"What the Hell is going on!"

Restore Latin to the Mass

By Graham Glover -

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It’s been roughly 500 years since Martin Luther introduced the language of the people to the Mass – the Divine Liturgy of the Church. 500 years since the historic language of the Western Church was purged from the worship of God’s people. As a student of history, I understand why Luther thought this was necessary. Indeed, there is goodness in hearing and understanding the Liturgy in one’s native tongue. But Luther’s experiment with language should end. It’s time to restore Latin to the Mass of the Western Church. It’s time to reintroduce the language of the Church to her people.

For those bristling at such a suggestion, I offer the following observations:

1)    The Lutheran Reformers did not seek to abolish the Mass. Our confessions, contained in the Book of Concord, make this abundantly clear. These are the same confessions that every ordained Lutheran pastor swear to uphold and affirm. In other words, the Lutheran Church is a Liturgical Church and our worship is properly called the Mass.

2)    Concerning matters of the faith, there was widespread ignorance among laity AND clergy during the time of the Reformation (Cf. Luther penning his Small and Large Catechisms). This, coupled with a literacy rate of ~20% (which radically changed with the introduction of the printing press), meant that the vast majority of those attending Mass had little knowledge of what was being said (by priest or people). Again, it’s no wonder Luther thought the vernacular was important.

3)    While the Lutheran Church affirms sola scriptura, it does not reject Tradition or the importance of ritual. Catholicity is not adiaphara (optional/indifferent), especially with respect to worship. And nothing affirms our catholicity like the Mass. It is, I believe, THE defining characteristic of what Lutherans confess.

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But why ditch the vernacular in our worship and relearn – reintroduce – and re-embrace Latin in the Mass? What possible benefits can come from such a change? I’m glad you’re curious…

1)    Despite that the fact that the Lutheran Confessions affirm the Mass, many Lutheran churches today reject it altogether and embrace a worship style that is more akin to what one would find in a non-denominational church. Lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief) is absolutely true and those who reject the Mass or think they should arrogantly rewrite it based on what they think their congregation wants/needs, I believe, reject the very substance of Lutheranism. Can you imagine a contemporary Latin Mass? Neither can I. They are mutually exclusive, which is why the use of Latin in our Mass will help restore our catholicity in matters of worship, and affirm what our Confessions already do.

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2)    Our clergy and our people are very educated on matters of faith these days, much more than those prior to the Reformation. The Holy Scriptures, the Book of Concord, the writings of the church fathers, etc., are almost all in our native tongue. But with the expulsion of Latin, there is no longer a common language of the Church catholic. I know, very few clergy and even less laymen know Latin. But what a powerful educational tool the Church could be if it took it upon herself to educate her people in this language. As we relearn this language, some of our hymns, the assigned readings, and the sermon, could remain in the vernacular, along with a translation of the Latin in the hymnal or worship folder. But once again Christians could have a language that unites every congregation around the world – regardless of time or location.

3)    Finally, re-embracing Latin in our Mass will further solidify the Lutheran Church as a communion that embraces the catholicity of the Christian faith. This embrace, I believe, will allow us to refocus our efforts on ending our schism with Rome. Sadly, most Lutherans have no desire for reconciliation with those in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome. However, this runs contrary to the intent of the Reformation and to the spirit of the Augsburg Confession. But how can our communions be reunited if our worship is so radically different? Let’s embrace the language from whence we came and in it, find a new platform for dialogue and reconciliation.

It’s time. For the sake of the church and our faith – restore Latin to the Mass.

Soli Deo Gloria

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44 Responses to “Restore Latin to the Mass”

  1. Lisa Wagner

    I very much agree with your sentiment, however I think the actual task of learning the Latin vernacular would be daunting on an already overwhelmed laity. As I consider why I agree your idea, it largely appels to a post-modern need for experience mainily a craving for mysticism. In other words I agree for all the wrong reasons. These are mainly the same reasons I hate happy hippy CoWo.
    Worship in what ever language needs to clearly give Christ. The historic litergy is fully capable of this in whatever langauge it is spoken and sung.
    I remember as a Sr. in High School I attend the Easter Service at Notre Dame, I was able to understand a lot of what was going on being raised on the litergy and I had struggled trough Latin class. The service was beautiful to say the least. However at the end of it all I was disappointed with it. Years later I think the problem was that I couldn’t clearly hear and comprehend Christ crucified for me.
    I do however support the fact that we need to teach the lauangue of the faith more effectively, but that can be done in English or whichever lauangue is spoken by the people of a congregation, so that they can more fully hear and know the depths of God’s abundant mercy.

