The Study of Church History-4

Turning our attention now to modern concerns, we turn to the way history also helps us deal with changes that occurred in recent times. It was precisely the way that the church deals with modern society that led to the calling of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s. One of the fruits of the council was the reestablishment of the vernacular in the liturgy. It is often recounted the sad state of participation of the community during your average mass, where one would commonly see people engaged in other forms of personal piety, while the priest said his parts to himself, since he prayed in Latin, a tongue long-forgotten by the masses. One of the most visible changes of the council was to re-introduce the vernacular tongues for worship. Having a historical awareness allows to deal with such changes. When one realizes that the use of Latin was not universal in the church, and that there was a time when the vernacular was the norm, then we realize that this change is not so revolutionary after all, and instead, the church was returning to its roots. Even though many consider it an over-reaction to completely cut oneself off from the vast tradition of prayers and hymns that resulted with the establishment of the vernacular, it was undoubtedly in my mind a good thing to return to the ancient practice of having the liturgy in one’s own tongue, the better to understand and participate in the liturgy. Some forty-five years after the council, the present pope has made the older, so-called “Tridentine Rite”, more accessible to be celebrated by any priest without special permission. History will tell the direction these changes will take.

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