|Mass in the Grotto at Lourdes, always a simple,|
straightforward, faith-filled, and prayerful experience
I intend over the next few months, interspersed with entries on the various Church Reforms in History—the Gregorian, Innocentian, Protestant, etc.—to do a number of postings on the upcoming liturgical revisions. But what struck me most about this workshop—not only from the presenter but from a number of officially produced videos featuring Bishop Arthur Serratelli who chairs the Committee on the Liturgy for the American Bishops Conference, but also Monsignor James Moroney from the Federation of Diocesan Liturgy Committees, is that the emphasis is definitely on ritual/text rather than on a prayerful celebration. These texts will be very difficult to pray, especially aloud. They do not facilitate one’s entering into the deepest chambers of one’s heart and expressing what is found there. The Presider will have difficulty in moving beyond an externalized fixation on the words; the congregants will have difficulty in absorbing the words much less in allowing the words to move the individual to prayerful attention (I won’t say recollection). That is unfortunate as the texts, at least the ones we were shown, are deeply beautiful and rich but it would take a Shakespearean elocutionist to say them with any measure of poise. It may be that the texts are too rich to use in vocal prayer. I will need to look at Eucharistic Prayer III in more detail to see what caused it to come across as somewhat of a hodgepodge (to use an American idiom rather than the Irish: a dog’s dinner) of so many disparate elements.
English, at least American English, is a clean and simple language. We tend to favor short sentences and we are sparing—perhaps too sparing—on both poetical imagery and literary (in this case scriptural) illusions. We pray openly and frankly. I agree that we need to use an elevated tone of language—but we are not given to the verbal baroque. Read Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s addresses at Gettysburg or his second inaugural, Franklin Roosevelt “Day that will go down in infamy,” or John Kennedy’s address to the Houston Ministerium or his Inaugural Address. Our English is short, crisp, current. That is how we know how to speak. For that matter, read Winston Churchill’s addresses to the British Nation during World War II and you will find that same terse and to the point language. It is eminently suited for prayer—and for those with the mindset of English speakers, far more suited than the courtly baroque of the new translation. For those for whom prayer is words and pomp and taking a stance before God, it might work. For those for whom prayer is standing in the Presence of God, naked in one’s own truth with open heart and open hands—this ain’t going to cut it. The very blessing of this new translation is its curse. It will make our ritual less bland but I fear it will make our prayer more stilted