WHY DOES THE CHURCH USE LATIN AT ALL?
THE Church uses Latin because it is a traditional and unchanging language, most suited for its purpose. But it does not follow from this that the Church has necessarily used Latin at all times or places. The Church in Rome for the first two centuries was i Greek-speaking community; it was from Africa that the " Latinising " movement came, under the guidance of Tertullian (born c. A.D. 160.)
Fragments of the original Greek can still be found in the Liturgy as for instance the "Kyrie eleison "—Lord, have mercy. So in the Mass of the Presanctified on Good
-By CHARLES G. MORTIMER
Friday one side of the choir replies to the Reproaches in Greek; the other side repeating the same words in Latin.
Agios o Theos (Greek), Sanctus Deus (Latin),
which means in both languages, "0 holy God."
And shortly after: Agios athanatos eleison imas (Greek), Sanctus immortalis, miserere nobis (Latin).
Latin Not Universal Such fragments have long since been imbedded in the Latin service and remind us of the Church's origins. Even today Mass is not said throughout the entire world in Latin. Chinese converts are, 1 believe, allowed to hear Mass in Chinese. Many Oriental bodies in communion with the Holy See use their own rites and their own language.
Still, in the Catholic Church at large and especially in the Western Church, Latin is the authoritative tongue; it forms no part of this article to speculate whether the English-speaking peoples, for instance, will ever be allowed a Liturgy in the vernacular.
The practical advantages of Latin as a universal Church language arc easy to illustrate and comprehend. *
Best Language for Ceremony
* Latin is eminently suited for ceremonial purposes; it is sonorous and magnificent. Nor can it become antiquated. One of the great cries of the Reformers in this country in the sixteenth century was for English services. They had their way; and no one can dispute the literary taste or ability of Creamer. None the less the Anglican Prayer Book of 1552 might well sound " unreal " today except for those who have received a " higher " education. Such language at least becomes "dated "; but Latin can never suffer that.
It is impossible to use Latin affectedly or make a jargon of it—a fault that enters into the modern prayers of non-Catholics at times when they are anxious to be at once dignified and " half-colloquial." Latin is essentially common-sense and direct; it is human without artificiality; it is timeless, neither archaic or modern.
If You Travel Then there is the obvious advantage that if you travel you will recognise. not only the Ritual but the very words of the Mass; but the clinching argument is surely this; the loss of Latin, translations into many divergent tongues, might be attended with the gravest peril. How could we then ensure that the underlying truths of our Religion would be preserved? The unity of our very faith might be impaired if words were taken in different meanings by different congregations without the one unchanging standard of the Latin.
Facts As They Are
In any case in these articles we propose to take the facts as we find them, authorised by long usage and decree; and next week we shall come to closer grips with our subject by propounding the question: What is Latin?
" 1 am under an obligation here to The Words of Ike Missal by Fr. C. C. Martindale, S.J. (Sliced and Ward) p. 154.