I see (I’m a bit slow about these things) that a number of people (well two anyway) have tagged (if I understand the term correctly) this blog (well actually one of them only tagged Berenike) requesting “all the boys and girls at Laodicea’s” three favorite prayers. Well I’m the only boy, and Berenike and Notburga are away on a secret mission, so I thought I ought to reply to Mr Preece’s request in the meantime.
This thought occured to me on the way back from the Cricket Club where I was supposed to be having a filial pint (something called ‘Robin Hood’ which I haven’t had before but was quite nice) with my Dad while watching Liverpool v Borussia Mönchengladbach except the reception was so terrible we had to pretend to watch A.C. Milan v Leon instead. As Liverpool lost 1-0 it was probably for the best. Anyway, I digress. Wandering back to the family abode I remembered having seen on the ‘Incoming Links’ thing on the dashboard this request. You see I don’t read loads of blogs everyday (unlike Berenike who is addicted) I just wander around every now and again and come across stuff. This is by way of excuse for not having noticed before. Anyway… I was walking back from the Cricket Club thinking ‘what are my three favorite prayers then?’ and three prayers popped into my head straight away. And I thought ‘well this is spontaneous, so I might as well say these three are my favorites rather than thinking it over and producing a less authentic list’. So here they are (and in the order they occurred to me).
I love the Athanasian Creed it makes me want to cry. It is like God. (I suppose that is the idea). I remember going to evensong (I know this is probably very bad but I didn’t then, ok?) in Berenike’s college on Trinity Sunday and the excellent choir belted out St Patrick’s breast plate and I just thought ‘ah…the Trinity!’. You see I don’t think people think ‘ah…the Trinity!’ enough (or indeed ‘Rah! the Trinity!’ which is almost as good). Mostly people think of the Trinity as one of those difficult things like Predestination which it is better not to think about because they make your head hurt and you might get it wrong. But, folks, the Trinity is God. That’s right, the Trinity is God. The Trinity is God as He Is in Himself. There are an infinitude of angels greater than any angel God actually made which He could have made and not one of them, and not one of any of those He did make, fallen or unfallen, would ever have had the slightest clue about the Trinity unless God had revealed it to us. If you think about that too much a sort of existential infinite vertigo could set in, so be careful. Years ago I went to a talk by a conservative-but-not-orthodox (there are a lot of these) Dominican about the Trinity and he got us to pray the Athanasian Creed at the beginning, but he italicized the first and last verses and said they weren’t really part of the Creed itself. Yeah right! Don’t you believe it folks. And don’t believe those emissaries of the evil one who tell you that the Filioque is an embarrassing mediaeval accretion and encumbrance, a barrier to ecumenical dialogue, a violation of the Ephesian prohibition etc. Rubbish! And don’t believe those emissaries of the evil one who tell you that the dual procession of the Spirit is an invention of St Augustine grounded in outdated metaphysics blah blah blah…. The procession of the Word per modum intellectus is Apostolic . Justin Martyr explains it in some detail, Athanasius takes it for granted (as do the other participants in the Arian controversy), and the Roman Catechism tells us: “Among the different comparisons employed to elucidate the mode and manner of this eternal generation that which is borrowed from the production of thought in our mind seems to come nearest to its illustration, and hence St. John calls the Son the Word.” ‘Hence’ ladies and gentlemen ‘hence’. ‘St. John’ remember him? The inspired fellow who wrote the fourth gospel, remember? The Dogma of the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian Creed is saving truth. Alas! It used to be that Latin Catholics recited the Athanasian Creed every Sunday at Prime. And, in England before the Reformation, every day at Prime. Then some enemy (I forget who, probably Bugnini) persuaded the Holy Father to reduce the liturgical use of the Quicumque to Trinity Sunday itself. And then (definitely Bugnini this time) Prime was abolished. I notice that Bugnini had a particular aversion to exorcismy devotions. He abolished one of the feasts of the Holy Cross, the feast of St Gabriel, the feast of St Raphael, one of the feasts of St Michael, the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Interesting pattern here wouldn’t you say? (Incidentally, he also moved or suppressed every Dominican Feast on the entire universal calendar). About a year ago I came accross and old Roman Ritual which had all the exorcism prayers in it and I was most interested to see that one of the exorcisms basically consists in reciting the Athanasian Creed. If it annoys the bad guys that much it must be worth praying. If the Sixth Lateran Council is ever convened to clear up this present mess before it issues its document on inter-religious dialogue (‘Dii Gentium Daemonia Sunt’) or its document on Ecuminism (‘In Se Compacta Tota’) the first thing it needs to do is solemnly define the Athanasian Creed, restore Prime and make everyone pray it everyday.*
