Thursday, July 12, 2007

Aesthetics and Ritual in Religion

An AP article last week declared that 'Pope Angers Jews, Liberals with Rite'. In fact, what Pope Benedict did was to reverse a ruling requiring a Bishops' approval to celebrate the old Latin Mass in churches throughout the world. The Tridentine Mass, which the Second Vatican Council replaced with a New Mass, was the rite that had been celebrated for almost two thousand years by the Roman Catholic Church. In comparison, the Mass instated pursuant to the Second Vatican Council is far less graceful and far less meaningful in many ways. The Tridentine rite is formal in nature and the Latin Mass was designed to be universal. Any Roman Catholic could enter a Church anywhere in the world and participate in the Mass. To celebrate Mass in the vernacular is to break the international community into national affiliations, preventing an individual from entering fully into the sacrament unless he/she is conversant in the language in which the Mass is performed.

Furthermore, the Tridentine Mass possesses an eloquence and grace that is not to be found in the liturgy developed by the Second Vatican Council. There is some justification for the idea of creating a sacred space, a sacred time and a sacred language for the purpose of spiritual meditation and the attainment of a higher state of consciousness. The prayer rug or masalah in Islam creates a sacred space. Mantras of the Buddhists could be considered a sacred language designed solely to transform the state of consciousness.

Latin in the 21st century is not colloquial in nature. It has become a sacred language pursuant to its use in the Roman Catholic liturgy for almost two thousand years. People complained that the Mass in Latin was meaningless because they spoke the words without understanding them. I submit that was their own fault and not the fault of the liturgy.

Muslims throughout the world learn to read and recite the Qur'an in Arabic because Arabic is the sacred language of Islam. Colloquial Arabic is not the same as the Classical form of the language in which the Qur'an is written; thus, it requires some effort for any individual to read and recite Qur'an.

Why should Roman Catholics be lazier than their Muslim counterparts? In point of fact, when Greek and Latin were taught as mandatory courses in schools, the standard of learning in general was higher. Latin provides an excellent foundation for any Romance language and even English, which is a hybrid, benefits from a good understanding of Latin.

The Roman Catholic liturgy lost most of its appeal when the New Mass supplanted the Tridentine Rite. Roman Catholics gradually have been losing their connection with their spiritual heritage. Rome is the centre of the Roman Catholic world and Latin is the language of Roman Catholicism.

One should note that the Latin Mass inspired individuals from every nation and heritage, despite the fact that it probably was not the 'native language' of any one apart from the Romanians in the past thousand years. Latin once was the language of ambassadors and foreign relations. It was a language that was almost universally understood by the educated masses for many centuries.

A few decades ago, there was a movement to create a new 'universal' language. The language that was developed was given the name, 'Esperanza'. The movement was unsuccessful, to say the least. It would have been far more logical to have revived the teaching of Latin, a language that has been in circulation for over two thousand years and still is an integral part of Western civilisation.

In many areas in the U.S. there now is a movement to promote Spanish in place of English, to make the nation 'bi-lingual'. Would it not be more reasonable and just to reinstate Latin? Making Spanish the partner of English disregards the other ethnic groups in the United States. Instead, Latin should be taught once again in the schools as a mandatory course.

As far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, Pope Benedict did not jettison the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. He simply recognised the value of the old Latin rite. Nonetheless, there has been an 'outcry' by some in response.

Does any outside community have a right to interfere in the liturgy of another faith? Why should the Jewish community or any other be allowed to criticise the Roman Catholic liturgy? A single prayer on Good Friday ostensibly is the focus of Jewish outrage because it includes the hope that the Jews might recognise the divinity of Christ. It does not call for a crusade or for any practical human measures to bring this to pass. It is a prayer to God. It follows, therefore, that any community that does not believe in the Roman Catholic Trinity should not be threatened by such a prayer. If Christ is not the Son of God and Man, his 'Father' would not possess any power to change the hearts of any human being.

I personally do not believe that religion should concern itself with politics and would strip all religions of their political components. The 'conversion' of any individual should be a matter solely between an individual and the Divine. On the other hand, I find it rather disturbing that any one would be threatened by the simple option to return to a liturgy that is one of the most beautiful ever designed by Western civilisation.

1 comment:

Fleming said...

Freyashawk, I am very, very glad to find that you've written on this subject. When I posted my much less worthy item on the Pope's decision I wanted to ask if you would please write an article. I have such respect for you and your knowledge of ritual that I felt no one else could equal what you would write, and I knew you'd have strong feelings on the subject.

It's almost amusing that most of the headlines about the event continue to be negative.