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Saturday, June 02, 2012


The hawk-eyed interns toiling away in  the Egg's Dept. of Creedal Pedantry (basement level, third door, near the boiler) recently slipped a memo into Fr. A.'s in-box.  It reads, in essence, "Hey, bonehead, wake up."  Turns out the Lutheran world's answer to Baron Corvo missed a few key points in his comments an Quicunque vult, known here in the office as "the Creed Screed."

First, he got confused about the use of the Athanasian Creed in modern Roman Catholicism.  After centuries of use at Prime on Sundays, it was reduced to Prime on Trinity in 1914; in the post-Vatican II breviary, it is not used at all.  And certainly not at Mass.

Second, he joined the multitudes in panning Evangelical Lutheran Worship for failing to include the Athanasian Creed in its record-setting 1211 pages of liturgical material.  On its own, this may well be a legitimate criticism.  However, what Fr. A. neglected to mention was that the Athanasian Creed has not, historically, been included in all that many Lutheran service books.  It was in the LC-MS's 1941 Lutheran Hymnal, and the 1978 LBW, but that seems to be about it.  Since, as readers of our Latin-English breviary know, we consider the Service Book and Hymnal to be the high point of liturgical formularies in the style of the Romantic revival, and since the creed in question is not found there (nor, so far as we can find, even mentioned in Reed's commentary), it seems that the argument against its use in a Sunday parish liturgy is stronger than we had realized.

This means, incidentally, that one really must not speak of the Athanasian Creed being "omitted" by ELW.  It has no more been omitted than the Small Catechism, included in some predecessor books, was "omitted" from the LBW.  And ELW, to its immense credit, does include the Catechism, albeit in an excruciatingly small typeface.


Daniel said...

Thanks for this. Odd how easy it is to get hot-and-bothered about something like this (and I was a little troubled, even though I'm not a big fan of the Ath. Cr.), especially when it fits a narrative ("The ELCA's new hymnal is rank antinomian liberal protestantism in book form!"). It says something about our tendency to assume that whatever we grew up with is some kind of eternal standard.

James of the Tonsure said...

Growing up with SBH I had little exposure to the Ath.C. except in the Book of Concord. It's inclusion in LBW was probably in large measure because of its presence in LH'41. My LCMS peers in college (always lauding their book over mine -- though few had ever seen or experienced the SBH)took its presence in the LH'41 as prima facie evidence that its presence in the book and use on Trinity Sunday was the orthodox and irrefutable tradition!

I have to wonder though if my assocaiation with the Ath.C. and Trinity Sunday wasn't due to the required reading of Silas Marner in 9th grade, where the Ath.C. got a footnote, as well as one for the IHC/IHS (memory fails which way it was givne). By then I knew of the creed, but also had never used it in our congregation. Silas and Eppie were obviously CofE people.

James of the Tonsure said...

Actually just went back to Marner and there the specific association of the Ath.C. is with Christmas and "rare occasions"
"But in Raveloe village the bells rang merrily, and the church was fuller than all through the rest of the year, with red faces among the abundant dark-green boughs -- faces prepared for a longer service than usual by an odoros breakfast of toast and ale. Those green boughs, the hymn and anthem never heard but at Christmas -- even the Athanasian Creed, which was discriminated from the others only as being longer and of exceptional virtue, since it was only read on rare occasions -- brought a vague exulting sense, for which the grown men could as little have found words as the children, that something great and mysterious had been done for them in heaven above and earth below, which they were appropriating by their presence. And then the red faces made their way throught the black biting frost to their own homes, feeling themselves free for the ret of the day to eat, drink, and be merry, and using that Christian freedom without diffidence."