Review: The Mass: A Study of Roman Liturgy

The Mass: A Study of Roman LiturgyThe Mass: A Study of Roman Liturgy by Adrian Fortescue
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It should be noted at the outset that this book is not, in the understanding of how we might consider it now, a study of “Roman liturgy”, but a study of the Roman Mass as celebrated prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The title of the book should have probably given that away, but I ‘fell’ for the sub-title, thinking there might be more covered than just the Roman Mass.

That being said, this book still has a remarkable contribution to make to the understanding of liturgy in its broader contemporary sense, predominantly through the study of the development of the Roman Mass from the earliest days of Christianity down to the post Tridentine revisions that constitute the first part of the text. In it, Fortescue, writing in 1912, sets out in some detail this development which, for those interested in the historical development of liturgy of the Roman Rite, remains an authoritative history.

The second part of the text looks in some detail at the various constitutive elements of the pre-Conciliar Roman Mass, offering commentary and exposition of what was the normative celebration of the Roman Church’s liturgy for nearly 400 years. It remains part of the Church’s historical tradition and, therefore, worthy of study and explication not only for those with a scholarly interest in liturgy but also for those who truly wish to understand what the Church does when it gathers to celebrate its liturgy.

This work, one of the classics of liturgical scholarship, is recommended to anyone with more than a passing interest in the fields covered. Be aware of and ready for the slightly antiquated language adopted by Fortescue (the use of language has changed significantly in 100 years), but once this is adapted to, then this text becomes an easily accessible and enjoyable read.

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