Sunday 18th February 2018

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The Sacred Liturgy . . . The Liturgy Of The Church Militant

October 15, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA

Part 3

Have you, Wanderer reader, even attended Mass in one of the Eastern Rites of the Church? If you haven’t, look online for a parish of the Byzantine Rite to see how beautiful the worship of God can be among our Eastern Rite brethren. Just make sure it is Catholic, and not Orthodox, because both of their liturgies seem very similar to people who are not aware of the differences.
I for one used to frequent the Catholic Ukrainian Rite in Australia, for nearly nine years, and became involved in the sacredness of the Catholic East, which is virtually unknown to most Americans of the Latin Rite.
In the United States, we are used to the Roman, or Latin, Rite, which is the largest in the world, and some of us may think that this is the only one. But you may be surprised to know that there are 22 approved rites in the Church, different ways to celebrate Mass and the sacraments, and all of them are at least 500 years old. They are not the product of some brainy liturgist in a parish committee.
The Byzantine Rite has several forms, like the Ukrainian of Ukraine and the Melkite of Lebanon and the Russian. Then you have the Armenian, the Egyptian Coptic, the Malabar and the Malankara of India, the Syrian, the Ethiopian, the Maronite, the Chaldean, and even within the Roman Latin Rite there are variations, like the Franciscan, the Dominican, the Mozarabic of Toledo, and the Ambrosian of Milan.
If you look up online the list of liturgical rites in the Church, you will be impressed by this other aspect of Catholicism: the beauty of unity in dogma and of variety in liturgy. And the languages vary, too.
Since the sixth century, the Byzantine Greek liturgy has been conducted in Byzantine Greek and the Byzantine Russian liturgy has been conducted in Old (Church) Slavonic. The Egyptian Coptic use the ancient Coptic language, and the Armenians use the ancient Armenian language, and so on.
You may ask: Why did the Church preserve the use of ancient tongues which are no longer in use? If people do not speak those languages, what is the point in having them? Shouldn’t we worship God in a language the people understand?
The use of ancient languages in liturgy springs from a desire to preserve ancient prayers in their original form. This helps maintain a universal, timeless, and transcendent ritual that joins people to their ancestors in the faith.
In our case in the Roman Rite, the Latin language used to be the same in all countries. You could go to Germany, Argentina, Senegal, or Vietnam and fully participate in the liturgy of the Mass with the local Catholics. Your missal provided the translation for you. That prevented crazy liturgists from tampering with the liturgy and including their individual opinions about enculturation and all sorts of nonsensical manipulations as we see today.
You see, an ancient tongue expresses the inherently “traditional” (i.e., handed-on) nature of the sacred liturgy; it is redolent of the early Church atmosphere and commands the respect and adherence of the faithful — unlike the vernacular translations, which have become an incessant source of division.
I have spent years working as a translator, and know by my own experience that we translators never agree among ourselves about the choice of words to use. People say that if you have two translators, you will have three versions of the text, because one is bound to change his mind about the words to use.
Today there are many versions of the Church liturgy, especially in the various English-speaking countries, to mention only those. And there is confusion, naturally.
When Pope Benedict XVI in his apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum gave permission to all priests of the Latin Rite to celebrate the Mass and the sacraments according to the Traditional Rite, immediately the celebration of the Latin Mass proliferated.
You may ask whether, since the decision to abolish Latin in the liturgy of the Mass was made by Vatican II, Pope Benedict XVI mistaken in authorizing its return to use in the liturgy.
If anyone has suggested this to you, they are wrong and sorely misinformed. The fact is that the fathers of the Second Vatican Council decreed: “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin Rites.”
As you see, Vatican II did not abolish Latin. The council fathers merely made it easier to use the local language, the vernacular, in some prayers and chants:
“But since the use of the vernacular language, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or in other parts of the liturgy, can frequently prove very profitable to the people, a wider place may be given to it, especially in readings, directives, and in some prayers and chants.”
Then they concluded: “Nevertheless, care must be taken to ensure that Christ’s faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”

The Church Triumphant

Now we can see why so many parishes around the United States are making good use of the council’s directive and Pope Benedict’s encouragement, and restoring more and more the Latin and the Traditional liturgy, especially among young people.
It is unfortunate that in a great many dioceses today the priests do not celebrate the Traditional liturgy, even when the people ask for it, because they fear reprisals from their bishops, who prefer to impose their own preferences over and above the Pope’s authority. But I digress.
But it is not only bishops who dislike the return of the Traditional Latin liturgy. In one of his improvised, off-the cuff comments, the Holy Father suggested that the young Catholics who rejoice in the Traditional Rite are too “rigid.” He and other Church authorities may have forgotten that the Mass is the unbloody renewal of the sacrifice of the cross, and the cross of Christ was also rigid. But I digress again.
To rediscover the sense of the sacred in Catholic liturgy today is a must. Hence, the attitude of devout lay Catholics, who attend Mass only in parishes where sacredness in liturgy is maintained, is to be encouraged and supported.
It is unfortunate that many liturgists, lay and clerical, have forgotten — to put it mildly — that the liturgy of the Church Militant here on Earth must reflect the liturgy of the Church Triumphant in Heaven. After all, there is no Church liturgy in Purgatory, and there is no Church at all in Hell.

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(Raymond de Souza is available to speak at Catholic events anywhere in the free world in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Please email Sacred HeartMedia@Outlook.com or visit www.RaymonddeSouza.com or phone 507-450-4196 in the United States.)

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