8 September 2015

Christine Mohrmann (4)

Christine Mohrmann followed de Saussure and Bally in pointing out that "language by no means serves only to communicate actual facts but is also ... a medium of expression. Whereas ... language used purely as a means of communication normally strives towards a certain degree of efficiency, which results in linguistic simplification and standardisation, language as expression usually shows a tendency to become richer and more subtle. It aims at becoming, by every possible means, more expressive and more picturesque, and it may try to attain this heightened power of expression ... by the preservation of antiquated elements already abandoned by the language as communication". It is on these grounds that she resisted the introduction of the vernacular into the liturgy (except for the readings); modern languages, in her view, develop their efficiency as media of communication, but this makes them less suitable for sacred stylisation.

It was not until 1997 that the Magisterium of the Latin Church caught up with the questions Mohrmann had posed, and in an admirable instruction Liturgiam authenticam (hysterically vilified by the illiterate vested interests which at that time dominated ICEL) called for nothing less than the creation of new sacral vernaculars. "If, indeed, words or phrases can sometimes be employed in liturgical texts which differ from common and everyday speech, this in fact quite often actually leads to the texts being more memorable and more effective in expressing heavenly things. So it appears that observance of the principles explained in this Instruction tends to the gradual production in every common language of a sacred style, which also is to be recognised as the correct dialect for worship (sermo proprie liturgicus). So it can happen that a certain way of speaking which might seem a trifle obsolete in everyday speech, can be preserved in a liturgical context". Speaking in 2001, Fr Aidan Nichols envisaged the enrichment of the 'classical' - that is, Tridentine - Roman Rite with"all that is best in the Pauline reform" and its "diffusion" either in Latin "or in a 'high' vernacular capable of exercising the functions of a sacral language".

In the Ordinariate, we do, of course, possess a hieratic vernacular. And we use it!


rev'd up said...

What was it that Fr Aidan Nichols deemed "all that is best in the Pauline reform?" No fasting, no vigils, evening mass, fewer days of obligation, no need for confession, etc?

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Novus Ordo Missae - The original weapon of Mass destruction.

BillyD said...

No need for confession?

rev'd up said...

Yeah, no more confession. The grand Roman Church around the corner from me uses the three ornate, carved wood confessionals for wheelchair, folding chair, Boy Scout popcorn and spider storage. I have been told by the good pastor that the brand new "reconciliation room" now in use receives little if any use. Alleluia! Springtime in the Church!

BillyD said...

But isn't that the simple result of lay rebellion, rather than anything having to do with the reform? The canons requiring Confession seem to still be in place, after all - it's just that people refuse to go.

rev'd up said...

Why don't priests exercises their power to excommunicate those who shun the confessional then? Or are people just that much holier now, after the Super-Dogma?

Novus Ordo Missae - The original weapon of Mass destruction.

BillyD said...

Well, since anyone can confess to any priest, how would their pastor know that they haven't been to Confession? I don't see any way that you could do what you propose, unless you stole a page from the Presbyterians and started doling out Communion tokens to people in the confessional, to be turned in as proof of preparation at the time of Communion.

Independent said...

There already exists a high vernacular, it is in the Book of Common Prayer. Fr Hunwicke uses it in his church.

rev'd up said...


Catholics, both Romish and Anglicanish, used to dole out tokens, but that was still when Catholics considered themselves capable of committing wickednesses. Fast forward to Vatican 2 - TaDA - no one's wicked anymore (except for rev'd up of course). Ya'll were absolved when Brother Roger received the most blessed Sacrament from Pope Benedict - if he can receive, anybody can.

Once upon a time, if you missed Sunday Mass, you had to provide your RECTOR with proof that you had not neglected your Christian duty. Miss Sunday Mass - excommunicated! As far as sin goes, a general rule of thumb should be: If you're drawing breath, you should presume yourself guilty.

Ahhh, Springtime in the Church. Deus caritas est, baby! Nowadays, not being "green" is a mortal sin.

Independent said...

There must have been a considerable amount of muttering in the Catholic Church after the Council of Trent when many much loved local ceremonies were sacrificed to a uniform rite imposed from the centre. Many of the faithful in England must have regretted the demise of the Sarum Rite and its replacement by the to them newfangled Tridentine Rite.

People always resent change. I can remember the shock with which many contemplated the reform of the calendar in the 1950's, the relaxation of the fast before communion, the advent of evening masses , and the moving of the Easter Vigil ceremonies away from the morning of Holy Saturday to the actual night ,all under that madly progressive pope, Pius XII.

As Newman said "to be perfect is to have changed often", and a tradition can only be preserved by constant adaptation.

BillyD said...

"Once upon a time, if you missed Sunday Mass, you had to provide your RECTOR with proof that you had not neglected your Christian duty."

It must have have been all that long ago - I remember visitor cards in the pews of some parishes with a box to check if you wanted them to send a letter to your rector letting him know you'd been in church.

Charlesdawson said...

I don't so much mind the texts being vernacular, as I mind them being colloquial. Because the point about colloquialisms is, that they date, and that after only a few years. I know that Thou shalt not read the Bible for its prose (Thank you, CS Lewis), but equally, I would argue, thou shouldst not be jolted at least once per reading by some expression that was ever so right-on in 1980 (or whenever the present translation was perpetrated). It is a distraction I could do without, and that goes for the Bidding Prayers, too.

John H. Graney said...

"In the Ordinariate, we do, of course, possess a hieratic vernacular. And we use it!"

That's what the Melkites (who I understand helped to push acceptance of the vernacular) do too. Their (Arabic) liturgies are in Classical Arabic, not dialect/street language. I imagine that Latin rite masses said in Arabic must also be in the classical language. It would be very odd to hear Mass in the street language. At the Defense Language Institute, where I studied Arabic, (the modern use of) the classical language and the various Arabic dialects were taught as different languages entirely.
However, the Melkites do use a modern English translation in the US, unlike their Antiochian Orthodox brethren who use a KJV/Elizabethan-style English. I personally don't mind the modern English, though; it would require a great deal of effort to make Byzantine liturgical texts sound banal.

Pulex said...

"all that is best in the Pauline reform"
Speaking strictly of the reform of liturgy, it would be the partial reversal of some of the unfortunate changes made under Pius XII (e.g., synoptic Passions, August 15 and some other recently changed or created propers).