Sunday, 13 August 2017

Tradition

St Athanasius, writing about the Psalms said the following:

let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need. For I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man. For no matter what you seek, whether it be repentance and confession, or help in trouble and temptation or under persecution, whether you have been set free from plots and snares or, on the contrary, are sad for any reason, or whether, seeing yourself progressing and your enemy cast down, you want to praise and thank and bless the Lord, each of these things the Divine Psalms show you how to do, and in every case the words you want are written down for you, and you can say them as your own.

It is worth chewing over that for some time, it is so true and so beautiful. The Psalms are everything to me precisely because of this.  I'm not sure whether I live them or they live me. For repentance and confession, help in trouble and temptation, under persecution or set free from persecution, seeing the enemy cast down and simply to praise God because He is God..... it is all there.  I would not have a relationship with God through them without the Sacraments of the Church, but they are the framework on which I hang my carcass; they support and at the same time restrict my natural impulses and direct them where they ought to go.

I am arguing here that the Rosary is a gift to us for exactly the same purpose; that through the prayers of the Mother of God we can be directed in all things to where we ought to be. The Rosary was given to St Dominic to give to the world as an alternative to the Psalter, but not as an alternative that excludes the Psalms from the life of Christian souls.  But the Rosary, like the Psalms, is to be prayed in repentance, confession, help, thanksgiving and praise. How often today is the Rosary prayed in thanksgiving and praise?  Have we lost something of Tradition. How often do Catholics spontaneously give praise to God for all things.... Have Catholics lost the Traditional understanding of Praise? Praise is Heaven, praise is the indwelling of the Trinity, praise is our essence.

And yet you go into any Catholic Church (it seems) anywhere in the world and the Rosary is intoned by those present as if it were an offering to a god who is out of reach, a sacrifice to an unknown god who has left us suffering in a cruel and merciless world. And here is where I offend most of my readers but I will say what I think needs to be said.  I think the Fatima prayer (added so often to the Rosary) has a lot to answer for.  It is not Tradition.  I have been told that one Bishop (when it first became fashionable) forbade his diocese from adding it to the Rosary. I have some sympathy with this. It turns the Rosary purely into a petition, it does not bring us to a greater understanding of ourselves and of God. The Rosary seems to be prayed purely as petition in public.... and the Fatima prayer is a prayer of petition, it makes the Rosary weighted towards petition, it shouldn't always be added.

This is a predominantly Orthodox land but I am fortunate enough to be in walking distance of a Catholic Church and to be able to hear its bell calling the faithful to Mass.  I go there and I could be in a Catholic Church anywhere in the world.  That is the beauty of the Catholic Church, but it is also a sadness. So much Tradition has gone, and with it so many dimensions to our faith.  I long to hear Psalmody ring out again in the Roman churches, and the Psalmody of Tradition not the insipid and feminine Gellineau Psalmody (it isn't designed for male voices (or contraltos) but is the default setting these days and finds its way into the Novus Ordo all over the world)... we may discover praise again, we may start to understand its incalculable worth and we may also find more men in the pews.





2 comments:

Ttony said...

Your comments on the Rosary: yes, yes, yes!

At some point - no hurry, and only if you care - could you tell us what a Roman Rite parish is like in a country which is Orthodox and has a Greek-Catholic Church as well.

And the football news will have made you happy. Only us and, err, Huddersfield between you and the title.

Rita said...

Ah yes! Never good to be top of the table in the opening weeks....

There is a post brewing on the subject you request, but I need to make sure it is as objective as possible....

However it is depressing seeing the lack of men in the pews in the Roman Church and then walking past the people spilling out of the Orthodox Churches: happy, confident and at least 50% of them male.