Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Final Note on Latin in the Liturgy

I would like to finish this topic with one final blog. First, I would like to note that I have not approached this topic with an agenda. I have been seeking to understand what Vatican Council II says on this issue. I am not advocating a return to Latin in the liturgy by those who are currently using the vernacular (English, Spanish, Vietnamese, etc.). I worship in a parish that uses English with occasional responses in Latin. On the other hand I support those who wish to worship using the extraordinary form of the Liturgy. Why should either group be allowed to limit the other's freedom? Entering deeply into the Spirit of the Liturgy is what really matters.

I remember an incident while I was teaching University in which a local Pastor began to introduce some Latin in his Mass. He cautiously introduced a few small parts of the Mass in Latin, such as the "Agnus Dei." This was not an attempt to turn back the clock. In response, however, some older people actually left the Parish complaining that these changes would drive away all the youth. I asked a room full of college age Catholic students what they thought of all this, and their response was surprising. Their general response was, "Cool! We should go there!" I think we quickly assume that our supposedly 'modern' way is best. It is far more likely that the youth have been driven away by the banal and theologically squishy 70's music that is still being sung in many parishes. One might add the music in the same 70's style written (often by the same artists) in the 80's and even 90's. I doubt if any of this music would get a response of, "Cool! We should go there!" from a room full of college students, or young families. On the other hand I have noticed examples of truly contemporary worship, such as that promoted by Life Teen, which has attracted large numbers of youth. Of course this can raise other pastoral and liturgical issues relating to legitimate inculturation.

What did Sacrosanctum Concilium intend? I think it is clear that the majority of Council Fathers both respected the Latin heritage of the Church and supported the possibility of individual and territorial groups of Bishops having the right to introduce the vernacular where pastorally appropriate. The response to SC by the bishops after the council was overwhelmingly in favor of the vernacular. Sacrosanctum Concilium allows for regional diversity and the possibility for legitimate inculturation into the vernacular. The intension of the Council Fathers was to make the Paschal Mystery present in the worship of the entire Body of Christ. "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14) Whether we worship in English, Spanish or Latin, we must seek to promote a fully conscious and active participation which both interior as well as exterior and which understands the very nature of the liturgy. Legitimate inculturation implies that this can be accomplished in different ways. The external form must aid the interior disposition. As St. Pius X pointed out already in 1903, the external form "must possess holiness, beauty of form, and universality." Worship that manifests these qualities is inherently attractive.

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