Monday, 28 June 2010

The Mystery of Faith

I thought I might start a little series looking at a few details of the new English translation of the mass. The current English translation has been widely attacked as being inaccurate as a translation and has been widely defended for being accessible. I’d like to concentrate here on the theological aspects of the old and the new translations. In particular, I’d like to highlight places where the theological symbolism of the Latin original is obscured by the old translation and revealed by the new. I will also consider whether there are places where the new translation may “obscure by accuracy” compared to the old translation.

I thought that I’d start with “the Mystery of Faith”, just after the consecration of the precious blood in the ordinary form. Even in the Latin, there was some controversy when the ordinary form first came out, as the words “mysterium fidei” were moved from their position in the words of consecration. Compare the Latin of the older extraordinary form and the newer ordinary form.

Extraordinary Form: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti: mysterium fidei: qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Haec quotiescumque feceritis in mei memoriam facietis.

Ordinary Form: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem.

New Translation of the Ordinary Form: Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, (the mystery of faith) which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.

I’ve inserted the phrase “the mystery of faith” in the translation of the ordinary form to indicate where it comes in the extraordinary form. Note that the Latin texts of the ordinary and extraordinary forms are the same apart from the final sentence and the moving of the mysterium fidei, so that the translation is good for both forms up until the final sentence.

The ordinary form continues (rubrics in red) with the new translation and with one of the choices of acclamation:

Calicem ostendit populo, deponit super patenam, et genuflexus adorat. Deinde dicit:
Mysterium fidei.

The Priest shows the chalice to the people, places it on the corporal, and genuflects in adoration. Then the Priest says:
The mystery of faith.

Et populus prosequitur, acclamans:
Quotiescumque manducamus panem hunc et calicem bibimus, mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, donec venias.

And the people continue, acclaiming:
When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.

The structure here is that the priest makes a proclamation “the mystery of faith” to which the people respond in acclamation (which is made clear by the rubric). There’s a clear sense of the people approving and applauding the proclamation of the priest. We might also note that “and the people continue” for “et populus prosequitur” is a bit weak; “prosequitur” better rendered with a sense of following or accompanying.

However, when we look at the old translation we find

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith:

Memorial acclamation of the people

When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.

The fragment “let us proclaim” is an invention of the old translation, not found in nor implied by the Latin original. We might also note that it is also somewhat inconsistent with the following rubric! The effect is to totally lose the proclamation-acclamation, priest-people, head of Christ-body of Christ structure. In the Latin and in the new translation, the priest has simply made the proclamation to which the faithful join in acclamation; in the old translation, the priest is inviting a joint proclamation with the faithful as though he had not already done it.

The general effect of the old translation here appears to be a weakening of the theology of the priest acting “in Persona Christi Capitis” (in the Person of Christ the Head) and therefore a weakening of the theology of the Church as the Mystical body of Christ. As such, the new translation is a welcome improvement.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Cycling to Rome

I'm not, but some friends of ours are! Please consider sponsoring them on their pilgrimage as they are raising money for two very good causes. You can find more details on their Facebook page, but here's a quote:

Mary’s Meals provides a staple, daily meal in schools for children in some of the poorest countries in the world, thus fighting poverty through tackling malnutrition and encouraging education. The Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative provides non-judgemental practical, spiritual and emotional support for mothers in the UK, struggling with crisis pregnancy and the prospect of bringing up a child alone.

You might like to look at the some of the intricate planning that's gone into this project by looking at their proposed route map.

Update: They've now got their own blog!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Supernatural one more time

Time for one final quotation from Lawrence Feingold’s book, from the concluding chapter.

The natural desire to see God is something intermediate between the innate natural inclination for our connatural end (contemplation of God through creation), and the supernatural acts and habitual inclinations of hope and charity. A confusion of these tendencies, or a denial of any one of them, leads to grave theological errors. We can thus distinguish four states of the desire for God:

  • An innate desire for our connatural end - to know and love God through the mirror of creation - follows from the very nature of our spiritual faculties. This is not an act, but simply the relation of the spiritual faculties to their proportionate end.
  • In all his texts on the natural desire to see God, St Thomas demonstrates the existence of a naturally elicited desire for the vision of God's essence. It can be inferred that this desire is conditional without the aid of Revelation and actual grace.
  • And elicited and unconditional desire for the vision of God is made possible by knowledge of God’s promise in Revelation, together with the aid of actual grace. Such a desire is an act of theological hope, which presupposes faith.
  • There is the supernatural habitual inclination to the vision of God resulting from sanctifying grace, and consisting in the theological virtues of hope and charity. This inclination is present whenever a soul is in a state of grace; it is independent of knowledge and thus unconditional, and is based on the proportionality between grace and glory (for grace is the seed of glory).

pp. 432-3

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The new Antiphonale Romanum

As I mentioned a few posts ago, my most recent impulse purchase was of the new “Antiphonale Romanum II” from the monks of Solesmes.

One of the problems with the post conciliar Liturgy of the Hours is the lack of musical settings for the antiphons, which makes singing the psalms of the Hours somewhat problematic. The excellent Liber Hymnarius, covering the hymns of the office, came out nearly thirty years ago but there was a long wait until more music for the office came out in the form of the Antiphonal Monasticum, which started appearing in 2005. This new book pertains to the Roman office and is therefore, in a sense, more suited to the needs of parish life. This new volume contains all that is needed for the celebration of the office of Vespers on a Sunday, for every week of the year.

Reviews of the new Antiphonal Romanum have started appearing, for example at the New Liturgical Movement and at the CMAA. I’m not going to offer a full review here, but I’ll make a couple of observations. The first is that the book is beautifully produced and a joy to handle and look at. Also, there are a number of features that make the singers’ life easier:

the psalm texts are accented and have cadences indicated in bold text;

the Magnificat is given special attention to show how to fit the words in the different tones and in an appendix the text is given accented and bolded for each of the psalm tones.

However, as with the new Antiphonal Monasticum, Solemnes seems to have given up any attempt at rhythmic indications: so there are few dots and the episema and ictus have been banished. (There are some interesting comments about this in the Antiphonale Monasticum at the Gregorian Association’s website). This means more work for the musical director! This may be difficult on two levels: for the first, getting the rhythm from the text is often relatively straightforward to do in simple Gregorian settings, but antiphons not uncommonly contain florid melismata for which a bit of rhythmic indication would have been helpful; on the second level, there’s nothing like chant rhythm to start a punch-up between chantists, so the poor musical director will be caught in the middle!

Friday, 11 June 2010

The New Translation of the Mass

I’m starting to assemble some resources to support catechesis for the new English translation of the Missale Romanum (which, presumably, we in the UK should start using some time next year). In case any of this is useful to you, here’s what I’ve got so far.

One of the most remarkable things that I’ve found is how hard it is to track down the Latin text of the mass in an easily (i.e. on the web) or cheaply (i.e. book study edition) available form. As far as printed resources go (for the editio typica tertia) the only resources that I’ve found are the full altar edition (very expensive) and this study edition from the Midwest Theological Forum. Even this edition is expensive!

Online, we’re more fortunate. Probably the best version of the ordinary of the mass is available at the “Roman Liturgy” site. It’s not set up particularly well for printing off, but if you’re not afraid of a bit of html hacking, it can be turned into something quite presentable.

For the propers, the best site I’ve found is Bibliaclerus (which is useful for quite a lot of other things as well). You can get through to the missal by following the sidebar links to “missals and similar” (under "The celebration") and then “Missale Romanum 2002”, if you want to keep the frames intact, or you can go direct to here, if you hate frames!

The layout of these pages is pretty unfriendly, which is why I suggest using the “Roman Liturgy” site for the ordinary, extracting the propers (and full rubrics, if you like that sort of thing) from Bibliaclerus.

As for the new English text, the United States Bishops’ Conference appears to be ahead of us at the moment. They have an attractive site dedicated to the new translation and have quite a few helpful resources assembled there, including the approved version of the new translation of the ordinary of the mass.

For musical settings for the new translation, there is some material on ICEL’s site, but it seems to me that the best material is available from the Church Music Association of America, which you can find here. For the moment, one must assume that none of these musical settings have received any authoritative approval!

I’m not aware of any full edition of the mass propers being made available online yet. Please let me know if I’ve missed it! Also, if anyone’s got any more useful catechetical material, please share!

Thursday, 10 June 2010


It seems compulsory in blogland to post pictures of one's cat. So here goes...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

More books!

