Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Noble Simplicity" in Liturgy

That phrase, "noble simplicity" is the English translation of a term used in the VatII's Document on the Liturgy.

You would be learn that "simplicity" is simply (heh) a terrible translation of the Latin word 'simplicitate,' right?


..."noble simplicity" is neither a Protestant nor a minimalist concept. That view stems from the misundersatnding that stem from the translation of the adjective "simplicitate". What it does not mean is "simple" in the sense used in English that conveys a sparseness, devoid of ornamentation (think "shaker furniture"). What it means is rather "singleness" in the sense of a unity.

So "Ritus nobili simplicitate fulgeant" really means something like "The rite should radiate a noble (rich) unity of form". Taken with the rest of the Constitution, and read within the hermeneutic of continuity, that means that the cultural vehicles should not clash but should exist harmoniously and contribute beauty: language (which the Fathers saw as being largely in Latin), music (the tradition of Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony), vestments and architecture all coming together to enhance the educational and pastoral nature of the liturgy (that is the title under which the Council used the expression).

It is not ugly, formless architecture, cheap and shapeless vestments, crass music and translations devoid of linguistic beauty, which fail to convey the imagery and concepts of the original. It is really more of a Guido than a Piero.

And if you really know 'inside-Vatican baseball,' you get the last sentence.

Of course, the mangled translation will persist, like PCB's in the Fox River.

HT: Fr. Harrison


Aquinas said...

A perfect case in point:

One of Jean Langlais' most beautiful compositions [Langlais (1907–2007) was an accomplished and prolific Catholic composer of sacred choral and organ music. Not either to have heard of him or to have heard some of his wonderful work would itself speak volumes about the current state of Catholic liturgical music.] is a lovely Mass setting for treble voices entitled Missa in simpliciatate. The simplicitate in the title indeed has nothing whatever to do with the musical simplicity of the composition, but, rather, with its inherent unity of style. That said, it's a Mass well within the reach of a good church choir with a decent organist.

More on Langlais here:

and here:

Dad29 said...

Ah, yes...I have some of his works in repertoire.

Would only take me about 1 year to be able to play them again...