Sunday, July 02, 2006

New Wording to the Catholic Mass in English

I am of course an unreconstructed liberal. I think the incarnation (which I believe in absolutely) is about Theodicy, not atonement, and I dislike ICEL's shilly-shallying about terms. But on the new wording of the Nicene creed they are just wrong. Homoousias should continue to be translated "one in being" (which is literal from the Greek") and not consubstantial as will be the case from now on.

We are NOT commmited as Catholics to medieval physics: we probably are committed to expressing a Jewish narrative approach to truth in the form of a theology in Greek/Rational terms. What this means is that we are committed to the truths behind the formularies, not to any particular formulation. We can reject "consubstantial" as a meaningless formulation and yet still believe in the underlying truth that the word was trying to convey.

Ancient and medieval theologians were essentially trying to make sense of Christian doctrinces, at first expressed as Jewish stories, by using the terms of Greek physics. They found the apparent contradictions in the faith (One or Three Gods, Jesus as both human and divine, the Eucharist as both a sacred meal and a sacrifice) could be resolved by using some of the theoretical distinctions available in Greek science.

The substance/accidence dichotomy is irrelevant in modern science (as I, imperfectly understand it), and to defend the theological use such terms we are reduced to claiming that such terms are "poetically" true. (As my friend, and confirmer Aidan Nichols used to claim about Freud). In effect we are defending the poetic truths of Christian doctrines by using the "poetic truths" of ancient and medieval science.

I suppose some theologian familiar with modern physics could try to recast Catholic doctrine in terms of modern physics (with books on things like "The Incarnation and Super-String Theory"). If Schroedinger's cat can be both dead and alive in Quantum Theory, perhaps some genius could use that to explain Jesus as both God and Man! The problem is that modern physical theories seem to be too changeable to make this a viable proposition.

As to the way Catholics celebrate the mass these days -

Look, I would prefer the mass in Latin in its Novus Ordo (sp?) form (the 1962 and earlier rites are just awful), with Mozart, Hayden, and Tallis settings. I am gay after all.

But it is not simplistic translation from the Latin that explains bad Catholic liturgies. We fail because a) we are too mean to pay for "ringers" in the choir; and b) because of those awful "cantors" who sing at the front of the Church into a mike and dominate the voices of the people.

How is it that the so-called "pagan" liberal Catholics in THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, put on one stunning liturgy after another? [The girls need to get real about processions though!] Answer, the pay the choir and look at music history. So should we.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The terms are not so much from Greek physics as from Greek metaphysics. Some elements of classical metaphysics, and almost certainly the distinction between the essential and accidental attributes of substances, can be defended in contemporary metaphysics. If you don't believe me that classical metaphysics can still be defended, take a look at the work by philosophers like John Haldane, James F. Ross, and others.