A Benedictine Appraisal
SIR,-We live in an age of easy communication in the field of travel, sound and vision. In its origin the Liturgy of the Mass. besides being a sacrifical act, was meant to be a vehicle of direct communication God's word to man.
The introductory part is still called the Mass of catechumens. Our Lord told his disciples in their own language what He wanted them to do. Saint Benedict arranged the Divine Office for his monks in the language with which they were familiar, viz. late Latin. Similarly Saint Gregory the Great gave us the Roman Missal substantially as
we have it today in the language of his own times.
By an accident of history Saint Gregory's mission to England established a Latin liturgy in the former Roman province of Britain, which had now become AngloSaxon in speech, and England took as great a share in perpetuating the Latin liturgy as any other part of Christendom.
None can deny that the Latin liturgy is a work of great beauty, associated with and enshrining much of the history and development of the Church in the West for 16 centuries or more, in times of splendour and in days of persecution. But there is little room for sentiment of this kind today, when the Devil is cashing in on the immediate evidence of material rewards and comforts to distract people from their ultimate purpose in life. The work of the Church is to unite people with God. Only scholars can be expected to know Latin. The teaching of recent papal encyclicals shows that the Church intends the modern liturgical movement to be more than the preserve of an esoteric few.
The obstacle to the participation
of the faithful in general is Latin. A change of the Church's discipline in this matter is urgent. The Protestant reformers saw this 400 years ago. Their association of this need with heresy must not prejudice our opinion now.
It would he well to consider the problem of the Latin liturgy in the light of Saint Paul's evaluation of the spiritual gifts in I Corinthians c.14. All these gifts are subject to charity: "If I use a strange tongue when I offer prayer, my spirit le praying, but my mind reaps no advantage from it."
The Apostle of the Gentiles had more than sufficient experience to have arrived at firm conviction in the matter: "I mean to use mind as well as spirit when I offer prayer." And his conviction is expressed with effect: "In church l would rather speak five words which my mind utters. for your instruction, than ten thousand in a strange tongue."
Wilfrid Upham, O.S.B. Buckfast Abbey, SIR ,---I am a little puzzled by the claim made by some advocates of English in the Mass, that this would reduce our leakage: in the Observer or Sunday. April 16, a Methodist minister is reported as saying "We lose six out of seven of our children." This seems to me to indicate that even if all our services were entirely in English, as theirs are, we would still have a leakage problem.
(Miss) N. E. Herring London, S.E.5.