Monday, September 05, 2016

Lex orandi v lex credendi: the Book of Common Prayer

I wanted to respond to JD's comments on Why Worship God? which deserved more than the rather glib answer that I gave. In so doing, I rather open myself up to the wrath of many Anglicans and even some of my own confraternity in the Anglican Catholic Church, given that I find the Book of Common Prayer somewhat troublesome.

The genius of the Anglican Catholic Church is the much same as many other extra-Lambeth Anglicans. As I've said (too) many times, the doctrine of the ACC is founded upon the Faith of the Undivided Church, i.e the Church before the Great Schism. The normative for the liturgy is the Book of Common Prayer which we take to be the 1549 (though the American Church hold to their 1928 prayer book). By and large this is fine. Much of the text is taken from the Pre-Reformation Roman Breviary, the Gelasian Sacramentary and from the Sarum Missal. Everything is kept according to the principles of the Rule of St Benedict and the need for the people to be steeped in the Office and Holy Scripture as much as is possible. This in itself is fine, yet there are inconsistencies.

Problem 1: The Filioque
There are a couple of problems with the Nicene Creed as it appears in the BCP. On the minor, the word Holy is missed out when we say that we believe One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I believe that was a printer's error, yet it does change the Creed is we omit it. The Church in its Catholicity is indeed Holy. She is predestined for Holiness even if her individual members may compromise their own. Already I've said something that will infuriate Augustinian Anglicans. I may need to justify myself later on.

This is largely the minor issue because most Anglicans reinsert the missing "Holy" naturally, but how many will miss out the Filioque?

I have blogged on the Filioque before, saying that I was happy both to say it and not say it. Lately, though, I have become somewhat uncomfortable with the "default" setting, i.e. the Creed with the Filioque. My dear friend, Ed Pacht will tell me that the problem is not the answer, but the question. God is unknowable and therefore we must expect inconsistencies with the way we express the Divine Nature. To an extent, I agree with him, yet given that the Creed was given for clarification and a starting point with which to engage with the Divine, the words of the Creed should lead us into the Divine Mystery. It is from the Creed that we know that the classical heresies are indeed heresy. The words of the Creed literally matter an iota. This does mean that the question of the Filioque does have importance and therefore that I cannot just let the question go - perhaps this is again a symptom of my malaise at regarding things philosophically. I'm sure that Ed would urge me to step back and abandon myself to the Divine Unknowability. Perhaps one day I will! Perhaps I am high-minded and have proud looks. Alternatively, perhaps this will give me the avenue in which I can surrender myself to the Transcendent. I know that he, like me, would prefer the Creed without the Western alteration.

I find myself wanting to change the default setting and to learn the habit of not saying the Filioque. This is not because I seek to become Eastern Orthodox, but rather to be true to the doctrine that the ACC has set for itself. Seeing that the Filioque did not make it into one of the great Councils means that I can only ever hold it as a matter of pious opinion. The Nicene Creed as printed in the Council must be the default setting, and I should not be able to force a pious opinion into the Liturgy of the Mass.

Yet, as an Anglican, I must have some engagement with the Prayerbook. As I have said, for the ACC, the engagement must be liturgically. Our Missals and Daily Offices conform to the Book of Common Prayer. For us in the U.K. the normative must be 1549 - the 1928 prayerbook is not part of English Anglo-Catholicism, but it is part of the American Anglo-Catholicism. The Filioque is there in the liturgy. Given that we have a firm belief in lex orandi lex credendi, it seems imperative for the ACC to be conclusive about the Filioque as soon as it can be. We need a Holy Synod for this to happen, and I hope this happens soon. I might be comfortable not saying the Filioque, but I have no wish to scandalise the laity I serve by its omission.

