Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Sarum Missal in English

Review: The Sarum Missal in English, translated by A.H. Pearson. Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. 2004. 618 pp. Softcover. $65.00 USD.

Reviewed by Shawn Tribe

In the past ten years I have found there to be a very great deal of interest in the various uses and rites of the Church. In part I believe this is in response to the rather chaotic state of the liturgy in so many of our parishes. One can go from parish to parish and find a very different sense of the liturgy. Everything from music, the design of the church, the style of vestments, how Father celebrates the Mass (and how he does or does not respect the text and the rubrics of the Missal) all converge to result in this scenario. This reality has led people to look at and search for a true and proper sense of liturgical diversity.

Moreover, the opposition that some local prelates, priests and diocesan officials have had toward the co-existence of the classical Roman liturgy and the modern Roman liturgy has also brought about a desire to examine a time and place where a greater sense of diversity of rites reigned within the Latin rite. Further, amongst Catholics of the English speaking world, having had their Christian inheritance usurped on the public level by protestantism, there is a desire to re-acquire and acqaintance with pre-reformation English Catholic life, worship and spirituality. In all these regards there is a sense of loss. Loss over our sense of legitimate liturgical diversity, the loss (or near loss at any rate) of so many traditional Western liturgical uses and rites, the loss of much English Catholic history.

In the middle ages, there were various rites and uses attached to religious orders (the Carthusian, the Dominican, etc.) and there were also such attached to particular Cathedral sees; the two most famous in our day are the Ambrosian, a rite proper, attached to the diocese of Milan, and the Sarum, attached to the See of Salisbury, England. There were other English uses, particularly that of Hereford and York, but that of Salisbury seems to have garnered the most attention – perhaps being the most widespread.

It is for all these reasons that there seems to be a particular interest in the so called “Sarum Rite”. The Sarum rite is really not a rite proper, but rather a use, or variant, upon the Roman rite. “Sarum” as well refers to “Salisbury”, home of the famed Cathedral and See of Salisbury. To that end, I bring to you news of the reprinting of a 19th century translation of the Sarum Missal in English, published under the same name by Wipf and Stock, with Mr. A.H. Pearson as the translator.

In our own day the Sarum Missal has come to have an association as being a kind of English Catholic Missal. This is not completely accurate of course, but neither is it completely inaccurate, having a fairly wide (though not exclusive) use in parts of England. The use of Salisbury was known for being very elaborate in its ceremonial and for the richness of its sequences. All such are represented within this reprinting in hieratic English translation. Besides including the Ordinary of the Mass, all of the propers of the Mass are also included, including the commons and special Masses, such as in a time of pestilence or for rain. It also includes little insights into unique festival customs on certain feasts, such as the Blessing of Apples.

Further, the ceremonial of the Sarum is brought to life in the rubrics that have been compiled and made present in this rendition of the missal. This includes details pertaining to particular festal days, as well as to general matters such as the ornamentation of the altar, or the colours of vestments used, the order of procession, etc.. These rubrics of the Low and High Mass are also compared with their variances from the uses of Hereford and York, making it a good comparative text of lost English liturgical uses. This rubrical selection alone is worth the price of the book as one will gain a sense of the Sarum liturgy as it would have been practiced.

Finally, two of the appendices in the book provide a chart making available a comparison of the epistles, gospel and sequences of the uses of Sarum, York and Hereford, as well as a listing of the Calendar of Saints to be found in the uses of York and Hereford – which can likewise be compared to the “Kalendar” of Sarum, found at the beginning of the book.

All said, I would have to classify this volume as one of the most useful and interesting pieces of liturgica I have seen in some time. Would that similar projects would be undertaken with the other rites and uses of the Latin rite.

I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the liturgies of Catholic England, the liturgical uses of the Latin Rite, the ceremonial of medieval English worship, or liturgical books, to pick up a copy of this wonderful re-print of Mr. Pearson's translation before it again goes out of print.

To order: The Sarum Missal in English