FTER SPENDING some quality time with the Saint Isaac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Lectionary, & Gradual there is so much more to recommend it past the initial perusal of the book itself. There are the considerations of quality and durability, but there can be no question about the fine quality of this book’s binding and publication.
However, the treasures, as in any good book, reside in its leaves. This Missal is a giant step forward in recovering a more universal language of Catholicism that transcends the mere printed or spoken word. The authors and editors have given the sense of the language of the Church back to the people. This goes beyond the inclusion of the Latin texts and the Propers, to the addition of small instructions or explanations of how these fit within the ancient practice of Catholic Worship. This structure of the Missal allows the user to become more familiar with the language of the Liturgy in its various parts by name and function within the Liturgy. This will go a long way for those who use this missal to give meaning to the terms used when speaking of the Mass.
THE SEQUENCES FOR EASTER, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Christ) are contained within the day’s readings and are set to music that can be sung by a congregation. However, they are also set in their original Latin, with a literal English translation contained in the back should one wish to more fully appreciate the authentic text (from which the singable texts are formed).
The center portion of the Missal contains the prayers of the Mass with beautifully photographed examples. But in addition, there are illustrations of ancient manuscripts supporting the understanding of the Mass and its texts. This is not just information, but a blending of art and text to help inform the imagination to see something not normally visible to the secular eye. This helps to establish that the Liturgy is not something that man does on his own, but rather he enters into the timeless connection of the Heavenly Liturgy that stands in eternity.
I WOULD BE REMISS not to speak of the many black and white line drawings that are interspersed throughout the book. In spending time with these one notices their detail and balance, and the text, in both Latin and English. These meticulously rendered drawings are formative in their own capacity as only beautiful art is — capable of moving the imagination of the soul and informing it by word. It is a wonderful reintroduction to the lexicon of Catholic symbolism and iconography. The texts are not randomly chosen, but the artist has done his/her homework for when read carefully the text often brings the Old Testament to the fore and links it with the fulfillment in Christ and his coming. These beautiful prints provide rich material for meditation and contemplation, should one wish to prayerfully approach them. This is an ancient pedagogy to teach and learn the art of “active participation” from the interior, hidden soul and not just from external activism. The “reading” of Catholic art and symbolism is in danger of being lost with text-only resources and the St. Isaac Jogues Missal certainly provides a good primer in the language of symbols.
As an example, when one looks at and studies the artwork depicting the Nativity (page 50) and does the same with the illustration that accompanies the Annunciation (p. 742) the artist quotes from Judges 6:36-37 referring to a fleece. This is a sign that is asked for regarding Gideon’s assurance of God’s presence and God’s purpose. The creation of man from Genesis is referenced both in iconography and supporting text. When studying the Annunciation, the fleece is again referenced, but this time it is the Protoevangelium from Genesis 3 that is paired with the verse from Judges. At the top and bottom of the illustration is the reference from the hymn, Ave Maris Stella as to the reversal of the name of Eve in Gabriel’s Ave. These illustrations bring to mind the things that went before in time to be fulfilled in time by Christ. It is like drawing out the beautiful threads of the economy of God throughout Salvation History, which is our history.
THIS PUBLICATION IS SORELY NEEDED to help reignite a Catholic imagination. Anyone who was not familiar with the Mass, who happened to stop by, or even children, can peruse through this Missal and not fail to have some understanding that there is something beautiful, something beyond ourselves going on at Mass. You would never find this in the “pulp non-fiction” that resides in most pews today. This far outdistances any mere utilitarian presentation of the text.
We hope you enjoyed this guest article by Christine Sarti.