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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

There's understanding, and then there's understanding....

A reader at Zenit asks, in regard to priests saying Mass in Latin,
"After a course to prepare to manage the Latin, how long does it take to understand what one is praying? This response was given: It is not necessary to understand; it is only necessary to pronounce correctly. Is a valid Mass possible if the celebrant does not understand what he is saying?"
As someone who recently mistakenly downloaded a new browser in Esperanto, I am very aware that with a finite vocabulary, and all of it used in situations and places where one is fully conversant with the words and phrases in ones own language -- it's not all that hard.
I would think pronunciation a bigger problem than a priest's lack of knowledge of grammar and syntax.

And of course, most singers, okay, not pop or rock, but most singers with claim to any serious vocal study has sung in languages foreign to themselves, and quickly learned how to deal with the task, by studying the, (in my case, English,) translation, how to "understand," in strokes broad or specific, the foreign language text.

I would say any priest who does not speak... well, forget Latin, any language with which he is not profoundly comfortable, but is called upon to use in Mass, and doesn't look at the collects and scripture ahead of time in a language in which he is completely fluent, probably shouldn't be saying Mass.

Do I need to know the precise meaning of ventúri, or factorem, or propter  to know very well what I say in the Creed in some language not my own?
I don't think so.
(Of course, this brings up the question of trusting translators to have translated, rather than to have dynamically equivocated, doesn't it? But that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.)

And knowing specific words, and even specific phrases, and even specific sentences in toto is no guarantor of understanding.

Who, (again, who has had any serious vocal study,) has not heard some budding bel canto singer approach verdi prati as if it were a botanist lecturing on the change of seasons?

Speaking of young singers, and understanding, I am totally creeped out by little children singing Operatic Top 40 in television competitions and PBS beg-and-grovel programming, not so much for the vocal damage many are doing, but for the counterfeit emotions they have learned to portray, while patently having no understanding of the text or the emotions.

It is maybe a little funny to see a child parroting the expressive gestures and facial expressions she has seen a prima donna use in some other song in, say, an Ave Maria or Panis Angelicus, as if they were conventional love songs.
It's so inappropriate it might as well be dogs playing poker.

But to see the same aped ardour expressed by a child in an adult love song is  nothing short of obscene.

I had a friend, incredible tenor voice, learned all kinds of expressive tricks and tics, sudden pianissimos, shatneresque pauses,  wonderful rubato -- but he used them all inappropriately! they wee completely divorced from the

And in musical theater with spoken dialogue, it would always become hilariously apparent.

And to get back to my thesis, or nearly, in church I have heard preachers do this very thing as well, in their native language!
(As if some homiletics professor had taught them rhetorical techniques without indicating that they were to emphasize thing that DESERVED EMPHASIS.)

And one last point....

How arrogant to think that we ever fully "understand" the worship we give God.

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