Sunday, 24 October 2010

Be not deceived...

On this subject We judge it Our duty to rectify an attitude with which you are doubtless familiar, Venerable Brethren. We refer to the error and fallacious reasoning of those who have claimed that the sacred liturgy is a kind of proving ground for the truths to be held of faith, meaning by this that the Church is obliged to declare such a doctrine sound when it is found to have produced fruits of piety and sanctity through the sacred rites of the liturgy, and to reject it otherwise. Hence the epigram, "Lex orandi, lex credendi" - the law for prayer is the law for faith.

But this is not what the Church teaches and enjoins. The worship she offers to God, all good and great, is a continuous profession of Catholic faith and a continuous exercise of hope and charity, as Augustine puts it tersely. "God is to be worshipped," he says, "by faith, hope and charity." In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith explicitly and openly, not only by the celebration of the mysteries, and by offering the holy sacrifice and administering the sacraments, but also by saying or singing the credo or Symbol of the faith - it is indeed the sign and badge, as it were, of the Christian - along with other texts, and likewise by the reading of holy scripture, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church.

For this reason, whenever there was question of defining a truth revealed by God, the Sovereign Pontiff and the Councils in their recourse to the "theological sources," as they are called, have not seldom drawn many an argument from this sacred science of the liturgy. For an example in point, Our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, so argued when he proclaimed the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Similarly during the discussion of a doubtful or controversial truth, the Church and the Holy Fathers have not failed to look to the age-old and age-honored sacred rites for enlightenment. Hence the well-known and venerable maxim, "Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi" - let the rule for prayer determine the rule of belief. The sacred liturgy, consequently, does not decide or determine independently and of itself what is of Catholic faith. More properly, since the liturgy is also a profession of eternal truths, and subject, as such, to the supreme teaching authority of the Church, it can supply proofs and testimony, quite clearly, of no little value, towards the determination of a particular point of Christian doctrine. But if one desires to differentiate and describe the relationship between faith and the sacred liturgy in absolute and general terms, it is perfectly correct to say, "Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi" - let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer.


  1. This is what tamperers either cannot or will not understand, and with them those who oppose every move in the direction of correcting the incorrect, regularising the irregular, and restoring faithfulness to the liturgical tradition where it is absent, either through wilfulness, genuine ignorance, or indifference, all of which are passed on and infect church life the longer they are permitted to fester. The result is a stifling of the Faith, for the usual channel of its expression and the means whereby it permeates the minds and hearts of the faithful, quite aside from the academic pursuits of the few, is diluted and becomes a shadow of what it ought to be.

    I can do little better than to repeat the words of St John, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco:

    'The divine services in their composition contain all the fullness of the dogmatic teaching of the Church and set forth the path to salvation. They present invaluable spiritual wealth. The more fully and precisely they are fulfilled, the more benefit the participants receive from them. Those who perform them carelessly and who shorten them by their laziness rob their flock, depriving them of their very daily bread, stealing from them a most valuable treasure. The shortening of the services which comes about through lack of strength must be done wisely and performed circumspectly in order not to touch that which should not be tampered with.'

  2. Good old Pacelli- he'll never getting a moment's rest from thee, eh? He's but part of that sorry chain. What of Pio Nono?

  3. Pio Nono: "I am Tradition!"

    Mediator Dei: "I am the Liturgy"

    Humani Generis: "I am the Fathers"

  4. Thank you all for your comments.

    Michael, many thanks for that apt quote. I may use it in a later post.

    F.G.S.A, yes bad old Pacelli. He should be the menace in a children's story I think. As for Pio Nono, well Pastor Aeternus is his chief legacy, I think. The Syllabus of Modernist Errors has been made void, and not many Catholics these days take Papal infallibism seriously anyway (I don't).

    Moretben, succinctly put! Naturally I could have included more from Mediator Dei in this post (the stuff about liturgy being subject only to the supreme pontiffs would be good material for a later post about Papal revision of actual liturgical history or something) but wanted to focus on the heretical reversal of the Lex Orandi.

  5. To quote once more the late and great Aidan Kavanagh OSB:

    "To reverse the maxim, subordinating the standard of worship to the standard of belief, makes a shambles of the dialectic of revelation. It was a Presence, not faith, which drew Moses to the burning bush, and what happened there was a revelation, not a seminar. It was a Presence, not faith, which drew the disciples to Jesus, and what happened then was not an educational program but his revelation to them of himself as the long-promised Annointed One, the redeeming because reconciling Messiah-Christos. Their lives, like that of Moses, were changed radically by that encounter with a Presence which upended all their ordinary expectations. Their descendants in faith have been adjusting to that change ever since, drawn into assembly by that same Presence, finding there always the troublesome upset of change in their lives of faith to which they must adjust still. Here is where their lives are regularly being constituted and reconstituted under grace. Which is why lex supplicandi legem statuat credendi." Kavanagh, A., 'On Liturgical Theology', Liturgical Press, 1992, p.92

    Clearly Pius XII was not concerned with making a shambles of the dialectic of revelation. Sadly, even after the supposed liberation of Vatican II, the Roman Church still doesn’t understand this. Still the order of the day is liturgy by decree, following from belief. Emphasis is placed on the Catechism and belonging to the juridical structure, worship is quite secondary to this. Commissions of experts get their ideas rubber-stamped by the papal-curial system and the effect of that is plain to see.

  6. 'Michael, many thanks for that apt quote. I may use it in a later post.

    Please do. St John was nsomething of an enigma during his earthly life. There's a story from, his days as bishop of Western European diocese with care for Great Britain & Ireland in which he arrived at the Bradford parish in his scruffy cassock, (he very much embraced monastic poverty) and was mistaken for a beggar, given a cup of tea, and made to sit on the doorstep, which he did without argument until the priest arrived. In San Francisco, he would leave a cathedral full of the faithful waiting to start the Liturgy, which was delayed because en route to the west doors for the reception of the bishop, he would stop to skip in the street with the neighbourhood children.

    Yet he was incredibly devout when it came to the actual offering of worship. He compiled a basic list of rules for altar servers, one or two of which dealt with specific liturgical oddities of his day no longer generally encountered, but most of which are still followed in the Church Abroad today. He would not permite Saturday night entertainments - concerts or such like - for his clergy if they were to serve on the Sunday morning, and he wrote the piece from which the quotation above is an excerpt, to address the numerous and casual abbreviations to the services which had become widespread in many places.

    Sadly, a number of these abbreviations are still common in parishes of the Church Abroad but they are nowhere near as prevalent as they are in some other jurisdictions, where some portions of the services are so seldom bothered with that publishers of the liturgical books for those jurisdictions no longer see any point in including them, and their people express surprise when mention is made of them or when they visit other churches and encounter them, for they are something new to them, something strange and alien.

    I may post my own little rant about this soon.

  7. "As for Pio Nono, well Pastor Aeternus is his chief legacy, I think. The Syllabus of Modernist Errors has been made void, and not many Catholics these days take Papal infallibism seriously anyway (I don't)."

    Pio Nono is the root cause of the present errors of the Roman Church... his "Pastor Aeternus" particularly subverting true doctrine and permitting any Pontiff to declare "dogma" as he wills. Ignore the interpretation that says there are safeguards in place, they have already been ignored. Phone or letter canvassing Bishops is not equivalent to an Ecumenical Council! "Pastor Aeternus" says the Pope is above an Ecumenical Council anyway - so what's the point of it all?!

    Talk about "received Tradition" and the "received Faith" all you like, but Roman Catholicism of the past two hundred years possesses only some of it, having diminished most of it in the last century and has added and will add more to it as the fancy takes her Popes. People say "the Pope can't change things", he can, he has and in the future he will, even if Benedict says he personally can't (read won't)! The Ordination of Women? Its totally possible theoretically for contemporary Rome who, if she can transform doctrine to dogma, can alter "Tradition" accordingly for contemporary praxis, as she has done already with the liturgy and so much else!

  8. Anathema sit...but you're an Anglican so...

  9. Andrew, yeah...I'm an Anglican. I presume you mean anathema sis too? Sim, sis, sit, simus, sitis, sint...

    Canon Jerome, the root cause? I would say rather that the Council of Trent is the root cause of the problem - its decision to put the implementation of liturgical reform into the hands of the Pope is proof enough - and that error has been spectacular in the eyes of posterity. I mean the ''ethos'' (let's say) of the Tridentine Rite, of Quo Primum, lasted a mere 12 years before Gregory XIII imposed his new kalendar on the Universal Church, and then another 20 years down the line Clement VIII revises the Missal, a few decades later Urban VIII comes on the scene...

    It is a fact, as you say, that nothing is eternal in the Catholic Church, there are no safe eternal truths - in spite of the Church's (correct mind you) stance on doctrinal relativism. The reason is obvious: because Catholic Truth stands upon the edge of a narrow ledge - to stand or fall by the will and whim of the Popes. I don't see that the Pope declaring the Sacred Liturgy to be subject to the highest ecclesiastical authority is in anyway different from Popes declaring core doctrines (the doctrines of the Triune God, the Hypostatic Union etc) to be equally subject to that authority - to change as and when it suits the Pope. It is this gross misuse of authority (and the dangers of it)I find so rancorous.

  10. I can't wait for the next Modernist Pope - the one who (unlike Paul VI) will go the whole length: declare Anglican Orders to be valid after all, authorize the ordination of women etc. I can't wait for that! It will just serve to prove the point I have been trying to make on this blog for so long...Truth in the Catholic Church is a tenuous thing, just waiting to be changed by the next despot who sits in the Chair of Peter.

  11. Your use of despot tickles me, given the liturgical use of its Greek origin. Or perhaps I embarrass myself by pointing out what was an intentional pun. Oh well.