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    • Graham Glover

      Lisa, I agree: the faith should be communicated in the faith of the people. I’m fully supportive of English Bibles, English hymns, lessons, sermons, Bible Studies, etc. But the Mass is the one common thing all Christians do every week, so why not have a common language? Will it be easy, absolutely not. But I don’t think it’s impossible (even if highly unlikely).

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    • Sharon

      Lisa, The Latin in the Mass is very important in as much as it is a dead language and cannot be changed. Change causes problems and Our Lord never changes. God is not changeable nor is the Mass. That is why we want the Mass to stay in Latin. God Bless you.

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      • gggggg

        Which is why a lutheren mass is not a mass. Only catholics have the true mass. God doesnt change and no the catholic priest , martin luther, was just a herectic.

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  2. Michael Siefert

    I would welcome restoration of Latin to the Mass, and also for the same reasons Graham cites. I also appreciate Lisa’s concern of “overwhelming” the laity. One way to bridge this difficulty is to take it in small bites, not one gulp. E.g., start with the Introit and Gradual chanted by choir or cantor in Latin, with English translation for laity to follow along. Later, add laity chanting the Lord’s Prayer in Latin, (which they know in English without translation) then add the Kyrie, then the Gloria, etc., etc.

    Elders’ meetings at my own church have been too quiet lately: I think I’ll bring Latin Mass up at the next meeting. The last thing we want is luke-warm complacency in our worship.

    While we’re at it, we could start a congregational study on Augsburg Confession, using the Latin text as a tool to learn Latin.
    Pax,
    Michael Siefert

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    • Graham Glover

      Michael, completely on board with the “baby steps” approach. Honestly, if something like this ever has a chance of becoming reality, this is how it would need to happen.

      As for your Board of Elders…don’t blame me for the blank stares that I’m sure will await you!

      Love the idea of looking at the Augustana in the Latin!

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  3. yan

    Never gonna happen.
    ”Sadly, most Lutherans have no desire for reconciliation with those in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome. However, this runs contrary to the intent of the Reformation and to the spirit of the Augsburg confession.”
    I don’t know anything about the Augsburg confession; but my view of the historical trajectory of the Reformation precludes believing that the Reformation displays any genuine interest in fellowship with Rome qua Rome. The Reformation churches believe they are right and Rome is wrong; they want Rome to come around to their point of view. Rome believes similarly in regard to the Reformation churches. [This is not to say that their beliefs about each other are unworthy of detailed discussion and comparison. Au contraire.]
    The signing of the joint declaration on justification is and was a very non-Reformed act, in my view.

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    • Graham Glover

      Yan, I fully acknowledge this idea is a HUGE stretch within Lutheranism. But it seems that Roman Catholics are struggling with this idea too, so the suggestion is not unique to the reformers…

      You are correct, Lutherans and Roman Catholics both think they are right. But this doesn’t, or it least it shouldn’t, preclude us from seeking reconciliation with one another. I’m simply suggesting that a common Mass may be a step in the right direction.

      As for the JDDJ, not all Lutherans signed that document (the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, of which I am a pastor, to be one that did not). Moreover, I don’t think many in Rome put a lot of stock in it as a sign of agreement on the doctrine of justification.

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      • yan

        ‘Yan, I fully acknowledge this idea is a HUGE stretch within Lutheranism.’
        You concede my only point, if you mean ‘Lutheranism considered as a whole throughout history’, and not just ‘Lutheranism today’.
        Like you I’d love to have unity. Interesting thought that adding Latin to the ‘Lutheran mass’ [that phrase feels like an oxymoron] would help unity to happen. But I think that a consideration of the likely reaction of Lutherans to such a proposal is indicative of the location of the real obstacles to unity. I can’t even imagine what Garrison Keillor would say…:)
        Why do you say that ‘I don’t think many in Rome put a lot of stock in it [i.e. the JDDJ] as a sign of agreement on the doctrine of justification?’ Do you mean the hierarchy in Rome? Or do you mean the Catholic world generally? Or some other particular group? Do you think the statement is not really Catholic, or not really Lutheran?

