Thursday, 22 November 2012

"With Latin as the common language, we were along the same straight and narrow path" says gardener

I saw the the makers of Cluedo have abolished the character of Colonel Mustard in the latest version of the game for reasons of modernity. Just so you know that I have not been abolished, I thought I'd log back on for a change...

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I was looking through the letters page in Country Life recently and came across this interesting brief:

I was considered a lost cause at school when learning Latin and gave it up at the earliest opportunity. Now older and possibly wiser, I realise what an error this was.

In 2000, studying for the RHS exam, I was told that Latin names for plants were mandatory. I had the difficult task of learning a plant list, in Latin, every day in preparation for the exam, which I subsequently passes satisfactorily. 

I didn’t realise the true value of this until I was taking a group of Russian horticultural students, who spoke not a word of English, around a very well-known garden. As my Russian is non-v, my words on the history (and all other information) of the garden were wasted, but the students’ faces lit up with delighted comprehension when we discussed the plants with their Latin names.

With Latin as the common language, we were along the same straight and narrow path. Long may be it taught in the naming of plants.

This author won the weekly prize of a bottle of Bollinger NV Special CuvĂ©e Champagne. 

Just think, if a common language can be used to unite horticulturalists, how much better would it be put to employ as a unifying language for those of the same Faith in their liturgical worship of God.

Different languages were created by God when Man tried to reach the heavens by building the Tower of Babel. God did this to frustrate Man’s pride

Or, look at it another way.

There were four metaphysical communions at creation:

  1. God and Man
  2. Man and Man
  3. Man and creation
  4. Man and himself

All of these communions were damaged in some way by the Fall - the Sin of Adam (and Eve). And this is symbolised in the accounts that follow the Fall:

  1. Adam and Eve are thrown out of Eden
  2. Cain killed Abel; Man is scattered from Babel
  3. Man toils the land
  4. Man saw that he was naked
So, our diversity of language is a result of Man’s Fall from Grace, and is now a part of our make-up. 

One wonders at situations whereby Catholics of different nationalities are called together to offer the sacrifice, i.e. Mass, why the terrible habit of splitting up the Mass into linguistic sections (African-themed - but actually a Western imperialistic patronising - hymn, ‘Introductory Rites’ in English, Reading in Malayalam, Taize chant instead of an alleluia tract set half-heartedly to a Russian-sounding melody with a very strong bass line, Gospel in English - because 90 % of the congregants are English-speaking anyway - Prayer of the Faithful in Polish, Tagalog, Spanish, Portuguese, Eucharistic Anaphora in the languages of the concelebrants - English, Polish - Our Father each in our own language while holding hands, Pop’d up Agnus Dei in Latin, but with illegal English strophes, the congregation blesses themselves, an old world youth day song to finish before the food: seen that all before, no?), instead of singing the whole of the sacrificial prayer (i.e. the Mass) in a single language, chosen by Providence, to be the uniting tongue of the western Christians. 

We are fools if we think that we understand the Mass. It is a mystery. The Greek word for Sacrament is mysterion, remember.

But surely the vernacular makes us understand the Mass more now than people did before? Any intelligent person with a reasonable grasp of history, or even the lives of some of the saints, would know that this is certainly not the case. People then knew a lot more about the Mass meant than people do now. No-one struggled as much with Latin as did St John Mary Vianney: do we think he knew nothing about the Mass? St John Mary spent hours on his knees before the blessed Sacrament: do people who refuse even to genuflect, because we are grown up now, and we know that Jesus is our brother, think the Holy Cure a fool? Just cast your mind back to the Year of the Priest, and the number of people who complained about St John Mary Vianney being made patron saint of priests. I wonder if there was a correlation between the people who objected to him and his ‘anachronistic habits’, and those people who do not say prayers while kneeling, and those who have subscriptions to the Tablet? Hmm.

I might posit that, with the vernacular liturgies being the norm (rather than a means to an end which is what the vernacular was supposed to be), people now understand the Mass less, rather than more, because now, the Mass is reduced to a fellowship meal, over the counter. And the whole point now about coming to Mass is to understand it (i.e. satisfy our base senses), rather than raising the intellect towards God, and offering the sacrifice. In fact, I wonder how many people at Mass actually have an inkling that it is a sacrifice.

With Latin as the common language, we were along the same straight and narrow path.

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