Hvorfor bør vi bruke latin i messen?

En prest i USA, Fr. Christopher Smith, har skrevet en tekst om hvorfor vi (fortsatt) skal bruke latin i (den nye) messen. Den er skrevet på gammel katekisme-måte, med spørsmål og svar, og jeg har lest om den her. Les hva han skriver:

Q. Didn’t Vatican II abolish Latin?

The first document of the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, states “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite” (para. 36). The postconciliar document on sacred music, Musicam sacram, states, “Care must be taken that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertains them.” The liturgy document stated, “since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants” (para. 36). The Council is clear that Latin is to be continued to be used in the liturgy, while the vernacular is an option. Therefore, even if we have vernacular in the Mass, we should still also have Latin in the Mass as well

Q. But isn’t going back to Latin a bad thing? Shouldn’t we be moving forward?

The Mass is actually still in Latin; we just experience in many of our parishes the full extent of permission to use English. The Church never abandoned the Latin, although in many places parishes did not fulfill the express will of the Council Fathers. There is no question of going back; we are actually just now beginning to do what the Council asked.

Q. Isn’t Latin exclusive, though? Won’t it split us up as Catholics?

Latin belongs to all Catholics. The Catholic Church is a universal Church, open to everyone. The use of a common language in worship is more inclusive, because it does not assume that everyone has to worship according to any one language or culture. Using only vernacular languages actually “ghettoizes” divine worship according to national and ethnic boundaries. Latin transcends borders and emphasizes the international and multicultural character of the Church.

Q. Isn’t the use of Latin just an historical anomaly that lasted way too long anyway?

Almost all world religions have a sacred language for worship. Muslims always read the Qu’ran in Arabic. Jews say all of their prayers in Hebrew. Hindus use Sanskrit or Pali, which no one speaks colloquially. Until the nineteenth century, Hebrew was virtually lost even among Jews. The Zionist movement made it a badge of religious identity, and a century later, an entire country has what was once a dead language as its official tongue and Jews throughout the world can all communicate in one language. Dead languages do come back to life because of religious reasons.

Q. Doesn’t 1 Corinthians 14.14 not say, “If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful”?

Saint Paul is not speaking on liturgical language, but makes reference to the Corinthians who were trying to speak in tongues without having that gift, who were essentially falsifying a gift of the Holy Spirit. Catholics should learn the basic prayers of the Mass in Latin as part of their normal religious education, so it is not unknown. That is why translations are provided, so that they can learn them.

Q. How can I get anything out of Mass if I can’t even understand every word?

Remember that God is a mystery beyond our intelligence. In the Eastern tradition, the mystery of God’s Otherness is expressed by a large part of the service being done behind a wall of icons and a series of veils. The people still actively participate, but they do so fully aware that the God they are worshipping is not immediately accessible to them. In the West, the function of icons and veils is taken in part by language. It emphasizes the mystery and the transcendence of a God who, despite His closeness to us, is still always beyond our reach.

That said, people shouldn’t underestimate just how much one can come to understand the Latin prayers. By the faithful praying these same Latin prayers over and over, Sunday after Sunday (often with the benefit of a Missal which also translates those prayers) they do become very familiar with them and know, intensely, that which they pray. In fact, because Latin is not our first language, it can actually help us to be more conscientious about what we are praying as we focus even more upon how that prayer translates and thereby more potentially ponder the spiritual depths of its meaning.

Q. Are there any advantages to using both Latin and the vernacular in the Mass?

Yes! With the readings, the homily and certain prayers in the vernacular, the faithful can feel God calling to them in words that are familiar; the nearness of God is made present by the immediate comprehension of certain prayers and rites. We can foster a community spirit with a language which is used by some if not all of the worshippers in our parish church. But the Latin reminds us that the Church is not just our parish, and exists not just in one nation; that she is for all people and all times. The Latin also reminds us that we cannot “own” God; that He is a mystery not to be figured out, but to be adored.

Q. Is it wrong if I don’t feel the same when parts or the whole of Mass is in Latin?

The Mass is not about us. It is about the worship of God. If it were about us, then we would be adoring ourselves, and putting ourselves in the place of God. The Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ in obedience to His Father on Calvary for the salvation of the world. It is not entertainment. Worship is not having an attractive emotional experience that I design according to my likes and dislikes. It is receiving the gifts of that Holy Sacrifice and uniting my whole being with the great hymn of praise offered by the whole Church. Religion is not about us and our feelings; it is about offering to God the praise which is His due. And He asks us to praise Him according to the ritual forms as celebrated by His Church.

Q. How can I learn more about my Catholic faith and its rich liturgical heritage?

In Matthew 13.52 we read, Every scribe who has become a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like the head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old. Veneration steeped in the Tradition should make us even more aware of new and creative ways to live our faith. If we are open to studying our Catholic faith, the documents of the Church, and cooperating with our priests in living out the liturgical riches of our Church, we have so much to gain!

Q. If you could recommend one book for me to read about this, what would it be?

Pope Benedict XVI’s Spirit of the Liturgy. Read that, and then ask Fr Smith whatever you want! It will change your life and also give you a clear sense of the direction that the Church is really going. What an exciting time to be a Catholic!

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