Why Latin? Why not Latin?

Modern Catholics and Protestants are the only major religions who don’t use a sacred language as opposed to the vernacular language in worship. I never realized this until tonight. Jews use an ancient Hebrew (not modern Hebrew). Muslims use ancient, classical Arabic (not modern Arabic) and are forbidden to translate their holy books into modern languages. The Greek Orthodox Church uses Koine Greek, not modern Greek, in their services and it is much different than modern Greek. Hindus use Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Vedas. The Coptic Orthodox Church uses Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language, in their worship. Church Slavonic is the language of worship in the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as in other churches associated with the Russian Orthodox Church. Old Tibetan, known as Chhokey in Bhutan, is the sacred language of Tibetan Buddhism. There are more examples at the link below.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_language

Everywhere the desire seems to be for a special language, set apart, for sacred worship. And yet many in the Modern Church want to counter this normal human desire. Why?

Vernacular languages, by definition, separate. Which is why “vernacular” is contrasted to “sacred,” and “literary” languages.

Vernacular \Vernac"ular, n.
The vernacular language; one’s mother tongue; often, the
common forms of expression in a particular locality, opposed
to literary or learned forms.

Webster’s 1913 Dictionary

In the old Radio Replies, radio show the following question was asked and answered:

1395. Why does the Church cling to Latin, a dead language?

For one reason, precisely because it is dead! In modern and living languages, words are constantly changing their meaning whilst in a dead language, such as Latin, they do not. The essential doctrine and significance of Christianity must not change, and the safest way to preserve it intact is to keep it in an unchangeable language. Again, a universal Church must have at least her chief form of worship in a universal language. Christ came to save all men, and wherever a member of the true Church may be in this world he should be able to find himself at home at the central act of Christian worship. The Mass, being said in Latin, is the same in all lands. If a Frenchman, who could not understand a word of English, were to enter a Catholic Church in London, he would be at home the moment the Mass began. An English service would be a mystery to him. I myself have said Mass with as many as fifteen different nationalities present, and not all could follow my discourse when I spoke to those present, though I spoke for a few minutes in English, in French, and in Italian. There were still many who could not understand any of these languages, but being all Catholics, they were quite at home the moment I turned to the Altar and went on with the Mass in Latin.

radioreplies.info/radio-replies-vol-1.php?t=118

In my opinion, a Universal Church deserves a universal language. Most religions, throughout the world, tend to agree.

Your supposition that only Protestants and Catholics use vernacular is wrong. Orthodox Churches changed to modern languages in the thirties, Muslims recently. The Jews were radical, they made the modernized form of their sacred language the vernacular of the country.

The ancient languages are kept only for historical reasons.

God gave us intellect and want us to understand HIm and adhere to Him with all our mind, emotions and acts. Only a tongue tied monolingual can believe that any learned (second) language is capable to bring the same attachment of the whole personality , especially the emotions and feelings that the native language.

We need balance: sacred language for the history, mother tongue for understanding and full adherence.

Cardinal Arinze pretty much said the same thing in 2006:

"…Most rites have an original language which also gives each rite its historical identity. The Roman Rite has Latin as its official language. The typical editions of its liturgical books are to this day issued in Latin.

It is a remarkable phenomenon that many religions of the world, or major branches of them, hold on to a language as dear to them. We cannot think of the Jewish religion without Hebrew. Islam holds Arabic as sacred to the Qur’an. Classical Hinduism considers Sanskrit its official language. Buddhism has its sacred texts in Pali.

It would be superficial to dismiss this tendency as esoteric, or strange, or outmoded, old or medieval. That would be to ignore a fine element of human psychology. In religious matters, people tend to hold on to what they received from the beginning, how their earliest predecessors articulated their religion and prayed. Words and formulae used by earlier generations are dear to those who today inherit from them. While a religion is of course not identified with a language, how it understands itself can have an affective link with a particular linguistic expression in its classical period of growth…"

Personally, i plan to learn Latin so i can speak it and pray with it in the times to come. Do not so be so quick to judge that everyone is so modern.

I am not and leaning more and more on the traditional catholicism, respect the Eastern Catholics and the orthodox a lot. They are like brothers and sisters to me.

Modern? No. I am a young soul from the old world and can`t wait for the TLM mass tonight.

One advantage of a “dead” language is that it does not change with the passing fads of popular culture. English for example is a very organic language which is constantly changing. This is why we need new translations every 30 years or so, to keep pace with the changing idioms of language (and political correctness).

So whereas we had Jeromes vulgate for like a thousand years, we need the latest NIV, TNIV, NTNIV, TNTNIV, NTNTNIV every few years or so.

The Latin being a “dead” language means that it means the same thing today as it meant 1700 years ago.

