Getting Liturgy “Right” … the right way

November 21, 2011

Let me say from the beginning that I fully understand and am aware of all the liturgical, historical, and translation reasons that memorial acclamation 1, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again” was removed from the soon to be current translation of the Roman Missal. I’m a liturgical purist, and a little piece of me is completely fine with this omission. After all, it’s not in the “original” latin. Following the standards set by Liturgiam Authenticam, it’s not an o.k. acclamation. It’s not addressed directly to God. And if it isn’t introduced well it really can seem like a side note that gets stuck in, mid Eucharistic Prayer, to make sure everybody’s paying attention. And yes, sometimes I do giggle when we sing the mass of creation version because it evokes a feeling akin to mixing the imperial march from star wars with John Phillips Sousa, and then repeats itself just in case you haven’t had enough imperial marching around. All that to say: I get why it got dropped. 

Dropping the text itself doesn’t bother me that much, for all the afore stated reasons. But singing it at mass for the last time last night really, really bothered me. What bothers me is that I think Mother Church could have done this differently, and used this as a way to reach across the boundary of schism to begin healing a very deep wound. It’s not time for finger pointing- and I heartily admit that protestants have their share to do for healing reformation scars. I find shifting reformation blame completely uninteresting and unhelpful. But it dawned upon me last night that no longer will Protestants and Catholics use the same words to profess their hope in the realization of Christ’s kingdom. This new translation, particularly the point of the mystery of faith, could have been a point where liturgical Protestants (at least mainlines) and Catholics worked together and informed each other. If we had worked together, we still could have dropped memorial acclamation one, no big deal. And when I say we I mean here my whole extended Christian family, weird cousins and all. Protestant liturgy could have grown toward an arguably better expression of the mysterium fide. And Roman Liturgy might have benefited from looking at it’s own genetic development as it was passed down toward its grand children and great grandchildren. We (and here I mean Protestant we) did, after all, steal most of the Roman Rite originally. Just take a close look at the 1662 BCP or Luther’s first few german translations, and you’ll see what I mean.

Again, I find figuring out who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ for its own sake completely uninteresting and largely unhelpful. Everybody’s to blame for continued schism. What I do find interesting are opportunities for healing and union in the body of Christ. The liturgy can only be for the life of the world when it is the wellspring of the church’s life, it’s source and summit. I’m not angry at anyone, and I’m not even annoyed. I think I feel more like a parent, who knows what my beautiful and brilliant child is capable of, watching that same child settle for less. It makes me unspeakably sad to see yet another opportunity for healing and life pass my Christian family by, untried. In this particular move, I think all of us would have benefited from an aim toward eternal life along with formal latin. The two need not be diametrically opposed.

Let’s do better by each other next time, y’all. We’re family.

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