Monday, February 08, 2010

Critics of the vernacular souldn't read this

Arlene Oost-Zinner has a thought-provoking piece over at New Liturgical Movement, entitled "Critics of the Vernacular Shouldn't Read This" (NLM, February 8, 2010). While I anticipate that her piece will provoke many of the usual qualifications about the meaning of active participation and the role of Latin in traditional liturgy, she raises some good questions and offers some constructive suggestions for the ordinary form liturgy. She writes:
How about we turn things on their heels? Up the ante just a bit? How about instead of just the new translations, we print the Latin, too, right next to the new responses. The way we do with the English now – for transparency purposes. People may gain some sense that the changes are not just a result of the desire to update things for our times. It might show them that language is serious business, and that the language we use at Mass carries with it an obligation to tradition.


JM said...

Great article, but I have these comments:

"Yes, tradition is important, and Latin is the language of the Roman rite. So we can't ignore it. I'm not proposing that... But isn't it also true that lack of solemnity and decorum is one of biggest problem that we face? Maybe even a bigger problem than the choice of language itself? One can celebrate an OF Mass in English in a dignified way, after all.

O.K., but the response to this is, reverence is great, but what about relevance?

Is the problem at Church the newer Mass? Is the answer to all our problems unearthing a perfect older missal, and some nice Gregorian Chants?

No, no. no. And this is where the Traditionalist Movement misses the beat and Scott Hahn gets it.

As Frank Sheed noted, the measure of every change is whether it brings Christ closer. If people know Christ, they will want to be reverent. If they don't, culture won't last: Helo Vatican II.

Latin is important because it is the language of the Church. The Church guards our worship which springs from its doctrine and message. Those spring from Scripture as the first and foremost source. Scripture is essentially synonymous with the message of the Church. If we lose trust in that essential revealed data, cultural elements like Latin do not matter. Inversely, if Scripture is inspired and the Church is an inspired teacher and guardian, we need to guard the desposit.

Essentially, if people do not believe in revelation, the sure as hell are not going to care about Latin. Someone said the beginning of the end of Catholicism in France was the understanding that Genesis was fable. Is anyone surprised? "Hey, listen to me even though I have been wrong on the fundamentals!!" Now we have a culture that actively challenges the faith on key points, as championed by Edward Kennedy, and he and not the Church is seen as the hero. And we want people expect people to tradition or want Latin? Do we believe in revelation or not? Is the liturgy a God given thing in expression as well as message or not? Having sold the Bible down the river on this question--its its salvific intent, not its mode--can the Modern Church hope to expect a different attitude about the liturgy?

Get people who believe in the Bible, and they will soon WANT tradition. Have people who are essentially modernists, and if THEY want tradition. soon you'll have a church gayer than the Episcopal Church.

Confitebor said...

Yes, there's simply no reason missals shouldn't have both the authoritative Latin text and the approved vernacular translation alongside it. People need to know that the Missal of the Latin Church is a Latin text, and that the vernacular is something permitted, so to speak, as a departure from the norm. The propers should be included in Latin as well.

Anonymous said...

Literalism means precisely the failure to see that language is serious business!

Sheldon said...


Slow down. You're typing so fast, your sentences aren't making sense.

Still, your enthusiasm may be contagious.

Traditionalism without Christ is dead. Got it.

Christ without Tradition is the Buddy Christ. Got it.

Where do we encounter Christ substantially? Not in dead tradition or in the Buddy Christ, but in the living faith passed down and proclaimed from a living Tradition.

Are you suggesting that people would respect tradition and Latin and classic liturgy if only they had a living faith? That may be true. But why couldn't it also work the other way? Why couldn't people have their faith deepened by encountering a liturgy which behaves like Christ is actually there on the altar and in the tabernacle, instead of dyspeptic leisure lounge show? If relevance is irreverent, is it really relevant?

Scripture? Yes. Tradition? Yes. An experience of Christ? Yes, grounded in both.

Sheldon said...


What does literalism have to do with anything here? Don't be so mysterious.