Friday, 3 April 2020

Singing the Apostles' Creed

To the tune Ein feste Burg

Of our faith one God is worth,
        the Father God Almighty,
the cre-a-tor of heaven and earth,
        through Son’s and Spirit’s agency.
And trust we in Jesus Christ,
            his only Son, our Lord,
conceived by the Holy Ghost
            the Virgin’s womb his host,
Mary gave birth to God the Son.

He suffered under Pon-ti-us,
            under Pilate he was crucified.
And so Christ Jesus died for us.
            And for us he was buried;
He descended to the dead.
            On the third day he rose again;
he ascended to heaven’s domain,
            sits at the Father’s right hand,
he will come to judge both living and dead.

Our faith is in God Father, God Son,
            and in the Holy Spirit.
But we affirm God to be one;
            talk of three gods we don’t permit.
We declare one holy Church,
            we confess the communion of saints.
God’s forgiveness for sins we name,
            resurrection for the body we claim,
and so for eternal life give thanks.

Note also that Dale A. Schoening has a CM version of the Apostles' Creed and a SM version of the Nicence Creed.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Singing Quicunque vult

What man soever he be that,
salvation will attain,
the Catholic belief he must
before all things retain:
Which faith unless he wholly keep
and undefiledly:
Without all doubt eternally,
he shall be sure to die.

The Catholic belief is this,
that God we worship one:
In Trinity, and Trinity
in unity alone.
So as we neither do confound
the persons of the three.
Nor yet the substance whole of one,
in sunder parted be:

One person of the Father is,
an other of the Son:
An other person proper of
the holy Ghost alone.
Of Father, Son and holy Ghost,
but one the Godhead is:
Like glory coeternal eke,
the majesty likewise.

Such as the Father is, such is
the Son in each degree
And such also we do believe
the holy Ghost to be.
Uncreate is the Father and
uncreate is the Son:
The holy Ghost uncreate, so
uncreate is each one.

Incomprehensible Father is,
incomprehensible Son:
And comprehensible also is
the holy Ghost of none.
The father is eternal, and
the son eternal so:
And in like sort eternal is
the holy Ghost also.

And yet though we believe that each
of these eternals be;
Yet there but one eternal is,
and not eternals three.
As ne incomprehensible we
ne yet uncreate three.
But one incomprehensible, one
uncreate hold to be.

Almighty so the Father is,
the Son almighty so:
And in like sort almighty is
the holy Ghost also.
And albeit that every one,
of these almighty be:
Yet there but one almighty is,
and not almighties three.

The Father God is, God the Son,
God holy Ghost also:
Yet there are not three Gods in all
But one God and no mo’e:
So likewise Lord the Father is,
and Lord also the Son,
And Lord the holy Ghost,
yet are there not three Lords but one.

For as we are compelled to grant
by Christian verity:
Each of the persons by himself,
both God and Lord to be.
So Catholic Religion,
forbiddeth us alway,
That either Gods be three, or that
there Lords be three to say.

Of none the Father is, ne made,
ne create nor begot,
the Son is of the Father, not
create, ne made, but got.
The holy Ghost is of them both
the Father and the Son:
Ne made, ne create, nor begot,
but doth proceed alone.

So we one Father hold, not three,
one Son also not three:
One holy Ghost alone, and not
three holy Ghosts to be.
None in this Trinity before,
nor after other is:
Not greater any than the rest,
ne lesser be likewise.

But every one among themselves,
of all the persons three,
Together coeternal all,
and all coequal be:
So unity in Trinity,
as said it is before,
And Trinity in unity,
in all things we adore.

Therefore what man soever that
salvation will attain:
This faith touching the Trinity,
of force we must retain.
And needful to eternal life,
it is that every wight
Of the incarnating of Christ
our Lord believe aright.

For this the right faith is, that we
believe and eke do know,
That Christ our Lord the Son of God,
is God and man also:
God of his Father’s substance, got
before the world began,
And of his mother’s substance, born
in world a very man.