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      • yan

        Come to think of it, not even Roman Catholics are all keen on having Latin in the mass. Some think its presence is positively injurious; or at least, that its use should be kept to an absolute minimum. Many Roman Catholics that want Latin in the mass go so far as to prefer the old Latin mass per se; and of these, many desire that mass for ideological reasons which the Roman Catholic Church is eager to suppress. Others look to the old rite as being an expression of a purity of theological truth which they believe has been adulterated or even abandoned since Vatican II. Speaking of that famous Council, it was in V-II that Roman Catholicism threw open the doors to ecumenical efforts and an approach to dialogue with other Christians and non-Christians which until then had been discouraged and even prohibited at certain times and places.
        Be careful what you wish for…
        That all being said….the use of Latin is attractive because it symbolizes the beauty of one, catholic church. It would be ironic if the use of Latin outside the Roman Catholic church was a factor in unifying Christians outside that communion with those within it….whereupon the former would find the use of Latin to be discouraged by those inside that communion…

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  4. Graham Glover

    Yan, why does the phrase Lutheran Mass sound like an oxymoron? From Article XXIV (The Mass) of the Augsburg Confession (which was presented 484 years ago this day), the very first confession of the reformers: “Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. The Mass is held among us and celebrated with the highest reverence…

    As for the JDDJ, the only ones truly excited about this are those associated with the Lutheran World Federation. These are the same “Lutherans” who are in fellowship with the Episcopal Church USA, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, etc. In other words, theological integrity is not of primary importance to them. As for Rome, I think the issue of justification does not hold the primacy that it does to Lutherans. This is why I think those within the Vatican were ok to sign the document. Justification does not make unity to a Roman Catholic. Submission to the Bishop of Rome does. The document is a solid step on the issue of justification, but it does not solve the differences that still remain.

    If Latin is what spurs the dialogue to unite us, then so be it. Using Latin in itself will not be THE thing that unites us. But perhaps it can be a step in the right direction?

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    • yan

      Interesting analysis of the JDDJ situation, thank you! I think that justification was a key Reformation issue though; so, I don’t think that the importance of the existence of a joint statement on justification can be quite so easily minimized, even if that statement is made together with ‘theological liberals.’
      Yes, ‘Lutheran mass’ still rings of oxymoronism to me. I have never heard the phrase used by a Lutheran to describe what they do on Sunday morning. What Lutheran at some meeting of various types-and-stripes of Protestants would have the temerity to describe his Sunday service to his fellow Protestants using the word ‘mass’? Would this not be beyond the pale? Would such a person be invited back next year?
      In regard to what you are doing here, let me say this: I think you are trying to bind Christians together using, analogically speaking, the discarded rags, once beautiful garments, of yesteryear, which all Western Christians once wore in unity. The rags are powerful signs only; they do not give effect to the unity they once symbolized. I appreciate your effort but I think it is in vain and misguided. The Roman Catholic Church is interested in Latin only because it connects it to its history, not to its future. The future has little need for Latin in the mass. However, I suppose that, to the extent that the use of Latin in a Protestant mass would be a reminder of that former unity, it may, on the surface, remove what to Protestants might be perceived as an obstacle to unity.
      You could also suggest that we bring Greek back to the mass. That language antedates the use of Latin and is therefore actually the more universal language of the universal church, looking at things historically. [Of course, Catholics keep a very small remnant of Greek in the mass when they say the penitential rite in Greek. I refer of course to the Kyrie.] So why do you not suggest we bring back Greek? Answer: because there does not exist the perception that Greek is the universal language of the Church, whereas, it really is! As I am sure you know, the New Testament is written in Greek. Liturgies were also no doubt in Greek originally. This shows that in your concern for re-latinizing the mass for the purpose of fostering Christian unity, you are primarily dealing in the manipulation of perceptions, and not dealing with reality.
      But hey, I wish you luck anyway. It would be cool, and to me, totally hilarious, and also a little profound, to hear Latin at a Lutheran ‘mass’ one day. [BTW, to Catholics, it would not be a real mass, regardless, since the institution of the eucharist would not be made by a priest in apostolic succession. But I think I would still sit in the back pew anyway just to hear it once.]

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    • Therese

      A Catholic would rightly think you have abolished the mass because you have rejected apostolic succession, therefore your service is not a true sacrifice of the mass with real transubstantiation occurring at the consecration. As the daughter of converted Lutherans (to Roman Catholicism) this is the cause of deep sadness.

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  5. Jonah

    Thanks for your article and topic! I agree with you! Pentecost saw the Apostles speaking with many tongues, so I would never rule out preaching in the vernacular of a people in order to bring Christ to them…He’s the Lord of Everything. Yet there is a symbolic power in being united in a language, too, offering our worship to God. When God allowed men to be divided from one another, the first thing that seemed to change was language (Babel). In His plan for our reunification in Him, I don’t think it’s an accident that the Church has a Universal language–and I do believe that it is powerful in not-merely-symbolic sense, to use a language of unity, of “obedience” in a way. We’re soldiers from every nation, but we march under one standard.

