Monday, 23 June 2008

The return of the Latin Mass

In conversation with some church leaders this week I was fascinated to hear Roman Catholic Bishop George Stack say that the Tridentine rite of the Mass - that is a rite celebrated in Latin - has been reintroduced at Westminster Cathedral. The present Pope is encouraging this, not as an extraordinary rite, but simply as an extra rite alongside the modern forms, and younger priests are being trained to say it.

Turning to the editorial in the Baptist Times, Mark Woods picks up on this. He comments that by all accounts it went down a treat, and is likely to be particularly popular with young people who are keen to experience it. Fascinating, or maybe it's not when you think of the popularity of Taizé with thousands upon thousands of young people.

The vast majority of Taizé songs are sung in Latin. Why? I recall Paul Inwood, a highly creative musician and liturgist in the Roman Catholic church, give the reason that in Latin, everyone is equally not at home. Good answer!

But to take this further, Robert Warren in his book, Being Human, Being Church, recounts a conversation in which a Catholic priest was asked why he used incense in worship, to which he replied, 'Because you can't buy it in Marks & Spencer.'

And Mark Woods, reflecting on this renewal in Catholic worship, comments, 'might it not be a genuine instinct for the mystery which is at the heart of faith, and which in our evangelical Protestant desire for clarity we so easily deny.' He goes on to say, 'We are very anxious to make people feel welcome in church, and so we should be. We are keen to make our translations meaningful, our hymns accessible, and our sermons "relevant" (a slippery word). The trouble is that accessibility can easily overbalance into banality ... Perhaps, for modern evangelicals banality is our besetting sin.'

While I can't see myself leading worship in Latin, nor encouraging it among our Baptist churches, I think that what he says is worth pondering.

1 comment:

Tyburn said...

It should come as no suprise that Benedict would support the Latin Mass, for two main reasons, first since becoming Pope he has been extremely outspoken about trying to return the Roman Catholic Church to a Pre Vatican Two status, he would no doubt like all services to be in Latin, the Curtain re-errected to hide the Consecration of the Host, and its direct receival by noone other then the President and Con-Celebrants.

Secondly, before he was Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger had a VERY specific job. His Role was what is known as The Head of the Doctrine for The Congregation of the Faith, think of him as Romes Precentor in effect. He would oversee the liturgical runnings of the whole Catholic Church, Historically, that role was The Head of the Inquision.

I'm not sure If I'd consider "latin" in and of itself important, BUT, you must remember, we dont live in a Modern Era, We live in a Post-Modern Era...The Enlightenment removed all mystery from Christianity, infact, it ended the Roman hold on the Church more permanently then the Reformation, for it said nothing but logic, rationale, and reason, and Science exist.

We are now seeing a counter movement. People NEED something they cant comprehend, remove the Church and they will fill it with anything from New Age belief, to Gothic Horror. So the Mystery factor is indeed the appeal of the Latin Mass...but its not just Latin...say something in Greek, Hebrew, or anything "different" and you will attract the sorta following of Taize.

btw, my name is David Duff. I shall now be following your online blog :P