Sunday 21 February 2016

The Glory and Power of Latin Liturgy

I believe that every person, man woman or child, can be at ease with the Latin parts of the Mass which pertain to them, such as the Confiteor, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster and Agnus Dei. By reciting these every Sunday at Mass (as required by Vatican II, in fact) with an accompanying English translation, they easily get to know what they are saying. They do not need to know Latin Grammar. They do not even need a word-for word translation; many of us happily sang Frère Jacque in primary school without knowing its translation, and at a recent Christmas Carol Concert by primary school children they sang one Carol with a different language for each verse: German, French, Spanish, Italian and English. No Latin of course -this was a Catholic school.

The New Liturgical Movement posted an article of great interest the other day by David Clayton. It was entitled ‘ The devil Hates Latin, says Exorcist’ (see here).  it is worth a read. Yesterday I came across a post by an anonymous Caremlite nun on the Usus Antiquior site entitled ‘Why Latin?’ (see here). I was struck by the simplicity of Sister’s words, and have already put them into the Bulletin. Sister begins by asking,

Question: “Does the Devil hate Latin?
 Answer: Yes.
Question: Why?
Answer: Because Latin is inherently divine? No, it’s a human tongue. Because it is intrinsically superior as a language?  Maybe not.  It is certainly beautiful in its unique way, and there are prayers, hymns and sequences that are only as effective as they are because of the succinct Latin drumbeat in which they are composed (e.g., Lauda Sion Salvatorem, Dies iræ, Victimæ paschali laudes, Corde natus ex parentis), to say nothing of the mind-opening secular works of Cicero, Ovid et al.

Here is the section I quoted and noted in the Bulletin:

I quoted: 'Satan hates Latin because Latin promotes unity, especially the unity of the Church, Christ’s mystical Body.  Unity among the members of His Body on earth, yes, but also unity of the past, the present and the future—in fact the whole Communion of Saints.  Disunity is what the Devil is all about: he divides, scatters and confuses.  His very title means just that (devil, diabolo, from the Greek dia ballein, “to throw apart”). As Screwtape might have taught, anything that serves the principle of unity, especially unity of faith, should be resisted, opposed, undermined..” 
I noted: Let us not resist, oppose or undermine Latin then,  it is for the sake of our unity in God that we should value, support and promote Latin, not side with the devil by opposing and resisting it.

Sister also says, “As members of secular society, we are willing to put tremendous effort into learning second languages, or requiring our children to learn them, and for the sake of mere commerce and recreation. But we are members of Christ’s Body first, and the unity for which He prayed does not exist where His members do not—because they cannot—worship together.”

I recommend readers to read sister’s post and to reflect upon its insights.

I am no Latin scholar. In fact, in our seminary in the 1980s/90's we went through six years of seminary without any training in Latin (contrary to the teaching of Vatican II in Optatam Totius and to the Code of Canon Law, Canon 249). In order to celebrate the Usus Antiquior I and Andrew McDowell, the ‘tie’ of this blog, attended a one year course in Latin basics so as to become at least ‘idoneous’. 

Sunday 14 February 2016

First Sunday of Lent

So, Lent has begun. As every year, I am reminding folk that Lent is not about bashing ourselves over the head for our sin; we ate not meant to damage ourselves. Rather, Lent it is about weeping and mourning, as Ash Wednesday reminded us; weeping and mourning for having offended God who loves us so much. When we hurt someone we love, such as our child, our parents, our brother or sister, we hurt for them, do we not? We make up to them by doing something nice for them; by actively showing our love. This is a good way of handling Lent: doing something beautiful for God, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say. Those beautiful things are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The first two relate directly to God, the third to our neighbour.

Our prayer is our way of speaking to God and listening to His response in our conscience; our heart. We cannot have a good relationship with those with whom we never converse, and this is as true of our relationship with God as it is true of our relationships with those around us.

Fasting is not about giving up sugar or our favourite TV show for Lent then going back to them when Lent is over; it is about changing who we are by our way of life; about getting rid of old bad habits and developing new, good habits. It is about giving up all those things that, even though they may be good in themselves (such as sporting events, time with family etc) can become distractions from our religious duties (how many of us choose to play in a sporting event than attend Sunday Mass?) getting our priorities right: putting God first, not the glories or comforts of the world: as Thursday reminded us, what gain is it to have won the whole world yet lost or ruined one’s very soul?

Almsgiving is the social aspect of doing something beautiful for God, and fixes our attention on the acts of corporal and spiritual mercy; it is about taking the time to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, visit the imprisoned, pray for the sinner, instruct the ignorant etc.

We will all fail as we struggle through Lent -and through life. We came into this world handicapped by sin; we came into it broken people, and we cannot expect the broken to work perfectly. This is where the need to have ‘broken hearts’ rather than bashed heads is important: Christ equates sin with sickness of soul, saying He has not come for the virtuous but for the sinner; the healthy have no need of a physician, it is the sick who need him. And we are sick. All of us are sick in sin to one degree or another; all of us need Christ. Lent is a time for refocusing on our relationship with Him. The devil may show us the comforts and glory of the world with its relativism and subjectivism. We have to be strong. We have to worship not the things of the world or follow passing political correctness; we have to put God before worldly glories, and adhere to the truth, which is Christ, because it is only the truth which sets us free.