Friday, February 18, 2011

Latin Masses Cancelled Forever!

Well, probably not.

As readers surely know, Benedict XVI endeared himself to a certain element of the faithful with his 2007 motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. Briefly put, SP loosened the reins on the use of the 1962 Missal, which is often (and inaccurately) called the Tridentine Mass, and more accurately the Extraordinary Form. John Paul II had issued a 1984 indult and a 1988 motu propriu which moved in the same direction, but SP has widely been treated as a stronger statement.

Benedict has not, so far, achieved the rock-star status that his predecessor enjoyed with the mass media, and he probably never will. But among enthusiasts of the pre-Vatican II liturgy, he is Elvis and the Beatles combined. We ourselves, who have no dog in the the fight of Romish liturgical law, find his Spirit of the Liturgy a profound and provocative book, as illuminating as it is frustrating.

Imagine, then, the shockwaves in the traditionalist interwebs as a rumor spreads that there are plans for an official Instruction on Summorum Pontificum, which would "interpret" the document in such a fashion as to strip it of any meaningful effect. The rumor seems to have surfaced on Rorate Caeli, which has issued an "urgent call for action." Such action was originally proposed to be a campaign of letters to various officials, and has now taken the form of an online petition, in several languages (of which Latin, ironically, is not one).

Hunwicke signed the thing, even though he's (still) an Anglican. We ourselves will not, both because we don't really care and because it is none of our beeswax. Still, our Papist reader -- if indeed we have one -- might want to look into this.

It should be noted that the entire discussion is, thus far, of a rumor. There may be nothing to it. And indeed, it seems unlikely that the same very bright fellow who wrote SP would then turn around and eviscerate it. But who knows what goes on in the bowels of the Vatican? Sometimes, when dealing with the mysteries of the Curia, "rumor" is another word for "trial balloon." But sometimes it is just something somebody made up, and there's no good way to tell.

As good Evangelicals, we don't believe that worship is properly a matter of law at all, and we most certainly do not believe that Christian unity requires ceremonies instituted by men be everywhere alike. Honestly, we don't even want them to be. But we are interested in this story, for several reasons. First, because we love to see the traddies get their knickers in a twist; second, because we truly are interested in the emerging shape of Roman Catholic worship in the new century; and above all, because we ourselves have seen several iterations of liturgical reform, some of which now stand in urgent need of reconsideration (ELW Psalter, anybody?), and we'd like to see how somebody else handles it.


Daniel Spigelmyer said...

Realizing this is (most likely) tertiary to the point at hand, I—as a Lutheran—want to extol the virtues of Latin mass. While in Rome, I took advantage of Sunday morning Latin mass in St. Peter’s basilica and am happy that I did so. I had been debating it, as my plane was scheduled to leave that day, but as it turned out, I was okay for time. But back to the point—the Latin mass is a fine thing for Protestants, if you ask me. One of the important things about it is the added sense of mysticism that accompanies the service when it is conducted solely in Latin. And perhaps more importantly, it makes you pay attention more closely to what is going in the service than simply regurgitating something learned by rote. I am not advocating that we as Lutherans adopt Latin mass always, but perhaps there is a time and a place for it in our worship lives. It is sad that so few clergy today could conduct such a mass in Latin today…I assume that’s the primary reason for its phasing out.

Father Anonymous said...

I completely agree that an occasional experience of the Mass in Latin can exercise a salutary spiritual effect on anybody, and especially the clergy.

Incidentally, both Luther and Vatican II agree that there is a particular place for Latin in the Daily Office, more for pedagogical reasons than spiritual ones. I think there may be a spiritual benefit as well, though. Readers will be able to decide for themselves when I finally finish my bilingual breviary. Someday.

But two clarifications are in order.

First, it is important to distinguish *which* "Latin Mass" we are talking about in any particular conversation. The motu proprio deals specifically with the 1962 Missal (or EF), which represents a very, very different approach to worship from the current Ordinary Form (or OF), even when the OF is said in Latin. The traditionalists are concerned about the EF in its entirety, rather than the language per se.

And second, just to be clear, Latin was phased out primarily for the benefit of the laity. Sure, there were always a few priests who had trouble, but for the most part the clergy (including Lutherans and Calvinists) continued to communicate formally in Latin straight into the 18th century. (Here in Central Europe, a few snippets still come in handy now and then.)

Pappa said...

Well I recall in the 60's (as a kid) hearing the Latin mass, as well as Polish masses -- these having been conducted at St. Casimir's in Bflo., NY. Never
understood a thing but it is true
that somehow an air of "mysticism"
or level of refinement -- with some sense of aspiring to heaven
or only the heights if the domed
mass altar. Somewhat paradoxically
when the language is similar to
everyday talk on the street then
although the meanings are clear enough -- the inspiration born of
a separation from language and the thing it lacking. This separation is the antitheis of conflation, so the inspiration I speak of (when the non-everyday
language is used) should not be
taken as synonymous with confusion but rather curiosity and even admiration. What better way to aspire to God and love God, than to be impressed with the curious nature of something to the point of admiration -- and in turn human
worship of its creator. Let the separation that a "foreign" lang-
uage creates serve as a substitute function to create an effect comparable to the wonder and splendor we may feel when near the Grand Canyon or next to massive mountains. Now that the Latin and Polish masses are gone, and now that the church has been all but shut down, perhaps the substitute of YouTube video of naturals wonders may help us be re-supplied with those forms of nurishment that the indoor masses lack anyway:
the wonder and pleasure of nature, not to get to pagany as I close here. -- Pappa
ps contemplate the play of your own
consciousness (as opposed to your thinking) daily for a splendid counterpoint to nature respect.