Archive for July 19th, 2007

Latin Lovers

A convoy of diverse phenomena has been thundering past my kennel for the last few days, and, alas, I have not been able to raise my snout from my dish to muster even the most half-hearted of barks.

One of the things I had planned on writing about in more detail was the decision of the Pope to allow masses to be celebrated in Latin. Not because I have any particular interest in Latin masses, but because I find it diverting that people should exhibit a preference for a religious celebration in a language they do not speak. It is as though religious devotion were intensified by incomprehension. A glorious mystery, perhaps.

On the one hand, the Latin Mass nowadays might seem like trenchant traditionalism, but on the other, there are parallels with the sort of thing popularised by people like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, where transcendental meditators use an incomprehensible ‘mantra’ -but one which is supposed to have a personal significance- to achieve a sense of transcendence.

But, as this letter writer to the Irish Independent avers, in what I imagine is a fairly typical position, this is not the only reason:

I go to the Tridentine Mass when I can – not because I think it is correct or better in itself, but because it is more obviously directed towards God, not inwards to the priest and the congregation, and because I want to pray in my own head along with the priest. He is not turning his back on us; he is speaking to God for us all and we are able to concentrate on our collective worship without distractions.

i.e. I would prefer not to see stragglers making their way through the front door via their reflection on the priest’s shiny forehead. Maybe.

More interesting here is the conviction that God has a particular location (‘more obviously directed towards God’), and therefore a corporeality, which, for the most part, he has been rather coy about revealing, provided we choose to ignore his occasional appearances on pizza slices and oily rags.

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July 2007