Moving Forward Not Back

Last week my Parish Priest took a brief break and we had a retired local priest stand in at daily Mass. I don't make Mass every day- though I wish I did- work makes it difficult. But I have made a commitment to attend every Tuesday. As regular readers will know, I was away last Tuesday, travelling back from Ireland, but it was reported back to me (by my mum) that the stand in priest (who is generally a good old chap and preaches solidly at every Mass he says) spoke in his homily about the use of Latin and Vatican II (a little sense of creeping dread gripped my stomach as soon as I heard that).

Basically, I was told that he said, in the context of the year of faith, that the re-introduction of Latin into the liturgy is going backwards and we have to go forwards. That is what Vatican II was all about. This brought to mind Father Tim Finnigan's recent blog post Laity! For heaven's sake don't read the texts of Vatican II which is a rather amusing look at the way prevailing attitudes tend to bear little resemblance to the actual teaching of the Council, relying, instead, on "The Spirit of the Council" *brrrrrr...a shiver runs up my spine*.
The Spirit of Vatican II. You can keep it!
It also seems to be news to Pope Benedict XVI, who appears to have failed to have recognised this need for forward momentum without a glance to the rear, going as far as issuing the Moto Proprio Summorum Pontificum on the 7th of July 2007.

Interestingly, when Father Kevin returned, his Sunday homily was along a similar vein. He spoke about the hermeneutic of continuity and the way in which Vatican II has been largely hi-jacked by some with an agenda which is in fact, contradictory to what the Council actually taught. In short, they want to re-make the Church in their own image. You can listen to a podcast of Father Kevin's excellent homily here.

The Council's instruction on the Sacred Liturgy is called Sacrosanctum Concilium: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy in English. It was one of two documents issued on the same day, December 4, 1963, the first two documents issued by the Second Vatican Council. The other document, Inter Mirifica, is on social communication. There is no doubt that Sacrosanctum Concilium  is one of the most important documents of the Council, one that has been the least understood and, I believe, has wrought the most havoc — not by having been fulfilled — but by having been ignored or misinterpreted.

I haven't had a chance to catch up with the other priest yet, but I will as soon as I can. He might be surprised to learn that although the Council did suggest that the use of the vernacular should be extended as it is "of great advantage to the people" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36. 2) and "This will apply in the first place to the readings" (ibid), the Council also maintained that "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36). The document goes on to state:
54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.
Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.
So, the Council did not abolish Latin in the liturgy. The Council permitted the vernacular in certain limited ways, but clearly understood that the fixed parts of the Mass would remain in Latin. I am just telling you what the Council said. So where is the Latin in our Mass? Based on what the Council taught, would re-introduction constitute a move backward? Or would it mean we are being faithful what the Council actually taught in continuity with what it has always taught?

I wonder what Blessed John XXIII thought about Latin? Well, we know He wrote an Apostolic Constitution on the subject in 1962, on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, Veterum Sapientia. This is what it says:
....the Latin language "can be called truly catholic." It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed "a treasure ... of incomparable worth.". It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church's teaching. It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity. ...
The employment of Latin has recently been contested in many quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.
So from this we can see that the use of Latin constitutes a way of making an act or worship more dignified, more reverent, for at least four reasons: through its inherent 'majesty', its connection with antiquity, its universality, and its consecration by long use by the Church.

Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Latin (although in the tri-lingual mêlée of  first century Palestine, it is quite possible that He spoke Greek, Aramaic and Latin, as well as Hebrew), but He prayed in Hebrew. Israel has always had a sacred language reserved for worship, something special when we talk to God. This augments prayer in the same way as kneeling, as closing our eyes...It is a dimension of prayer that speaks of our attitude as we approach God. CC Father expands wonderfully on this here.

I am not an old stick in the mud, I am a child of Vatican II, but I do want to see the Council's teaching interpreted faithfully, in a way which maintains the authentic and special nature of the Catholic faith.

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