Thursday, October 27, 2016

A 15th Century Mass in Sweden Recreated. . .

This video is a Swedish historical reconstruction of a Roman Rite mass (I believe Dominican Rite) as it would have been done October 4, 1450, 17th Sunday after Trinity.  It is not a liturgical celebration but a historical recreation of a pre-Tridentine mass and as such includes some of the local and regional characteristics that were substantially reduced when the uniformity of the Tridentine Mass replaced this.

Here is a translation in English of the introductory comments:
"We have reconstructed a High Mass from 500 years ago in an ordinary Swedish parish church, namely in Endre Church, one mile east of Visby in Gotland. We imagined ourselves to be participating in this high mass on an autumn Sunday in the middle of the 15th century. It is local people who are participating in clothes typical for the time, and we have tried as much as possible to reconstruct [something to do with (worship) services] in the Diocese of Linköping at that time - since Gotland belonged to that diocese.

"The service is conducted in an incomprehensible language, a language incomprehensible to the people: Latin. Because church services at the time were not considered a medium for communicating information, except for silent prayers. Just as one cannot describe what is fascinating about a melody or a sight, one shouldn't be able to understand or describe the central mystery of the universe. The congregation waits for the central moment, when the bread and wine shall be transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

"The priest was helped by a chorister, perhaps the [experienced?] youth whom [his soul has discovered?] and who with time would be sent to Linköping in order to attend the cathedral school. Songs, mostly from the Bible, were sung by the local cantor. We don't know exactly how the music went in the medieval churches. Maybe Endre Church had a specific order which required a qualified cantor like the one we shall see here.

"The Sunday service began when the priest sprinkled Holy Water on the congregation. This was to remind them that they had become members of the Christian church through baptism. The Holy Water would drive away all the powers of evil.

"Let us now place ourselves in the Middle Ages. Let us try to grasp the atmosphere in a normal Swedish parish church, in a time where man still believed himself cast out into an empty, cold existence, when Europe was still unified, and when the central mystery around which everything revolved was that Jesus Christ, had become man, had died, and risen again for all."
This video was made together with the Parrish, Kristi Lekamens Katolska församling i Visby, and sung in one of the medival churches of the Island of Gotland. Anders Piltz, the Priest is a proffesor of latin in Lunds University and also a Catholic Priest. The Cantor is Mattias Östborn also Cantor at the Catholic church of Visby. 

While the video is not recent, it has only recently made its way to Facebook and to YouTube and is something worth considering as we approach the Reformation and think about what the state of the church was from the perspective of an ordinary parish on Sunday morning.


Anonymous said...

I see nothing at all strange in this. It is very much like an Anglican High Mass, except for the Latin. Isn't this available in the US today with the Extraordinary Form Mass?

Fr. D+
Continuing Anglican Priest

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Holding a worship service in Latin may be sentimental to some old school Catholics, but really....who can understand what is spoken except the ones trained in this language? If one cannot speak or read Latin....then the whole service has little meaning. Luther understood this problem. The word of God must be said in the vernacular of the people.

Anonymous said...

And yet the vernacular service was offered by Luther only as a second choice and even then he could not believe Latin would cease to be used.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Anonymous....if Luther still wanted Latin as a second choice and opted for its continued use, then he would make it tough for the average German farmer and uneducated class to understand the worship service. I was once a Catholic and I studied Latin in 9th grade Parochial School in NY. It is difficult. The Catholic Church only changed to the English Mass in the 1960's, and people finally understood the words in the pews. Before that....the Mass was treated as a secret ceremony and nobody understood it very well.

Padre Dave Poedel said...

This video brought back lots of memories, and I also realized how much of the Latin Mass, which I served daily and many Saturdays and Sundays too. Our Solemn High Mass was much more ornate, with 6 acolytes, and often another priest, or an actual Ordained Deacon would assist in the Deacon role.

This was much closer to our "routine" Sunday Mass. The Epistle side and Gospel side of the altar is something I maintained through my years in parish ministry as well. When the altar was pulled away and the presider faced the people, those "sides" seemed to go away.

Regarding Luther's use of Latin for the Ordinary of the Mass, I understand that he kept the Latin Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, but had the prayers, Epistle and Gospel in German. Have I been misinformed? I am sure that at some later date, the entire Lutheran Mass was in the vernacular.

It is nostalgic for a subset of very conservative Roman Catholics to attend Latin Masses, or more properly The Extraordinary Rite as Mass in the vernacular, facing the people, is the norm. I have noticed that, as in our LSB, there are commonly used Latin parts of the Ordinary of the Mass today in the American Roman Catholic Mass.

As I discerned my Call to the Holy Ministry at around age 7, I never found learning the Latin to be burdensome, but I do admit to enjoying serving when the vernacular was the norm.

Unknown said...

Latin was not the issue in the Reformation, and in Iceland Latin remained the official language of the Lutheran Church of Iceland until 1686.

Even in the Roman rite, up until the introduction of the novus ordo, several languages were employed in worship, including Slavonic (the form used for the Roman rite, Glagolithic is one of the oldest forms of that language) as well as Greek and Armenian.

The issue is not language, but the theology of the rite.

One thing that both the Orthodox churches as well as the Anglo-Catholics have been able to do, and do well, is to have traditional liturgy in many, many different languages.

Hans said...

Some here who say that it's pointless to have a liturgy in a language that the people can't understand are missing a big point. In the description for this Mass, we read, "Just as one cannot describe what is fascinating about a melody or a sight, one shouldn't be able to understand or describe the central mystery of the universe." Christianity is a MYSTERY religion. Bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ is the highest of expression of that MYSTERY. All of the translations in the world will not bring us one jot closer to these facts, because ultimately, it is FAITH and faith alone that unites us with God and His saints. It is for this very reason that over the centuries, educated people and uneducated simpletons alike could partake in the mysteries of faith. Intellect - understanding - wasn't the key that opened the door. This is aptly expressed in the motto of St. Anselm of Canterbury: "Credo ut intelligium", or, "I believe in ORDER to understand. The Latin Mass nurtured and sanctified countless people for centuries. It's roots went back to the time of the early Church. Your Lutheran ancestors were Roman Catholics. They worked and sweated and in some cases bled for their faith, leaving legacies in music, word and stone that they thought would last forever. Luther's reforms, however well intended, swept all of that away. Luther - who believed that the people should "understand" - also ironically championed "Faith alone". Those who attended the old Roman rite before the Reformation had FAITH.

janita said...

This mass is beautiful. It feels like melting into the heart of God. Walked into a 24/7 adoration Latin mass church about 13 years ago and saw angels standing on rays of light emanating from the tabernacle,and another 'vision' - this was of a man placing a hat with a curved top on the head of another man, who placed a hat on the head of another man was like a ladder, and the first man was at the top. Not a usual event to have visions and don't see angels very often. Knew nothing of Catholic theology (although baptised Lutheran and previously adult Baptist), and knew only a little about the reformation. This mass is a beautiful mystery, and easy to understand with a missal.