QUESTION and ANSWER
Conducted by Fr. JOHN SYMON
Question—Please give an up-to-date account of the rules governing the language in which Mass is celebrated. Is it true that Mass. in Latin is forbidden? May Latin Mass still be said in the Tridentine form?
Answer—The easiest way to tackle these questions is to begin with the exceptional case, Masses celebrated in private without a congregation and with only a server present. Except for the scripture readings, the normal rule is that these Masses are supposed to be said in Latin throughout.
In the more usual case of Mass celebrated for a congregation there is no general rule and so the decision rests with the priest saying the Mass or with the rector of the church. Either Latin or the mother-tongue or a combination of both may be used and the matter must he decided according to the needs and wishes of the community for whom the Mass is celebrated. In most cases priest and people will probably decide in favour of English, but Latin Mass is certainly not forbidden.
It might be asked if there is any general obligation to retain Latin, and we can find some answer to this in article 54 of the Liturgy Constitution which says that steps should be taken so that the faithful may be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary (the unchanging prayers) of the Mass which belong to them. This sug
gests that, where Latin Dialogue Mass or congregationally sung Mass have been customary, there is a strong case for making an effort to ensure that people will not lose the art of saying or singing the Greek "Kyrie" and the Latin "Gloria," Creed, "Sanctus," Our Father and "Agnus Dei." There must be quite a few places where, even if the rest of the Mass including the Canon is now in English, these parts could be in Latin at least occasionally.
Of course, when people ask for Latin Mass, often they mean silent Mass and such a Mass is clean contrary both to the rubrics of the new Order of Mass and to article 50 of the Liturgy Constitution. On the other hand, if a congregation can be successfully trained to say or sing Mass in Latin according to the new Order, there is certainly no reason why they should not do so.
Another question involved in requests for Latin Mass is just how much of the Mass is to be in Latin? Not many people would expect a Latin homily and, as even at papal Masses for international gatherings the scripture readings and Prayer of the Faithful are often in one or other vernacular so that at least some people may be able to follow them, there is not much sense in having these parts of the Mass in Latin for an entirely English speaking congregation in our own country.
Having had a look at such
general rules as there are, we might look at the diocesan rules about the use of Latin. Over the last five years since the introduction of Mass in our mothertongue, most dioceses seem to have made some rule to ensure that at least some public Masses would be celebrated largely in Latin, but the introduction of the new Order of Mass is making it a little difficult to maintain these rules. The new Order means that some new Latin texts need to be learned and only the more zealous Latinists seem prepared to do this.
For those who wish to take part in Mass not merely in Latin but in the Tridentine form, I cannot offer much comfort. Once the local bishops have introduced the new Order, all Masses, whether in public or private, sung or said, in Latin or English, must be according to the new rite. The only general exception is in favour of those elderly and retired priests who celebrate without a congregation.
On the other hand, I think we can offer the traditionalists some comfort. We must not exaggerate the extent of the changes which the new Order requires. The Canon may be said aloud, but this is not of obligation and neither is it of obligation to say aloud the two new prayers for the dedication of the bread and wine at the part of the Mass which used to be called the Offertory.
Assuming therefore that on occasion the celebrant says all these prayers in a low voice and that he uses the First Eucharistic Prayer (the Roman Canon),' he may quite lawfully celebrate a public Mass in a form not notably different from what we have used over the last few years. Further, in the central prayer of the Mass, the Preface and Canon, the difference from the Mass of St. Pius V will be almost confined to a greater simplicity in gesture and a reduction. in the number of genuflections.
This is not to say that such a form of celebration is ideal for most situations. but equally there is no denying that within the new legislation it is quite permissible.
In most of Britain the new Order was introduced on February 15th and, while there was some delay in a few dioceses where books were not to hand and other preparations were needed, by Easter the new rite will be the only form of Mass in use, always with the single exception in favour of retired priests without a congregation.
The new Order is designed to meet a variety of situations. If some of the options it permits are employed, the traditionalists will certainly not be happy but equally, as I have just suggested, it allows other possibilities which do meet many of the understandable requests of conservativeminded Catholics.
The new Order is a development on what went before, not an all-consuming revolution. If student-congregations and their chaplains are pleased with the flexibility of the new Order, the traditionalists should not be displeased. The new laws have been prepared in an understanding manner and they are much less rigid than those to be found in the missal of St. Pius V.