Problem 2: Augustinianism in Anglicanism
Part of my problem with reconciling Post-Reformation Anglicanism with the Primitive Church is that of St Augustine of Hippo. The trouble is that his is a loud voice in Western Christianity, yet is so quiet so as to be silent in  the East, This is due to the fact that St Augustine writes in Latin, and the East speaks Greek. It isn't until much later that his work finds its way into the Eastern Church. This leaves us with a problem in that both East and West lie at the heart of the Primitive Church - they bave been compared with the two lungs of the Body of Christ. The Western lung is heavily influenced by Augustinianism, the East not so much. If they are both properly Catholic, then Augustianism cannot give rise to doctrine but to pious opinion.

Even in his day, the theology of St Augustine was questioned. Indeed the Commonitorium of St Vincent of Lerins containing the definition of Catholicism was written to curb Augustinian excesses. What is interesting is that the Vincentian Canon satisfies the Vincentian Canon, and St Augustine does not in a technical sense. The main problem with St Augustine is that he relies to heavily on Platonic philosophy. We really do have to be careful with philosophy because it is not necessarily theology. We all come to God bearing a philosophy and God laughs at us for our high-mindedness, confounds our thinking and loves us anyway. St Thomas Aquinas relies heavily on Aristotle who opposes Plato. We can only reason about God up to a point. An Augustinian notion of salvation in terms of predestination of individuals is speculative and not held definitively by the Primitive Church. An Anglican Catholic must therefore ensure that if they wish to take up a particular philosophical position, they do so as a pious opinion and as a theologoumena.

This leads to...

Problem 3: the Thirty-Nine articles
It seems to me that Anglican Catholicism must disengage from the Calvinisim that has entered Anglicanism at the Reformation so as to do justice to the idea of Augustinianism as pious opinion. When it comes to the Anglican Formularies of the Thirty-Nine Articles, if the Anglican Catholic wishes to hod to these, then he or she must subordinate them to the Primitive Church. In particular, we can see this in Article XXXV: On the Homilies. The Homilies "contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times". The third part of the Homily Against Peril of Idolatry does contain a clear broadside against the teaching of the Seventh Oecumenical Council:
First, it is alleadged by them that maintaine images, that all lawes, prohibitions, and curses, noted by vs out of the holy Scripture, and sen­tences of the Doctours also by vs alleadged, against images and the wor­shipping of them, appertaine to the idols of the Gentiles or Pagans, asthe idoll of Iupiter, Mars, Mercury , etc. and not to our images of GOD, of Christ , and his Saints. But it shall be declared both by GODS word, and the sentences of the ancient Doctours, and iudgement of the Primi­tiue Church, that all images, aswell ours, as the idoles of the Gentiles, be forbidden and vnlawfull, namely in Churches and Temples.
As I've said before, it is good for all of us to make sure that we tread carefully when it comes to ikonography, yet this "wholesome" homily does not affirm the doctrine of the Seventh Council. One cannot then ascribe to this Council without rejecting the idea that God's word regards all images in Churches and Temples as being unlawful. Whilst pains have been taken to show that the Articles can be given a fully Catholic reading, those pains also include torturous twisting of language. It seems that there is much in the Articles that does not allow for a reading in the Primitive Church. An Anglican Catholic is not bound by the Articles and for a very good reason. Yet if we do reject the Articles, then we do put a wedge between us  and the Classical Anglicans.

It seems more honest to say that Anglican Catholicism is simply not the same as Classical Anglicanism. In so doing, we perhaps find ourselves closest to some form of Western Rite Orthodoxy. If Classical Anglicans accuse us of not being Anglican, then we can say, "you're right. We're not Anglicans, we're Anglican Catholics and that's different."

I write all this remembering that the identity that I make for myself is something that I will have to renounce along with everything else in order for me to decrease so that God can increase. The law of lex orandi lex credendi is vital and to my mind a necessary path for people to follow in order to find God. While we do have to embrace unknowing, we do have to start somewhere. Our starting point should lead us into a faith that is nor arbitrary but rather clear and unconfused about the nature of salvation. We remember St Paul saying that "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." This might be the response to speaking in tongues but theologoumena may as well be speaking in tongues. They can confuse and get in the way. I see the basics of Anglican Catholicism, shared by many other Catholic jurisdictions, as being an antidote to that confusion. With proper prayer and study rooted in the adoration of the Unknowable Divine, we can put an end to confusion and stand together gazing into the transcendent beauty of God.


