Posted by: rbbadger | September 21, 2008

The Liturgical Reform in Korea

Following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church was reformed and simplified.  The bishops of Korea initiated the process of translating the liturgical texts from Latin.  I cannot imagine just how difficult a process this was, owing to the fact that Korean does not share any genetic affinity with Latin at all.  Nevertheless, the translations were completed and the texts seem to be quite good.

Some of the challenges faced by the translators resulted from personal pronouns, such as his and hers since personal pronouns aren’t often used in the language and if they are, there is a collective pronoun which means both “him” or “her”.  Thus, translating the per Ipsum (through Him, with Him, and in Him) was a difficult task.  It became literally through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ.

Korean is a language which utilises a high degree of honourific speech.  A form of honourifics which are no longer used, seeing as the nation is no longer a monarchy, is used to address God.  Archaic forms of the language are used.  In this sense, perhaps, it would similar to an Episcopalian praying using the Rite I of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer or the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  As an interesting linguistic aside, “thee” and “thy” are not honourific speech.  They are informal speech.  While they may have come to have been seen as honourific in some religious groups, historically they are not so.  “You” and “yours” are far more honourific.

Some have bemoaned the liturgical uniformity that was said to exist in the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council.  While theoretically everyone should have been following the same rubrics, there were of course differences, especially as relates to the paucity of singing in Irish-American parishes and the marvelous use of Gregorian Chant by all the faithful in others, especially in French parishes. 

Unusually, there is a great deal of liturgical uniformity here.  The rubrics seem to be fairly strictly observed in parish to parish.  In almost all parishes, pursuant to the request of the Korean bishops, kneeling has been almost universally abandoned in favour of standing.  All genuflections have been replaced with bows.  Communion is almost universally administered in the hand, though I have seen Koreans receive in the traditional manner before.  Eucharistic Prayer II seems to be the Eucharistic Prayer of choice, though Gwangju’s Im-dong Cathedral favours Eucharistic Prayer III.  With the exeption of Gwangju’s Cathedral, the collects are generally prayed from the altar where a missal on a stand has been placed. 

I would like to see a greater use of the Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon), as it is THE prayer of the Roman Rite and the finest example of the Roman liturgical tradition.  But all in all, the liturgical uniformity that exists across the nation is a good thing.  It is far more easy to pray without not be jolted by whatever things Father, Sister Mary of the Paschal Candle Half-Lit, of the Parish Liturgical Council has dreamed up.  Uniformity can be a good thing, as it can actually help us to pray! 

Happily, the silliness of the post-Vatican II period is dying in America, given that those responsible for it are they themselves dying.  The new breed of priests are often far more conservative than their predecessors.


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