Benedict XVI has decided to issue a motu proprio reinstating the Tridentine Mass.
Codified by Pius V in the mid-sixteenth century, the latin rite was re-elaborated repeatedly in the intervening years until Paul VI placed its celebration beyond any priest without permission from his bishop. Pius XII revised the Easter ceremonies and, in 1962 John XXIII, four centuries after the Council of Trent first settled the various texts of the mass and determined the first Roman Missal, issued the Missal most remember.
A missal is given (along with many other gifts) at first communion. Bound in limpest, finest calf, printed on thinnest india paper, arranged in printed columns, divided by silken cords, its pages interspersed with holy pictures that resemble nothing so much as cigarette cards of the saints with cvs and invocations printed on the verso, a missal is a life long project and highly personal possession.
With endpapers of watered silk and a tiny crucifix in mother of pearl let into the inside of the front cover, black, mine is a perfection of restraint. Mr HG carries his mother's missal, (embossed silver cover, silk velvet endpapers, crucifix in silver, silken ribbons, santini). Both are printed with most of the typeface in black, with red and, rarely, glorious blue highlighting. Mine has the English text beside the latin, his of course, does not.
The length and breadth of Christendom we all have the same texts, calendars, invocations for appropriate days and occasions, gospels, admonitions, confiteors, standings-up and kneelings down. From earliest memories we were all hit with the intricate extraordinary barrage of lights and flames, swishings and genuflectings, thuribles and incense, and sounds, strange words, the contrast between the packed, concentrating, silent congregation occasionally bursting out in a hymn, and the stage set at the altar speaking in another language, in every sense , and muttering secrets, back turned.
In what other way would a small girl learn to sing plainchant, read those squared-off marks on wavering black lines, pronounce the latin words and pass the time during the boring bits (those long sermons, those banns '..consanguinity, affinity, or spiritual relationship... ' would roll round the church like distant thunder menacing the plans of people known and discussed at home), comparing the English with the latin text and working it out; or considering what on earth much of the litanies could mean - tower of ivory, house of gold.. - And there is still no dismissal quite so absolute as Ite missa est, and the translation of that united concentration into outside, that congregation breaking into all its components in chats and smiles and ignorings and everyday concerns.
It was a deprivation to remove this richness, and the greater deprivation for the poorer, although the usual reasons were given to justify it - engagement, out reach, non-discrimination, multifaith openness, multicultural correctness (there was a prayer for the conversion of England and another for the Jews; frankly the idea of Jewish conversion to roman Catholicism, or vice versa would make members of either faith giggle, but the correcties were upon us).
Benedict XVI has done two good deeds that shine brightly in this world inside a week :
He has told Blair what he is and what he cannot be for now, considering what he has done; and he has pushed back the Roundheads from the Cavaliers' sunday mornings.
Mass outside my bedroom windows has returned to its universal form. Et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. And I can sing along!
Why Mandela is adored
2 hours ago