There were many talks about the usefulness of Latin language in the catholic liturgy in recent years. I don’t think being a fanatic of Latin has any use, but disregard this glorious language can be certainly dangerous. I have five reasons to affirm this. Here they are:
- Latin is universal, not particular. Latin unites and not divides. When I meet a Chinese or Indian that is my brother in the same faith, we can pray together singing in a language that is above our own particular languages. That language is Latin. Yes, Jesus indeed did not speak Latin, but did not speak Italian, English or Spanish too.
- Latin is synthetic, not verbose. Latin carves concepts with a clarity that often is lost in translations.
- Latin is elegant, not sloppy. The musicality, austerity and beauty of the language are in itself a sign of “noble simplicity”.
- Latin is a safe, not a key. We have humiliated the understanding in the liturgy just at the verbal level, so some people disregard Latin because does not allow comprehension. But comprehension means to include, not to exclude. And modern thinkers are just happy with the pretension of having people understand the sense of the words. But indeed, in this way, a huge part of elements that go in the comprehension process are lost (gestures, sounds, perfumes, traditions, archetypes and so on). Many of these things are attached to words in Latin because of a long tradition. We cannot reduce comprehension to the understanding of words. Liturgy is a total experience. Latin is the safe of many other things (that just a simple meaning) coming out from a long historical process; up to us finding the key.
- Latin is a mother, not a foreigner. Latin (and Greek) are at the root of western civilization. Catholic Church was one of the main forces in the development of western civilization (in which was “daughter of his son” as Dante would say) and the spreading of the gospel happened thanks to missionaries that were part of western world. There are some values in western civilization that are eternal, and grow up in this common historical path with the catholic faith. You cannot separate them from the western origin just to make the faith look exotic, because in that case catholic faith will be no more catholic. If we use something good coming from another culture we are not calling this “colonialism”. We are able to include what is good in other civilizations. If other civilizations are accusing us of “colonialism” because of Latin or other western treasures, it means we need to be even more proud about the open mind we have thanks to our Fathers and never give up on our own roots and values. We are not helping people in needs becoming like them.
SELECTED BOOKS (IN ENGLISH) BY AURELIO PORFIRI ON AMAZON.COM
Please click on the book cover
I would like to meet a Saint: a Spiritual Diary
Canticum Novum: On Liturgy and Sacred Music
Writing on Water: Letter to a Chinese parent on music and education