2. The Golden Arrow
I didn’t print the text of the Athanasian Creed because this post is already totally out of control, in terms of length anyway, but the Golden Arrow is nice and short so here goes…
May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable,
most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God
be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored
and glorified in Heaven, on earth,
and under the earth,
by all the creatures of God,
and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
In a way the Golden Arrow is a counterpart to the Jesus Prayer. The Golden Arrow was revealed to a Carmelite Nun in Tours called Sr. Marie de S. Pierre in 1843. It is an act of reparation for blasphemy against the Name of God. Our Lord told Sr Marie that when it is recited He is pierced with delight in reparation for the sorrow inflicted upon Him by the violation of the second and third commandments. St Therese was very devoted to the revelations of Sr. Marie concerning this and the Holy Face and she kept a lock of Sr. Marie’s hair next to her heart until she died. The Name of God is Holy. It is not to be uttered by human lips. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches,
“But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: ‘Jesus,’ YHWH saves.’ The name ‘Jesus’ contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray ‘Jesus’ is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.”
You will note the Catechism omits the vowels from the name of God. Thankfully the Holy See has made renewed efforts in recent years to stop the use of Sacred Tetragramaton in the modern liturgy. I remember once at Mass I saw a girl in a nearby pew carefully covering her ears so she would not hear the Name uttered in a terrible modern hymn. After I read the revelations to Sr. Marie I began to recite the Golden Arrow whenever I heard the Name spoken. I was greatly to relived to read in Jesus of Nazareth Benedict XVI’s condemnation of the use of the Name in modern bible translations. I noticed one day that the Greek initials of the Holy Name of the Saviour IHS are really IES because the ‘H’ is an Eta. This got me to thinking about the teaching of the Catechism that the Holy Name of Jesus ‘hands over’ to us the Divine Name. Because the Christogram IES is in fact the initials of the phrase which St Thomas uses to explain the meaning of the Tetragramaton: Ipsum Esse Subsistens. To quote the 23rd of Pius X’s Twenty Four Thomistic Theses,
“Divina Essentia, per hoc quod exercitae actualitati ipsius esse identificatur, seu per hoc quod est ipsum Esse subsistens, in sua veluti metaphysica ratione bene nobis constituta proponitur, et per hoc idem rationem nobis exhibet suae infinitatis in perfectione.”
“The metaphysical notion of the Divine Essence is correctly expressed by saying that it is identified with the exercised actuality of its own being, or that it is subsistent being itself. And this is the reason for its infinite and unlimited perfection.”
Of course, without the Beatific Vision, we are absolutely incapable of knowing what the Divine Name means. As St Thomas says “the divine substance surpasses every form that our intellect reaches, thus we are unable to apprehend it by knowing what it is”. Only God Himself has an Intellect adequate to understand Himself. This is why the Divine Name is in the first person, the only one Who can utter it and know what it means (and so not violate the second commandment) is God Himself. Thus, the rite of the Day of the Atonement, when the High Priest uniquely once a year entered the Holy of Holies and uttered the Name, in its inadequacy, summed up the inadequacy of the entire law. Only Our Lord Himself could enter the true sanctuary (of which the earthly was a copy) and with full knowledge pronounce the ineffable Name and procure our salvation. When with reverence and fear we pronounce the Holy Name of Jesus we take hold of that act. In fact a recent attempt to reconstruct the Hebrew of the Titulus concluded that the Latin INRI came out in Hebrew as YHWH. A truly terrifying thought.
