Why use five words when you can use five hundred?
There’s some interesting liturgical development afoot for the Roman Catholic church. The publication of the new Roman Missal takes me back about ten years to my days at Church House Publishing and the publication of Common Worship. No doubt, around the country right now, there are Catholic priests and congregations either trying to weigh up whether to buy new books, manage their own booklets or see how long they can get away with doing nothing; just as Anglican Vicars did ten years ago.
Anyway, I’ve been struck by sheer verbosity this weekend as I’ve followed this news.
The thing that really got my attention was the Bishop of London’s pastoral letter to his clergy in which he takes 2,500 words to say the following:
- Dear Clergy, when you were ordained and again when you were licensed to your current post, you promised to use ‘only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by Canon’;
- The Roman Missal is not an authorised text in the Church of England (neither the old one or the new one);
- So, my more Catholic friends, don’t be thinking this new book gives you a license to play games with the liturgy.
Not difficult really. Why he needs 2,500 words to say that I’m not sure and what concerns me is that the message he is trying to communicate gets lost in all those long words. We’re simple creatures us clergy, after all.
I’m taking the mick a bit I know, but in all honesty I’m glad the Bishop has said what he’s said. Before I was ordained, I was sent to spend four weeks at a very high ‘more catholic than the catholics’ Anglican church nearby so as to understand other strains of Anglican church life. I enjoyed the experience. But in a context where I knew my low, evangelical Vicar was getting grief from the Bishop for using minimal liturgy each week (Confession/Absolution, Eucharistic Prayer and that was about it) albeit within a common ‘authorised’ Anglican structure, I was astounded to find this high church apparently using the Roman Missal with impunity.
Maybe I am being naive. Okay, I know I am probably being naive. But when I promised I would only use forms of service ‘authorised by Canon’ I really meant it and I would expect all clergy to mean the same. The fact is that Common Worship gives tremendous flexibility and so there ought to be no reason to feel the need to go off-piste at the low end of the liturgical spectrum. And at the high end, if you want to use the Roman Missal, well then you know where you can go and find it. Blunt, but true.
Getting back to the Missal to finish, perhaps +Londin was giving an indication of his opinions of the Missal in being so verbose. I don’t *get* the new Roman Missal. It’s essentially an attempt to move back towards the Latin Mass but while still in the vernacular English. Why would you want to do that? Surely, the whole point of being in the vernacular is that it has its own rhythms, idioms, phraseology that are absolutely fundamental to the comprehension of the language. It’s like trying to speak German with English grammar and syntax. It doesn’t work. All you end up with is verbosity and, most probably, incomprehension.
But maybe, like Yoda, something missing am I…