Latin Mass
Sancta Missa

Frequently Asked Questions

LATIN AS A SOURCE OF UNITY

1.  Do other Christians use a dead language for sacred worship?

Latin is well adapted for the services of the Catholic Church, because it is both venerable and mysterious. It is venerable on account of its origin and its antiquity; it is the language in which the praises of God resounded from the lips of Christians during the first centuries. It is a sublime and solemn thought that the holy sacrifice is now offered in the same language, nay, with the very same words as it was offered in times long past in the obscurity of the Catacombs. There is also an element of mystery about the Latin tongue; it is a dead language, not understood by the people. The use of an unknown tongue conveys to the mind of the vulgar that something is going on upon the altar, which is past their comprehension, that a mystery is being enacted. In the first centuries of Christianity a curtain used to be drawn during the time from the Sanctus to the communion, to conceal the altar from the sight of the worshippers. This is now no longer done, but the use of an unknown tongue has something of the same effect, by inspiring the awe into the minds of the common people. It is a striking fact that Israelites and pagans made use, in the worship of the Deity, of a language with which the multitude were not conversant. The Israelites made use of the ancient Hebrew, the language of the patriarchs; we do not find Our Lord or the apostles censuring this practice. The Greek Church, both orthodox and schismatic, employs the old form of the Greek language for divine service, not that spoken at present. The same language is in use in the Russian (so-called orthodox) Church, not the vernacular, which is a Slavonic dialect.

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2.  Can Latin in the Liturgy help attain unity in the Church?

The use of Latin is a means of maintaining unity in the Church, as well as uniformity in her services. For the use of one and the same language in Catholic churches all over the surface of the globe, is a connecting link binding them to Rome, and making one nations which are separated by diversity of tongues. Latin, as the language of the Church, unites all nations, making them members of God's family, of Christ's kingdom. The altar on earth is a type of the heavenly Jerusalem where a great multitude of all peoples and tongues stand around the throne, praising God. Moreover, the use of Latin, the language of ancient Rome, is a constant reminder of our dependence on the Holy Roman Church; it recalls to our minds involuntarily the fact that thence, from the Mother Church, the first missionaries came who brought the faith to our shores.

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3.  Can Latin in the Liturgy help preserve the Catholic Faith against heresies?

The use of a dead language is a safeguard against many evils; it is not subject to change, but remains the same to all time. Languages in daily use undergo a continual process of change; words drop out, or their meaning is altered as years go on. If a living language were employed in divine worship heresies and errors would inevitably creep into the Church.

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