    I’m a Roman Catholic, born and raised–I can attest that there are healthy amounts of Catholics (especially young people and families) who are rediscovering Latin–and the interest in the Old Rite is mostly, in my experience, due to its reverent, solemn treatment of what is due the utmost reverence and solemnity–the Body of Christ, and our Communion with Him. It allows for personal participation at a spiritual level, as well as a vocal or physical level–in fact, it encourages this kind of participation implicitly and explicitly–that spiritual aspect of the Mass which is so remarkable in the Old Rite (and which Latin helps to highlight, without, perhaps, producing wholly by itself) is sometimes harder to discern in Mass when the language is commonplace and uninspired and the hymns are banal, and the atmosphere is condescending in a false or pathetic sense. Sometimes in those situations, it can be hard to find what true participation ought to be. Without good catechesis, would people understand what’s really happening? I think people are still confounded by the Mass–and I think many probably were during the old rite–but I think the mystery of what is taking place, and its objective significance, is easier to grasp with reverence in the old rite–in the new one, I find the structure pedagogically lacking. In either case, a priest who celebrates with reverence is a great, great help. Thank God for holy priests.

    If I occasionally find Roman Catholics disliking Latin and the Old Rite (and I do and I have, occasionally), commonly, it seems so far, to be due to an unnecessary association of Latin with old friends or priests who had a snobbish idolatry of old things, or else due to frustration at being poorly catechized about what the Mass is and always was, and what the words mean (whether in Latin or in English). Being confused (which can lead in time to being bored) is unpleasant. And not knowing the tongue or the language of symbolic posture and gesture of the Mass can be confusing, especially when we are an activist “doing” culture, and not a “being” culture, soaking in what is going on and entering into it. But I think it’s never too late to learn to ‘be’ and to ‘be’ actively, is a good mode of prayer. I would rather have people rediscover the Old Mass and see Mass for the first time with wonder (having to dive in and really study it) than have them limp along with an understandable language which makes them feel as if they grasp and participate in what is happening, while leaving it merely at a surface level, without that language ushering them into its full significance.

    Vernacularizing may make the Mass SEEM more accessible, but unless it initiates you into the full mystery of what is taking place, that’s only a placebo. Our worship is meaningful because of its connection with Christ–and all of our means should help to bring us to a better knowledge of Him, not obscure Him. That goes for any language, I think. But if Latin helps us know our Unity as Christ’s Body–if it helps us to worship with a holy vocabulary, and words set apart for God–if it enables us to better set apart a space and a time for living ‘in eternity’ for a moment–or even if it makes us realize the power of the spoken word to convey the glory of God–then it is a very good thing and ought to be embraced.

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    • Graham Glover

      Jonah, agree on all points. Wonderful words. Thanks for your contribution to the conversation!

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  6. Chris

    Why on earth would you follow Luther? Why? He sets the example for self obsession, narcissism and is full of himself. In that scripture is apart of tradition Luther failed to mention rather conveniently he interpreted it according to his own tastes passing it down to his followers setting up his own teaching seat in opposition to the Church, apostles and their successors. Luther set himself apart and against Christ and his Church because Luther’s way was the only way. He was a heretic, teacher of half truths and a self deceiver. German nationalism was the real catalyst and fuel. I can’t understand your point. Lutheran minsters are not validly ordained. You have no succession from the apostles and everything Lutheran’s are, is at odds with historic Christianity . f Luther’s methodology of self allows all the mutations you find deficient. Luther even had the self obsession to dare to rewrite the creed. Look how weak Lutheranism is when it comes to social fashion.

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  7. Nick

    The purpose of the church as a community of believers is to grow in our faith, to live lives worthy of our calling on Earth and to spread the message of the gospels to all peoples so that whosoever will may be saved.
    Jesus did not speak Latin so far as we know. He spoke the languages of the people. In this, the originator of our faith showed clearly what his followers should do. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the disciples didn’t all speak Latin, they spoke the languages of the world so that they might be effective in ministry.
    I do not object to efforts to increase the unity of the church. However, I would be concerned that this idea does more to serve the church as an institution than it does to exhort and encourage the church in fulfilling its fundamental purposes.

