Friday, October 13, 2017
Quicunque vult. . .
A little history finds that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had ordered that the 'Athanasian' [don't we all know that it wasn't actually written by S Athanasius?] Creed be used once a month. In the Church of England, it was ordered to be said twelve times a year. It is printed after Evensong in the Prayer Book. In Roman usage the Quicunque vult was used on every Sunday when the liturgy was not lengthened by a Commemoration. Sadly, in the wake of Vatican II and its concern about the tightness of and the spare use of liturgical language, Annabale Bugnini took the Council's direction to heart and removed the Athanasian Creed even from its last usage in the Liturgy of the RC Church.
Many do not care much for the Athanasian Creed. Some try to refute its legitimacy at all and challenge the idea that it is one of the three great ecumenical creeds. Certainly it is Western, rather pedagogical in form and content and not typically know much or used at all in the East. That said, it is a Creed that begs a more frequent usage. It puts us squarely before the Mystery of the Holy Trinity which cannot be explained. It says as much as what the Holy Trinity is not as what it is and that is probably the best we can do with respect to this great mystery. That said, it reminds us that we confess the Trinity not to define it or even to comprehend it but to worship it -- it being of course the ever-living and eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So even though we are long away from Holy Trinity Sunday, perhaps we are not so far that it would behoove us to drag it out and confess it again. If only to force Lutherans to say that which dare not be said aloud (the dreaded word catholic). But even more so because we need to remember that the goal of faith is not to inform the mind but to move the heart to worship Him whom we know as He has revealed Himself, one God in three Persons. The problem for us today is more than our discomfort with this Creed -- modern clergy and lay probably tend to be rather popularly Unitarians or Modalists and quite happily so. In fact, for most Christians today, the less said about the Holy Trinity the better the faith is. But how can we forget what Jesus has come to make known? The name of the Trinity is not simply words but the name in which baptismal water is endowed with the power to wash clean and give new birth and the name that becomes the power to absolve the baptized from their sins. Such a name dare not be forgotten and such a faith should not be forgotten even though the formula is pedantic, repetitive, and even tedious as it dribbles away at what the Trinity is by confessing what it is NOT.