Thursday, February 1, 2007

"eternamente engendrado del Padre"

No 'clase de espanol' today. I checked my email at 10:00 just before I left for school and found out that class was 'cancelada.' I'm so glad I got up at 6:30 a.m. to study 4 chapters of vocabulary and write a paragraph using the preterite tense. (Note to self: check email before you spend 3 hours preparing for a class that ain't gonna happen).

On the topic of language, I'd like to rewind a bit back to last Saturday and share something that I experienced during the DES Mass. Outside of a handful of weddings and funerals I haven't been to a Catholic Mass in almost 10 years, and it's been about 25 years since I attended Mass regularly. Yet surprisingly, I remembered every word of the liturgy spoken by the priest and every response given by the people. I was even able to recite the Nicene Creed from memory. I was amazed. We recite the Nicene Creed in our UCC congregation maybe 2-3 times a year, and that's with the aid of a hymnal; if you asked me to recite it sight unseen right now I might remember 25% of it if I'm lucky. But put me in the setting of a Mass surrounded by all those true-blue Catholics reciting it by heart and it's like some dormant part of my brain kicks in….the part that heard this liturgy recited every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life (back then there was no such thing as Sunday School for kids, we sat through the entire Mass from birth, no fidgeting allowed, and stop hitting your brother with the bulletin).

The amazing thing is, I can't recite the Creed from memory when we do a unison reading in the UCC. It's just not the same. Catholics reciting from memory have a certain cadence, a certain rhythm; it's like singing a song that we've all heard and repeated a thousand times before - We pause at the same places, raise and lower our pitch at the same places, and use the same tone. It's impossible to mimic this pattern when people possessing different levels of familiarity with a text are reading in unison from a book, it's always just a little off - Especially in a more theological diverse denomination like the UCC. We're bound to trip over the Nicene Creed because some of us don't believe half of what is in there (that pesky Virgin birth gets 'em every time). We may choose not to recite certain parts, or we're so busy analyzing the language and theology of each line we lose our place altogether, further interrupting the melodic harmony of the group. Catholics don't do this (on average, there are always exceptions), and neither do I when surrounded by other Catholics. As I discovered this past Saturday, I have a whole section of neurons hard-wired into my brain labeled "liturgy of the Mass." I just recite it without even thinking about what it is I'm saying. It was freaky, but it was also kind of fun; it's like being tested on something you learned 30 years ago in grammar school and knowing every answer as if you learned it yesterday.

Now, if I only had the same recall ability with Spanish….my espanol neurons seemed to have taken root in the section of my brain labeled "things to forget 5-minutes after you leave the classroom."
Ah dios mio!

….and now here it is, your moment of Zen:

1 comment:

Eileen said...

The thing about the Catholic cadence is so true! It must be something they teach in seminary.

The creed we say in the Episcopal Church is similar to the RC, with a few tiny tweaks. The cadence is totally different - I have to look a the page to say it, even though it's basically all the same words.

Glad to know I'm not the only one who notices these weird things in church.