The Value of the Mass

The Value of the Mass
Up to our own times, it has been the constant concern of supreme pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the benefit of all His Holy Church - Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is Latin The Issue?

After reading blog after blog and hearing numerous media reports, I can see that the older form of the Mass or the "Extraordinary Form" is catching a lot of flack. Most of the negative reports boil down to one argument, Latin. The story usually contains a line similar to this: "Most of today's Catholics don't know or understand Latin." I honestly think that this argument is a cop out and oversimplifies things.

The main thing I want to get at is this. Is the older Mass about the Latin? Is Latin the main focus here? The answer is no, it's not. Now, Latin has it's advantages and is disadvantages in the liturgy. Obviously it is the language of the Church and must be respected. It is more meticulous of a language and thus is more accurate in expressing prayers. Because most people aren't fluent in Latin, it does protect the liturgy, to an extent, from abuse such as ad-libbing prayers. It's disadvantages include the fact that most people don't understand it, as that is a legitimate point. However, is the use of the Latin language the central point of the ancient liturgy? Of course not.

The Church, even today, is full of ancient liturgies. The most obvious proof of this is in the east. Most of the liturgies used in the eastern Church are at least 1200 years old. Now I have heard the objection that their liturgies aren't that old because they use modern languages in their liturgies. That is precisely my point. A language is not ontological to a liturgy. The form of the liturgy is not contained in the language but in the specific thoughts that are expressed through the language.

So, is it about the Latin? Here's yet another example. I have spent this summer in the parish of my diocese that had the former indult for the Extraordinary form. Many of the parishioners who attend the 9:00 Traditional Rite don't speak Latin, yet they love this form of the Mass? Why? Well, it's just as I said, they love this FORM of the Mass. They love the prayers expressed in this Mass and the reverence that is built into it. The language is merely an accidental property of it. Now, as I said before, this shouldn't be interpreted that the Latin is not important. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that the Latin isn't ontological to the liturgy. If the Ordinary Form of the Mass was just simply the Extraordinary form in the vernacular, I don't think we would have seen the problems that we've seen in the Church for the past 40 years. However, the Ordinary Form is a completely different in form from the Extraordinary. There are different prayers as well as the actions of the priest are different. I'm not saying that it's a different rite or that one is valid and the other isn't. I'm not even saying that one is better than the other. I'm just trying to point out one simple fact.

When peoples complaints about the Extraordinary form boil down to the use of a language this is clearly a smokescreen for the fact that they usually don't like the very form of the Mass. Why don't they? Well, I'll leave that for you to decide.


Anonymous said...

Zach, it's my belief that true Catholics recognize the extraordinary form as "The Mass". I also believe that nominal Catholics who oppose the extraordinary form believe it to be "the LATIN mass" in much the same way protestants called certain rites "papist".

The extradordinary form is permanently attached to the Holy Catholic Church by declaration by the Pope, as well as by a long, long, long tradition. That is what is being protested. It is not ecumenical, it is particular to the True Church.

Zach said...

Well, first off, I think that you have some problems with defining catholics. I can attest to the fact that there are very faithful "true catholics" that are not attatched to the extraordinary form of the Mass. I think you need to re-examine what your definition of a catholic is.

Kristen said...

Perhaps I am being naive, but it seems to me that people take issue with it with the same zeal that they fear the changing of the Church carpeting. They fear change, plain and simple. It won't take long before "the old" is no longer so new.

Beta Bonita said...

Hi there Zach!
Love your blog! Here is a great Latin Dictionary I found. I love this language and have been a student for some years. This is the best collection of online Latin dictionaries I know and it absolutely free.
Keep up the excellent work!