Thursday, August 22, 2013
A New Image of God
In last Sundays readings Jesus says to his disciples: "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division". It is the type of reading that the compilers of the Lectionary normally move to the Wednesday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, or there abouts.
A useful tool for any spiritual director or regular confessor is to get the directee or penitent to examine his image of God. Images of God change through history, iconography changes, they are important in that they affect the way in which we relate to God and understand His relationship to us and to the world. The image of the young smooth faced shepherd, says something different from the mighty Pantocrator, Christ the Priest reigning from the Tree produces a different spirituality and sentiments to the bloody Christ suffering in agony on the Cross; Christ the Judge "with limbes white and woundes rede who comes the Judge the quicke and dede" again produces a different understanding to the image of the tender Sacred Heart.
Images are important.
The problem is we tend to make of God in our own preconceived image of other things, often they are socio-political and from our own experience, thus the child of a brutal harsh distant father often tends see God in those terms, and will have difficulty in relating to God as Father or to Jesus, until they have learnt to change their image 'fatherhood'. I always tell dads at baptism how important they are in being an icon for their children of God.
The lectionary for Extraordinary Form seems to present Christ in a more vivid way than the Ordinary Form Lectionary. It was organic, hammered out over the centuries, although the Sundays are basically those in use at the time of Gregory the Great. The readings for feasts reflect the imagery, theology and spirituality of the time they were introduced. What was used at the time of Pope Gregory in the sixth century had undergone a long process of redaction going back presumably to the early Church. The old Lectionary by the time St Thomas wrote the Office and selected the Lections for the Feast of Corpus Christ had undergone a slow development and of course the old Lectionary itself had formed the theology and spirituality of St Thomas himself. The Church's theology until the 20th Century was built on her Liturgy and the scriptures presented there and most especially in the Lectionary of the Missal
I can't help thinking of Abp Annibale Bugnini writing the Missal of Paul VI and composing the present Lectionary through a haze of whatever was smoked in 60s. Maybe I am being unfair and he didn't smoke anything but the Pauline Lectionary has a decided 60s feel to it. The image of God, of Jesus is not organic, it has the feel of one particular period in history, to me it is decidedly Beatnik to early Hippie. If it hadn't been compiled after two World Wars and the Holocaust it would probably have been quite different, if Bugnini or Paul VI had been different types of men the image of God presented to us would be quite different. Because fundamentally it is their image of God, it is not the image that St Thomas Becket, St Francis, St John of the Cross, St John Vianney, or Padre Pio met every day at the altar.
The OF Lectionary presents us with a new theology; the ancient Lectionary formed the theology of the Church, it was an unchanging 'given'. What Bugnini produced was very much the product of the Council and 20th century theology. It comes from the same school that applied the scalpel to excise the cursing psalm, that separated that bit about eating and drinking one's own condemnation from the Epistle for Corpus Christi and so many other bits and pieces that they were uncomfortable with, that simply did not reflect the theological fashion of the time.
Yes, we now have a lot more scripture but it is carefully selected, carefully edited and from a very particular time in Church history and produced by very strange men indeed, some of whom were quite unsaintly, who had their own image of God they wanted to impose on the Church.
In a sense the new Lectionary gives a new image of God, in that it has change the Church fundamentally because it has changed the face of God.
I know I have written about this before, but the image of God we worship and that Church believes in is of absolute importance.
Ben too has done a lot of work on a comparison of the two Lectionaries.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake