14 March 2017

Mohrmann (3)

I have enabled some intelligent comments questioning whether ... granted that Liturgical Latin is the way it is presented in the ancient Roman Sacramentaries and as it is analysed by Christine Mohrmann ... we really do need to worship like that. To this point, I would reply:
(1) The Liturgy we use is described as the Roman Rite. That is the label on the tin.
(2) Vatican II, which I regard as a true Ecumenical Council, did lay down in Sacrosanctum Concilium that the Roman Rite, while being up for revision, was to be substantially retained.
(3) In the fifth part of this series, I shall summarise Mohrmann's own account of twentieth century work on linguistics and varied linguistic registers.
(4) Liturgical Greek ... which Mohrmann also worked on ... is certainly not reductive or banausic. I do not know Coptic and Church Slavonic, but I have been told that the same is true of them.
(5) There is currently a sweet little exhibition in Bodley including a late Medieval Altar Missal with the Roman Rite in the Croatian language. I would love to be told what sort of Croatian that is!
(6) If we do not retain the tradition of the Sacral Language, I do not entirely see why we should retain traditional gestures, traditional vestments ...
(7) One comment, which suggests that we should change the language because we now see God differently, seems to me to give several games away.
(8) I think that most societies have had a more sophisticated set of linguistic presuppositions than Modern European Man. Classicists will recall the Homeric rhapsodes, who did business in a dialect of Greek which never ever had been used anywhere in Greece. And the Doricising traits of choral lyric.

I conclude with a passage kindly sent in by Thomas a couple of years ago, taken from The Earliest English Poems by Michael Alexander (Penguin 1966).

" ... old English prose never achieved the sophisticated word-order and complex synrtax of Greek or Latin. This does not apply to verse ... the poets used a special archaic diction inherited from days when their art had been purely oral. This word-hoard amounts almost to a language within a language; it differs greatly in vocabulary and syntax from the rudimentary attempts of the prose writers - because ... the poet is the keeper of the traditions which hold the cynn (the kin) together ... the older a word was, the more it was vlued by the cynn ... the poet is historian and priest, and his songs have ritual significance. That is why the language of the poets was so deeply conservative, and why the written records of it that we have show it so different from the language of the earliest prose-writers."

To which I would add a reminder of (the Anglican) Catherine Pickstock's brilliant account of the Classical Roman Rite in terms of oral culture (Beyond Writing). As well as reading Mohrmann, the tinkerers in Rome would be well advised to read Pickstock.


Pulex said...

Without denying the usefulness of a sacral idiom for liturgical purposes we should distinguish between the employment of different registers of the same language (most of the examples given in the post) or even a diglossy situation where both idioms are mutually understandable (Russian vs. Church Slavonic or Croatian vs. Church Slavonic) and using in worship a language (Latin, Coptic, Ge'ez) entirely different from the one (all registers comprised) used by the society. This would make the argumentation more accurate. By the way, abp. Lefebvre allegedly said he would rather celebrate the traditional Mass in French than Novus Ordo in Latin.

K said...

Great post.
Regarding number 5: I don't know what Missal is exhibited, but there were no Croatian translations of Roman Rite Missals in medieval times. In liturgy, aside from Latin in the continental area, in coastal area Church Slavonic language was used, and on rare occasions still is. Croatian language (vernacular and literary), was used mostly for legal documents, folk literature, etc. but even then, author used elements of C-Slavonic to 'show off' his skills, since it was sign of prestige to know it. In those times people had sense of what is holy and what is profane. E.g., medieval rulers (Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, etc) in their official documents used C-Slavonic for starting invocation (In the name of the Father etc.), followed by main content in vernacular, and ending with threat of curse for disobedience (Whoever denies this may he be damned by 12 apostles, etc.) in C-Slavonic again.

Stephen said...

