Monday, July 27, 2009

Emperor Hirohito And The Latin Mass
More of a connection than you may think

We've had the discussion many a time on this blog concerning languages. One of the points that I maintain is that when the Latin Mass was officially instituted by Pope St. Gregory the Great in the 500's, Latin was essentially dead.

Here's the sticking point many have... Latin was still in use then. How in the world can I legitimately say that "Latin was dead"? And to a certain degree, they got me. But only to a certain degree.

Classical (what we present day call 'Liturgical') Latin was no longer in use then, but instead, Vulgar (common) Latin was the language of the Empire. And there most certainly was/is a difference between the Classical and the Vulgar.

Just like when Emperor Hirohito broadcasted to the Japanese people the surrender of 1945. Besides the shock of hearing the voice of 'god' over their radio, the people simply didn't understand the type of Japanese the Emperor was speaking. They somewhat recognized a certain word here and there, and it was recognizable as a 'type' of Japanese. But for the most part, he could have been speaking Martian as far as the common folk were concerned.

And why was this? Because the Emperor was speaking in the archaic and very formal Japanese language used by the Imperial Court.

Just like the difference between Liturgical and Vulgar Latin.

Even present day, it's arguable that we have two different Russian languages, two different Italian languages, two different Spanish languages, etc. The formal and the informal... right?

But anyhow, the next time someone tells you that 'we need to worship in the ancient language', you might want to remind them exactly why Pope St. Gregory the Great instituted the Latin Mass in Liturgical Latin to begin with.

Oh, and if someone laughably states the Novus Ordo is "the ancient form of the Mass in English and Spanish", you might want to remind them that English and Spanish didn't even exist back then. And it's a safe bet that there were no clown costumes or bongos and banjoes used in the Mass back then.


Adeodatus49 has suggested that I have seriously confused Ecclesiastical (Liturgical) Latin and Classical Latin. After looking deeper into this, Adeodatus is right. I dropped the ball. And when I dug deeper, I also found that when The Mass of Gregory the Great was formulated way back when, Ecclesiastical Latin (even though similar to the vulgar) was no longer in use and essentially, a dead language (for lack of a better phrase).

The whole point I'm trying (and evidently, failing miserably) to get at here is what some priests and other scholars have said in the past -- Pope St Gregory the Great purposfully chose Ecclesiastical Latin for a reason, vice the common vulgar. And that reason (according to my sources) is because he knew that Ecclesiastical Latin was unchanging.

But in the meantime, Adeodatus pointed out an error. He's right. I'm wrong.


Blogger Baron Korf said...

Well Ecclesial Latin and Classical Latin are a little different in their pronunciation. My latin teacher in High School taught us classical, though he was schooled in ecclesial. The main difference at the beginner level is the pronunciation.


Ecc: Vey-nee Vee-dee Vee-chee
Clas: Wey-nee Wee-dee Wee-kee

Thank god we have our own pronunciation!

3:06 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

I believe it has a lot more to do that simple differences in pronounciation. Classical (Liturgical) Latin died out in the 2d century.

I'm sure you're familiar with The Passion of The Christ. I've read that more than a few scholars of Classical Latin had a tough time understanding what the Romans were speaking, due to it being the Vulgar Latin.

Just a thought.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

I don't know what you are using for the source of your information, Cavey, but Liturgical (i.e., Ecclesiastical) Latin and Classical Latin are not the same or even similar. Ecclesiastical Latin for the most part uses simpler constructions more typical of the Latin Vulgate, the language St. Jerome used in his translation of Holy Writ.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

You very well may be right. Let me dig (and ask my duty expert) some more.

I'll get back to you.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

Not quite so wrong, Cavey! Latin has a 2,500 year history (or longer) and has changed considerably even within the Roman Empire and its subsequent Medieval Age.

Yes, Latin even today is being changed. For example, not that long ago, I read somewhere on the internet that Rome has published or will publish a dictionary of Latin that will include words for modern things such as automobiles. And the official language of Church documents such as Papal Encyclicals is Latin. Same with the Novus Ordo Missae! What happens when the Pope wants to talk about modern philosophies (e.g., Modernism?) or psychology or . . . . and has to come up with Latin words for terms and concepts that did not exist way back when?

Also, Pope St. Pius X issued a revision of the Divine Office (the former term for Liturgy of the Hours) which had for its Latin text a literary quality approaching the Classical Latin. This of course caused a few problems with priests, other clerics, and religious who were not used to reading Classical Latin. I am not convinced that most priests even of by gone eras could read and comprehend Ecclesiastical Latin with the facility that they enjoyed with their own particular vernaculars. I had a chance to buy one of these breviaries about 20 years ago and passed on it. Big mistake!

