The Theology of the Mass: Divine Symphony Book

David L. Gray has just published a book called The Divine Symphony: An Exordium to the Theology of the Catholic Mass. In it he delves into the theology of the Mass, bringing the reader a deeper appreciation of it.

The Mass As Divine Symphony

The “red thread” through the book that David makes is the analogy of the Mass to a symphony: it is broken up into multiple movements and has parts to it that resemble a symphonic piece of music.

I admit that I had to look up what “exordium” meant in the subtitle: it is the introductory part of a treatise or piece of music.

Before diving into the parts of the Mass and exploring them, David gives a good overview of what the book is and is not. He explains that he is not arguing for any particular Rite or sub-tradition within a Rite but rather focusing on the overarching similarities across all Rites, even in the Orthodox liturgies, as they all represent the same theological meaning.

So, for instance, he is not concerned with proving that the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo) of the Roman Rite is superior or inferior to the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass). He is not interested in claiming that the Byzantine divine liturgy is better or worse than, say, the Maronite one. He shows how each of these are substantially similar.

A Disagreement

I appreciate David’s purpose in writing this book. He is not a traditionalist, but he values the Traditional Latin Mass and almost switched from being a Latin Rite Catholic to one of the Eastern Rites (Byzantine et. al.). He definitely seeks to refute those more extreme traditionalists who claim that the Novus Ordo is invalid; I am not one of those traditionalists so I had no disagreement with him here.

Where I did differ is that I would claim the Traditional Latin Mass is superior to the Novus Ordo. Yes both are valid, but that does not mean that one does not surpass the other in terms of beauty, theological exactness and power of expression, and depth of tradition. So while the Novus Ordo does hit all the notes of the Divine Symphony–to use his analogy–those notes are not as true, or deep in timbre, as the Traditional Latin Mass’s are.

That said, he makes very clear that his purpose is not to give a full on defense of the Novus Ordo against the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Maybe that will be in a future book.

What I Like in the Book

I really liked that David went through the Mass step-by-step. Each part, each important phrase, was explained and illuminated.

He includes insights from Pope Benedict, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Francis, Cardinal Sarah, and many other writings, including those of the Church Fathers, which offer meaty food for thought on the Holy Mass.

I learned countless things from reading the book, and I think that everyone would as well. Even having been Catholic now for 17 years, and doing apologetics, this book reminded me of how much I have to learn even in the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith.

Kudos to David for writing this intriguing and informative book.

Unrepeatable Book: Rediscovering the Full Meaning of Vocation

My friend Luke Burgis and his co-author Joshua Miller just published a new book, Unrepeatable: Cultivating the Unique Calling of Every Person.

Unrepeatable seeks to rediscover the full meaning of the term “vocation” within the Catholic Church (and the world at large).

Vocation in the Narrow Senses

“Vocation” has come to mean different things to different people.

Some use vocation as in “vocational school” which are typically more blue-collar jobs like plumber, electrician, automotive technician.

In the Catholic Church the word is primarily used in the context of a young person discerning whether God is calling them to the priesthood or religious life. More broadly, marriage and priesthood/religious life are considered the two “vocations” that one can be called to, so this limits vocation to indicate one of two states in life.

Vocation in the Full Sense

Luke and Joshua point out that these narrow usages of “vocation” do not fully encompass the meaning that it has traditionally had in the Catholic Church.

A person is more than his state in life, more than his occupation. God calls the entire person, as Pope St. John Paul II so vividly and consistently demonstrated to us. Hence, vocation needs to be expanded to mean one’s total calling from God, which is unique to each person and therefore takes diverse and amazing forms.

Mentors, Discernment, and Vocation

The authors devote specific counsel to those in mentorship positions, whether formal or informal.

They give good advice for how one can help a mentee discern his calling from God, which could include the priesthood, religious life, or marriage, but also would delve deeply into that person’s motivations, strengths, interests, and how they could be best applied for the full expression of that person’s being in the world.

I found the chapter on listening with empathy and drawing out a mentee’s Achievement Story helpful and thought of ways I could apply it at my secular workplace, including when mentoring junior engineers but also in interviewing candidates for positions.

A Culture of Vocation

The book reaches its climax in a chapter that explores what it means to build a “culture of vocation,” which requires direct, personal contact with people, not just virtual online interactions.

Luke draws from the Church’s Magisterial teachings, writings of the popes and saints, and contemporary examples of people engaging in such a culture to paint a picture of what such a culture looks like and demands. I was especially glad to his reference to John Senior’s program in Kansas decades ago, one that ultimately led to the Benedictine monks of Clear Creek, Oklahoma, an order we as a family have followed for a long time and visited in person recently.

Luke himself “discerned a vocation” to the priesthood but ultimately believed he was called to a different life, one which included entrepreneurship in it. Entrepreneurship is not something a Catholic ever associates with “vocation” but in fact God gave Luke gifts in this area, and he realized he needed to cultivate it and grow it to be faithful to God’s movement in his life.

Unrepeatable is a needed and practical book for Catholics in our time. Few Catholic books exist that have practical application in the business world as well as the ecclesial one. I look forward to more resources produced by these guys!