18 July 2016

That Latin sentence, and why it bores me

The High Altar should be constructed separated from the wall so that there is the possibility for it to be easily walked round and celebration towards the people to be done at it, a thing which is convenient wherever it is possible.

A thing which in the neuter cannot refer in Latin grammar just to celebration towards the people, because celebration is feminine. So it has to refer to whole clauses.


It must refer either to the whole previous bit of the sentence The High Altar ...... at it, or to the ut-clause so that there is the possibility ...... at it.

possibility, not rigid uniformity, is in the mind of the legislator. Otherwise, he is commanding  that the the Altar be walked around ... presumably, so as to be censed ... at every Mass; i.e. he is prohibiting the celebration of Mass without incense. He's not. He's just asking that, where possible, walking round the Altar to cense it should not be excluded. (I believe the 1962 Missal, of which I do not possess a copy, explicitly envisages that a priest celebrating versus apsidem should, where this is possible, walk around the Atar to cense it on all four sides.)

The intention clearly is to ensure that in the construction of new churches, liturgical flexibilty is not impeded by the plan of the sanctuary. This passage is misused if it is treated as legislation with regard to the orientation of the celebrant. Or to a prescriptive and invariable use of incense.

I shall not enable any more comments on this detail to my Auctoritas post.

Because, frankly, I regard all this as totally boring and unfruitful. The whole point of my Auctoritas post was to point out that there are vastly broader and more important questions in play here, and that how we worship is not dependant upon how we might be able to extract obiter implications from a legislative text intended for a quite different purpose. For Vincent Nichols or his advisers to drag this into the discussion demonstrates a very silly petty legalism ... and, incidentally, shows the flimsiness of the basis for the onslaught upon Robert Sarah. If Nichols has any concern for his own reputation, he should withdraw his email and apologise to Sarah and sack his advisers.

6 comments:

vetusta ecclesia said...

Colonial Spain provides the answer for clergy anxious not to antagonise their bishop: obedezco pero no cumplo.

Prayerful said...

I would have thought that even if Cardinal Nichols had weak Latin skills, he had advisors who would correct him before he would a foolish official statement.

Matthew Roth said...

Indeed. The 1996 revision of Fortescue by Dom Alcuin Reid for the 1962 liturgy has the charts from the missal on censing the altar, and there is a chart for freedtanding altars where one can circambulate the altar. The swings are simply transferred, so the count remains at 22.

Lee said...

The drama about this rubric is indeed boring, and rooted, I fear, in the less than perspicuously (let alone elegantly) composed Latin from the contemporary Holy See.

Caeremonarius said...

Said chart is lifted directly from a diagram in the '62 Missal labelled, "ORDO INCENSATIONIS ALTARIS quod commode circuiri potest" [sic].

William said...

What I find remarkable is that Card. Nichols (et hoc genus omne) has apparently failed to notice that §299 appears in GIRM's Chapter 5, "The Arrangement and Ornamentation of Churches for the Celebration of the Eucharist". That is to say, it is explicitly labelled as an architectural directive. While the Latin does invite a degree of ambiguity (though not as much as Card. Nichols seems to think), one might have thought the honest approach to resolving that ambiguity would be to note the context of §299 and read the text accordingly, as relating to the architecture, and not as a wholly misplaced, obiter directive as to the manner of celebration, which would belong in another chapter entirely. I wonder why he chooses not to do that?