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    • Keith

      While our Lord, as you say, didn’t speak Latin, when He, as an observant Jew, went to temple the lanuage used was not the vernacular. Worship using the sacred language(s) and evangelize (outside of Mass) in the vernacular. Besides, in this day and age, we have what is called a Latin/English hand missal for those who wish to try and understand every blessed word of the liturgy. I am Roman Catholic and serve the liturgy in both forms of the Roman Rite (old and new) and since I’ve (re)discovered the traditional Mass and language I find the vernacular to be a barrier to entering more deeply into the heavenly mysteries. Also….as a side note…having the priest facing me has become quite unsettling. The traditional direction of prayer is to the east (orient), either literal east or liturgical east. There are plenty books/resources to help us all understand these things more deeply and we ought to avail ourlelves of them. There is a difference between a proper God-centered liturgy and a man-centered one. I pray for the full corporate reunion of all Christians who are separated from communion with the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Ut Unum Sint!
      Pax Christi,
      Keith

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  8. Ken Purdieliberanos

    I had no idea Luterans called ther Liturgy “Mass”. I would love if my own Church restored the 1962 Missal more widely. This is happening very slowly, and being opposed by many Bishops every step of the way.

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  9. Kelso

    I am astonished. You obviously have not read the screeds of Luther against the Mass. He spoke out of both sides of his vulgar mouth. Let me just quote Luther from his Letter Concerning His Book On The Private Mass: (My source is a Lutheran theologian, Daniel Preus, a contributing editor for Logia. Formerly director of the Concordia Historical Institute, he is First Vice President of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod)

    I am not contending against the sacrament, but against the mass, and would like to separate the sacrament from the mass so that the mass might perish and the sacrament alone, without the mass, might be preserved in its honor and according to the ordinance of our dear Lord Jesus Christ.34
    In 1537, when Luther’s Smalcald Articles appeared, he continued to view sacrament and mass as inimical to each other. Mass and sacrament are so opposed to each other that Luther dealt with them under two different headings. Furthermore, when speaking of the Lord’s Supper in the article on the mass, he used the word “sacrament”; the word “mass:’ on the other band, means sacrifice (SA ii ii). Nor was Luther referring alone to the private masses in his condemnation of the mass, although it is clear that because of their proliferation, they come in for a great deal of criticism. His remarks introducing the article on the mass indicate that his major concern was with the mass as sacrifice. The mass is considered the “greatest and most horrible abomination” not because it is done in private, but because it runs “into direct and violent conflict with this fundamental article [of justification].” The mass is a papal idolatry because it is considered a sacrifice that delivers from sin, whereas only the Lamb of God can do this. Therefore it is an abomination whenever a mass takes place, be it public or private. It is little wonder then that Luther concluded, “The Mass is unnecessary and so it can be omitted without danger” (SA ii ii, 3). In fact, he wrote, “Let the people be told openly that the Mass, as trumpery can be omitted without sin, that no one will be damned for not observing it, and that one can be saved in a better way without the Mass” (SA ii ii, 5; Tappert, 293). The better way to which Luther refers is that sacrament which has been instituted by Christ; the Lord’s Supper.

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    • Therese

      You have just spelled out Luther’s heresies. If you were to go back and read the church fathers(Justin, martyr for example) or read Paul on bringing condemnation to oneself who receives the body of Christ up worthily, you might discern Luther’s error.

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  10. Ken Purdie

    I am amazed the Lutheran Church call their worship Mass. I would love the wider use of the Latin Mass in the Catholic Church. Very slow progress, but better than it was.

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  11. Daniel

    You know Luther never “purged” Latin, right? First of all, Confessionally speaking, Augustana XXIV only says “the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns.” Latin was assumed. Luther put the Mass in vernacular, the Deutsch Messe, but he intended it to be used side-by-side with the Formula Missae. While the German Mass became normative in the average country parish (and rightly so, I believe), the larger parishes retained Latin right up until Pietism nearly destroyed us. This was centuries after the Reformation.
    All that to say…the true Lutheran Church never got rid of Latin. We just recognize that Latin serves no purpose when the people can’t understand it, so we intersperse it with the vernacular – the language which, mind you, our Eastern brethren demonstrate should retain some pride of place in Liturgical celebrations.

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    • Graham Glover

      Daniel, great clarifications. Thank you. I hope your post further illustrate the points I was trying to make about the reformers original intent.

