Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lamentable Prayers

Accipe, Deus, Ecclesiæ tuæ lamentabilem precem...

(Accept, O God, Thy Church's "lamentable" prayer...)

Oratio post Nomina, Littaniæ ante diem sancti Martini episcopi (10th November), Mozarabic Rite

Augustine long ago warned incomers to the Catholic Church (remarks which groups of Anglicans may find helpful!) not to be put off by bishops and priests who preach without style, diction or grammar:
For thus they will not act the mocker if they happen to observe any of the prelates and ministers of the Church either calling upon God in language marked by barbarisms and solecisms, or failing in understanding correctly the very words which they are pronouncing, and making confused pauses. It is not meant, of course, that such faults are not to be corrected, so that the people may say Amen to something which they plainly understand; but what is intended is, that such things should be piously borne with by those who have come to understand how, as in the forum it is in the sound, so in the church it is in the desire that the grace of speech resides.
— St Augustine, De Catechizandis Rudibus, chapter ix

Notoriously, ever since the reformed Roman liturgy has been done over into English by ICEL, the poor paraphrase provided has been a scandal, hiding the pearls of doctrine under a rude appearance; alas, the dumbing-down of prayer has been matched only by the foul philistine music provided, whose texts are more suited to kindergarten or a campfire singalong than to the sacred liturgy.

Lay prayer, too, has been debased: from the perhaps saccharine effusions beloved of many, as once used in Novenas and other devotions, the chosen style has descended to childish forms: "Loving God, may we disciple each other and be empowered..." – note how such "prayers" are actually thinly-veiled exhortations to bourgeois niceness, with God referred to only in passing.  The Prayer of the Faithful at Mass is too often a cringeworthy exercise in such consciousness-raising.

Thanks be to God, the new translation of the Mass will be sober, decent and fitting, reflecting the richness of Catholic faith and doctrine in its texts.  Nonetheless, we do not believe in "Salvation by good taste alone" – while every effort should be made "to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness", lest our adoration be a scandal, it is greater far to have the substance right, albeit the form all skew-whiff, rather than have the form but not the substance.

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