Saturday, January 26, 2008

Eternal Worship in the Trinity

I am a bit concerned about some of the comments I have received since announcing that I intend to celebrate Mass ad orientem, especially on the blog, many seem to show a rather foreshortened theology of the Mass.


There seems to be undue sense that the Mass is about the Last Supper, and that is what is about primarily, well any Catholic should be aware that the Mass is the re-presentation -emphasis or "re"- of the Sacrifice of Calvary, in an unbloody manner. Yes it is that, but it is more than that, it is also the Worship of Heaven itself.


Calvary is important, not because of Christ's suffering, but because of Christ's total self giving. Killing and blood in "sacrifice" is incidental, the important thing is the offering. On the Cross we glimpse in this brief three hour period the Eternal offering of the Son to the Father. At the heart of the Trinity itself is this act of total self offering. This is the nature of Heavenly Worship: participation in this Eternal Sacrifice, this is the sacrifice which will be offered in "Spirit and in Truth" that Jesus refers to when he speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well. This is why God can say, "I do not want your sacrifices, but a humble and contrite heart, this is what is acceptable to the Lord". It is the humble and contrite heart that the Lord himself offers, as an act of total self-giving.

Andre Rublev shows this in the "Old Testament Trinity", the Son - in blue and brown, points to the offering of the lamb, as he looks in love to the Father clothed in robes of light. The Holy Spirit looks to us the viewer and invites us into his embrace so that we can enter into this circle of Heavenly Worship by entering ourselves into the Sacrifice of the Lamb.

In order to rediscover the true meaning of Christian worship, I think it is absolutely imperative to re-orientate our worship.

17 comments:

On the side of the angels said...

Thankyou Father, if there was one thing that I'd say jeapordised the whole of catholicism over the paste few decades I'd say the direct assault on the nature of the mass and the Eucharist...plus it's the aspect of our faith the professional laity are most defiant about....

gemoftheocean said...

I hope it wasn't something I said. Nice Rublev. One great painting deserve another. The van Eyck altar piece, Adoration of the Lamb.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Many thanks to Fr. Ray for this very timely clarification.

The idea of the Mass as a re-enactment of the Last Supper has always struck me as a rather Lutheran notion.

The Passover is undeniably a ritual meal, but to dwell on the Last Supper as a paradigm is dangerous theology.

What about the Sacrifice on the Cross ?

I was brought up to believe, and always have believed, and will (I pray) believe until the day I die, the Sacrifice of the Mass is so called precisely because the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary continues to be offered in the Mass, in an unbloody maner.

The priest and the victim are both the same. Only the manner of the offering is different.

Hence, the centrality of the Cross.

To abandon the altar, and to subsitute the age old Catholic liturgy with what appears to be a Protestant communion service at a table altar, was, I think, a terrible mistake.

But it's not too late to put things right.

All will be well !

ADV said...

Father, a question about the Rublev.

I was given to understand that the icon is problematic in that the figure representing the Holy Ghost shows the Orthodox notion that the Holy Ghost only proceeds from the Father (in that it is orientated away from the Son and towards the Father?)?

On the Mass, thank-you father! As an archaeologist who deals with primarily ecclesiastical material getting others, including Catholics, to get there head around this is far from easy!

Fr Ray Blake said...

ADV, Thank you.
As for the icon: There seems to be an indication of the HSp proceeding from both in so far as the Father looks to the Son and the SOn and the Spirit are (almost) linked by their hands, but let me think about that.

On the side of the angels said...

I think the problem is the word 'proceeds' when it is rather an eternal reciprocal process of being - the pure act. The Orthodox view does verge on the arian if it refuses to acknowledge the eternality of the noumenal event - there was never a time when the Holy Spirit wasn't either in full essential existence or was a full absolute aspect of the Co-eternal love - so proceeding rather confuses ; as it implies a before that never was; and an extension to a place it was not - which is impossible !!
I'm not exactly the greatest fan of cardinal Kasper ; but his bok 'The God of Jesus Christ' did deal with these things quite efficaciously.

On the side of the angels said...

p.s. I thought the robes of the son were red ? indicating his martyrdom ? the blue being the revelation of the Divinity - the father's being barely seen behind the majestic gold, the Holy spirit's being only witnessed through the 'green'[Hope] the works of the Holy spirit - whereas Christ wears the blue robe and is the fullness of revelation - may have got this wrong as it's been over twenty years since I took a class on it...can't even remember the symbolism of the tree or the city in the background any more - although I do remember the staffs of equal length etc.

ADV said...

On the side of the angels said...

I think the problem is the word 'proceeds' when it is rather an eternal reciprocal process of being - the pure act.

Yes... BUT... (and here I shall walk with fear as there are concepts here that greater than I have fallen into error over, so forgive me if I do Father).

Our Lord Himself (John 15:26) uses the word 'proceed', though of course the problem lies perhaps with the English.

Nicea uses 'procedit', as does for example the 'Decree of Damasus' (Acta of the Roman Synod, 382).

While we may take the sense of 'procedit' to mean 'to go before', the latin is often used in the sense of 'going forth', 'showing oneself' or 'appearing'; almost in a sense of revelation. To me it is the sense of 'movement' of the 'procedit' that is also important.

So while co-eternal and co-existent with the Father and the Son, He is also revealed to us by the Father and the Son.

ADV said...

p.s on my last post. Do you Father or anyone know what the Greek word was which then was translated into the Latin 'procedit' and what the sense of that Greek word was?

Fr Ray Blake said...

ADV, I think that is how Florence reconciled E & W.

