Posted by: Catholic of Thule | June 12, 2011

Paul Selmer’s first experience of Mass (English edition)

Finally, a translation of the original edition of Paul Selmer’s first experience of Mass in Sigrid Undset’s Wild Orchid.  Perhaps not the best translation but it’s hopefully better than nothing.

For context, after a night out with his friends and on his way back to his digs, Paul runs into his Catholic landlady, who is on her way to early morning Mass.  On a whim, he decides to go along with her. This is obviously a low Mass from the day before the liturgical changes.

He tried to grasp something of what the priest was doing up in front of the altar. But the man kept turning his back to the people the whole time, and it was beyond the bounds of possibility that they could hear a single word of what was whispered as he was busily employed and moving about up there. And as Paul discovered that the service must now be in full motion and the deep silence continued to reign in the empty sunlit room, and the few people in the pews remained kneeling as if they were intensely withdrawn into themselves, he felt a certain sense of enthrallment. This was indeed beautiful in a way; he felt that he suddenly understood what people meant by speaking of the invisible God – here he could imagine that both the priest and the congregation were together to worship something invisible.  This service could not possibly have any other meaning, because there was nothing in the way of the priest turning around to face the congregation and occupying himself with them, but it was rather as if this man at the head of them all was leading some form of worship. And for the first time in his life he thought that he could discern some kind of sense in the service – in the silent adoration he could imagine that there was a Being present and receiving the souls. Of course, it must have been a similar form of Christianity which had possessed sufficient power for such a colossal expansion – and it was for that matter prior to becoming a religion of preaching that it had arrived in this country –



  1. Love it. 😀

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