Why Latin?

I still can’t understand why the Traditional Mass was in Latin. Isn’t it during the Apostolic times in Rome, Greek was the Liturgical langauge? And besides the Scriptures and the Church Fathers never said it should be Latin?

In Apostolic times, Latin was the language of the western half of the Roman Empire and Greek was the language of the eastern half. Most people in the Christian world would have spoke Latin, and even in the Eastern half, many people would have known Latin. After the downfall of the western half of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, the literacy rate in western Europe fell to almost zero. Latin remained the most common language, however, and was one of the few things that kept western Europe unified in any way at all. The Romance languages (those based on the language of Rome, which was Latin) didn’t develop until the Middle Ages. (These include Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian, among others.) IF you had access to education (a huge if, by the way), it would always be in Latin, because very little new was being created, and so Latin classics would be about the only thing available to study, besides the Bible. In other words… for about the first thousand years of Christianity, Latin WAS the vernacular language.

That’s also why when St. Jerome decided to translate the Bible for the very first time into a single language (you would have needed to know both Hebrew and Greek before) he used Latin. It was the most widely spoken language of the time, and so would have been the most accessible.

The Bible was available in Greek long before it was in Latin, though it probably wasn’t in a single bound book called ‘The Bible’.

The Catholic Church, East and West, has always used the Greek Old Testament, called the Septuagint, which is a translation made around 100BC if memory serves. The New Testament was written in Greek, so all the gospels, epistles, and the Old Testament were available in Greek from the 2nd century of Christianity.

Why is the Mass in Latin?

Because the Catholic Church fluorished wherever it was introduced.

Greek was the language of the Roman court, but the language of the people (the vulgus) was Latin. It was this latter group that made up the bulk of Roman and provincial Christianity until Constantine (and even then, they surely out-numbered the aristocracy). In any case, Latin was the vernacular of the western empire.

St Jerome did not “decide” to translate the bible, he was tasked to do so by Pope Damasus. Nor was it the first time the bible was translated into a single language, nor even the first translation into Latin. (Damasus asked Jerome to codify a standard translation precisely because of the spotty nature of the several extant Latin translations)

tee

Not trying to belittle the information you have provided, but does it really matter whether a time-recognized worship language is/was vernacular or not?

Also, isn’t it possible that many people are multi-lingual so as to distort what’s really vernacular or not?

It is important also to understand the Roman Rite has become the pre-eminent rite of the Catholic Church. Other rites of the Catholic Church have other base languages, but they too respect the authority of thr Bishop of Rome.

It matters, if its status as the one-time vernacular relates to answering the question: “Why is the traditional Mass in Latin? Wasn’t Greek the liturgical language of apostolic times?”

(In the same spirit, certainly not intending to belittle your earlier post, I don’t undrestand what the flowering of the Church has to do with the Latin Language? Can you elaborate?)

tee

How does it relate? Can’t you have more than one liturgical language at a time? Or vernacular for that matter? If most U.S. Masses, say 10 years from now, are said in Spanish, would you then say English is still the vernacular or that it is liturgical? At that point, it probably wouldn’t matter, would it?

(In the same spirit, certainly not intending to belittle your earlier post, I don’t undrestand what the flowering of the Church has to do with the Latin Language? Can you elaborate?)

Can’t. But can you provide evidence it definitely did not? The web is all yours. :slight_smile:

The Eastern Rites retained the liturgy in their languages. It was often Greek but also Syrian, Egyptian, Aramaic, etc. These were still used until Vatican II when they too changed to the vernacular. Which may be Greek, Syrian, Egyptian, or Aramaic. Perhaps a more modern use, but sometimes still a form of the original language.

Like translating Spanish into Latin.

Pater Noster becomes Nuestro Padre. An updating of the language into a more modern form. Spanish IS modern Latin, as is Italian (Pater Noster becomes Nostro Padre)

Similarly, Koine Greek would be translated to modern Greek.

