Andrew Sullivan on the words of the Mass

Now this is the way a Christian should look at the world. A reader asked Andrew Sullivan: Which writer most influenced your view of God? His response:

Well…I think that the collective writing of the Mass is easily the biggest influence on my understanding of God, from an early age. Remember, you go to the same place every week, and you hear essentially the same thing every week. You repeat the same creed. You do hear the Gospels, obviously, but there’s also the order of the Mass itself, I think, [which] kind of impresses itself upon you in a way which becomes almost beyond thought.  That’s what ritual, I guess, is…

From The Daily Beast.




  1. Indeed, which is why the new English translation is so subtly corrosive, helping to obscure God behind convoluted and sometimes false word images — all because some think that strange language that mimics latin words and thought is a good way to manufacture a transcendent, reverent vernacular Mass.

    It’s so obvious that the ritual words and prayers are a prime influence on our picture of God that we probably think it about very seldom, except now when we’re faced with new language and theological dissonance.

    How well does it all work for you?

    1. This statement resonates with me. First my parish was closed via a process that lasted several years marked by manipulations, lies and dirty tricks. I found a new parish, but now the Mass itself has been taken from me.

      I know many who love the Latin Mass feel that turn about is fair play. I can only say that I honestly believe the image of God from the vernacular Mass is closer to what the Christ meant when he called God “Abba”.

    2. The setting I minister in is a campus ministry at a big secular university. We were having a meeting a few weeks before Lent, and for some reason I turned the Missal page to the new Ash Wednesday collect and read it aloud sight unseen (as prayerfully and well as I could, I might add).

      Perhaps you all remember its dominant martial tone: “this campaign of Christian service … take up battle … armed with weapons of self-restraint …” The roomful of students actually burst into laughter. That experience more than any other has summed up for me how well we can expect this translation to “work” … it will alienate and divide us, drive away the young — and perhaps cause presiders to dread the day when people burst out laughing in Mass itself.

      1. Were they really laughing at the translation? I would find that incredible. It is far more likely that today’s sophisticated Catholic students were laughing at the idea of “weapons of self-restraint”. Is you suggestion that we so mistranslate this old and longstanding prayer that it divides no-one because what they are supposed to believe is totally hidden from them? It’s certainly true that self-restraint is at present a completely counter-cultural value especially among the young. But I would have thought the clarity of the idea expressed would have provided you with the opportunity first to assess what they were laughing at, and then to offer some catechesis as to the connecion between self-restraint and the spiritual life. Unfortunately after decades of suggestions that giving things up for Lent is less valuable than doing some worthwhile activity it’s unlikely that there are any current resources to support this crucial concept apart from the “laughable” prayer.

  2. As I have said before: English is a beautiful language. Latin is a beautiful language. Latlish is not a language.

    I agree with Andrew Sullivan that the repeated prayers and readings of the Mass over many years are paramount to our relation to God. I am old, so I had the dual benefit of experiencing this process first in Latin and then in English. Oh, and also in French… But now – yikes! There is no cultural context for Latlish! We might as well try that failed Esperanto!

    1. “Latlish”, I love it!

      Susan, to be sure I will not look and vouchsafe this new language with a propitious and serene countenance…

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