Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Messale Romano - Liturgical exegesis - Invoking the Deluge and the Urgency of Conversion.

In all the talk among certain persons of a "new liturgical movement" the full scope of the liturgy since Vatican II is often missed. In particular, there is very little discussion of liturgical books in the various vernaculars. The Italian Missal offers some interesting features, among them being the Italian collects. The Italian collects are original compositions that, in the words of the CEI, really heavily upon Biblical texts and themes for their inspiration. These orations were not composed as replacements for the typical prayers of the Roman Rite, but to provide a more ample selection. The last I read on the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana webpage, these texts were in the process of being voted upon for inclusion in the third typical edition of the Messale Romano. The following is for the first Sunday of Lent (anno B):

Dio paziente e misericordioso,
Che rinnovi nei secoli la tua alleanza
con tutte le generazioni,
disponi i nostri cuori all'ascolto della tua parola,
perche in questo tempo che tu ci offri
si compia in noi la vera conversione.
Per il nostro Signore Gesu Cristo, tuo Figlio, che e` Dio,
e vive e regna con te, nell'unita` dello Spirito Santo,
per tutti i secoli dei secoli.

The prayer, if I am not mistaken, evokes some Old Testament parallels, namely, the covenant God makes with Noah after the flood. Biblical commentators often note that the covenant made with Noah is a covenant that concerns all of creation - this is, apparently, what binds God to never destroy the earth (by flood, at least) again. Invoking the deluge puts two capacities of God into stark relief. On the one hand there is the potential to destroy as captured in the memory of the flood. One the other, there is the boundless capacity for forgiveness as captured in the ratification of a new covenant of life after the Deluge. For the Christian, this can only mean one response, hear the word of God. Or, as I believe the oration alludes to, hear the word of God as Noah did. Lent, then, aside from being a time for preparation for the Resurrection, is, in many respects, our time before the flood, our time to hear and receive, by divine grace, true conversion. The oration bespeaks of the urgency for true conversion. While addressing God as "paziente e misericordioso", the oration is well aware that this is view in God as final arbiter of our souls. God offers, the collect reminds us, innumerable times to turn towards him. This, however, it the urgent time, the time in which we must make a final decision, this is the time God has given us.




Monday, February 27, 2012

Somewhere, buried among the dust of decades,Virgil Michel's last work of liturgical theology, and, perhaps the last great work of the liturgical movement, sits unpublished.


One of the more troubling aspects of the "new liturgical movement" proposed by certain persons, including Papa Ratzinger, is the divorce between liturgy and social responsibility. The "new liturgical movement", if its current conservative darlings represent the concerns of the movement, is wrapped up in idealized abstractions, often divorced from concrete concerns. As a consequence, in the name of "liturgical theology," persons touting a "new liturgical movement" more often than not ignore the genuine doctrine of the original liturgical movement in its entirety. The liturgical movement never ignored the human person as such nor the social responsibility conferred upon him. The strains of conservative restoration popular among certain figures isolates the liturgical movement from its context, and as such ignores the concern many figures in the original liturgical movement had in establishing cohesive ecclesiastical community through liturgy as well as their criticism of the socio-economic models dominant in their and our own age. The original liturgical movement was so successful because it spoke to the fundamental nature and experience of man as opposed to obsessing upon the externals of liturgical ritualism. Somewhere in the hereafter, Chrysostom nodded in Michel's direction with approval.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The long road to the vernacular...

For some background, you may want to read this: http://www.pieandcoffee.org/2011/04/26/bernard-e-gilgun-worcester%E2%80%99s-catholic-worker-priest/

After Gilgun's passing, some of his library was bequeathed to me. This afforded me some insight into an aspect to the many that many had often noted to me in conversation - his liturgical scholarship. After his death, Dr. Michael Boover noted that Gilgun had been anticipating the introduction of the vernacular into the Roman liturgy in 1953. His library held a small treasure of liturgical books, pre and post Vatican II. Two things occurred to me. Gilgun never saw the rupture in the liturgy so often promoted by those parties both pro and con the liturgical revision after Vatican II, including the current pontiff. For Gilgun, changes between the Missale Romanum of 1962 and that of 1970 failed to disrupt the continuum of authentic worship nor break with a spiritual tradition solidified over a thousand years previous. While reviewing some of the volumes of Gilgun's library, this excerpt from one of the hand missals seemed notable:

"A re-issue of the Daily Missal is a welcome sign of the renewal of liturgical piety among Catholics. The Church is calling all her children to a deeper understanding of her sacred liturgy. It is her wish that all the Catholic people should take an active part in the sublime sacrifice of the Mass..."

