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 Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson on a Vernacular Liturgy 
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New post Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson on a Vernacular Liturgy


It seems to me that Dr. Campbell argues as well and as forcibly as it is possible to do in defence of the position that the liturgy in the vernacular would be a gain. But I must confess that he does not convince me in the least. I am not one of those who have had associations from early childhood with the Latin of the Church, but am a comparatively recent convert, accustomed to the magnificent English of the Anglican Bible and Prayerbook. Yet in spite of this and in spite of all the other arguments which Dr. Campbell states so ably, it seems to me that the arguments on the other side are overwhelming.

1. The convenience of a common language of the Church. In these days of extensive travel both priests and laity would suffer immeasurable inconveniences should the vernacular be substituted. They would lose that sense of external unity, too, that is such a support to devotion and such an evidence of power.

2. The suggestiveness of an “unknown” language. In these days of irreverence, positiveness, and familiarity with regard to spiritual things, we need every suggestion of the mystery and transcendence of God that can be given. The modern tendency is to degrade spiritual things, to forget that what we know is but a fraction compared to what we do not know. Now it is possible to state these truths to the educated, but to the comparatively uneducated we need imaginative rather than reasoned arguments. One of the statements made by the western “rebels” in the famous British revolt against Protestantism was that the new Service-book (Edward VI’s first prayerbook), was “like a Christmas game.” They demanded the restoration of the old Latin. They felt, and rightly, that to make religion “easy” was not always to render it a service.
As regards the “unknownness” of the language there is no real difficulty, since any Catholic can obtain translations of the services; and the appeal, I believe, of the mysteriousness and dignity of the Latin sounds more than compensates for the lack of immediate intellectual apprehension of the words.

3. I think Dr. Campbell unduly hard about the argument drawn from Pentecost. Babel represents the City of the World — the inevitable confusion following upon any attempt to build upon a purely natural basis. Pentecost represents the coming down of the City of God, and the significance of this supernatural unity is surely preserved both by the miracle of tongues and the common language of the Church.

4. Lastly, imagine the Mass in French!

These are three or four arguments that seem to me to stand out. There are of course innumerable others.



In Christ our King.

Thu May 03, 2007 1:28 pm
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