Sunday, May 31, 2009

Psallite Sapienter in Christchurch

Fr Clement was kind enough to thank me for singing at his Pentecost Missa cantata this morning, referring to the motto of this blog: "Sing wisely".   I replied that I was sorry to have instead inflicted a dose of psallite insaniter upon the congregation - for, apart from a very competent organist, I alone was the choir this morning! For the record, I psalm-toned the propers (more or less) a capella, sang the Sequence, the Missa de Angelis and Credo III all accompanied on the organ (the people, about 30 being present, joining in), and beforehand we had the Pentecost Vesper hymn Veni Creator, while at the Offertory I sang the Ave maris stella and Regina caeli, and for Communion the Adoro te and the Ave verum (the last being accompanied). For a recessional there was a very nice setting of the Veni Creator in English, but one wholly unknown to me.  (I should add that Br Paul, Fr Clement's fellow Son of the Most Holy Redeemer, was the M.C. at the Mass.)

Fr's preaching was very clear and very helpful, starting from the observation that in the Old Testament the Feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt Sinai. But the Old Law, being a list of rules without the grace to keep them, was a ministry of death as the Apostle says; for the law came by Moses, but grace and truth through Jesus Christ (St John i). It was for Christ to establish the New Law, written in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, Who gives us the grace to keep the commandments with love, not with servile fear as of old. Hence Augustine could boldly say, Ama, et fac quod vis - "Love, and do what you will": because if we truly love God then we will only ever freely choose to do good, virtuous things. 

To serve the Lord out of fear alone may seem a secure way, but in fact it is very insecure, and oft leads to slips into sin and finally hypocrisy: for we did not receive a Spirit of timidity, as St Paul says, and to turn from love to fear is to lapse into Old Testament ways, when things were tough and even cruel. Fr Clement very importantly noted that such a lapse into Old Testament law-keeping in fear is probably the spiritual reason behind such terrible abuses of children as have been revealed to have taken place in Ireland in the early to mid-twentieth century: the fault was not liberalism or moralism (they didn't even have the dialogue Mass then, after all!) but what would be termed rigorism and Jansenism, issuing in cruelty and hypocrisy that covered up shameful deeds completely at odds with the sweet yoke and light burden of Jesus Christ.


Anonymous said...

Fr Clement has got to the heart of the abuse problem in the Ireland we came from (I wonder if he was drawing on Pinckaers' masterly restatement of genuinely traditional moral theology). Mix that background witht he 1960s dissolution into Californian pop psychology and you get an even more toxic compound!

Terra said...

Hmm, anon, I'm not terribly convinced that Pinckaers is really that traditional - quite the contrary with his long attacks on the last four hundred years' worth of theological development!

But I think the Jansenism/puritanism explanation certainly has a lot going for it.

Just out of curiosity Joshua, how big was the congregation?

Joshua said...

Terra, you will note in the third sentence, second parentheses, that there were about 30 people present (including Br, who acted as M.C. for Fr, and other three servers). I am ashamed to say I haven't read Pinckaers, who is reputed to be quite sound; but Fr's sermon greatly reminded me of the moral theology I studied under Mgr Livio Melina, then Dean of the JPII Institute's Roman foundation (I think he may be a bishop or something now), and also of my other studies in this field: after all, Aquinas says as much, simply quoting St Paul, that the New Law given by Christ IS the Holy Ghost in our hearts...

Terra said...


On Pinckaers, on the plus side he certainly opposed liberalism and all its works.

But he is, as Tracey Rowland puts it 'not a 'Thomist of the strict observance' but rather favoured a ressourcement version of Thomism that rejects virtualy all theological developments since the fourteenth century, particularly anything in the Manual tradition. His work exhibits too much of the hermaneutic of rupture to appeal much to me at any rate.

But he has a strong following among neo-cons.