Cardinal Arinze on Language in Liturgy, Part 2

"Good Music Helps to Promote Prayer"

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ST. LOUIS, Missouri, JAN. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the second part of Cardinal Francis Arinze's Nov. 11 speech at the Gateway Liturgical Conference, held in Missouri. The cardinal is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

Part 1 of this conference was published Friday. Part 3 will be published Monday.

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GATEWAY LITURGICAL CONFERENCE

ADDRESS OF HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL FRANCIS ARINZE

St Louis, Missouri (U.S.A.)
Saturday, 11 November 2006

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4. Gregorian Chant

"Liturgical action is given a more noble form when sacred rites are solemnized in song" (SC, n. 113). There is an ancient saying: bis orat qui bene cantat, that is, "the person who sings well prays twice". This is so because the intensity that prayer acquires from being sung, increases its ardour and multiplies its efficacy (cf. Paul VI: Address to Italian Schola Cantorum, 25 September 1977, in Notitiae 136, November 1977, p. 475).

Good music helps to promote prayer, to raise the minds of people to God and to give people a taste of the goodness of God.

In the Latin Rite what has come to be known as the Gregorian Chant has been traditional. A distinctive liturgical chant existed indeed in Rome before St Gregory the Great (+604). But it was this great Pontiff who gave it the greatest prominence.

After St Gregory this tradition of chant continued to develop and be enriched until the upheavals that brought an end to the Middle Ages. The monasteries, especially those of the Benedictine Order, have done much to preserve this heritage.

Gregorian Chant is marked by a moving meditative cadence. It touches the depths of the soul. It shows joy, sorrow, repentance, petition, hope, praise or thanksgiving, as the particular feast, part of the Mass or other prayer may indicate. It makes the Psalms come alive. It has a universal appeal which makes it suitable for all cultures and peoples. It is appreciated in Rome, Solesmes, Lagos, Toronto and Caracas. Cathedrals, monasteries, seminaries, sanctuaries, pilgrimage centres and traditional parishes resound with it.

St Pope Pius X extolled the Gregorian Chant in 1904 (cf. Tra le Sollecitudini, n. 3). The Second Vatican Council praised it in 1963: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as proper to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services" (SC, n. 116).

The Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, repeated this praise in 2003 (cf. Chirograph for the Centenary of Tra Le Sollecitudini, nn. 4-7; in Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Spiritus et Sponsa, 2003, p. 130).

Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the International Association of Pueri Cantores when they met in Rome at the end of 2005. They give a privileged place to the Gregorian Chant. In Rome and throughout the world the Church is blessed with many fine choirs, both professional and amateur, that render the chant beautifully, and communicate their enthusiasm for it.

It is not true that the lay faithful do not want to sing the Gregorian Chant. What they are asking for are priests and monks and nuns who will share this treasure with them.

The CDs produced by the Benedictine monks of Silos, their motherhouse at Solesmes, and numerous other communities sell among young people. Monasteries are visited by people who want to sing Lauds and especially Vespers.

In an ordination ceremony of 11 priests which I celebrated in Nigeria last July, about 150 priests sang the First Eucharistic Prayer in Latin. It was beautiful. The people, although no Latin scholars, loved it. It should be just normal that parish churches where there are four or five Masses on Sunday should have one of these Masses sung in Latin.

5. Did Vatican II discourage Latin?

Some people think, or have the perception, that the Second Vatican Council discouraged the use of Latin in the liturgy. This is not the case.

Just before he opened the Council, Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962 issued an Apostolic Constitution to insist on the use of Latin in the Church. The Second Vatican Council, although it admitted some introduction of the vernacular, insisted on the place of Latin: "Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (SC, n. 36).

The Council also required that seminarians "should acquire a command of Latin which will enable them to understand and use the source material of so many sciences and the documents of the Church as well" (Optatam Totius, n. 13). The Code of Canon Law published in 1983 enacts that "the Eucharistic celebration is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved" (can. 928).

Those, therefore, who want to give the impression that the Church has put Latin away from her liturgy are mistaken. A manifestation of people's acceptance of Latin liturgy well celebrated was had at the world level in April 2005, when millions followed the burial rites of Pope John Paul II and then, two weeks later, the inauguration Mass of Pope Benedict XVI over the television.

It is remarkable that young people welcome the Mass celebrated sometimes in Latin. Problems are not lacking. So, too, there are misunderstandings and wrong approaches on the part of some priests on the use of Latin. But to get the matter in better focus, it is necessary first to examine the use of the vernacular in the liturgy of the Roman Rite today.

6. The Vernacular: Introduction, Extension, Conditions

The introduction of local languages into the sacred liturgy of the Latin Rite is a development that did not occur all of a sudden. After the partial experience gained over the preceding years in certain countries, already on 5 and 6 December 1962, after long and sometimes impassioned debates, the Second Vatican Fathers adopted the principle that the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of advantage to the people. In the following year the Council voted to apply this principle to the Mass, the ritual and the Liturgy of the Hours (cf. SC, nn. 36, 54, 63a, 76, 78, 101).

Extensions of the use of the vernacular followed. But, as if the Council Fathers foresaw the likelihood that Latin might lose more and more ground, they insisted again and again that Latin be maintained.

As already quoted, article 36 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy began by enacting that "particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite". Article 54 required that steps be taken, "enabling the faithful to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them". In the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, "in accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, clerics are to retain the Latin language" (SC, n. 101).

But even while establishing limits, the Council Fathers anticipated the possibility of a wider use of the vernacular. Article 54 indeed adds: "Wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Article 40 of this Constitution is to be observed". Article 40 goes into directives on the role of Bishops' Conferences and of the Apostolic See in such a delicate matter.

The vernacular had been introduced. The rest is history. The developments were so fast that many clerics, Religious and lay faithful today are not aware that the Second Vatican Council did not simply introduce the vernacular for all parts of the liturgy.

Requests and widenings of the use of the vernacular were not long in coming. At the urgent request of some Bishops' Conferences, Pope Paul VI first allowed the Preface of the Mass to be said in the vernacular (cf. Letter of the Cardinal Secretary of State, 27 April 1965), then the entire Canon and the prayers of ordination in 1967.

Finally, on 14 June 1971, the Congregation for Divine Worship sent notice that Episcopal Conferences could allow the use of the vernacular in all the texts of the Mass, and each Ordinary could give the same permission for the choral or private celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (on the whole development, see A.G. Martimort: The Dialogue between God and his People, in A.G. Martimort: The Church at Prayer, I, p. 166).

The reasons for the introduction of the mother tongue are not far to seek. It promotes better understanding of what the Church is praying, since "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy... (and which) is their right by reason of their Baptism" (SC, n. 14).

At the same time, it is not difficult to envisage how demanding and delicate the work of translation must be. Even more difficult is the question of adaptation and inculturation especially when we think of the sacredness of the sacramental rites, the centuries-old tradition of the Latin Rite, and the close link between faith and worship encapsuled in the old formula: lex orandi, lex credendi.

We turn now to the thorny question of translations into the vernacular in the liturgy.