Latin is also the universal language of the church. In times gone by, all seminarians were expected to be fluent in Latins so that the universal church could communicate at councils etc. Sadly, without this sacred language of the church, the church becomes fractious; breaking off into regional groups based on language. English is becoming universal, but as I said before it is too fluid, too ambiguous. Latin is a very exact language which is not prone to ambiguity as English is.

Therefore I recommend as have many church luminaries, that we return to a strict and urgent emphasis on Latin as the sacred language of the universal church.

While I see nothing intrinsically wrong with people wanting to go to Latin Mass ; but I’m fairly sure the first christians were not speaking Latin at their services. Aslo the first manifestation of the Holy Spirit after Christ assended into heaven was to have the word of God spoken and everyone heard it in their own Tongue. I for one want to be able to understand every word of what is being said and would like those less able to memorise or learn latin to do so as well. I believe that God does not want to be a MYSTERY to us and he sent his SON among us so he would be known to us through CHRIST who also did not speak latin. Our religion should be as natural to us as breathing and anything that places a barrier between us and God should be avoided.

I’m glad that you folks can be spiritually lifted by Mass but don’t believe that the unlearned masses don’t get the same lift in regular services. I for one dont need the creation of some other wordly environment in order to feel Christ in action in the Mass.

I was lazy, I just posted this in another thread but I think it applies here to. And as far as there being a Sacred language if there was one surley it would be what Christ spoke if one existed as of course every word of his must be sacred as he was and is GOD. The only other folks im aware of that may have sacred languages would be magicians abbracadabra. :smiley:

Are we going to go back and put the Bible back into Latin too so only the Scholarly can read it and the ordinary salt of the earth will need to have someone explain it for them when they try to read it at home. :confused:

Latin is the language of the Latin Rite. Rome prefers it. Among Latin Rite Catholics, Latin used to be a language of unification.

Concerning comprehension, Fr. Z. has an excellent post on the matter of Latin in the Mass here: wdtprs.com/blog/2011/04/james-macmillan-tlm-not-the-usual-trendy-rubbish-fr-z-rants/.

I would be interested in knowing your source information laszlo, for your claim that those religions have modernized (friendly curiosity), as it seems out of character for Islam.

Quote:
**"…Most rites have an original language which also gives each rite its historical identity. The Roman Rite has Latin as its official language. The typical editions of its liturgical books are to this day issued in Latin.

It is a remarkable phenomenon that many religions of the world, or major branches of them, hold on to a language as dear to them. We cannot think of the Jewish religion without Hebrew. Islam holds Arabic as sacred to the Qur’an. Classical Hinduism considers Sanskrit its official language. Buddhism has its sacred texts in Pali.

It would be superficial to dismiss this tendency as esoteric, or strange, or outmoded, old or medieval. That would be to ignore a fine element of human psychology. In religious matters, people tend to hold on to what they received from the beginning, how their earliest predecessors articulated their religion and prayed. Words and formulae used by earlier generations are dear to those who today inherit from them. While a religion is of course not identified with a language, how it understands itself can have an affective link with a particular linguistic expression in its classical period of growth…" **

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT the Catholic Church looks at what everyone else is doing to decide what it should do. Sounds like my Kid " everyone else is doing it why can,t I "
:smiley:

At one time, Latin WAS the vernacular for virtually every area where the Church was. When Constantine made Christianity the State Church of the Roman Empire, virtually everyone spoke Latin (in at least some form). Therefore, it made sense to have religious services in Latin.

During the middle ages, and on into the early 19th century, all educated person could at least read and write in Latin. Many countries used Latin as an “official” language for state papers, etc. In Romania, it was the language of the legislature until the 1930’s.

But, as time went on, and as the Church spread to more and more remote areas. Latin became less and less intelligible. The vast majority of the laity did not understand it at all, and many Priests didn’t either. They learned the prayers, etc. by rote, but they did not understand the meaning of what they were saying.

The church clung to a “universal” language far longer than it should have. Yes, it was nice to go to Mass anywhere in the world, and see the exact same Mass (other than the readings and homily), but it was a shame to see the vast majority of the congregations essentially sit there without knowing what was being prayed, or done.

I vividly remember that era. I converted in March 1954. I remember people reading their Missals, trying to follow the Mass (not very successfully), or sitting there with a glazed look in their eyes, doing everything by sheer rote.

The Church changed to the vernacular so that the people could actively participate in the Mass, and so that they would be able to actually know what they, and the Priest were praying.

Prayer means so much more, when you actually know, and mean, what you are saying.

Our Creator distinguished us from other animals by giving us the gift of language. By use of it we become blessed with the gift of communication. We learn that this communication is limited and imperfect because of the sin of Adam and Eve.

But Our Lord nontheless wants to communicate with us by the language of His Holy (and Eternal) Word. He furthermore wants us to communicate with each other to fulfill His commandment of “Love one another”.