Both perfect God and perfect man,
in one, one Jesus Christ,
That doth of reasonable soul,
and humane flesh subsist,
Touching his Godhead, equal with
his Father God is he,
Touching his manhood, lower than
his Father in degree.

Who though he be both very God,
and very man also:
Yet is he but one Christ alone,
and is not persons two.
One not by turning of Godhead,
into the flesh of man:
But by taking manhood to God,
this being one began.

All one, not by confounding of
the substance into one,
But only by the unity,
that is one person.
For as the reasonable soul,
and flesh, but one man is:
So in one person God and man,
is but one Christ likewise.

Who suffered for to save us all,
to hell he did descend:
The third day rose again from death,
to heaven he did ascend.
He sits at the right hand of God,
the Almighty Father there.
From thence to judge the quick and dead,
again he shall retire.

At whose return all men shall rise,
with bodies new restored:
And of their own works they shall give
account unto the Lord.
And they into eternal life
shall go, that have done well:
Who have done ill shall go into
eternal fire to dwell.

This is the Catholic belief,
who doth not faithfully
Believe the same, without all doubt,
he saved cannot be.
To Father, Fon, and holy Ghost,
all glory be therefore:
As in beginning was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

The Whole Booke of Psalmes collected into Englishe metre, by T. Sternhold, W. Whitingham, J. Hopkins, and others, conferred with the Hebrue, with apt notes to them withall; 1584; John Daye, London.

Spelling modernised. [eke = also; ne = neither; wight = human being]

Aurelia (The Church's One Foundation) would seem a most suitable tune.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Staying Faithful

The following are questions by independent church minister Stephen Kneale to Church of England ministers in the light of recent developments, along with a first attempt at answering them.

1.       How do you understand the term ‘faithful’ and does your current situation help or hinder your being faithful?
Faithfulness means loyalty to Christ and his body. This includes devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers (Acts 2:42). It covers attitudes and behaviour as well as speech.
For me, as an ordained minister in the Church of England, it also means devoting myself wholly to the service of God, daily following the rule and teaching of our Lord and growing into his likeness so that God may sanctify the lives of all with whom I have to do. (From the Liturgy of Ordination)
Among other, equally important but perhaps less contentious, things this involves faithfully ministering the doctrine and sacraments of Christ as the Church of England has received them, proclaiming the good news of salvation, and defending the people committed to my charge against error.
(It also means submitting to the authority of the British Monarch and my Bishop in all things lawful and honest, and using only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon.)
My situation is both help and hindrance. The Church of England declares and formally asks of his ministers belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness, but it tolerates clergy that openly contradict the Scriptures and teach contrary to the Christian faith.
While many in this country worship Christ outside the Church of England, no other denomination, with the possible exception of the Roman Catholic church, has a better claim to catholicity, in the sense of seeking to hold together the body of Christ in a given place. Being in the Church of England is a help in terms of faithfully serving the body of Christ in my place. (It may well be different in other parts of the country.) I cannot have this close fellowship without having also fellowship with many who in word or deed deny Christ as our Lord and Saviour. This is a hindrance.
I can speak the truth freely but the lies of others compromise the message that is proclaimed. This would not altogether change by leaving the Church of England for a smaller, more faithful denomination. The background noise would not thereby go away.
Lest this be misread, I must add that my situation does of course include myself and I recognise that there are threats to faithfulness within me as well as from without.

2.       How can you remain faithful whilst in submission to those who, minimally, apologise for orthodoxy and are entertaining those who wish to undermine it?
As far as I can see, my submission to my Bishops (in all things lawful and honest) does not at present compromise my faithfulness to Christ, as far as my own actions are concerned.
The apology to which Stephen Kneale alludes was not for orthodoxy (or orthopraxis) as such but for stating orthodoxy (or orthopraxis) and maybe for doing so in a clumsy or untimely way. Still, the apology hinders rather than helps faithful Christian ministry. It does not, however, prevent it altogether.
I agree with the observation that our Bishops, on the whole, want us to keep company with people, including clergy, who wish to undermine the historic Christian faith (and by no means on matters of sexuality only), pretending that people are fellow servants in the gospel for the sake of the kingdom of God who in reality serve a God of their own imagination, perverting the gospel of Christ. This is a grievous ill, even allowing that most, maybe all, false teachers have persuaded themselves that they are promoting the Christian faith.
This does undermine my ministry. But, in some sense, it undermines all faithful Christian ministry in this country and beyond. It makes it harder to remain faithful but not impossible.

