Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Msgr. Ronald Knox's The Creed in Slow Motion

There are a lot of great public domain books out there about the Catholic faith. One that I'd been meaning to read for some time but just got around to it is The Creed in Slow Motion by Monsignor Ronald Knox, the famous English priest and Catholic convert. The book is a collection of addresses delivered during World War II; here is an excerpt from the first chapter:

Well, we are starting off this afternoon with “I believe in God”; that ought to last us for the length of a whole sermon, even if we cut it down as much as we can. Let me direct your attention first of all to the use of the word “I”. Surely that's curious, if you come to think of it? Surely saying the Credo ought to be a tremendous congregational act, uniting us in a common profession of faith, and surely at that rate it ought to start “ WE believe”? But it doesn’t, you see, ever take that form. Go out to Lourdes, and watch from the top of the slope tens of thousands of candles flickering there below, in the torch-light procession. So many of them, they don’t look like separate candles; it is just a vast haze of light. And the people who carry them are singing Credo; Credo, not Credimus. And so it is at Mass. If you watch the Gloria, it is we all through, Laudamus te, Benedicimus te, Adoramus te, Glorificamus te, and so on; we lose ourselves in a crowd when we are singing the Gloria. But when we sing the Credo, we are not meant to lose ourselves in a crowd. Every clause of it is the expression of my opinion, for which I am personally responsible. Just so with the Confiteor; it is always Confiteor we say, not Confitemur, even when we are saying it together. Why? Because my sins are my sins, and your sins are your sins; each of us is individually responsible. So it is with the Credo; each of us, in lonely isolation, makes himself or herself responsible for that tremendous statement,” I believe in God”.

Interesting to read since the liturgists had changed the English translation to "We believe" back in the post-Vatican II reforms and it was recently returned to "I believe" in the changes of seven or eight years ago. I like how Father points out that the first person plural is used extensively in the Gloria and also the imagery of how the combination of candles make a brighter light; the "I"s combine form a large "we". The collective is comprised of individual parts, of individuals, in fact.

I will continue to post on this highly enjoyable work. It possesses the clarity of thought, precision and focus which is often lacking in much of today's religious writing discussion.

1 comment:

  1. I’ve read one or two of his detective novels and a few passages of his Bible translation. This post inspired me to see what the Web has for Knox’s nonfiction, and I read his essay (delivered as a four part conference) on imprecatory prayer — prayer in which you ask for stuff. It’s a tricky topic, since the Gospel says ask and you shall receive yet we’ve all asked without receiving. Knox offers some thoughts on how asking for things, both spiritual and temporal goods, fits into what Jesus has revealed is the relationship the Father wills that we have with Him.