OTSOTA, The pigment of the Son's garment is like burnt sienna, a warm ochre. In the understanding of icon colouring it is the material's significance as well the actual colour, thus the Son's garments show his nature, earthly and human: the mud of the earth, from which Adam is made.
Red is not always associated with martyrdom or the Passion in the East. I think Rublev here is speaking of divine humility here.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Yes, Father,

But it has always been my understanding that it was the Byzantine scholars who performed this feat of mental gymnastics, not the Romans.

Not that it made any difference in the long run.

The Patriarch of Constantinople died, and the decrees were never promulgated.

And in 1453, Constantinople fell to the Turk.

Fr Ray Blake said...

ADV
I don't know the Greek.

Dr Wright,
Yes, but Florence was promulgated in the West.

ADV said...

Florence (1438 - 1445AD) it was! I did not even realise it till you said. Some lessons must have been well learnt.

Went and looked in Denzinger (691f) and he quotes from the Bull Laetentur Coeli.

It is well summarized in the pontificate of Gregory XIII (1572AD)as a 'Profession of Faith Prescribed for the Greeks', which was for certain acts concerning the union of the Greco-Russian Church of that year.

'... the Holy Ghost is eternally from the Father and the Son; and that He has His essence and His subsistent being from the Father and from the Son together; and that He proceeds from both eternally, as from one principle and by a single procession, since what the holy Doctors and Fathers say comes to mean the same thing, that from the Father through the Son and the Holy Ghost proceeds, and that the Son, according to the Greeks, is also the cause, and according to the Latins, indeed the principle of the subsistence of the Holy Ghost, as is the Father. All things, however, which are of the Father, the Father Himself has given to His only-begotten Son in generation, outside of being the Father; the very fact that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son, the Son himself eternally has from the Father, by whom He has also been eternally begotten. And that the explanation of these words, "Filioque", for the sake of declaring the truth, and because of imminent necessity, has lawfully been added to the Creed.'

It is the 'subsistit' and the 'procedit' together therefore.

As an aside... it is interesting that that the image of the 'Shield of the Trinity' that appears in later middle ages is to be found in some stained glass windows which survived the Reformation in England and date to the time around the Council of Florence (c. 1430 - 40).

On the side of the angels said...

um I think it's ectopouomenon in greek [excuse the spelling , it;s been twenty years since I did all this]- which is really 'bursts out into existent being' um, an english equivalent would no longer be proceeds [nor would it be emanates or actuates] but more like ; and this sounds utterly weird ; but it's the closest thing - 'IS'!!
He 'IS' through the Father and the Son. This prevents any notion of being a movement process which had a beginning - the same way we had to have the Son, eternally begotten.
It's a bit like the problems we have with consubstantial and the naff , if not abjectly heterodox american proposal of 'one in substance' ; and even the present 'One in Being' - homoousios does not mean any of these - and this may seem heretical but even if you analyse consubstantialem it is a metaphysical linguistic equivalent for an ontological mystery [The Greek /Latin divide had the same problems with prosopon, physis, persona, natura etc] - it's why the Chalcedonian creed has to insert the multitude of conditionals - English doesn't have that problem that latin has because
it is directly 'Of One Being with': it repudiates all manner of trinitarian misconceptions and heresies in one fell swoop ; something latin could not do [without massive qualification].
ICEL may have got all manner of things wrong but in this regard, even if it was slightly dismissive or negligent in the process ; it got the theology right ! Whereas 'One in Being' is just obscenely wrong - think of any anti trinitarian pseudo christian cult like the mormons - and even they can believe the Son is 'One in Being'!!!

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Could I suggest we cannot fully define the Mystery in words. All human thought and language is inadequate.

After all, we do speak of the Holy Trinity as a mystery.

In earlier centuries, men reasoned themselves into, and out of, and back into various heresies, trying to explain it.

I feel myself to be on the brink here, but would it be acceptable to think of the progression as a logical progression ?

(Perhaps not. To the human mind, logic suggest a process with a beginning and an end. And that won't do : God is eternal.)

It cannot mean progression in time or space, because before anything was created, including time itself, God is.

Being perfect, God in himself does not change.

Man's knowledge of God, or rather the nature of God, has changed through Revelation.

We know him to be Triune.

Of course, one accepts and believes the words of the Creed and all the Catholic Church teaches.

But that doesn't mean we accept inaccurate, misleading or downright heretical translations of the credal formula.

I think OTSOTA has got it about
right when he speaks of a metaphysical linguistic equivalent of an ontological mystery.

Even so, the Church has expressed what it believes and teaches in the words of the Creed.

And inadequate though human language is, we must accept those words.

(I'm not sure how many heresies
I've committed, or nearly committed, here !)

ADV said...

Thanks for the Greek OTSOTA.

Perhaps adding to what Dr. Wright said maybe a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas?

'All that I have written appears to me as so much straw, after the secrets that have been revealed to me!'

Logic and reasoning only get so far.

On the side of the angels said...

woke up in the middle of the night remembering it - it's ektoRouomenon...
Just been discussing it with the Hilary-lover, fr David Barrett and have argued that the problem arises mainly from moving from greek to latin - we had to move from 'being' to 'substance' , from the holy spirit '[eternally] [bursts] out into existent being' to '[eternally] proceeds'

we go from an almost essential perspective to an existential one ,
from an internal dynamic description [GK] to a how the external is effected dynamic [latin]

I don't know if any of you know much irish gaelic but I've heard there's an almost equivalent problem in translating it into english because english does not have the verb 'to do being' - we cannot say does be and do be like the irish can...

I think you're all right - it's like the old Aslan statement in the voyage of the dawn treader when eustace says a star is a ball of burning gas - and Aslan replies [para] 'that is not what a star is - that's only what it is made of'...