The above was written in 1937 and is notable. Missals, either vernacular to Latin or those nearly completely in the vernacular, were hot sellers. More often than not, they were edited by some of the crucial figures of the liturgical movement. Many of the figures behind the liturgical movement made the argument for the vernacular and, unless one was the most clerical and aloof of priests, one couldn't help but notice the benefits of the vernacular. In that respect, it wouldn't be hard to imagine the vernacular finally setting itself as the normal language of praxis in the Roman liturgy.

Now, has the vernacular been done correctly? Well, that's another question. Questions still remain over translation technique and the new translations haven't quite established themselves as perennial. The context of the vernacular's emergence must also be reckoned with. One of the benefits of the vernacular in the thirties and forties was its ability to provide a voice and cultural cohesion to the children of immigrants. Figures such Santa Rita could translate into St. Rita, translating a religious tradition to a new generation as well as passing on one's ethnic inheritance.

The vernacular, ultimately, is here and here to stay. Undoubtedly, the establishment of the vernacular as the normal praxis in the Roman liturgy opened a set of floodgates and let loose a deluge that had been building for since the rise of the mendicant movements, if not a little longer. There are, then, numerous challenges that, contrary to some opinions, will have to be wrestled with. Every language is its own world and seldom do worlds collide peacefully. Taking stalk of things, it's the long road towards a language of faith.

New Edition of the Latin Vulgate

For those interested in all things both Biblical and Latin, a new edition of the Vulgate is on the market. The multi-volume Vulgate Bible under the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (an imprint of Harvard University Press) is in the process of completing a projected six volume edition of the Sixto-Clementine Latin bible with corresponding English text.

Keeping in mind modern marketing trends, the editors of the series have a particular slant on the Latin text. The text in question is not meant to be the Sixto-Clementine text itself, but rather a presentation of the Latin text likely used by the college at Douai where the first approved Roman bible for English speaking Catholics was produced. How valuable this text is to either Latin scholars, ecclesiastics, theologians, historians or Catholics with sufficient background in Latin is debatable, particularly if any of the listed groups are Latin purests. At various points, though not frequently (so far as I have determined) the decision was made to fabricate the Latin text the scholars at Douai used in translating the Vulgate into English. As such, one may argue the Latin text of this edition suffers. This edition has neither the textual gaffs that required a revision of the Sixto text, nor does it have the pre-Vatican II vintage of the Clementine text. Additionally, for those who desire the earliest text of the Vulgate (so far as it can be determined at this present moment), the fifth edition of Weber-Gryson is essential and without in the popular consumer market. Thus, this edition doesn't have much to offer many persons who would be interested in a text of the Vulgate or a Latin-English Bible.

The editors of the series chose a very narrow niche, although, I suspect a fair number of people will be drawn by the price point per volume, although, if you purchase all of the volumes you've easily purchased the equivalent of about two copies of the Weber-Gryson text. The text seems to have sound binding. Notably, the decision for cloth binding for the Dumbarton Oaks as opposed to the vinyl binding of Weber-Gryson assures more durability - the volumes of the Dumbarton Oaks editions will weather serious long term use. This aspect of these volumes cannot be appreciated enough. I have worn through several copies of the Weber-Gryson text. These volumes are much more durable. If you want a copy of the Latin Vulgate to pray, Dumbarton Oaks has produced an invaluable set of texts. The font is much larger in the Dumbarton Oaks volumes and I personally prefer a single column format.

So, how do these volumes stack up? It all depends upon what one is looking for. The editorial decision to, where necessary, reconstruct the hypothetical Latin text used by the college of Douai may not pass muster with some, especially as it seems somewhat contrary to the stated mission of the series. Dumbarton Oaks seeks to provide original Latin, Old English and eventually Greek  texts with an English translation. Reconstructing a hypothetical text, however few such instances are, does not constitute presenting the original Latin text. Additionally, it seems Swift Edgar (the editor of the Vulgate in this series) has emphasized presenting the revised English of the Douay-Rheims translation with a corresponding Latin reconstruction. If the English text was to take priority, why not use the original English text? This underlines the basic problem of these Vulgate volumes. What is the philosophy behind the Vulgate volumes in the series? At the moment, it seems these volumes are suffering under two non-complimentary aims. We neither have the original English of the Douay version, nor do we have a Latin text of any pedigree. The editor notes a Latin text reasonably close to the Douay translation. Why not supply the reader with that Latin text, noting any variances or proposed reconstruction in a margin along the bottom of the page?

In the end, there is no reason to not purchase these volumes. However, there is little to argue for purchasing these volumes as opposed to or in addition to other available Latin bibles, be it the Weber-Gryson text or more recently produced editions of the Clementine Vulgate.