Lift Up Your Hearts

“It is not without good reason, it seems to me, that the Church forbids the promiscuous, reckless, and indiscreet use of the holy and divine songs which the Holy Spirit dictated to David. We must not mix God into our actions except with reverence and with devout and respectful attention. His word is too divine to have no other use than to exercise our lungs and please our ears; it should be uttered from the conscience and not from the tongue. It is not right that a shop apprentice, amid his vain and frivolous thoughts, should entertain himself and play with it. Nor assuredly is it right to see the holy book of the sacred mysteries of our belief bandied about a hall or a kitchen. Formerly they were mysteries; at present they are sports and pastimes. It is not in passing and in whirlwind fashion that we should handle so serious and venerable a study. It must be a premeditated and sober action, to which we should always add this preface of our service, sursum corda, and always bring even the body disposed in a demeanor that attests a particular attention and reverence. It is not everyone’s study; it is the study of the persons who are dedicated to it, whom God calls to it. The wicked, the ignorant, grow worse by it. It is not a story to tell, it is a story to revere, fear, and adore. Comical folk, those who think they have made it fit for the people to handle because they have put it into the language of the people! Is it just a matter of the words, that they do not understand all they find in writing? Shall I say more? By bringing it this little bit closer to the people, they remove it farther. Pure ignorance that relied entirely on others was much more salutary, and more learned, than this vain and verbal knowledge, the nurse of presumption and temerity. I also believe that this freedom for everyone to disperse a word so sacred and important into so many kinds of idioms has in it much more danger than utility. The Jews, the Mohammedans, and almost all others have espoused, and revere, the language in which their mysteries were originally conceived; and any alteration or change in them is forbidden, not without reason. Are we quite sure that in the Basque country or Brittany there are enough competent judges to warrant this translation made into their language? The universal Church has no judgment more arduous and solemn to make. In preaching and speaking, the interpretation is vague, free, mutable, and piecemeal; so it is not the same thing. One of our Greek historians justly accuses his age because the secrets of the Christian religion were scattered about the market place in the hands of the merest artisans, so that anyone might argue and talk about them according to his lights; and he thinks that it was shameful of us, who, by the grace of God, enjoy the pure mysteries of piety, to let them be profaned in the mouths of ignorant and common people, seeing that the Gentiles forbade Socrates, Plato, and the wisest men to speak of and inquire into the things committed to the priests of Delphi. He says also that the factions of princes in theological disputes are armed not with zeal but with anger; that zeal takes after divine reason and justice when it guides itself with order and moderation, but changes into envious hatred and produces tares instead of wheat and nettles instead of grapes when it is guided by human passion.” (Montaigne, tr. Donald Frame)