The apostles used Koine Greek, but they used it in a highly stylized and liturgical form right from the beginning.  People don’t go around saying things like “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” as they chat at the grocery store.  It is not ordinary chat say, “In Him, all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily” or to suddenly burst out with, “O the riches of the wisdom of God!” or to casually quote lengthy passages from the Psalms.  So the myth that the apostles just chatted in ordinary speech as they proclaimed the gospel and that “the Church” somehow encrusted their simple folk patois with “religious” language is simply not so.  In fact, Hebrew is a thickly liturgical language and the Old Testament dominated the minds of the apostles and formed so much of the New Testament.  All the Mass does is remind us of that fact.  The Church is not “taking away your daily word”.  You are free to talk to your barber and accountant in our ordinary speech.  But precisely what happens in the Mass is that we are entering into the precincts of the sacred and being reminded of all those things that Scripture tells us things like “The Lord is on his holy throne, dwelling in unapproachable light”—and yet also tells we are welcome in his presence.

My reader’s objection to the Mass reminds me of something that once happened to Dorothy Day.  Somebody once complained to her that churches were too gorgeous and that they should all be stripped, the money given to the poor, and replaced with little bare rooms.  Day very sensibly said that churches are the only places where poor people can go, free of charge, and experience immense beauty that lifts their minds and hearts to heaven.  The net effect of stripping the Church’s of their glorious beauty is not to exalt the poor, but to sentence them to an unrelievedly grey world.  The net effect of stripping the Mass of beautiful language is to render it extremely difficult to lift our hearts and minds to the Beautiful One.

No comments:

Blog Archive