Monday, March 16, 2015

The EF and Japanese culture

Blessing of the subdeacon after the chanting of the Epistle in High Mass (Holy Trinity, Hethe)
Recently I published a Position Paper on the Extraordinary Form in China. One of the things discussed in the paper is the connection between the sacrality, notably of the ritual, and traditional Chinese culture, and particularly Confucianism. There is an article in the current Mass of Ages about the resonance the Extraordinary Form has in Japan.

Asian cultures are ritualistic: or, better, they express themselves through symbolic gestures. For a culture to make extensive use of symbolic gesture there must be stability in the meanings of the gestures: otherwise, they would not be understood. This means ritual. What post-Enlightenment Westerners need to appreciate is that this stable, ritualised culture is not a hindrance to self-expression; like the linguistic conventions to which Westerners tend to limit themselves, ritual conventions make communication possible. If there is a structure of meanings, you can use that structure to say what you want to say.

As Wittgenstein said: the door can only open if the hinges stay in the same place. If we all violate linguistic conventions, using words to mean different things every day and abandoning all grammar, we won't end up with freedom, we'll just end up with mutual incomprehension. The same is true of the meaning of symbolic gestures.

In the current Mass of Ages, Fr Daniel Horgan discusses the culture of Japan, the reaction there to the liturgical reform and the revival there of the Traditional Mass. One interesting point he makes is that Japanese Tea Ceremony, the classic ritualised ceremony of the Far East, was influenced by the Traditional Mass, which one of the great Masters of the ceremony witnessed, and found profoundly impressive.

Here is a YouTube video of such a ceremony.

What we have in the Traditional Mass is a language, of ritual, which is able to transcend cultural differences.

Read the whole article here. And make sure your local parish gets the magazine, for free, next time it comes out.

The Pax, between deacon and subdeacon.
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