17 March 2010

PREDESTINATION?

The blog that offered you the opportunity of out-of-the-box thinking on Purgatory now does the same with Predestination (incidental query: why do so many Roman Catholic clergy in North America have the Christian name Calvin? Who is the Saint after whom they are named and who provides them with their Name Day?).

In the Old Rite (I think I must have in mind a Rite older than Pius XII), the second Commemoration to be added to the Collect of each Lenten Feria begins Almighty and Everlasting God, who dost rule over both the quick and the dead together and hast mercy upon all whom thou dost foreknow will be thine by faith and work ... The crucial phrase is "quos tuos fide et opere futuros esse praenoscis". The Prayer goes on to pray that both those kept in the flesh by the present age and those whom the future age has received already may have their sins forgiven.

The corresponding Secret begins God, to whom alone is known the number of the elect which is to be placed in heavenly felicity, and ends by asking that the names of all those whom, commended by prayer, we have taken up, and of all the faithful, may be kept written in the book of blessed predestination.

There! Sort all that out, if you dare. As you are doing so, I will comfortably reflect that one of the most exciting things about the sort of Liturgy that has grown organically and by accretion over many centuries is that it does contain such conundrums ... things that no liturgist of our own day would, in a year of Sundays, ever dream of either composing or including. The newer Rite is not all new in the sense that every word in it has been composed afresh at one moment, en atomoi, in the Bugninizeit. Hundreds of its formulae do truly come from the old Latin books of the first millennium, and in the cases of some them one can rejoice in their rediscovery. But they have been selected (and sometimes 'emended') because they match up to the accepted orthodoxies of just one moment. So the collection as a whole is conceptually flat, unproblematic, and unmysterious. I am reminded of the advice given by C S Lewis's Screwtape, about the importance for Tempters of keeping the Ages separate, so that nobody will learn from another age than his own, and there will be no 'risk' that the characteristic errors of one generation may be corrected by the insights of another.

I think this is important.

11 comments:

AndrewWS said...

I presume the American clergy with the name of Calvin were brought up as Presbyterians and possibly named after the celebratedly taciturn President Coolidge.

Fr LR said...

Excellently crafted vignette, Father! These prayers are most curious and I love it when they arise each year (have to hunt them up in the '58 English Missal, page [100], number 35) - like reacquainting with an old friend. They are a good reminder that the Pharisee Jean Cauvin’s "pound of cure" had already been provided for by the Church’s "ounce of prevention." There is nothing new under the sun. Vanity, vanity saith the preacher…

Bishop of Ebbsfleet said...

The late Dr Gary Bennett who taught me knew a great deal about Calvin but always insisted (against the evidence from the Institutes, pointed out to him by a series of undergraduates) that Calvin - like all good theologians differentiated between divine predestination (of the elect) and divine permission for the damnned to be damned. My understanding (made opaque by 40 years distance) is that Calvin did not see the logic of this distinction - hence 'double predestination'- but it was 'double predestination' that differentiated Calvin from the mediaevals and the Arminians.

If this is all wrong, I should appreciate being sorted out....
In the meantime, a good party game is to spot the Pauline reference in Cranmer's Prayer after Communion ('of Thanksgiving') and reflect whether the prayers to which Fr Hunwicke is referring make this prayer after all an exportable bit of Patrimony - or must it be consigned to the Calvinist pile to be left on one side..... My guess is the former.

+ Andrew

William Tighe said...

I agree with you, bishop, rather than the late Dr. Bennett, about Calvin.

GOR said...

I do like the phrase “the quick and the dead” which, unfortunately, would never have gotten by the old ICEL and would have given Bishop Trautman fits!

Now, predestination is a thorny subject. Given that we know there is no past or future with God - as all is now (no potency, only act) - we are already saved or damned in His sight. This causes us a problem as regards Free Will. If I am already saved or damned - and I can’t change that - what good is my free will?

The explanation that while I am still free (as long as I am ‘quick’) to choose good or evil, but that God already knows which I will choose, is hardly comforting. St. Thomas isn’t much help either, as he affirms that God “does reprobate some”. So, maybe St. Augustine – who was a little less rigid than the Evangelic Doctor – may be of help? Sorry, Augustine says that: “The number of the predestined is certain, and can neither be increased nor diminished”. Darn! So what’s a guy to do?

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to agonize about such things. I’m reminded of a story told about Cardinal O’Malley of Boston. One time his housekeeper called him and said there was a man at the door claiming to be Jesus.

Housekeeper: “What should I do…?”

Cdl. O’Malley: “Look busy!”

So I guess we have to “look busy” as long as we are ‘quick’ and trust that when we are no longer ‘quick’ we will be accounted among the sheep and not the goats…

As to priests in the US with the ‘Christian’ name of Calvin, frankly I don’t know even one! Must be a Texas thing…

Fr LR said...

GOR, you must have ment Bishop Traut-person - I understand he is quite the advocate for inclusive language.

St said...

God's knows in advance the decisions we freely make. His knowledge does not determine our decisions; rather our decisions determine his knowledge!

St said...

It's Fishperson, actually, 'cause we must be inclusive of all fish, and show no special favour to one kind.

GOR said...

No Fr LR, I have not met the good bishop in person (which is perhaps a good thing…) and just know of him by reputation. Not only is he of the inclusiveness persuasion, but also of the ‘dumbing down’ faction in liturgical language - as if the lowest common denominator were the standard for public prayer. I’m not sure which is worse, but both are certainly deplorable.

It grates upon the ear to witness the contortions some clergy go through to avoid the masculine pronoun in reference to God in the Liturgy. And if prayer is intended to lift the mind and heart to God, surely we should employ all the tools our language affords us. I suspect that people of the Traut-persuasion are not devotees of The Bard of Avon either…

Jesse said...

Bishop Andrew, at the risk of seeming foolish by not seeing the obvious, can I ask whether the allusion I'm supposed to notice in the Thankgiving after Communion is to 2 Timothy 2:21? I confess, I never noticed its predestinarian possibilities. More recent translations seem to understand it to mean that we are, like the Boy Scouts, to "be prepared", not that by "purging" we can function as the vessels that God has prepared us to be.

Jesse said...

Oops. Should have noticed Eph. 2:10 (and the quick and the dead in 2:1). Don't blame me... they took that sentence out of the 1962 Canadian BCP.