“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
3. The Angelic Psalter
The Rosary is amazing. I have my first set of Rosary beads in a box next to my bed wrapped around a first class relic of St Dominic (if anyone tells you St Dominic did not promulgate the Rosary punch them). I couldn’t possibly begin to say why the Rosary is so wonderful. I need to write a book about it one day. At Mass this morning (and if anyone tells you you shouldn’t pray the Rosary during Mass at least give serious consideration to punching them) I observed how the fifteen mysteries (I quite like the luminous ones but they don’t make much sense as part of the Psalter) fit perfectly into the structure of the Mass. First there is the Annunciation, when God became man in the womb of Our Lady, and this while Asperges is reminding us of the moment when the Lord took up residence in our souls and made us to share in the Divine Nature. Then, as we recall our unworthiness to approach the place of sacrifice, we meditate on the Visitation whereby the Redeemer, carried in the womb of the Mediatrix of All Graces, was borne to the last of the Prophets, the son of the Aaronic Priesthood, the preacher of penance and cleansed him of all sin. Then, as the Priest recites the Gloria, we recall its first proclamation at the Birth of the Messiah. Then, as the mysteries of the New Law are unfolded, we recall Christ’s first acts of fulfillment of the Old Law and Simeon’s prophecy of the illumination of the Gentiles. Then, as the Gospel is proclaimed and expounded, we recall Christ’s instruction of the Doctors of the Law (or if you don’t want to be rude you can listen to the sermon). Then, as the priest and people prepare themselves for the sacrifice, we recall Christ’s preparation in the Garden. As the priest washes his hands, we recall our impurities for which He was scourged. As the priest intones the preface, we recall the royal dignity of Christ mocked through the crown of thorns. As the Sanctus is sung and we approach the eternal sacrifice, we recall His journey to the place of that sacrifice on earth and then as the first half of the canon is spoken we meditate upon His death itself, the still centre of the universe. After the elevations, as the Benedictus is sung, we remember the triumph of Immolated Lamb on Easter morning. At the end of the Canon and during the Our Father, His Ascension the right hand of His Father now our Father, His God and now our God. Then, as the Priest consumes the Chalice, the pouring forth of the Spirit from the pierced heart of the Glorified and Risen Lord in the Empyrean Heaven onto His Church on earth. As the servers and people receive communion, the Assumption of His Blessed Mother into that eternal sanctuary. And finally, in thanksgiving, the glory of His Mother: type and model of the Church Triumphant and star of hope to the Church Militant.
St Louis de Montfort said that the Rosary is like the sling of David. David is Christ. The fifty Hail Marys are the sling representing His sacred humanity formed from the flesh of Mary. The five Our Fathers are the five small stones David took representing the five glorious wounds. David only used one of them to signify that a single drop of Christ’s blood sufficed to save the world. Goliath is the evil one, struck down and incapacitated by the merits of the Saviour. The cross on the end of the beads is Goliath’s sword, the Devil’s own weapon: death, as David drew his enemy’s own weapon and decapitated him with it, so Christ crushed the head of the ancient serpent with death itself. Christ’s death came at the end but we take hold of the Cross and recite the Creed upon it at the beginning, because without His death and our faith in its power, none of our prayers would have any efficacy in the first place.
Someone told me once that the then Archbishop of Los Angeles replied to the questionnaire sent out to all bishops before the Second Vatican Council asking what they would like the council to do, by asking for solemn definitions that the fires of Hell are material fires and that it is ok to say the Rosary during Mass. Perhaps Lateran VI can do that too.
[Berenike and Notburga can tag more people when they have done their lists]
* Correction: the Athanasian Creed was solemnly defined by the Council of Florence on 22nd November 1439 (Deo gratias!).