I don’t claim to be a normal person. I claim, rather, to be a liturgist. Or if you will, a liturgy geek. I know the lingo.
But what about the normal people, the ones who come to the liturgy? What do they make of the words we use?
I’m sure there are normal people who think a canon is something you fire, and a missal is something that gets fired through the air.
Less contentiously, a host welcomes you politely. OK, it also has a churchy meaning: Lord, God of hosts must refer to communion bread.
Doctor of the church? That would be a parish physician – someone to deliver you from your every embolism.
Normal people have icons – on their computer screen. And they use rubrics to evaluate their department’s work.
Many normal people would claim they’re not singers, but they might know that an octave comprises a scale with eight pitches.
Normal people confess their sins, not their doctrines. An apology happens when you’re sorry, not when you’re defending your beliefs.
We have a real surplice of potential misunderstandings here.
I wouldn’t advocate dumbing down the liturgy or eliminating all its jargon. Anything worth doing develops its own manner of speaking. Just google “types of wines” or “football vocabulary.”
I would suggest, though, that we liturgy geeks – we who plan and lead liturgies – should be more aware that we’re not normal people. We should think more about how to communicate with normal people – seekers, occasional attenders, regulars.
In the celebrant’s opening comments, in the homily, in the bulletin notes, in the adult education session, we should use words the way our listeners use them as much as possible. We can also use those words to lead them into the liturgy’s depths and better understand its language.
I suggest, then, that we speak less churchy vernacular and more vernacular vernacular.