“What a bore clergy find the ‘Hymn to Love’ in I Corinthians 13…”

From Fr. Hunwicke of Mutual Enrichment comes this brilliantly blistering entry. I am glad he’s on our side. And I am especially glad to have another defender of the pre-Lent Sundays. They were 86’d in the time of Paul VI. What a senseless tragedy.  My emphases:


What a bore clergy find the ‘Hymn to Love’ in I Corinthians 13 (the EF/BCP Epistle in Sunday’s Mass), as yet another engaged couple want Uncle Bob to read it at their wedding. Read, however, in the context of the blistering attack S Paul is making on the failings of the Corinthian Christians, its cutting irony, verging on sarcasm, is rather fun. Whenever S Paul says “Love is not X”, he is mightily suggesting that the Corinthians are X. But it isn’t irony Kevin and Sharon think they’re getting … I blame the late Thos Cranmer for the start of this vulgarisation. He abolished the fitting pre-Lent Collect for Quinquagesima and replaced it by a composition of his own, highlighting Charity. Since then, it has all been downhill.  [See what happens when you don’t adequately respect Quinquagesima?  Tinker tinker tinker… what good comes of that.]

If you look carefully at Quinquagesima’s BCP/EF Epistle and Gospel (Luke 18:31-43), you may notice that the link between them is the idea of being made able to See. Then, if you turn to the Homily by S Gregory which provides an extract for the third nocturn in the Old Breviary, you will discover that this is exactly what the saint leads us to expect. [NB: Many people use the word “liturgy” when they mean “Mass”.  But Mass is not “the liturgy”.  The Office is also “the liturgy”.  In the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite, there was far more cohesion between the two.  Read together, they present a far fuller view of the day.] (Migne, 76, columns 1081 and following; incidentally, as on the preceding two Sundays, the manuscripts tell us that this was preached to the people in the Stational Church – S Peter in Vaticano – on the Sunday we are examining. I will endeavour to amuse you by translating some of S Gregory’s little Latin ‘fillers’ by means of our popular modern ‘fillers’.)



Go over there to find the rest.  It’s worthy of your time.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Thomas Sweeney says:

    I have never been able to digest Faith, Hope and Love as well as Faith, Hope and Charity. Charity, in my mind works much better, because it is not stigmatized by the thought of concupiscence. Probably another one of my failings.

  2. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Perhaps you can lure Father John Hunwicke into explaining in more detail why he says, “I blame the late Thos Cranmer for the start of this vulgarisation.” If the “pre-Lent Collect for Quinquagesima” is fitting, with its prayer “a peccatorum vinculis absolutos, ab omni nos adversitate custodi” – which it is – how is the recognition that the Lord teaches us “that all our doings without charity are nothing worth”, and that “without the which whosoever liveth is counted dead before” Him, and the prayer, “send Thy Holy Ghost and pour into our hearts that most excellent Gift of Charity”, any less fitting – much less a “vulgarisation” (or, to ask you, evidence of inadequate respect for Quinquagesima)?

    I suspect that here one man’s “vulgarisation” is another’s example of “the liturgical […] traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared” from the “Anglican patrimony” (Anglicanorum Coetibus, III, & VI) – but I’m not sure how to resolve such a divergence of perspective.

  3. Gerard Plourde says:

    I’m saddened that Fr. Hunwicke only [?] sees a satiric, sarcastic take-down of the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 13. I don’t doubt for a minute that the audience he was addressing was deficient in all of those attributes he listed. So are we all today. [I am saddened that you think that that is “only” what Fr. Hunwicke sees. Think before posting.]

    The list of attributes that St. Paul assigns to the virtue of caritas (I resist using the common English translations of “charity” or “love” here because in daily use we have reduced these, respectively, to a system of institutional giving on the one hand and a state of fairy-tale euphoria on the other) requires some demanding behavior of humans. Just look at what he tells his readers and frame it in the context of an examination of conscience.

    Paul tells us to be patient. I as a citizen of today’s “rush-rush” world could a good dose of that.

    He tells us to be kind. Measure that against the present suspicious and angry tenor of our time. How many times a day do I fall short?

    The examination goes on – Does not envy, one of the cardinal sins. “How dare X get the boss’s praise or a promotion instead of me!” Is not pretentious, not puffed up, in other words, the most dangerous of the cardinal sins – pride. Is not ambitious, not self-seeking – Am I setting my wants and desires ahead of what God wants for me? Is not provoked, thinks no evil – Do I take offense quickly and hold grudges? Does not rejoice over wickedness – Do I take pleasure in the misfortune of others. Do I willingly do things that are wrong?

    It seems to me that it is precisely in the places where we fail living up to the standard that St. Paul sets forth in this passage that Our Lord places the marker by which we are judged.

    I certainly take no offense that this reading is often used in the Nupial Mass. It provides a counterpoint to the unrealistic image of marital love that the advertisers of our society sets up as an idol in its place.

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