16 March 2017

Christine Mohrmann (5)

Christine Mohrmann followed de Saussure and Bally in pointing out that "language by no means serves only to communicate actual facts but is also ... a medium of expression. Whereas ... language used purely as a means of communication normally strives towards a certain degree of efficiency, which results in linguistic simplification and standardisation, language as expression usually shows a tendency to become richer and more subtle. It aims at becoming, by every possible means, more expressive and more picturesque, and it may try to attain this heightened power of expression ... by the preservation of antiquated elements already abandoned by the language as communication". It is on these grounds that she resisted the introduction of the vernacular into the liturgy (except for the readings); modern languages, in her view, develop their efficiency as media of communication, but this makes them less suitable for sacred stylisation.

It was not until 1997 that the Magisterium of the Latin Church caught up with the questions Mohrmann had posed, and in an admirable instruction Liturgiam authenticam (hysterically vilified by the illiterate vested interests which at that time dominated ICEL, and now under threat from a Bergoglianist committee set up in the CDW) called for nothing less than the creation of new sacral vernaculars. "If, indeed, words or phrases can sometimes be employed in liturgical texts which differ from common and everyday speech, this in fact quite often actually leads to the texts being more memorable and more effective in expressing heavenly things. So it appears that observance of the principles explained in this Instruction tends to the gradual production in every common language of a sacred style, which also is to be recognised as the correct dialect for worship (sermo proprie liturgicus). So it can happen that a certain way of speaking which might seem a trifle obsolete in everyday speech, can be preserved in a liturgical context". Speaking in 2001, Fr Aidan Nichols envisaged the enrichment of the 'classical' - that is, Tridentine - Roman Rite with"all that is best in the Pauline reform" and its "diffusion" either in Latin "or in a 'high' vernacular capable of exercising the functions of a sacral language".

In the Ordinariate, we do, of course, already possess a high, hieratic vernacular. And we use it!

2 comments:

E sapelion said...

"we do, of course, already possess a high, hieratic vernacular."
Absolutely, so if you can use it, why not the rest of us?
Or at least something modelled on it.

mark wauck said...

Perhaps someone has already done this, but to me there seems to be a connection between the insistence on a sort of LCD vernacular liturgy and and the insistence on making it an ad populum performace: Which Makes Sense? Obviously it wouldn't make much sense to face the populum, the great unwashed, and read to them in Latin. But beyond matters of practicality, is there more to it? On one level, it might betoken a very Protestant spirit--we've multiplied readings, more and longer readings. Doesn't that suggest an underlying theological shift in the understanding of the Mass? Is there more to it? I'm sure I've seen writers claiming that we got to the liturgy to encounter one another.