NOVEMBER 18th, 2018
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Latin and the Liturgy (Part 1)
A special change I am planning for Masses this Advent is to begin singing some of the Mass parts in Latin – The Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), Mysterium Fidei (Memorial Acclamation), and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). We are already familiar with the tune because it is the same as the English version we are currently doing. I realize some people are not comfortable with Latin and would prefer everything to be in English, but the tradition of including Latin in the Mass is still very much recommended by the Church, and add a special solemnity to the Mass. My column this week and next is a reprinted article that I published last year about Latin and the Liturgy.
Many parishes in the Archdiocese and indeed around the country are rediscovering the many liturgical treasures of our faith. One of these treasures is the use of Latin in the liturgy. So, why is Latin making a comeback? Isn’t that something we abandoned after Vatican II? Actually no. The idea that Latin was forbidden, or even discouraged during the Mass, is inaccurate.
Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy which initiated the liturgical reforms that followed the Council, said: “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites…But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters” (SC 36).
The document goes on to add: “Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (SC 54).
Canon Law also reflects the desire for learning Latin, saying that all seminarians should learn Latin so that they can use it in pastoral ministry (cf. Canon 249).
Even more recently, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Sacramentum Caritatis, “I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant” (62).
Using the native language (eg. English) is very important for the readings and homily, where they are addressed to the people for their learning. However, most of the Mass is not so much for us to learn, but rather for us to worship. And Latin is the universal language of worship in the Roman Catholic Church.
However, now more than 50 years after the Second Vatican Council, most parishes have no use of Latin at all, and many priests, musicians, and liturgy coordinators are entirely opposed to its use. So why does the Church still encourage Latin at Mass?
Latin is still the official and universal language of the Church. The importance of this is not as easily seen on the local level, but it is very important on the global level. I have been to Mass in many countries and in many languages, and the wonderful thing about being Catholic is that you always know what is happening at every Mass, even if you don’t understand what is being said. But furthermore, the wonderful thing about Latin is that it can unite the faithful “from every nation, tribe, people and language” in participation in the same prayers of the Mass (Revelation 7:9). It has made me very proud to be Catholic as I stand at Mass with the Holy Father in Rome, along with thousands of other people from around the world, and we can all pray the Mass together in our Church’s language of Latin.
This feeling of unity is also felt when we sing the O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo for Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in Latin.
(To be continued next week…)
You are in my daily prayers.
God bless you,