Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Legend and apocrypha
Their place in Catholicism. This essay from Daniel Mitsui is being passed through the blogs.

What do I think? I think I’m a moderate about the whole thing.

Of course the Catholic answer to something not being in scripture is ‘So what?’ Nowhere in scriptura does it say sola!

What’s interesting in contrast is how Protestants in their history have gone from purging anything extra-biblical, including good legends and folklore, for truth’s sake to the exact opposite error from credulity (the latter was the mediæval mistake that reformers including St Pius V tried to correct; Mitsui criticises the correction!), taking the relativistic approach Mitsui seems to take at times to legend (‘so what if it’s probably not really true?’) and applying it to... doctrine and even scripture itself so nothing therefore everything is true, even opposites.

(You still see the old-school Protestant reaction today wrongly applied to things from Halloween to the Harry Potter books. Right, everybody should read didactic fiction like Left Behind. No, thank you.)

The orthodox Donald Attwater in his lives of the saints was clear that many of those stories are probably not true; Fr Joseph did the same adding explanations to the legends at Matins in the Anglican Breviary.

(My take: if it doesn’t go against doctrine or morals, is not completely outrageous and you can’t prove it didn’t happen then fine, have a devotion to it even in church — have a Mass and office for it, a shrine and so on.)

Like St Pius V I don’t believe the legend in the Protoevangelium of James where yesterday’s feast-day came from really happened, that Mary lived in the Holy of Holies, but rather that she was taken to the temple and received some kind of blessing.

Many of the beautiful prayers in the Byzantine Rite like in the daily canons for its Matins (actually the equivalent of Roman Rite Lauds) have Our Lady saying things at the foot of the cross that sound like they really came from the fathers and the councils.

OK, fine, as long as belief in the historicity of the description is not required. I think I’m with Mitsui here and, more important, with the church... that what matters is they teach truth... that they are, yes, orthodox.

But whatever Catholic doctrine says is historical... is historical.

Beyond that, how far should one get involved in legends like this?

‘All can, some should, none must.’ :)

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