Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Liturgy: Latin shmatin?

If all roads lead to Rome, it seems pretty clear that these roads have signs written in Latin. Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, spoke very highly of the Latin language, and called for its return to (at leasts parts of) the Roman Rite... as did his predecessors, and (gasp!) Vatican II documents. If you want citations, please wait another month or two, as I'm working my way through three more documents on the liturgy and the Eucharist. Once I'm done, I'll start posting excerpts, summaries, and my opinions (worthless as they may be).

But all that aside, Latin! Awesome. Pater noster, qui es in caelis! Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus! Agnus dei! And more! I would love to start singing -- or even chanting -- the common prayers of the Mass in Latin. My parish is quite a melting pot of nationalities; every Pentecost, the Prayers of the Faithful are said in many different languages, symbolic of the gift of tongues received by the Apostles and those with them, as well as a recognition of the diversity of God's children. If we can do that, why can't we unite under a common tongue? Not English, but the official language of the Church.

I might be learning Latin under the tutelage of a Vincentian priest nearby. Otherwise, I'll try learning it on my own. (Can anyone suggest a good Latin 101 do-it-yourself textbook or web site?)

I think the best reason for returning to Latin for many of the prayers and dialogues of the Mass (and in other places) is because the Latin captures the meaning of what the authors of the Rite meant to say. Consider the greeting and response, Dominus vobiscum / Et cum spiritu tuo. In the U.S., this is translated as "The Lord be with you" / "And also with you" rather than ... "And with your spirit". Consider the end of the Glory Be (the Gloria Patri), which in Latin is ... et in saecula saeculorum. I've heard this translated as "world without end", "and to ages of ages", and when I said it in English, it gets lumped together with the previous statement, et semper, to become simply "for ever". Now, it's one thing to say it one way in a private devotion, but when you have a group of people praying it out loud together, it's really best (and it better represents Christian unity) to say the same thing.

That's all for this morning. Pax vobiscum! Benedicite!


Weekend Fisher said...

I like the English translation they do in the Eastern Orthodox church, "unto ages of ages". (And some of the churches I've attended, wherever I lived, have had, "And with your Spirit".)

Historically, there's a lot of great stuff written in Latin.

japhy said...

In the Divine Liturgy I attended during Lent at a nearby Orthodox church, they said "unto ages of ages" too. And they chanted everything! And there was so much incense!

I have yet to attend an Eastern Catholic Mass, but I am really eager to. I think there's a Byzantine Rite Church within a half hour of where I live.