Friday, March 04, 2005

Dominus(e)?, non sum dignus-Sacred Space and Liturgiam Authenticam

Steve had a post on worthiness in which he quotes the gospel centurion who says, "Lord, I am not worthy that to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

In the comments of that post, I noted that at mass I say that phrase in the latin, so that I can concentrate on it. Which made me think of a couple of things.

In the latin the verse goes something like this, "Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantem dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea." I started saying the latin phrase years ago during mass because I liked it. Also, I am one of those who feel that something major has been lost with the discarding of latin as the standard liturgical language. Now, I really could care less about litrugical correctness with the Mass, so this is not a major thing with me but an observation.

Everynow and then, in the past and in the future, God willing, I go to Protestant services. (Sometimes I need to hear solid bible based good ol' fashioned preaching and also, sometimes, I just need to raise my hand and praise God and know that i am among others who feel the same way). However, one thing that becomes apparent and quite jarring is the fact that I don't get the feeling of sacred space that I get at the Catholic mass. The Catholic Church is all about symbols. Even non sacraments are invested with so much symbolism it gets ridiculous sometimes. On the flip side, the investment in symbolism, sacramental and non-sacramental, creates a sense of sacred space during worship.

Unlike my fundamentalist days, I find that I now depend more on the sense of sacred space created on Sundays (Post on "dependency" later). As a pentecostal, we could set up anywhere and do our thing and the presence of God would be there powerfully, but now I have gotten accustomed to creating a deliberate sacred space for worship invested with symbolism. This is where I think Latin fits in.

As humans, it is inevitable that the more we do something, the more familiar we are with it and the more banality sets in. This is a cause of malaise in worship these days. One way latin can help this, is that by using it you rip yourself out of your regular scheduled world and are forced into a symbolic ritual world. Even if you can recite the latin words by rote, the fact that you don't speak latin everyday, wakes you up to the fact that you are involved in something different, you are in a different space.

Now, I am believer in the vernacular and all that and again, this all is not a dogmatic point, but I believe that there is a huge value in the use of a liturgical language. Not just in terms of uniformity but in terms of symbolism. I note that Protestatism is not at all devoid of ritual and symbol, I just don't think it is even close though, to the level of Catholicism.

A quick second point this brings me to is Liturgicam Authenticam, a document put out by Rome a few years back on the liturgy. I think the whole idea was in creating more faithful translations of the latin liturgy. So instead of saying, "and also with you," we should say "and with your spirit too." This centurion verse then would be affected too, right? So instead of saying, "Lord, I'm not worthy to receive you" we should be saying, "Lord, I'm not worthy that you should come under my roof." I must say, that would be a touch odd.

6 Comments:

Blogger Talmida said...

I remember saying that -- about the roof. When i was very little (I was born in 1960).

I agree with you on sacred space, but I disagree that Latin creates or demarcates it any more than properly written English will. Where else do people wish, The Lord be with you? and where else do you respond with "And also with you? The vernacular language IS special and formal and suitable for liturgy, IMO.

Why is "and with your spirit" better? because it's older? Did Jesus say it? I doubt he said it in Latin.

I don't know the answers, but I am deeply suspicious of the desire to turn back the clock. Things change and go forward. Going back might be a big mistake.

1:06 AM  
Blogger Ambrose said...

It seems to me, sometimes, that in the Roman Rite we get very caught up in creating a parallel universe for our sacraments, that they should have a unique posture, a unique sociology, a unique syntax especially. The Orthodox and our sibling rites are often not caught up as much in that.
That being said, "and with your spirit" is at best a literal translation that you see not only in our English translations of the most ancient anaphora (most of which weren't even in Latin) and is of course used in Orthodox and Eastern Rite liturgies when they are said in English. However, it seems to make better sense in their liturgies (I'm guessing?) since they aren't so hung up on assuring a new sacred language and they really do mean to wish that the Peace of the Lord is with the Priest's spirit. Am I making any sense?

2:20 AM  
Blogger Steve Bogner said...

The less people tinker with the details of the liturgy, the better in my opinion.

Instead of spending effort on tinkering with the liturgy, the translations and so on, I'd rather see that effort put into improving homilies, music, worship, and religious education for kids & adults both. These are the things that will improve our experience at mass.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Ono said...

"Where else do people wish, The Lord be with you? and where else do you respond with "And also with you?"

At a Star Wars convention. "May the force be with you." "And also with you." Just kidding. You are right about that Talmida. Like I said, I'm less dogmatic about specifics, but more interested that the ritual takes one out of the ordinary. For instance, I like the King James for that reason, because it makes me feel like I am speaking words not my own.

Ambrose and Steve, I agree. I think we've gotten to where the point of the sacraments has been forgotten with all the wrangling about rituals, posture, songs, etc. Like Jesus said, sabbath for man and not vice versa, so also, sacraments for us and not us for sacraments.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Steve Bogner said...

Did you just put your picture out there, or have I been missing it all this time? Either way - it's nice to have a face to go with the name, as they say.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Ono said...

Yeahm picture went up recently. I had it on a couple of years back, but in changing the template it dissappeared, which was fine by me.

Now, imagine that head on a 6 feet 235 lb, chubby bellied frame. Okay, don't.

11:21 PM  

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