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.
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.