9 June 2019

Are the Institution Narratives of the Roman Rite legalistic? (2)

The mindset which led to the distinctive composition of the Institution Narratives in the Roman Rite could easily be dismissed as one preoccupied by overloaded rhetoric or flowery diction. Indeed, such glib judgements were common in the 1960s. This is a profound mistake ... a misunderstanding combining fragments of 'Enlightenment' superstitions with 'Romantic' follies in which subjective feelings, especially if they are warm and fuzzy and "sincere" and seem "authentic to me", are prioritised above formality and precision and legality.

The key to a balanced understanding here is the assumption integral to the Pentateuch, that the Sacrifices of Israel needed to be done exactly as the inspired texts directed. And that itself goes back to the very meaning of Covenant. This, quite simply, links the Faithfulness of our Covenant God (what we Latins call his pietas) with our obedience to His Law (what we Latins call our pietas).

As Christine Mohrmann established, the legalistic character of Liturgical Latin goes back way beyond the Fourth century Latin which we find in the early Roman Sacramentaries. She discussed "rhe almost juridical precision" of the Canon in terms of the surviving fragments of preChristian, preclassical Roman prayer texts used in agriculture as much as in warfare. She was not afraid to talk about "this monumental verbosity coupled with juridical precision, which is so well suited to the gravitas Romana but which also betrays a certain scrupulosity with regard to higher powers". " A sacral style has been created which links up with the old Roman prayer of the official Roman cult ..."

Incidentally, it is tragic that Mohrmann's researches fell upon ears determined to be deaf: the fashionable assumptions among the liturgical intelligentsia were, by the 1960s, wedged securely onto tramlines leading in exactly the opposite direction to hers. The hands which firmly controlled the levers of power would undoubtedly have exclaimed of her, as they so notoriously did of Joseph Ratzinger: "Ah, but (s)he's not a liturgist."

To be concluded.

No comments: