September 29, 2011

Fat Free Roman Missal Rant

So I notice today that LTP has started to ship the new missal. Our new adventure in English-language worship comes another step closer. Will folks get used to saying, 'and with your spirit'? Will it help them pray? Will saying 'consubstantial' assist folks into the mystery of the Father and the Son better than 'one in being'? How long will it take priests to get used to saying 'dewfall' in their beloved Eucharistic Prayer II? How many boring arguments will have to be had about 'the many'?

I was thinking about these things as I ate my cereal this morning. That's when I noticed something fascinating on the kitchen counter: a carton of something called 'fat free half & half.' One of the brothers was putting some of it in his coffee. Isn't the idea of 'half & half' that it is something not quite as rich as cream but more so than plain milk? So what could it possibly mean that there is something called 'fat free half & half'? But there it is, right on the counter. And, apparently, whatever the referent of the utterance, 'fat free half & half' is supposed to be, the term carried enough meaning for somebody to buy it.

My point is that our problem is not just what words mean, but recovering the idea that they should have certain meanings at all. Therefore, for example, in addition to the question of whether it's better to say 'consubstantial' or 'one in being,' we need to be about recovering the assertion that the words matter because they refer to something in a specific way.

As one of my best teachers once said, we always have to remind ourselves that, in trying to talk about God, we are up against a grave challenge in a society that can say, "'Coke is life' and infinity [sic] is a car."

What we need to be careful of is the thinning out of language to the point that saying 'God is one and three' or 'Jesus Christ is one person of two natures hypostatically united' is the same sort of thing as saying 'fat free half & half.' The latter is a contradiction (which doesn't bother us because we have ceased to believe in truth and have, sometimes implicitly, accepted the relativism we have been taught) while the former is the best attempt of faithful and thoughtful Christians, helped by the Holy Spirit, to indicate the mysteries of revelation and the experience of salvation in human language.

Without truth, the mysteries of the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation are the same sort of thing as the mystery of 'fat free half & half.' Without truth the new translation doesn't matter either, and both its defenders and detractors become those who argue from the meaningless tediums of taste and power.


Anonymous said...

As the date of implementation approaches, parishes are starting to include flyers in their bulletins explaining the changes from old to new. I find myself empathizing with those who underwent the changes inherent in Vatican II. Much of the struggle of this world is inherent in change. The one constancy in our miserable existance should be our faith and belief in the unchanging God. There is comfort in the chant-like recital of prayer. Now instead of closing my eyes in awe at the mystery of God, I will approach Sunday mass having to study another textbook. The focus of the mass will have changed from the supernatural to the rational. Amazing to me is that in one century, the form of the mass will have changed three times. I cannot help but wonder in my uneducated feeble mind how frequently have such changes occurred in the history of the Church? And will such changes lead the flock closer to God or further isolate? If the whole idea behind this change is to interpret the ancient texts more accurately, I would venture to say that there are no human words that can possibly convey the nature and existence of God. We can spend a lifetime searching and studying and changing, but until we touch the hand of God in death, we will forever thirst.

Anonymous said...

In simply reading your post I have already adapted to saying cosubstantial, my guess is I will be using that word for the next several years.