Why latin?

I apologize if this is the wrong forum. I remeber hearing that some of the early popes and clergy didn’t use latin but, their native tounges. When did the Church make the move to make Latin the offical church lanuage? and Why?

The “official language” of the early Church was Greek because this was the “common language” of the known world. Even the Roman officials used Greek for most of their communications. Latin started being used around the 3rd century and by the sixth century was the prevalent language in the West. Greek remained the dominant language of the East. By the eighth century Latin was the exclusive language of the West – in part becuase it had become the “common language” of the Roman empire. In fact, this is the reason for the translation of Scripture into Latin. The Vulgate was called that because it was the “vulgar” language – that is, the language of the common man.
Because of the widespread use of Latin it was natural that it become the stgandard language.

Deacon Ed

That begs the question though, why didn’t the church move away from Latin sooner? If the move toward a Latin mass was to perform the liturgy in the common tongue, why did the church hang onto the Latin mass so long after Latin really became a dead language? I’m not criticizing the use of Latin, just curious. I’d like to attend a Tridentine mass some day (being born post Vatican II means I’ve never experienced anything other than the Novus Ordo, but I’d like to some day).

[quote=MEP]That begs the question though, why didn’t the church move away from Latin sooner? If the move toward a Latin mass was to perform the liturgy in the common tongue, why did the church hang onto the Latin mass so long after Latin really became a dead language? I’m not criticizing the use of Latin, just curious. I’d like to attend a Tridentine mass some day (being born post Vatican II means I’ve never experienced anything other than the Novus Ordo, but I’d like to some day).
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Well, there were two primary factors that kept Latin as the official language of the Latin Rite Church. The first is that the Church founded the University system of education and Latin was the basis for this system. The second is the so-called Protestant Reformation which led the Church to an entrenchment of Latin.

Finally, there is no “universal language” that holds sway as did Greek and then Latin. While English is certainly one of the dominant languages of the modern era, it is not the language spoken by the most people! Thus, there is no better substitute for Latin. The Church continues to use Latin simply because it’s there even though most people don’t read or write it, and few can speak it correctly. The Church uses ecclesiastical Latin, not Classical. Ecclesiastical Latin is also known as “Late Latin” becuase it continued development long past the classical period of Rome.

Further, the Latin vocabulary is relatively static – new terms are invented only as needed.

Deacon Ed

Until a hundred years ago, or so, Latin was the language of the educated elite. :thumbsup: So it moved from the common language to the elite language.

Scientific papers written by Issac Newton, et cetera, were written in Latin.

Educated people learned Latin and Greek until 75 or 100 years ago.

  • Kathie :bowdown:

[quote=harinkj]Until a hundred years ago, or so, Latin was the language of the educated elite. :thumbsup: So it moved from the common language to the elite language.

Scientific papers written by Issac Newton, et cetera, were written in Latin.

Educated people learned Latin and Greek until 75 or 100 years ago.

  • Kathie :bowdown:
    [/quote]

Kathie,

Um, we still do learn Latin and Greek. I even had four years of Latin in high school and I’m still under 100 years old (I think).

Deacon Ed

WHY LATIN IN THE MASS?

There are four excellent reasons for retaining Latin in the Mass:

(1) The use of Latin is the will of the Church. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the use of Latin is to be maintained in the Western rites, and that pride of place in liturgical rites is to be given to Gregorian chant (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, nn. 36 and 116).

(2) The Church benefits from a common language of worship, so that those of different languages and cultures may worship side-by-side as people united by a common tongue. This pertains especially to pilgrims, travelers, immigrants, and those in multilingual communities. It also emphasizes the common heritage of Roman Catholics everywhere.

(3) The use of a special language in liturgy is a time-honored custom that recognizes transcendence during divine worship. Latin unites us directly to generations of Catholics --including countless saints–who have gone before us in faith. This sense of timelessness inspires our perception of the eternal nature of God. The meaning of Latin is unchanging; it does not vary from age to age, as do vernacular tongues. The tone of everyday language can sometimes become overly familiar. While use of the vernacular has many advantages, it does not always convey these immutable meanings.

(4) The Church’s own uplifting liturgical music is Latin. Gregorian chant is the preeminent music created by and for the Church’s worship; sacred polyphony also reflects our Latin tradition. These are among the Church’s most sacred treasures and, as part of our living heritage, ought not to be banished to concert halls.

[quote=Deacon Ed]Kathie,

Um, we still do learn Latin and Greek. I even had four years of Latin in high school and I’m still under 100 years old (I think).

Deacon Ed
[/quote]

Four years of Latin in high school? Now that’s an encouraging sign! Do high schools still do this?

[quote=JimG]Four years of Latin in high school? Now that’s an encouraging sign! Do high schools still do this?
[/quote]

Yup, but I hear its hard as heck.

[quote=JimG]Four years of Latin in high school? Now that’s an encouraging sign! Do high schools still do this?
[/quote]

First, I was in high school more than 40 years ago. But, yes, Latin is still offered at that school (a Catholic prep school run by the Servites). I also had 2 years of Greek and a year of Hebrew, but that was much later, not in high school (or college).

Deacon Ed

The two prep schools in my area offer four years of Latin and two years of Greek; both mandate at least two years of Latin.

[quote=MEP]…why did the church hang onto the Latin mass so long after Latin really became a dead language?..
[/quote]

While this is a common misconception, it simply isn’t true. No language is “dead” while there are still people who use it for communication. There are still millions of people today who can and do speak, read, and/or write using Latin. There are many so-called “living” languages that have far fewer speakers today.

Technically, Latin never really became a “dead” language. There was never a break in continuity of people using the language. It simply continued to evolve as all living languages do. I date any non-specialist to try and read a work of medieval English without substantial help. And yet we don’t claim that English is a “dead” language. Latin continued, but due to a breakdown in the education system of Europe with the disruption of the Western provinces of the Roman Empire (which survived in the East), the Latin language began to break up into various dialects which we today call Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, Catalan, Sardinian, etc. They are all variants and dialects of Latin. They all are Latin. They only received new names due to nationalist pride. The so-called Classical Latin and even Ecclesiatical Latin are artificial constructs. Think of how bizarre it would be to learn medieval English in school and then say that the modern version was no longer English. What about Greek for that matter. Modern Greek is almost as different from a pure Attic Greek as modern Spanish is from Ciceronian Latin. All in all it’s a rose by any other name. Latin never died.

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