At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, the Romans put a sign on His cross in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. This sign was to tell everyone the crime for which He was being executed. This was done because the Romans spoke Latin; Greek was still very much in use; and Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem where Aramaic and Hebrew were used.
Most of you have a crucifix with the initials INRI on it. These initials stand for Latin words;
- I = IESVS = Jesus. (In the Latin language I is used instead of J.)
- N = NAZARENVS = from Nazareth.
- R = Rex = King
- I = IVDAEORVM = Jew.
This is good proof to all Catholics that Latin was used in 33 AD.
From Jerusalem the Apostles travel through out Asia, Europe and Africa spreading the Catholic faith.
‘The Western Mass, like all Liturgies, begins, of course, with the Last Supper. What Christ then did, repeated as he commanded in memory of Him, is the nucleus of the Mass. As soon as the Faith was brought to the West the Holy Eucharist was celebrated in Rome, as in the East. At first the language used was Greek. Out of that earliest Liturgy, the language being changed to Latin, developed the two great parent rites of the West, the Roman and the Gallican. Of these two the Gallican Mass may be traced without difficulty. It is so plainly Antiochene in its structure, in the very text of many of its prayers, that we are safe in accounting for it as a translated form of the Liturgy of Jerusalem-Antioch, brought to the West at about the time when the more or less fluid universal Liturgy of the first three centuries gave place to different fixed rites. The origin of the Roman Mass, on the other hand, is a most difficult question, We have here two fixed and certain data: the Liturgy in Greek described by St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165), which is that of the Church of Rome in the second century, and, at the other end of the development, the Liturgy of the first Roman Sacramentariesin Latin, in about the sixth century. The two are very different. Justin’s account represents a rite of what we should now call an Eastern type, corresponding with remarkable exactness to that of the Apostolic Constitutions. The Leonine (440 AD) and Gelasian Sacramentaries (750 AD) show us what is practically our present Roman Mass.’
‘The question of the change of language from Greek to Latin is less important than if might seem. It came about naturally when Greek ceased to be the usual language of the Roman Christians. Pope Victor I (190-202), an African, seems to have been the first to use Latin at Rome, Novatian writes Latin. By the second half of the third century the usual liturgical language at Rome seems to have been Latin (Kattenbusch, “Symbolik”, II, 331), though fragments of Greek remained for many centuries.’ 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia.
St. Pope Gregory the Great (590-604 AD) wrote a lot about the Latin Mass. He is known mostly for the Chant he is named for; Gregorian Chant, still used today.
‘Much controversy still exists as to the exact extent of Gregory’s reforms of the Roman Liturgy. All admit that he did make the following modifications in the pre-existing practice:
- In the Canon of the Mass he inserted the words “diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab aeterna damnatione nos eripi, et in electorum tuorum jubras grege numerari”;
- he ordered the Pater Noster to be recited in the Canon before the breaking of the Host;
- he provided that the Alleluia should be chanted after the Gradual out of paschal time, to which period, apparently, the Roman use had previously confined it;
- he prohibited the use of the chasuble by subdeacons assisting at Mass;
- he forbade deacons to perform any of the musical portions of the Mass other than singing the Gospel.’ 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia.
From St. Pope Gregory the Great, the Roman liturgy stayed pretty much the same and was then codified by St. Pope Pius V (1566-1572 AD). Slight changes were made till the final small changes of Pope John XXIII found in the Roman Missal of 1962.
‘The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth.’ (Pius XII: Encyclical Mediator Dei, Nov. 20, 1947)
Was the Roman Rite Church wrong to have the Mass in Latin for 1779 years? Pope Victor I 190 AD to Pope Paul VI 1969. So you think the Church was wrong for at least 1779 years and has finally got it right in the last 46 years. Where are the conversions, vocations, the people and missionaries?
In spite of what you may think, Liturgical Church Latin is a language that is pure and used only for sacred prayer. Latin keeps the church together as a universal Church where one can go and understand the Mass all over the world in one language, Latin. Most people had little missals they used with Latin on one page and English or what ever language they spoke on the other.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.