English v. Latin Dipping a


English v. Latin

Dipping a toe, carefully into the raging waters of Latin v. English, I have this to offer from this morning's Mass:

The Mass itself was transcendently beautiful. Spoken and sung in English, entirely, it was done in accordance with the rubrics of the Novus Ordo, and was truly inspiring. English can be a perfectly acceptable language for conveying the majesty and the beauty of the Mass and what is going on. Latin is no better suited, and for those of us not raised Catholic, or without Latin in our backgrounds, it could prove obstructive.

But I think in looking at this issue, I have discovered, at least in part what the partisans of the Mass in Latin object to. First, there are some things that would greatly improve even the beautiful Mass I attended. To have the Priest presiding at the altar rather than performing for the congregation would enhance the entire liturgy. Second, OCP should probably be disbanded, disincorporated and their hymnals specifically prohibited from use in the Church. Our recessional hymn was "We are the Light of the World," and while that is indirectly true, I find the hymn troubling in the way many find other hymns just a little aslant from a true worship song. It tends to sound as though we were in the Church of Walt Whitman--"Myself I sing." "Celebration of the Self."

Perhaps it is the music experience that could be enhanced. Even choirs that are supposedly "ministering" have a tendency to perform rather than to lead. They choose works that not everyone can participate in and then choose arrangements that make it impossible for any who wish to follow to do so. I do not particularly like being shut out of the Gloria because the music minister has chosen some arrangement that one has to be able to sing "Der Holle Rache" in order to start to sing. Now, those who are cradle Catholics, this may simply seem de rigeur having been the way it was always done, I don't know. But being a recent add-on to the church, I rather like singing/reciting the Gloria and the other parts of mass that we are to participate in.

My suggestion would be for those creative minds that do so much in liturgical music to figure out who to adapt chant modes or plainsong or other monody or polyphony to English texts. (Admittedly one needs GOOD English texts to do so, but nevertheless. . .) Such an enhancement to the modern Mass would profoundly change the entire tenor of the experience. We would still understand completely what we were saying and doing, and yet it would be done together and in a way that hearkens back to the long history of music and liturgy from which the Church draws her liturgies. We should be expanding liturgical music in a liturgical way, not in a broadway/showtunes way. Trash the modern hymnals and return to those hymns that speak the truth and do not cater to our own egos.

Perhaps this would help everyone. The only reason Latin seems more magnificent and wonderful is that modern liturgists can't wrest it from the trappings of the past to tinker with it. This advantage I grant to the Latin Mass and its trappings. I also grant that it can be a truly magnificent Mass. But so too can the English, properly done, and rather than focusing energies on a return to the past, I would suggest that we are better focused by bringing the best elements of that past to the modern Liturgy and reforming the liturgy with respect for the wealth of tradition and beauty that the Church has as her treasury and heritage.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 9, 2003 11:56 AM.

Ongoing Prayer Requests Please remember was the previous entry in this blog.

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