Monday, August 13, 2007

Tridentine Vernacular

Ad Orientem has posted an excerpt from Fr. Stanley Harakas on the confusion in both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches over the ancient liturgical tongues.
But there is a rub in all this for the Orthodox. Though we use many different languages in our worship, Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Romanian and other traditional languages, for many Orthodox these function just like Latin does for the Roman Catholics. It is the language, precisely because it is not understood, because it is exotic, and because of the lack of understanding, that carries for many people the sense of the holy, and not what actually is said and done in worship! Language becomes a barrier to true worship, that is, worship that invites the Orthodox Christian to say with St. Paul "I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also."
I still have yet to hear a traditionalist Catholic explain why V2 couldn't have simply vernacularized the Tridentine Mass. It eludes me how a Tridentine Mass in Douay-Rheims English could possibly be inferior in any way to the stripped-down Pauline Mass. I would disagree with Harakas's suggestion that the old, non-vernacular liturgical tongue possesses no spiritual value for the synaxis, but I would agree that too many traditionalists in the apostolic churches make a fetish out of the ancient languages. The real issue is whether the language we use in our liturgy connects and binds us to the fullness of the Faith in unity, and Latin achieves this probably better than all the rest, but the rationale gets flipped on its head when defense of Latin becomes its own proxy for doctrinal orthodoxy.