The Latin Mass is back in the news. On Friday, the Church released the long awaited instruction on the Latin Mass following the ground-breaking issuance of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.
There are many fine analyses of the instruction (here and here for instance.) The document takes a few minutes to read and many more minutes to digest, so if I may, let me provide the Reader’s Digest Version.
Pope to Church: You know how I wrote in Summorum Pontificum four years ago that priests who want to say the Traditional Latin Mass - -can? And you know how I wrote that a group who wants it can request it and that that request should be granted if all possible? And you know how I wrote that I want the two forms of the Latin Rite to stand side by side and mutually enrich one another? I really really meant it. And for those loophole-seeking bishops who didn’t get it the first time, I will now provide some legalese to close most of those loopholes. Peace out!
I am paraphrasing, of course. Now with that out of the way, I want to focus on a part of the instruction that will likely be overlooked or ignored by most. Actually, this part of the document was in Summorum Pontificum as well, but not much hay has been made of it. I want to make some hay. So let me quote from the instruction.
26. As foreseen by article 6 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in Low Masses, solely in the vernacular.
I love the Traditional Latin Mass and attend it as frequently as I can and have been attending it long before Summorum Pontificum danced with sugar plums in the dreams of many a traditionalist. When Summorum Pontificum was released, I had a blog entirely dedicated to its implementation. I say this all as some weak way of establishing my bona fides as a traditional sorta guy and I am no fan of tinkering with liturgy for the sake of tinkering.
So with all that said and understanding that I may lose my good standing in the “wild-eyed traditionalist club,” I like the idea of the readings in the vernacular only for Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. (Even if just low Masses.)
I like this idea for two principle reasons. First, I want as many people as possible to love this Mass as I love it, which is for reasons much greater than language. Intuitively, I believe that the incorporation of vernacular-only readings is a small and legitimate way to ease the process of learning this Mass for those interested in it and maybe even attracting those who otherwise would be wary. “Don’t worry,” you could say. “It’s easy to follow along, the readings are even in English.”
Second, and I know this will come as a shocker, it is what Vatican II called for us to do. Article 36 of SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM said this.
36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.
I, like many others who rightfully decry the wholesale abandonment of Latin after the Council, am very fond of quoting #1 for obvious reasons. The second part, however, gets short shrift.
I think that the use of the vernacular for some of the variable parts of the Mass was a good idea then and a good idea now. As the Pope has made clear, having the readings in the vernacular is just fine and dandy.
As a traditionalist-minded fellow, I have battled the labeling that often associated with me and my friends. One of the knocks on us is that we not only reject the formulation of new Mass as inorganic break with Tradition, but that we also (in our hearts) reject organic development of the liturgy, as well. I think that embracing what the Council and the Pope have had to say on this subject proves that this is not the case.
Let’s do what the Council said and employ a little of the vernacular as a great advantage to the people. Latin was unfairly tossed into the dustbin forty years ago by those who ignored the Council to press their own agenda. Now that the Mass of the ages has been returned to us by a very good Pope, we shouldn’t make the same mistake with the vernacular. Let them be mutually enriching, so to speak.
Now, as for which translation we use, let me just say…