David Warren, shown above speaking Nov. 16 at the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church Conference in Toronto, has a piece at The Catholic Thing on Prayer in English that picks up on some of the themes of his engaging talk that was both uproariously funny and erudite. Though I don’t happen to have a photograph of John Covert laughing, every time I checked the audience out, there he was seeming to enjoy the talk immensely.
One of the things Warren told us at the conference was his surprise at discovering that St. Thomas More had said he thought the Mass should be translated into English.
He picks up that idea in his piece at The Catholic Thing.
Thomas More’s acknowledgment of the possibility of the Mass in English surprised me. Did he know what that could lead to?
But degeneration is possible in any language; and conversely, the sacred can be assimilated within all. While Latin must, through any foreseeable future, remain the “lingua franca” for the universal Church, she must also accommodate a “pentecostal” world that often resists Latin.
The significance of the Anglican liturgical tradition cannot be detached from Protestant history; herein lies the danger. The beauty of it cannot be overlooked, either. Generations of Anglicans trying to be true to the traditions of the Western Catholic Church were its authors.
Moreover, it coalesced at a time when this living tradition was still within touch, and when the English language was at its greatest.
Not only “great” in “the language of Shakespeare” sense, but too, as a practical matter. Those who have studied will realize that it’s much easier to translate the classics as well as the Bible into Elizabethan and Jacobean English WITHOUT modern idiom and cliché.
Of course, go on over and read the rest! Also in that vein is a piece by Tim Stanley at The Catholic Herald entitled Cranmer’s Accidental Gift to Catholics.
I was a member of the Church of England myself once, but only very briefly – so I didn’t get to fully appreciate Cranmer’s intelligence and poetry. Recently though I’ve become heavily involved with the ordinariate – that happy band of ex-Anglicans who have joined the Catholic Church, bringing with them some of the best of the Anglican tradition, including its magnificent thees, thys and thous. Before distributing Holy Communion, ordinariate priests recite Cranmer’s “Prayer of Humble Access”: “We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.” It’s a profound moment when everyone stops to contemplate just how awesome Christ’s sacrifice is, and it helps explain the emphasis upon reverence in sacramental worship. If you believe that this really is the Body and Blood of Christ, if you are in front of the actual King of Heaven, why wouldn’t you fall to your knees? “We are not worthy,” says the Book, “so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.”
Now, as I said all of this I was aware that I was speaking to an overwhelmingly Anglican crowd, and the ordinariate is controversial in the CofE because some see it as having stolen their priests. But, I said, isn’t the ordinariate rite a breathtaking example of real ecumenism? Could Cranmer – a man murdered by Mary I – ever have imagined that 500 years later, his words would be spoken by Roman Catholics here in England? It’s a demonstration of the power of beauty to cross boundaries and unite Christians around what really matters. The concern for eternal truths should bring Catholics and Protestants together; it’s a lot more important than the specifics that separate them.
Again, go on over and read the whole thing. Most interesting.
In the period after Anglicanorum coetibus was promulgated and before the ordinariates were established and well-before we had Divine Worship: The Missal, there was a debate about Cranmer. Some argued he was a heretic and therefore his work should be disallowed.
What I have to say for Cranmer is that he was a great translator of Latin—many of the collects he translated are true to the Latin—and was able to do so in such a way that the English was pleasing to the ear, poetic, and beautiful. Thankfully, the Catholic Church has chosen to allow among our treasures to be shared some of Cranmer’s work.