Q.What is the point of saying mass in Latin? It is a dead language.
A.Yes, Latin is a dead language and that is precisely why it is so useful. The meaning of the words do not change as they do in living languages. Because of this, what the Church teaches and prays remains constant and unchanging, just as it should. The essential doctrines of Christianity must not change, and the safest way to preserve them intact is to keep them in an unchangeable, “dead” language.
Latin is the liturgical language of the Catholic Church, just as Hebrew is the official litugical language still used in the Synagogue.
In the Latin Mass, that Pope Benedict, recently liberalized in his motu proprio (personal intitiative), Summorum Pontificum, when the Priest is speaking not to men, but to God in the name of men, during communal prayers and the liturgy of the Eucharist he will speak in the language of the Church-in Latin. When on the other, hand he speaks to the people, he will speak in the local language. The homily/sermon is never in Latin.
If the faithful do not know Latin they can use a missal that has both the English and the Latin translations side by side. I am very pleased. I have only been Catholic for eight years but I had a weird experience shortly after coming into the Church.
As a convert I was especially excited about the fact that the Catholic Church was THE ORIGINAL CHURCH founded by Jesus Christ Himself. This was evidenced to me by the unchanging aspect of Her doctrine, especially how the beliefs of the Church today could be found in the first centuries of the writings of the Church Fathers. I had also learned how the Latin Language had been instrumental in preserving the Faith because Latin was a DEAD LANGUAGE. In a class that was training catechists someone asked a question about Latin. I began to explain how useful the Latin was for the Church…when I was immediately cut off as soon as it became apparent that my comments were positive about Latin. The instructor countered what I said and pooh poohed any use for the Latin. I was dumbstruck. I did not get it because I did not know about the politics of Latin in the Church. Later, I found out that there are many who think the doctrines of the Catholic Church should change. Therefore, getting rid of Latin would make it much easier to change and shift the doctrines to conform with the Spirit of the Age.
So, this reaffirmation of the Latin will bind us ever closer to authentic Christian doctrine as taught by Jesus Christ.
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