Thursday, September 01, 2011

Brief and Banal

This morning at Matins and the Eucharist, whoever was supposed to preside didn't show up, so we were running late. The person who filled in announced at the Eucharist that we would use prayer H and ordered everyone to look at their booklet and make the responses. Since I don't ever use a booklet (it's all in my memory) this seemed a bit ad feminam but I dutifully picked up a booklet (I always sit in the back) and opened to canon H.

Rather an interesting structure, entirely in dialogue form: as I recall, two prefatory calls and response, the consecration prayers (bread, cup) each with a response, the whole thing ending with the Sanctus and then communion. It would have been intriguing if a) the language hadn't been so utterly banal that halfway through I put my booklet down and refused to mouth any more of this drivel; and b) if the theology hadn't been the worst sort of bloody sacrifice atonement nonsense that was pure Paschasius and his successors (more on this in a moment); and c) if it had been short not because we were pressed for time but because we could have been spending time together in silence in a genuinely contemplative Eucharist.

All of these negatives were exacerbated for me because I have been reading Rachel Fulton's most wonderful book, From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200, (Columbia University Press, 2002). This is one of the sources that Brock and Parker used for Saving Paradise and it is not only beautifully written, but also a very even-handed and subtle analysis of Paschasius' argument and what followed. She is not as blunt as Brock and Parker in describing the effects, but Brock and Parker are certainly justified in what they say. I have come to rephrase one of the questions rather crudely as, "How did we switch from understanding salvation as a kenotic putting on the mind of the risen Christ, to understanding it as a solpisistic putting on of the dead body of the historical Jesus?"

Rachel Fulton makes the answer to this question very evident. I cannot say enough good things about her book, from the level of scholarship to the humane presentation. If you really want to know why religion is in such a mess today, read this book.


Anonymous BR said...

Looking forward to reading the book. Your mention is a good excuse to ask the question I've been meaning to:

We agree that religion is a mess. And the story you've told from Pillars of Flame to Writing the Icon to this blog has resonated for me. But what to do about, well, church?

I ask because I've been out of church for years, and am moving to a new city. So I want to ground myself in faith again, find some people, and find something beyond silent prayer and reading heady theology in my garret. Yet I have little idea what to do. With your work, religion is rooted in silence, and I won't find that in almost any American church. Pillars of Flame suggests the whole enterprise is mad. I understand this, but I also can't bear to go it alone much more. Impossible to answer such a question for a stranger, I know, but thank you for your time and your work.

1:31 am, September 03, 2011  

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