Thursday, April 17, 2008

Multi-lingual components of the Mass

First of all, people who know me well know that I grew up with the Latin Traditional Mass, and favor its current restoration. I applaud each and every step that the Holy Father is taking to restore the TLM and the reverence of the furnishings of the Church and the celebrants.

The TLM is the continuity, reality and backbone of the Church liturgy.

Having said that, you need to understand that the people are the reality of the Church. The TLM may be the backbone of the Church, but the people from all walks of life are the flesh and blood.

This is why I continue to have no problem with reverential celebration of the Mass in the vernacular. While the excesses of the past several decades have been destructive and have distressed me, I am equally distressed when the Second Vatican Council is unjustly criticized for their legitimate efforts to bring the liturgy of the Mass into the language of the local people.

The Latin Mass is indeed the language of the Church, the backbone of the Church, and the unifying tongue. It is the unifying tongue, not the unified tongue. With Latin those who can learn Latin or at least follow the Latin are guaranteed of linguistic communion and continuity throughout the Church. That is an ongoing availability, it is the process of being unify-ing, it is not a completed activity, nor will it ever be, so it is not the unify-ed tongue. The Latin Mass is like having a standard USB port on your computer. If you have the Latin and follow the Latin, all who "plug into it" can do so any Mass, any time, anywhere, and be able to lean upon this standard backbone of the Church.

Having said that, what good is a standard USB port if there are no hands typing at the keyboard using the computer? And should only the keystrokes of a certain type, using the USB, be allowed on the computer? Of course not. So while the re flourishing of the TLM should be encouraged, prayed for and rejoiced, you must be careful to not be prideful and threatening toward those around the world who rely on the vernacular language ordinary of the Mass. I'm speaking now only of the language, not of the form of the liturgy.

Each generation and each individual is brought anew into the Church. If I had to choose, which fortunately I do not, between the language of using only Latin or of allowing the vernacular local languages, I would of course have to choose the local languages. It is more important that people all understand the word of God than to have the beauty and unifying potential, but not reality, of the Latin tongue. Fortunately, humans can walk and chew gum at the same time, so long as they are not too prideful in their ability to multitask. This is why the approach of the Holy Father is exactly correct. The Church needs BOTH Latin and the vernacular. So yes, work to bring back the Latin of the Mass, and pray for its flourishing to its full potential, but do not be prideful and menacing toward those who love the word of God in the vernacular.