Saturday, November 11, 2006

Liturgical Latin

In the first period the liturgical language at Rome was Greek. Greek was spoken by the Roman Christians (as by those of all centres - Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, etc.) for at least the first two centuries. Clement of Rome writes in Greek; the earliest Catacomb inscriptions are Greek. There was no idea of a special liturgical language at that time; people said their prayers in the vulgar tongue. Latin was apparently first used by Christians in Africa. Pope Victor I (190-202), who was an African, is generally quoted as the Roman to use it. Novitian (c. 251) writes in Latin; since about the third century this become the usual and then the only language spoken by Christians at Rome. When it replaced Greek in the Church is disputed. Kattenbush dates it as the liturgical language from the second half of the third century, Watterich, Probst, and Rietschel think that Greek was used till the end of the fourth century. In any case the process was a gradual one. Both languages must have been used side by side during a fairly long period of transition. A certain Marius Victorinus Africanus, writing about 360 in Latin, still quotes a liturgical prayer in Greek. The Bible existed only in the Greek Septuagint for some time. The lessons were read in Greek at Rome, at any rate on some days, till the VIIIth century; some psalms were sung in Greek at the same time. Indeed we still have Greek fragments in the Mass. Amalarius of Meta (c. 857) and Pseudo-Alcuin still mention Greek forms. The creed at baptism may be said in either Greek or Latin, at the convert's discretion, according to the Gelasian Sacramentary.

But a change of language does not involve a change of rite; though it may be the occasion for modifications. Novatian's references to the liturgy in Latin agree very well with the Greek Apostolic Constitutions; the Africans (Tertullian, St. Cyprian, etc.) describe in Latin the same rite as the Greek Justin. It is quite possible merely to translate the same forms into another language, as the Byzantine rite has been translated into a great number without change. On the other hand, no doubt the genius of the Latin language eventually affected the Roman rite. Latin is naturally terse, austere compared with the rhetorical abundance of the Greek. It would be a natural tendency to Latin to curtail redundant phrases. And this terseness and austere simplicity are a noticeable mark of the Roman Mass. We shall see that some writers think that the change of language was the actual occasion at which the Canon was recast.

From The Mass by Adrian Fortesque, Chapter VII: The Origin of the Roman Rite, Section 3: Latin as the Liturgical Language (pages 126-128)


Anonymous Glory Glory Hallaluliah said...

Wow. Now this is some Catholic blog -- especially for a little kid claiming to be a priest! You go for it, sonny. You look almost as young as that Fr. Tucker from Dappled Things!

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Jenny C. said...

Wow, what a great picture! A priest and you don't look very old at all! You must be one of those savants. Even if you are not, you sure must be one of a kind. Atta boy. Keep up the good work.

6:22 PM  
Blogger rev fr lw gonzales said...

Did you notice the halo?

12:42 PM  

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