Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review of Treasure and Tradition: The Ultimate Guide to the Latin Mass

Having recently received a review copy of this remarkable new book from its author, Lisa Bergman, I must say that I am dazzled and overwhelmed by what she and her friends at St. Augustine Academy Press have accomplished. It became clear to me that a complete and detailed review of such a packed book would take me so long that it might never see the light of day, and I would vastly prefer that Catholics know about this book and begin obtaining copies before the great feast of Christmas is upon us.
Here is how the publisher describes the 120-page full-color hardcover book:
Have you ever:
* Considered attending a Latin Mass, but found it too intimidating?
* Struggled to jump back and forth between the pages of a Latin-English Missal?
* Wondered what all those people are doing at the altar during High Mass?
* Wished for an effective way to help children to understand and follow along with the Mass?
* Wanted to know more about the history of the Mass and how it came to be the way it is?
* Been puzzled by things like Septuagesima, Rogation Days, and other unfamiliar terms, feasts and practices?
* This Guide is just what you’ve been waiting for!

Whether you’ve been attending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass for years, or are merely curious about it, this guide is designed to open up the riches contained within the Mass to all.  Inside, you will find a word-for-word English translation of the Latin text of the Mass, together with photos, diagrams, notes and explanations that will help you not only to follow along, but also to understand the history and significance of the ceremonies in which you are taking part.  In addition, you will find sections explaining the main differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, a discussion comparing the development of the Mass with that of its sister liturgy, the Divine Office, an exploration of the English translations of the Bible, a full glossary, and finally, recommended prayers intended to help you prepare when receiving the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.
The advance reading copy I received adds on the back cover: "The Ultimate Guide is designed to introduce its readers to the many layers of mystery which lend this liturgy its solemn beauty, while breaking down the barriers to understanding that can often be intimidating to newcomers." That is exactly what the book successfully does--in wonderfully clear and apt language, it explains the many layers of mystery, the connections to the Old Testament, the historical development of certain parts of the Mass, the applications to our spiritual life, always with a view to deepening one's participation in the sacred liturgy and receiving its fruits.

While this book is manifestly ideal for children and young adults, it would function no less well as a text for a Catholic of any age who is getting to know the old Mass for the first time or who, being somewhat familiar with it, seeks more knowledge about it. It would serve well for parish catechesis or a discussion group. Homeschooling families could build a whole semester's introduction to the sacred liturgy upon and around this resource. There is a palpable spirit of faith and love in these pages that makes the reading of the book more than an academic exercise; it serves as a prayerful catechesis of the Mass from which I was able to think about many familiar things from a new angle or with a new appreciation.

I decided, in the end, that the best thing I could do is give you a bunch of photos of the pages so that you can explore the format and the kind of rich content the book places at the reader's disposal. Two caveats: first, it seems from the St. Augustine Academy Press website that the book they are publishing is a hardcover. My review copy was a paperback. Second, the pages are more brightly white than in my photographs -- I didn't have the best lighting available.

The cover (with hand and pen to give a sense of the book's size):

 Superb color and B&W illustrations throughout, like this one on the very first page:

 The lovely title page--no pains were spared to make this book beautiful!

 The four ends of sacrifice, which we see perfectly fulfilled in the Mass:

Many fascinating comparisons drawn between ancient Jewish worship and the Mass, which brings it to perfection and thereby supersedes it:

 The overall ascending/descending structure of the Mass depicted as Gothic arches:

In spite of my large liturgical library, I've never seen a number of these lovely line drawings, like the one depicting movable feasts and fixed holydays, or the one presenting the liturgical colors:

 There are several pages on vestments and vessels:

And now we come to the Mass itself. These sample pages display the deft interweaving of Jewish OT precedent and Church history into the explanations of the prayers and rituals of the Mass.

Who knew that four popes were involved in the creation of the Prayers after Low Mass? This is the kind of detail I love to see. The side-bar even mentions the Syllabus of Errors.

I was pleasantly surprised to find all the loving attention that Lisa Bergman gives to the Divine Office as a major part of the Church's liturgy. There are several pages on it, showing, among other things, how it resembles and differs from the Mass and how the Office complements the Mass.

Homeschoolers and catechizers, take note: just when you thought Treasure and Tradition couldn't get any better, we find in it answers to the sort of questions Catholics often have and usually can't find concise answers to -- for example, how did the text of Scripture reach us in the various languages, including English translations up to the Douay-Rheims? What are the parts of a church and their functions? What are the minor orders? The glossary alone would be worth the purchase price.

 Here is a page of prayers for Holy Communion:

More sample pages may be viewed at this link, where one may also purchase the book for $22.50 (discounts available for multiple copies).

Without exaggeration, I can say that this is one of the most stunningly beautiful and most informative introductions to the traditional Latin Mass that I have ever seen. For anyone who needs or wants a crash-course in the theology and spirituality of the classical Roman Rite, and a tour of just about everything connected with it, this is your book at last. If I could wave a magic wand, I'd have copies of Treasure and Tradition suddenly appear in every church, chapel, and Catholic family in the English-speaking world. The next best thing is to have all of you good readers obtain your own copies and start spreading the word among priests, teachers, catechists, families, and converts of your acquaintance. May God bless Lisa Bergman and the good people of St. Augustine Academy Press for their immense and fruitful labors!

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