Under another entry some folks are discussing the possibilities of the vernacular for the TLM. According to the provisions of Summorum Pontificum it is possible to do the readings in the vernacular in an approved translation. What is yet to be clarified by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is whether the readings must be in Latin before they are then read in the vernacular. I am confident we will have a clarification on this.
However, I did get an interesting e-mail from a priest which, with some editing, I can share with you. It is germane to the topic I mentioned above: My emphases and comments.
Fr. Z –
As a priest who celebrates the 1962 Mass once a month, I often wonder why that Mass cannot be said in the vernacular. We do the entire Mass in Latin except for the Readings and the homily, in accord with SP. [With due respect, I believe until there is an official clarification about this, it would be better to do the readings in Latin, as is normal, and then read them in English before the sermon.] I am the pastor of two churches, one big and one medium, my time alotment for study is limited but I do the best I can to brush up on my latin. Having learned classical nearly 20 years ago I find it difficult to learn Eccesicastical. Never the less I do the best I can. [This is precisely why I started the PRAYERCAzT audio projects! To help men like you get the Latin into your ears and tongue. Even though it means more work, I beleive the readings ought to be in Latin first.]
When we met, the people of my parish perfered that the readings be done in English and the homily- so we have no division on this issue. [With great respect, people can’t decide for themselves how Mass is going to be.] Some have inquired why the entire Mass cannot be celebrate in the Vernacular and quite frankly I agree. After all the reason it is in Latin to begin with is because latin was the Vernacular, as Greek was before it. [More on this point, which is not really precise, below.] I see no obstacles to the Mass being celebrated in English. [You mean… other than the Church’s rubrics and liturgical laws?] It is a beautiful Liturgy and it is a shame more people cannot have access to it, By this I mean many are deterred by the use of Latin because they do not understand it. We also have beautiful Novus Ordo liturgies, in the vernacular, so I think this may be why our parish is content. [I am very glad you have this flexibility. That can only be of advantage to everyone.]
The real issue in the Church today is a beautiful liturgy. [I entirely agree!] I have been to TLM Masses that are said so fast one wonders how that is reverent? The illusion of reverence is present only because it is in a language that cannot be understood and therefore by extension must be mysterious. [A good point. There is more to the encounter with Mystery than Latin, or anything else that is simply obscure.] I think if people understood the language and then heard the priest plow through the Mass they would not find it terribly edifing. I have not been edified by how fast I have heard the TLM prayed. It takes me one hour and fifteen minutes to say low Mass, [Ouch! I hope you mean a private Mass. That strikes me as a little long for a low Mass for the parish, but … whatever…] I say it very reverently and do not ‘speed pray’ the prayers.
In summation I would like to see the Rites of 1962 in the Vernacular where everyone has total access to the Mass and clear understanding. [This might be the point that needs deeper consideration. I am not sure that "total access" and "clear understanding" does not lead to the trap that twisted the progress of the Liturgical Movement in the middle of the 20th century, when the desire for "didacticism" and "immediacy" was asserted by certain Benedictines and Dominicans.] Prayer by it’s very nature ought to be intelligilble and understandable. [Yes, but I am not so sure that we are seeing the terms in the same way. There are different kinds of intelligibility.] We use Latin/English Booklet Missals from Coatlition in Support of Ecclesia Dei and their English translation of the prayers is very beautiful. I am not advocating changing the 1962 Liturgy simply making it more accessible to a wider audience. [However, it does seem as if you are advocating changing the 1962 Liturgy. Changing to the vernacular is a change, and that is exactly what you are advocating] It’s gestures, postures, and prayers ought to be available [I don’t know what that means, unless it perhaps means "intelligible".] to the wider Catholic Community.
First, of all, I am delighted that this diligent priest is doing so much for the people of his parish. He listens to them and tries to see to their spiritual needs. I suspect a great many people would like to have this fellow as their pastor.
Second, I agree that Mystery should not be reduced to the obscure. At the same time, Mass is not a didactic moment. Sure, we can learn things during and through the sacred action of the Mass, but the real point is to learn those things which can only be apprehended at a deeper level. Also, if we aim at immediacy, and so forth, for everyone, we will inevitably have to dumb-down pretty much everything.
Lastly, the mention of Latin being used now only because Latin was a vernacular that pushed out Greek back in the day, needs clearer thinking. The history of the introduction of Latin into the liturgy of Rome, is used as an argument for the use of the vernacular today: Latin was the vernacular back when, so it is the vernacular that counts, not the Latin.
Yes and no.
Yes, Latin was the vernacular. However, the kind of Latin used in the liturgy was not at all the way people spoke. Liturgical Latin really wasn’t the vernacular, in that sense. Liturgical Latin was highly stylized, far removed from the way people spoke. Also, the ancient Latin prayers contain concepts that were "available" only to the well-educated. That is part and parcel of liturgical pray as well: not all of it is going to be understood immediately and by everyone. The language and the concepts are special. That doesn’t mean that all prayer has to be difficult, of course. This is however why the Council Fathers said that some vernacular, especially for readings, could be used occasionally but why Latin was to be retained in the Latin Church.
A very thought provoking e-mail for which I am grateful.