Why do we still sing in Latin? – Latin during Lent.
There is a common misconception in the Catholic Church that the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council sought to eliminate the use of the Latin language during the Holy Mass. The introduction of translations of the Holy Mass in peoples’ own languages have been of great benefit to the People of God in allowing them to understand the various prayers and rites of the Holy Mass.
However, it was not the intention of the Second Vatican Council to see Latin entirely disappear from our Sunday Eucharistic celebration.
Sacrosanctum Consilium, the document from the Second Vatican Council which spoke about changes in the Holy Mass, clearly states that “the
use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin Rites” (SC 36). Where it is most fitting to have Latin retained in the Holy Mass is in its various sung parts, such as the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lamb of God, etc. By singing these parts of the Mass in Latin, we are showing the universality of our Church in reciting prayers in a language that is used by Catholics all over the world.
A few years ago, I had the chance to celebrate Mass in Kyoto, Japan. The entire Mass was in Japanese and so I did not understand much of what was being said. But when the congregation began to chant “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi…” I smiled and began to sing in a language that unites Catholics the world over.
During Lent, we will continue the practice of singing three parts of the Mass in Latin: The Lord Have Mercy or Kyrie (which is actually in Greek),
the Holy, Holy, Holy or Sanctus and the Lamb of God or Agnus Dei.
If you are not familiar with the Latin texts or the musical notation for these parts of the Mass, they can be found in the Breaking Bread Hymnal at the following numbers:
Kyrie: BB 839
Sanctus: BB 841
Agnus Dei: BB 845