Recently I posted on the matter of complaining about liturgical abuses. Several people commented on the fact that the complaint should be proportional to the seriousness of the abuse. Let’s test that.
I have complained before about the routine dropping of “men” from the phrase in the Nicene Creed “for us men and for our salvation” in our parish liturgies. During the Parliament of the World’s Religions, our local Ukrainian Catholics did a liturgy at St Augustines in the city. You could have bowled me over with a feather when the choir (not the priest) omitted the word “men” from the sung Creed. And this from an Eastern Rite Chuch, where I thought these things were important!
Why haven’t our bishops said something about this practice? Because it doesn’t threaten the faith? Because it is a trivial matter? Well, we will see how trivial it is.
I have a friend who has a friend who is Dr Ruwan Palapathwala. Ruwan is a good bloke. I have sat at table with him on occasion at my friend’s home. He is an Anglican priest and Senior Chaplain at RMIT in Melbourne. He lectures in Asian Religions and Religion and Culture in the United Faculty of Theology, the Melbourne College of Divinity and at Trinity College, the University of Melbourne. In other words, a learned and gentle man. But he goes entirely up the wrong path in this comment which was made on a recent edition of Rachel Kohn’s Spirit of Things program on ABC Radio:
Rachael Kohn: Well Stephen, and also Ruwan, isn’t the notion of Jesus as the unique incarnation of God, one of the most contentious aspects of Christian belief today?
Rachael Kohn: Ruwan?
Ruwan Palapathwala: Earlier we referred to Tillich, and he had a very interesting take on this towards the very end of his life where he put the emphasis on for us, for us Christians, it is the ultimate and unique revelation of God. And in that you have a complete expression of what the faith means for the Christians. So that emphasis on ‘for us Christians’ is important. And in the broader sense this is where again I think in our contemporary understanding of God’s revelation, we need to look at it more inter-textually and then we could see that God has made himself known, and has not left any part of the world unwitnessed. And Stephanie referred to the Bhagavad Gita earlier, and in Chapter 4, in the Gita there’s a very beautiful passage where Krishna proclaims that whenever there is unrighteousness that he would incarnate himself to lead people on the path of righteousness, and the destruction of the vice and the wicked. So you see beautiful images of God’s involvement in the world being expressed in other texts, and so a broader view, an appreciate view of such understandings of God’s dealings with the world are very helpful for contemporary understanding of God’s involvement in the world, yes. [My emphasis]
But the Creed does not say “for us Christians” – it says “for us men“. This isn’t a mistranslation of the creed. The word is right there in both the Greek and the Latin. The Creed wants to tell us that Christ was incarnate of the Virgin Mary FOR ALL MANKIND – not just for believers or Christians or Catholics or Gentiles – but FOR EVERYONE. If you leave the word “men” out, the Faith is in danger of being perverted.
I am not saying this to criticise Dr Ruwan. I am saying this to demonstrate that a little word can be very important. For goodness sake, the Eastern Church split from the West when we dared to add words to the Creed – is it anything less to omit them?