sham of a works-based sparse life funded by patrician wealthy-class money. There's some real apostolic stuff for you. Lemme tell ya, if somebody wants to convince you of their mistaking the physiological effects of self induced glucose denial for some sort of spiritual state of attainment, you'd be better off running right to the nearest McDonald's and ordering a double quarter pounder, which, if memory serves, is combo 4 on the menu.

Personally I like our Nebraska favourite Runza better, which also makes a helluva burger, and it's Wolgadeutsch too, but being a regional chain may not be available where you are.  But I digress.  Happens.  Part of the fun of reading Past Elder.  Back to the story.

This sort of stuff is not self-denial, it's life denial. Utterly pathological. It is no curb whatever to excess and greed, but is rather an equally odious extreme reaction to it, both extremes equally devoid of the Gospel altogether. It comes rather from an empire about to collapse under both the tension within, its classic past and Christian present and efforts to reconcile them with huge civil unrest in its wake, and threats from without, in the West. Which was bad enough, but in the East it did not collapse for another thousand years or so, and continued unabated, which is equally bad. The opposite of greed and excess is not this pathological repression, but Judas H Priest, just eat a normal balanced diet and go about a life of use to God and your fellow Man, stay in your parish where you find everything that made the saints saints, the Word, the Word preached, the Sacrament, and your fellow Christians.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever -- Despite the "Church".

Well, it would also be about a thousand years or so until THAT message got out, something called the Lutheran Reformation, by a fellow survivor of the remnants of all this nonsense, guy named Martin Luther. Sorry if this stuff isn't in the sanitised reductive biographical sketches that turn up in treasuries of prayer and stuff like that, but them's the facts. It's a disgusting pagan mess, massacres, murders, politics, scandals and all, and from the time of Jerome's life on, was the official religion of the state, held to be right from the Apostles, which remained in the East, and remained in the West after it reconstituted itself as the Holy Roman Empire, and remains to this day in the former state churches that survive these empires.

This is the world of Augustine, Jerome, Damasus, etc -- the Western Roman Empire, which contains Rome, once the centre of the whole thing, in utter turmoil between its classic philosophy, art, culture and religion and the new religion, in attendant civil turmoil, and under assault from Germanic forces outside it. The sack of Rome came in 410, 24 August to be exact, by Alaric, King of the Visigoths. The efforts to synthesise Rome's past and present failed utterly to preserve Rome. But it created a state religion which survived the death of the state that created it, and became the one remaining link upon which the new state would be built, the Holy Roman Empire.  It survives to this day: in the West as the Roman Catholic Church as well as other once-Catholic state churches, some of them with the word Lutheran in them, most having now severed or softened the once-mandatory connexion to their modern states, and in the East as the various Eastern Orthodox churches.

And all of it based entirely on the characteristics of that age, not in the least on the Gospel, as a dying empire tried to redefine itself for survival -- hence "true" churches, "apostolic succession", "bishops" who were as well state officials and political powers, and all the other nonsense by which the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches try to justify themselves and their pagan accretions which would hold the catholic church in captivity until the Lutheran Reformation.  The need for such a reformation was so strong amid all this horse dung and bullroar that once it happened later "reforms" blew right past the Lutheran Reformation to an opposite but equally bad extreme, which to-day but not originally travels under the name Protestant or, in the US, Evangelical.

So we have a pope supported by the wealthy Roman class in their twilight who kills his opponents and becomes by edict of the Emperor the true recipient of the true faith, and a holy man whose "I'd better inflict all this on myself" asceticism is funded by more wealthy Roman class money, kills the daughter of his main supporter and disgusts even the Romans.

So what do we do then, forget about all this as an unholy mess we can ignore and just get back to the Bible, the "New Testament" church? No. And hell no. Judas H Priest, the New Testament church did not have the New Testament as we have it, so how ya gonna do that? You ain't.

Because here's the thing, the Babylonian Captivity was just that, a captivity, not an extinction. The catholic church survived and continues to survive even the invention of the Catholic Church by the Roman Empire. And why is that? Because of the truth expressed in the motto of the Lutheran Reformation, which motto is simply Scripture itself, from both the New and Old Testament, specifically I Peter 1:25 which itself quotes Isaias 40:8.

VDMA. Verbum Domini manet in aeternum. The Word of the Lord endures forever. It cannot be overcome, and on its central truth about Jesus Christ is built the church against which the gates of hell itself cannot prevail, let alone the Roman Empire. It can survive power mongers like Damasus and pathological lunatics like Augustine and Jerome.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever -- Despite Translators.

Particularly Jerome.  Even though it's the work of a nut case whose nuttiness was fatal and whose supposed self-denial was based on the wealth of others, Jerome's new Latin translation did do two major things.  1) It established a better text of the Bible in the most widely understood language of its time, which remained key in the availability of the Bible for centuries to come, as Latin became the language of learning.  2) It introduced to a thoroughly Gentilised Christianity who had the barest of understanding of the Jewish faith that Christianity fulfills, and who had instead replaced such an understanding with reworkings in Christian dress of their own classic philosophy, a more Jewish understanding of the texts, admired to this day by Jews.  Not to mention the Hebrew itself.

Not only that, but Jerome set in motion a tradition of selections from Scripture for reading at the preaching part of the Divine Service which would continue for about 1,500 years, and still continues as what we now call the "historic" lectionary. And why is it "historic"?  Because it's, well, old, you know, historic?  Hell no. Because there's another one now, a product in the 1960s of part of the church still in Babylonian Captivity from its last council, Babylon II, er, Vatican II, and widely adapted by wannabes.

The Western Roman Empire, under its new Germanic leaders, managed after a few hundred years known as the Dark Ages to more or less reconstitute itself as the Holy Roman Empire, and the old state church of the old Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, was right there to take its place in the reconstituted Roman Empire. Some consider the HRE to have begun with the coronation -- by the "pope" of course -- of Charlemagne, Karl der Grosse, in 800, as Emperor of the Romans, and some consider it to have begun with the coronation -- by the "pope" of course -- of Otto on 2 February 962. But in any case it lasted for about another 1,000 years, and formally ended on 6 August 1806 at the hands of Napoleon.  The deposed last HRE, Francis II, however continued as Francis I, Emperor of Austria. That makes Francis (Franz actually) the only Doppelkaiser in history.  Huh?   Kaiser, that's a Germanisation of guess what, Caesar. Doppel is double.

But by about 100 years after that, the underpinnings of the Roman Catholic Church seemed even to many within it as wearing a bit thin, the Roman Empire being long gone and now the Holy Roman Empire being long gone too, and movements began in various circles, some Scriptural, some doctrinal, some liturgical, to re-express this whole deal in terms not so connected to things long gone.  So they set about coming up with something more attuned to the existentialism and phenomenology then all the rage.

A small example of that, but symptomatic of the large examples, is the Exultet prayer in the Easter Vigil liturgy.  It ends with a prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor, which although that part had not been said since the last HRE, Franz II mentioned above, quit in 1806, it was not removed from the Exultet until 1955 as part of Pope Pius XII's massive revision of the Holy Week liturgy.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever -- Despite "the Church".  Again. 

So once again, just as in the time of Jerome, Augustine, Damasus, et al, we have an entity trying to preserve itself by merging its past with its present and future of a different origin. But this time, that past was itself exactly the product of what was once the different origin the last time around. IOW, both that church's Empires, Roman and Holy Roman, were gone and now their church had to go it alone in another emerging new world, and once again it sought to reinvent itself as a synthesis, hybrid, reconciliation, something like that, of the two. This culminated at Vatican II, when the old Imperial church reinvented itself for a new post-Imperial age.

Problem is, as we saw, the old Imperial church was just that, the old Imperial church, not the catholic church or the church of Jesus Christ, so one of the two elements being synthesised into the new synthesis was itself a previous synthesis of Christianity and the old empire. The proponents of this movement thought Christianity, the catholic church, the church of Jesus Christ, to be re-emerging after centuries of being obscured, jumping over centuries to before Constantine, but in fact it was being yet further obscured; the Babylonian Captivity in which they were still captive deepened, only re-expressed in terms of the new Babylon that no longer had it as its church, or had a church at all, so it seemed new.

We shall see in our next post, in an address by one of its architects and champions, this overriding essential idea of a reversal of corrupting influences since Constantine.  It sounds good, very good.  Almost sounds like us talking about the Babylonian Captivity!  It isn't.  Why?  For one thing, all its points were made, prior to the council and with no need for a council to be called, by Pope Pius XII, particularly in his encyclicals Mystici corporis Christi (The Mystical Body of Christ, 29 June 1943), Mediator Dei (Mediator of God, on liturgical reform, 20 November 1947) and Humani generis (Of the human race, 12 August 1950).

While RC apologists love to proclaim Vatican II as in harmony with these and bringing them to fruition, this is false.  As if that were not clear enough in the documents themselves, in which the things against which Pius warned as threats to and dissension from Catholicism became normative Catholicism, it is quite clear in the many theologians censured in the wake of these encyclicals (de Lubac, Congar et al.) who became the movers and shakers at Vatican II.

For another, the notion that before Constantine there was some sort of pure unified church from which we deviated and to which we can return is nothing more than a Romantic fiction akin to Rousseau's "noble savage".  This pure early church was in fact a bleeding mess, as is evident from St Paul's epistles through the Patristics (the "fathers"; theologians from roughly 100 to 450 or to 787, the year of the Second Council of Nicaea, the last council recognized by both the Eastern and Western Church).  One sees an amazing spectrum of widely divergent ideas of who Christ is and what Christianity is, which only appears pure and unified through the self-selective lens they think they are discarding of the very Trinitarian Christianity toward whose triumph over the others Constantine contributed.

For yet another, a body grows.  It is not the same at 70 years as it is at 7 years or 7 months, and if it has gotten off course in its later years, correction from that does not consist in returning to what it was in earlier years.  A 70 year old does not become a 7 year old again, discarding everything.  As regards the contributions of Jerome, a reform based on this is simply nothing more than the "exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism", which has since come to be called "liturgical archaeology", against which Pius XII warned (Mediator Dei 64) as he encouraged lay participation. 

In this way it only superficially resembled, with such things as vernacular languages and free standing altars, the real reformation of the church, which had happened nearly five centuries before!  They think they addressed what we did in the Babylonian Captivity but missed entirely the nature of what we did.  And so the Whore of Babylon thoroughly remodelled the brothel, with a new order of liturgy (yeah, literally, a novus ordo) complete with new calendar of observances and new lectionary of readings, replacing the one that had grown for centuries.

Now that's not surprising, that's what you do when you're the Whore of Babylon, and the Babylon that formed you and kept you as its whore is gone and there is a new Babylon.

But these "reforms" came about on an entirely different basis than the reforms of the Lutheran Reformation, which did not run from the march of history nor wish to discard or disparage it, for all its warts and blemishes, did not seek to reverse or jump back over centuries of development, as if the Holy Ghost took a nap for some 1,600 years, did not engage in liturgical archaeology, but instead accepted it and moved on, not reinventing anything but consciously maintaining continuity, as the Augsburg Confession takes great pains to point out, discarding only that which contradicted Scripture but otherwise retaining the ceremonies and readings previously in use.

The difference between, and essential incompatibility between, Lutheran liturgical reform and Catholic liturgical reform is more fully treated in our post for 25 June on the presentation of the Augsburg Confession.

What is surprising now is that the churches of the Reformation generally, and even those of the Lutheran Reformation, jumped on board with this Roman insanity, took the novus ordo and revised and reworked their own versions of it! So now we have an "historic" lectionary right alongside a Vatican II For Lutherans Lutheranised version of this novus ordo.  We even lead the Whore herself in this regard, because we didn't have to wait a generation or so for a Roman Imperial official with only the church of the former state left -- a "pope", in case you were wondering -- to say it's OK with a motu proprio! Utter madness.

Conclusion.

So on this feast of St Jerome, let us remember that, you know what, he really was closer to the authors and sources of the Bible than our vaunted modern scholars working removed by centuries, and really did, nut case and all, contribute to the church, which even he and his contemporaries and times and subsequent times could put in captivity but not extinction, a thing of great value in the Vulgate Bible and the tradition of the historic lectionary.

And let us remember that the Reformation has already happened and not at all on the basis that fuelled Babylon II, er, Vatican II.  We continue as the catholic church where the Word is rightly proclaimed and the Sacraments rightly administered, no new faith, no new doctrine, no new anything, and sure as hell no new orders of worship based on the scholarship emerging from the dissolution, not just politically but in every way, of the Holy Roman Empire, in which Roman effort there is no "hermeneutic of continuity" whatever but a pathetic old whore trying to still work the streets.  With us it is rather the organic continuity of the catholic church normed by its very own book, the Bible, rejecting only what contradicts it.