13 October 2008

The Fulness of Grace

There is something that has been nagging at my mind for some years as I have said my Office according to the Liturgia Horarum. It is the word plenitudo, or fulness. I seem to keep on coming across it, but foolishly never make a note. But one example would be the nova Collect for the memoria (happily, a Festum in the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District, God bless it) of the Presentation of our Lady in the Temple, November 21: ... concede ut de plenitudine gratiae tuae nos quoque mereamur accipere (grant that we also may be worthy to receive of the fulness of thy grace).

Now it may be that this collect, and others with similar locutions, are not (as I confess I suspect) novae compositions, but come from the ancient sacramentaries of Western Christendom. Or that there are within the Tradition parallels; although the Concordance s.v. pleroma does not offer anything relevant from the Pauline Corpus. Perhaps someone with more skills than I possess in Information Technology is in a position to resolve this question.

Why does it worry me? To be frank, because I suspect it of arising from a semi-Pelagian mindset. Euchological formulae which are indubitably old ask that we be delivered from our sins; or saved from a very nasy fate; or cleansed from our vices; or be able diabolica vitare contagia. But those fulness phrases seem to me to suggest that we've already got quite a nice lot of Grace or Redemption or whatever, but are turning to God for a useful top-up, or to receive the total works. Which is not so much semi- as fully Pelagian. My suspicion fits disconcertingly well with the devastating critique of the ideology of the novae collects by Lorenzo Bianchi in the 1999 CIEL Redbook (Theological and Historical Aspects of the Roman Missal; these Redbooks, now sadly discontinued, were a most valuable resource. But Laurence Hemming's projected Journal will undoubtedly be more than a replacement).

5 comments:

John F H H said...

"But these fullness phrases suggest that we've already got quite a nice lot of Grace or Redemption or whatever, but are turning to God for a useful top-up, or to receive the total works. Which is not so much semi- as fully Pelagian."
Hmmm..
I had always understood that Pelgianism meant that man could "pull himself up to heaven by his own boot-straps" as it was memorably put to me.
A quick ceck with Google on pelagianism + wiki confirms my understanding:
"Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius (ad. 354 – ad. 420/440). It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature (which God called very good), and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. Thus, Adam's sin was "to set a bad example" for his progeny, but his actions did not have the other consequences imputed to Original Sin. Pelagianism views the role of Jesus as "setting a good example" for the rest of humanity (thus counteracting Adam's bad example). In short, humanity has full control, and thus full responsibility, for its own salvation in addition to full responsibility for every sin (the latter insisted upon by both proponents and opponents of Pelagianism). According to Pelagian doctrine, because humanity does not require God's grace for salvation (beyond the creation of will),[1] Jesus' execution is devoid of the redemptive quality ascribed to it by orthodox Christian theology."

It seems to me that these prayers [according to Google there are only a few using the phrase "plenitudine gratiæ tuæ" including the post-communion "De plenitudine gratiæ tuæ sumentes, quæsumus, Domine, ut, eucharistici convivii fortitudine roborati, fideles tui, quos rebus sæcularibus ..."]
are asking that we may be made worthy [is not 'make worthy' a valid translation of mereor?]to receive of [=from] thy grace.
Surely those who are praying have received grace through Baptism, through, Confirmation, through Ordination? Is not, therefore, this prayer an acknowledgement of the need for God's grace, the very need which Pelagius denies?

On the Information Technology question, use these search terms on separate searches in Google -
with quotes each time -
"plenitudine gratiae tuae"
"plenitudinem gratiae tuae"
"plenitudinis gratiae tuae"
"plenitudine gratiae"
"plenitudinem gratiae"
"plenitudinis gratiae"

Each one throws up a manageable number of pages: those without "tuæ" are mainly from the Fathers, and Aquinas, and a couple from Vatican II documents, but i fear my Latin cannot cope without an exceedingly large amount of time.
There was also a page in italian, which google will translate, if you have the Google toolbar.
Regards
John UK

gengulphus said...

Dear Father,

Forgive me if this is too obvious a resource, or one which you are aware of already, but the online Concordantia Missalis
on: http://www.rifugiodelleanime.org/m3/
is quite useful for this sort of thing. It throws up all relevant quotations in a 'corpus', in which they can be readily compared.

But there is absolutely nothing wrong with Semi-Pelagianism - it is a most congenial heresy and very C of E.

gengulphus said...

pleroma does not offer anything relevant from the Pauline Corpus

But surely John 1.16 is a more than adequate source for the idea expressed in the collect that you cite.

+David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
+David said...

Dear Fr Hunwicke,

If nothing else, your post moved "gengulphus" (Why can't people use their real names!!!)to alert us to the the online Concordantia Missalis. What a wonderful discovery. THANK YOU.

(I must confess to having noticed hints of semi-pelagianism in the Missal over the years - especially [and curiously] in post-communion collects. There are some Novus Ordo ones that have been made much worse in the (1970) English translation; they have actually startled me at the altar. But, (sigh), now that we have an Augustinian Pope . . . !)

+David Chislett