Liturgical sadness

I feel a strange sense of sadness at the news that the Roman Catholic church is revising its English form of the mass. Why sadness? After all, what’s it to do with me?

Well, one of the curious things that has brought churches together in the last century is liturgical revision. Although getting the jots and tittles of new liturgy right often seems to be hard work in synod, it is a very careful process. As liturgists from the various liturgically minded churches often studied together and went to conferences together (and did what liturgists do at liturgical conferences together) a new form of ecumenism developed. Slyly and without any great project announcement, the Holy Spirit somehow managed to get different churches to approve almost identical texts.

One of the consequences of this was that the music that was written for the liturgy can be shared amongst us. Thus it is that about half of the settings of the mass that we sing at St Mary’s are by Roman Catholic musicians. (Proulx, MacMillan and Greening come obviously to mind).

But now it seems that the texts of the bits that get sung are going to be changed within the Roman Catholic church along with other parts of the service. That will mean that we will not be able to interchange settings quite so easily.

It is a common occurance for Roman Catholics who find themselves in St Mary’s to exclaim in puzzled wonder that the mass they have just witnessed is almost exactly the same as they would get in an RC church. (Readings, music, most of the synaxis, the kyrie, gloria, sanctus, benedictus and angus etc are all the same). It works exactly the same in reverse for our own folk going to mass either in this country or abroad.

I feel a curious sadness at the thought that we might be moving away from one another.