Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hey! It's Michaelmas

I put up a particularly good via media set of Michaelmas posts here and at W4 two years ago, so I'll link to them here and here.

(Trivia bit which I have gathered from novel reading: In Cornwall and perhaps other parts of England you are not supposed to eat blackberries after Michaelmas on pain of illness and possibly death. Something to do with witches. Okay, end of trivia digression.)

I'm surprised to see that I never seem to have put up the BCP collect for Michaelmas. This was remiss of me, as it seems to me to embody Cranmer's approach, which I find very congenial, to such holy days. Both my Catholic and my non-Catholic readers will notice both what Cranmer says and what he does not say. But hopefully both will acknowledge that this is great liturgy:

O everlasting God, who has ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

23 comments:

William Luse said...

What does he not say?

It's great liturgy.

Is there an "ago" missing from the first sentence?

Lydia McGrew said...

Out of order answers:

There was an "ago" missing, now fixed thanks to your lynx-eyed help. Thanks, Bill!

Cranmer does not address Michael the Archangel in the prayer (all of Cranmer's collects are directed only to God) nor even name him specifically nor request that God send him, specifically, to help us.

William Luse said...

Cranmer does not address Michael the Archangel in the prayer (all of Cranmer's collects are directed only to God) nor even name him specifically nor request that God send him, specifically, to help us.

Okay, that's going too far. Michael has feelings too.

Lydia McGrew said...

I actually kind of doubt that angels _do_ have feelings. :-)

William Luse said...

Omigod. Are you telling me that angels don't have hearts?

William Luse said...

I'm expecting an answer, ma'am.

Lydia McGrew said...

Have to admit that I tend to picture angels as being of an order of creation that is pretty much passionless. C.S. Lewis's portrayal of planetary intelligences (which he treats as an order of angels) in _Perelandra_ is a good model for my own ideas, here.

But really, we don't know if they have emotions or not. God hasn't told us.

Lydia McGrew said...

For that matter we don't know what kind of bodies they have either, whether they are normally embodied or not, or whether they might have something physical corresponding to the heart, though I know that wasn't really what you were asking.

William Luse said...

Are they capable of love?

Lydia McGrew said...

Lewis's conjecture, which makes sense to me, is that love in angelic beings is the purely passionless virtue--charity unmixed with any hint of affection or emotion as we would find it in a human being. He even says expressly that because of the Incarnation humans will naturally be more comfortable with God than with angels, because God has become man, laughed, cried, all of that, whereas angels never have. As he imagines them, angels are unnerving beings to be around in part for this reason. They are utterly alien to us even when they are completely good angels doing the will of God to help man and other created beings.

William Luse said...

I guess it's possible, but I don't buy it. Christ's human nature did not disdain those things you mention, and I can't see why he would deny them to the angels. Love is only passionless when it's selfless, and impossible to imagine without that oveflowing of the heart that accompanines it at its best, when one wishes the highest good for another with no thought of recompense. That angels are in absolute control of their passions I've no doubt (which could make them unnerving to be around, in our present state), but saints have fallen into ecstasies when stricken by the love of God, and I don't see why angels would be immune. Besides, these guys fought a war in heaven because the Father of Lies, an angel, was possessed of a very familiar passion: a self-glorifying will to power.

Btw, this might be a good blog topic at W4.

Lydia McGrew said...

I don't think of the theory as suggesting disdain for the emotions. Actually, Lewis makes quite a thing of the fact that God was incarnate as man and therefore experienced human affections, etc. It's more just a vivid imagination of what it might mean for God to make men and angels truly distinct kinds. And we already know that God "denies" angels marriage, so this would sort of fit with that. Apparently angels don't think of not marrying as being "denied" anything, though. Probably just as you and I wouldn't worry about being "denied" the ability to do something that it isn't in our nature to enjoy. Like, I don't know, traveling to the inside of stars or eating beautiful silver sand.

It's an interesting point about Satan, though. One could think of that as a turning of the will to evil, not necessarily as involving passion. In general, I think the idea would be that motions of the will (whether good or bad) and the actions that follow from them, which in humans always would be accompanied with passion and emotion, would not be in angels. It leads one to imagine the angelic will as something like a laser--incredibly focused.

I think Lewis does it quite successfully as a literary trope. That doesn't mean that it's true of course but does make me more disposed to think that it could well be true.

Lydia McGrew said...

An even better example about being "denied" things might be men and women. Men are not able to be women nor women to be men, but neither is "better" than the other in some absolute sense. Their differences in nature are evidence of the fecundity of the Divine imagination, and they each have the perfections proper to their natures. Angels might not miss having emotions or marriage any more than a healthy man misses being able to be a woman and have babies or a healthy woman misses being able to be a man.

William Luse said...

I still say it's a good blog topic. For you, that is.

Lydia McGrew said...

In that case, I'll probably just be lazy tonight or tomorrow and put up a "stub" post with a link to my bodacious comments here. I really don't have anything more profound than that to say. But I'll bet the readers at W4 will be full of erudition on what all the theologians and church fathers have said about angels and passions.

Joseph said...

Hello,

I like this topic. I think angels do have feelings. Here is why -

(a) Lk 15:10 - angels have joy
(b) 1 Pet 1:12 - angels have longings

(c) Num 22:22-35 - the Angel had to have some sense of humour to make the donkey behave like that (this is highly speculative though)

Jeff Singer said...

