Monday, 16 May 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 65.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

Q. Can you explain to me, by some example, how a person may devoutly and profitably assist at this sacrifice, though he be ignorant of the prayers which the priest is saying?

A. Yes, we can ; for what do you think, if you, or any good Christian, had been present upon Mount Calvary, when Christ was offering himself upon the cross, a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; would not the very sight of what was doing (provided that you had the same faith in Christ as you now have), have sufficed to excite in your soul most lively acts of the love of God, thanksgiving for so great a mercy, detestation for your sins, etc., though you could neither hear any word from the mouth of Christ your high priest, nor know in particular what passed in his soul? Just so in the mass, which is the same sacrifice as that which Christ offered upon the cross, because both the priest and the victim are the same. It is abundantly sufficient for the people's devotion, to be well instructed in what is then doing, and to excite in their souls suitable acts of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, repentance, etc., though they understand not the particular prayers used by the priest at that time. Besides, it is not necessary for the devout and profitable concurring in sacrifice offered to God, that the people should hear or recite the same prayers with the priest; nay, even the very seeing of him is more than what God was pleased to require in the old law. Hence we find, that the whole multitude of the people were praying without, when Zachary went into the temple to burn incense. St. Luke i. 10. And it was expressly ordered that there should be no man in the tabernacle or temple, when the high priest went with the blood of the victims into the sanctuary, to make atonement. Leviticus xvi. 17.

Q. But does not St. Paul condemn the use of unknown tongues in the liturgy of the Church? 1 Corinthians xiv.

A. Whoever will but read that whole chapter with attention, will easily see, that St. Paul speaks not a word of the liturgy of the Church, but only reprehends the abuse of the gift of tongues, which some among the Corinthians were guilty of, who out of ostentation affected to make exhortations or extempore prayers in their assemblies, in languages utterly unknown, which, for want of an interpreter, could be of no edification to the rest of the faithful. But this is far from being the practice of the Catholic Church, where all exhortations, sermons and such like instructions, are made in the vulgar language, where there is no want of interpreters, since the people have the Church offices interpreted in their ordinary prayer books ; and the pastors are commanded to explain often to them, particularly upon Sundays and holy-days, the mysteries contained in the mass. Besides, after all, though the Latin be a dead language, yet, in the sense of St. Paul, it cannot be called an unknown tongue, since there is no language in Europe more universally understood, there being scarce a village without somebody who understands it.

Q. But why does the Church celebrate the mass in Latin, rather than in the vulgar language ?

A. First, because it is her ancient language, used in all her sacred offices, even from the Apostles' days, throughout all the western parts of the world, and therefore the Church, who hates novelty, desires to celebrate her liturgy in the same language as the saints have done for so many ages. Secondly, for a greater uniformity in the public worship; that so a Catholic, in whatsoever country he chances to be, may still find the liturgy performed in the same manner, and in the same language, to which he is accustomed at home. Thirdly, to avoid the changes to which all vulgar languages, as we find by experience, are daily exposed. Nor is this method peculiar to the Catholic Church alone: for all the oriental -schismatics, how different soever, use, in their liturgies, their ancient languages, which have long since ceased to be understood by the people; as we learn from Monsieur Renaudot, in his Dissertation upon the Oriental Liturgies, chap. vi. The Greeks say mass in the old Greek, of which the common people (as Mr. Brerewood, in his Inquiries, says) understand little or nothing. C. ii. p. 12. The Ethiopians and Armenians say mass in the old Ethiopian and Armenian tongue, which none but the learned understand. The Syrians, Indians, and Egyptians, say mass in Syriac, though Arabic is their vulgar language. The Muscovites say mass in Greek, though it is not the language of the people, who speak nothing but a kind of Sclavonian. So that those who declaim so violently against the Roman Catholic Church, for not having the public service in the vulgar tongues, have the universal practice of Christendom against them. And what is very remarkable, is, that the Protestants have furnished us with an excellent argument against themselves, for having the divine service celebrated in such a language as the people do not understand: for we read, in Dr. Heylin's History of the Reformation, p. 128, etc., that, in Queen Elizabeth's time, "The Irish Parliament passed an act for the uniformity of common prayer; with permission of saying the same in Latin, where the minister had not the knowledge of the English tongue. But for translating it into Irish, there was no care taken. The people are required by that statute, under severe penalties, to frequent their churches, and to be present at the reading the English liturgy, which they understood no more of than they do of the mass."