Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's Greek to me

There was a time when Common Worship was done in a language that was not understood by most - most recently that language was Latin. So why would a parish choose to bring back a Latin mass? Well I guess there are many reasons and some that I might not even be aware of. If you have ever listened to a recording of Gregorian Chant, you know how beautiful it sounds. Why not hear it in the setting for which it was originally intended?At my tiny parish here in San Francisco on the first and third Saturday of each month, amid the sweet smell of incense, the ancient and serene tones of Gregorian chant can be heard just that way, in a Latin Chant mass.

I think the Latin Eucharist at Advent of Christ the King provides a contemplative alternative to the more active styles of worship which have been emphasized in the Episcopal Church in recent decades, and also continues a little-known strand in Anglican tradition. In addition to the vernacular Prayer Book adopted by the Anglican Church at the Reformation, the use of Latin continued in various places, especially Oxford University. The Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer appeared in a Latin edition in 1560, and Latin versions of the prayer book continued to be produced up until the nineteenth century.

Our twice a month service provides a truly Anglican via media, with the readings, sermon, and intercessions in English, while all the other prayers and the traditional psalm and scripture verses (the “minor propers”) are sung in Latin by the celebrant and all volunteer schola cantorum.

For those looking for further adventures in the Anglican Latin tradition, you can find several Latin versions of the Prayer Book on the internet at Chad Wohler’s extensive Book of Common Prayer website (, with a translation of the 1979 book by Father Roderick Thompson, one my parish's associate clergy, there very same one who generally celebrates that twice-monthly eucharist.

We will be doing it tonight at 5pm at 261 Fell Street and on the first and third Saturdays of every month, so if you're in the San Francisco area, look us up!

No comments: