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Why In Latin? - by Fr. Michael Muller, C.SS.R. taken from Chapter 37 of the book The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
by Church Militant on Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 8:31pm
Mass...In Latin?  Why In Latin?

   

    It has been said that the use of any language in itself was immaterial, but in its consequences, or in view of the commands of the Church, it is by no means immaterial. The Church has wisely ordered the Latin tongue only to be used in the Mass and in the administration of the Sacraments, for several reasons.

1. Latin was the language used by St. Peter when he first said Mass at Rome. It was the language in which that Prince of the Apostles drew up the Liturgy which, together with the knowledge of the Gospel, he or his successors the Popes imparted to the different peoples of Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Hungary, and Poland.

2. From the time of the Apostles down, Latin has invariably been used at the altar through the western parts of Christendom, though their inhabitants very frequently did not understand the language. The Catholic Church, through an aversion to innovations, carefully continues to celebrate her Liturgy in that same tongue which apostolic men and saints have used for a similar purpose during more than eighteen centuries.

3. Unchangeable dogmas require an unchangeable language. The Catholic Church cannot change, because it is the Church of God, Who is unchangeable; consequently the language of the Church must also be unchangeable.


4. Mass is said in Latin because a universal Church requires a universal language. The Catholic Church is the same in every clime, in every nation, and consequently its language must be always and everywhere the same, to secure uniformity in her service.

5. Variety of languages is a punishment, a consequence of sin; it was inflicted by God that the human race might be dispersed over the face of the earth. The holy Church, the immaculate Spouse of Jesus Christ, has been established for the express purpose of destroying sin and uniting all mankind; consequently she must everywhere speak the same language.

6. It is a fact well known that the meaning of the words is changed in the course of time by everyday usage. Words which once had a good meaning are now used in a vulgar or ludicrous sense. The Church, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, has chosen a language which is not liable to such changes. The sermons and instructions, and in short everything that is addressed directly to the people, are all in the language of the country; even the prayers of the Mass are translated in almost every Catholic prayerbook, so that there can be no disadvantage to the Catholic worshipper in the fact that the Mass is celebrated in the Latin tongue; especially as the pastors of the Church are very careful to comply with the injunctions of the Council of Trent, to instruct their flocks on the nature of that great Sacrifice, and to explain to them in what manner they should accompany the officiating priest with prayers and devotions best adapted to every portion of the Mass.

In the second place, faithful Catholics know well that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the self-same sacrifice that Jesus Christ offered to His Father on the Cross, because both the Priest and the Victim are the same; their faith in the Real Presence is abundantly sufficient to enkindle devotion in their hearts, and to excite in their souls appropriate acts of adoration, thanksgiving and repentance, though they may not understand the prayers which the priest is uttering. For this reason it is that the faithful, pressed by different wants, go to the adorable mysteries of the Mass, never thinking of the language in which they are celebrated. Some, moved by the force of calamities, hasten thither to lay their sorrows at the feet of Jesus. Others go to ask for some grace and special mercy, knowing that the heavenly Father can refuse nothing to His Son. Many feel constrained to fly thither to proclaim their gratitude, and to pour forth the love of a thankful heart, knowing that there is nothing so worthy of being offered to God as the sacred Body and Blood of the eternal Victim. More press forward to give glory to God and to honor His saints, for in the celebration of these mysteries of love alone can we pay worthy homage to His adorable Majesty, while we bear witness to our reverence for those who served Him.

Lastly, men hasten to Mass on the wings of charity and compassion, for it is there that they can hope to obtain salvation for the living and rest for the dead. Thus to the thirsty pilgrims through the rocks of the desert do the fountains of water appear. Thus do the generation of those who seek justice received benediction from the Lord and mercy from God their Savior.
    Pity for those who know not this heavenly Sacrifice! What a misfortune to see one driven from this Eden, and yet to do nothing to obtain the favor of readmittance! How unhappy too are those Catholics who, though knowing it, by their unpardonable indifference deprive themselves of this exhaustless mine of inestimable riches.

    The above was taken from Chapter 37 of the book The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Fr. Michael Muller, C.SS.R., available from TAN Books.



Objection: If the Mass is in Latin, no one can understand a thing because it is said in a language that is no longer spoken.



Response: It is true that Latin is no longer spoken ordinarily, but in order to follow this Mass without difficulty, bilingual missals are available which have on one side the text of the Latin prayers which the priest says and on the other side the translation in the every day language of the people. With a bit of practice, it is within the reach of everyone to unite himself with the prayers that are said. In addition, to want to understand everything of the Divine Mystery, which is the Sacred Mass, is impossible, mystery by definition is a truth that one cannot fully comprehend.



Conclusion:

    "The Church is without question a living organism, and as an organism in respect of the Sacred Liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded. This notwithstanding, the temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with laws and rubrics, deserve reproof. It has pained Us grievously to note, (...) that such innovations are actually being introduced, not merely in minor details but in matters of major importance as well. They are, in point of fact, those who make use of the vernacular in the celebration of the august Eucharistic Sacrifice; those who transfer certain feast days – which have been appointed and established after mature deliberation – to other dates; those finally who delete from the prayer books approved for public use the sacred texts of the Old Testament, deeming them little suited and inopportune for modern times.

    The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth." (Pius XII: Encyclical Mediator Dei, November 20, 1947)

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Peter,

I think this is a VERY important question for us to be able to answer well, because when it boils down to it, and we are having coffee after Easter lunch with NO friends and relatives, this is the question that arises most frequently, I think. Now,  I love Latin and believe it should be the language of the western church, and I have nothing but fraternal love and admiration for the priest you have quoted. But I think that some of the answers are very good and others less so, so if you let me, I would like to comment on them:
For example, I did not know that anyone knew what language St. Peter said his first mass in. Where is this information?
I think numbers 2, 3,  5, and 6 are untouchable. I think numbers 1 and 4 are weak. If number 1 is true, we need a source for the information. Accurate info on such times is usually very sketchy. Number 4 would suggest that Latin should be preferred to Greek, and I disagree with this.

Thank you for posting this, Peter. I really think it is a question we need to be able to answer very well.
Great article. I should just print up several copies and when I get the inevitable, "but you don't even understand what's going on," question I can just hand 'em this article  ;D
I've tried a lot of those reasons on people to varying degrees of success.  However, it seems that if a person is determined to think one way, no amount of reasons will work and they'll still belittle the use of Latin.  Still, it's nice to have all the reasons all together like this because the ol' mind doesn't always grab them up instantly.
(06-12-2011, 08:45 PM)Petertherock Wrote: [ -> ]1. Latin was the language used by St. Peter when he first said Mass at Rome. It was the language in which that Prince of the Apostles drew up the Liturgy which, together with the knowledge of the Gospel, he or his successors the Popes imparted to the different peoples of Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Hungary, and Poland.

I don't doubt that St. Peter's first Mass at Rome was said in Latin at all.  Latin is similar to both Gaelic and Greek.

Contrary to popular modern belief the Gaelic speaking people of Europe would have had to understand Latin because there are many similarities between Latin and Gaelic.  Old Irish, dating from the sixth century, used the Latin alphabet.  Gaelic is now recognize as an Indo-European language but in reality Gaelic is one of the oldest languages on the face of the planet.  The Galacians from the Bible were Celtic Gaelic speaking people.  A form of Gaelic was spoken in what is now called the country of Turkey up until the 14th century.  The Celts of north western Europe did not come into contact with Germanic people until about 250 BC.  The Celtic world at that time was Europe.  The modern country of Germany was at one time part of the Celtic world.  I have read that there is a connection between the ancient Romans and the ancient Celts.

English is a Germanic language.  English is one of the newest languages on the planet.  Just 500 years ago the English spoken then is barely distinguishable from modern English.  Germanic people were still saying bar bar bar centuries and possibly a millennium or two after the Gaelic language was well established.  History has been rewritten for centuries.  These days history seems to be rewritten on a daily basis.  It's not too hard to understand why I got bounced from the Skadi Germanic online community forum when I posted in the thread that asked the question "Is Scotland Germanic?"  :)

These days with DNA studies we can still see the distribution of Celtic people throughout Europe.  Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup is past from father to son down through the centuries.  The Celtic Y haplogroup is R1b.  This R1b (Y-DNA) national distribution map in percentage of population shows the distribution of Celtic DNA throughout Europe today.  Note up to 40% in Nordic countries, 40% in Iceland, up to 50% in Germany and 80% in western France and northern Spain and Portugal.  Obviously 80% in the middle and western British Isles with still 70% in the eastern part of the British Isles.  By the way, British is a Celtic name, not an English name.  Millions of people on this planet have Celtic Gaelic speaking origins and don't even realize it.  Their ancestors would had to have been able to understand the Latin language.  Note that even though the DNA studies are scientific this map seems to show the R1b Y haplogroup spreading westward into Europe from the middle east around where Mount Ararat is. 

[Image: R1bmap.JPG]

Again note from the map above that the R1b Celtic Y haplogroup for Iceland is 40%.  The Nordic Y haplogroup is I, commonly referred to as the Viking DNA.  But yet the I Y haplogroup for Iceland is just 30% seen from the link below.  This brings to mind the myth, story or whatever you want to call it of the legend of the earliest travel from Europe to North America by Brendan and a number of monks from Ireland.  I have recently read that this story of Brendan and the monks is in the Icelandic sagas.  Hmmm, I wonder why we hear so much about Lief but not much about the earlier Brendan.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Distri..._Y-DNA.svg

Like I say history has been rewritten for centuries.  I won't link to the source of these quotes below because it says "the Indo-European, or as it is now called, the Aryan class."  As far as I'm concerned that is laughable but the page does have some good quotes.  Ironically it is on a Scottish web site.  If you want to find it do a search for "similarities between Latin and Gaelic".  The page is titled "The Gaelic language".

Quote:That it has relations to the Semitic languages cannot be denied, but these are no closer than those of many others of the same class. Its relation to both the Greek and the Latin, especially the latter, is very close, many of the radical words in both languages being almost identical. Natural objects, for instance, and objects immediately under observation, have terms wonderfully similar to represent them. Mons, a mountain, appears in the Gaelic Monadh; Amnis, a river, appears in Amhainn; Oceanus, the ocean, in Cuan; Muir, the sea, in Mare; Caballus, a horse, in Capull; Equus, a horse, in Each; Canis, a dog, in Cu; Sol, the sun, in Solus, light; Salus, safety, in Slainte; Rex, a king, in Righ; Vir, a man, in Fear; Tectum, a roof, in Tigh; Monile, a necklace, in Muineal. This list might be largely extended, and serves to bring out to what an extent original terms in Gaelic and Latin correspond. The same is true of the Greek, but not to the same extent.

At the same time there is a class of words in Gaelic which are derived directly from the Latin. These are such words as have been introduced into the srvice of the church. Christianity having come into Scotland from the European Continent, it was natural to suppose that with it terms familiar to ecclesiastics should find thier way along with the religion. This would have occurred to a larger extent after the Roamn hierarchy and worship had been received among the Scots. Such words as Peacadh,sin; Sgriobtuir, the scriptures; Faosaid, confession; aoibhrinn, mass or offering; Caisg, Easter; Inid, initium or shrove-tide; Calainn, new year’s day; Nollaig, Christmas; Domhnach, God or Dominus; Diseart, a hermitage; Eaglais, a church; Sagart, a priest; Pearsa or Pearsoin, a parson; Reilig, a burying place, from reliquiœ; Ifrionn, hell; are all manifestly from the Latin, and a little care might add to this list. It is manifest that words which did not exist in the language must be borrowed from some source, and whence so naturally as from the language which was, in fact, the sacred tongue in the early church.

But besides being a borrower, the Gaelic has been largely a contributor to other languages.

Just in like manner, but arising from a much closer relation, do relics of the Celtic language appear in the Greek and Latin. The fact seems to be that a Celtic race and tongue did at one time occupy the whole of Southern Europe, spreading themselves from the Hellespont along the shores of the Adriatic, and the western curves of the Mediterranean, bounded on the north by the Danube and the Rhine, and extending to the western shores of Ireland.

I would like to add to this last paragraph in the above quote.  The ancient Celtic world was not "bounded on the north by the Danube and the Rhine" because at the time there was nobody there to bind them.  At that time the Celtic world extended north of the Danube and the Rhine.  An ancient Celtic tribes map will verify this.  Danube is a Gaelic name.  The Hellespont is the passage of water between Asia Minor and Europe around where Constantinople use to be, now Istanbul.  I have already shown that the Celtic world extended and originated east of the Hellespont.

I think this clearly shows that the Gaelic speaking Celts of Europe would had to have understood the Latin language.
(06-12-2011, 08:45 PM)Petertherock Wrote: [ -> ]4. Mass is said in Latin because a universal Church requires a universal language. The Catholic Church is the same in every clime, in every nation, and consequently its language must be always and everywhere the same, to secure uniformity in her service.

IMO, no other reason is necessary.

For whoever, like myself, does not understand Latin - neither did the Apostles fully understand why Our Lord suffered and was crucified - yet they believed.
In like manner, we do not need to understand all the intricacies of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to do as we were commanded and be participants at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Here's another good article on Latin and why it's the official language of the Church:

http://www.latinmassireland.org/thelatin...latin.html
Mikmac
rubbish pure  rubbish
just because a languge is similar or uses a similar alphebet means squat
ww use the roman alphabet to wright english. Irish does can u undertand Irish?
Due to the use of the roman alphebet even though us Irish use only 18 letters as opposed ro English 26?
Ireland in the 5 and 6 centuries wasn't literate. And Irish wasn't being written down for people to read. The book of kells is in Latin later medievel Irish manuscripts still were nor written for most people to read. Most people wouldn't be able to read Irish or Latin
regardless of the alphebet
Irish is the oldest vernacular language in Europe sure but not the oldest written. As a written language is fairly modern. Even ogham of which I have examined many samples of both in the feild in munster and inthe INM it's not for the most part written iriish ro be read. We csn onky read some of orceom what we r told in the book of he dun cow which I believe thogh memory is slipping around the 12 century. Having used the diagram provided in that book to read ogham in the feild it's for the most part a dead end. Pehaps some ogham csn be read using it but most cannot. Besides approach is important here as ogham I believe foe the most part represent manual hand signs not meters
anyway besides that
the celts of Ireland spowk a different language then the celts in gealicia  even  wales. U know the q vs  p Celtic thingy
anyway what his has to do with using Karin I. The liturgy is beyond me but any spwak of gealic is good speak IMHO
sip
back to Latin
sip
 
(06-12-2011, 08:45 PM)Petertherock Wrote: [ -> ]1. Latin was the language used by St. Peter when he first said Mass at Rome. It was the language in which that Prince of the Apostles drew up the Liturgy which, together with the knowledge of the Gospel, he or his successors the Popes imparted to the different peoples of Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Hungary, and Poland.
Actually, Greek was probably used.

Pope St. Victor I was the first to use Latin for Church writings and liturgy.

Latin would not be a widespread language until after the Empire fell.

Quote:2. From the time of the Apostles down, Latin has invariably been used at the altar through the western parts of Christendom, though their inhabitants very frequently did not understand the language. The Catholic Church, through an aversion to innovations, carefully continues to celebrate her Liturgy in that same tongue which apostolic men and saints have used for a similar purpose during more than eighteen centuries.
This has no evidence.

Latin has a very good reason for being used, but giving wrong reasons weakens the defense.

Quote:3. Unchangeable dogmas require an unchangeable language. The Catholic Church cannot change, because it is the Church of God, Who is unchangeable; consequently the language of the Church must also be unchangeable.
Latin has changed drastically.

And language is not fundamental. The Eastern Catholic traditions did not require a single language. The use of Latin in the Latin rite has a very solid basis, but this is not it.

And it is changeable. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/instit...on_it.html

Quote:4. Mass is said in Latin because a universal Church requires a universal language. The Catholic Church is the same in every clime, in every nation, and consequently its language must be always and everywhere the same, to secure uniformity in her service.
The universal Church is not only Roman.

Quote:5. Variety of languages is a punishment, a consequence of sin; it was inflicted by God that the human race might be dispersed over the face of the earth. The holy Church, the immaculate Spouse of Jesus Christ, has been established for the express purpose of destroying sin and uniting all mankind; consequently she must everywhere speak the same language.
Our Lord spoke Aramaic because it was the language used. He likely spoke Greek also (in several scriptural accounts, He speaks with people who likely spoke Greek). He obviously spoke Hebrew as well.

Humanity is fallen. Our languages are dispersed.

Quote:6. It is a fact well known that the meaning of the words is changed in the course of time by everyday usage. Words which once had a good meaning are now used in a vulgar or ludicrous sense. The Church, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, has chosen a language which is not liable to such changes. The sermons and instructions, and in short everything that is addressed directly to the people, are all in the language of the country; even the prayers of the Mass are translated in almost every Catholic prayerbook, so that there can be no disadvantage to the Catholic worshipper in the fact that the Mass is celebrated in the Latin tongue; especially as the pastors of the Church are very careful to comply with the injunctions of the Council of Trent, to instruct their flocks on the nature of that great Sacrifice, and to explain to them in what manner they should accompany the officiating priest with prayers and devotions best adapted to every portion of the Mass.
The Church uses Latin is a novel way. Many words are used for theological concepts that were priorly used for mundane things. Church Latin has borrowed many Greek words. Sometimes, a Latin sentence in the mass can largely use Greek words and Latin just binds them together.

(06-13-2011, 12:39 PM)mikemac Wrote: [ -> ]I think this clearly shows that the Gaelic speaking Celts of Europe would had to have understood the Latin language.

I'm sorry, but this proves no such thing. In fact, the speakers of Goidelic Celtic languages, including Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx cannot understand speakers of the Brythonic Celtic languages, including Welsh and Breton. Just take a look at written examples if you don't believe me. They look absolutely nothing alike and neither has any resemblance to Latin (or Greek, for that matter) except their common alphabet.
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