Lydia (and Bill),

This was a fun post! I don't have much to add except a question that I was thinking about last week. Angles were on my brain given the feast of the Archangels on Sept 29 and the Memorial of the Guardian Angels on October 2 (both in Catholic Liturgical calendar).

Anyway, my question is this: once God created the angels ["As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness" - from the Catholic Catechism, 330] to reign with Him in heaven. Beyond our human capacity for understanding, they could enjoy God's works and share in His goodness -- and yet one angel choose by an act of his will to reject God and was therefore cast out of Heaven by God(i.e. Satan). What the heck (pardon the expression) would cause an angel to make such a decision?!

Lydia McGrew said...

Joseph, the joy one is pretty good. I think one could interpret that metaphorically, if one wanted, as we also interpret references to God's feelings as being put in analogical language. That is to say, we realize that there must be some sort of anthropomorphism in saying that God becomes angry, repents, etc.

The other two, nah. Longings can just mean desire, which is a movement of the will. I think the sense of humor with the donkey was God's (and just look at the gnu or the giraffe if you wonder whether God has a sense of humor), and a sense of humor doesn't really require feelings.

Jeff, I think our minds boggle because we always assume that bad acts have a cause. Same with Adam. He had everything going for him. "What possessed him," as we would put it, to eat of the fruit? Or Eve, for that matter?

I think that's where one needs a really robust notion of agent causation, aka free will. Truly free creatures can be originators of their own actions. A thought of doing wrong comes into their minds, and they _choose_ to embrace that thought rather than rejecting it, and we're off to the races. Satan thought of trying to "be like the most high," and suddenly, he embraced the thought. It sounded pretty cool to him. And off he went. Various Christian writers have for dramatic effect related Satan's decision to some "announcement" by God. For example, Lewis connects it with God's announcement that He was going to make man--the idea being that Satan allowed himself to be jealous about this and rebelled in consequence. But that's all just imagination and conjecture.

The _really_ difficult question, to which I don't have an answer, is this: Are the good angels who didn't fall always at risk of falling? If not (and Dante clearly thinks not), what does it mean in terms of their _present_ freedom of the will for them to be "confirmed in blessedness"? This is a practical question for us humans, because we assume that we will be in that state when we know the beatific vision. Dante probably gets closest to explaining it, but I suspect it will be a mystery until we experience it.

Jeff Singer said...

Lydia,

Thanks for the response -- I think you are right to point to the radical nature of free will to explain Satan's fall.

However, I do think Eve and Adam are easier to explain -- yes the Garden was paradise, but Satan was the one who planted the seeds of doubt and disobedience in them (so in a sense, without Satan, the Bible seems to suggest that Original Sin might never have occured.)

Also, great question regarding "confirmed in blessedness". That is tricky!

William Luse said...

Omigod, Lydia, you're denying even a sense of humor to the angels. This is beyond the pale.

Lydia McGrew said...

No, I'm just saying that in the case of Balaam's donkey, God was probably the one who came up with the joke. If (as God's having a sense of humor shows) a sense of humor doesn't entail passions, it would be perfectly consisted with denying feelings/passions to the angels to affirm that they have an ability to appreciate humor.

Joseph said...

Hi, thanks for replying Dr. McGrew. What would you say if I said the burden of proof is on someone who wants to take the joy in Lk 15:10 metaphorically.

We're quite sure, from other data, that God doesn't repent, so we anthropomorphize that. But I think God does have wrath and love. Is there other data that angels don't have joy?

Lydia McGrew said...

"What would you say if I said the burden of proof is on someone who wants to take the joy in Lk 15:10 metaphorically."

I'd say that's a perfectly respectable position, and I don't know that my and Lewis's conjecture is right. I have no huge stake in it. It makes sense to me because angels are clearly a different order of being from ourselves, and it seems a little strange if that consists only in their having greater power, etc., as if they were otherwise just like us. It would also seem to make their not being married or given in marriage rather arbitrary. To say that they "don't have joy" is a rather prejudicial way of putting it. I would say rather that on the non-passion view, their joy is of such a type as not to be a passion and must be understood as _analogous_ to joy in humans but not the same in that respect.

"But I think God does have wrath and love."

Certainly God _is_ love. To say that God _has_ wrath and love seems to be implying that God literally has emotions, just as we do. Is that your position?

I think that's rather an iffy position. Interestingly, I've just been arguing the _other_ side of this--namely, that we should be quite free to speak of God as a person, that we should not make God so abstract and philosophical a being as to place a gulf between the God of philosophy and the God of Scripture.

I believe that _very_ firmly, so if you tell me that you believe that God literally experiences anger, an emotion just like my emotion of anger, I won't call you a heretic. I think it's probably less of a problem to make God somewhat too anthropomorphic than to develop a concept of Him that might be consistent with saying, "May the Force be with you" or calling him "It." But I will say that I think you're probably making God too much like man.

I also think it's tremendously important that we get a really clear concept of Divine love, in particular, that is _not_ necessarily bound up with emotion and particularly not with sentiment. C.S. Lewis has a wonderful, wonderful passage on this in the Problem of Pain:

"You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. How this should be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why creatures, not to say creatures as we, should have a value so prodigious in their Creator's eyes."