Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Latin Mass

"If our liturgical practice is anthropocentric and devoid of transcendent mystery, how will congregants at such a liturgy develop a faith that is Christocentric and alive to God’s mystery? If our liturgical vehicle is intrinsically subjective and particular, how can it present our common faith in a unified way in the midst of cultural diversity? If the Mass is local in dialect and communitarian in emphasis, how will it convey the shared transcendent faith of the universal Church? It is worth noting that one of the guiding purposes of the publication of the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church was to present the fullness of the Faith in a common and unified way throughout the world. But our liturgical practice is, catechetically speaking, pulling us in a direction quite opposed to the Catechism’s aims and spirit."
--Jude A. Huntz in The New Oxford Review
The Liturgy as Catechism


Jason Silver said...

This has got to be one of the most complicated and difficult questions I've wrestled with in some time.

On one hand, worship tends to degrade into our enjoyment and experience of it in common culture and experience. It _should_ be about God and God alone, but we make it about our tastes and preferences.

On the other hand, unless we can understand and emotionally/intellectually engage in our worship, one could argue that we are not worshipping at all.


Michael Dodaro said...

I've made it pretty clear in our discussions that I favor tradition in worship, but the reason I posted this link is that I'm not sure I'd go back to Latin if it was my decision to make. I like the Catholic and Episcopal liturgies in English, and it's all I've ever known. My father grew up in the Catholic Church, and he tells me it felt good to know that all over the world people were saying the same Latin mass, but, of course, he is of Italian descent, so Latin is not so foreign to him.

Ray said...

Excellent question, Jason, and one I've grappled with, too. As you know, I do not approved of contemporary music in the worship service. Since my musical experience outside the church is centered more around an orchestra, I do gravitate toward the classics, but I wonder if even that is more due to taste.

I agree completely with your statement that music must engage the worshiper both intellectually and emotionally and since music has primarily an emotional appeal the intellectual appeal can be difficult to achieve. I do lean toward more traditional music because to me it has more of that emotional/intellectual balance. I perceive contemporary music as having mostly emotional appeal. But, what affects my emotions can be completely different than what effects your emotions or intellect.

Coming from a non-liturgical background, I can't really comment on Mike's post. But, the questions we contemplate relative to styles and appropriateness are much the same.

scribe said...

If the Mass or Divine Liturgy is WELL TRANSLATED into the vernacular, there is no reason why it can't be transcendent.

I know too many people who grew up with Latin masses or Slavonic ones who didn't understand a word of it. Nor were they properly catechised in the liturgy. The liturgies are full of Biblical teachings, and to lock them in dead languages is to lock away their efficacy.

A 1000 years ago, Saint Cyril and Methodius, although Greek, didn't hestitate to translate the Divine Liturgy into Slavic. At the time, that was the vernacular.

But it's also true that presenting these liturgies as a "common faith" in a "unified" way doesn't depend on language. If the liturgy is the same everywhere (as it is in Orthodoxy), then a Russian believer who is well-schooled in the mysteries of the liturgy should understand what's occurring at any moment in a Greek or Bulgarian or English language liturgy.

The problem has been that the liturgies and services in the West have changed considerably so that there is now no unified service. In modern times, the worship services have become highly individualized in practice, depending on the taste and whim of whoever is planning the service that day.

Michael Dodaro said...

In Catholic and Episcopal churches there have been liturgies using the wacko stuff parodied in the Wrath of God post earlier. Sister ballerina and cantors who read long lists of politically correct nostrums, all tending toward neo-pagan narcissism.

scribe said...

I missed that wrath of God post. Probaby just as well.

Here's a good article by Fr. Michael Pomazansky about the Divine Liturgy. Fr. Michael was one of the last seminarians educated in Russia before the Revolution. His catechism is what we use.

The pre-Tridentine Catholic masses would have resembled the Orthodox Divine Liturgy very closely.

Ray said...

Mike, could you give a brief explanation of just what a mass is? I did say brief.

scribe said...

Here's also a good description of Orthodox sacred space, which plays a big role in the liturgy.

scribe said...


Mike may be able to find a shorter explanation, but really, there is no "short" explanation of the word. Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about it:

Suffice it to say that once "missa" (from which we get Mass) originally meant the dismissal, but eventually it came to mean the whole service.

Eastern Churches never refer to the Divine Liturgy as the Mass, except those that are under the dominion of Rome.

scribe said...

I think it's safe to say that the key reason why the Latin word "missa" which means dismissal came to mean the whole service revolves around who is being dismissed and what follows after.

In the middle of the service in the old Catholic liturgy(and in some RC parishes today) and in the Orthodox liurgy, the catechumens were dismissed to take instruction. After their dismissal, the liturgy of the Eucharist began. This portion of the Divine Liturgy or Mass was not for the eyes and ears of the uninitiated for the Eucharist was the major part of the Mysteries.

So in other words, the "dismissal" or missa (Mass) meant that then the real service began and in time meant the whole service--with and without catechumens.