      Ah yes, Pietism…what more needs to be said…

      Look, I know what I am suggesting has a 0.01% (if that!) chance of happening. I also recognize the goodness in the vernacular. It’s good to know that the people can read and understand the Liturgy. But I am exhausted with so many Lutherans ignoring/discarding the Liturgy. The Mass is what unites us each and every week and yet many Lutheran congregations could hardly be recognized as Lutheran. My call for Latin is simply a different attempt at finding a common ground with our communion and then, perhaps, as a new tool in dialogue with our friends from Rome.

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  12. Gail F

    Very interesting. As a Catholic, I would love a return to Latin or at least a very wide use of Latin along with the vernacular. Will it happen? I’ve no idea. But as a practical matter it is not the huge obstacle people are making it out to be. Jews worship in Hebrew, Orthodox in Greek or Russian, Muslims in Arabic, etc. It is not impossible to do– they do it. Nearly all educated Western people once studied Latin AND Greek, and not all that long ago. They could again. I realize that some of the people I mentioned above do not have a real working/speaking knowledge of the languages I mentioned, but on the other hand many do. The congregation of the Greek Orthodox church near me worships and reads the Bible in Greek. It’s just normal for them. There’s no reason that Latin couldn’t be equally normal if people wanted it to be.

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  13. Denise Beaudoin

    I have two old missals with Latin. Living in the country, the closest churches only have masses with vernacular language, but I still follow these with the old rite, and answer in latin. I also learned my prayers in latin as well as some psalms. My knowledge of Latin is increasing every day, and I am certain that anybody can do it, as most people did in the old days. We are certainly not less able to learn the necessary Latin used at masses than people in the previous centuries? it is not a matter of speaking and reading Latin fluently but just be able to follow the mass and answer if one wish to, in Latin.

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  14. Carol L

    From a Catholic who grew up with the Latin Mass in an English speaking world, we learned the language of the prayers “bit by bit”. It really wasn’t as difficult as so many people today seem to think. As well, the translation in the missal actually helped so much to learn the words that by the time I was in high school (where Latin was mandatory) it was easy to “ace” the course. But celebrating the worship of God is an ethereal moment, and there is something more ethereal about stepping away from the vulgar (as in “common”) language and up to a higher level while reaching toward communion with the Perfect Sacrifice on Calvary.
    While I love both language celebrations, my one preference is for what we call the “Ordinary Form”, which provides a wealth of Scripture readings absent in the “Extraordinary” — and in the vernacular, which allows them to be understood, meditated on and embraced.
    Although reverence doesn’t necessarily accompany language, and while I attend very reverent English Mass celebrations, there really is something extraordinary about the Latin that calls us to a more reverent mindset during the liturgy. Something that reminds us that this is a “kairos” moment that belongs eternally to God. And I certainly do look forward to the day when we all share that devotion to God as one Body!
    Pax Domine sit semper vobiscum — May the peace of the Lord be always with you!

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  15. Matt Fenn

    The reformers didn’t want to abolish Latin in the mass, but to add vernacular elements.
    Frank Senn notes in his book on the Liturgy that the “Church Order of Saxony”, made in 1539, based on Luther’s FORMULA MISSAE, was one of several Latin Masses used by Lutherans in Germany. Latin Mass was still common in some places until the beginning of the nineteenth century! The Church Order of Saxony has the following: The Confiteor, Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Offertory, Preface, Santus, Agnus Dei were all in Latin and the rest, (i.e readings, hymns, sermon, prayer, words of institution), was in the vernacular.
    A realistic use of Latin in the average parish might be having the choir singing a hymn in Latin or replacing one portion of the liturgy with a Latin text, like the Gloria or Agnus Dei.

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  16. Robert Hartley

    I agree with the sentiment of restoring the Latin language to the Mass (it should have never been removed, even in Luther’s time) but I disagree that the citizen’s of Luther’s age were ignorant of what occurs at the Mass. The Catholic Mass is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary. It is not a “new” sacrifice but the same sacrifice offered in an unbloody manner. When the Catholics of Luther’s age or the Catholic’s of today receive Communion, they receive the body and blood of Jesus. Catholic’s of all ages know and were taught this truth and this is the primary function of the Mass (as a sacrament of the Church). Unfortunately, this Luther denies (the true presence of Christ’s body and blood on the alter in the “accidents” of bread and wine after the consecration). Therefore, it is erroneous to suggest that the Lutheran Mass, in any tongue, is valid or legitimate. In addition, the ministers of the Lutheran church are not priests ordained to offer sacrifice to the Lord and, therefore, are unable to offer a Mass.

