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.

The Biblical Roots of the Mass

I recently read an excellent, in-depth book on the Biblical origins of the Mass written by Thomas J. Nash.

The Biblical Roots of the Mass successfully sets out to show that the Catholic Mass is of divine origin.

Begin At the Beginning

 

bibl1Nash begins with a deep examination of the Old Covenant, beginning with Creation itself in Genesis with the tree of life and how it ultimately points to the Eucharist. I liked how Nash begins at the beginning and in each chapter lists out the relevant Scripture passages for the topics he covers. Then at the end of each chapter he has discussion questions for a small group, RCIA class, or Bible study.

This book is dense. It is not a book you read in an evening. In fact, I read it during my weekly Holy Hour of adoration over the course of a few months.

Having written books myself, I have an appreciation for Nash’s work here: the level of research and scholarship required to write even one chapter of his book must have been incredible.

In Depth Explanations

 

For instance, I have always wanted a thorough and clear explanation of how the mysterious figure of Melchizedek relates to Christ and His priesthood. The allusions in the Bible to this association are few but obviously of great significance to Jewish people at the time of Christ and to the first Christians. Nash delves into this relationship and elucidates the background and importance of it.

From an apologetics standpoint, Nash answers the common¬†Protestant objections to the Mass and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Such arguments, like “Catholics re-crucify Christ every Mass”, he analyzes, rebuts, and then goes one level deeper in explaining why they don’t work and what the actual Church’s teaching is on the subject. Another one he tackles is whether and how Christ could have been present in bread after consecrating it during the Last Supper.

The Biblical Roots of the Mass is an eye-opening book to understanding how the central sacrament of our Faith is directly connected to all the major events of salvation history.