3.       How can you remain faithful while remaining in formal communion with those who openly want to reject historic orthodoxy?
I am not sure that there is much difference between this and the following question. See below. Celebrating Holy Communion alongside false teachers has elements of both joy (because it is not communion with false teachers only but with Christ and his body) and pain (because it includes an element of falsehood, apparently recognising some as fellow servants who are not in fact submitting to Christ).
In the current context absenting myself from events like the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday at which ministers from across the Diocese gather and clergy renew their ordination vow would not effectively signal to false teachers the dangers in which they are. But the presence of those who openly want to reject historic orthodoxy devalues the renewal of vows and makes the Eucharist less joyful than it might be otherwise.
4.       How do you remain faithful staying in whilst taking seriously the biblical call to separate from those who depart the faith and partaking in the sins of those with whom we commune?
Knowing (in principle) how to respond to the instruction to keep away from those who call themselves Christian but are idle (2 Thessalonians 3:6), or sexually immoral, or greedy, or idolaters, or verbally abusive, or drunkards, or swindlers (1 Corinthians 5:11) was arguably more straightforward when the number of those who were Christian by name only was small.
Today there are many who bear the name of Christ but do not know him, do not acknowledge Christ as their Saviour, and do not submit to him as their Lord. Some of them are in open rebellion to Christ and the teaching of his church, others are confused, still others oblivious to their state. (And I am, of course, not necessarily in a position to judge.)
We need to be mindful of a double risk. Keeping close to ‘false Christians’ makes it more challenging to heed the call of Christ not to participate in the unfruitful works of darkness but rather to expose them, not least if we come to know them as friends whom we love, respect, and in parts admire.
But keeping a clear distance to ‘false Christians’ makes it more challenging to share the good news with many in our post-Christendom society. There are two broad differences between our situation and that of the early church: (a) those from whom the early Christians were to distance themselves had heard the gospel and the separation would have communicated to them a call to mend their ways in order to be re-integrated; (b) the separation would have helped those outside the church to see more clearly the meaning and significance of the Christian faith.
Today those outside the church see a multiplicity of denominations that tells them little more than this: Christians are not agreed about what it means to be a Christian. And separating ourselves from those whose lives or doctrine betray the faith in all likelihood communicates ‘we think ourselves better than you’ rather than ‘the way you live or teach is incompatible with being a faithful disciple of Christ.’
We partake in the sins of others by committing them ourselves or by endorsing them (which 1 Timothy 5:22 may have in mind). But this is not inevitably the case by staying in the Church of England.
It is a fair question whether faithful Christians staying in the Church of England helps to preserve nominal and false Christianity, thereby promoting confusion about the Christian faith. Would it not be better to let the Church of England die? Maybe, but this is a matter of carefully weighing up a range of factors, not a matter of simple obedience to a straightforward command.
5.       How can you remain faithful to the official historic teaching of the church when liturgies and practice, with guidance issued, now affirm what is unbiblical? Can one stand on a constitution that is not applied?
The fact that the constitution is not applied in other parish churches makes life and ministry more difficult but it does not mean that I cannot apply it in our parish church.
The Guidance for Gender Transitioning Services is a grave error (cf. this post) but I am resolved to remain faithful to the official historic teaching of the church and to use any liturgy accordingly. I am dismayed but not (yet) unable to remain faithful, except for my own weakness.
6.       What is your actual plan to change the situation? How are you ‘contending’ in a way that has any hope whatsoever of effecting change?
My plan is to truly preach the word and rightly administer the sacraments, as best as I can. My contending is a matter of faithfulness to Christ, whether or not it makes any difference. Only God’s Spirit can bring repentance and submission to Christ. I try to play my very small part. For now, I don’t think that leaving the Church of England would ‘change the situation’ for the better.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Meditating on Body Parts

Psalm 17 contains more references to body parts than it has verses. (The poem is in parts difficult to understand and translate which is why some will interpret some of the verses differently from how I read them here although this does not affect the references to parts of the body as such.)

