Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Peace be with you.

Others have already noted Bishop Hugh Gilbert's pastoral letter that marks the introduction to parish useage of some of the texts of the new English translation of the Missal. It's style is familiar to those who had opportunity to hear Bishop Hugh preach when Abbot of Pluscarden, or who are familiar with the two published books of his conferences/homilies.

Given his new office as a Bishop, what interests me about the following passage from the pastoral letter is the way in which it at once combines a beauty and poetry of language and a teaching at quite a simple level about the nature of the celebration of the liturgy.
‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ In Christ, the Son of God takes on everything human, except sin, and transforms it. And in the Liturgy this mystery of the Incarnation – the Word becoming flesh – lives on among us. Everything speaks of it. When we gather to worship we come together in a building – not usually in any building, though, but in a church, a building dedicated for worship. The ministers who lead our prayer don’t wear just ordinary clothes, but vestments. We stand, sit or kneel, but each of these postures now has a special meaning. We come together to listen to readings – not any readings though, but words inspired by the Holy Spirit, words that are now the word of God. We gather round a table – but not any table, rather a holy table, an altar. We eat and drink – but not any food or drink, rather bread and wine which have become that holiest of things, the Body and Blood of the Lord, his very Self. In the Liturgy, ordinary things are taken up by Christ and the Church and become vehicles of something greater than themselves. And so it is too with the words, the language, we use in prayer. Christianity has always, to some extent, created its own language. It took the words of ancient Israel or the Greco-Roman world and filled them with a new meaning. And so, in the Liturgy, we use words that carry the resonances of a long tradition, words that express our faith, and are rich with many centuries of experience of the God who has spoken to us in Christ. The new translation of the Missal is very aware of this and tries to be loyal to it. And, once again, when these words are sung, they can lift our hearts even more.

1 comment:

berenike said...

It's the first pastoral letter I've come across that makes any sense as a sermon. Which, given they are always read in the place of the sermon, you'd think would be a characteristic at which the authors would aim!