An interesting note: Japanese is a very hierarchical language. A man speaks somewhat differently to other men, and to all women, based on their mutually recognized status vis a vis each other. For example, as a man, I would speak using endings and words with other men my own age differently than with others, older and younger; and, if we were classmates, perhaps most informally than with anyone else in the world. A Japanese would know relatively quickly, if listening into my cell phone calls, whether I was speaking with my mother, my father, my spouse, my eldest son, my eldest daughter, other sons and daughters, my grandchildren, a member of the Japanese Royal family, my boss, my boss's boss, etc., without any party ever being identified as such. Everybody has a way of speaking with everybody else that transparently allows for all to know who each other is from a status, gender and familiarity POV. This has resulted in the Emperor, who is at the top of any conversational curve, using endings and structure with everyone else that only he uses, inasmuch as everyone is always, at all times, everywhere beneath him. He had it easiest, as it were, as he never had to distinguish who was who in front him, linguistically.

The modern impulse to flatten and level everything has had an impact in Japan, and on the language, since WWII, I am told, but not too much as elsewhere. Anyway, I always thought that, to be a successful missionary in Japan, you really had best know your liturgy, and make sure it is as rich, vibrant and complex as the native language; otherwise, they will look at you as some cheap barbarian pauper with no value to add, all take and no give.

K said...

Pulex, diglossia (Croatian vernacular vs. Church Slavonic) started fading in around 14th century, with the gradual development of national literary language in Croatia. But even while that original diglossia lasted, Church Slavonic wasn't (completely, easily, correctly) understandable without some education, similarly as average Italian does not completely understand Latin, or as average Greek does not completely understand ancient Greek. Also, current situation in Orthodox Church of Russia is not diglossia (Russian vs. Church Slavonic). Church Slavonic isn't some high form of certain Slavic language anymore then Latin is high form of Italian.

Fr. Yousuf said...

One can see pages of the Croatian Slavonic Roman Missal here: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2011/07/glagolitic-missal-missale-romanum.html#.WMgYPlMrKUk

Even the Kyrie is put from Greek into Slavonic. The language is quite recognizably Church though there are small differences between it and the Slavonic as used by Orthodox & Eastern rite Catholic Slavs.

The Prayer Book and the Authorized Bible give us our English religious language.

Mohrmann's proof that in addition to Biblical idiom, Pagan Latin style was a source for Christian Latin should help those who avoid the BCP & KJV because of Protestant "taint" to get over it. I have never been an Anglican myself, but that language is my patrimony too because I am an English speaker.

Anonymous said...

A Ritual Church should never give up totally its ancient liturgical language, but, I don't understand why trad Latin Catholics get all up in arms every time the mention is made of using at least some well translated vernacular in the Liturgy. It reminds me of how the Germanic Latin bishops opposed Sts. Cyril & Methodius for creating Church Slavonic to use in liturgical worship...the reason they developed it was precisely so the faithful COULD UNDERSTAND the liturgy. If understanding the Liturgy was not really important, Greek or Latin would have been used. Rome initially approved what Sts. Cyril & Methodius did, but a later Pope rescinded the permission to use Slavonic, and...he was just ignored. All the Eastern Churches today, both Catholic and Orthodox, use at least some vernacular in their worship, and I don't see great liturgical upheaveals.

Sir Watkin said...

Diglossia exists in Welsh too. The literary language (not necessarily sacral, and in both prose and verse) differs considerably from the spoken dialects. This has the happy consequence that anyone who is at ease with the literary language can understand the whole corpus of Welsh literature from its earliest surviving examples to the great poets of the twentieth century.

And the Doricising traits of choral lyric.

Moreover, a similar phenomenon is not absent from British popular culture. Almost all pop lyrics are written in a highly artificial Americanised dialect.

Elisabeth F. said...

"the older a word was, the more it was vlued by the cynn"

As opposed to everyone and everything not in the instantaneous present being dismissed as "old school"....

