14/10/07 – Liturgical Myth #4

Myth: We can’t celebrate today’s liturgy in Latin

This is not true, unless of course, the priest and assembly don’t know their Latin well enough!

This is a different matter to “going back to the old (pre-Vatican II) Missal”, which was only published in Latin. The Second Vatican Council made the following statement about introducing vernacular languages (the language(s) of the people):

Particular law remaining in force, 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. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 36)

So we were actually meant to preserve Latin, while being allowed to extend our use of English in the liturgy. In fact, the whole Mass, according to the latest liturgical books, can be celebrated completely in Latin if this is what is best for the assembly of the faithful that gathers. It may be appropriate at times to use Latin for specific prayers or chants. At all times, however, the full, conscious and active participation of the people must be encouraged.

Some use of Latin will be necessary, for example, at the liturgies of next year’s World Youth Day. Imagine… hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across the globe who will not share a common language. This is where having a common language in the Church is a very useful practice. The Our Father is traditionally prayed in Latin at World Youth Day Masses to maximise participation.

Remember also, however, that Latin is not the only language the Church has used. In the earliest years of the Church, the language of the people in a particular place was used, just like today. The Greek text Kyrie eleison and Christe eleison (Lord, have mercy and Christ, have mercy) has been retained in the Latin missals to this day. And let’s not forget that the great Easter acclamation, “Alleluia”, and the most common response in liturgy, “Amen”, both originate from Hebrew.

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