The psalmist refers to his lips in verse 1, his heart and his mouth in verse 3, his feet in verse 5 and possibly his throat in verse 9 ("my deadly enemies" = "the enemies at my throat"; in verse 13 nefesh ["throat", "neck", "soul"] refers to the life of the psalmist).*

The preposition "from" with which verse 9 opens hints at the face of the wicked (plural) and in verse 13 God is literally asked to confront the face of the wicked (singular) who is forced to his knees. The callousness of the wicked is described in verse 10 as being "inclosed in their own fat" (KJV, modern translation usually speak more freely of "closing their hearts to pity") and their arrogance finds expression in their mouths. Their determination to harm the psalmist is seen in their eyes (verse 11). The share in life of these people is what goes into their belly (verse 14).

God is asked to give ear (verse 1), to incline his ear (verse 6) to the psalmist. The preposition with which verse 2 opens can be rendered more literally "from your face" (= "from your presence," cf. below on the final verse). The verse goes on to refer to God's eyes, later on the pupil of God's eye is specifically mentioned (verse 8). God's lips feature in verse 4, his right hand in verse 7. Verse 14 speaks more generally of his hand. While the danger from the wicked is described in leonine imagery (verse 12), the protection God offers is spoken of in ornithological imagery with reference to wings under which one can find refuge (verse 7).

The psalm concludes, "As for me, being in the right I will see your face; I will be satisfied when I awake [with seeing] your form."

These references allow for various connections and contrasts. The psalmist is caught between the presence of God and the presence of the wicked - both referenced in prominently placed prepositions which hint at the faces of friend and foe (verse 2 using the fuller form than verse 9). The wicked have their eyes on the psalmist for harm (verse 11) who therefore wants to be not only in the sight of his God but to be the very apple of his eye. The salvation must come from God facing up to and facing down the oppressor, bringing him to his knees (verse 13) before the psalmist is cast to the ground (verse 11).

The contrast between the psalmist and the wicked is marked by what comes out of their mouths (verse 3, verse 10). The good use of lips by the person praying is arguably also the result of paying heed to the word that comes from God's lips (verse 4), unlike the arrogant. From this comes confidence that God will incline his ear to what comes out of the psalmist's mouth rather than the mouth of the proud.

Only the feet of the psalmist are explicitly mentioned but the violent have their ways (verse 4), as God has his tracks (or ruts, usually translated "paths," verse 5). This assumes that the feet of the opposing parties have both left grooves between which the psalmist had to decide.(The wicked are now in turn trying to track down the palmist, verse 11.)

The references to the psalmist's heart and throat are unique within the psalm, highlighting his integrity and vulnerability.

The wicked are uniquely characterised by reference to fat and belly, fitting with a concern for the goods of this life without regard to the giver of life whose face the psalmist is keen to see.

The double reference to God's (right) hand stresses his power, the unique reference to wings his protection (cf. the unique reference to the apple of his eye).

What then does it mean to see the form or likeness of God (verse 15)? Does the psalmist expect to see the face of a large bird with hands? Hardly. The verse seems to allude to Numbers 12.
"When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, will make myself known to him in a vision; in a dream I will speak with him. Not so my servant Moses...with him I will speak mouth to mouth, clearly and not in riddles; the form of the LORD he will see."
The psalmist expects communion with God which is unambiguous and in a state of being awake, not in a dream. He expects to enjoy the presence of God (seeing his face), as he perceives the presence (the form or likeness) of a protective bird rather than an attacking lion. The verse speaks about intimacy and to speak about intimacy the psalmist reaches for bodily language.

* I use "his" in keeping with the gender of the Hebrew terms and the superscription "A Plea of David" and because the use of the singular "their" (which I use in other contexts) seems less appropriate in a discussion of body parts. This should not prevent women from appropriating the language for their own prayers.