Later rather than sooner, some hurried, self-entitled person might find (not figure) out that they, too, have become "old school": with neither value nor respect and on the euthanasia list.

Anonymous said...

Dear Stephen,

even though this is not a blog about comparative language studies, a few more words re. Japanese liturgical language might be allowed to add. In case of Japanese, first of all, you have two completely different sets of language uses, the so-called Bungo-style, and the Kôgo-style. The Bungo is a style which had been used since more then 1000 years as a written language resp. language for written things, only, similarly to the classical Chinese in case of the Chinese language. The Kôgo is the usual, modern colloquial language, which since about 120 years ago started to be used in literature, and since after the second world war is almost used only, except in some classical poetry. Interestingly, there exists a Bible Translation in Bungo, e.g. the classical literal language, dating back to abt. 1900, which recently was reprinted once again, because so many Japanese still love this classical idiom so much. In the same classical and very beautiful Bungo style was the Anglican liturgy used in Japan until mids of the 80th, and still some classical Anglican and Lutheran songs are in this style, which is very difficult to understand when you are not trained in classical Japanese literature. Neverthless, people loved it, and it was esteemed as higly suitable especially also for liturgical needs. Unfortunately, like in case of other countries, the Catholic Church did not use this cassical liturgical language style from the beginning, when it started to use the vernacular after Vatican II. It used and uses the "vernacular" Kôgo-style, only, also in the (extremely poor) Catholic church songs. Especially in hymns, it is very disgusting, and one reason why Japanese musician are often more attracted to join Protestant services in case of Japan: their you often still can sing classical church hymns in the classical Japanese language. Same case in Germany: also here we had - similar to the Cramnerian "liturgical dialect" - a classical German liturgical language dating back to the 16th century, which has been used in the lutheran church until recently. It unfortunately was not adapted by the ctholic church after Vatican II, and given up in the meantime also by the Protestants, except in some classical Lutheran hymns where it is still surviving. The modern Catholic church music is totally banalized and so disgusting that it is was one of the main reasons why I myself started to join the latin mass.

Anonymous said...

Using my own little contribution to answer some of my own queries made me smile. Thank-you. I sometimes raise questions because I feel they need answering rather than because I am trying to make a contrarian point.

@ Fr. Yousuf: "Mohrmann's proof that in addition to Biblical idiom, Pagan Latin style was a source for Christian Latin should help those who avoid the BCP & KJV because of Protestant "taint" to get over it. I have never been an Anglican myself, but that language is my patrimony too because I am an English speaker."

That's a helpful thought. Perhaps the very fact that Elizabethan English is still relatively understandable to modern speakers exposes the difference of the linguistic register more than liturgical Latin does, which is simply 'other' for most people so they have no idea whether it is demotic Latin or something unique and special. As for the feeling that Anglican English usage is somehow 'tainted', that has been a residual prejudice among many 'cradle Catholics' to be honest. But, after all, the very first chapter of Genesis (I am told) draws on elements of ancient Babylonian epic language and Egyptian poetic form, yet uses them in a wholly new theological context to communicate the true doctrine of Creation.

K said...

Unknown said:
"the reason they [Sts. Cyril and Methodius] developed it [Church Slavonic] was precisely so the faithful COULD UNDERSTAND the liturgy."

That is true. But, without instruction and/or education, the faithful could not understand it fully and correctly because:
1) Church Slavonic is a complex language based primarily on Greek and Latin model - Holy Brothers vastly enriched vocabulary with many new, composite and borrowed words, new phrases, old words got many new meanings, they expanded morphology, added new forms, greatly expanded syntax, etc. They made a proper, classical language out of a local Slavic dialect, and in a very short time. Mind you, Slavs were illiterate people by that time. So imagine that transition...
2) Complexity of the translated texts themselves probably posed considerable obstacle for understanding.

So, one should know the basics of the language and recieve basic catechesis to be able to understand. Wait, that still applies :)