Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sensus fidei fidelium

Attributed to the Workshop of the Maître de l'Epître d'Othéa
The Immaculate Conception
c. 1400 - 1457
From Pèlerinage de Jésus-Christ
Paris - Bibl. de l'Institut de France - ms. 0009, f. 011
Bibl. de l'Institut de France, Paris

Attributed to Germain Hardouyn
The Immaculate Conception
From Hours according to the Roman Rite
Avignon - BM - rés. 203, f. I 5
Municipal Library, Avignon

Lombard school
The Immaculate Conception with Saints Anne and Joachim
1700 - 1724
Oil on canvas
120 x 175 cm
The Province of Sondrio, Italy

Clayton, The Cult of Mary, pp. 42 - 50 provides detailed evidence of the introduction of the Byzantine feasts of the Conception and Presentation of Mary at the Temple or at Winchester in England in c. 1030.

In medieval times the Immaculate Conception of Mary was depicted in delicate terms in the Meeting of Saints Anne and Joachim at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem

Master of Moulins (Jean Hey) (active 1483 or earlier - about 1500) 
Charlemagne, and the Meeting of Saints Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate (detail)
c 1500 
Oil on oak 
72 x 59 cm
The National Gallery, London

The popularity of this particular apocryphal theme is clearly reflected in French religious art of the 13th century

Émile Mâle in Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century (2000: 140) points out that the story of Joachim and Anna was carved in full on the capitals of the west porch at Chartres, and later even carved in the north porch as well. 

He also notes that the legend is also represented in Notre-Dame de Paris, on the lower lintel of the Portail Sainte-Anne, where the illustrated scene  continued round the arches to the right showing Joachim among the shepherds and the meeting at the Golden Gate 

The story is also represented in a window in the chapel of the Virgin at Le Mans 

The idea of an Immaculate Conception for Mary was opposed by most of the eminent theologians of the day, among them Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Lombard, Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas, who argued instead that Mary had been freed from original sin after her conception but before her birth —  a doctrine referred to as the Maculate Conception

But the proponents of the Doctrine were not cowed.

They took a relatively simple view of the matter and one which seems to have eventually carried the day

Abbot Anselm  and Osbert of Clare corresponded  on the topic. In his letter to Abbot Anselm, as in his Sermo de Conceptione, Osbert expressed his reasons for believing in the Immaculate Conception. It  was the beginning of the Redemption. 

In Epistola ad Anselmum, Osbert writes that God ' so thoroughly purified and illumined it [Mary] that He left no impurity in that flesh from which the flesh of our Redemption was destined to be taken.' as quoted and translated in Balic  The Mediaeval Controversy over the Immaculate Conception in O' Connor, ed., The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 161 - 212 (p. 176)

It was an example par excellence of the sensus fidei fidelium

The International Theological Commission has recently published a text on “Sensus fidei in the Life of the Church” (June 2014)

In it the Commission says of the development of the doctrine of sensus fidei fidelium and Ineffabilis Deus
"34. The 19th century was a decisive period for the doctrine of the sensus fidei fidelium.  
It saw, in the Catholic Church, partly in response to criticism from representatives of modern culture and from Christians of other traditions, and partly from an inner maturation, the rise of historical consciousness, a revival of interest in the Fathers of the Church and in medieval theologians, and a renewed exploration of the mystery of the Church. 
In this context, Catholic theologians such as Johann Adam Möhler (1796-1838), Giovanni Perrone (1794-1876), and John Henry Newman gave new attention to the sensus fidei fidelium as a locus theologicus in order to explain how the Holy Spirit maintains the whole Church in truth and to justify developments in the Church’s doctrine.  
Theologians highlighted the active role of the whole Church, especially the contribution of the lay faithful, in preserving and transmitting the Church’s faith; and the magisterium implicitly confirmed this insight in the process leading to the definition of the Immaculate Conception (1854). 
35. To defend the Catholic faith against Rationalism, the Tübingen scholar, Johann Adam Möhler, sought to portray the Church as a living organism and to grasp the principles that governed the development of doctrine.  
In his view, it is the Holy Spirit who animates, guides, and unites the faithful as a community in Christ, bringing about in them an ecclesial ‘consciousness’ of the faith (Gemeingeist or Gesamtsinn), something akin to a Volksgeist or national spirit. 
This sensus fidei, which is the subjective dimension of Tradition, necessarily includes an objective element, the Church’s teaching, for the Christian ‘sense’ of the faithful, which lives in their hearts and is virtually equivalent to Tradition, is never divorced from its content. 
36. John Henry Newman initially investigated the sensus fidei fidelium to resolve his difficulty concerning the development of doctrine.  
He was the first to publish an entire treatise on the latter topic, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), and to spell out the characteristics of faithful development. To distinguish between true and false developments, he adopted Augustine’s norm - the general consent of the whole Church, ‘Securus judicat orbis terrarum’ – but he saw that an infallible authority is necessary to maintain the Church in the truth. 
37. Using insights from Möhler and Newman, Perrone retrieved the patristic understanding of the sensus fidelium in order to respond to a widespread desire for a papal definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception; he found in the unanimous consent, or conspiratio, of the faithful and their pastors a warrant for the apostolic origin of this doctrine.  
He maintained that the most distinguished theologians attributed probative force to the sensus fidelium, and that the strength of one ‘instrument of tradition’ can make up for the deficit of another, e.g., ‘the silence of the Fathers’. 
38. The influence of Perrone’s research on Pope Pius IX’s decision to proceed with the definition of the Immaculate Conception is evident from the fact that before he defined it the Pope asked the bishops of the world to report to him in writing regarding the devotion of their clergy and faithful people to the conception of the Immaculate Virgin.  
In the apostolic constitution containing the definition, Ineffabilis Deus (1854), Pope Pius IX said that although he already knew the mind of the bishops on this matter, he had particularly asked the bishops to inform him of the piety and devotion of their faithful in this regard, and he concluded that ‘Holy Scripture, venerable Tradition, the constant mind of the Church [perpetuus Ecclesiae sensus], the remarkable agreement of Catholic bishops and the faithful [singularis catholicorum Antistitum ac fidelium conspiratio], and the memorable Acts and Constitutions of our predecessors’ all wonderfully illustrated and proclaimed the doctrine. 
He thus used the language of Perrone’s treatise to describe the combined testimony of the bishops and the faithful.  
Newman highlighted the word, conspiratio, and commented: ‘the two, the Church teaching and the Church taught, are put together, as one twofold testimony, illustrating each other, and never to be divided’. 
39. When Newman later wrote On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine (1859), it was to demonstrate that the faithful (as distinct from their pastors) have their own, active role to play in conserving and transmitting the faith.  
‘[T]he tradition of the Apostles’ is ‘committed to the whole Church in its various constituents and functions per modum unius’, but the bishops and the lay faithful bear witness to it in diverse ways.  
The tradition, he says, ‘manifests itself variously at various times: sometimes by the mouth of the episcopacy, sometimes by the doctors, sometimes by the people, sometimes by liturgies, rites, ceremonies, and customs, by events, disputes, movements, and all those other phenomena which are comprised under the name of history’. 
For Newman, ‘there is something in the “pastorum et fidelium conspiratio” which is not in the pastors alone’.  
In this work, Newman quoted at length from the arguments proposed over a decade earlier by Giovanni Perrone in favor of the definition of the Immaculate Conception."

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