Sunday, May 15, 2016
Diminution of the Holy Sprit
A thought for discussion:
A real reading of Vatican I gives us a rather beautiful understanding of the role the Pope, it is moderate, it is far from the idea of secular leaders of the 19th or 20th centuries or even our current age, it places the Pope as the servant of the Church, and yet its interpretation, the Spirit of VI produced some of the most inflated, aggrandised Popes ever. Popes who on a whim chose to abolish centuries old Tradition, Popes who saw themselves as innovators, rather than faithful servants who passed on intact what they themselves had received.
Whilst this going on there is a movement which at least has the appearance of being against, or to diminish the Holy Spirit, first of all Pius XII abolished the ancient Vigil of Pentecost and Paul VI abolished the Octave of Pentecost. Presumably this was done so as not to overshadow Pius XII's reform of Easter and Holy Week, but I can't help thinking it gave an imbalance to our understanding of the Holy Spirit and therefore our theology as whole.
Paul VI introduces oriental epliclesis into the Rite of Mass - Fr Hunwick has pointed out that in the ancient Eucharistic prayer of the West, the Roman Canon preserves within it a theology of God which is pre-Nicean, the point of being in the Eucharist, at least, almost binaterian . The Eucharist is confected by the Church through the priest offering bread and wine to the Father and he in turn giving us his Son. It is an exchange of gifts and there is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic Prayer, apart from the present doxology at its end. In the East Eucharistic prayers, and the novelty Eucharistic Prayers introduced by Paul VI all, except the earliest, have a calling down of the Spirit.
What has happened is an abandonment in the post-VII of a very Western understanding of God - I wonder if the disorientation this caused has resulted in the rise of the Charismatic movement, a movement where the saving death of Christ is often replaced by a personal, ecstatic or emotional experience of the Spirit. Our Western understanding seems to be that the Holy Spirit is the unseen agent of Holiness, drawing us gradually into a deeper communion with the Father and the Son, within the Church. He is unseen but he is experienced. I think this was very much the understanding prior to Nicea and the later Christological Councils.
What I fear it has brought with it is a sense that the Holy rather than 'welling up' and being 'within' is something which comes down from above. In the day to day experience of Christians it is something from outside. There is a connection here between S Vincent of Lerins, understanding of Catholicism as quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est - everwhere, always and by all believed - to what the modern neo-Con might believe, which put crudely, is Catholicism is that which the Pope believes and it is imposed from above on those below. It is the most hideous Ultramontane distortion of the faith, and I suspect it relies on a distortion of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Yet it does seem that from VII onwards the role of the Holy Spirit is greatly diminished whilst the significance of the Papacy increases, these two things are surely not unconnected.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake