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December 16, 2010



What is noble simplicity?

Spirit of Vatican II

NCR last May: Fr. Anscar J. Chupungco, director of the Paul VI Institute of Liturgy in the Philippines and former president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at Sant’Anselmo in Rome "responded to [the papal master of ceremonies, Msgr Guido] Marini's claim that the Vatican II liturgical reform has “not always in its practical implementation found a timely and happy fulfillment.”...
The liturgy envisioned by the council, he stated, “was marked by noble simplicity and clarity. It wanted a liturgy that the people could easily follow. In sharp contrast is the attempt to revive, at the expense of active participation, the medieval usage that was espoused by the Tridentine rite and to retrieve eagerly the liturgical paraphernalia that had been deposited in museums as historical artifacts.”

"Comparing the reforms of Vatican II to a springtime renewal, Chupungco lamented that after more than four decades “the church is now experiencing the cold chill of winter brought about by contrasting ideas of what the liturgy is and how it should be celebrated.” Such tension, he said, “could be a healthy sign that the interest in the liturgy has not abated.” But he cautioned that after the council, “we are not free to propound views” apart from principles established by the council."

Gene O'Grady

I'm not a great fan of Matthew Arnold, but I believe his essay on translating Homer might be a good place to start on the concept of noble simplicity. Common examples in English may be found in Shakespeare, the religious verse of Donne, and Abraham Lincoln. The problem for most of us is that we are familiar with simplicity, but nobleness, entirely appropriate to the language of worship, is not part of our usual experience. Hemingway is often simple, and Milton is noble, but I wouldn't look to either for noble simplicity. Raymond Chandler, perhaps not so strangely given his education, is sometimes guilty of noble simplicity. One might hope that this translation would inspire a bishop to kick a hole in stained glass window.

Has anyone ever done a comparison of the percentage of real English sentences beginning "for" and "so that" with the percentage in translated Latin?


"the medieval usage that was espoused by the Tridentine rite and to retrieve eagerly the liturgical paraphernalia that had been deposited in museums as historical artifacts.”

There is no "Tridentine rite" nor has there ever been. The phrase is meaningless and ahistorical.

Will Roach

Tridentine Mass- the Mass used in the Catholic Church for almost 1500 years, until the introduction of the Mass of Pope Paul VI following the Second Vatican Council.It is called the Tridentine Mass Because it was codified by the Council of Trent in the 16th century. But the Mass itself is far older than that. The use of 'rite' is irrelevant. It was probably meant as a phrase for particular tradition or practice. The comment itself is misleading as Tridentine is not meaningless or ahistorical. Was the commentor trying to imply that the tridentine mass was never in tradition? Is 'me' Joseph O'Leary?

Spirit of Vatican II

The Tridentine express is the form of the Latin Missal produced at the Council Trent. Presume it a reform of the Mass that does away with medieval excretions. Some other older rites were preserved and not obliged to conform to the Tridentine rite.

Does anyone here know precisely how Trent affected the Roman Missal?

'me' is not Joseph O'Leary.

Brian Gallagher

A very brief search on my part turned up this piece, which includes a paper (.pdf file) that goes into more detail on the rubrics of the mass changed by Trent.


I've always thought that what the reactionaries claim is "traditional" is actually late 19th century/early 20th century.
Trent attempted to return to what the council fathers believed to be a more authentic expression of worship. However, they did not have the benefit of modern scientific scholarship. Ironically, therefore, it's the spirit of the Second Vatican Council that is the more "traditional" i.e. authentic.


The 'Tridentine' Missal was not promulgated by the Council of Trent but after it (in St. Pius V's Quo Primum). Interestingly QP allowed all missals pre-dating 200 years to continue in use.

Rev. Patrick J. Madden, Ph.D.

"John the Baptist sang of his coming." This phrase struck me as odd on Dec. 17, 2012, the first time I acutally USED this preface--I am a Catholic priest, and pastor of two small parishes in rural north Louisiana. Googling the phrase led me to your web-page.

You are correct that "cecinnit" from the Latin "cano" has a wider meaning than "sing." I looked it up in Lewis & Short's Latin Dictionary. Meaning II, C is [since oracles gave their responses in verse] "TO PROPHESY, FORETELL, PREDICT." This seems to me to be the best meaning in this context.

On another subject, I am surprised that some of your respondents think the Tridentine Mass is "ancient." Certainly parts of it go back to the patristic era, but other parts are medieval. In fact, the liturgical reform in the 19th century was born via historical study of the Roman rite. The realization of how many accretions there had been led to many of the liturgical changes. For example, what we call "the Roman Canon" is indeed from Rome, from the Fourth Century. However, what we call "Eucharistic Prayer II" is also a "Roman Canon," but based on a model from the Third Century. The liturgical reformers after Vatican II were not radical enough to go back to the third-century prayer. Rather, they adapted it to medieval theology, while preserving a good amount of the original.

Peace to all!


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