What killed the use of Greek (etc) was Islam. With conversion by the sword the eastern church was more than decimated (decimate is from the latin: killing of 1 person in 10). So the west became dominant because the Crusades were able to stop the killing/converting of Christians by the invading Moslems.

Too bad most Protestants dont ever think about that.

The original liturgies were actually in Greek. In the Tridentine Mass the last vestage of Greek is the “Kyrie Eleison”, Greek for “Lord have mercy.”

Latin became more the norm in the western church after the year 200.

Subrosa

How does it relate? Can’t you have more than one liturgical language at a time? Or vernacular for that matter? If most U.S. Masses, say 10 years from now, are said in Spanish, would you then say English is still the vernacular or that it is liturgical? At that point, it probably wouldn’t matter, would it?
[/quote]

I would say there can be more than one vernacular at a time. Would you say that the current Spanish Masses are said in a liturgical langauge or a vernacular?
(But in my judgement, anyway, it is a numbers game – Other less frequent Masses in the US, such as Vietnamese, I would say are in a *foreign *language, and have no objection if there is call for such. But Spanish is frequent enough (even if not in my area) that I would call it a vernacular)

Back to the OP: was there more than one vernacular at the time Latin became the language of the western liturgy?

Can’t. But can you provide evidence it definitely did not? The web is all yours. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

Um, it was your assertion – If you won’t support it, I’ve no reason to argue against it and would just as soon drop it.

tee

In Croatia, in when Catholicism was established, the Latin-Rite Liturgy was actually done in Glagothic, or a variant style alphabet of Slavonic. So the Croats and any others at the time were permitted throughout the middle ages to say the Latin-Rite Roman Liturgy in Slavonic rather than Latin, because Slavonic was their native tongue at the time, and they kept it in Slavonic, because that was the language they were first introduced to our Lord’s Holy Catholic Church in.

I only found that out last year. Its a very interesting point. I am trying to find out more about the Catholics there, and the horrors of Communism that afflicted them, and all the rest.

So what you’re saying is that they managed to make Glagothic a worship language IN CROATIA? Whatever works, I guess.

A more important point though is that its success has become a custom, one that they didn’t think of changing. For this reason, I would like personally to attend one of these liturgies.

I think what you mean is the GLAGOLITIC LITURGY…

Actually, OLD CHURCH SLAVONIC is 9th century Bulgarian from the region around Thessalonica where the Holy Equal to the Apostles Sts. Cyrcil and Methodius were from. It was NOT the language of Croatia but it could be understood by people there…

Hope this helps…

The one that makes the claim is the one that should cite the reference. The only possible reason that the Church flourished ‘because’ of a language is because it was the language spoken by the majority of the Empire and is the equivelant of what English was today and French was in times past: a colonial/business language.

You’re right. And I said I can’t.

The only possible reason that the Church flourished ‘because’ of a language is because it was the language spoken by the majority of the Empire and is the equivelant of what English was today and French was in times past: a colonial/business language.

Now let me turn the tables around. Please provide proof that it is the ONLY possible reason. I seriously doubt it.

Did the writings of Catalina, for example, become world-wide literature? Had Latin been the spoken language in ALL of Africa? And why not mention Spanish as a possible fluourishing language? It is growing faster than English, according to the almanac.

Greek was the language of the East and the educated elites of the West could also it. Latin was the official language of the operations of the Empire. Originally, I doubt there would have been any use of a foreign language as liturgical - just the language of the people. The Bible wasn’t translated into Latin until 4th century. The West used Latin and the East Greek as the language of the Church, as it was associated with the Empire rather than the barbarian tribes, I guess (and while Latin was known and used in the Byzantine Empire right until the fall, the Empire switched to Greek in 7th century). In the West, it was probably a matter of integrity of the Church, but even 9th century French is somewhat understandable to a speaker of Latin, so it’s not a matter of the use of a foreign language but rather archaic vs modern. While at some point the Pope decided to switch from Ciceronic Latin to the then modern language (6th century, I believe, or was it 7th), the switch from Latin to the many vernaculars didn’t occur at a later date. Mind you that the kings and their administration also used Latin, as did the learned people.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.