Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Liturgical Reform (?)

Worth quoting in its entirety:

Latin was gone entirely, replaced by dull, oppressive, anchorman English, slavishly translated from its sonorous source to be as plain and "direct" as possible. It didn't seem to have occurred to the well-meaning vandals who'd thrown out baby, bath, and bathwater that all ritual is a reaching out to the unknowable and can be accomplished only by the noncognitive: evocation, allusion, metaphor, incantation -- the tools of the poet.

Mass was now said in the language of the region where it was celebrated. Like politics, all Masses were now local -- and had about as much dignity. Before "reform," the individual quirks of the priest -- whether he was a saint or a thug or merely a potato like old Father Bleary -- were submerged beneath the timeless rhythms of a universal script. Now priests had huge discretion in deciding the details of the "modern" Mass, and all those egos were on parade.

At one church I made the mistake of trying, the priest gave a rambling hour-long sermon whose main function, he seemed to feel, was to keep the faithful rolling in the aisles. Several of the utterly irrelevant observations he worked in were lines stolen verbatim from a Letterman monologue earlier in the week. The music was from one of the new Catholic hymnals, which had replaced the august millennial music of the Church with tuneless drivel penned during the seventies and eighties by clerical nonentities whose musical gods were John Denver and Andrew Lloyd Weber. These were accompanied by a sprightly cacophony of guitar, fiddle, and saxophone.

We've often repeated the words stolen directly from a VERY knowledgable priest: "...sacred time, sacred space, sacred language...." in reference to liturgy. Reading the above (from a NYT best-seller, no less) only serves to remind us that when all those elements are ignored and we go "horizontal" that faux-concerts of faux-music and Letterman monologues are pretty much all that's left...

And the LitWonkPantywaists are pleased.

HT: Dappled Things and Laudator Temporis Actae


Jane Bellwether said...

Given the richness, depth and complexity of the Gospels, I am baffled that they are so seldom called on in preaching.

I wonder how long what I call the Josie and the Pussycats approach to worship will last? And what will be next - a skateboard ramp? Oh, I see that's already happening in many non-denoms and Baptist community churches, complete with graffitti wall. Never mind.

Bernard Brandt said...

As an accredited LitWonkPantywaist (B.A., English/Classics, UCLA), I have to ring in and say that I am NOT pleased with the drivel that is issuing forth from RC priests these days, whether in homilies or in social commentary.

I'm afraid that the rot got so bad that, like the late Evelyn Waugh, I was in a state of sin (i.e., hatred) every time I went to a novus ordinary liturgy. I've since hightailed it to parts East, and I'm much happier that way. I think I've been to ten RC liturgies in the last 18 years.

My attitude at those liturgies was rather like that of the late R.A. Lafferty (a science fiction writer whose sense of humor you might appreciate, and a devout Roman Catholic): he would listen to the homilies, and constantly be shaking his head at the mistakes of the so-called priest.