My dear wife’s impulse purchase this week was of the book “English Catholic Heroines” edited by Joanna Bogle. (Mine was of the new “Antiphonale Romanum” from Solesmes, but more about that later.)

I was interested in this excerpt, written by Joanna Bogle, from the Introduction

Another issue raised by the topic of Catholic heroines is the whole matter of the role of women within the church. None of the heroines whose stories are told here - covering a great range of time from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present day - showed any signs of believing that women should be ordained as priests, nor did they assume that the Church denigrated the female sex or marginalized women and girls. On the contrary, they assumed - correctly - that Mother Church loves her daughters, takes pride in their achievements, and holds them up often as an example to men. There are more churches dedicated to women than to men, female saints have always been at the forefront of popular enthusiasm and devotion - from the early martyrs Agnes, Cecilia and Lucy through to Elizabeth of Hungary and Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena and beyond - and the roles of women in public life and in writing, teaching, and in the area of mystical and religious experience has always been central to the Catholic faith. I must take issue with the author of the section on Mary Ward when she writes that “Marginalization of women's experience within the church, based on the conviction that their access to God was of an entirely different order from that of men, led to a high degree of invisibility and inaudibility in spiritual and ecclesial matters. Women seeking to find a voice and a place in the public forum of the Church were not welcome...” This denies the centuries of female work and achievement, and the church’s honouring of this and upholding of it as exemplary. Mary Ward was not treated well, but many men have similarly endured injustices through church bureaucracy - think of John Henry Newman - and it is surely wrong to suggest that women were, or are, singled out for such treatment on the grounds of sex.

Living as we do in York, we are very aware of how some would assimilate anachronously some very modern concerns to the cause for Mary Ward’s canonization. A similar process appears to be happening with the cause for John Henry Newman. The strange thing is, especially with the latter, that such assimilations are clearly silly. It would seem that we have here examples of the anti-rational forces that are at work in the Church (and, of course, in the wider world); these are plays of pure power.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Chant Resources

There are some excellent resources available from the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) to support the singing of Gregorian Chant in parishes. Their resource page is available here.

Two things I’d especially draw your attention to are the “Parish Book of Chant”, a simply excellent collection of chant repertoire suitable for all parishes and the “Communio” collection of communion antiphons. Both of these are available for free download in pdf format, but hard-copy versions at reasonable prices are also available.

There is a lot more available, including reproductions of many of the older chant books. For example, the 1961 English-introduction-and-rubrics version of the liber usualis is available in pdf.

Beyond the resources page, it’s an excellent site for chant junkies to browse and there’s even a forum!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Reclaiming the Supernatural

Coming to the end of Lawrence Feingold’s book on the supernatural, I came across this passage on page 443:

Finally, one of the great pastoral problems of our time is that so many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, take heaven for granted as something somehow due simply to natural goodness. This view debases heaven by naturalizing it. We have to discover ever again a radical wonder at the inconceivable dimension of the gift of our supernatural vocation, which carries with it a true divinization, enabling man to enter into the divine friendship, into a spousal relation with the Holy Trinity, into the beatitude proper to God Himself. We must continue to repeat with Isaiah and St Paul (1 Corinthians 2:9): “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared to those who love him.”

Beautiful in itself, this passage brought back memories from a few years ago of sitting in a small (Anglican) parish group, hearing a dearly loved old cleric say that he felt that Christians spent too much time thinking of Jesus as divine and too little time thinking of Him as human. I remember having to stop myself from falling off my chair at the time; how could it be possible to be so wide of the mark? What catechesis there was (and largely still is, it seems to me) focuses on the Jesus as human exemplar, the perfect man. I’m not sure, at that point, that I had ever heard anybody teaching about Jesus as divine: that is, any probing enquiry beyond simple creedal affirmation of what the consequences of His being divine would be.

Reconnecting with the supernatural is difficult. We live in a world where the common sense is of a vague atheistic materialism and where even educated Christians can often be unaware of the shifts of philosophical presuppositions that work to undermine their faith.

His Holiness John-Paul II showed great wisdom in setting new standards for priestly formation in philosophy (inter alia!) in Pastores dabo vobis. Perhaps now is the time for a similar lead in the formation of the laity?