Fr. Gregory Wassen said...

Fr. Jonathan what a very thoughtful post! No anger from this ACC fellow clergyman :-)

To be very blunt right up front: I have always believed that one of the things holding the ACC back is precisely its adherence/lip service to the Book of Common Prayer. The solution to, what I call the BCP problem of the ACC, are the various Missals and Breviaries (English Office Book, Anglican Breviary, Office of St. Benedict). The BCP is the product of popular secular and anti-Catholic thought in the 16th Century. It cannot in and by itself ground Catholic Faith. The Missals and Breviaries mentioned above can. I do not advocate abolishing the BCP, but rather, I am advocating that the pre-Reformation shape of the liturgy ought to be normative for Catholics and that the BCP and its use must conform to that.

To your points:

1. Filioque - as an ex-Orthodox this issue continues to have my interest. I understand the issues involved but am strongly convinced that it concerns catholic doctrine and that its use in the Western liturgy is legit and by long use not open to reform. That said I am perfectly willing to drop filioque in East - West relations, and that I have no intention to "dogmatize" filioque. I am simply advocating that this Western interpretation of the Nicene Creed be upheld. The Eastern interpretation of "from the Father alone" should also be upheld as a valid and orthodox exgesis of the Nicene Creed.

2. Augustinianism - I have had to acquire my taste for St. Augustine. By nature I am much more drawn to Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, John Cassian, and Benedict. Yet if in later Medieval times it is Augustine rather than Aquinas I feel drawn to ;-) That said: predestination as it is present in Augustine and Aquinas is a pious opinion and I equally piously hold a rather different view. Conference 13 all the way! However there is much of great value in Augustine. He is not a clear-cut ancestor to Luther or Calvin. In my ow practice I live somewhere between Augustine and Origen and it is a happy - if not tension free - existence.

3. The Articles - I have always thought those to be a funny thing. When considering a move from Orthodoxy into Anglicansm I chose the ACC because ot did not require me in any sense to swear some sort of allegiance to these articles. If that had been a requirement I would not have joined the ACC but an Old Catholic jurisdiction or the PNCC / NCC. Yet - if they must be brought in somehow I suppose they must be read in a fashion similar to how Bp. Forbes read them.

Pls do not stop thinking and writing. This is yet another "exciting" post that I am very pleased has found its way to the internet.

Fr. Gregory Wassen

JD said...


I'm honored you'd write this whole piece as a larger response to my question on the Filioque. You make an excellent point that the Filioque is not and never was part of the original Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed and so it's much easier to just pray the creed as it was at the Councils.

I also see Father Gregory's point though, that for better or worse the Western Tradition has seen fit to pray the Creed with the Filioque for millenia. I don't know what to make of things other than as an Eastern guy with love for much of the Western Tradition I cannot in good faith pray the creed with the filioque,but neither dare i say that it is heretical.

Perhaps there really is room for both the Filioque and without it,I'm not sure. I think the point you made about the Creed being the starting point for how we discuss and theologize about the Trinity is a good one though, and challenging.

At any rate, thanks for exploring this further,and thanks Father Gregory for your own contribution to the discussion.

Warwickensis said...

Fr Wassen, I'm grateful for your views and relieved that as members of the same jurisdiction we are in common accord!

JD, I agree with you. Since the Filioque is neither affirmed nor anathematised at an Oecumenical Council, it cannot either be considered truly orthodox doctrine, nor truly heretical. Even so, I think the Creed as originally written is a much better default position, but those who deviate to the amended Creed are in no way heretical which is ratified by the weight of ages.