Our salvation depends on communication. If it is thwarted, how can we be saved?

Scholars, and other learned people, sometimes fall victim to elitism. They are tempted by pride to elevate themselves by enjoying an understanding of important truths that others, less educated, cannot. This is contrary to God’s will.

And so simplicity in language is pleasing to God because it brings His Creation into closer communication with Him, and His human creatures to each other.

Would Jesus have us speak and communicate in the language that was His as He walked the earth? I think not. Rather He wants us to learn of Him, and to honor Him, in the simple language of our birthplace.

If our Church is truly “catholic”, it will not be limited by powers, principalities, or languages, but rather will take on a truly “universal” disposition.

So how are the novelties of all these new languages working out for you so far? Sort of like the Towel of Babel revisited, no?

But God confounded their tongue, so that they did not understand one another’s speech, and thus scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city. - Genesis 11:8

I think that Latin should play a huge role in the church, and for the laity. The universality of the language as it was said before means that no matter where you are you will be able to know what’s going on. Not necessarily the old missal but perhaps the new missal just in Latin? More importantly it reduces the degree of error that you can find with English translations. I’ve heard at least three different ways to say the Hail Mary in English. I find that for myself, reciting prayers in Latin is comforting. I don’t have to worry about if I got the right translation of the words; it just is what it is, and what it has been for the last few millennium. My parish has no Latin in the mass at all. I would like to see Latin used at least like it is on daily mass on EWTN, but this I think will be just hopeful thinking. I went to my first Latin mass a few weeks ago and I will admit that for the first time I was rather lost. It wasn’t so much the Latin that was being said but more that people where not use to the High Mass template.

“…I remember people reading their Missals, trying to follow the Mass (not very successfully), or sitting there with a glazed look in their eyes, doing everything by sheer rote…”

To me this seems like the people where either unprepared or don’t care about what is being said. The least you can do it is learn what is going on to prepare yourself before you go. “Doing everything by sheer rote” to me smacks of an unwillingness to learn which you find is common In my generation of " You Change for Me".
I’ll get off my soap box now :smiley:

PAX

Define your terms of reference ProVobis timeframe last few years; decades centuries; geographical frame west english speaking; rest of europe; asia; africa or just worldwide. and will you be taking into account other geopolitical and social changes into the scenario that have caused a general apathy in many areas of society as for instance elections and voting

Some things are not so simple are they?
But Christianity got of to a great start with aramaic /hebrew / greek wouldnt you agree :smiley:

Look Guys I really do understand the desire of some people for the old Latin and I dont knock it but there seems to be an underlying spiritual snobbishness about it that somehow its better, each to their own I say, but don’t push it on the rest.

The Church in their wisdom changed it for good reason and just because a few people seem to be going a bit to far left of centre with Church services doesn,t mean we throw the baby out with the bath water.

I haven’t been to any mass service that wasn’t respectfull even if it wasn’t straight laced but I did see the vidoe clips of those services that appear very left of base and it did make even me cringe a bit. But im 50 ish so I expect to find myself doing that more :slight_smile:

Just as Muslims with Arabic, Hindus with Sanskrit, Buddhists with Pali, Jews with Hebrew. They didn’t backdate their language at the moment of their faith’s genesis. Once they dispersed, though, they froze their language — likely, I think for the sake of a very obvious unity, to prevent heresy and schism from uncommon languages.

So the solution is a classical education. I agree.

wonderfull ; tell that to the millions of Catholics around the world who are on the breadline and the Church is their only succour. We classicists in the west want Latin.

:blush:

Non sequitur?

When was Latin ever the vernacular for every area of the Church? During the era of the undivided Church of the first millenium, this was certainly not the case. Then, if you are the sort who condemns the Orthodox as heretics and schismatics outside of the Church, by the time of the schism, Latin was beginning to evolve into the various Romance languages, and in the West, Christianity had long since begun to spread to areas where Latin had never been the vernacular. It seems to me that there is no time in the history of Christianity where Latin was the vernacular everywhere.

BTW, Constantine never made Christianity the state Church of the Empire. That was done later by Theodosius. Also, at the time of Constantine, Greek was likely just as widely used throughout the Roman Empire as was Latin, and certainly was more so in the eastern parts of the Empire, and I believe was still the Lingua Franca among the educated and ruling classes.

Finally, with repsect to your claim about all educated persons being able at least to read and write in Latin until the early 19th century, are you really claiming that there were no educated people outside of those parts of Western and Central Europe and the areas colonized by Western and Central European nations where Latin functioned as the common language of scholarship? The function Latin played in the as a common language of scholarship was not a universal phenomenon.

sorry I’m mot sure what you mean but i think you mean you do not follow says google
lol. I mean where do the poor and hungry get a classical education. :slight_smile:

From Catholic schools, like they always have. (All schools, too, until about the sixties.)

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