May the Lord give you peace!
Happy New Year! Yes, the new church year has begun. We refer to the church year as the liturgical year as compared to the calendar year which begin on January 1st. The First Sunday of Advent begins the liturgical year, that is today!
The Advent season is a sacred time to grow in our friendship with Jesus. The Advent liturgies and devotions invite us more intimately into eternal life of God who became man. This Advent at the Church of the Magdalen we will also incorporate some valued options into our worship at Mass. The most prominent addition is the inclusion of some traditional Latin acclamations and prayers. We will sing together certain response during the Eucharistic prayer in the traditional Gregorian Latin chant. These chants will include the Holy, Holy, Holy; Mystery of Faith and Lamb of God. In Latin: the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus; Mysterium Fidei and Agnus Dei.
I would like to take this opportunity to explain some of the rationale behind including the various Mass parts in Latin—on a side note Bishop McKnight incorporated these traditional chants shortly before I arrived on the scene last February, 2018.
Catholic liturgical worship started being celebrated in Latin around the third and fourth century (the earliest liturgies were celebrated in Greek). Since then the lingua franca of the Roman Catholic Church has been Latin up to modern times. Up until recently all priests even took their theology and philosophy courses in Latin.
The broad use of Latin within the Roman Catholic Church was somewhat diminished in light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The Council introduced and promoted greater use of the vernacular into worship. It was in view of the Council that parishes began worshiping in English along with the priest facing the people during the Eucharistic prayer. Nonetheless, the Council actually declared that the vernacular, e.g., English, should be used only as an exception. The relevant passage comes for the Council’s dogmatic constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 36, Paragraph 1: “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite, except where a particular law might indicate otherwise.” The Council’s watershed document on the liturgy continues in paragraph 54 that in Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue ... Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them."
The tradition over the past forty years has somewhat reversed the direction decreed in the Council’s document on the liturgy. Our experience has been to incorporate Latin in the liturgy as an exception and to establish English as the norm. In many ways, the broad interpretation of the conciliar norm to allow for the use of the vernacular has introduced many benefits to the celebration of the Mass. A major benefit is the ease of worshipping in our native English language.
On the other hand, one major drawback to exclusive use of the vernacular within the Mass has resulted in the near complete disuse of Latin. Our effort to include some Latin prayers and acclamations into the Mass is not to return to some ideal time in the past; rather, it is to grow in continuity with the Church’s rich tradition. The inclusion of several Latin responses is one way that we carry out the stewardship of Tradition. In other words, we pass on and stay connected to how God has worked in the past, not at the expense of what God is doing now or will do in the future, but in order to stay in continuity with a Tradition that is alive and informing the present and future.
A new Mass worship aid with the relevant Latin Mass response will be available in the pews. We will also make available a lexicon of the various Latin responses for those of you who want to know exactly what you are in saying through your chanting.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God),
Fr. John F. Jirak, Pastor