Monday, May 29, 2006

What I learned at the Episcopal Church

This weekend I found myself at an Episcopal Church service. It had been many years since I attended one. Three points stood out, none of which have much relation to each other:

  • The hymn book was packed with good English-language settings of the ordinary, using the same words we use in the New Rite ICEL translation at the Catholic Church. For years our schola struggled to find decent English-language settings of the Mass ordinary, and couldn't find them in any of the mainstream Catholic hymnbooks. And yet right down the street we find them in the Episcopal hymnal. What we were thinking? What are Catholic publishers thinking?
  • Many of the translations are the same, including down to the bad translations ("And also with you" for "et cum spiritu tuo," and the convoluted and fanciful Gloria rendering, which can only inspire wonder and amazement.). I can only suppose that this was the result of decades of ecumenical dialogue (though I don't know for sure). So what happens when the new Roman Missal comes out, in which many of these problems will be fixed? Will the Episcopal Church change too?
  • The people received communion kneeling at an altar rail, a visible sign of piety that exceeds what the Catholics down the street show toward the Eucharist. It struck me (again) that the elimination of this practice was a tragic error, nowhere written in the documents of Vatican II. The posture and method is left vague in the GIRM. Restoring the old practice would seem to be a giant step toward solemnity, and something that could be done parish by parish, with the Bishop's approval (obviously a sticking point).

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