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Here are some details of a couple of books that I’ve recently received. I hope to be able to write a little more about each as I get through them in the coming weeks.

Nicola Bux, Benedict XVI’s Reform: The Liturgy between Innovation and Tradition (Ignatius 2012)

When Benedict XVI reestablished the celebration of the older Latin Mass, voices of protest rose up from many sides. The widespread fear was-and is-that the Pope had revealed himself as the reactionary defender of tradition that many have accused him of being since he was the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Holy Office.

Defenders of Benedict XVI have responded to these objections by explaining that the use of the Tridentine Rite is not a “step backward” to pre-Vatican II times, but rather a step forward. Now the Church can see what the older rite offered in terms of beauty, reverence, and meaning and perhaps desire more of those elements in the ordinary form of the Mass.

A professor of theology and liturgy, the author of this book explains the motives behind the Pope’s decision to allow two forms of the Mass. He does this by turning to the Pope’s own theological and liturgical writings, but he also draws from his experiences on various Church commissions and in offices of the Roman Curia.

The author also brings to his subject an astute understanding of current social and spiritual trends both inside and outside the Church. Sensitive to modern man’s hunger for the sacred, he desires with Pope Benedict XVI that the Mass be first and foremost a place of encounter with the living God.

U. M. LangThe Voice of the Church at Prayer: Reflections on Liturgy and Language (Ignatius 2012)

Pope Benedict XVI has made the liturgy a central theme of his pontificate, and he has paid special attention to the vitally important role of language in prayer. This historical and theological study of the changing role of Latin in the Roman Catholic Church sheds light on some of the Holy Father’s concerns and some of his recent decisions about the liturgy.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council allowed for extended use of the vernacular at Mass, but they maintained that Latin deserved pride of place in the Roman Rite. The outcome, however, was that modern translations of the prayers of the Mass replaced the Latin prayers.

What was the reason for the Council’s decision and why is there now a desire for greater use of Latin in Catholic worship? Why have some post-conciliar English translations of the prayers of the Mass been replaced?

Fr Lang answers these questions by first analyzing the nature of sacred language. He then traces the beginnings of Christian prayer to the Scriptures and the Greek spoken at the time of the apostles. Next he recounts the slow and gradual development of Latin into the sacred language of the Western Church and its continuing use throughout the Middle Ages. Finally, he addresses the rise of modern languages and the ongoing question of whether the participation of the laity at Mass is either helped or hindered by the use of Latin.