Saturday, 5 June 2010

When I was Young

Back when I was young this was among the first (if not the first) CDs that I ever bought. It's still my favourite CD. My wife just put it on in the kitchen.

It's the way they tell 'em

If sacred persons or things are criticised precisely on account of their human or finite imperfections, real or alleged, the sin of irreverence is committed, when the criticism is prompted by malice or levity. No sin at all is committed, if one is stating facts with due respect for the character of the person or things spoken of. Examples: To call a Doctor of the Church an ignoramus out of anger at a theological opinion defended by him, would be of itself a serious sin of disrespect. To speak of a saint as a dirty tramp or idle visionary, if the intention is to insult, is also a serious sin of disrespect. But, if one were to say in joke that St. Peter was a baldhead, St. Chares Borromeo a big nose, the sin of irreverence would be only slight. No sin would be committed, if one, describing a religious painting from the artistic standpoint, called it an abomination.

McHugh & Callan, Moral Theology: A Complete Course, para 892 (b)

Phew! Saved by the final sentence…

Friday, 4 June 2010

On Authority V

I’m going to be tremendously lazy for today’s blog on authority and send you all away to read this essay on the manualist tradition by Fr. Joseph Fenton.

The reason I’ve put this in the series about “Authority” is that the theological manuals used to be widely considered as authentic interpretations of magisterial authority in the Church and hence practical sources of authentic teaching. In recent years, of course, they seem to have slipped into the shadows; but I get the feeling that this tradition is making a comeback as more and more of the faithful yearn for a deeper understanding of the deposit of faith handed on to the Church by Christ Himself.

Fr. Fenton’s article is useful in situating the manuals in the Christian tradition; but it is also very useful in pointing out particular sources for their strengths in particular areas. Many of the manuals cited are in Latin; however many of then have received English translations, so it's worth searching on the web around even if Fr. Fenton does not mention an English translation.

I must also, of course, mention again Dr.Feser’s “Scholastic’s Bookshelf” series both for its recommendations and for the links to the many online sources that are now available.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

On Authority IV

In the field of science that I work in it’s a lot of hard work to refute erroneous theories and studies once they get established in the literature. The fact that it is such hard work and that the kudos for demolishing false theories tends to be much lower than that available for creating new theories or buttressing established theories, tends to lead to the situation that rubbish is just left to die a natural death rather than being killed off promptly. Of course, reputations get established on the top of nonsense, and these erroneous theories often have to wait for the passing of their creators before they themselves get consigned to oblivion. The trouble is, when public health policy becomes involved, these erroneous theories lead to irrelevant or just plain damaging consequences. Bad science does kill people.

The same would appear to be true in dogmatic theology. Although, in principle, erroneous science would appear to be easier to refute (after all, to be optimistic for a moment, if it is irrefutable it cannot be science), errors in dogmatic theology are exposable and yet many theories seem to live on in a zombie existence long after they have been torn to shreds. One of the things that struck me very forcibly whilst reading Feingold’s book was how the huge problems of de Lubac’s theory of the supernatural were identified pretty much as soon as the ideas appeared. Why then does such a theory live on? One might make similar comments about Rahner’s idea of the transcendental existential. Perhaps it is simply due to the intrinsic seductiveness of the ideas and to the fact that few are intellectually equipped to actually understand the problems. Perhaps, as well, we are looking at the collapse of the idea of theological authority.

If one approaches a new idea from the point of view of the deposit of faith interpreted in the light of the perennial philosophy, then (and again, I’m being optimistic here) one might realistically hope that a deductive proof of the truth, falsity, fittingness or inconsistency of the new idea might be amenable. However, if hermeneutical principles are themselves disputed, then pretty much anything goes.

Ecclesiastical authorities rarely step in to theological disputes; and when they do these days there tend to be howls of indignation from those academic theologians who consider their intellectual freedom to be under attack. And yet perhaps in these days we do need the Magisterium to say more through its positive affirmation of the deposit of faith and through the condemnation of error. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask whether seemingly abstruse theological arguments actually have any effect on “ordinary people” at all and therefore why not just let erroneous theology fade into the sunset. But ideas have consequences; these erroneous ideas become simplified and popularized and they do influence ordinary folk. Lives are at risk with bad science but souls are at risk with bad theology.