History of Latin Mass
Question from on 07-10-2007:
Can you please give me a very comprehensive and well explained background history of how did the Latin Mass started, what does it mean to celebrate Mass in Latin. Does the Latin Mass have a direct connection to Jesus, or it is just a tradition.
Why bring Latin to rejuvenate the church when changes can be made but without the Latin, priest don't have knowledge of Latin or have forgotten and many people who follows the prayers while the priest is celebrating the mass will be lost and quiet just observing. What kinds of benefits will the church have if Latin mass is back again, is it necessary for the Latin words to say at mass. Jesus has never spoke to his followers in Latin, any other language or dialect that his followers could not understand. I will appreciate your complete description about the Latin history and its tradition.
Thank you, Nancy
Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 07-30-2007:
We do not know in what language the Mass in Rome was originally celebrated. Was it in Hebrew, because the first converts in Rome were Jews? Was it in Latin, because gentiles in Rome spoke Latin? Was it in Greek, because Greek, more than Latin, was the lingua franca of the first century Mediterranean world, as English is the universal language today?
What we do know is that in the early fourth century (300s), the Mass in Rome was celebrated in Greek, but by the late fourth century it was being celebrated in Latin. For the next seven hundred years of the first millenium Latin was the common language of Europe, although local languages existed alongside it, and then in the second millenium the vernacular languages we know today began to arise. Even before the reformation (1500s) the vernacular languages had replaced Latin in everyday use, although the educated classes still used it, as medicine, the law and science continues to do today. The Church never stopped using it, because its meaning was fixed and was, therefore, a particularly apt language for expressing divine truths in human language. Even today, the normative version of the ordinary form of the liturgy, as Pope Benedict calls the rites according to the post-Vatican II liturgical books, is a Latin text. The Latin text is the official version of the documents of Vatican II and all Vatican documents since, including liturgical books. So, although Vatican II authorized the use of the vernacular in the Mass, and Pope Paul VI made this a reality by approving translations of his entire missal into the vernacular, Latin remains the universal language of the universal Church. Its use is important, lest we begin to think of ourselves as the American Catholic Church and the French Catholic Church etc., rather than the Catholic Church in America, in France and so on.