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  17. Mike

    If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Is the Lutheran ‘Mass’ a Mass? Did Luther wish to retain the Mass? Well, the Lutheran ‘Mass’ has many elements of the Mass that existed up to the time of Luther but there are two big differences. Firstly, Luther removed the notion of the Mass as a sacrifice. Secondly, Luther changed the pre-Reformation understanding of what happened at the consecration. Whether Luther abolished or ‘reformed’ the Mass is possibly a matter of semantics but the Lutheran ‘Mass’ is certainly not the same thing as the Mass of the pre-Reformation Church.
    On visiting older Lutheran churches in Germany it seems that the altar is still in the same place as it was in Catholic churches prior to the 1970s. ie. the minister faces east rather than facing the congregation. Is that correct or am I up a gum tree? Speaking of the Lutheran Church in Germany, in 1967 I worked for a month in a Lutheran institution in Germany (the Anstalt Bethel near Bielefeld). Many of the men who worked there were deacons in the Lutheran church and many of the women were Lutheran deaconesses. The deaconesses wore a somewhat nineteenth century looking costume. In my overly ecumenically enthusiasm and naivety I compared the deacons and deaconesses to nuns and monks. I don’t think the comparison went down well. Also, we always had fish on a Thursday and one of the deacons (who was unaware that I was a Catholic) kindly explained that they had fish on a Thursday to show that they were not Catholics. I don’t know if he was serious or just joking.

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  18. Keith Kirchartz

    I may have missed some details of the posts above, but a few thoughts came to me as I read: the Lutheran “mass” is not called “the Mass” (being that there is no theology of the unbloody sacrifice or of the “accidents”, but rather of the Real Presence “in, with and under” the bread and wine) but traditionally retains the form and texts of the Mass. Also, it is my understanding that at least as late as Bach’s Leipzig, Lutheran worship consisted of Latin liturgy with German Scripture, sermon, and hymns/cantatas. Nevertheless, I think restoring the Latin rite in the Lutheran churches would cause an exodus that would make the sexuality issues pale by comparison. Generations of American Protestants have been raised with a profound abhorrence of anything even remotely– shudder!– “Catholic.” (Personally, I like Latin, but…)

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  19. TLM333

    Best argument I have ever heard for going to a ‘Universal’ language in the Mass. Being raised in the faith I grew up with the Latin Mass. When we went to the vernacular, I did appreciate the understanding of what was going on. Years later, however, I seemed to sense that ‘something’ was missing. Couldn’t put my finger on what. When our Pastor started to incorporate some Latin back into the Mass, along with a Gregorian Chant here and there, the dawn hit! I was missing the mysticism that is so beautifully prevalent in the Latin Mass, that is NOT present in the Novus Ordo Mass. For me, it was a no brainer.

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  20. Jeanne

    Thank you Rev. Glover for such an excellent post (says an LCMS Lutheran who goes to Catholic mass whenever I’m traveling in regions lacking an LCMS congregation. Don’t worry, I don’t receive but I like to spend time with Jesus.)
    I would only like to add (as a Reformation historian) that you passed over a critical point. Not only did Luther uphold the mass, he upheld the LATIN in the mass. In writing his German mass he was explicit that ALL places with a Latin school should retain the Latin mass (excepting, as you note, the sermons, hymns, and lessons). In short, he believed it was a requirement to catechize people into the liturgy–shocker, I know. Of course, even in these Latin school towns the girls would never have learned much of the language and only a fraction of the male population would have been so educated. Thus, we can see that he did not expect universal language fluency as the standard for worship (or anything close), but expected the worship form to reflect the RELATIVE comprehension at the area, pitching the level higher than the average and expecting them to help in the catechesis of the larger population. (I could go on, and on)
    Furthermore, a person who truly understands the catholic liturgy can actually worship in any catholic liturgical context, regardless of the language barriers. And I have. It’s not too hard to figure out which is the Gloria and when the consecration happens. Just saying.

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  21. Miles Schmidt

    As a Catholic whose maternal grandmother was Lutheran, I can only say that I would love to see the Latin put back into Catholic masses also!

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  22. Mark Schutzius

    This is an excellent post, though, the problems in the Western Church are so very complex that ‘dialogue’ cannot bring about any lasting unity among them. The Western Church (Catholic, Protestant, Non-Denominational) is much like a fine vase which fell on the floor–it shattered into thousands of pieces–each one different, though emanating from the same vase. There is only one solution toward catholicity within the various Churches and Christian communities in the West–the way of Orthodoxy. It is in the pursuit of orthodoxy that all are truly Catholic.

