Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The First Divergence

To paraphrase The Bard, "What's in a word? A word with any other twist would mean the same." (May The Bard forgive me!)

As hymnals have come and gone, we have been bombarded by a constant decaying of the (American) English language. We have equivalent language, politically correct language, theologically neutral language, can't-offend-anyone language, doesn't-say-anything language....and the goes on and on.

This post was published on "The New Liturgical Movement" site, a Roman Catholic site devoted to the historic liturgy, etc. You are encouraged to read it. To do so, click on the title header of this post.

I await your comments.


William Weedon said...


You'll likely yell at me for this, but I don't buy that the language needs to be Shakespearian to be suitable for worship. It pains me to say it, because I grew up with the AV, have my Bible verses memorized in it, and still am terribly comfortable with it. But I've heard enough folk totally torture it when they read it to realize that we need to acknowledge that the language has moved on. Can it move on and be dignified and reverent still? I believe so. I think the ESV really strikes a needed balance in that regard. Neither too modern and hence colloquial, nor too linguisitically snobish and so inaccessible. I think Missouri made a wise choice in trying to set our worship language in a "middle" key, if you will.

William Weedon said...

By th bye, the RC translation in use IS atrocious.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I don't mean to utterly avoid the topic of the vernacular, but I think that Tribe's first paragraph, while not the point of his piece, merits attention and discussion. I completely agree with his statement, "the use of Latin as a liturgical language is something that ought to be preserved in the Latin rite," and I would go so far as to say that this axiom applies, as well, to the Lutheran use of the Latin Rite, or, if you will, to the Augustana Rite. And when he writes, "This is not my personal opinion only, but also that of the Church which declared at the Second Vatican Council that Latin ought to be retained in the Latin rites," I find it interesting that, here again, we could identify with this statement if we take out 'Second Vatican Council' and replace it with Luther and the Lutheran Symbols. Much more can be said on this topic, but for now I will let that suffice.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Why would I yell at you Fr. Weedon? I linked to this article because I thought that this would be a good way to initiate a discussion about contemporary texts and translations.

I hold Luther's German and the King's English in equally high regard; but I would not insist that we either (or both) as the normal liturgical language.

There is, however, a need to evaluate the style of English that is used in the liturgy. Language, as always, is now merely what we say, but how we say it.

Anonymous said...

Unrelated comment, but there is an error in the hyperlink code for the gottesblog link on your page.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

The error has been corrected. Thank you for pointing it out to me. (Another case of poor typing required me to delete my first try at this comment!)

Past Elder said...

I think DSIII, aka the Common Service, strikes the appropriate balance in a stroke of genius -- namely, retaining the Jacobean English in the propers, but contemporary English elsewhere.

This both respects the development of language and continuity with not only the past but the future generations. Not to mention the fact that Jacobean English did not cease to be spoken English in C20 but had not been spoken English for centuries who somehow didn't find that a barrier. Which leads me to suspect our finding it a barrier is an excuse, not a reason.

As to the ESV, it stands head and shoulders above all other translations on both grounds and absolutely deserves our use. My former synod sticks with the NIV, saying the ESV language is unintelligible to contemporary use -- as if the guys on the corner sound like the NIV.

As to Vatican II's retention of Latin, it's typical Rome -- say one thing, do another. Care is supposed to be taken that the people understand the parts they use in Latin (the propers) but apart from telecasts from Rome and isolated pockets here and there, absolutely no-one whose regular diet is novus ordo can understand or say the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus or Agnus Dei.

It wouldn't hurt us a bit if our parishioners were able to handle these five propers, nor out of character with the Confessions.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Past Elder, if you are referring to the Gloria, Credo, Agnus Dei, Sanctus and Benedictus as "propers"' you are in error. These are, in fact, part of the "ordinary" of the liturgy. The "propers" are those parts which change according to the Mass being celebrated.

Past Elder said...

You are right. I only plead this, when I post it is usually in the middle of laundry or kid's showers or, if you check the time stamp, even later when the day's coffee is no longer effective -- and from memory.

When I was a professor there was always a graduate student around to check for these lapses. Oh well.

I stand by my point, terms corrected. It was too funny watching the latest papal installation, when the novus ordo ritual, of which the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy says the people should be able to the customary parts of the ordinary in Latin, went to the Latin for these the crowd shots showed nothing but blank incomprehension on their faces.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Do you think that this might be due to the post-Vatican II understanding that Latin was assumed to be forbidden?

As a Lutheran of German extraction, I am equally comfortable praying the Office in German or Latin, in addition to English. But I have been doing this for 40 years, too.

Past Elder said...

Yes, but there is a much stronger factor.

It amuses me when the secular press speaks of an English Mass and the Latin Mass. They mean of course the novus ordo and the Tridentine Rite. But it overlooks and obscures the fact that the novus ordo is a Latin Mass too, and the English Mass is a translation of it. Not to mention that the objection to it from the "traditionalists" is not about language but content -- in other words, it's the novus ordo itself in whatever language it's celebrated including Latin that is the problem.

Apart from the hatchet job done on the Kyrie, remaking a shadow of the Eastern First Litany into a Confiteor, the rest -- Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei -- are the same in the novus ordo, and it is these to which the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy primarly refers when it says care shall be taken that the people are able to say in Latin those parts that pertain to them, which can be said in Latin even if the rest is said in the vernacular.

Yet you could count on the fingers of a dismembered hand how often this was actually done.

The fact is, the Documents of Vatican II bear a tangential relationship at best, and not just liturgically, to what actually happened in the parishes after the Council.

At one time, after I discovered this years ago, I attempted to remain in the RCC on the idea that sooner or later what is actually said in the Documents will assert itself in the church and one must soldier on until that happens. Nearly all of the Catholic bloggers I read (which is one blog and several commenters on our blogs) seem to hold to this as well, the Documents of Vatican II soon to triumph over the Spirit of Vatican II. Speaking of 40 years, that's about as long as this is supposed to have been happening.

So they, and I once too, hang on to EWTN, this or that publication or book or blog, and whatever pockets there are, and there are some, that would support this view. Ignoring everything that doesn't, or saying it will soon recede.

But the faces in the crowd tell the truth. Forget Trent. Say the novus ordo in Latin, or say it in English with the ordinary in Latin, and 99.9% of those present will be no more able to join in than if they were at a Hindu Temple. This is because of the dirty little secret of the current RCC church, that the Documents of Vatican II bear a tangential relationship at best to the experience of the vast majority of Catholics.

As a point of nomenclature, at least the last I knew "conservative" Catholic meant one who really is grounded in what Vatican II actually said, and "traditional" Catholic meant those for whom what Vatican II actually said amounts to an apostacy from the Catholic faith.