I agree with Your Caveness that the Ecclesiastical Latin of the liturgy tended to fix the meaning of words and eventually grow distant from vulgar comprehension as the vulgar languages developed into the "degenerate" forms we now call the Romance languages.

Of course I mean "vulgar" in a non-pejorative connotation. Same with "degenerate."

One of my goals in my recent retirement is to take up once again an intensive study of the Vulgate, if only to protect myself from ICEL-isms. I haven't started yet. I have a million excuses only a few of which are valid (new roof on the home and helping my college son with a quant course in the business school). What I really need is a Marine D.I. to kick me in the @$$ to get me going! LOL

May Latin, the former Pagan language, now turned into the sacred living language of the Church at Rome live and thrive until the end of the ages.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Yeah, I heard about the "updated dictionary" as well. Someone years ago tried to use that example to prove that Latin was indeed a "live" language. Some of the examples failed to make me believe that Latin was infact "evolving" --
The "New" Latin word for 'Soccer Goalie" is the Latin word "Gatekeeper". The "New" Latin word for 'Helicopter' are the Latin words "Rotating Wings", etc, etc. Call me an ol' stick in the mud, but I don't see that as "evolving" a languauge.

Anyhow, consider this your official kick in the ass!!! Someone with as much G-2 as you REALLY needs to jump in with both feet first into either that intensive study of the Vulgate you were speaking of, or starting your own blog.... or both!!

Anyone who could ever make ME admit that I've screwed up, has definitely got their head and ass wired together!!

4:54 AM  
Blogger Old Bob said...

Hi, all,

I'm not nearly nohow an expert Latinist, but I do have my old books from 1958, and still occasionally use Latin to try to figure out the meanings of late medieval documents such as Jeanne d'Arc's trial records. Anyhow, I have gotten a sense that there is classical Latin, say that of Caesar and Virgil; ecclesiastical Latin; the "vulgar" Latin of the time of St. Jerome (which I've been given to understand was the vernacular of his time); and the educated Latin of scholars that was used internationally as late as the seventeenth century. I would welcome further explanation. Thanks!

9:13 AM  
Blogger Old Bob said...

Hi again,

Further, as Fr. Z. points out, the Novus Ordo is in Latin, and as I understand him, the trouble is not with the Latin but with the lousy translations.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

Anyone who could ever make ME admit that I've screwed up, has definitely got their head and ass wired together!!

Actually most of what you stated was correct in my opinion. I gather your point, which I agree with, is that stability of meaning in a sacred language is a principle function of Liturgical Latin. We are worshiping God, after all, and hokey pokey forays of the "Hi Daddy" type are not appropriate for sacred liturgies.

The blog will have to wait until I remodel the house. It takes a lot of time & effort to come up with all the things you do, so I will have to put in a lot of homework doing so after I get some of these other commitments off my desk. But Latin is on its way as I speak. Prayers for perseverance please!

. . . and the educated Latin of scholars that was used internationally as late as the seventeenth century. I would welcome further explanation.

I recall reading from various sources over the past 30+ years that the Vulgate as spoken commonly in the Medieval Age declined as a lingua franca due to the rise of local vernaculars and the intellectuals' restoration of Classical Latin during the Renaissance. In England, through the early 20th Century, scholars were often educated in Latin and published their arcane works of scholarship in Latin. I don't think that this Latin was exactly Classical, but it wasn't exactly the Vulgate either, because it wasn't commonly spoken.

I agree with you about the "modernization" of Latin. I don't expect it to be resurrected as a common tongue. Nor should it be. I think it is enough to appreciate it in the liturgy and elsewhere in the Church and perhaps learn to pronounce it if only to "sing along" with the choir and participate in the open prayers during dialogue (Latin) masses. Again, I plan to study up on it if only to protect myself from ICEL-isms as I stated in a previous post.

Further, as Fr. Z. points out, the Novus Ordo is in Latin, and as I understand him, the trouble is not with the Latin but with the lousy translations.

I believe this is largely true. But there are also problems with the Collects (Prayers of the Faithful) even in Latin. Fr. Anthony Cekada, formerly SSPX but now unfortunately a sedevacantist, wrote a pamphlet published by Tan Books and Publishers on the problems with the prayers of the modern mass. He compared the original Collects in Latin of the modern mass with those of the TLM. The few old Collects that survived into the new mass were watered down significantly and most of the Collects in the new mass were fresh compositions and also watered down theologically compared with more robust collect. Fr. Cekada did not claim they were heretical.

What I find so ironic is that the Alternate Prayers of the Faithful in ICEL English are much better than the primary prayers. The alternates were original compositions of the ICEL done without authority from Rome! [give an inch and they will take a mile!]

I am not totally against vernacular in the liturgy--e.g., biblical readings, collects, etc.--but someone has to do something about the politics of translation. That said, I will never willingly give up the Mass of the Ages!

1:01 PM  

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