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  23. dmtilney

    “The Mass is and can be nothing more than a human work (as Church law and all the books declare, even when it is performed by wicked scoundrels). The attempt is to reconcile oneself and others to God [see 2 Corinthians 5:18-20], and to merit and deserve the forgiveness of sins and grace by the Mass. (This is how the Mass is held at its very best. Otherwise, what purpose would it serve?) This is why it must and should be condemned and rejected. For the Mass directly conflicts with the chief article, which says that it is not someone paid to perform the Mass (whether wicked or godly) who takes away our sins with his work, but the Lamb of God, the Son of God.”
    …”In addition to all this, this dragon’s tail [Revelation 12:3-4]–that is, the Mass–has begotten many vermin and a multitude of idolatries” (The Lutheran Confessions, Smalcald Articles, Part II, Article II, paragraph 7 & 11).

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    • Matt Fenn

      dmtilney,
      I’m not sure why you quoted the Smalcald Articles. If you are attempting to quote them to say that Luther abolished the Mass, your quite from the Smalcald Articles is disingenuous. Mass in the Smalcald Articles is used to refer to the sacrifice of the Mass, ie. the Roman Canon. This is demonstrated by the Augsburg Confession, article XXIV: Of the Mass.
      “Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added to teach the people.” (CA XXIV.1-3 Triglotta)
      So Luther’s arguments against the mass are obviously not referring to the service itself, as is clear from the Augustana, “for the Mass is retained among us”. Luther is referring to the popular idea that during the Canon there is a re-sacrifice of Christ which we make and offer to appease God and earn God’s favor.

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  24. James Patterson

    Graham, reconciliation won’t happen because the vein pope would never consider admitting that Luther was right.
    Second, as a teacher, husband, father, golfer, hiker, and occasional napper, I have no desire to spend many painful, frustrating hours learning a dead foreign language. The scholars and historians may have it. Bring latin to the divine service and witness the mass exodus of worshippers like Dodger fans leaving at the seventh inning.
    The current obsession with Catholicism is disheartening. So is the current obsession with world cup soccer. A soccer goal is HUGE and these guys can’t find the net more than once or twice during the eternity that is a soccer match? As Walter might would say, “Has the whole world gone CRAZY?”

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  25. Gianni

    The Catholic Chiurch in Her Eucharistic theology never taught that Christ was re-sacrificed during Holy Mass. The one perfect sacrifice of Christ is made present on the altar and is offered to the eternal Father by the Church in an un bloody manner. It is as if the priest can reach back in time, and place the Sacrifice of Christ in our mist. Uniting ourselves with the one sacrifice of Calvary, its fruits become efficacious and are applied to each person and every generation.
    Luther , while calling his heretical commuion service “mass” and maintaining some Cathoic ceromonies, rejected orthodox Eucharistic theology as taught by both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches for ( at that time) for over 1500 years.
    Lastly, since there is no Apostolic Succession in the the Lutheran sect, there are no validly ordained priests or bishops. One can certainly apply the words of Pope Leo XIII ,of happy memory , when speaking about the invalidity of Anglican Orders to Lutheran orders as well. They are, “absolutely null and utterly void.” Hence, with the expection of Baptism and marriage, for which Sacred Orders are not technically required , all Lutheran “sacraments” are invalid.
    It , therefore , makes very little difference what Lutherans call their service or if Latin is used . At the end of the day, it’s just bread and wine thanks to the heresy of a schimatic vow breaking foul mouthed monk who should never have been ordained.

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  26. Gunnar

    Liturgy is sacred drama. As such, it connects us to God, to each other, to our ancestors who worshiped in the same manner, and to the saints in heaven. Having some Latin in the Mass underscores all of this. Yes, we should “understand” the liturgy, but ultimately our understanding only takes us so far. What ultimately carries us is “faith”, and to quote Saint Anselm, “Credo ut intelligium”: I believe in ORDER to understand. As sacred drama, the Mass – in its traditional form, constitutes an “assault” on all of our senses. We worship with our ears, eyes, noses, fingers, and voices. All senses are employed. What we perceive in this manner may certainly get filtered consciously, through our intellect, but much of it hits us in a direct and imminent way, for we somehow “sense” and “know” – in the context of sacred drama – truths that it embodies. The use of Latin hymns, prayers, etc. connects us to a “bigger picture”. It connects us to our ancestors, to saints, to history and tradition, and if used by all globally, to one another also. The very word “religion” comes from the Latin word “religio”, with a hard “g”; it means “to reconnect”, and with ancient and familiar elements kept or reintroduced in the Mass – we do just that.

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