29 July 2008

Merton College Chapel

After a few days away taking part in an absolutely first-rate Golden Wedding celebration in my Devon parish, back to contemplate the liturgies put on by the Latin Mass Society in the splendid setting of Merton Chapel, as their laudable contribution to training the middle-aged clergy of the RC Church how to say Mass properly (I did enquire whether Anglicans could observe any of the training sessions, but was told, very reasonably, that Anglicans are bracketed with the infamous SSPX).

I doubt whether Merton Chapel has ever seen so many brand new birettas before. (Anglican birettas are usually old and buckled as the result of decades of use warding off the elements during funerals in country churchyards - what a dowdy lot we Anglicans are. And how unimaginative in how we wear our birettas: we always put them on with the wingless side to the left. No such petty uniformity in Merton. And we observe the boring old Fortescue rule about birettas only being worn in church when one is seated, unless one is paratus. The clergy this morning, almost all of them, naturally felt that if you've just invested in a new hat, you wear it as much as possible.)

But what a joy to see the Classical Roman Rite being done with such dignity, even if that does make it last twice as long as it used to in the days before the Council, when Fr O'Murphy used to rattle through at such a tremendous lick. The only problem that I do have, as a classicist, with this newfangled modus celebrandi is the false quantities in the Latin vowels. quoque with a short O (='also') is a different word from quoque with a long O (='and by which'). Come to think of it, 'Nobis quoque peccatoribus' is not supposed to be bellowed down the church anyway, but said with the voice slightly (aliquantulum) raised.

But as I made my way back to S Thomas's by way of Canterbury College and Cardinal College, I reflected that it would be ungracious to niggle. It really is splendid to see the Roman Catholics at last recovering Catholic tradition, and I'm sure their problems will soon bed down. God bless and prosper the Latin Mass Society.


Canary said...

From what I remember, Ecclesiastical Catin doesn't distinguish long and short vowels like Classical Latin, but considers them all short. The only relic from the ancient quantities is the stress (for in Latin the quantity of the penult determined the stress in words of more than three syllables).

David said...

Having served many MANY Masses in the pre-Vatican II Rite might say that I have NEVER heard "Nobis QWAWQUE peccatoribus". "Dominus" was supposed to be "Doh" but often it did come out as "DAW". I was taught ot say ""Cohnfeetayor", not
"Cawnfeeteor" and so on!

Little Black Sambo said...

The pronunciation of ecclesiastical Latin varies a lot; and the more widely it is used, the more it will vary. German, French and Italian pronunciations are quite distinct. Does any one know how the Tudors pronounced it?

William said...

LBS: If you can get hold of a copy of "Singing in Latin" by Harold Copeman (now out of print, I think), it examines the evidence for pronunciation of Latin in various eras and countries, with the intention of helping singers render church music as the composer would have expected. Copeman goes into quite a lot of detail on the Tudor period.

Pastor in Valle said...

Nice to see you there, Fr H: I tried to catch you for a word or two, but without luck, as you had scampered off. Yes, you'll have noticed that, by and large, the biretta problem corrected itself by today; (incidentally, we were told to wear the biretta until reaching the sanctuary step—most irregular in my opinion—for some allegedly good reason).
But one must expect mistakes; the good fathers were there to learn, and work hard at learning they jolly well did. That itself was pretty impressive.