(posted by Faustus, M.D.)
Considering the fact that I’m Jewish, it sometimes seems odd that I am so passionately reactionary about the Christian liturgy. I have a job singing in an Episcopal church in New York that has both the most beautiful acoustic in the Western hemisphere (and the only acoustic I’ve ever sung in in the Eastern hemisphere that surpasses it is the Lady Chapel at Ely) and the most gorgeous and grand architecture imaginable.
So why the hell are we using Rite II?
I really am baffled by the fact that I care about this, seeing as how, oh, Christianity has been responsible for the death of millions of my people over the last two millenia. And yet every time we skip the Kyrie, my hackles start to go up. If I had my druthers, the whole service would still be in Latin.
But why we’re using Rite II isn’t really my question, since there’s not really anything I can do about it.
My question is about the hymn text “Ye who own the faith of Jesus,” which we sang last night in celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation, when Gabriel showed up at Mary’s place and said, “Surprise!” The hymn, a pretty dreadful and bombastic piece written in 1906 by one Vincent Stucky Stratton Coles, contains the following line:
Praise, O Mary, praise the Father, praise thy Savior and thy Son.
But here’s the thing: if Mary was conceived, as the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception tells us, without the stain of original sin, then she didn’t need saving from anything, so Jesus couldn’t very well be her savior.
I mean, I suppose one could argue that she sinned during her life, but that seems a little contrived, especially because if she did, those sins were almost certainly venial instead of mortal–I can’t imagine Mary committing “sacrilege, murder, adultery, false witness, theft, robbery, pride, envy, avarice, [or] if it is of long standing, anger, drunkenness, if it is persistent, [or] slander,” which is the list, according to Caesarius of Arles (writing in 522 A.D.), of mortal sins.
So what gives?
I’m inclined to believe that Mr. Coles was guilty of sloppy theology, but if anybody else has an explanation that allows him to escape such criticism, I’d love to hear it.
Now please excuse me while I put on a yarmulke and go to synagogue.